Thursday, 12 June 2008

"Ban the ban" cried the fantail (updated)

Another day, another ban, this time on using a hand-held mobile phone in your car. Libertarianz spokesman Luke Howison tells Morning Report here that this is a "knee jerk response" and yet another example of the proliferation of nanny state: the government feels the need to ban everything bad and make everything good compulsory.  Audio here.

UPDATE 1: You know, if you don't like drivers using cell phones, there's no need for government to pull out the big gun -- which all those in support of a ban are supporting. 

If, for example, insurance companies

were to review their actuarial figures for accidents (which are more accurate than the politically massaged figures quoted in support of the government's ban) and find that cell phone use was consistently linked with accidents, then they're always able to inform holders of insurance that, for example, accidents involving or caused by cell phone use will not be covered under their car insurance policies, just as accidents involving a drunken driver are presently not covered  by the driver's policy.

So there's no need to leap to bans, which is the nannying knee jerk response one expects when the solution to everything is thought to be bigger government.

UPDATE 2: I assume most of you will have got the hippy reference in the title?


  1. I disagree with anti-smacking law. I disagree with banning smoking, ,disagree with banning BZP, however I support the government for banning using a mobile phone while driving.

    Here is my reason. The road is not a private property of the driver. It belongs to every citizen of this country, and this means that everybody doesn't want to be endangered by other mobile users while driving.

    Hey, if mobile users want to do this sort of thing (using a mobile while driving), then they're welcome to use it on their own private property (which is in according with the Libz's doctrine), but sorry they can't do that on my road.

    My view is consistent, since taking BZP only damages the body of that individual who chooses to use it. It is his property that he/she chooses to damage so no one else has any right to ban him from doing that voluntary action to him/herself.

    Banning smoking is a violation of property rights. Restaurants are privately owned, so the law is wrong there.

    Banning disciplinary smacking of children is wrong too.

    However banning of mobile phone use during driving is appropriate, because it is my road too. It is the same as banning drink driving. I don't want intoxicated drivers on my road because they endanger myself and others.

    So, to the Libz, what is the difference between banning mobile use and banning drink driving?

    They are in the same category , aren't they?

  2. PC: Would you complain if the owner of private roads banned cellphone use on their roads?

  3. Hi janed; you raise a valid point.

    But my reason for opposing this ban (and I would agree with Luke that this is a knee-jerk reaction) is that we already have laws against careless driving.

    If texting while driving isn't a clear-cut case of 'careless driving', what is?

    And it's not true to say that "everybody" is automatically "endangered" by "everybody" using a cellphone while driving.

    I'm also suspicious of a govt that announces this triviality the same week Navtej Singh was brutally gunned down. The history of this appalling govt provides justifiable cause for suspicion. Nothing like a wee diversion to water things down a bit, eh.

    AL: In answer to your question, of course not. I disagreed (still do) with the state ban on smoking in bars and cafes, etc, but I fully support the right of the property-owners to dictate their terms. Their property, their rules.

  4. Re this ban, Harry Duynhoven mentioned "taking it to the public for consultation" and how it wouldn't be 'successful' to "institute a ban without having the public onside first".

    Didn't seem to matter with the anti-smacking bill, did it?

  5. JaneD, you are making an externalities argument, which is the right way to think about this I think.

    However, I'm not sure a ban is the best way to deal with this.

    First, a driver using a cell phone just makes a pre-existing externality a bit larger. Even without a cell phone in his hand, the driver coming at you in the other direction is imposing some risk of death on you.

    So under a simple 'ban all things that cause externalities' approach, cars themselves would not be permitted on roads.

    Ideally, using a cell phone while driving would be taxed at a level that asks the driver to bear the costs he imposes on others.

    Of course, that is unworkable. So the question is whether a ban is preferred to 'do nothing'.

    In favour of the ban is the fact that there is a ready alternative to holding a phone to your head while driving: a hands free kit.

    Against the ban is the cost of enforcement and another reduction in personal liberty, yet another thing police can pick on you for.

  6. If you can not use a cellphone long enough to say "I'll call you back" whilst driving, then in my opinion you should not be on the same road as me.

    If that simple task is too great, then the more complex task of taking your eyes off the road in front of you and turning your head to the rear before changing lanes, would be totally over-whelming.

    If cellphones are banned, then changing lanes and overtaking should be banned also.

    I would hazard a damned good guess that all those who support a ban on cellphone use in vehicles can't back with their mirrors either.

  7. Why do folk think that using a cellphone is much diferent from a one-armed driver with a passenger in the car with him. Shall we ban him from driving?

    Banning Fireworks is a less clear-cut argument. In ordinary use, they make a huge racket which infringes on the rights of others. So what about a compomise: allow us fireworks at certain times of the year at least.

  8. Those of us- of a certain age- did indeed 'Get it' ;-)

  9. For years a factor in traffic accidents is "fiddling with the stereo", people changing radio stations or tracks on the CD or whatever. You can't ban that though - this is the same, with the added bit of snobbery "oh you don't NEED to use a cellphone in the car". What you do inside your car should be irrelevant to others as long as you don't hit or threaten to hit others.

  10. JaneD

    The road does not "belong to every citizen." It belongs to none of them. You need to carefully consider what the concept of "ownership" actually is and what it means.

    Roads in NZ are controlled by the government which also exercises coercive power over citizens (which it regards as "its" citizens- now there's an expression of ownership to be carefully evaluating).

    It is clear that you do not like cellphones in use by motorists while they are driving. Well, tough for you. It matters not what YOU want, unless you are the owner of the road in question (in which case you could properly require that anyone using YOUR road cease and desist from cell phone use).

    Many millions of cell phone calls have been made by drivers without harm to anyone. The argument about endangerment is weak and does not hold up to scruitiny. Consider your BZP analogy again. What you are really arguing with the cell phone ban is analogous to banning BZP because users may endanger others while intoxicated (or while manufacturing and preparing BZP). By your own admission such an approach is erroneous.

    Drunk drivers? Hey, why not simply ban anyone under the age of, say, 35? Certainly women menstruating are an endangerment to others. Have you experienced the behaviours of such terrible drivers? What about banning thenm also? (Can you imagine roadside random testing?)

    Forget about cell phones. This issue is best resolved by privatising roads and letting the owners decide.



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