On the Other Hand...

On Being Licensed to Drive a Car

by Jim Davies

Changing States, as I did recently by moving to New Hampshire, gives one a valuable insight into the sub-species called Government Man.

"Valuable", yes, but also deeply shocking. To think that beyond the wall separating us of the Real World from our masters (and mistresses; for one must remember to be P.C.) there are often pleasant people doing devastatingly useless work is profoundly disturbing to any thoughtful person. The phrase "Your Tax Dollars At Work" hardly does the sentiment justice.

My purpose here is not just to ridicule the government system that enables us all to travel with less harassment than otherwise, but to question whether any of that system is needed, or would exist in a properly free society.

My wife and I happened to be in Concord one day and wondered if anyone wanted us to have N.H. drivers' licenses; so we stopped by the lavish suites of State office buildings you-all paid for in Hazen Drive, and enquired.

Yes, indeed, step this way, and everyone was very cheerful. They gladly took $64 of our money (which took me several hours of labor to earn by honest trade) but said that no, they couldn't issue licenses because our two cars were not yet registered, and that had to be done in Town.

Why we could not get N.H. licenses to drive upon presentation of simple evidence that we live here remains a mystery.

However: back to the Town Clerk, for visit #1 . The cars are leased, so the Title is needed. Nobody here has any jurisdiction over out-of-State leasing companies, so it's absurd to make title production a condition of registration, but the lawmakers did it anyway. Fortunately, the owners volunteered. Out another $44, in some more paperwork.

Visit #2 : One title is fine, thank you very much for $237, here are two bits of aluminum made for about $2 in a State Prison. There, proud for all to see, was a handsome pair of green plates declaring solemnly the legend "LIVE FREE OR DIE". So far, nothing had been free; but thank you, I'd rather not die.

But the other has first to be routed through Concord, so off it goes. Can registration then be done by mail? - oh, no, we really don't want to do that, for it's SO complicated to write to tell you how much to pay, then to mail the plates... Poor baby! We really can't have our Public Servants doing complicated work, now can we?

Visit #3 : all needed clerical blessings have been given, further cost a mere $145, and we're on our way with another $2 worth of aluminum. All we have to face now is two Inspections ($30) and a trip to Concord for an unwanted pair of plastic photographs.

Ludicrous: yes, of course. Any competent student of business efficiency could design a simple, one-stop-shop process to do all of the above quickly and much more cheaply. Last year Ross Perot made millions of disciples by offering that kind of efficiency-reform on a Federal level, and those foolish enough to want an efficient government can go vote for him; the pickings are rich indeed.

I don't. I recall that the most efficient government of this Century, anywhere, was the one run by the National Socialist German Workers' Party, and compared with that, I'd prefer even the collossal incompetance of the ones we have.

Better yet, though, I'd prefer one that is very much s-m-a-l-l-e-r; by, say, a factor of ten to start with. And about reducing the whole size and scope of government, I don't recall that Mr Efficiency Perot ever spoke a syllable.

To start the shrinkage, let me question the purpose of these procedures. One of my two favorite bumperstickers is "Question Authority"; so, here goes. Question #1: Why should people have to get a government license to drive? All agree that we should not be required to have one to walk, or to ride a bicycle or a horse or a hang-glider. So what's so special about driving?

Answer: To help government agents quickly identify us whenever they wish. Ach! Ihre papieren, bitte! This truth is ugly, and totally outside the good old American tradition of independence and privacy, but it's the truth. It has nothing to do with certifying competance at the wheel, and everything to do with control and surveillance. George Orwell, weep. Question #2: Why should we have to pay property tax? Plates are required partly for further identification and control (see above) but mainly to help ensure payment of this tax. Hence the Question.

Usual answer: Because town governments could not operate without it.

Sorry, that won't do; it begs the question by assuming that town governments NEED to "operate" in order to sustain civilized life. And that is NOT true.

Look at what they actually do, such as schooling (75% of their spend) and ask whether those things could be done any other way, and whether that other way might be far cheaper and better. I'll do so here more fully in future articles; for now, reflect: Do you REALLY want your childrens' young minds formed by the folks who run the Post Office... or who license us to travel?

© Copyright Jim Davies 1999

Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.

The above is Edition # 3

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