Saturday, January 23, 2010

A career criminal

A recent post of mine over on the Blog at Mises.org:









A career criminal
Jim Fedako

Most mornings, as I begin my drive to the office, I turn to wave goodbye to my wife and two smiling cherubs, a wave punctuated by a few honks of the horn. A harmless way to start my day -- or so I thought.

I just found out that it is illegal to use a car horn for such frivolity, in Ohio anyway. According to The Columbus Dispatch, "Ohio law says that horns are to be used only to avoid danger, although police normally don't cite friendly beeps or the occasional frustrated fist to the wheel." Who knew this law existed? Or that it extends to private property, nonetheless?

While it is magnanimous that police rarely enforce this law, the law still exists, punishable by a $120 fine -- as one local woman recently discovered.

Having a full deck of little-known laws gives government an upper hand -- providing government with an arbitrary and capricious means to punish those whose actions annoy and offend its petty officials.

In addition, the reality that the state can trump reasonable, harmless actions with little-known laws adds uncertainty to our plans. So instead of investing and facing the whims of government, consuming current capital may become the rational course of action.

An arbitrary and capricious state is a hallmark of the developing (nondeveloping?) world. Is it our fate also?

When you meet me, know you are meeting a criminal -- a criminal who plans to continue his unlawful ways. It's the only right thing to do. The state and its petty officials be damned.

Note: In Ohio, it's also illegal to blow a whistle while riding a bicycle. I plan to do just that as soon as the weather warms. Meaningless disobedience to stoke the internal fires for liberty.


Note: As expected, this drew comments over at Mises.org. Here is one of my replies, which may add clarity:

Classical Thinker --

I disagree:

1. It is a liberty issue. The law is silent on decibels. No aggression needs to occur. In a libertarian world, your fury has no legal standing unless you were aggressed. I am guilty for the action alone, which is true whether I lay on the horn in your neighborhood or give a slight toot where no one else is found. The whistle on a bike is another good example. Blow a whistle while riding in Ohio, no matter the time/place, and you broke Ohio law.

2. It is a free market issue. I was employed by the US Peace Corps in Jamaica. It was easy to see (on the surface) that there are many ways to profit through investment on the island. But, and this is big, there is no way to guarantee that you will not violate some regulation or law. And since the police and bureaucracy "enforce" regulations and laws in an arbitrary and capricious manner, a business plan would need to include a large percentage for bribes, fines, etc. The amount, of course, would not be known. So there was no way that I would ever invest there -- which explains why so little foreign investment occurs there (outside of that which is protected by US influence, bauxite as an example). This is the reason why Haiti is such a mess. If laws are known and applied consistently, entrepreneurs can add them to their business plan. But when laws are hidden and arbitrary and capricious, why invest at all.

I agree:

1. I am no market utopian. It could be that private roads would be plowed less than government roads due to market preferences. But the total service that I voluntarily purchase will be more efficient than what government supplies. It may be that I would rather save a few bucks and be inconvenienced during the occasional Ohio snowstorm.

2 comments:

Steve Scott said...

IGNORANCE OF THE LAW IS NO EXCUSE, JIM FEDAKO!!!!!!!!!!!!

What kind of citizen are you, Jim Fedako, that you would not know all the thousands of pages of ever-changing law immediately and by heart? You are a classic example of a know-nothing slacker, and I can't wait to move to Ohio and be on your jury. Criminal is an understatement! Bwaahahahahaha!

Anonymous said...

I always knew you were a bad apple, Jim Fedako! I have taken you off my ST list, you--you--illegal honker!