Breathalyzer Interlocks Aren\'t *that* Un-Libertarian

As long as we're ripping off titles, I'm going to rip off this one to respond to Sean's criticism of TJIC's support for breathalyzer interlocks.

I don't know whether requiring breathalyzer interlocks for driving on public roads is a good idea. But I do know that it's not inherently illiberal. The use of roads clearly has to be regulated in some way---if a small minority of drivers decide to start driving on the wrong side of the road, running red lights, and otherwise behaving recklessly, this renders the roads largely unusable for the rest of us. And as long as the government is forcing us to pay for its roads, it has a duty to make sure that we can use them as efficiently as practicable.

I don't see that requiring interlocks is, in principle, any more illiberal than imposing speed limits, requiring people to stop at red lights, or prohibiting reckless driving. Like any proposed regulation of the use of public property, it should be adopted or rejected based on cost-benefit analysis. This isn't the sort of thing that can be figured out a priori, but my suspicion is that interlocks for people previously convicted of DUIs (or perhaps only particularly egregious DUIs) would pass a reasonable cost-benefit analysis, whereas a general requirement presumably would not.

I realize that there are problems with trusting the government to do cost-benefit analysis correctly. Like everything the government does, it's subject to the corrupting influence of politics and insulated from the correcting influences of the market. But if privatization is off the table, there's no alternative. We can't leave something up to the market when the government insists on maintaining its monopoly.

I also disagree that TJIC is making the same mistake Sean made in his long-since-retracted defense of workplace smoking bans. TJIC's argument is that the government should, in managing public property, attempt to approximate the policies that private owners would adopt. Imperfect as that approximation may be, the only alternative is to adopt policies that private owners would never adopt, which is clearly absurd when stated in such terms.

But what Sean was advocating (or at least praising with faint damnation) was that government should override market outcomes by dictating policy to private employers in markets which it deems insufficiently competitive. This is a completely different argument, and much weaker because in this case there is a superior alternative---to let the market outcomes stand.

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