By Daniel Rigney
I take a sidecar to no one in my devotion to liberty, freedom and the Individual’s struggle against the State. With Jefferson I believe the best governmental regulation is the least regulation. That’s why I modestly propose that we abolish as many traffic regulations as possible.
In fact, I’m against overregulation of any kind. Overregulation is defined here as any rules I don’t like.
I’m not so naïve as to think that traffic laws can be eliminated entirely. When we achieve true freedom of the roads, drivers will still be held accountable for damages they cause to persons or property. You will not be allowed, for example, to plow into a crowd of people on the sidewalk, or to crash your car into other people’s houses or business establishments. (Whether you should be permitted, if you so choose, to drive your car into your own house or business establishment is a question I leave to better legal heads than mine.)
You may try to defend traffic regulations by arguing that they actually increase our real freedoms rather than diminish them, by making it possible for people to get where they’re going more safely and efficiently, on the whole, than they could in a driver’s anarchy. I don’t get it. How can restricting freedom increase freedom? That doesn’t make any sense.
You may say that allowing people to drive recklessly endangers the lives and property of others, even when a driver doesn’t actually hit anyone or anything. But how can you pass laws against what someone might do in the future? If a reckless driver hasn’t hit anyone yet, maybe he or she never will! Who’s to say?
Let me ask you this. Are you saying you want some government bureaucrat or politician deciding what is or is not “reckless,” what is or is not “too fast,” or whether we should “stop” at so-called “school crossings”? Are you saying we should be coerced by an armed-nanny State to wear seatbelts or motorcycle helmets, or to restrain infant passengers in tightly-restrictive car seats? I say let the Individual decide how to drive, and let the Individual pay the consequences if he or she causes harm to others and their property.
Where, after all, do we draw the arbitrary line between what’s reckless and what’s not, or what’s too fast, or whether someone is too young or too drunk to drive? Again, who’s to say? If a fifteen-year-old social drinker enjoys an 85-mile-an-hour joyride through a pedestrian mall and doesn’t hit anyone or anything along the way, I say “no harm, no foul.”
Like all bureaucratic regulations, traffic regulations strangle creativity and initiative – an issue I have addressed previously in a brief meditation on the virtues of creative driving. It is our inventive spirit and our dedication to Individual Liberty that has helped make this country great. That’s what makes us America, and not North Korea, where car ownership is rare and traffic regulations are totalitarian.
Is that you want? Faceless government bureaucrats and their jackbooted henchmen telling you how to drive while you’re inside your own privately-owned vehicle, purchased with your own hard-earned money?
Let’s return to yesteryear, to the early days of the American automobile, when roads were free and rules were few, when the fortunate survived and a man’s car was his rolling castle.
If you love freedom, liberty, Jefferson and our irrepressible spirit of innovation as I do, you’ll favor eliminating as many vehicular traffic laws as possible.
Down with stop signs! Down with stoplights! Down with traffic tickets and street signs. If you don't know where you are, you shouldn't be there in the first place!
Let us then restore freedom of choice to our streets and highways, and let us accept personal responsibility when our choices kill, or maim, or leave piles of wreckage and carbonous clouds of pollution in their wake.
We shouldn’t forfeit our Constitutional rights just because we happen to be sitting behind a steering wheel. Our right to free expression doesn’t end at the car door. Let freedom honk – but only if it chooses to.
Watch for our forthcoming sequel: “Privatize All Roads and Streets: Another Modest Proposal.”*
* Conservative historian Niall Ferguson is on the right track here when he seriously recommends selling off the U.S. highway system to private investors. See “Sale of the Century,” Newsweek, February 20, 2012. By sheer coincidence, this was the issue that tipped my decision not to resubscribe to Newsweek.
cc: Jonathan Swift