We all know how this libertarian argument goes. Until there is a direct victim operating a motor vehicle, something that you personally own, the way one wants should not be illegal or restricted unless there is a direct victim from their actions such as causing a collision or death. If we are dealing with pure libertarian ideology then the concept of no victim = no crime would apply to drunk driving as well. I can appreciate the logical consistency that’s in play here as it doesn’t make an exception and is applied evenly.
The issue, however, lies in the realm of debate and argumentation. Simply stating “no victim = no crime” as a defense for drunk driving is only going to appeal to other libertarians; people who likely already had the thought themselves. In today’s Bad Arguments I’m going to tackle some of the pitfalls to the argument for legalizing drunk driving.
Something to consider here is the other levels of state interference with the act of driving. I’m not talking about the litany of traffic laws but rather the more direct levels of involvement. First off, driving is done under license. As it is considered a licensed act the rules and requirements for maintaining said license are up to the distributor. In this case that is the state. Secondly, the roads are also currently “owned” and maintained by the state meaning they are free to set the rules for the public using this property, and by proxy can be found responsible for them. Now this much we already know and understand, however it’s important to reiterate to understand the drunk driving arguments a little better.
State roads and state licensing would, in turn, lead to state responsibility. Unbeknownst to many people the state can be sued, just like a private citizen, for injury or accidents caused on their property due to negligence. Normally poor road care such as deep potholes or poorly plowed/salted roads are the reason for the lawsuit, but let’s follow this logic. If, for example, a business is robbed and you are injured you can also place a lawsuit against the business if you can prove that your injury was due to their negligence or actions. A similar thing is true if you suffer from a burglary due to a landlord’s poor maintenance of the locks or windows. If it can be proven that the property owner/manager was negligent in maintaining adequate safety for those entering/using the property they can be found liable.
Let’s take this back to drunk driving. The state gives out licensing which puts the onus on the drivers to follow the law therein. The state also maintains the roads and is responsible for them. With things as they are, if drunk driving was completely legalized the state would potentially be liable for their negligence in allowing people to behave that way on their property; especially after they issue licensing. Liability itself aside, the state (on paper at least) has a duty of care for those on their property and as such can and should create restrictions for those using their property in order to protect all involved. While some protections are pretty ludicrous, driving in an intoxicated state increases the chance of a crash by a significant degree.
In episode 12 of the podcast I host I broke down the concept of classifying problems in debate so you can have discussions on root issues rather than spinning wheels on lower class problems. The legalization of drunk driving itself is a C class problem at best and, if one is looking to convince people outside of libertarian circles, it is not the debate we need to be having. Debating the licensing system itself, or perhaps the state ownership of all roads would be a good place to start instead. Going further we could debate the concept of negligence as a liability in law instead. There are tons of routes we could take, all of which are going to be more effective and have more impact than jumping right to legalizing drunk driving. Starting there is what makes this a bad argument, and one we should aim to move on from.
You can read more from Killian Hobbs on Think Liberty here.