A Fine Proposal

I have a wonderful idea. Let’s abolish all fines paid to the civil government for traffic violations. Every one of them. Speeding tickets, parking tickets, DUIs. You name it. I want them all abolished. Why? Because they are illogical, ineffective, and immoral.

Why are they illogical? For one, why should you pay the civil government money for breaking a law. This makes no sense. If I have damaged someone’s life or property, by all means the civil government should require me to pay for what I have damaged. But I shouldn’t be paying the civil government. I should pay the victim. When you speed, are you doing damage to the civil government’s property? No. You’re not. And frankly, until you have damaged someone’s life or property, I think the police force should leave you alone.

But in the current system, they won’t (and perhaps they can’t) leave you alone because they have a financial incentive to give out citations. Fines which actually do nothing much at all to contribute to your overall safety while turning you, a law-abiding citizen, into a prey item for over-zealous local law enforcers.

Which leads me to my second point. Fines don’t effectively deter crime. Let’s take DUIs as an example. These convictions are extremely lucrative for the civil government, but they are not effective deterrents of destructive criminal activity. It is a statistical fact that DUI convictions do almost nothing to keep people from drunken driving. About one-third of the people arrested for DUI are repeat offenders. And in many cases, not deterring people from drunken driving means innocent people will die. Take the case of Linda Davis, who lost family members on two separate occasions at the hands of drunken drivers who had both been previously convicted of DUIs.

Speeding tickets are no different. And speed limits are arbitrarily enforced. Everyone knows you can go about ten miles per hour or more over the speed limit without being pulled over. And it isn’t about safety. It’s about making money for the civil government. Seriously people. In many cases, photo-enforcement at red lights is being abandoned because it is too effective in deterring people from running red lights. It ends up costing more to run the photo-enforcement than the county is making in fines. This is obviously a financial consideration… not a matter of safety. And, on the other hand, there is no correlation that an increase in red-light fines actually makes for a safer community. Which only reinforces my point even more.

The general idea of fines is also immoral. Fines are often levied against decent, law-abiding citizens. Fines turn law enforcement agencies into little more than legalized Mafias. “Give us a little money. It’s for your protection.” This is an attack on true liberty. This is nothing less than tyranny whenever and wherever it happens.

So how do we deter crime? Not through fines. And not through regulations. These make legalists of us all, and they teach citizens not to fear or respect the civil government. Punitive measures are the civil government’s only recourse if it wants to protect citizens while maintaining liberty. Imagine this: If you destroy someone’s property, the police arrest you and force you to pay what that property is worth, plus a little extra for the trouble you’ve caused. Pay to whom? The victim of course. If you have no money, you work for the victim of your crime until you have paid—with your labor and time—the damages you owe. And if you take someone’e life because of negligence, carelessness, or malice and that is proved in court—you lose your life. Period. What a difference that could have made to Linda Davis.

Unless you have damaged someone’s life or property, however, you are free to live your life as you choose. If you speed dangerously or are swerving, the police might pull you over to warn you or to help you get home. This is what happens in small rural communities even to this day. And no one denies that they want to live in a place that’s less like 1984 and more like Mayberry.

I guarantee that if the civil government pursued these measures, it would more effectively deter crime, it would be cheaper to administer justice, it would protect law-abiding citizens, and it would be much more free from tyranny.

But how could we overturn fines? Are they something we just have to live with? I don’t think so. I’ll talk about it tomorrow.