Nate Smith

Drinking & Driving

11 posts in this topic

I recently read this quote by Murray Rothbard:

Only the overt commission of a crime should be illegal, and the way to combat crimes committed under the influence of alcohol is to be more diligent about the crimes themselves, not to outlaw the alcohol. And this would have the further beneficial effect of reducing crimes not committed under the influence of alcohol.

I know some libertarians hold this position in principle, and while I'm sympathetic with it, I've never been completely comfortable with it. They would argue that we ought not punish "victimless crimes." (This I am sympathetic with.) But acting on this principle seems to allow a number of behaviors that create very risky circumstances.

I have not agreed with legalizing drunk driving because once a person is drunk, he loses the capacity to drive safely. It could be the case that he gets home safely without hurting himself or others, but the chances drop significantly. In other words, this behavior is potentially very dangerous to others, and therefore I am comfortable making it illegal. (If the risk were only to himself, I would have no problem with it being legal; it's the risk to others that is the political concern.)

Here are a couple other examples to consider:

1. Let's say a man walks into a crowd and (for whatever reason), just starts firing a gun wildly. Let's say he doesn't hit anyone. Since no overt commission of a crime took place, this should be legal behavior.

2. Should we allow private citizens to own nuclear weapons (assuming they could obtain them)? Do we really want to wait for that individual to use it before we punish them?

So I guess what I see as the proper principle would be roughly something like:

A. Allow people to take part in whatever behavior they desire so long as it does not infringe on others' rights.

B. But behavior that is deemed to have a high degree of risk to the safety of others also needs to be legislated against.

It seems to me that in both cases it would be a proper to curtail these behaviors simply on the high degree of risk that accompanies them.

I think Rothbard would argue, how do you define "high degree of risk?" Many argued for prohibition on these same grounds.

And this is a good question, one I don't have a full answer to. Of course the philosophers of law would need to clean this up a lot, but I think it might need to be decided on case-by-case basis.

I'm curious what others think about this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a bit of a stretch. It's not even about nuclear weapons. Should we legislate gun ownership? A criminal straight out of jail who stocks up on guns and ammo hasn't committed a crime (beyond that for which he went to jail). It doesn't mean he has a "right" to buying ammo. He presents a danger.

The same applies for a drunk driver. The drunk driver will be lucky 90% of the time, and the last 10%, somebody's right to their life will be infringed rather violently.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It's a bit of a stretch. It's not even about nuclear weapons. Should we legislate gun ownership? A criminal straight out of jail who stocks up on guns and ammo hasn't committed a crime (beyond that for which he went to jail). It doesn't mean he has a "right" to buying ammo. He presents a danger.

The same applies for a drunk driver. The drunk driver will be lucky 90% of the time, and the last 10%, somebody's right to their life will be infringed rather violently.

You use the word "It" too frequently. I am not sure what you are referring to in much of your post. Please elaborate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The concept of victimless crimes which could have posed a threat to others being victimless and therefore not needing legislation; I guess what I have a problem with is the definition of those breaches of the law as "victimless" crimes.

A drunk driver is only victimless because whilst he was driving faster than his reaction time could cope with, there were no pedestrians or other drivers in his way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The law can properly stop and punish those who pose a provable imminent threat of physical force to others. That is how we convict someone holding up a store while brandishing a gun. He is guilty of armed robbery even if her doesn't shoot anybody and leaves before he can take any property.

Likewise, an impaired person behind the wheel of a car weighing a ton on a public street is a provable imminent threat to real potential victims.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read this on a blog

Individuals have a right to be free from unreasonable risk created by others’ behavior.
from Rights, Risk, and Regulation My first question is does this square with a Objective concept of rights? I find it hard to define what objective risks I would have to accept and what risk I should not have to accept. I think that many behaviors are like playing Russian roulette with other peoples lives and I think drunk driving is certainly up there, how about a fireworks factory in my basement, or an unlicensed pilot flying an Airbus 380? I begin to agree with the notion that harm does not necessarily mean actual bodily harm or money lost. This begs a question of how to objectively quantify what is acceptable risk and how to make laws that address them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I begin to agree with the notion that harm does not necessarily mean actual bodily harm or money lost. This begs a question of how to objectively quantify what is acceptable risk and how to make laws that address them.

The issue is whether or not there is an objectively provable initiation of force which includes threats of force. Both violate rights for the same reason. They force a person to act in a way that he would not act based on his own non-coerced judgment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem with current DUI laws is that they are arbitrary and too strict. 0.08 is unrealistic for everyone. I'm a large man and a skilled drinker (!!). 0.08 is too strict for me. I would much rather have an impaired driving standard.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The problem with current DUI laws is that they are arbitrary and too strict. 0.08 is unrealistic for everyone. I'm a large man and a skilled drinker (!!). 0.08 is too strict for me. I would much rather have an impaired driving standard.

And breathalyzers are often used in brazenly illegitimate ways by ignorant police officers. A friend of ours I know was working on a sunday afternoon loading up scrap metal in a trailer in a rural area. He got hot so he drank a beer. Later he was driving down the road slowly (as his trailer was loaded with scrap metal) and was pulled over by a cop (the cop being dumb enough to pull him over for driving slow, but not understanding that he was driving slow due to a heavily loaded trailer). The cop gave him the breathalyzer, and he blew under the limit. They made him blow again, he blew under the limit. They made him blow yet again, he blew over the limit, and was hauled in for drinking and driving.

This displays a remarkable ignorance on their part for the proper use of an instrument in detecting something. When the intrinsic instrumental variability between testing is larger than the margin by which the measurement breaks some threshold value, then repeated testing until it does break is completely spurious.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The problem with current DUI laws is that they are arbitrary and too strict. 0.08 is unrealistic for everyone. I'm a large man and a skilled drinker (!!). 0.08 is too strict for me. I would much rather have an impaired driving standard.

And breathalyzers are often used in brazenly illegitimate ways by ignorant police officers. A friend of ours I know was working on a sunday afternoon loading up scrap metal in a trailer in a rural area. He got hot so he drank a beer. Later he was driving down the road slowly (as his trailer was loaded with scrap metal) and was pulled over by a cop (the cop being dumb enough to pull him over for driving slow, but not understanding that he was driving slow due to a heavily loaded trailer). The cop gave him the breathalyzer, and he blew under the limit. They made him blow again, he blew under the limit. They made him blow yet again, he blew over the limit, and was hauled in for drinking and driving.

This displays a remarkable ignorance on their part for the proper use of an instrument in detecting something. When the intrinsic instrumental variability between testing is larger than the margin by which the measurement breaks some threshold value, then repeated testing until it does break is completely spurious.

The main goal in such instances, I assume, is to acquire the citizen's funds to feed the legal system. It works great to that end. I would have been tempted to say "no" to a third breathalyzer test, and prepare for the consequences. If the system's skewed against you, it's skewed against you. "Don't taze me bro!"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that the only reason a DUI makes sense is because we do not have a choice on the safety of the routes that we choose. I'm talking about "public property". If we only had private roads, the owners could set their own rules and make sure that the rules make sense. I would pay ten times more to use a road that allows me to drive drunk if the owner figured out a way to prevent my drinking from impacting anyone outside of my car. I would probably take that same road even if I was sober just to make sure that I'm safe. I'm not saying that this is possible, but the point that I'm making is that each road has a different driving difficulty, which could be improved with intelligent street protections, and the rules should be set in a way that makes the most sense per that difficulty. This is why I hate public roads...

I recently read this quote by Murray Rothbard:
Only the overt commission of a crime should be illegal, and the way to combat crimes committed under the influence of alcohol is to be more diligent about the crimes themselves, not to outlaw the alcohol. And this would have the further beneficial effect of reducing crimes not committed under the influence of alcohol.

I know some libertarians hold this position in principle, and while I'm sympathetic with it, I've never been completely comfortable with it. They would argue that we ought not punish "victimless crimes." (This I am sympathetic with.) But acting on this principle seems to allow a number of behaviors that create very risky circumstances.

I have not agreed with legalizing drunk driving because once a person is drunk, he loses the capacity to drive safely. It could be the case that he gets home safely without hurting himself or others, but the chances drop significantly. In other words, this behavior is potentially very dangerous to others, and therefore I am comfortable making it illegal. (If the risk were only to himself, I would have no problem with it being legal; it's the risk to others that is the political concern.)

Here are a couple other examples to consider:

1. Let's say a man walks into a crowd and (for whatever reason), just starts firing a gun wildly. Let's say he doesn't hit anyone. Since no overt commission of a crime took place, this should be legal behavior.

2. Should we allow private citizens to own nuclear weapons (assuming they could obtain them)? Do we really want to wait for that individual to use it before we punish them?

So I guess what I see as the proper principle would be roughly something like:

A. Allow people to take part in whatever behavior they desire so long as it does not infringe on others' rights.

B. But behavior that is deemed to have a high degree of risk to the safety of others also needs to be legislated against.

It seems to me that in both cases it would be a proper to curtail these behaviors simply on the high degree of risk that accompanies them.

I think Rothbard would argue, how do you define "high degree of risk?" Many argued for prohibition on these same grounds.

And this is a good question, one I don't have a full answer to. Of course the philosophers of law would need to clean this up a lot, but I think it might need to be decided on case-by-case basis.

I'm curious what others think about this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites