When Rules Replace Principles

As Philadelphia moves to ban the use of hand-held cell phones in cars, I heard commentary that all phones (including hands-free) should be banned.  The argument is that just talking directs attention away from driving.  If this is the case then I propose the following new measures to make driving even safer:


      Ban passengers.  Normally that might be hard to enforce, but since Obama is running GM now, he can tell them to make some of these.


      Ban the radio.  C’mon, everyone listens to Rush.  Love him or hate him, you’re always shouting something at the radio – how is that different from talking on a phone?


      Ban heater, AC, other controls.  Messing with dashboard controls can also be a distraction.  Perhaps a heater automatically controlled from Washington (for those in colder climates) can be developed using ideas from Smartgrid and GPS.


Why not enforce an existing law, such as reckless driving?  Such a law appears to be based more on the principle, to drive safely, one must avoid excessive distractions, than on a specific rule that applies to a specific situation.


Rules and laws like the cell phone ban demonstrate the growing trend to replace principles with rules.  Principles can be broadly applied to a number of situations, whereas rules require a specific action for a specific situation.  Think about the principle, to be treated respectfully, it is necessary to respect others.   That principle, if followed, will cover a whole host of situations that have rules, such as not smoking in certain places, or talking and using phones in quiet places.  The downside to relying more on principles (and thus fewer and more general laws) is individuals must use judgment in applying those principles.   And I believe that is central to the problem:  it is just another manifestation of the desire to litigate away risk and uncertainty from life.  We can’t rely on people’s judgment, someone might get hurt.  We need to have that welfare “safety net”, people might not make it otherwise. 


We can continue to elect people who will create rules to the point where they govern every last detail of our lives, or we can rediscover the scary world of independence, where we can choose to live by principles.  Ultimately, the choice is ours.  As for me and driving, I am confident I will never have to type, OMGIJHAC.