Driven to Drink

Dave Killion — October 19, 2010

There has been a lot of discussion recently over British Columbia’s new drinking and driving law, and more than once I’ve read or heard that ‘driving is a privilege, not a right’.  Even though I think that statement is correct, I have to ask – so what?

After all, going to the local shopping centre is a privilege, not a right.  If I misbehave, I lose the privilege of shopping there.  Same thing with the local cinema.  So long as I sit and quietly watch the film, I keep the privilege of entry.  But if I raise one little false alarm…

The same thing could be said about driving.  One drink too many, and the privilege of driving is lost.  But if I lose my shopping privileges at the local centre, the shopping centre loses whatever future revenue I might have provided.  If shopping centres set the bar for behaviour too high, they will hurt themselves.  This feedback serves to prevent private institutions from being overly restrictive.  Since roads are a government monopoly, they are protected from this feedback mechanism.  A taxpayer who loses the privilege of driving remains a taxpayer, and government retains its revenue.  This frees the government to regulate roads in the manner that will garner the most votes.

So let’s hear no more of this nonsense about the privilege of driving on government roads.  It may be technically correct, but it ignores the fact that serving me is also a privilege.  Since we have allowed government to allocate that privilege almost entirely to itself, we should be very hesitant about allowing ever-tighter restrictions.


David C says

Dave: You have used a great example here to illustrate the economic calculation problem. Although it isn’t the only reason why heavily socialist nations have a hard time functioning I believe it is one of the main causes of their breakdown.

— October 19, 2010

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