Monday, November 20, 2006

I Told You So

I have long argued that attempting to legislate every aspect of human behavior can often have negative consequences, especially if the rule-making goes too far.

It seems like some Europeans have begun to agree, and have responded to their glut of traffic signs and regulations by simply throwing them all out in a seven-city experiment. No asphalt, for one, but also no parking meters, no signs, no traffic lights, not even any lane markings on the road - drivers and pedestrians are free to act and interact, and at their own peril.

The argument, I think, is a quite reasonable one:

"The many rules strip us of the most important thing: the ability to be considerate. We're losing our capacity for socially responsible behavior," says Dutch traffic guru Hans Monderman, one of the project's co-founders. "The greater the number of prescriptions, the more people's sense of personal responsibility dwindles."

The results are said to reduce frustration at being constantly enveloped by inane regulations, encourage people to interact with each other rather than using a rule as a proxy, to declining numbers of accidents. Credit is given to the theory that drivers tend to drive most recklessly, rapidly, and automatically when they're wrapped up in the both comforting and frustrating apron of the Nanny State's regulation.

While I'm not certain tearing out the asphalt is a good plan, I'm all for deregulation - but did that really surprise anyone? And dare we even ask what the savings to these towns have been in the reduced costs of enforcement?

Now, can we get this sort of plan running somewhere in the states as a test program? I'm skeptical, since so many communities love getting their funds from traffic violations...

1 comment:

Tim said...

A question I posed to my sociology professor at college was what happens to the rule of law when laws are passed that are ignored, weakly enforced, etc.?

Traffic laws were exactly what I was asking about. How many of us here understand the speed limit to be a X +/- 5 mph rule? How many of us actually expect to be pulled over for going 3 mph over the limit?