Against Traffic Laws

November 17th, 2015 3:30pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of the government trying to control my life. Take traffic laws, for example. Why should government decide how fast I drive? The Declaration of Independence states that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are unalienable rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that liberty includes a constitutional right to travel. Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618 (1969). If we have a right to travel, doesn’t it follow that we have a right to decide at what speed we travel? The Declaration of Independence also states government derives it just powers from the consent of the governed. I’ve checked all my personal papers back to 1958 and I never consented to speed limits.

History has shown that anything government can do the free market can do better. I say get government out of the business of regulating traffic and let the free market do its job. This approach offers at least five benefits.

First, by eliminating all traffic laws, we would immediately see lower taxes. There would be no need to collect taxes to pay for traffic cops, traffic courts, or traffic control devices.  Allowing citizens to keep more of their hard-earned dollars would stimulate economic growth because we would spend a portion of the money we save to purchase consumer goods, thereby creating jobs. As we all know from Econ 101, the money we spend would trickle down to those less fortunate than us.

Second, doing away with traffic laws would enable America to better compete in the global economy. Most people agree that Germany makes higher quality automobiles than we do. Why? Because Germans can drive as fast as they want on the Autobahn. With government out of the picture, Germans are free to design high performance vehicles and are motivated to do so. Or take Japan, for example. You can’t visit Japan without seeing a high speed bullet train. Germans and Japanese workers arrive at their jobs more quickly and return home sooner. They waste less time on unproductive commuting and spend more time actually manufacturing goods and providing services. If America is to compete in global markets, we must reconsider our outdated beliefs in the need for traffic laws.

Third, eliminating traffic laws would save energy and improve the environment. Do you know how much electricity is required to power traffic lights in a major city? It takes 1.21 gigawatts to power every traffic light in Denver for one hour. Coal provides most of that electricity. Coal is dirty and burning it creates greenhouse gases. Eliminate traffic signals and save a critter. That’s what I say. Eliminating traffic laws would also allow us to remove all sorts of ugly signs from our roads and highways. I’ve lived in Nederland for twenty years and if there is one thing I don’t need to see it is a road sign that reads, “CAUTION: HIGH WINDS.”

Fourth, allowing the free market to control the flow of traffic would greatly benefit minorities. It’s no secret that rural communities, where there is little traffic regulation, are mostly white. (I’m ignoring the issue of Hispanic farm workers who are not paid enough to purchase vehicles anyhow). In the big cities, where traffic regulation is rampant, the minority population is greater. This makes it more difficult for minority workers to get to work quickly and get more hours so they can put food on the table. Traffic regulations clearly have a disproportionately negative impact on minority populations.

Finally, eliminating traffic laws would compel us to take greater responsibility for our driving. We’ve become so accustomed to the nanny state protecting us that we no longer take responsibility for our own actions.

Now, I can already hear the same tired old liberal arguments. We are not a nation of individuals, but a society where the actions of one person may affect the rest of us. We need government to regulate our conduct for the greater good, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, whatever. Just remember, if we allow government to regulate traffic, what is to prevent government from regulating things such as marijuana and abortion? It’s a slippery slope. As Sen. Rand Paul said, “I don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat, there is something profoundly un-American about using the brute force of government to bully someone.


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Great Lawyers in History: Edwin Hubble

November 1st, 2015 4:23pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

Today I write about one of the great lawyers in history, Edwin Hubble. Hubble’s story starts at the beginning of time. You see, not all that long ago most western people believed God created the universe in about 5,000 B.C., and that he did it in six days. Most people believed in a static universe, and therefore the question of whether it had a beginning was one of metaphysics or theology.

But one day in 1929, Hubble, a lawyer and pretty good heavyweight boxer who sometimes messed around with telescopes, noticed that another galaxy was moving away from ours at an impressive speed. He turned his telescope in a different direction and saw another galaxy speeding away from ours. This happened several more times.  No matter what direction he looked in, other galaxies were zooming away from us. “Hey Grace,” he shouted to his wife, “the universe is expanding.”

“That’s nice, dear,” his wife said. “Did you take out the trash?”

Hubble theorized that there might have been a time when things in the universe had been much closer together. The question of the beginning of the universe was thrust into the realm of science.

Today, because of the insights of Hubble and those who followed him, we know that the universe began about 13 billion years ago. At that time, all of the matter and energy of space was contained in a single infinitesimally small point. It was infinitely hot and infinitely dense, like some Fox News anchors, but then there was a Big Bang.

Hubble was born in Missouri in 1889. Tall and powerfully built, Hubble was a gifted athlete, participating in baseball, football, basketball, and track in high school. He won an academic scholarship to the University of Chicago and while there won spots on the basketball and track teams. He earned a degree in mathematics and astronomy in 1910. A gifted boxer, promoters touted him as the next “Great White Hope” – a man who could beat the black heavyweight champ, Jack Johnson. The fight never took place, though some biographers claim Hubble fought the heavyweight champion of Europe and did well.

Hubble became a Rhodes Scholar and studied law at Oxford. Upon returning from Oxford in 1913, he practiced law, but he did not enjoy it. He then taught Spanish, physics, and math at an Indiana high school, where he also coached the basketball team.

In 1914, Hubble returned to the University of Chicago to study astronomy, earning his doctorate in 1917. He then enlisted in the army and was sent overseas, but by the time his division arrived in France, World War I was essentially over. In 1919, he moved to Cambridge to further study astronomy. He again served in the army during World War II, this time as the head of ballistics at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, and eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. 

Upon returning from Cambridge, Hubble accepted a position at the Mount Observatory near Pasadena, California.  In 1925, he wasthe first to demonstrate the existence of other galaxies. Later, in 1929, he proved that the universe was expanding.    

Hubble won many scientific honors, but during his life astronomers were ineligible for the Nobel Prize in physics. In 1990, the United States launched the Hubble Space Telescope, which is still orbiting Earth and functioning.

In 1949, Hubble suffered a heart attack while visiting Colorado. He never fully regained the stamina needed to spend all night in a freezing-cold observatory. Hubble died of a cerebral thrombosis in 1953.


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