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Legalize Drunk Driving?

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tcostel Posted: Fri, May 6 2011 1:23 AM

Recently I have come across positions arguing the decriminalization of drunk driving. At first thought, I thought the notion was absurd and defied common sense. Then I realized it actually made sense--why let the government say you can't drive while drunk only because it might lead to a true crime (killing someone)?

But my position was countered by a friend of mine. She told me that would make sense, except for the fact that drunk driving is different because:

1. It poses a threat not just to you, but others, therefore violating the no harm to others principle. Wearing seatbelts should not be mandated because the lack of wearing them poses a threat only to you.

2. It consists soley of negative potential; nothing good can come of drunk driving. This is why arguments such as "guns should be illegal because they can be used in crime" are not the same as arguments against drunk driving. Guns can be used to fight crime as well, but drunk driving can never be used to help anyone.

 

Any thoughts on this controversial yet interesting issue? I have no conclusion as of yet.

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Eugene replied on Fri, May 6 2011 1:28 AM

Guns can be used to fight crime just as alcohol can be used to have fun while driving. I tentatively support legalization of drunk driving.

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Clayton replied on Fri, May 6 2011 1:34 AM

1. It poses a threat not just to you, but others, therefore violating the no harm to others principle. Wearing seatbelts should not be mandated because the lack of wearing them poses a threat only to you.

Actually, driving drunk does not pose a threat to anyone. Swerving, excessive speeding, failure to react to changing conditions on the road or give other drivers and pedestrians enough room are threats which can occur while driving drunk or fatigued or texting, etc. The stigma of "drunk driving" is a superstition.

2. It consists soley of negative potential; nothing good can come of drunk driving.

OK? Nothing good can come of BASE jumping, either, there is only negative potential (possibility you might die). The fact is that the positive reason a responsible would drive while inebriated is because he had a drink with friends over dinner or at the bar and transporting himself back home after this entirely normal form of social interaction is vastly cheaper than any other alternative. Yes, I think that if you are operating the vehicle in an unsafe manner, you have a duty to pull over and seek alternative transportation and I do believe that the public police should have the power to force you off the road (since we're stuck with public police on the public roads for now...) but anything beyond that is sheer aggression and a very ugly form of vindictiveness motivated by the sanctimonious attitudes of the still large segment of American society which supports de facto Prohibition.

This is why arguments such as "guns should be illegal because they can be used in crime" are not the same as arguments against drunk driving. Guns can be used to fight crime as well, but drunk driving can never be used to help anyone.

Drinking with friends is a benefit to those friends and to oneself. That's why people do it. To get home, you're going to have to drive... and unless you're made of money, that probably means driving yourself. If you're completely smashed and you can't safely operate a vehicle, then you're going to have to ask a friend to drop you home, stay the night, sleep in your car, call a cab or ride the bus. The police should have the power to force you to the side of the road, but no more.

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baxter replied on Fri, May 6 2011 2:01 AM

>It [drunk driving] poses a threat not just to you, but others

Yes. So does sober driving. So does picking your nose while driving. So does preparing a dish with eggs or meat. Etc.

>lack of wearing them [seatbelts] poses a threat only to you.

False. If your body is ejected from your vehicle due to momentum, it can cause damage and injury to others.

>drunk driving can never be used to help anyone

That's ridiculous. It is a means of transportation.

>The police should have the power to force you to the side of the road, but no more.

There's no telling what a free market would do. If I owned a road I might decide to be against drunk driving, and insist that users of my road be contractually obligated to pay fines and sit in a cage if they are found to be driving drunk. Or if I owned a bar and a nearby roadway, I would probably not oppose drunk driving on that road. In any case, something cannot be a crime unless there is an actual victim.

 

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Conza88 replied on Fri, May 6 2011 2:12 AM

"Any thoughts on this controversial yet interesting issue? I have no conclusion as of yet."

Private ownership of the roads. Legitimate owners set the rules of the road / contract.

If they want to stipulate drunk driving over a limit on their roads is a contract violation and they're going to inspect and enforce that... so be it.

That's going to piss off alot of people i.e the purpose of transportation A to B ASAP... and when you're setting up road blocks, that's not exactly a smart business model... especially when THERE IS COMPETITION... and the drivers can literally give you the finger and drive on other roads.

As per the current situation - drink driving is a victimless crime. The problem is government ownership quite simply.

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Clayton replied on Fri, May 6 2011 2:22 AM

@baxter: I'm speaking in the context of our current socialist road system...

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It's also no longer really about stopping "drunk" drivers at all. It's about stopping anybody with an arbitrary blood-alcohol ratio. I had to spend 16 hours in a concrete unroofed cage and pay about $150 bail for being 0.02 over the "legal limit" of 0.24, which as far as I can tell, is about 3 beers. This is in South Africa, mind you, where there are actually plenty of -real- criminals to be sought after...

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tcostel replied on Sat, May 7 2011 1:07 AM

But if it is a government owned road, doesn't it make it ok for the government to determine the rules of that road? Under our current system of course, not including how private roads would change things.

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How can a government own a road?

English is not my native language
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How can a government own a road?

As many have observed, the question of drunk driving boils down to legitimacy of government. If one believes that taxes are voluntary or otherwise just, then the government owns them legitimaly, as it does own everything obtained from these funds by means of voluntary exchange.

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Eugene replied on Sat, May 7 2011 2:31 AM

Even under our current system I don't like it since I don't like all these preventative measures. If there was an accident and you were negligent enough (wasn't sober, wasn't paying attention, whatever), then you'll receive more seirous punishment, but that's it. I'm sure there are plenty of people who drive more safely when they are drunk than others when they are sober, why do we need to punish them more?

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I personally believe that legalizing drunk driving will encourage the development of self driving cars or more features that will autocorrect your driving habits.

Drunk driving 'can' be dangerous, but it is one of those things that should be left up to the descretion of the driver to decide if he is well enough to drive.  This will obviously allow more accidents to happen.  However, I think traffic officers will probably still pull you over if you show signs of reckless endangerment and should take away your keys and have you call a friend to pick you up.  The punishment aspect is what I think should be changed.

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Clayton replied on Sat, May 7 2011 2:34 AM

Eugene:

Even under our current system I don't like it since I don't like all these preventative measures. If there was an accident and you were negligent enough (wasn't sober, wasn't paying attention, whatever), then you'll receive more seirous punishment, but that's it. I'm sure there are plenty of people who drive more safely when they are drunk than others when they are sober, why do we need to punish them more?

 
?
 
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Clayton, I think Eugene means that in some cases a drunk person will try to pay more attention to driving since he knows he's drunk.

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Hard Rain:
It's also no longer really about stopping "drunk" drivers at all. It's about stopping anybody with an arbitrary blood-alcohol ratio. I had to spend 16 hours in a concrete unroofed cage and pay about $150 bail for being 0.02 over the "legal limit" of 0.24, which as far as I can tell, is about 3 beers. This is in South Africa, mind you, where there are actually plenty of -real- criminals to be sought after...

My DUI cost me about $5000 not counting my lawyer's fees.  Probation alone for 2 years costs $2600, and I was unsupervised after 6 months (meaning I didn't have to check in with my PO).

Anyway, the point I want to make is that DUI's bring in tons of money for counties and municipalities AND they have significant ideological support through MADD and public education initiatives.  Catching "real" criminals is dangerous, costly, and all around hard work.  I know Clayton said something about how the most cops should do under the current setup is remove dangerous drivers (and I agree), but the whole purpose of DUI enforcement is really about making money and punishing offenders.

With regards to a private system of roads, I wouldn't be too surprised if drunk driving remained taboo enough that enforcement remained aggressive.  I think a similar thing would happen with indoor smoking.  Sure, the property owners will get to decide, but popular opinion has already shifted in polite society: its not ok to smoke indoors (unless its a real backwoods dive bar).

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Conza88 replied on Sat, May 7 2011 9:20 PM

Legalize Drunk Driving by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
http://www.lewrockwell.com/rockwell/drunkdriving.html

How To Convince Men To Drive Drunk by Mark R. Crovelli
http://www.lewrockwell.com/crovelli/crovelli28.html

Drunk-Driving Laws Are Absurd by Mark R. Crovelli
http://www.lewrockwell.com/crovelli/crovelli25.html

The Fact That Drunk Drivers 'Choose' to Drive Drunk Is Completely Irrelevant by Mark R. Crovelli
http://www.lewrockwell.com/crovelli/crovelli38.1.html

Thanks To Mothers Against Drunk Driving, I’m a Dangerous Driver by Mark R. Crovelli
http://www.lewrockwell.com/crovelli/crovelli16.html

Open Letter to Mothers Against Drunk Driving by Walter Block
http://mises.org/daily/3419

Drunken-Driver Checkpoints: Every Driver Guilty by James Bovard
http://www.lewrockwell.com/bovard/bovard51.html

Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? by Paul Armentano
http://www.lewrockwell.com/armentano-p/armentano-p42.1.html

Arrested for What? by Andrew S. Fische
http://www.lewrockwell.com/fischer/fischer7.html

Freedom 2 Txt by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
http://www.lewrockwell.com/rockwell/freedom-to-text133.html

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Neodoxy replied on Sat, May 7 2011 10:59 PM

People have a right to react to a certain level of threat, driving drunk, to me and most of society, constitutes a threat against others and so I believe that it should be stopped, I agree with your friend, and as has been said there's no way private roads would allow drunk driving, just because the government is illegitimate and doesn't own the roads doesn't mean that if it does own the roads, libertarians should advocate no limits on drunk driving. If there is the state, then at least it might be used to get some positive things done.

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Let private road owners figure it out. This is not on the top of my list for things to legalize however.

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Brutus replied on Sat, May 7 2011 11:23 PM

tcostel:

Recently I have come across positions arguing the decriminalization of drunk driving. At first thought, I thought the notion was absurd and defied common sense. Then I realized it actually made sense--why let the government say you can't drive while drunk only because it might lead to a true crime (killing someone)?

But my position was countered by a friend of mine. She told me that would make sense, except for the fact that drunk driving is different because:

1. It poses a threat not just to you, but others, therefore violating the no harm to others principle. Wearing seatbelts should not be mandated because the lack of wearing them poses a threat only to you.

2. It consists soley of negative potential; nothing good can come of drunk driving. This is why arguments such as "guns should be illegal because they can be used in crime" are not the same as arguments against drunk driving. Guns can be used to fight crime as well, but drunk driving can never be used to help anyone.

 

Any thoughts on this controversial yet interesting issue? I have no conclusion as of yet.

My take on this is similar to my take on the speed limit. Granted the faster you go, the more dangerous things get, we should be able to have roads where speed limit is completely arbitrary. Let's say I want to fly down Route 66 at 159 mph b/c I want to get home for my wife's pot roast dinner. Why shouldn't I be able to? We should have certain roads where the speed limit has a minimum but no max. The risk is implied and a social contract will be signed by all drivers.

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Eugene replied on Mon, May 9 2011 9:37 AM

The government should not punish people for having a potential to commit a crime, but for actually committing the crime! There are already serious disintentives to drunk driving. You are more likely to kill yourself or others (which leads to a serious punishment), if you were drunk and hit someone, you will probably receive a harder punishment because you were criminally negligent. You don't need to stop cars on the road to check for blood level of alcohol for that. You simply punish people for harming others.

 

I wouldn't want private roads to have limits on certain types of driving (cell phone, alcohol, whatever). I expect private roads which try to reduce risk to punish people more seriously for actual harm to body or property, that's all.

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Neodoxy replied on Mon, May 9 2011 9:56 AM

Sitting on your roof with a sniper rifle and looking at people's heads through the scope isn't a direct initiation of force either, but it does drastically increase the probability of this happening, so it should probably be prohibited

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AJ replied on Tue, May 10 2011 12:00 PM

Although road privatization makes this moot in a stateless society, the implicit idea floating around this thread - that reckless endangerment would not be punishable under customary law - seems preposterous for reasons some have already mentioned. One would have to be almost completely unfamiliar with any customary legal systems to think that it is only actual harm that is ever considered illegal.

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Bearchu. replied on Tue, May 10 2011 12:09 PM
Hard Rain:
It's also no longer really about stopping "drunk" drivers at all. It's about stopping anybody with an arbitrary blood-alcohol ratio. I had to spend 16 hours in a concrete unroofed cage and pay about $150 bail for being 0.02 over the "legal limit" of 0.24, which as far as I can tell, is about 3 beers. This is in South Africa, mind you, where there are actually plenty of -real- criminals to be sought after...
 
Wow, the legal limit is .22 in south africa? I would be so drunk.  The legal limit in most of the US is .08%
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tcostel replied on Tue, May 10 2011 1:42 PM

Very interesting discussion here. I think the argument I buy is that whoever owns the road should be allowed to make policies dealing with drivers on that road. I would say that governments that own the road should therefore currently be allowed to keep drunk driving illegal if they please, however local roads should have laws set by local governments, state roads by state governments, etc. Private roads should be exempt. As for the government response, I feel that the argument shouldn't be no drunk driving but rather no public roads. Then let private owners decide.

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Bearchu. replied on Tue, May 10 2011 2:45 PM

TO the point about states making thier own laws.  My friend lives in South Carolina, and he says there is no law against an open containers.  He also told me he got pulled over and he was drinking a beer.  I dont know if that is legal or not, but he wasnt charged with a crime or even cited for a ticket.

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Neodoxy:

Sitting on your roof with a sniper rifle and looking at people's heads through the scope isn't a direct initiation of force either, but it does drastically increase the probability of this happening, so it should probably be prohibited

I don't know why anyone would want to risk murdering anyone, and consequently, risking their own life.

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Hard Rain replied on Tue, May 10 2011 4:28 PM

Wow, the legal limit is .22 in south africa? I would be so drunk.  The legal limit in most of the US is .08%

I think the percentage in S.A. is .05%. The legal limit is 0,24mg per litre or 0,05g per 100ml of blood. It's about two or three beers.

"Intoxication" is estimated to account for less than 3% of driver fatalities on S.A. roads so, yeah, compared to many other factors and causes it's quite insignificant.

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Eugene replied on Tue, May 10 2011 4:44 PM

I don't think drunk driving is a case of reckless endagerment. As Lew Rockwell wrote there are a lot of things the driver does that can endanger others, like sneezing, talking to people in the car, driving tired, etc... You can't make a law against all that. Some drivers can drive drunk very well, yet other drivers drive horribly when they are sober. So this ban against all drunk driving will likely punish many wrong people yet ignore others who are a real danger.

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The legal limit in most of the US is .08%

 

I think the percentage in S.A. is .05%.

I will add some facts from European republics (http://www.etsc.be/documents/blood%20alcohol%20limit.pdf):

Several EU countries still permit drinking and driving to levels of 0.8 pro
mille: United Kingdom, Italy, Luxembourg and Ireland. Apart from Sweden,
which has a limit of 0.2, the majority has set limits at 0.5 pro mille

 

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xahrx replied on Wed, May 11 2011 8:51 AM

Interesting topic.  In my view laws against drunk driving are a text book example of how government perpetuates inefficiencies.

The real goal is to keep driving conditions safe for all people to the degree they are willing to accept and pay for.  To that end, any resources focussed on enforcing an all out ban on drunk driving are resources taken away from minimizing other potentially equal or greater threats to driver safety.  Thus, roads are not as safe as they could be given the same overall resources devoted to that end.  But, instead of experimentation and the ability to see where marginal benefits might be gained, the government politicizes one issue and keeps targetting it regardless of whether or not it's really producing any benefit.  As evidence for the effectiveness of their efforts they usually put up arrest numbers as if that must lead to safer roads.

It's the classic what is seen and not seen.  You see the arrested drunks, who may or may not have been a threat to anyone in particular.  You see the cops supposedly working hard to enforce the law.  You don't see all the other threats which might have been addressed using those same resources if the market had been active to focus on producing a product people wanted vs the govenrment producing a flurry of activity seemingly aimed at the same end but which may or may not have had any true productive value in that regard.

What's missing is economy, or economization to be exact.  I often hear cops respond to the argument of "Aren't there murders to be solved" while they're handing out a parking ticket with, "We have to enforce all the laws..."  Well that implies waste because we simply don't have the resources to enforce all the laws 100%.  The market forces economization, it forces people to choose means to achieve ends, and to prioritize their ends, and in so doing rewards good choices and punishes the bad ones.  The police, the goverment in general, and drunk driving laws specifically are a perfect example of what happens when economization isn't necessary.  You get a prolonged jihad against a behavior which may or may not be making a difference in driver safety, but more importantly is never measured against other means for achieving that same end, and thus never put into proper perspective in terms of how much energy and resources it's really worth to stop drunk driving in and of itself vs who knows how many other equal or greater threats on the roads.

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gotlucky replied on Wed, May 11 2011 9:18 AM

@xahrx

You made some really great points about what is seen and not seen.  I have a question for you now: if you were to try and convince the average American you are right, how would you frame your argument?  Would you try to explain it just like you explained it here, or woud you try a more emotional appeal?

When I say average American, I mean someone who is not already a zealot in their beliefs about drunk driving.  I ask this only because there is so little substance in politics, and it seems that one liners and emotional appeals are the best way to reach the vast majority of people.  In my opinion, how you explained it here is the best way to reach someone with reason, but emotional appeal is often what is needed.

In other words, I believe that the person who wants to ban drunk driving would respond to you by saying: "The benefits of an outright ban on drunk driving outway any and all possible negative consequences! How could you put people's lives at risk!"

How would you respond to that?

 

PS I totally agree with you. I'm just curious.

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xahrx replied on Wed, May 11 2011 9:59 AM

You made some really great points about what is seen and not seen.  I have a question for you now: if you were to try and convince the average American you are right,

I normally wouldn't, personally I feel the average American is too dense to grasp the point.

how would you frame your argument?  Would you try to explain it just like you explained it here, or woud you try a more emotional appeal?

I'd explain it as is, that there are a myriad of threats on the road and limited resources to mitigate them, so the best course of action is to focus on those interventions which would make the biggest gains in safety.  You either get it or you don't.

When I say average American, I mean someone who is not already a zealot in their beliefs about drunk driving.  I ask this only because there is so little substance in politics, and it seems that one liners and emotional appeals are the best way to reach the vast majority of people.  In my opinion, how you explained it here is the best way to reach someone with reason, but emotional appeal is often what is needed.

The emotional appeal is on the other side on this issue; "A drunk driver killed my daddy..."  Again, what is seen.  Most people look on drunk drivers as people who are deliberately doing something stupid and potentially dangerous to others, and for the most part they're right.  How thar risk stacks up relative to other risks is a cerebral point.  Unless you could successfully portray arrested drunk drivers as victims themselves and get people to empathize with them, or if you can find a town/city/state that has taken such laws to an extreme and in so doing has ignored other obvious risks and created victims, the argument will have to rely on logic.

In other words, I believe that the person who wants to ban drunk driving would respond to you by saying: "The benefits of an outright ban on drunk driving outway any and all possible negative consequences! How could you put people's lives at risk!"

I'd say, "Prove it."  They're the ones threatening to lock people up, take away their freedom and often these days their property too.  If they think it is so obvious as to not warrant an explanation or justification, then they're likely a lost cause already.  If they try, you can easily shoot down their arguments.  But in the end most people will simply conflate the risk and harm done by some with the act itself and not consider opportunity costs because they simply don't see them.

What would work to a degree is a functioning example of a free market approach.  But even for that, people will point to each and every single failure as a condemnation of the whole system, but not accept the same standard for the government system even if it had a worse record in relative and absolute terms.  That's just how most people operate and I think it goes to Walter Block's view that people simply aren't wired to see a market approach as effective or working even if it produces better results because they don't understand implicit vs explicit means of achieving ends.  They do not understand the idea of order without an absolute authority.

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Bert replied on Wed, May 11 2011 10:36 AM

I use to drive drunk frequently, and never had any problems.  My driving was not impaired.  I currently also have a suspended license (unrelated to drinking), and yet my driving is still not impaired by magically not being able to legally drive.  Amazing how these flaws of the State sort of just unravel themselves...

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xahrx replied on Wed, May 11 2011 10:59 AM

"I use to drive drunk frequently, and never had any problems.  My driving was not impaired.  I currently also have a suspended license (unrelated to drinking), and yet my driving is still not impaired by magically not being able to legally drive.  Amazing how these flaws of the State sort of just unravel themselves..."

Correction: your driving wasn't impaired under those circumstances and you thankfully didn't encounter circumstances where alcohol's demonstrable effects on reaction times and thought processes would have made a difference as to whether you killed or maimed someone.

And there's a big God damn difference between that and what you wrote.  There may have been a worse threat in relative and absolute terms on the road at the time than yourself, that doesn't mean you were 'fine' or that your driving wasn't impaired.  There is this thing called science which has sort of proven at this point that alcohol diminishes one's abilities.  Just because the state may be misallocating funds in an ill advised campaign against it, and just because there may be more immediate relative and absolute threats on the road, that doesn't mean driving drunk isn't reckless or just at base a stupid and $#@%ed up thing to do.  Whether you intend harm or not, if you did per chance turn someone's kid into a strawberry chiffon colored smear on the road I think their parents would have appreciated if you had kept hold of those better reaction times and judgement calls just in case, regardless of your own assessment of ability.

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Clayton replied on Wed, May 11 2011 11:17 AM

 

xahrx:

Interesting topic.  In my view laws against drunk driving are a text book example of how government perpetuates inefficiencies.

The real goal is to keep driving conditions safe for all people to the degree they are willing to accept and pay for.  To that end, any resources focussed on enforcing an all out ban on drunk driving are resources taken away from minimizing other potentially equal or greater threats to driver safety.  Thus, roads are not as safe as they could be given the same overall resources devoted to that end.  But, instead of experimentation and the ability to see where marginal benefits might be gained, the government politicizes one issue and keeps targetting it regardless of whether or not it's really producing any benefit.  As evidence for the effectiveness of their efforts they usually put up arrest numbers as if that must lead to safer roads.

It's the classic what is seen and not seen.  You see the arrested drunks, who may or may not have been a threat to anyone in particular.  You see the cops supposedly working hard to enforce the law.  You don't see all the other threats which might have been addressed using those same resources if the market had been active to focus on producing a product people wanted vs the govenrment producing a flurry of activity seemingly aimed at the same end but which may or may not have had any true productive value in that regard.

What's missing is economy, or economization to be exact.  I often hear cops respond to the argument of "Aren't there murders to be solved" while they're handing out a parking ticket with, "We have to enforce all the laws..."  Well that implies waste because we simply don't have the resources to enforce all the laws 100%.  The market forces economization, it forces people to choose means to achieve ends, and to prioritize their ends, and in so doing rewards good choices and punishes the bad ones.  The police, the goverment in general, and drunk driving laws specifically are a perfect example of what happens when economization isn't necessary.  You get a prolonged jihad against a behavior which may or may not be making a difference in driver safety, but more importantly is never measured against other means for achieving that same end, and thus never put into proper perspective in terms of how much energy and resources it's really worth to stop drunk driving in and of itself vs who knows how many other equal or greater threats on the roads.

Very well put. I would also add that consumers may not demand as much safety as the government is producing on the roads. Maybe consumers - faced with a choice based on the actual costs of the alternatives - prefer roads that are less safe than today's roads but which are cheaper to maintain or which can be traveled at higher (less safe) speeds, and so on. Because the State simply imposes its pre-decided level of safety onto the roads, there is no room for entrepreneurial experimentation and we cannot see how many resources are being wasted on over-production of safety and under-production of other features consumers might want from roads.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
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whardwick replied on Wed, May 11 2011 1:56 PM

This has always been one of the arguments that really annoys me here on Mises.  As long as public roads exist, drunk driving should be illegal.  Permitting drunk driving is like permitting someone to fire bullets down a pubic road, and concluding that as long as they don't hit anyone (i.e. the process remains victimless) it's not a problem.

Any action that would deter rational people from exercising their "rights" on public property, which they have paid for via taxes, obviously can not be permitted.  However, when you get into the idea of a completely private system or roadways, I then would agree with the other side.

To clarify my rationale... with the existence of public property, one must consider that each individual who is part of the "public" has equivalent rights on that property as every other individual.  Any action that is taken by an individual on that property that would alter another person's own choice of action against their will is therefore an infringement on the rights of said person.  I don't think it needs to be said that if drunk driving were permitted, there would be a lot less drivers on the road at night due to fear of a collision.

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The title of this thread is just silly. Might as come up with a way to legalize murder, child prostitution, etc.  I certainly wouldn't want any of those things legalized. As many have already mentioned, get government out of the road ownership business, and we'll see some real positive changes. Privatize the roads and we won't have to worry about the argument of whether drink-driving should be legal.

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xahrx replied on Wed, May 11 2011 2:12 PM

"This has always been one of the arguments that really annoys me here on Mises.  As long as public roads exist, drunk driving should be illegal.  Permitting drunk driving is like permitting someone to fire bullets down a pubic road, and concluding that as long as they don't hit anyone (i.e. the process remains victimless) it's not a problem."

How does the fact that the roads are public magically make resources infinite?  The point isn't whether or not drunk driving is risky; it is.  The point isn't whether or not a drunk is a worse drive than the same person sober; all else equal, they are.  The point is what threat do drunks truly pose relative to all the other threats to drivers and pedestrians?  It is perfectly possible that an all out ban on drunk driving and all the subsequent measures taken to enforce the ban have wasted resources better spent elsewhere mitigating risks more real and immediate.  It's also perfectly possible that a ban on drunk driving minus some of those measures - like check points - would strike the right balance.  It's also perfectly possible legalized drunk driving with police pulling over reckless or seemingly impaired drivers at their discretion would strike the right balance.

And the overall point is because we're operating in the sphere of government and politics and not private property ownership and markets that the right balance can't be found.  Instead we pour ever more money and resources into catching drunks regardless of the threat they pose.

"To clarify my rationale... with the existence of public property, one must consider that each individual who is part of the "public" has equivalent rights on that property as every other individual.  Any action that is taken by an individual on that property that would alter another person's own choice of action against their will is therefore an infringement on the rights of said person.  I don't think it needs to be said that if drunk driving were permitted, there would be a lot less drivers on the road at night due to fear of a collision."

You do realize this is so ridiculously broad a statement as to make any and every behavior illegal depending on whose behavior it may alter?    And that said, this still does not address the issue that resources are still limited, and thus resources spent rounding up drunks are resources not spent dealing with other issues which could be more pressing.  For example if it were to be shown that the $x dollars spent rounding up drunks made the roads y% safer, but that $.5x more spent on training drivers properly would make the roads 2y% safer, what's the better investment?  Assume for the moment all other resources are being utilized efficiently.  Opportunity cost applies here as anywhere.  What's the preferred investment?  Should we continue with the ban on drunk driving and the enforcement, or should we reallocate those funds to train people ot better drivers ovcerall?

The point, illustrated here, is that without the market we tend toward the jihad all or nothing approach, whereas on the market people are free to experiment with different approaches to the law and the rules, and can possibly achieve better results the rest of us can learn from.

Again, the point is not the ethical or moral status of drunk driving or whether the act itself endangers other drivers, it's whether or not a ban on drunk driving and all it takes to enforce that ban is worth the return in safety we get.

"I was just in the bathroom getting ready to leave the house, if you must know, and a sudden wave of admiration for the cotton swab came over me." - Anonymous
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xahrx replied on Wed, May 11 2011 2:21 PM

"The title of this thread is just silly. Might as come up with a way to legalize murder, child prostitution, etc.  I certainly wouldn't want any of those things legalized. As many have already mentioned, get government out of the road ownership business, and we'll see some real positive changes. Privatize the roads and we won't have to worry about the argument of whether drink-driving should be legal."

The question is relevant whether or not the roads are privatized because the underlying economic problem and laws are the same; limited resources and how to invest them for the best return.  It doesn't all of a sudden become productive of safety to outlaw drunk driving just because the government 'owns' the roads.

"I was just in the bathroom getting ready to leave the house, if you must know, and a sudden wave of admiration for the cotton swab came over me." - Anonymous
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whardwick replied on Wed, May 11 2011 3:01 PM

@xahrx

"To clarify my rationale... with the existence of public property, one must consider that each individual who is part of the "public" has equivalent rights on that property as every other individual.  Any action that is taken by an individual on that property that would alter another person's own choice of action against their will is therefore an infringement on the rights of said person.  I don't think it needs to be said that if drunk driving were permitted, there would be a lot less drivers on the road at night due to fear of a collision."

It might be a broad statement, but is a true statement, and a statement that highlights the complexities of public property.  That is why public property (especially a road) requires such strict laws and regulations.  There are certain instances where, on public property, a dispute between two people can be resolved as a matter of "who was here first?", but there are other instances where this simply is not enough.  And when I say "any action", I mean physical action, i.e. an action that would displace another person physically.

As to the rest of your argument, one cannot calculate the value of human lives the way you do, since the value is always relative.  For you to make a cost-benefit calculation of making drunk driving legal, you would need to apply a value to each individual killed, and presume to know how many (or few) people were killed as a result of not arresting drunk drivers.

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