Monday, April 09, 2007

on tattoos and liberty

I'm considering getting a tattoo of ama-gi, the earliest known writing of the word "freedom" and was trying to find out if the Ontario tattoo industry was regulated or not, since if it was I would go to Michigan, where the industry is unregulated.

I texted my friend, who has a bunch of tattoos, is best friends with the girlfriend of a tattoo artist and worked in a tattoo parlour for a while, to ask her if the industry was regulated. She responded to say that she didn't know, but, being the caring friend that she is, gave me a list of questions I should ask anywhere I go to verify that their equipment is safe.

She asked why I was asking, and I told her that, on principle, I wanted to get my freedom tattoo in an unregulated tattoo parlour. She responded, "So, on principle you want to get hepatitis?"

I couldn't help but laugh, half out of amusement and half out of sadness.

Let's face it: it's a very sad thing that people, even people who have been working in and using an industry that is not regulated by the government, assume that a lack of government regulation implies a lack of safety.

We went back and forth for a while on whether or not government regulation discourages people to ask the questions about safety, whether or not it would cause someone concerned about safety to stop asking those questions, whether or not government regulation stops the (already very rare) infection of hepatitis through dirty tattoo parlour needles, and such.

Finally, I had an epiphany. I texted her: "It's important to me that where I go is being safe because they think it's important to be safe, and not because they're doing the absolute minimum the government says they have to do."

And I think that's at the heart of the libertarian argument against regulation.

Government regulations take away our vigilance for our own well-being and the rewards that should be enjoyed by people who are willing to go the extra mile with their business through a declaration that all businesses are acceptable in their eyes. It's a terrible injustice; in fact the epiphany probably put me one step closer to a pro-tattoo decision.

(x-posted to Bureaucrash and Institute for Liberal Studies.)

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