I know, I know, this is far from being the most important story on at the moment – but everyone else is covering Egypt already, and adding one more no-doubt banal comment about a subject I only sort of know about to the blogosphere would be pretty damn near pointless. So instead, I bring you Georgia State Rep. Bobby Franklin:
State Rep. Bobby Franklin, R-Marietta, has filed House Bill 7, calling it the “Right to Travel Act.”In his bill, Franklin states, “Free people have a common law and constitutional right to travel on the roads and highways that are provided by their government for that purpose. Licensing of drivers cannot be required of free people, because taking on the restrictions of a license requires the surrender of an inalienable right.”
Franklin told CBS Atlanta News that driver’s licenses are a throw back to oppressive times. “Agents of the state demanding your papers,” he said. “We’re getting that way here.”
Now, you may laugh. I certainly did. And it’s not like legislation like this has a snowball’s chance in hell of passing, even if only because most state legislators don’t want to be seen as nutjobs. Even the most fervent libertarian would realise that there is a need for a basic level of safety on the roads, meaning that only people who know how to drive a car should be allowed to get behind the wheel. It’s John Stuart Mill 101 – one man’s liberty ends when another man’s liberty begins, and every man should be free not to die on the road at the hands of a 12-year-old taking his parents’ sedan out for a ride.
But there is a slightly twisted libertarian argument that would justify abolishing state drivers’ licences. If one takes minarchism to its logical conclusion, all roads should be private thoroughfares, over which the owners have absolute control. If Georgia were to privatise its entire highway system, selling it off lock, stock and barrel to a private company, that private company could enforce its own rules over who would get to use its roads. After the first week or so of letting children drive on the roads, with the inevitable consequence, it would require all drivers to be over the age of 16 (or 18, or 21, or whatever). With the realisation that an age limit is not enough, the company would require some kind of proof of driving skills. Such a document could be issued by accredited schools or institutes, and would, in essence, be a private driving licence. Road companies could form a confederation and standardise qualification requirements, creating a sort of statewide, nationwide or even worldwide standard for being able to drive on their thoroughfares.
It’d ultimately be the same ‘invasion of privacy’, though – the only difference would be that drivers would have to reveal their identities to private companies without the same safeguards on data sharing as the government. Plus, as long as one agrees that public roads should not be privatised, and that taxpayers should pay for the highways instead of drivers paying tolls to private businesses, the government has every right to demand that you prove you can drive before letting you on its roads.