Libertarians For The Nanny State

Yes, I'm ripping off a title Matthew Bryan from Strike The Root applied to me for my earlier misguided non-opposition to smoking bans. And now TJIC, another self-styled anarcho-capitalist like myself, seems to be following in my foot-in-mouth-steps with regard to neoprohibition:

I’m 100% in favor of requiring anyone who has been DUI even once to blow into a breathalyzer to unlock their car.

Surprisingly, I am not 100% opposed to the idea of universal interlocks.

Let's start with a little perspective here. Motor vehicle deaths per passenger mile are at an all time low. There were fewer than 44,000 motor vehicle deaths in 2005. That's fewer than there were in 1975, even though there are far more cars on the road. Only about 3500 of these, less than 8%, were killed in accidents where the NHTSA determined that alcohol might have been the cause, not including the supposedly drunk drivers themselves. Of course, the neoprohibitionists will always include the 9500 drivers in their statistics, but good libertarians like me and TJIC don't care about them because we're not interested in protecting people from themselves, right?

Isn’t this an invasion of civil rights? As long as one can disable the locks while driving on one’s own property, not necessarily. We already require tests of basic competency before people are allowed to use potentially dangerous technologies in public places, and this seems to be merely an extension. Sure, in anarcho-topia, there would be multiple different Crane and Dump Truck Licensing firms, with different tests for competency, and the market would decide if one or more approaches were better than the others…but as long as we’re going to have a State, it doesn’t seem that unreasonable to me that the State mandate per-instance-of-driving testing, in addition to driver’s licenses.

Certainly, if I was running a private highway, I would seriously consider requiring interlocks on every vehicle. The problem I see is that alcohol intoxication is only one of many types of incapacitation that lead to deadly accidents, and it’s unfair to pick some causes out for investigation and verification, while allowing folks impaired by other problems to drive. Ideally, we’d want to block people who have their reaction speed slowed by medicines, sleep deprivation, or age. I’d like to see a basic dexterity test, perhaps.

The difference is that if TJIC were running a private highway and requiring interlocks turned out to be a bad idea, he would stop requiring interlocks or go out of business. If the government does it and it's a bad idea, everybody suffers except for the politicians. This is exactly the trap I ran into with my earlier posts about smoking bans, and it's wrong for exactly the same reason. If your goal is to get rid of the State, it makes no sense to accept greater incursions from the State just because *you* think that it might produce results similar to what a free market might produce. Central planning doesn't become less bad just because the central planners are trying to predict what the market might produce and follow that; in fact, that's usually what central planners claim to be doing in the first place!

It's somewhat ironic that TJIC's biggest problem with this proposal is that it's "unfair" to single out some causes over others, like accident-causes somehow have rights even though people don't. Never does it cross his mind that it might not be economically efficient, or in fact that it might even be just plain *wrong*, to require everyone, including non-drinkers, to shell out an extra $100 or so for every car they buy at a total cost of over $750,000,000/year and then blow into a breakable gizmo every time they want to start their car just to save some small fraction of 3500 people per year.

Here's an alternative and exactly analogous proposal: Far more motor vehicle deaths are provably caused by excessive speed. Most people who receive speeding tickets have received a speeding ticket before, and most people who receive one speeding ticket will eventually receive a second. Therefore, let's require everyone who has ever received a speeding ticket to have a device installed in their car from exceeding the posted speed limit. Everyone knows that posted speed limits are frequently too low, just like a .08% BAC is too low for the vast majority of the population. And almost all of us speed, just like most of us have driven with >= .08% BAC at some point in our lives. But, of course, since we're suddenly talking about the majority instead of some demonizable minority (i.e. "drunk drivers"), such a requirement would never pass.

In the meantime, I'd like to direct TJIC to an apropos post by ... TJIC ... entitled As soon as you go down the path of the majority voting on the rights of the minority, you’re going down a dangerous path. Is this suddenly not true when that minority happens to be people who have been caught driving with >= .08% BAC, or happen not to be able to walk in a straight line for medical reasons (this actually happened to someone I know)? Perhaps TJIC should pay more attention to this TJIC person.

Share this