18A043 Driving on the Right by Jim Davies, 10/23/2018    


At a recent open meeting of the Free State Project in New Hampshire, someone posed the question: "Why do you libertarians drive on the right?"

The chairman detected that the questioner was there to cause trouble and dissent, an interloper, and ruled the question out of order, moving on to the next. It was his call, and I'm not offering a second guess. However if the person had been sincere, he might have posed the question using the same words - and it would not have been a bad one. Why do you drive on the right? Why do I?

One answer (for which the troublemaker may have been fishing) would be: "Because it's the Law!" That however opens a whole can of worms; driving on the right may be a harmless law but the vast majority of laws are not harmless and anyone who obeys them mindlessly is no anarchist.

My own answer is, firstly, that I don't. In England, where I've driven rather a lot, I drive on the left. I've also driven in Sweden, prior to "Dagen H" on September 3rd 1967, on the left; and in several countries where driving is on the right but in cars with the steering wheel on the right side of the car. But these days, in this country, I do generally keep right - and so do drivers of those Post Office Jeeps with right-hand steering. So, why?

I have two reasons. The first is of self-preservation. Were I to exercise my right to drive any way I wish and swerve over to the left, there's a high probability of imminent death; and since I enjoy life, that's not a sensible idea. My life is by far my greatest asset, being a self-owner; so I'm not about to waste it. Any who suppose that someone else (eg the State) has ownership rights over their lives may take a different view but my aim is to minimize needless risk. It's mine. I plan to keep it, for as long as nature permits.

My second reason is that (whether they realize it or not) everyone else is also a self-owner, and so I've neither the right nor the wish to do them harm; and closing on them at a relative 100 mph plus in the wrong lane would probably end their lives also.

So the reason I drive on the right in these parts is that I believe in the Self Ownership Axiom. Aware that everyone else follows the RHD convention, I do the same out of respect for SOA rights: both mine and theirs.

Come then to think of it, one's answer to the question "Why do you drive on the right?" is not a bad litmus test of whether or not one is a genuine libertarian. How do you make out?

In the coming zero government society, all roads will be owned and operated by real people - grouped in profit-seeking companies, I expect. They will make contracts with customers, under which for a fee the latter will use the roads by driving on them. The contract will include rules those drivers must follow so that other customers are not harmed, but they will be few - so as to maximize enjoyment and customer satisfaction. Might some owners specify driving on the left, and others on the right?

Possibly; but I doubt it. There is an obviously increased risk, from having to change orientation when passing from one road-owner's property to another. This was the Swedish problem, prior to 1967; truck and car drivers traveling from Norway and Finland to Denmark and points South had to pass through Sweden and switch twice, right to left then back again. An accident magnet. So I expect there will be an agreement in the trade, to observe a single standard. Then, there will be a third reason to drive on the right: to honor a contract, voluntarily entered.

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