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.