Wednesday 25 April 2018

Rules of the road

Last week I attended an event in Edinburgh. After dinner there was discussion about prisons and their role in society. One of our number suggested that unnecessary drug laws were responsible for many folk ending up in prison. I agreed and also made the point that the state was far too intrusive generally. For example, pub owners should be allowed to decide whether smoking should (or should not) be allowed in their premises.

I was asked whether it should be compulsory to wear seat belts and I replied in the negative. Afterwards I realised that I’m far too used to discussing such matters with fellow libertarians. I would have elaborated further had there been more time.

The correct answer is, of course, that it should be up to the owner of the road to decide.

A farmer who has a private road running to his farm should be free to make the rules for that road, including whether or not someone should be obliged to wear a seat belt.

Similarly, the private owners of Silverstone allow Grand Prix drivers to go at rather more than the “national” speed limit of 70 mph. I don’t think that any of those drivers get speeding tickets.

My questioner was no doubt thinking about state owned roads. As always, the owner gets to set the rules. Including when the owner is the state. Whether or not the state should own roads is quite another question…

If I owned the M8 or Lothian Road I’d set rules for users. Those rules may well include the use of seat belts and speed limits. In fact, they probably would.

We libertarians must remember that not everyone spends all day studying the finer points of our philosophy.

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