Well, we got our first ticket in New York - for talking on the cell phone while driving. Wow, this one really bothers me. I was out of town on a business trip, my wife was driving home from work, and we were catching up on the day. She was pulled over by an unmarked police car who was saving the public from my dangerous wife.
I read recently that in terms of liberty, Kansas ranks first among the states. New York , not surprisingly, ranks last. I have not lived in New York before, but I can definitely see the practical reality a "low liberty" state.
Here are some of the other ways I've seen it. When you buy gas at a gas station, you can't check your oil. No, there is no law against checking your oil (well not that I know of), but there is a law against the catch that holds the dispenser and allows the gas to fill without you manually holding it. So I can't check my oil while my gas is filling. Oh, and forget about using the gas cap. There is actually a sign on the gas pumps that says, "It is illegal to use your gas cap to hold fuel dispenser."
Building permits and property taxes are another real New York State socialist fallout. We're looking for a house. In that search we've talked to sellers who have either made changes or tried to make changes to their home. They all describe the process as painful. We've also noticed that for a tiny, tiny two bedroom house, property taxes are about $6000-$8000 a year. Buy an average size home and you'll be spending more like $12,000 a year. Who's house is it? If I buy the house, its my land, my buildings, and my responsibility to maintain. But the local government can charge me huge amounts every year to live in my own house. It should be illegal. They have to do it because they've become so socialist already. The governments are doing so much more than they should be and they've got to pay for it.
What about seatbelt laws? Its my car, its my body. Leave me alone about my seat belt. All these laws are making constant suspects out of all of us. We're constantly under the threat of forgetting some law and getting caught. Now they are using night vision goggles in some places to catch those rotten people who forgot to put on their seatbelt. The justification is the "cost" on the medical system of people who were in accidents not wearing their seatbelts. Again, that's a problem of socialism, not liberty. If the government insists on making others pay for my medical bills, then they'll have an inappropriate interest in my health.
And of course, smoking. They are increasingly making it illegal to smoke anywhere. I'm not a smoker, so it doesn't affect me. But it sure as heck affects my liberty. Why? Because people are increasingly getting it in their heads that if they don't like the behaviors of their neighbors, they'll just make those behaviors illegal. Folks - that is not the way liberty is supposed to work!
Liberty is the only way mankind has ever been able to provide for any measure of "human perfectibility." Do you want peace on earth, harmony between individuals, high general prosperity, and an increase in human dignity? These come as people work on what they deem to be in their own best-interest, which can only result as they focus on the needs of others in a competitive marketplace. Except for envy, in a free society, people stop focusing on what is wrong with others and focus on doing their own job well. But when given the power to take from others through the hand of government, and the power to change another's behavior through the hand of government - we start to talk about what we'd like our neighbor to change rather than focus on what we need to change. We take on a victim mindset. "My happiness will come as others change." Freedom declares: "My happiness will come as I take care of the needs of others in the market." When we stand before government with our hand out, we stop producing, we stop innovating, and we start seeing all that's wrong with our neighbor.
So back to cell phones - over the last 10 years there has been an increasing effort to limit their use. Of course, this effort is made in the interest of "public safety." First of all, that is not a legitimate function of government. Its job is to ensure that the exercise of my rights does not interfere with the free exercise of the rights of my fellow man. I cannot be allowed to bring harm to my fellow man via my freedom. But the government has to be very careful in the exercise of this power because it is a slippery slope. Everything can become an interest of public safety.
I believe that limits on cell phone use are "lifestyle over liberty" issues. Not "preventing harm" issues. The science documenting cell phone use and accidents is not able to show cause, only association. They might say, lots of people were on their cell phone when involved in an accident last year. Their accident was associated with their cell phone use. But they can't say, the cell phone use caused the accident. Limiting the cell phone use may or may not decrease accidents.
Consider bluejeans - yeah, bluejeans. Studies would probably reveal that in a large number of accidents, people were wearing bluejeans. We should begin a public awareness campaign of the dangers of bluejean wearing drivers. It is important to save lives! The absurdity is obvious - but the analogy holds. If you can't show cause, don't regulate.
Lots of things cause car accidents. Are we going to regulate every one of them? Eating, drinking, talking, makeup, changing the radio station, fiddling with the kids, looking for an exit, looking for a certain store, looking at the hot girl in the next car. If you're going to make cell phone use illegal - you better start legislating - we're along way from safe "publics" as it stands now.
I suspect the cell phone bans began more with a slant toward "getting even with the rich" mentality. Early on, only wealthy people had cell phones. The sight of a "dirty rich bastard" talking on his cell phone pissed a lot of people off and they were going to do something about it. Now that everyone has cell phones (thank you free market) we had to find a better reason - public safety.
An article in the Washington Post discusses our need for political change. Wow, is that ever necessary. But I don't think it will happen until people stop looking to government for their livelihood and start realizing how much government destroys their opportunity for real freedom, real prosperity, and real happiness.
Subject Areas: Socialism, Liberty, Cell Phones, Government, Property Taxes, New York