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.

The invisible hand always loses to the visible fist.

Who will be the loudest voice to proclaim this proof that the government must rescue us from a market failure?

The Treasury Department seized control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the nation’s giant quasi-public mortgage finance companies, and announced a four-part rescue plan that includes an open-ended guarantee from the Treasury Department to provide as much capital as they need stave off insolvency.

When even the New York Times realizes that Fannie and Freddie are quasi-public rather than quasi-private, there can be no defense for the failure of the private market. Lawmakers encouraged these two to grow into the mess they are now through poor oversight and perverse incentives. When organizations exist where subjective, politically-favored goals matter more than objective, profit-driven goals, the private market has nothing to do with the organizations.

To be fair, I will not attribute this solely to government failure. I do not concede that the private functions are failing, though, because they are signaling exactly what they’re supposed to be signaling – there was too much cheap and irresponsible money in the mortgage market. This should be a lesson learned. I doubt it will be, precisely because neither is being allowed to fail. Perhaps that’s the right decision; I do not claim to know. But we shouldn’t be here.

Should we move next into discussing American automakers?