By on August 4, 2009

“When I first started in this job thirty years ago, police work was never about revenue enhancement,” Utica Police Chief Michael Reaves told the Detroit News. “But if you’re a chief now, you have to look at whether your department produces revenues. That’s just the reality nowadays.” Nothing produces bizarre behavior quite as reliably as an inappropriate economic incentive, whether we’re talking about the infamous “Sec 179” SUV tax deduction or every Aerosmith album after, and including, “Permanent Vacation.” Is it any surprise, therefore, that most police departments have, over time, shifted their focus away from crimes that don’t pay them in favor of those that do? Murder, rape, theft, vandalism, assault—all offenses that require considerably more effort than apprehending a 44-in-a-35, and none of them containing the kind of guaranteed municipal vigorish that can be garnished from a hapless motorist.

There’s a fine associated with virtually every criminal activity in the United States, from oral sodomy to aggravated murder. But the fines are rarely levied and even more rarely collected. It’s fairly difficult to wring ten grand out of someone who just got done serving a decade in prison, and even tougher to collect from someone sitting on Death Row. The motorist, by contrast, is an easy mark who almost always pays his fine and who can be cited with a trivial amount of effort. With the advent of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems and red-light cameras, it’s no longer even necessary to have a cop present.

The fines generated by traffic citations, in addition to being vastly out of proportion to those generated from other avenues of law enforcement, are both regressive and punitive. It’s now common for a speeding ticket in Ohio to run in excess of two hundred dollars—utterly crippling for the working poor, particularly when the only “offense” involved is driving with the flow of traffic. Consider that the maximum fine for a fifth-degree felony in Ohio is $2,500. The ridiculousness of charging a tenth of that for driving “six over” becomes even more apparent.

The uneven incentive for enforcement associated with outrageous traffic fines has altered the behavior of even the most civic-minded police departments. It’s common to see shiny “freeway patrol” cruisers idling on the Midwest’s inner-city freeways while near-anarchy reigns in the under-patrolled streets beneath. Cops are following the money. It’s as simple as that.

There’s a simple solution to the problem. It’s one that has the potential to restore balance to law enforcement activities, restore the trust between police and citizens, and significantly affect the amount of non-traffic-related crime taking place in most communities. Moving violations should be punished with “points” or criminal penalties exclusively. There should be no fine whatsoever for any offense committed by a motorist outside of parking violations.

Taking the fiscal incentive out of traffic enforcement would force governments to accurately measure the true benefit to their communities of various enforcement priorities. It would get cops out of their air-conditioned glass palaces and into contact with the people they are hired to serve and protect. There would finally be a chance, and a reason, for an honest, analytical nationwide discussion about the actual benefits of traffic enforcement. The all-too-true stereotype of the “jackbooted thug” idling in his cruiser could be replaced by examples of real cops serving as a genuine deterrent in crime-ridden areas.

A nation without overzealous traffic enforcement would be a nation where children didn’t observe their parents lying to police officers. It would be a nation where people might be happy to see a cop walking around, not terrified of being “nicked” for a rolling stop. Last but not least, it would be a nation where citizens all bore a similar burden for supporting police services while having a greater say in how that support was put to use.

The alternative—a nation where the bulk of enforcement effort is seemingly determined by the available revenue from that enforcement—is already a reality in Britain. It isn’t working. Photo traffic enforcement is speeding the country towards Big Brother, while reducing respect for the rule of law.

Why bring that failed model to the United States? Why take cops off the streets and replace them with cameras? Why withdraw police from high crime areas at the same time that highway patrol departments are receiving shiny new laser guns?

Speeding may not be something that our society can ignore. But as a society, we are best served when it is treated as a crime like any other, not as a honeypot for governmental corruption, concupiscence, and stupidity.

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54 Comments on “Editorial: Speeding Wants to Be Free...”


  • avatar
    AKM

    Speeding may not be something that our society can ignore. But as a society, we are best served when it is treated as a crime like any other, not as a honeypot for governmental corruption, concupiscence, and stupidity.

    I agree. And if anything, losing license points scares motorists more than paying fines, which only makes them grumble.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    Agreed. We all pay fines for speeding to our insurance companies that we must do business with under penalty of law. Paying fines to the locality where the infraction was detected isn’t necessary to punish the offenders.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Points schmoints. Just require that all traffic fines and related costs be rebated in full with some nominal interest after one year.

  • avatar
    alex_rashev

    For starters, have all the revenue being forwarded into the federal coffers. There shouldn’t be a reason for a 90-person town to have 20 cops and a judge.

  • avatar

    When someone tried appealing Michigan’s “Driver Responsibility Fees”, arguing that they violated double jeopardy, the state appeals court ruled that because the fees are “fees” and not “fines”, and because they are automatically assessed, not the result of any court proceedings, they don’t violate constitutional protections against being punished twice for the same crime. The court (which is paid with tax dollars) also ruled that the state has a compelling interest to collect revenue from people that create costs. In light of the fact that traffic courts already assess court costs, that’s a bullshit argument.

    Frankly, any court case involving public revenue should have special judges not paid by that same revenue. There’s an inherent conflict of interest when a judge paid with tax revenue rules on a case involving revenue. The judges can’t be impartial on matters that affect their own incomes.

    What’s troubling about Chief Reaves’ comments is how matter of fact they are, how they openly acknowledge that traffic safety has little to do with how PDs enforce traffic laws. What’s even more troubling is that if anyone questions such policies, they are likely to be called “cop haters” which is what holster sniffers call anyone who believes this is a free country.

    I have a modest proposal. Eliminate overtime pay for court appearances by LEOs, and watch the number of tickets issued plummet.

    There’s a cop in Warren, MI, who has enough seniority that he works the night shift, and he gave out 2,400 tickets in one year, over 90% of them for rolling stop signs. Every ticket he wrote was overtime in his pocket, since Warren has no night court, and he earned about $100K including all that overtime for court appearances. When a local TV news crew did a story about him, he was smirking at the camera.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Good piece, Jack. Certainly a number of excellent points. So here’s my story: I live where MA, CT and NY touch, and I’ve gotten speeding tickets in all three states (the 10 to 15 over variety). In a total of five different stops, I’ve pleaded not guilty and showed up to fight the tickets (albeit politely). And in all five instances, the identical thing happened: The judge told me to go out into the hallway and discuss with the officer how we might proceed. Every time, the cop was polite and said that if I’d plead guilty to a non-moving violation and pay what was typically $150, they would be satisfied and I would receive no points (the states have a reciprocity agreement). Of course, I was alway happy to get away with just the fine, but when you think about it, it’s a brilliant way to keep the money rolling in smoothly without taking up any court time. Still, each time I was grateful. Pretty stupid of me since I probably should have been filled with contempt.

  • avatar
    blau

    I see: Baruth thinks there shouldn’t be fines for speeding…

  • avatar
    twotone

    I say the opposite: “no points and only a monetary fine” (as with photo radar here in Colorado). That way the rich get to break the laws and the poor suffer. Oh wait, it’s already that way.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    geeber

    Speeding may not be something that our society can ignore.

    It depends. Driving 50 mph in a 30 mph residential area or downtown shopping district is bad. Speed limits in those areas make sense.

    Driving 80 mph on a rural, limited access highway with a limit posted at 65 mph is no big deal.

    Pulling people over for doing that is an example of revenue generation masquerading as traffic safety enforcement if there ever was one.

  • avatar
    stevenm

    It would get cops out of their air-conditioned glass palaces and into contact with the people they are hired to serve and protect.

    It’d be nice, but I think that particular genie is forever out of the bottle. Every single cop I’ve had an interaction with in the last decade, under the age of 40 or so, has had a very distinct “us vs. them” mentality. They’re better ‘n us, don’tchaknow, and I don’t think that’ll significantly change even with a drastic revenue reduction.

    There was a time in which the average joe welcomed the sight of a cop on the beat, as it represented someone doing an overall horrible job for the betterment of the community. That time is long past, and now we regard cop cars in the same fashion the Brits do speed cameras. After all, they both have exactly the same function these days.

    With that said, I don’t think dropping traffic fines is the way to go either. Namely, as it allows for a degree of sideways-justice when it comes to license points. Many, if not all small towns are more than happy to reduce fines, in both cost and points imposed, so long as the “new” infraction translates into money for the town, and not the state. As is most always the case, it’s not what you or I do that is actually wrong, it’s all about who gets what.

    You could argue that is part of the problem, however, given the “point” structure of every state I’ve seen, two relatively “normal” infractions– say 20 over the limit– in the space of 12-18 months results in a license suspension. What cripples the working poor more, having to pay a few hundred bucks, or losing one’s job as they’re unable to drive to work, or anywhere else for that matter?

    Removing fines won’t work without significantly changing the “points” structure that currently exists in most states. If anything, I would say drop points entirely, and overhaul the fine/fee structure to be more in-line with what actually causes harm to the average motorist. The average guy doing 20 over the limit in the left lane on a barren stretch of road likely isn’t going to end up killing someone. So, small fine. The average idiot doing 47 things at once that don’t involve driving while behind the wheel, however, is. Big fine.

    Hard to implement given the current police mentality– e.g. it’s much easier to hide in the shade somewhere until the numbers get high enough to write a big ticket than it is to actually patrol and look for people driving badly. But, I would imagine a $500-2000 ticket for careless driving would change that mentality pretty quick.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    I agree with this article, but the other half of this equation which has gone unmentioned is, the revenue has to come from somewhere, i.e. if speeding fines are eliminated, higher taxes must ensue. Politically it’s a minefield, imagine the candidate that says “My platform is to eliminate all speeding fines.” “Hoorah” “To do this we will need to increase taxes 5%.” “Boooooh”

  • avatar
    Airhen

    I admit that on my way to work and back home that I find myself giving the bird to a cop that has a guy pulled over for flowing with traffic that is just going to work to support his family like the rest of us. Traffic (and even the cops) move at 12 to 15 mph over the “artificially low” speed limit, which is right where they love to write tickets for.

    Using tickets for money generation is certainly a black mark against cops, and I dislike feeling that way about them as otherwise I do respect and support them.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    In general, I don’t speed. The reason has everything to do with not wanting to play this game. I detest the notion of criminal enforcement being used as revenue-generation scheme as it is exceptionally dishonest. As has been mentioned, the real issue is one of taxation. I submit that this is a direct result of decades of demonization of taxation. It was naive in the extreme to think that shrinking the tax base would, ipso facto, lead to smaller government.

    This is, again, an example of the “simple answers” disease that has infected so many. The fact is that complex problems require complex solutions and that simplistic answers inevitably lead to egregious imbalances down the road. In this case, it’s the collapse of the principles that underpin the rule of law.

    We should be ashamed or ourselves for allowing this to happen.

  • avatar
    USAFMech

    @bunkie: You are about to head down a long road. I think I like where you’re going.

    I find it somewhat, unhumorously, ironic that the DOJ website has academic studies on how traffic interractions very negatively impact perceptions of the police thereafter. (NCJ 115924)

    Note: Google Scholar (Beta) is my friend.

    edited for grammar

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Jeff Waingrow :
    I live where MA, CT and NY touch, and I’ve gotten speeding tickets in all three states (the 10 to 15 over variety)…
    Every time, the cop was polite and said that if I’d plead guilty to a non-moving violation and pay what was typically $150, they would be satisfied and I would receive no points…
    Pretty stupid of me since I probably should have been filled with contempt.

    You have to do what you have to do. As someone who must travel, you can’t win. You must pay the ‘travel’ tax.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    or set speeds based on design and vehicle capability, then cameras wouldnt be as horrid of an idea. 55mph in rural IL on 355 is ridiculous….and guess where the fuzz is always hanging out??

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    dolo54:
    I agree with this article, but the other half of this equation which has gone unmentioned is, the revenue has to come from somewhere, i.e. if speeding fines are eliminated, higher taxes must ensue.

    So. The option of reducing government services proportional to revenue loss is logically equivalent to 4 + 3 = 81?

  • avatar
    Hellcakes

    Police officers have shifted to being tax collectors and will end up just as popular.

  • avatar

    I have a few quibbles with details of this that others have already voiced, but overall, superb editorial.

  • avatar
    Morea

    I agree with this article, but the other half of this equation which has gone unmentioned is, the revenue has to come from somewhere, i.e. if speeding fines are eliminated, higher taxes must ensue.

    Government spending could also be cut. Just sayin’.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Just do what I do. Drive the speed limit and deprive the coppers of their much needed revenue.

  • avatar

    dolo54 (and others) hit the nail on the head.. Eitehr taxes go up, or socalist “progress” goes down, or we keep finding ways to tax people without them realizing it.. this seems to be the fav political choice for winning votes.

  • avatar
    Wolven

    “the revenue has to come from somewhere, i.e. if speeding fines are eliminated, higher taxes must ensue.”

    That’s pure bullshit. The “revenue” does NOT have to come form “somewhere”… the guvment doesn’t need to SPEND the money.

    Lay off 75 percent of the fat lazy incompetent guvment employees, quit giving our money to illegal immigrants, the U.N., the World bank, foreign aid, banks, car companies, and politicians friends.

  • avatar
    xyzzy

    I live in North Carolina where by law all fines go to the school system and not the police. There are attempts here and there to evade that but in general it does help deter this type of enforcement and speed enforcement here is not as jackbooted as other states. As a matter of fact a couple of years ago our local paper ran an series bemoannig how so many people get off “too easy” on speeding tickets (plea bargains to non-point offenses are common), and Ohio or Virginia-style no tolerance enforcement is rare to nonexistent.

  • avatar
    loverofcars1969

    Wolven :
    August 4th, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    No doubt these “fat lazy incompetent guvment employees” arent taxpayers right? I wonder if what you do for a living would rate such a response from the “fat and lazy”. Stop breathing new life into old tired streotypes. Great article Jack I agree 1000%. I live in Jacksonville Florida where our great mayor wants more cops to “make the city safer”. Funny thing is I have never been robbed or had my head bashed in driving 70 MPH on I95, I295, or I10. More cops to him equals more radar guns = more $$$ = citizens still living in terror.

  • avatar
    grog

    Count me in as another person who would be deterred with extreme prejudice if speeding penalties were points/criminal in nature.

    I’ve always said if they’d let me speed without getting points, I’d gladly pay fines. I think of it as a “speeder’s tax”.

    But, I agree whole heartedly that the current system is out of whack and the monetary incentive that goes with it needs to be banished to the dust bin of history.

  • avatar
    grog

    No doubt these “fat lazy incompetent guvment employees” arent taxpayers right? I wonder if what you do for a living would rate such a response from the “fat and lazy”. Stop breathing new life into old tired streotypes.

    But if “we” prevented that happening here, most of the so-called B&B wouldn’t come ’round to play anymore. Yeah, you can’t flame anybody but anybody can bash the gubmint and anything or anybody associated with the gubmint, particularly if it’s antithetical to your world view.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    “Lay off 75 percent of the fat lazy incompetent guvment employees, quit giving our money to illegal immigrants, the U.N., the World bank, foreign aid, banks, car companies, and politicians friends.”

    I am guessing that you have not worked in the public sphere. I have, and I have found government workers to be as hard working as those in private industry. Also, if you added up all the money that would be saved by firing these workers and killing these programs, I think that we would find our saving to be minimal.
    Foreign Aid is 48 Billion, or .2% of our economy. The Money to Banks were loans, and some have been paid back already. The car companies are a black hole, agreed. The World Bank might well have helped stave off a complete global meltdown, so that was money well spent. And I am not sure what money we give to illegal aliens, but I do know that our economy has grown because of their contributions (try to get a meal at a restaurant or buy food in a supermarket without these workers).

    Now, if you want to really make a cut in the government, you have to look at the military, medicare/medicade, and social security. Defense is about 21% of the budget. Social Security is, also, about 21%. And Medicare/Medicade is about 23% of the budget. I do not think that most Americans want to make those cuts.

    Total discretionary spending is only about 17% of the budget–and that is where all your suggested cuts would come from.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    The “revenue” does NOT have to come form “somewhere”… the guvment doesn’t need to SPEND the money.

    Fair enough. But to actually get them to stop spending the money is a hell of a lot of work. And unless we, as citizens, are willing to do that work, we can expect the “it’s not a tax, it’s a fee/fine” response.

    As I see it, we have low taxes (yay!). But we also have an erosion of the rule of law (boo!). All because we love our illusions (cut taxes and the problem goes away!).

    And, since in another thread we’re channelling sci-fi authors, I have to cite Robert Sheckley’s Ticket To Tranai, a story about a utopia with “no taxes” where the only difference between thieves and tax collectors is the color of their bandannas.

  • avatar

    here here

  • avatar
    loverofcars1969

    Taxes are necessary and most people understand that. The objection for most is waste (or the perception of). I would not mind paying into a program (maybe 200 a year) for a license to drive at whatever speed I prefer (special license plate)with the requirement that I attend some sort driving course. Other than short bursts of the spirit of Jack B, I usually drive around 78 to 82MPH where the limit is posted at 70.

  • avatar
    Tommy Jefferson

    If the local mafia goon hits you with a bad tax for “protection” you can shift your payments to his competitor who offers better terms.

    Not so with the government monopoly on the right to use guns to extract money from people for “protection”.

    Monopoly ALWAYS results in low quality at high prices. It’s not rocket surgery kids.

  • avatar
    loverofcars1969

    ruckover :
    August 4th, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    I agree with the need for workers but the name of the game is tax collection. Illegal immigrants or anyone here illegal use resources and those resources must be paid for. Race and class has nothing to do with the dicussion. Just pay me and nobody gets hurt LOL. For some reason people have made this into a larger issue than it is. Ok you can be here illegally but I will tax anything you purchase at 60%. Purchase a money order to send back home 60%. Purchase food 60% etc etc.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    Excellent article, and constructive comments. The majority of you truly are “The best and the brightest”

  • avatar
    USAFMech

    @ruckover – Well put. The problem is that those cuts would be politically impossible because the politicians need those votes. The next short-sighted candidate would waltz in and promise all things to all people and he will get elected. The problem is democracy.

    Now what?

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    There is a simple way of keeping at least local cops honest – all traffic fine money goes to the state. AFAIK this is how it works in Maine. You can have all the local enforcement you want, but the town doesn’t see a dime of the revenue. Leads to pretty reasonable enforcement levels, in my experience. The State police will do the occasional speedtrap on the Interstate, and a few of the wealthier towns have bored cops with nothing better to do all day than write tickets. My hometown of Yarmouth being a prime example of the latter…

  • avatar
    Neb

    Good article; I’m sure most cops would agree with it. Another thing to notice about speed cameras and other technological enforcement devices is that they completely lack the ability to detect in context. Going 10 over the limit on a lighted highway at three in the morning isn’t dangerous at all; driving 10 over in dense traffic that’s doing 10 under the limit would be reckless in the extreme. Only police who care about the spirit of the law can observe the difference, not machines that care only about the letter.

  • avatar
    bevo

    When we lived in Lubbock, Texas, my wife’s car window was smashed. The thief took her purse, laptop, and portable overhead projector.

    The thief then used the credit card at three retailers including a KFC, and smoke shop. Both shops have surveillance cameras. The thief then wrote two bogus checks for cash at two retailers in the South Plains Mall.

    The Lubbock Police Department refused to collect evidence for the crime. The sergeant told my wife that she needed to pick up the surveillance tapes from the merchants.

    The following day, I called for the officer who was supposed to investigate the crime. No investigator was assigned to the case because they did not have the staff.

    I replied that the department had enough staff to run a speed trap on Indiana Ave., a heavily traveled thorough fare. He started to explain about the allocation of offices.

    I cut him off by saying that the department allocated officers as revenue collectors and not as investigators of crimes that harmed the community.

    By the way, the thief racked up around $100 on bogus credit charges and $800 on the two bogus checks. Fortunately, our bank did not charge our account for all the charges. Because the amount was less $5,000, the bank wrote it off as the cost of doing business.

    Your tax dollars and speeding fines hard at work.

  • avatar
    Wolven

    loverofcars1969: “Taxes are necessary and most people understand that.”

    Once again, that bullshit. Taxes are NOT necessary.

    For the first 130+ years of this country the only constitutional taxes were Import and Export taxes to be used to maintain FAIR trade and protect Americans from the market manipulation tactics we’ve seen destroy our domestic industries over the last 50 years… and a Direct tax where you take the cost of the item (say Hoover dam) and divide it by the number of U.S. citizens and everyone paid their share of the bill which I believe was rarely ever used.

    And somehow, without being taxed into socialism, America not only survived but THRIVED.

    But this is supposed to be a discussion of using cops as unacknowledged tax collectors. As others have pointed out, we need to eliminate the profit motive. Send all the money generated by traffic enforcement to something that the police, courts, and politicians can’t benefit from and we can go back to having reasonable traffic laws.

    We could also save a lot of money by firing half the police force since their main function is highway robbery.

  • avatar

    you have no idea….right now in NY State, Troopers are not allowed to go to Court…that is because NYSP brass got a law changed to make it so that Troopers don’t go to Court unless for Trial. The Change in the law was to get tickets set for “conference”. NYSP Brass wants to save 6 or so million per year in cop OT for court appears to fight tickets. This has cheezed off the Courts. Some are showing their displeasure by scheduling Trooper cases and dismissing en masse when no
    Troopers appear. The troopers are mad they have lost their OT. Normal prosecution of tickets takes a back seat to political games. Some Courts hire a prosecutor, some don’t. All resent a few Trooper managers screwing up a system that worked.

    All you can do is never plead guilty, fight every ticket, alone or with Counsel. The normal driver has benefited as Troopers write less tickets, write down many of them, and the Courts, who used to be very Trooper friendly sometimes view them as an adversary force. (not the line guys, bound by the stupidity issuing from Albany, but the “organization”). NYSP has taken to sending attorneys to prosecute cases for traffic tickets issued by Troopers. Were I the judge I’d recognize this ‘observer’ and dismiss the tickets for no officer present.

    NY State has lost millions since the change in Trooper Prosecution in 2005. A few guys in NYSP-Albany feel proud, though that they have cut their budget. Motorists overall benefit because some guys had a brilliant idea (cough) to cut Trooper OT.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    Wolven,

    Remember that there were also excise taxes issued when emergencies arose, not just import/export taxes. Also, the Civil War’s cost initiated an income tax, though that was repealed after the war’s end. And these are just the federal taxes: states were free to tax whatever they saw fit.

    Also, in the era you mentioned, the US did not keep much of a standing Army. While we did have a sizable Navy, that was about our only military cost.

    I am not sure what you mean by “thrived.” While we grew huge, the word thrived is nebulous. Numerous fiscal crises arose, and because there was no strong central government, these lingered on and on (1890s for example). We did expand our size greatly, but no other country saw the US as a power worry about. That did not happen until WWII.

    To me, it is a great thing that the majority of our senior citizens do not live in poverty, as they did prior to the New Deal. Even as late as 1959, over one in three seniors lived in poverty. I do not mind being taxed to help pay for other people’s kids to get an education nor for seniors to live comfortable lives. Others will like that we have 10 times the military spending of the next closest country. Either way, This is not 1900, and we are not going back.

  • avatar
    volvo

    IMO

    Speed laws – We need them

    Speed limits

    – Just right to somewhat too high on surface streets.

    – Too low on many urban limited access roads and way too low on rural limited access roads.

    Much of I80 and I5 could be posted at 90 mph daytime without great harm. Montana and Nevada used to have no speed limit on highways but you certainly would get a ticket if driving “to fast for conditions”.

    A rapidly increasing deer population helps keep nighttime speeds down in the rural west.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    The police are better off spending their time collecting revenue than going after criminals. It’s not like criminals are actually punished anyway.

  • avatar
    vikings4sb

    Here is a way to avoid paying speeding tickets:

    Since the only way that you can be caught speeding is with mechanical equipment(radar, cameras, etc.), no one can prove that the equipment will work 1 million out of a million times. In fact, they can’t prove anything, is your name your name, or is that just what you think your name is?

  • avatar
    dougjp

    Exceptional article. Well said.

  • avatar
    gossard267

    This is a great article. For years, I have been arguing that, by far, the single biggest factor in the change in public perception of police from friend to enemy has been traffic enforcement as a means of revenue generation.

    This is how I think of it:

    Before Wyatt Earp shows up in town, the small number of strong, ruthless bad guys run roughshod over the majority of townsfolk. The townsfolk can clearly distinguish the bad guys’ behavior from their own, and they can also see how much it hurts them or their fellow men. Unfortunately, they are weak and scared, so the best they can do is keep their heads down and try to minimize the damage.

    Then one day, a tough guy named Wyatt Earp shows up in town. He pins up a list of rules in the town center. They are simple, clear rules that basically say that the bad guys can’t do the bad things that they enjoy doing. Wyatt then proceeds to punish, by force, infractions of these rules. Naturally, as this affects the bad guys disproportionately, they are not happy. But the townsfolk are; the bad things that are outlawed were, on the whole, hurting them.

    Soon, the bad guys no longer run the town. Murder, theft, rape, etc., have been largely stopped by the new law man. The bad guys no longer act as tyrants. Wyatt is, predictably, viewed by the public as being a great friend, a selfless servant.

    One day, however, Wyatt posts a new list of rules. These rules place all manner of seemingly arbitrary limits and guidelines on activities in which the ordinary townsfolk participate on a daily basis. The punishment, rather than jail or death, is a fine collected by Wyatt.

    Slowly but surely, everything changes. Where once the sight of a law man brought a subtle sense of calm to the townsfolk, it now causes alarm. Now he isn’t here to protect me from the bad guys; he is here to take my money for violating a rule in which I see no clear benefit to my safety.

    When Wyatt arrested a murdering outlaw, all the townsfolk cheered, as they clearly recognized the danger to themselves from unpunished murder. When he fines someone for riding his horse two miles per hour over the speed limit, the townsfolk merely shake their heads, happy that they were not unlucky enough to be punished for doing something that poses no obvious threat to anyone.

    Now, the law man has become the tyrant.

  • avatar
    geeber

    ruckover: Now, if you want to really make a cut in the government, you have to look at the military, medicare/medicade, and social security. Defense is about 21% of the budget. Social Security is, also, about 21%. And Medicare/Medicade is about 23% of the budget. I do not think that most Americans want to make those cuts.

    Speeding fines are collected by state and local governments, not the federal government.

    Revenues from speeding tickets are not being used to support defense spending or Social Security. The federal government is responsible for those programs, and it is not skimming money off the top of speeding tickets to spend on the Iraq War or grandma’s Social Security check.

    Depending on the state, these revenues could be diverted to that state’s general fund to support the state portion of the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

    Given the enormous costs of those programs, I doubt that revenue from speeding tickets is critical to their survival. Speeding ticket revenues would be, at best, a trickle in the torrent of spending for Medicare and Medicaid.

    Most of the cuts would occur at the state and local level, not the federal level, and probably wouldn’t be that hard to implement.

  • avatar
    fellswoop

    Anybody else wondering, or did you all let it slide?

    Concupiscence=an ardent, usually sensuous, longing; a strong sexual desire; lust

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concupiscence

    That’s pretty odd usage, just sayin’.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    geeber,
    of course. I was responding to a call to fire all the lazy government workers and to get out of the World Bank, UN, and other federal programs. Your points are correct, and I am sorry if there was any misunderstanding.

  • avatar
    Wolven

    gossard267 : “Now, the law man has become the tyrant.”

    That sums it up PERFECTLY. It applies not just to our “lawmen”, but to our entire government as well.

  • avatar
    geeber

    ruckover,

    No problem…it just seemed as though the discussion regarding government spending wasn’t making the distinction as to which level of government is responsible for different programs, and which level of government actually collects traffic fines.

  • avatar
    justagirl

    Having first experienced the joy of Big Brother, the technology version, while living in the UK (and here’s to hoping we’re saved from a fate such as theirs), and now having almost 10% of the speed and redlight cameras in the U.S. within my own personal metro area, it is clear that revenue-gathering is the main focus of at least many LOCAL law enforcement jurisdictions. But like everything else in a federal system, reality varies by state. My brother is a member of the Iowa State Patrol. They don’t see a penny of the money generated from traffic fines. $60 goes to court costs, the rest to the state’s general fund. The financial incentive for the ISP is what most would consider “real” law enforcement, particularly drug money seizure. But what do I know, both my brother and I are just “fat lazy incompetent guvment employees” who work to keep us all safe.

  • avatar
    donkensler

    Lest anyone think they can avoid tickets by driving under the speed limit, at least one cop in the town I live in has started just making stuff up. A guy I know got a ticket for right on red at an intersection less than a quarter mile from my house, where I know for a fact there are no “No Turn on Red” signs in any direction.

    When he went to the preliminary (armed with pictures of the intersection) he had two choices. Pay $130 then and get no points or go to court, probably lose anyway, see the payment triple from court costs, and get three points. He took the logical choice, paid the money, and the township got a completely bogus $130.

  • avatar
    Fromes

    It really is crazy..I currently live in a town of approx 2500 people, there are 5, count’em 5 police agencies (Local cops, state troopers, NYC DEP police, County sherrifs deputies, and Department of environmental conservation police) that you can count on running radar in at least 3 different spots in my town on any given work day, even more on a busy summer weekend.


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