Thursday, July 17, 2014

What About Drivers Licensing?

In a fully free, laissez-faire capitalist society, should the government establish rules of the road, including licensing requirements for drivers? 

In the current mixed economy, the government owns the roads, so it certainly must regulate their use. But I believe the government also must have a role in a fully free society where all roads are privately owned.

The government has a role, in my view, since a car is an instrument of deadly force that can victimize innocents. It is the responsibility of legal scholars and the philosophy of law to determine the best way to codify government's role in law, as it relates to its rights-protecting function.

Traffic laws, licensing, and vehicle registration and identification tags handled by government have been around for a long time. The question to ask is: Do these rules in and of themselves interfere in an individual's rights to life, liberty, property, or pursuit of happiness? Do they interfere in the individual's right to pursue his goals and values? I don't see how they have or can, so long as they are objective and easily attainable, as they generally have been.

Of course, licensing and vehicle registration could probably be handled by private organizations. But I think it is appropriate for government to have some legal mechanism for requiring drivers using publicly accessible roadways to be properly trained. Any nut case should not he legally allowed to use public roads—government or private—just as the mentally ill or people with a violent criminal history should not be allowed to own guns.

The same goes for driving. People certainly should have proper training before going out on the road where they endanger others' lives whom they share the road with. If government doesn't issue licenses, private insurers and road owners have a strong self-interest in ensuring safe driving. They could require some kind of accreditation, or provide it themselves. But here's the thing: The government has an interest in providing order on the roads. This means keeping unqualified individuals or people with a really bad driving record off of the roads.

Operational licensure should not be confused with occupational licensure. They are distinctly different. My conclusion is that, in a fully free society—given the government as the instrument of rights protection, the forcible nature of the transportation devices, and the public nature of the roads—the government should have the authority to use its law-making powers to maintain order on the roads and protect responsible people from reckless drivers.

7 comments:

Steve D said...

'since a car is an instrument of deadly force that can victimize innocents.'

So is a hammer. Pretty much anything can be used to victimize innocents.

Mike Kevitt said...

I just thought of something. If licensing drivers and registering autos hasn't led to undue restrictions on drivers or autos, does it still make such restrictions possible and can we just be glad such restrictrions haven't been established? After all, the NRA claims licensing gun owners and registering guns will inevitably lead to confiscation of all guns.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

Steve: A hammer isn't inherently dangerous to other people in the course of normal use.

Mike: Not if the principle of individual rights is widely understood and consistently adhered to in the application of a free country's laws. If not, pretty much any valid law can and will be twisted, and lead to restrictions on liberty.

Mike Kevitt said...

Even if the principle of individual rights is widely understood, it still surely isn't consistently adhered to. It has been, regarding driver licensing & auto registering, but it surely won't be if they ever start licensing gun owners & registering guns.

Educated statists in positions of power understand individual rights, but they don't like rights. They won't adhere to rights and they will obliterate them whenever they can.

'Politically', they wouldn't succeed concerning drivers & autos, but they might concerning gun owners & guns. In the population at large, there are too many who won't adhere to rights regarding gun owners & guns, and many of those will understand rights & their application to gun owners & guns, but STILL won't adhere to rights regarding this.

People are inconsistent because they don't understand, or if they do understand, they CHOOSE to be inconsistent, against reason.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

It’s true that individual rights must not only be understood in the culture, but also valued and desired if its laws are to consistently reflect rights.

I think what goes for motor vehicles goes doubly for guns. While the use of cars is inherently dangerous to others, its purpose is not to hurt others. With guns, the primary purpose is to harm others, which is only justified when used for defensive purposes. Registration is an important law enforcement tool. Licensing is a means of assuring that guns are in the hands of properly trained, responsible, mentally stable, law-abiding citizens. In a rights-respecting society, such laws are not a back-door means of effectively banning guns.

See my full thoughts on guns and the role of government.

Steve D said...

‘A hammer isn't inherently dangerous to other people in the course of normal use.’
However, a chainsaw is; if the tree drops on someone.
‘Of course, licensing and vehicle registration could probably be handled by private organizations.’
and
‘private insurers and road owners have a strong self-interest in ensuring safe driving.’
contradicts
'The government has an interest in providing order on the roads.’
because bad protection drives out good.
and
Why should government take action when you’ve already stated (twice) that it is not needed? Why invoke the government to maintain order which is already present?
‘Registration is an important law enforcement tool.’
That’s not a good argument. If we imbedded chips in people to keep an eye on them, that would be an even better law enforcement tool.
‘Do they interfere in the individual's right to pursue his goals and values?’
The proper question is only; do they violate individual rights?
Also, I’m not sure about this;
I think what goes for motor vehicles goes doubly for guns.
The opposite might be true. Many more people are killed accidently by automobiles than guns every year. Most gun owner’s show far more safety sense than car owner’s exactly because the purpose of guns is to kill people.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

Steve,

I see no conflict between private licensing and registration or a private road owner’s self-interest in safe roads, and government’s interest in providing order on the roads. As the institution charged with protecting individual rights, the government has an interest, though limited, in all human interaction. For example, to use your example, if you chain-saw a tree down and it injures another person or damages another’s property, you can be held civilly liable for damages, as well as criminally liable if applicable, based on rights-protecting laws. The government has an interest in providing a civil, objective means of settling disputes, for the purpose of providing order. If the injured party has no recourse but to personally go after the guy who chopped down the tree, there would be chaos.

As to “Registration is an important law enforcement tool,” I do not mean for purposes of preventive law (presumption of guilt), but for government’s role as a rights protector. How effectively can traffic laws be enforced if the police couldn't identify a car’s owner? I would think it would be a hindrance. I don't see how registration violates rights. And I don't see the analogy to embedding chips in people for purposes of surveillance.

‘Do they interfere in the individual's right to pursue his goals and values?’
The proper question is only; do they violate individual rights?

This is really the crux of the matter.

Do rights sanction whatever one wants to do, however irrational and dangerous to others? Rights are principles derived from the factual requirements of man’s life; specifically, the fact that a man must act by reason to pursue, gain, and keep the values his life as a rational being requires, which requires being free from coercive interference by others. This principle does not preclude rules. How do driving laws hamper a rational man’s freedom to pursue, gain, and keep his rational values? They don’t. They protect the rational man’s rights by proscribing irrational, dangerous behavior, such as driving 100 miles per hour while swerving all over the road. If all roads are privately owned, you would still need uniform rules for all drivers and all road owners. Objective traffic laws are simply rules to protect rational, rights-respecting drivers, their occupants, and their property, and avoid chaos. We can debate what kind of laws to have. But, do driving laws as such violate individual rights? In my view, no, they don’t. They are necessary to protect rights.

Thanks.