A reader informs me that Pennsylvania is about to do what most other states already do: Empower local armed government workers to use radar to entrap “speeders.” In PA – at present – only state-level armed government workers are endowed with radar guns.
I dealt with more-or-less the same thing recently in my rural county, where the local sheriff’s office did not use radar until about a year ago. The county AGWs also drove old Ford Crown Vics. Then one day, a half dozen brand new “police interceptor” Explorer SUVs appeared in the parking lot – each equipped with radar.
I suspect a “grant” was acquired from Uncle to finance this; either that or the general rent we “land owners” are forced to pay in order to be permitted to continue living on the property we paid for years ago.
At any rate, my reader asks me for my thoughts – and about how to fight this. I believe they only way to win this is to successfully challenge the concept of actionable speed limits as such.
Speed advisories are great; there is nothing wrong with letting motorists know that there is a curve up ahead which they might not be familiar with and that perhaps it’d be sound policy to reduce speed to “X.”
But enforceable arbitrary speed limits are a moral affront because they are no different than any other arbitrary rule – and laws ought to be premised on moral right/moral wrong.
It’s obviously wrong to just walk up to someone and hit them – and the law proscribing (and punishing) this when done is morally correct. Everyone understands this. We have a victim – someone who has been harmed. And we have a deliberate act, an intent to harm.
Breaking a rule is not a crime – and treating a rule-breaker as a criminal is tyrannical. The rule-breaker who is punished becomes the victim and the government – that is to say, the busybodies and control freaks who constitute “the government – are the criminals.
Who has been harmed by the driver who proceeds at 56 MPH in a “55 zone”? To drive 56 MPH is rule-breaking “speeding” but almost never punished because everyone knows speed limits are arbitrary rules – including the armed government workers who enforce them. But they will usually arbitrarily enforce the speed limit only once the prospective victim is driving 61 MPH or 63 MPH in the 55 zone.
Why is 61 any less arbitrary than 56?
The fundamental problem with rules, as a moral question is precisely that they are arbitrary – the codified and actionable version of a parent telling his kid to obey “just because I said so.”
The bright kid isn’t satisfied with this answer, for the obvious reason that it’s an evasion of an answer that comes down to nothing more than the threat of punishment for questioning it.
Actionable speed limits are just the same.
If you get pulled over for breaking the rule that decrees you must not drive faster than 55 and ask the armed government worker who you’ve harmed, the most he’ll be able to come up with is that your driving faster than the arbitrarily set velocity maximum is “unsafe” – but according to whom?
A generic, dumbed-down one. The unspoken standard is that if a Parkinsonian and Glaucomic oldster cannot handle driving faster than X on a given stretch of road without running off the road – or running into something – then everyone must be restrained to the same speed. This amounts to the same thing as a rule forbidding anyone from walking faster than a shuffling old gimp walks – and making it an actionable offense to attempt to get around the shuffling gimp.
It’s even worse, actually – because the Parkinsonian and Glaucomic oldster is a construct – a hypothesized person, not an actual one. The Parkinsonian and Glaucomic oldster hasn’t even crashed – because he doesn’t exist.
Nonetheless, everyone is held down to a presumptively dumbed-down standard premised on a fiction – and punished before any harm is caused on the basis of the assertion that a harm might result from driving faster than X.
It’s Byzantine and Kafkaesque – which dealing with rules always is. Common sense doesn’t enter into it. Hence the bureaucrat’s cynical riposte, “the rules are the rules.”
And the AGW’s “I’m just doing my job.”
But that ought not to be the basis for actionable laws – in a free society, that is. Which we are constantly told by those chewing away at freedom that it still is.
So, how fast should a person be allowed to drive? Or put a better way: How fast should a person be able to drive without it being an actionable offense?
As fast as he deems reasonable and prudent.
Which was once upon a time the actual legal standard in at least one state (Montana) until it was superseded by a rule-following regime imposed by the billy stick (i.e., Uncle threatening to “withhold” highway funding money already stolen from the residents of that state).
The beautiful thing about the reasonable and prudent standard is that it allows for the obvious, everyone-knows-it differences in individual skill and capability and becomes actionable only when it is clear – objectively indisputable – that the driver wasn’t driving reasonably and prudently.
Because he lost control of his vehicle.
QED, as the saying goes.
And the corollary is just as QED.
A driver who has not lost control should be presumed to be driving reasonably and prudently. This ought to be bulletproof as a legal argument, a slam-dunk defense against any trumped-up charge of “speeding.”
The fact that he may be driving faster than someone else feels to be reasonable and prudent is not evidence that isn’t.
Feelings ought not to be the basis of actionable laws.
Harm caused is the only objective standard.
Certainly, such a standard opens the door to risk.
Of course some people will not drive prudently or reasonably and cause harm – and such people ought to be held fully responsible for the harm they cause, because they are morally responsible for having caused it.
But no one else is responsible for harms they didn’t cause.
And by the way: The current regime doesn’t eliminate risk, either. This is the Utopia Pratfall – the unspoken premise of rule-defenders that their rules eliminate the problem – along with the demand that Libertarian alternatives must achieve perfection.
Some people will still drive unreasonably and imprudently, either way. The big difference is that the reasonable and prudent drivers are always at risk – under the rule regime – of being punished for nothing more than ignoring arbitrary rules.
Under the Libertarian system, they’d be left in peace – having not breached the peace.
Which brings us back to police radar.
It is merely a tool for enforcing arbitrary rules, for the purpose of mulcting the citizenry. An armed government worker sits in his car, pointing his radar gun at passing traffic – almost all of which is “speeding” to some degree because almost all speed limits are ignored to one degree or another because almost all speed limits are understood by almost everyone to be artificial, dumbed-down constructs.
Again this is something universally understood, if not universally acknowledged.
This particular AGW arbitrarily decides that 39 (in a 35) is “safe” today (another AGW might arbitrarily decide differently tomorrow) and so lets the cars which are “speeding” up to that arbitrary number pass by unmolested. But then a car passes by at 41 – and the AGW pulls its driver over and mulcts him for $100.
The 41 MPH driver did no more in terms of causing harm than the drivers who passed the gantlet doing 38 or 39. All of them broke the arbitrary rule – but the AGW enforced it arbitrarily upon the 41 MPH driver.
Tomorrow, it might be the 38 MPH driver. Or no drivers at all, because the AGW decided to set up his trap someplace else. Meanwhile, no harm is caused by the traffic flowing by his old speed trap at 40-something or even faster.
This goes on every day, in every town and city across the country. It has nothing to do with saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety. It has everything to do with the arbitrary enforcement of arbitrary rules.
The harm caused standard requires no radar guns to establish whether harm has been caused.
But there’s not much money – or power – in accepting that standard as the basis of an actionable offense.
Ayn Rand wrote about this problem. She wrote: “There is no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men t live without breaking laws.”
“Speeding” laws, for instance.
. . .
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