The Fable of Speeding and Prance Legstrong
Imagine that the Teetotaler party came to power. They stood for family, safety and old fashioned values. Their first target was the car and the speeding culture. They wanted driving to be as safe as possible. Indeed, they would have preferred it if there were no driving cars at all and people returned to bicycles or horsedrawn carts. But they knew that was impossible. People were used to driving cars.
So they slashed the speed limits from 100km/hr to 50 on open roads, and 60km/hr to 20 in built up areas. This, it was proven, was a safer speed to drive at.
Nearly everyone, however, sped. It was just more convenient – you could do so much more. And it cut down travelling times for work, so people could get a competitive advantage by getting to work earlier and leaving later.
Some professions involved speeding. Couriers, truck drivers, and salesmen all sped. There were a few speed cameras but they picked up people only rarely and many had camera detectors installed in their cars. People continued to drive at 100km/hr, just as they always had. Those who were caught were punished heavily – banned for a couple of years.
However, the benefits of speeding, or going at what was the previous limit, vastly outweighed the punishments.
One particularly successful courier was Prance Legstrong. He used to speed and deliver packages quicker than any other service. He established DEEHL, a courier service that became more successful than US postal. Pretty soon, he was a multimillionaire.
Prance was the all-American dream. He set up a charity to help homeless people and starving African children. He saved thousands of lives.
But the Teetotaler party did not like Legstrong’s success. He stood for everything they hated. Unfortunately they had never caught him speeding. But they had caught some of his company. They got 21 or so and offered to waive their punishment for speeding – they would not be banned – if they testified that Legstrong had been speeding and said that he made them speed.
This was of course absurd – they were speeding before they joined his company.
Nonetheless, they all testified and the Teetotaller party produced a document concluding that Legstrong was the worst example of a speed-demon in human history. They had to make an example of him.
At a triumphant speech the President of the Teetotallers said:
Legstrong has no place on the roads; not now, not ever. We must have zer0 tolerance for speeding. We have a new weapon in our war on speeding: the coerced testimony of comrades, a time-proven method of enforcing rule and law.
They banned him from driving for life. They dismantled his company and demanded that he pay back all the money he had earned as a courier and company director. Consequently his charity folded and many people died as a result.
People began to wonder whether all this was really necessary. Hadn’t the speed limit been 100 km/hr in the past? And hadn’t it been safe enough then? And after all, wasn’t everyone speeding?
One radical pundit suggested that rather than so punish Legstrong, they should return the speed limit to 100km/hr and give people the freedom to drive faster than 50. Laws had to be enforceable, he said, and safety and old-fashioned values had to be weighed against other values.
But this was now said to be just too dangerous – too dangerous for our children. It was against the very spirit of a democracy.
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