Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Laws Can’t Fix Stupid

While driving through the neighborhoods of ‘McMansions’ on my way to work (I never take the parking lot they call the interstate highway during rush hours on the rim of insanity), I overheard the local talk show discussing something very interesting.  Basically, a suburban community in Philadelphia is considering imposing an ordinance that would impose a $25 fine to anyone who has their car unlocked in a public area.

The reason is quite simple: police claim that about 3/4 of all car-related robberies in the neighborhood occur on cars that are not locked by the owner.  For the life of me, I can’t see the logic, though, in fining people who have basically done something incredibly stupid.  The neighborhood is apparently an upper middle class type of a neighborhood and I suppose the people who live there feel safe and secure enough that locking their car doors isn’t always necessary.

I view this problem as more of a case of local government tyranny and taxing the stupid.  The whole point of this ordinance is so that the locality can generate some level of revenue.  The local police force, which is usually little more than a tax collecting institution in most place who occasionally do something useful, is all too happy to go around and check people’s locks and attempt to open their doors.  And the county supervisors are probably all too happy to have these fines issued because more revenue means more crony government programs.

It was pointed out that this is a proposed ordinance and has not been codified into law in that locality yet.  The local talk radio host here did point out that sometimes when you propose a law, that’s all that’s needed to change people’s behavior.  In other words, this proposed law will probably motivate people to lock their car doors even if it doesn’t become an actual law.

Another side is that the car insurance companies may want this law to be passed in order to deny claims to individuals who have their cars robbed as a result of not locking their doors.  But seriously, since when does it have to be crime in order to deny a claim?  If a person’s stuff is stolen out of his or her car and there are no broken locks or windows, then it could easily be determined that the car was unlocked at the time of the theft.  I’m fine with insurance companies denying claims for stupid behavior, but I don’t think that a crime is a good qualifier for determining stupid behavior.

The bottom line here is that this locality is doing exactly what many central planners in government do: eliminate stupid behavior through the force of government.  That is largely why Obamacare has made it illegal to not have health insurance, why state governments often require you have to car insurance, and why there are tons of county ordinances that determine what you can and can’t build on your land.  They are trying to eliminate stupid behavior and absolve the stupid of the consequences of their actions.  This mostly because stupid people tend to vote in stupid ways and if they had to face the consequences of their stupid behavior, then they might be a little less stupid.

There is no law, however, that can eliminate stupid behavior.  If this new ordinance is passed, I’m sure many car thefts will involve broken locks and windows.  But I’m also sure that police officers will be going though all the cars that are parked in shopping marts and on the side of the street to see if they are locked or not.  And I’m betting that the county officials are counting on generating a significant amount revenue from stupid people.  And most stupid people are going to pay it because it’s only 25 dollars.


  1. I lived in Philadelphia for 7 years, and I knew people who left their cars unlocked with nothing inside. If you walked down the street, you could see signs in people's cars saying, "The car is unlocked."


    It cost over a hundred bucks to get a window fixed there. It was just cheaper to leave your car unlocked and bring your CD console from your car inside and only leave burned CD's in the vehicle.

    I didn't do this, and I'm glad since someone I know who does this had someone use their backseat as a toilet.

  2. Philly sounds like one special town.

    To think I go for the Eagles!

  3. TC... unless you would throw batteries at Santa Claus, you are not like most Eagles fans.

  4. The only thing I like about Philadelphia is a little Vietnamese place near the entrance to Chinatown.

    I have to go to Philadelphia lots and I think it has earned it's name "Filth-a-delphia".


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