A Crime Without a Victim: Is It Possible?

I had an interesting discussion with my family  this morning. It started out as a tirade against the speed limits. This is how it started:

Point One: The government says that when you drive over the prescribed limit, there’s a greater likelihood that you will harm yourself, your passengers and also others on the road.

My point: Why stop there?

Point Two: Carrying on many conversations with people of various ages while trying to drive is distracting. It is harder to concentrate when your two-year old is saying something quite incomprehensible but she really wants you to understand what it is. It is more dangerous to drive when you are overtired. And eating. Or talking on the phone. And sneezing. Or trying to soothe the screaming baby in the back. Or teaching your kids about the rules of the road.

My point: Where do we draw the line? Should we say that only adults can be in the vehicle, 2 adults is the maximum, and no one can have any sort of conversation but keep their eyes glued on the road until they get glassy-eyed and start to doze? Should the government put a monitor in every vehicle to make sure that you aren’t getting distracted? And how much sleep is enough sleep? My dad is used to about 6 (or less) hours of sleep a day, and he’s been doing it for 10 years, he’s fine. I’m a little dangerous when I don’t have at least 7 hours of good sleep. So should the government just randomly decide on how many hours everyone should have to sleep before driving?

What always frustrates me a little when I propose new ideas (like abolishing the speed limit laws) is that people think I’m saying my ideas will solve all the problems of the world. So they invariably come up with some sticky situation which is outside the scope of my solution and something I can’t solve…and then, “aha! see, that won’t work. The status quo is better.” I know that Walter Block and Bob Murphy also encounter this when proposing to privatize the road systems, support anarcho-capitalism, etc…so that makes me feel better.

But the point I always come down to is that you can’t have a crime without a victim. I propose that most laws we have are just ridiculous “mala prohibitum” statues that mean absolutely nothing. A crime is something that is “malum in se” or evil in itself. Like murder. We can all agree that even if a government says, “okay folks, just want to let you know that it is now okay to murder anyone you want,” murder is still wrong. A law saying that on this certain road you can’t drive more than 60 mph is just as silly as the government saying you can’t put tomatoes in your clam chowder, or whistle under the water. Yes, those are real laws in some states. This challenges the whole idea of a “law.” What is a “law”? A “law” is something that is deeply rooted in our being and our world. The law of gravity is an inherent part of the world around us. The law against murder is also an inherent part of the world. This law came to us from God. It is not only from the Ten Commandments but also part of the natural law that all people, regardless of religious beliefs, know to be true. A speed limit law doesn’t really fit in that category. Speed limit laws are just made-up. As made-up as if I declared that from now on everyone had to “Anatomy of the State” by Murray Rothbard every week.

Why have laws that confuse the very idea of justice? Why not leave it up to people to decide whether to be safe and drive at reasonable speeds or not? After all, if they crash, they will have to deal with the consequences of their actions. They will be held responsible for their irresponsible behavior. It is a natural incentive for people to be safe…without giving the government power over what we do while in our own vehicle.

One Comment

  1. You know I love the way you think. We recently had a law that passed locally about having your pants too low. Well, our pastor brought up a good point. What about all the shorts/skirts that are too high? Where DO WE draw the line? Now we give them the power to tell us how to dress? C’mon people!

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