Glenn Chatfield at Sanity in an Upside Down World recently discussed and supported the government’s use of speed limit cameras to catch speeding motorists:
The thing is, if you don’t speed, you won’t get a ticket. If I remember correctly, the cameras do not get you unless you are going more than 5mph over the limit; they wanted to account for variables in speedometers.. . . .Well, in this upside-down world where people think they can violate speeding laws, there are complaints by those who have been caught.. . . .Only in this upside-down world do people whine about getting caught breaking the law rather than just obeying it. As for me, I find it a lot more relaxing driving through town now without having my doors blown off by the rocket flashing by!
The purpose of these arbitrarily low limits is to collect taxes from random motorists. Weak societies always complain about the need for more police officers (instead of having people man up a bit and buy guns to protect themselves). As a result, governments hire more officers. But then to make up for the increased number of officers, taxes must be collected. One way of collecting these taxes is to pull people over for breaking arbitrarily low speed limits.
It is analogous to what Roman soldiers used to do with the Jews, where a soldier would select a random Jew off the street and force him to carry the soldier’s equipment for one mile. Because the duty fell only on random people at random times (and because it was only a mile), people just angrily tolerated the imposition instead of revolting. Just like the Romans, we feel the need to have armed guards patrolling everywhere at all times. And just like the Romans, we must raise money to support these officers. It is easier to randomly tax some random citizens at unpredictable times than to tax everyone all at once and thereby risk a revolt. You can pacify the population even more if you do a halfway decent job of pretending that the tax is for the taxee’s own good, and that he deserves to be taxed due to his “dangerous” violation of the arbitrarily low speed limit.
I remember that in Knoxville, most of the speed limits on regular roads were actually pretty reasonable. But what the government would do to collect its take in support of the police was to lower the speed limit only on the interstates. That way, the police pulled over most of their speeders on the interstates, and they could effectively collect a tax only from foreigners who were merely traveling through the city but did not live there. The people who actually lived in the city remained safe from the stops. The voters wouldn’t get as upset, the government got its money, and almost everyone was happy.
A law by itself means nothing. Morally speaking, if someone wants to forcefully pull you over to the side of the road and ultimately take money from you by force, that person must have a moral justification for doing so. The mere fact that a government official writes a law is not a moral justification. A moral justification would be something along the lines of working to prevent murder or other immorality. By contrast, the desire to collect revenue is not a moral justification for robbing random citizens.
In the comments to his post, Glenn Chatfield writes:
I wouldn’t care if the purpose WAS to increase revenue, which it wasn’t, because it still gets people to slow down and obey the law.
Not just in Knoxville but actually practically everywhere, you’ll often find low speed limits along the interstates of large cities. What happens is that the government is not only trying to collect taxes from foreign motorists, but they are also lowering the speed limit way down for environmentalist purposes. The speed limit is 70 in Franklin and 55 near the middle of Nashville. Are the roads just built substantially more safely in Franklin? Of course not. Rather, the big city (not to mention Leftist city) just wants to enforce an environmental policy under the guise of “safety.” And they have basically re-enacted the Jimmy Carter national speed limit, but instead of requiring it nationwide, they only do it in their tiny little jurisdictions.
And no, the fact that cities can become crowded during rush hour gives absolutely no logical justification for lowering a speed limit. You are not legally required to drive 70 mph if the speed limit is 70. And besides, Franklin gets about as much traffic as Nashville, anyway.
Lest any of you tree huggers come back with the argument that low speed limits are good because they reduce smog or global warming or whatever, even if that were true it should be a completely separate debate. We should be handing out “environmental violation tickets” instead of speeding tickets. But instead, we have these “law and order” politicians who whine about how speeding motorists are a safety hazard, when the laws aren’t even based on safety! It is intellectual dishonesty of the gravest variety. And then they turn over your driving record to the liability insurance company — which they legally require you to do business with — so that the insurance company can jack up your insurance rates based on your “safety” violations. I’ve even heard that the insurance companies will often donate radar guns to police officers, like they are partners in the great scam.
And moreover, under both Tennessee and federal law, environmental concerns are not actually a legitimate reason for lowering a speed limit. So the law-and-order politicians and municipal judges can throw the book at you for violating these “safety” laws, and yet they violate the law themselves.
We don’t have any speed limit cameras near where I live, but if they ever bring them here, I will renew my offer to represent pro bono anyone who gets accused of vandalizing such a camera. Not that I would want to encourage such action, or anything.