Thursday, March 12, 2009

If It's Illegal, Then They'll Stop

I am extremely tired of the argument that making some activity illegal will automatically result in people terminating said behavior. Such an idea is fundamentally contradictory to free agency, and a completely asinine approach to effectively modifying an individuals conduct.

I am not an anarchist. In contrast, I strongly advocate a government, and social oversight. The basic difference I see between the "left" and the "right" is in the degree of individual freedom and personal responsibility. The left favors personal freedom, with the belief that individual accountability and social liability will guide a person to the "correct" choice. On the other hand, the "right" favors more societal order, with the belief that generalized mandates and social regulation will guide a person to the "correct" choice. I will definitely argue that a majority of the "correct" choices actually overlap, but I disagree that both methods are equally effective.

As I drove into work I was amazed by the selfishness of many drivers around me. The speed limit says 65, but only the far right lane adheres to it; the "texters" briefly checking the road in front of them every 2 or 3 minutes; and the multiple lane changes without prior notification. Although only 2 out of 3 of the above are explicitly illegal, the third is not far behind. More importantly, I can't help but wonder, if so many people have such blatant disregard for two laws, then why not the third?

I agree with a ban on text messaging while driving, because it is put in place to protect the lives of other people. I also imagine that it will decrease the persistent use of texting behind the wheel. However, just like laws against speeding and unsafe driving, I am absolutely positive that it will not have the overwhelming result of stopping even a majority of people from texting. The fatal flaw is that people can still choose not to obey. And these are the easy and obvious laws! It is not difficult to slow down, signal, and wait 10 minutes to type ROFL. We are asked to obey these laws so as to decrease the chance that we, or other drives become one of the 120K+ deaths per year. It is the same reason that, by law, you must wear a seat belt.

If you drive a car, get in an accident as a result of careless/distracted/drunk/unsafe driving, and someone dies, it is either murder or suicide.

Another thought came to me at the pharmacy as I picked up my doctor prescribed, personalized bottle of medicine. It had my name on it, my doctors name, and the name of the pharmacy on the bottle. My wife's name wasn't there, my dog's name wasn't there, and I'm positive that Jake's name wasn't there either. It is a Class A Misdemeanor for taking medicine prescribed to someone else. It is also a Class A misdemeanor to give or sell your own prescribed medicine to someone else. That's for first time offenders. The second time one gets caught, the offense jumps to a Class D felony. Amazingly, despite the substantial consequences and clear unlawfulness of prescription drug abuse, Utah ranks number 1 in the nation by percentage.

So where exactly is the evidence that suggests that making something illegal is that great of a deterrent?


Josh said...

Well, other than the inane comments about "left and right," this was a very good post. Really, we need to stop making new laws, and come up with harsher penalties for violating the laws we do have. Incarceration DOES NOT WORK (four years experience as a detention guard, speaking here), and is a huge waste of tax money. I have my own thoughts, but that is where we will all start to disagree. So, I'll leave it here. Good post.

Jacob S. said...

But if I wait ten minutes I won't really be ROFL-ing anymore. Best to send it immediately while its still true.

Iliana said...

So does this mean you think more gun legislation is bad? Good to hear.

Jacob S. said...

This was SO, not me, and I don't know his gun control stance, though he seems to me like the type that would like to arm elementary school kids.

But I will say that there difference between banning texting while driving and banning cell phones themselves. Just like there is a difference between, say, concealed weapons permit requirements and banning assault weapons entirely.

SO said...

Arming every elementary student would probably be a safer society. Imagine how careful drivers would be around crosswalks if they knew that inside those over-sized backpacks is some serious heat.

Josh said...

Jake, Jake, Jake, don't ruin this. Since you are mentioned in third person in the post, I knew it wasn't you.

Don't start on "assault weapons." You've said before that you don't even understand firearms, as most city dwellers don't, so why do you insist that they should be made illegal? Just because a gun is semi-automatic (meaning you physically have to pull the trigger to get every bullet to fire, unlike full automatic) does not make it a tool of the devil. Millions of responsible people own these firearms legally, and never cause any harm. I'll bet you an ice cream cone that someone in your neighboorhood has an AR15. Calling semi-automatic firearms, no matter what they look like, "assault weapons," is nothing more than a scare tactic.

My point is that large scale shootings are tragic, but far from common place among gun owners. The fact remains that no gun control measure, not even Hillary's ban in 94, has EVER been shown to reduce crime. Statistics were skewed after the ban, yes, but the crime rates that did go down, had already been falling for 5 years. Also, the HUGE crime increase that was predicted when the ban expired, never happened.