Why should anyone be subject to punishment merely for driving “x” speed?

Is it not of a piece with punishing someone for merely consuming alcohol?

The justification usually given is that “speeding” might cause harm.

Ok, sure. The same is true about drinking beer. Someone (generally) might drink beer and beat his wife. But we do not presume (for now) that everyone who drinks beer will beat his wife – and thus, drinking beer must be forbidden. And violators of this policy punished.

What about punishing (hold onto that thought) people when – and only if – they actually do cause harm? Not before – and not because they might. Or because “someone” else has.

It’s a crazy idea, I realize.

Imagine: You’d only have to sweat cops or face a judge if you (and not some other person you never even met) could plausibly be charged with having caused harm to an actual victim or damaged the actual property of someone else. Mark that. A flesh and blood victim would have to be presented.

And it would be the obligation of the courts to prove that harm was done to establish guilt before requiring restitution (much preferable to punishing people, which smacks of house training a puppy).

There would be an end to this business of people being put through the system who’ve harmed no one. Who are punished for manufactured offenses against the state.

Can the state be a victim? Is the Tooth Fairy real? It’s absurd – and vicious.

Do you feel guilty of wrongdoing when pulled over by a cop for not wearing a seatbelt? Who have you harmed? What justification – other than “it’s the law” – is there for punishing you?

How about driving faster than an arbitrary number plastered on a sign? You get pulled out from a crowd of others doing the same thing; none of you harming anyone or even plausibly threatening it. It’s merely your unlucky day. Your time to pay.

As the cop slides in behind you, does your internal monologue run along the lines of, “well, yeah… I did a bad thing… I deserve this.”

Or do you feel disgust, anger – and resentment? Of course. This has serious implications.

Laws without a moral basis are just arbitrary rules. They have no moral force – and that makes people subjected to them feel abused. Which they have been. Meanwhile, it also makes it more difficult to deal with the relatively small number of people in society who actually do cause harm to others. If you doubt this, take a drive into a “bad” neighborhood; where are all the cops?

They’re manning radar traps and safety checkpoints in the “nice” neighborhoods!

Remember the “Drive 55″ idiocy that lasted from about 1974 to 1995? Overnight – and for the next 20 years – it became illegal “speeding” to drive 70 when the day before it had been legal to do that and – presumably (being legal) “safe.” How does it become “unsafe” to drive 70 on the same road today that it was (apparently) “safe” to drive 70 on yesterday?

What was it Bob Dooole used to say? You know it, I know it, the American people know it.

Millions of people were simply ripped off – had their money stolen from them under color of law.

The contempt and corruption this bred is incalculable. It festers to this day. Because while “Drive 55″ is history, the same rigmarole exists on secondary roads. Every day, thousands of people are pulled over and literally robbed. Issued what amount to ransom notes – state-sanctioned extortion – for driving at reasonable and prudent velocities that happen to have been codified as illegal “speeding.” The fact that virtually every one “speeds” – this includes cops – is the clearest, most inarguable proof that the laws are absurd. And their enforcement a sort of low-rent sadism that also happens to be very profitable.

What’s the solution?

Speed limits as such ought to be thrown in the woods. They are arbitrary, morally indefensible – and most of all, one-size-fits-all.

People are individuals and some people are better at certain things than others. This includes driving. Tony Stewart is a better driver than I am. But I am a much better driver than my mother-in-law. Why should Tony Stewart be dumbed-down to my level?

And why should I be dumbed-down to my mother-in-law’s?

Imposing arbitrary, one-size-fits-all limits on anyone for anything is by definition unfair.

Arbitrary man-made “speeding” laws based on a dumbed-down/least-common-denominator standard amount to ugly and stupid people punishing the good-looking and smart ones.

The people who support such laws support anticipatory and pre-emptive punishment. That is, laws that assume something bad will happen if “x” is not punished.

And which punish the “offender” as if something bad had actually happened.

Even if it never did.

Innocence of having caused harm is (currently) no defense. It’s not necessary for the government to produce a victim. All that’s necessary, legally speaking, is for the state to prove that “the law” was violated.

Comrade Stalin would approve.

Cue the keening wail that, absent speed limits, people will drive excessively fast and lose control.

Yet they do exactly that already – speed limits notwithstanding. Just as people still drive soused (and senile, too).

The difference between the harm-caused/actual victim approach – and the “it’s the law” approach – is that the former only holds those who actually do lose control – for whatever reason – accountable. Everyone else is free to go about their business. To live as adults – rather than be treated as presumptively unintelligent children.

What a concept!

Speed advisories would be fine. For example a sign letting you know that there is a sharp curve ahead and maybe reducing speed would be good. Drivers unfamiliar with that road – and never having driven that curve before – may find this information helpful. But why should the local who is familiar with that road – and who drives that curve everyday – be subject to punishment for taking the curve at a higher speed?

Assuming, of course, that he does so competently, without causing harm to anyone in the process?

That was once the American Way. Not “do as you please” – the dishonest, demagogic bleat of Clovers. But rather, do as you please… so long as you don’t cause harm to others.

The false choice offered by Clovers is total control in exchange for total safety – the “risk free” world. But this is a quixotic quest that can never end, because risk cannot be removed from this life. We all get sick – and die eventually. Entropy happens.

What can be excised, however, is the risk to our liberties, our peace of mind, our enjoyment of life – presented by random and arbitrary interferences and punishments based not on what we’ve done, but on what “someone” might do.

This post originally appeared at Eric Peters Autos.com.


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