Two seemingly unrelated commentaries, from separate sources and published two weeks apart, reveal everything wrong with expensive (and never-ending) infrastructure spending and provide a glimpse at the reasons government shouldn’t be in that business to begin with. Better understanding of government’s proper role in the lives of a free people might also help with the issue of police abuse that has so polarized American society.
On January 29, the Boston Globe ran a letter to the editor, “High behind the wheel, but how do we know?” highlighting (no pun intended) the difficulty faced by law-enforcement officers in detecting whether a driver is under the influence of cannabis. “Standard field sobriety tests have thus far been validated only for identifying subjects impaired by alcohol, not for marijuana or other substances,” the letter-writer, NORML deputy director Paul Armentano, states. “Similarly, drug recognition evaluators receive only a few hours of training prior to receiving their certification. The bulk of this training is unrelated to cannabis and its effects.”
Massachusetts, like several other states, has legalized marijuana for recreational use. This is a welcome development that directs police resources away from peaceful pot-smokers who are causing no harm. But what about stoned drivers? No one should be threatened by an intoxicated driver behind the wheel of a three-thousand-pound automobile.
The trouble is, police officers are being given “only a few hours” of training before they are sent out, guns on hips, to enforce cannabis laws. The question of competence is a fair one here, but the science behind enforcement of traditional DUI (driving under the influence) laws is also not compatible with proper law enforcement practices. Breath tests are useless. Blood testing is practically useless, since THC (the psychoactive chemical in marijuana that causes the “high”) can stay in the blood for days, even weeks, after use. A perfectly sober driver today who smoked pot a week ago shouldn’t have his life ruined. The carrot of legal weed comes with the stick of the state, unfairly punishing someone because he can’t prove a negative – that he wasn’t under the influence when stopped.
On a website called The Verge, an article from February 10 highlights a different issue, the federal government’s “five-year $5 billion plan to shore up the nation’s patchy electric vehicle charging network.” The money “will be available to states to create ‘a network of EV charging stations along designated Alternative Fuel Corridors, particularly along the Interstate Highway System,’ the [Biden] administration said.” Why on earth should charging stations be paid for by taxpayers? Those who wish to buy and drive electric vehicles should be free to do so. That doesn’t mean everyone else should be on the hook to help pay for that decision. If the federal government started building gas stations, with a Republican in the White House, the left would be howling about corporate welfare. That’s exactly what this is.
Drivers of electric vehicles do not have a right to have their personal choices endorsed and subsidized by the feds. Drivers of any vehicle do not have that right, because infrastructure like roads and bridges (and fueling stations!) ought to be left to the marketplace.
Whether it’s stoned drivers or fueling stations (electric or otherwise), the root of the problem is that government owns the roads. Let’s privatize them instead. Private owners seek to please customers. If private owners were policing roads instead of cops, we would expect fewer cases of official thugs battering (and killing) citizens who don’t comply quickly enough with their rules or directives, or who don’t show proper deference to authority. Road-owners would have no incentive to kill or abuse their customers, and unlike government, they could be held liable for death and injury and damage to vehicles arising from misconduct. Along with better policing would come higher-quality roads. Providing a better service or product is certainly the case in every other comparison between “public” (read government-owned) and private enterprise.