The Importance of Being Mobile
|January 9, 2007||Posted by Staff under Archive, Progress Report, The Progress Report|
The Importance of Being Mobile
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
There is a fact of life that some folks don’t seem to understand. What distinguishes animals from plants is mobility. Most plants are stuck in place, while animals move around. Food does not come to animals as it does to plants. Plants can be stuck there because the rain falls and the sun shines upon them. But animals need to eat plants or other animals, and for this, they must go seeking, and that is why nature gives them fins and legs.
The same obvious fact applies to the human animal. Nature gave us big strong legs so we could move around. We also have hands and brains that enabled us to create a technology of mobility, the major one now being the automobile. Note well that this is an auto-MOBILE.
Just as mobility is necessary to hunt and gather food primitively, mobility is vital for modern prosperity. Financial mobility is necessary for modern commerce: money must swiftly flow from buyer to seller, and goods must rapidly move the opposite direction. Time is a precious resource, and human beings rationally economize on time by moving as fast as is safe and effective.
But government often and in many ways impedes mobility. Restrictions, permit requirements, and taxes create delays and impose greater costs on transit. Many activities are blocked off entirely. Some people now want to hinder global financial mobility by imposing a tax on financial transactions. Because of terrorist attacks, the mobility of air transit has been reduced, perhaps excessively. International mobility has diminished with greater border controls.
Now, in this holiday season, government is imposing more obstacles to highway mobility. Local governments across the USA are increasing roadblocks to check for seat-belt usage, drivers who have drunk alcohol (DWI – driving while intoxicated), lack of insurance, registration, residency, child seats, safety, emissions, prostitution, faulty equipment, warrants, convictions, and so on. Of course we don’t want drunk drivers on the road, but this does not excuse randomly stopping drivers and intruding on their privacy. As the November/December 2001 issue of the National Motorist Association Foundation’s News magazine states, only when there are dangers up ahead is it justified to stop drivers who are not evidently violating the traffic laws. According to the NMAF News, roadblocks “have a net zero influence on public safety.”
While we often can do little about government intrusions, in the case of roadblocks, the individual driver does have choices when confronted by the police. When stopped at a roadblock, you should stop, but there is no need to let the police officer intrude. You may just open your window a bit and wait for the officer to make his statement. If he asks for your driver’s license, registration, and insurance papers, do hand them to him. But, according to the NMAF News, you may decline to answer other questions.
Whatever you do when the police officer is checking you, it is wise to be polite. You are now in an alternative universe. You are no longer in the normal world, but in polizeiwelt, the authority of a man with a gun and the legal right to confiscate your car or put you in jail.
According to the NMAF News, “there is no legal reason for detaining you.” If you are not suspected of specific violations of law, you have the legal right to mobility. I am not an attorney and am not giving legal advice, but I can report that the NMAF News says that you are not legally obligated to answer further questions “and you cannot be detained because you refuse to chit-chat with the officers at a roadblock.”
But why not just go along and enter into a discussion with the officer, who is just doing his job? Because the government is still a democracy and officials are interested in the public’s reaction to interventions that block mobility. The police are encouraged to do roadblocks if the public favors the roadblocks, and discouraged if the public does not appreciate them.
The police officer may try to intimidate you if you don’t want to let him search your car or answer personal questions. So you need to decide ahead of time how you will respond to a roadblock, so you will be mentally ready. Your decision is basically whether you will preserve your privacy and indicate that you are not pleased to be questioned, or whether you will give in and let the officer investigate at will. Of course if you think roadblocks are a good idea and it is good for society for the police to check on drivers, then go ahead and submit.
You should at least know your legal rights. According to the NMAF News, “the police do not have the authority to search you or your vehicle” unless there is probable cause or a reasonable suspicion that you are committing a crime. If you voluntarily allow the police to search your car, even if you think you have done nothing wrong, they may find some violation of a law you have never heard of and could not imagine to exist. Perhaps the seatbelt is not up to standards or you have dirt on the floor that they mistake for marijuana ashes. In Oakland, California, if the police officer asks if you would like to “feel good,” you should answer “no” if you don’t wish for them to seize you car, because saying “yes” indicates that you are looking for a prostitute.
The NMAF News advises that if you are ordered out of your car, to “lock the door behind you.” That avoids the police from entering the car without your permission. It is also “a clear expression of your intention to refuse to a search.”
As the News says, it does take courage to stand up for you rights when government wants to intrude into your life. But if we all meekly submit, not only will we lose our rights in practice, but the mobility so vital to human life can then be further and further impeded.
For information on roadblocks, see roadblocks . The site includes a registry of known roadblocks, which will be updated as more roadblocks are erected in this holiday season. I say “Bravo!” to the NMAF for helping us protect our rights.
Copyright 2001 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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