Dallas Cell Phone Ban- Point/CounterPoint

DMN Letter
The Dallas Morning News Published a letter I sent on the Dallas Cell Phone Ban. IWTS readers will recognize it as an earlier post.

Simple Justice- Cell Phone Kills Children.
Here is a debate I had with Simple Justice’s Scott Greenfield. It’s an interesting read. I think it shows how fear can lead us to give up our freedom. Scott believes this law will keep me from killing his children while driving. I believe it’s more nanny state nonsense.

To Summarize the arguments-
Scott G.
What telephone call is so critical that it worth someone dying for?

Robert G,
Can you tell me what the ratio is of phone calls while driving to accidents?
At that ratio/percentage, how are cell phone in cars not safe?

Scott G.
I need a government that keeps you from killing me or my family by engaging in conduct that is dangerous to me, needless to you, and simply something that you would prefer to do rather than not.

Robert G.
Your justification for the cell phone laws(keeping your family safe), is the same as other failed policies. Positive rights lead to tyranny. Your fear about children dying is the same fear that keeps drugs illegal.


7 responses to “Dallas Cell Phone Ban- Point/CounterPoint”

  1. shg says:

    Let’s see if we can get the ball rolling again.

    Every malum prohibitum law involves a value choice. There are always liberty versus order issues at stake. A decision must be made on a sui generis basis whether, in each specific instance, which one should prevail.

    For example, a law that requires us to stay to the right as we drive inhibits our freedom to drive on whatever side we prefer. But it safeguards us from running into each other. The value of avoiding collisions prevails over the freedom to make an individual choice as to which side to drive.

    On cellphones, my belief is that the need to use a cellphone while driving is negligible, while the need to be safe from the problems caused by cellphone using drivers is great. It is not because of the frequency of deaths, but because of the severity of the consequences. When something bad happens, it can be very bad. This is not, in my mind, justified by the negligible value of driving while using a cellphone.

    The reason I do not find your “slippery slope” argument persuasive is that each value judgment needs to be made independently. Each law involves an independent weighing of the interests at stake, and a decision of which interest prevails. Otherwise, there could no law or rules except against those things that are malum in se, and even those would be subject to question.

    Like you, I am a big fan of liberty interests. But I am not so naive as to believe that society can work without any rules.

  2. Robert Guest says:

    My disagreements-
    1. The value of talking while driving is more than negligible. To me the right to call my wife, parents, clients, friends etc is very important.

    Whereas my freedom to drive against traffic etc, is not so important.

    2. Interest weighing government. The government rarely weighs interests. They decide what is politically popular. I lack the political influence to have my interest “weighed”.

    3. Traffic laws in Texas are always abused by law enforcement. A cell phone ban in cars will be the new “defective license plate light.” Pre text stops/Lago Vista anyone?

    4. Opportunity Costs- I won’t restate this argument.

    5. I am not an anarchist. “No rules” wouldn’t be helpful. However, new rules need to be scrutinized. This cell phone ban flew by with nary a debate or hearing.

    The same Harvard research organization that found cell phones unsafe, declared cell phone use in cars safe 7 years ago.

  3. shg says:

    Using your numbers:

    1. I can’t and won’t argue your value system. It’s yours, and you are allowed to value things higher or lower than others. We have to simply disagree as to the worth of cellphone use while driving.

    2. Government isn’t a monolith, but a group of people who have to run for election. Enact unpopular laws and don’t get re-elected. While no single individual has the power to “influence” government by one vote, masses of individuals do have that power. If the law placed too much or too little value on a freedom, it should result in a mass of dissatisfied voters. If the law only enrages one voter, then it hasgiven proper value to the relative interests. There is the “tyranny of the majority” issue, but that only applies to fundamental rights, and there is no fundamental right for every individual to do every single thing that he wants (this is the drive on the right problem).

    3. Police abuse of laws is an independent problem. If not cellphones, then they will use weaving or failure to signal as an excuse. There will always be an excuse for abuse, and the problem with police abuse isn’t cured by allowing cellphones, but by fixing the police.

    4. Opportunity costs are the same as values. Each of us decides what it’s worth to us.

    5. I absolutely agree that new laws need to be scrutinized, but you’re raising a Texas debate problem, something that you Tecas guys need to address. But cellphone laws have happened and are happening across the country, so this goes beyond any insular Texas issues.

    And finally, I relied upon the University of Utah study. As for Harvard, if they found that their first study was erroneous, should they ignore it and just stick with the old?

  4. Robert Guest says:

    1. That’s true. However, your “worth” system is dangerous. It would lead to banning smoking, gambling etc. I think individuals should be free to engage in behavior even if the government doesn’t value it.

    2. Good points. However, fundamental rights are a SCOTUS creation. I like the 9/10th amendment better. Freedom should be the default position. One Utah study should not be enough to overturn it.

    4. A stretch, with some word issues. But I will leave this one alone.

    5. No argument there.

  5. Dennis says:

    I guess the next thing the government will tell us is when we can get up go to work and then go home. Again Scott, you failed to answer a question. How many children are killed in a school zone at 20mph? This is a law that is not needed and is only passed due to fear. If you are so concerned about your children, then take them to school and drop them off. That is what good parents always do. We always found a way to take our children to school and to pick them up because they were that important.

  6. Andy says:

    It seems as if someone’s conception of good government brings to mind the saying that democracy is two wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

    BTW, there’s nothing inherently wrong with anarchy, as long as it’s anarcho-capitalism. A good start would be to read Murray Rothbard’s work on mises.org.

  7. Doc J says:

    I did my fair share of arguing with Mr. Greenfild on his blog too (bottom). After talking with a lady who actually got cited in the Park Cities this week I re-read all these comments and concluded that if I were an attorney I would find a way to take this to the Supreme Court. It seems like a slam dunk and a good way for an attorney to make a name for him/her self.

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