Rational Basis Theory

Another mind-boggling concept of law is the rational basis theory.  Basically, a lot of laws are drawn up and enforced in this manner.

There are three different theories under which to judge whether a particular law is constitutional.  One is strict scrutiny, where a law has to pass a very tough test to make sure that law is narrowly tailored to handle a compelling government interest.  This is used for suspect classes, like race-based laws.  Then you have intermediate scrutiny, which is used for gender-based laws and questions of legitimacy.  For this level, courts look to make sure the law is substantially related to an important government interest.  Finally, there is the rational basis theory, which is for everything else.  In order for a law to pass this level, it must be rationally related to a legitimate government interest.  The latter has been used to overcome challenges to school attendance requirements and to overturn laws treating gays and lesbians differently than married couples (in certain circumstances).  It’s also one of the reasons that laypeople often do not understand why a law does not violate the Constitution.  It’s an annoying but necessary policy.  It’s what keeps the nation going, in some instances, and what keeps strife going in others.  I personally understand the need for it, but I also understand why it is annoying.  But…I think it could be used for the common good.

On my top ten list of pet peeves are people who simply do not wash their hands after they use the restroom, especially in a public place.  If you’re at home and you don’t want to wash your hands, that is your business.  If you’re in a restaurant or store, though, you have just touched something that I don’t want to touch.  Ugh.  Wash you freaking hands!  I have become very agile, learning to lean way over to toss a paper towel in the trash can from the door, after using it to open the door.  I wear long-sleeved sweaters even in the summer sometimes, just so that I can use the sleeve to open the door in places that I frequent and know that there are no paper towels and instead the icky hand dryer is the only option.

So…I think that there should be a law about washing your hands.  If they can make me vaccinate my children (which I’m not against, by the way), make me wear a seatbelt (also, not against), and potentially buy health insurance, then the government should be able to make me wash my hands after pottying.  A law for this does protect a legitimate government interest.  Washing one’s hands is the easiest way, by far, of preventing the spread of germs and disease.  I think that the prevention of disease is a pretty darn legitimate government interest, just like vaccinations are.  So, because it’s reasonable for a person to be asked to wash his/her hands after using the toilet, and washing one’s hands is rationally related to that legitimate government interest, it should pass the Constitutional test.

How to police it?  That’s a bigger question.  If hospitals cannot police their own doctors (they have a huge rate of non-washing), then it would be hard for the general public to be policed, as well.  But, I think that a “Citizen’s Arrest“, aka Barney Fife, group of vigilante hand-washing police could do the trick.

I’m on board.  Are you?

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