Heres’ the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Brian asks: Eric, You are a car guy and a motorcycle rider. I, too, am both and so I hope you might be able to shed some light on something that I’ve been troubled with for quite a while.
I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was 14. I’ve ridden a Suzuki, Hondas, Yamahas, and a couple BMWs but never a Harley. My current ride is a 1980 Yamaha XS1100. And I’ve always had convertibles, since my first car, bought in 1975, a 1968 Pontiac LeMans. My current daily driver is a 1998 Jaguar XK8 convertible. I don’t think I’ll ever have a car made later than 2005.
The summers here in New England are short and precious. Getting out on the road with the top down is such a relaxing way to see the world. Until the Harley asshole gets near. What is it about straight pipes that is so alluring? It can’t be that comfortable hearing that 110 dB sound constantly around you, or do they even hear that? Seems the sound is expelled out the back, only to cause discomfort to the people behind them. They excuse their sound with the tripe, “loud pipes save lives” – except when I have the top down and a straight-pipe asshole is in front of me, I’ll do anything I can, even endangering us both, to pass and get those pipes pointing not at me. How is that saving lives?
As a libertarian anarchist, I don’t think the solution is to pass laws regulating the decibels allowed. But what is the solution to this problem? Perhaps these riders don’t understand the discomfort they are causing, or perhaps they do and they don’t care about others. Or, perhaps they do understand, and are just looking for attention. Whatever the reason, they are just being rude. I’m not asking you to solve this problem, but perhaps you know some of these straight-pipe guys and can let me know their side of the story.
My reply: I’ll start by admitting that libertarians don’t have the perfect answer for everything. No one does. The less-than-ideal (and the asshole) will be with us, always. The libertarian choice is between accepting the possibility of having to deal with the occasional freelance asshole or the certainty of empowering official assholes.
The jerk on the straight-piped Harley will be gone soon. And more importantly, you can get away from him. All he has is noise and bad manners. He hasn’t got a badge. Jefferson wrote about the willingness to assume risk for the sake of freedom. Including the freedom of others to behave in ways that we may consider and which may well be objectively unpleasant and inconsiderate.
But should there be a law against such?
I live in one of the few places remaining in this country where there is no zoning. I could set up a hog processing plant on my land – adjacent to my neighbor’s land. I don’t do it because I’m not a dick – just weird. And I’d rather run the risk that my neighbor might set up a hog processing plant adjacent to my land than live in an area with zoning laws that force me to get permission to put up a shed on my land.
I don’t get it, either – as far as the straight pipes. I have one loud bike – my antique (’75) Kawasaki two-stroke. But I don’t fire it up early in the morning nor late at night and I try to not make a point of it being loud – as some Harley riders seem to like to do.
I think this is one of those things that can mostly be handled by social conventions – in the same way that social conventions generally keep people from walking around with their zippers undone. Of course, there will always be a few uncouth, deliberately obnoxious people. These are best dealt with by just avoiding them.
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