Diversions : Against Traffic Laws

Mark Cohen, Nederland.  I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of the government trying to control my life. Take traffic laws, for example. Why should government decide how fast I drive? The Declaration of Independence states that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are unalienable rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that liberty includes a constitutional right to travel. Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618 (1969). If we have a right to travel, doesn’t it follow that we have a right to decide at what speed we travel? The Declaration of Independence also states that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. I’ve checked all my personal papers back to 1958 and I never consented to speed limits.

History has shown that anything government can do the free market can do better. I say get government out of the business of regulating traffic and let the free market do its job. This approach offers at least five benefits.

First, by eliminating all traffic laws, we would immediately see lower taxes. There would be no need to collect taxes to pay for traffic cops, traffic courts, or traffic control devices.

Allowing citizens to keep more of their hard-earned dollars would stimulate economic growth because we would spend a portion of the money we save to purchase consumer goods, thereby creating jobs. As we all know from Econ 101, the money we spend would trickle down to those less fortunate than us.

Second, doing away with traffic laws would enable America to better compete in the global economy. Most people agree that Germany makes higher quality automobiles than we do.

Why? Because Germans can drive as fast as they want on the Autobahn. With government out of the picture, Germans are free to design high performance vehicles and are motivated to do so. Or take Japan, for example. You can’t visit Japan without seeing a high speed bullet train. Germans and Japanese workers arrive at their jobs more quickly and return home sooner. They waste less time on unproductive commuting and spend more time actually manufacturing goods and providing services. If America is to compete in global markets, we must reconsider our outdated beliefs in the need for traffic laws.

Third, eliminating traffic laws would save energy and improve the environment. Do you know how much electricity is required to power traffic lights in a major city? It takes 1.21 gigawatts to power every traffic light in Denver for one hour. Coal provides most of that electricity. Coal is dirty and burning it creates greenhouse gases. Eliminate traffic signals and save a critter. That’s what I say. Eliminating traffic laws would also allow us to remove all sorts of ugly signs from our roads and highways. I’ve lived in Nederland for twenty years and if there is one thing I don’t need to see it is a road sign that reads, “CAUTION HIGH WINDS.”

Fourth, allowing the free market to control the flow of traffic would greatly benefit minorities. It’s no secret that rural communities, where there is little traffic regulation, are mostly white. (I’m ignoring the issue of Hispanic farm workers who are not paid enough to purchase vehicles anyhow). In the big cities, where traffic regulation is rampant, the minority population is greater. This makes it more difficult for minority workers to get to work quickly and get more hours so they can put food on the table. Traffic regulations clearly have a disproportionately negative impact on minority populations.

Finally, eliminating traffic laws would compel us to take greater responsibility for our driving. We’ve become so accustomed to the nanny state protecting us that we no longer take responsibility for our own actions.

Now, I can already hear the same tired old liberal arguments. We are not a nation of individuals, but a society where the actions of one person may affect the rest of us. We need government to regulate our conduct for the greater good, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, whatever.

Just remember, if we allow government to regulate traffic, what is to prevent government from regulating things such as marijuana and abortion? It’s a slippery slope. As Sen. Rand Paul said, “I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, there is something profoundly un-American about using the brute force of government to bully someone.”

Mark Cohen

Mark Cohen, J.D., LL.M., is a lawyer in Nederland, Colorado. He is also the author of the Pepper Keane mystery series. A former chairperson of the editorial board of The Colorado Lawyer magazine, one of his interests is the use of Plain English rather than legal jargon.