Automobiles, Motorcycles and Libertarian Politics
Libertarians are individualists. That means – among other things – we don’t collectivize people.
Libertarians don’t like collective (“one-size-fits-all”) traffic laws.
Why punish a driver who drives faster than you (or some government apparatchik) feels appropriate? Maybe that driver is a better, more experienced driver than you are and so is comfortable driving at a higher speed than you are comfortable driving.
And, competent to do so.
It may feel “too fast” for you, but that doesn’t mean it is “too fast” … objectively speaking.
Laws – much less punishment – shouldn’t be based on feelings.
So what would be an objective criteria?
Loss of control.
If the driver skids off the road or causes an accident then – objectively – he was not in control of his vehicle; he was obviously driving too fast for conditions, or above his skill, or the capabilities of his vehicle.
It’s hard to argue otherwise.
If, on the other hand, the driver doesn’t lose control then – on the face of it – he was in control of his vehicle. It’s harder to make an objective case that he was driving “too fast.”
Illegally fast, perhaps. But objectively “too fast”? Absent loss of control, that’s just an opinion.
About what might happen rather than what actually has happened.
And feelings and “mights” – as far as Libertarians are concerned – don’t justify punishing people. In fact, Libertarians oppose punishing people for anything. Instead, they support holding people responsible – but only for things (harms) they’ve actually caused.
This is a foreign concept to most people – who have been conditioned to define “right” and “wrong” as being synonymous with “legal” and “illegal.” This conditioning is one of the essential underpinnings of authority – which is the pre-requisite for getting people to accept the bit and yoke of government.
Libertarians take a different tack.
To them, an action is morally wrong only if it causes harm to someone else or their property. But if an action hasn’t caused anyone any harm, then it isn’t morally wrong. It might be unwise or not something you would choose to do yourself, but since no harm to others has been caused, forbidding it (much less punishing it) would be a moral wrong. Because then, you (the government, authority) would be causing harm to that person, a person who had not harmed anyone himself.
Things such as “failing to come to a complete stop,” not “buckling up for safety,” having tinted windows, making a right turn on red – even “running” a red light – these are are not moral affronts. They are violations of law – but that is not a moral question, absent harm caused.
You may not like that people do these things, but you haven’t got the moral right to impose harm (i.e., punish) people who have not harmed you.
Some people don’t ride or like motorcycles – and think it’s “crazy” to ride one. They are entitled to their opinion. But they aren’t entitled to force their views on motorcyclists who choose to ride.
With – or without – a helmet.
Same goes for things like “speeding,” which is a purely arbitrary construct – driving faster than other people feel you ought to drive, or the law allows. It doesn’t rise to the level of a moral wrong – as such – if no one’s been harmed.
Driving is an inherently individualistic activity. We each have our own pace, destination and timeframe.
It isn’t a moral failing to drive faster – or slower – than others. The moral failing is refusing to accommodate others who prefer to drive faster or slower than you prefer.
People who don’t care whether you’ve harmed anyone; only whether you genuflected before The Law – which they reverence almost like a savage reverences a totem pole. (Read more about them here. )
This form of intellectual savagery is necessary, not for “safety” – but to gin up the social pressure necessary to impose a one-size-fits-all regime on everyone.
If people began to think as individuals, there would be trouble.
The Libertarian way is to not think in terms of collectives and one-size-fits-all. Nor in terms of punishing people. Libertarians have this crazy notion…
Live – and let live.
On the road, this entails much more than yielding to faster-moving traffic (and not bullying slower-moving traffic). It entails consideration and anticipation.
Example: You notice a fast-moving car coming up behind you (because you use your rearview mirror). You move right – if that lane is open – so the other driver can continue on his way uninterrupted.
Example: You are driving on a road with two travel lanes. There are other drivers waiting to merge from side streets on your right. You can see them up ahead. If you do see them, help them by moving over to the left lane (if it’s open and you can) so that the right/merge lane is free.
Example: You are waiting at a red light, with a left turn lane adjacent. Pull your car forward so as to close the gap between your car and the car ahead – so that cars behind you can pull into the turn lane.
Libertarians are sometimes accused of being “selfish” – but doesn’t that word apply more fittingly to people who refuse to yield to faster-moving traffic? Who take no notice of other drivers and make no move to ease their passage, even when to do so would involve almost no effort and certainly no harm to them? Who deliberately ignore them – or purposely impede them?
Libertarians are sometimes accused of being irresponsible – “anything goes!” – but the all-important qualifier – provided no one is harmed – is always left out.
Libertarians are all for people who cause harm being held fully responsible for the harms they cause. But they are just as forcefully opposed to harming people who’ve harmed no one.
Regardless of “the law.”
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