ISSUES IN FOCUS
Week of August 16, 1999
DRIVING IN FREEDOM
As a result of years of "politically correct" education at the hands of statist teachers, we now have an enormous segment of the population that is woefully ignorant of how things work in a free society. Increasingly, and frighteningly, a majority automatically turns to the state for a legislated solution to everyday problems.
Given the foregoing, it is important to consider both the principles and practical workings of a free society. Let’s take a look at automobiles and highways.
In a free society, highways and roads are privately owned. As private enterprises, the construction and maintenance of highways would be funded, not by taxes, but by fees paid by the users of highways. Those who do not drive would not be forced, as they are today, to pay taxes for highways.
The owner of any property has the right to control its use and disposal. This is true of the owner of a highway: he has the right to set the terms of its use. This includes granting, or refusing, permission to anyone who wishes to travel on his road. Thus, he has the right to set certain standards of safety and to demand that drivers possess a certificate of driving skill, as well as insurance on their vehicles.
The owners of highways would have the incentive of a free market to provide the very best roads for their customers. The safety and well being of its customers would be of paramount concern. No highway would want a reputation as dangerous since this would cost it customers.
Today, under our current statist scheme, over 40,000 state-licensed drivers are killed in accidents each year. State licensing is not only a violation of individual rights, it is a farce. It does virtually nothing to keep dangerous drivers off the roads. With privately owned highways, we would see a dramatic improvement in safety as well as in the quality of highways.
Since no one wants to be on the road with a bunch of unsafe drivers, highway owners would make safety a top priority. This means that they would insist that their customers receive a certain level of driver training and certification. Such training and certification would be provided by companies in that business, such as Sears. But in a free society, insurance companies would quickly come to the forefront when it comes to training and certification. Since they would be financially liable for most accidents, it would be in their self-interest to get into the business of ensuring a high level of skill on the part of all drivers. Highway owners would make it a requirement that their customers have a high level of certification for their driving skills.
Most drivers who are impaired by drugs and/or alcohol would quickly be removed from the roads. The best highways would bar from its roads any driver who failed, or refused, a sobriety or drug test. Today, drivers with prior convictions for drunk driving are on the roads all the time.
The problems with drivers who are either too young or too old to drive safely would be virtually eliminated. Such drivers would not be able to pass the required driver certification and would not be allowed on most roads.
In a free society, any unsafe conduct on highways would bring with it the threat of the withdrawal of the highway owner’s permission to use his roads. Since most who drive, especially truckers, need to do so in order to earn a living or get to work, few would dare to risk the suspension of their privilege to drive on any highway. This fact alone would virtually eliminate speeding and unsafe conduct.
On the best highways, each vehicle would be monitored by computerized systems. Drivers who had their driving privileges revoked would not be permitted to access the highway. Speed limits would be set by the highways. Speeders would either be issued a warning or charged a penalty fee for speeding. It would be up to the highway owner to determine when a given speeder would no longer be allowed to drive on his highway, but the incentive would be for the owner to get rid of speeders in order to ensure the safety of his other customers.
On major traffic arteries, the cost of driving would vary with the traffic flow. At peak times, the cost of driving would be the most. At off-peak times, the cost would be the lowest. This would encourage drivers to avoid peak times, thus lowering traffic congestion that is so common in large, urban areas.
Most highway owners would require insurance since most of his customers would not want to be on the road with a lot of uninsured drivers. Even if a given highway owner did not want to require its customers to have insurance, the highway owner’s insurance company would most certainly require this as a condition of providing coverage. And even if this didn’t occur, most drivers would be insured since lending institutions would require insurance of all who purchase vehicles in order to protect their financial interests.
In a free society, only the rightful owner of property may issue a permit, or license, for its use. A statist society, such as we have today, arrogates unto itself all rights and vests them with the state—which means: you have no rights, but may only act if you get the state’s permission. The meaning of state licensing is that the "right" belongs to the state, not to you, that you may only engage in certain activities, such as driving, unless the state permits you to do so.
Most will find it difficult to understand that the essence of the American Revolution has been overturned, in principle, by a small item in their wallet: a driver’s license. That single document epitomizes the essence of statism: you are forbidden to act without permission from the state; you have no right to action.
Any nation whose majority continues to accept the idea that they must seek permission from the state to engage in any action—which, in fact, is theirs to take by right—will not survive as a free country.
August 16, 1999
For my article directly dealing with licenses, see LICENSES VERSUS RIGHTS.
© Copyright 1999 Fulton Huxtable
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