OPINION – The promise of the coming new year puts some of us in an optimistic mood. It’s not that 2016 was necessarily a bad year, it’s the idea that there is promise for improvement in 2017 – for example, if legislators in Utah would revisit the vehicle safety inspection law.
While much of people’s anticipated improvement in 2017 may be of a personal nature, there is one collective shift I’d gladly welcome. That would be any move whatsoever that, in some way, shrinks the power and costs of government in each of our lives.
While such a sentiment is anathema to anyone who believes that greater personal freedom is too frightening and unpredictable for modern society, it would be deeply appreciated by the rest of us.
We should start as close to home as possible.
For instance, Libertas Institute recently released a policy brief that calls for the repeal of Utah’s state-mandated safety inspections for vehicles. These inspections are sold to the citizenry in the name of “public safety” but, in reality, their costs outweigh the claimed benefits.
This means that, however well-intended the policy may be, it ends up wasting Utah drivers’ time and money.
Proponents of safety inspections may raise the fearful prospect of uninspected vehicles traveling on our state’s roads, presumably putting everyone in greater danger. This conveniently ignores the fact that many of the vehicles on our roads, at any given moment, are from out of state and are not subject to our safety inspection.
The fact that Utah is the only state among the 15 Western states that still requires a periodic vehicle safety inspection makes this possibility even more likely. (See ed. note below.)
There is the added likelihood that a nonmechanically-skilled driver whose car passes the yearly required safety inspection is more likely to develop a false sense of security and, therefore, pay less attention to the mechanical soundness of his or her vehicle.
By eliminating a bureaucratic program that can show no evidence of fulfilling the stated reason for its purpose, Utah could take a small step back towards restoring personal freedom.
Utah citizens pride themselves on being patriotic, civic-minded and living in what they call a “well-run state.” However, each of those qualities has gradually superseded another quality that is growing more scarce by the moment.
That would be the quality of liberty — the ability to make as many of our own choices as possible, without being coerced. This attitude of live and let live was once the norm. Now, civic duty has become an indirect means of wielding weaponized political power over others.
This is not to suggest that we live in abject tyranny in our respective communities but we certainly don’t have the kind of freedom we once enjoyed even a few years ago. Too many people have allowed others to bind them down with regulations, taxes, licenses and permits in the name of some collective “greater good.”
Because this is the system we are raised in and trained to believe in, few people are willing to see it for what it is. We are being ruled by morally defective people who extort money from us under the threat of force.
Paul Rosenberg minces no words in his assessment of the system as it currently stands:
Everywhere I turn, some kind of ruler, sub-ruler, enforcer, regulator, or “right-thinking” quasi-enforcer demands not only my money but also for me to make myself easy to punish, thus showing myself to be a good subservient. That’s not just wrong; it’s a disease.
When it’s stated in those terms, the present system becomes a lot less worthy of defense.
It’s no exaggeration to note that, these days, government permission is required to do almost everything. If you wish to travel by car, start a business, renovate your private property, educate your own kids, buy things online, live off the grid or collect rainwater off your roof, you must either obtain permission or pay some type of tax in the form of a fee.
It would be one thing if all that regulation and licensing resulted in greater safety, higher quality goods and services and a clean and ordered society. After all, these are the criteria under which most of these government controls are sold to a gullible public.
At some point, however, even the most obtuse will have a hard time defending a system that would charge people criminally for growing vegetables rather than lawn on their own property. Or would prohibit feeding the homeless or poor. Or would try to put out of business a cottage industry that makes hand-sewn menstrual cloths by having the FDA declare them to be “medical devices”.
It’s not that difficult to see that the majority of these regulations, permits and fees are predicated upon a desire to control others. The proof in the pudding is found in other states and communities where happy, productive lives are lived in the absence of such micromanagement.
That would be a positive step in the right direction.
Ed. note: Vehicle safety inspection requirements vary from state-to-state. State and federal laws prescribe various inspections for vehicles over a certain weight and commercial vehicles. Other events such as sale, resale, registering a car in a state for the first time and the like trigger inspection requirements in some states. Law enforcement officers are typically empowered to require safety inspections on a case-by-case basis in their judgment. For summary of laws pertaining to vehicle safety inspections by state, see AAA Digest of Motor Laws webpage on safety inspections.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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