Do I have a need for liberty?

Whatever the other guy doesn’t like, that’s what you don’t need to do. It says so in every central planner’s happiest fantasies. So, you say you want your high-performance BMW to push 100 miles per hour for the occasional track day, but you just haven’t realized that you’re threatening someone’s life every moment you’re not on the track. Is it good that someone wants to decide that for you?

SPEEDING is the cause of 30 percent of all traffic deaths in the United States — about 13,000 people a year. By comparison, alcohol is blamed 39 percent of the time, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But unlike drinking, which requires the police, breathalyzers and coercion to improve drivers’ behavior, there’s a simple way to prevent speeding: quit building cars that can exceed the speed limit.

It’s hard to pick what else I should excerpt from this horrible opinion piece; every sentiment in it is execrable. Where the obvious point that technology enables society to go much further than the suggestions mentioned is surprisingly ignored, I’d like to pretend that it’s because the author possesses even a tiny bit of concern for actual rights. I’d like to, but the author provides reasons to trust that no concern for rights exists. Consider:

Most cars can travel over 100 miles an hour — an illegal speed in every state. Our continued, deliberate production of potentially law-breaking devices has no real precedent. We regulate all sorts of items to decrease danger to the public, from baby cribs to bicycle helmets. Yet we continue to produce fast cars despite the lives lost, the tens of billions spent treating accident victims, and a good deal of gasoline wasted. (Speeding, after all, substantially reduces fuel efficiency due to the sheering force of wind.)

I’m amazed the writer thought he could sneak the line I italicized through the reader’s crap detector. I could throw my computer through the windshield of my neighbor’s car, damaging his property. That would break the law. I could potentially do it. Let’s ban computers under a reasonable weight the average person could lift with ease so that we can preserve all the car windows of the world?

It continues:

Despite all this, we Americans insist on the inalienable right to speed. Imagine, for a moment, if E-ZPass kept track of exactly when each car entered one toll booth and exited another, which would allow local governments to do some basic math, dividing distance traveled by time spent. If this calculation showed you to be a speeder, the authorities would send you a traffic ticket. Lives, money and oil would be saved and proof of wrongdoing would be undeniable, but the public outcry would be deafening.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – and the rights implied – is the correct approach, of course, because that allows everyone to use products with the potential for danger, as long as they use them responsibly. Do no harm and remain hassle-free. Harm and do not remain hassle-free. It’s not complicated.

In the author’s E-ZPass example, I’d toss mine in the garbage the moment such a plan passed the legislature. Should I assume the author would then demand mandatory E-ZPass usage? GPS tracking in every car? Is there any intrusion too far? It’s usually irrational to believe there isn’t, but nothing irrational is too irrational for central planners.

4 thoughts on “Do I have a need for liberty?”

  1. In Soviet America we know when you’re speeding. 🙂
    This is one of the dumbest ideas I’ve heard. So dumb it just might catch on, now that’s scary. As for the EZ pass thing I seem to recall reading somewhere that a plan such as that was hatched but not implemented for the New Jersey Turnpike. The tickets had a time stamp on them. The idea never flew though, I think it was shot down in court though I am not certain.
    Tony, did you know that in modern cars, the computer which controls the engine also records nearly everything about the state of the car? Overwritten every few minutes the data is permanently written if the air bags go off. People have been prosecuted based on data recovered from them and their insurance companies base their next bill on the data too.

  2. I knew cars recorded that data. I hadn’t heard about post-accident prosecutions and insurance hikes based on that data. I’d like to see details, but that is hardly surprising.

  3. If I remember, and I have time, I’ll dig around for it. I don’t think it was all that long ago either. People would be surprised at how much data is getting recorded, especially on newer cars.

  4. Here is some info:
    Of course this whole issue goes away with the next great innovation, speed cameras. As I understand it they’re already some set up in the District and I could see a day when they are installed along highways too.

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