Did You Get Your Permit to Cross the Road?
Before I go on, let me ask you a simple question: How old should you be before it’s safe to cross the road on your own?
It’s not a cryptic question…or a bad ‘chicken crossing the road’ joke. It’s a question that goes straight to the point of who can best care for your welfare, yourself or the government. I’ll explain more in a moment, but first…
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Now, over to the special Money Weekend essay …
Did You Get Your Permit to Cross the Road?
So, have you thought about how old you should be before it’s safe to cross the road?
12. 14. 25, 35 or what about 70?
Actually, there isn’t an age requirement for crossing the road.
Anyone can cross the road at any age. However, what you may not know is that in some instances it’s against the law for you to cross a road. That’s regardless of your age or experience of dealing with traffic.
That in some instances, you may only cross a road once the government gives you express approval to cross the road. If you cross at the wrong time or wrong location, the government will fine you.
Of course, the government doesn’t employ a bureaucrat to stand at the kerbside issuing crossing permits. Instead, it delegates the job to another authority…a machine, a piece of electronic equipment that the government says has more knowledge than you of what is and isn’t safe.
In short, in the eyes of the law, the only thing that matters when crossing the road is whether the government has given you permission to cross the road. If it hasn’t, then look out…
The alleged offence involved me allegedly crossing the junction of Fitzroy Street and Acland Street in St Kilda prior to the delegated government machine issuing instructions that it was safe for me to cross (in plain English, crossing before the little green man appeared on the traffic light…allegedly).
Now, before I go on, you may think, ‘Get over it Kris, you’re acting like a petulant child. It sounds like you jay-walked, you got caught, so pay the fine and move on.’
Look, I’ll cop that criticism. But I’ll also make a counter-argument. At what point does government interference in your free will become excessive?
Is it when the government forces you to buy healthcare you don’t need?
Is it when the government forces you to hand over a percentage of your wages?
Is it when the government prevents you from buying a product because the government doesn’t approve of the product?
Is it when the government decides you can’t work for less than a stated minimum wage, even though you would rather work for that wage than not work at all?
Is it when the government insists you must carry a pseudo identity card to travel on a bus, tram or train, and then allows the police to check on your movements?
Is it forcing you to leave your house on a specific day in order to vote for corrupt officials? And if you choose to exercise your free will of not leaving your house on that specific day, the same corrupt officials will insist you pay a fine or go to jail.
Is it when the government decides what you can or can’t read?
Is it when the government plans to monitor every email you send and receive, and every web site you visit?
Or is it when the government says that an inanimate, electronic object on a street corner has more interest in and knowledge of your safety than you?
The correct answer for any freedom-loving person is that all the above are examples of excessive government interference in free will.
Anything where the government denies you the choice of doing something that you would otherwise choose to do is a denial of your natural rights as a person.
So even if you think I’m a petulant and childish fool, perhaps you could suspend that belief for a while longer to consider my argument.
Notice how I’m not forcing you to suspend your belief. I’m not even forcing you to read this email. If you’ve read this far, you’ve done so out of your own free will. And if you keep reading (even if you disagree with me) you’re also doing it freely, without coercion.
That’s the important difference between how the government interacts with citizens and how private businesses interact with customers…or how individuals interact with each other.
The first is a coercive and violent relationship. The other two are almost always voluntary and peaceful.
The point I’m making is that when standing at the side of a road, the person best placed to decide if it’s safe to cross the road is the person who intends to cross the road…not a government machine.
I can explain this point simply using the process of reductio ad absurdum (reduction to absurdity).
Imagine this scenario…
You wait for a minute.
As you wait, you see a car approaching at 200km an hour. The car is at a distance of 50 metres. If the lights change, the car couldn’t possibly stop in time.
That second, the traffic lights change to red and the pedestrian lights change to green. According to the government (represented by the traffic lights), it’s now safe for you to cross the road…just as a car hurtles towards the crossing at 200km/h.
If you exercised your own free will, you wouldn’t cross the road, because you would see the danger. But if you’re brainwashed to trust the government…and if you believe the government has your best interests in mind…then maybe you’d obey the government’s little green man and step into the path of the oncoming car.
Of course, some may say the argument is silly. Only an idiot would step into the path of a fast car to face certain death.
But governments force people to do things all the time — I listed a bunch of them earlier in this letter. And most of these things aren’t in the interests of either the individual concerned or the general public. But most people follow the government’s orders anyway.
What I’m saying is, don’t take me literally when I talk about someone walking in front of a speeding car. It’s just an illustration of how and why governments can’t and don’t act in your best interest.
The government is no more able to know whether it’s safe for you to cross the road (even when it delegates the responsibility to electronic traffic lights) than it can protect you in your own home, know whether you need private health insurance or know what books you should be allowed to read.
What I’m arguing is that you are the best person to make decisions that impact you. That’s the beauty of freedom and free markets.
And there’s absolutely no reason for the government to get involved.
This brings me on to the idea of a ‘free market traffic system’.
I know what you’re thinking. ‘That is taking free markets too far.’
It couldn’t work could it? I mean, it would be chaos. There would be gridlock. People would just crash into each other, or run people over. Really? Or would the opposite happen?
When I showed this video to my old pal and colleague, Nick Hubble, his first response was, ‘It looks terrifying, but amazing results.’
Here’s a screen shot of a traffic light controlled junction in Portishead, near Bristol, UK. Each motorist is waiting in line for the government representative (traffic lights) to tell them when it’s safe to move:
As you’ll see on the video, get rid of the traffic lights, and see the amazing transformation in traffic flow. On an hourly basis, it improved traffic flow by 17.6%. No crashes, no gridlock, no running people over or crashing into each other…just orderly and respectful driving.
If you’re still not with me, how about this for a convincer. This video is from closer to home. It’s in Auckland, New Zealand:
The left frame is a junction without traffic lights. The right frame is thesame junction, but the next day at the same time. Only this time the traffic lights are operational.
If you watch the video you’ll see just how traffic flow improves when government isn’t interfering.
All up, this is a long way of making a simple point…
Regardless of the scale of the action, government meddling is alwayswrong and disruptive.
Government actions always work against you rather than for you, and as I wrote last week, it always involves restricting or denying your rights and increasing government, bureaucratic and police power.
So yes, the alleged offence I allegedly committed of allegedly walking across the road in contravention of a government order may seem trivial, and not worthy of a 1,589-word essay.
But the bigger point is that it’s another example of the gradual and relentless chipping-away of freedoms for individuals to act in their own best interest without the meddling of government.
This article is contributed by Money Morning. Click Here to Subscribe to their free newsletter.