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iflyboats
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Is it immoral to drive over the speed limit if I can easily do so without endangering myself or others? While I have total respect for safety, I still find it difficult to stay within the prescribed speed limits on some roads because the limits seem unnecessarily and even painfully slow. I have recently accumulated hundreds of dollars in speeding tickets for driving at speeds that seemed perfectly reasonable and safe under the conditions, and my reaction is to be furious at the government for sticking me with outrageous fines for exceeding arbitrary speed limits. I understand that the government has to establish laws for driving conduct as long as it controls the roads, but I believe that it often does a very poor job of setting appropriate speed limits and an even worse job of appropriately punishing people who violate them, and that these factors largely invalidate my speeding tickets. Am I right to be angry at the government, or am I really in the wrong for violating the traffic laws?

Edited by iflyboats
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Speed limits do usually seem arbitrary. Like everything else though, theres a sliding scale, or a golden mean. I think its outrageous that my tax dollars go towards cleanup crews out on the street separating shards of twisted metal and brain fragments, slowing down traffic because some person felt the speed limit was arbitrary. You sound like a safe driver so this probably doesnt apply to you.

Just look at it from the perpective of self interest. If hundreds of dollars in fines makes it difficult to live your life the way you want to, than knowingly driving in flagrant violation of the limit is immoral. If you dont miss that money, and like getting places faster, do what you want, safely. Ive driven past cops at 10-15 mph over the limit without a problem, any more than that will usually get you into trouble.

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As I understand it, highway speed limits are based on less than ideal conditions (ice, rain, bald tires, big SUV, etc.) and then multiplied by some safety factor (~2/3). So, I am entirely safe driving my sedan (with sport suspension and good tires) around 85 mph. City and side road speed limits seem to be more arbritarily set, but I take it easy in towns, because there's a much higher probability of someone stepping into the street than onto the highway.

Typically, the biggest cost of speeding tickets is long-term: many insurance companies will raise your premiums or even cancel your coverage, making it impossible or at least prohibitively expensive to drive. Lucky for me, TN is not a member of the Non-Resident Violators or Drivers Licensing Compacts (inter-state agreements which allow points to transfer, among other things), and my insurance company doesn't include speeding tickets in their calculations (just accidents).

Speed doesn't kill, at least not by itself, because correlation is not causation. I'm sure most accidents involve speeding, but that doesn't mean it was the primary causal factor - more likely it was cell-phone use, other distractions, fatigue, drunk driving, etc. I speed morally, because I have determined that 1) it is within the safe limitations of me and my car, and 2) my typical speeding ticket fines are acceptable. I look at my ticket costs as an annual "speeding permit" fee.

If you decide you want to keep speeding, allow me to suggest a Valentine One radar detector. That $400 investment has easily saved me $2,000 in tickets over a few years. I also run a Blinder M20 laser jammer, because MD State Troopers use LIDAR almost exclusively for highway enforcement. I would also suggest going to traffic court. My experience is primarily in MD, but you can usually get the points waived by seeing a judge. Additionally, you can be found not guilty and pay nothing if the officer fails to appear (rescheduling the court date helps with this). When I was a college student, I always tried to go to court. Now that I have a family and make more money, it's probably not worth my time.

My short answer to your question is: Speeding is not necessarily immoral; you have to determine the morality of your speeding.

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Is it immoral to drive over the speed limit if I can easily do so without endangering myself or others? While I have total respect for safety, I still find it difficult to stay within the prescribed speed limits on some roads because the limits seem unnecessarily and even painfully slow. I have recently accumulated hundreds of dollars in speeding tickets for driving at speeds that seemed perfectly reasonable and safe under the conditions, and my reaction is to be furious at the government for sticking me with outrageous fines for exceeding arbitrary speed limits. I understand that the government has to establish laws for driving conduct as long as it controls the roads, but I believe that it often does a very poor job of setting appropriate speed limits and an even worse job of appropriately punishing people who violate them, and that these factors largely invalidate my speeding tickets. Am I right to be angry at the government, or am I really in the wrong for violating the traffic laws?

Does a property owner have the right to determine how his/her property should be used?

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Does a property owner have the right to determine how his/her property should be used?

This isn't analogous to government property. There is neither an owner in the same sense as privately-held property, nor a group of owners in the same sense as, say, a corporate entity. Everyone and no one owns the roads, via coercion. There is nothing similar between public and private property besides the existence of the land itself; the "rules," ie. the referents in reality that form the principles, are not the same. Some similar principles may be applied to action on both private and public roads, such as respecting select road rules to ensure ease of traffic, (though those rules are not as steadfast as you'd think... ever see the crazy-looking busy street in India, where "miraculously" nobody crashes? That is due to awareness, which is sorely lacking on American roads) but the principles concerning private roads just do not apply to public roads since private and public property are dissimilar all the way to the core.
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This isn't analogous to government property.

Why? You wrote that "private and pubic property are dissimilar all the way to the core" several times, but never provided the reasoning for why roads should not be handled the same as any other property. You mention something about coercion, but I don't know what you mean by that. Are you saying the government owns nothing because it paid for everything it has by taking the money from others? Can anyone take anything from the government and the government has no right to prosecute them or get the property back? If I drive off with a cop car, have I not stolen property?

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Why? You wrote that "private and pubic property are dissimilar all the way to the core" several times, but never provided the reasoning for why roads should not be handled the same as any other property. You mention something about coercion, but I don't know what you mean by that. Are you saying the government owns nothing because it paid for everything it has by taking the money from others? Can anyone take anything from the government and the government has no right to prosecute them or get the property back? If I drive off with a cop car, have I not stolen property?

You guessed it: the government paid for the roads by coercively taking money from others. Furthermore, running the roads is not a legitimate government function, not by a long shot. However, owning cop cars is legitimate since law enforcement is one of the only reasons there should be a government at all. My principle for following government-imposed rules in those scenarios when the rules are not legitimate is case-by-case, cost/benefit analysis against my own livelihood. What is the consequence of breaking the illegitimate yet existing rules? Of course, there is a government at all because of a cost/benefit analysis: in the long-haul, the cost of not having a government outweighs the benefit. But that scale is so tipped that putting it that way is almost bizarre.

I thought public vs. private is obvious by definition, which is why I didn't elaborate. But again, you guessed it anyway. It is telling someone they are free to choose when they are literally not. You can't compare that to telling someone they are free to choose when they are in fact free to do so. Opposites.

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You guessed it: the government paid for the roads by coercively taking money from others. Furthermore, running the roads is not a legitimate government function, not by a long shot.

So, you'll let government have property rights if it's property required for the legitimate function of government, but you won't allow property rights if it's not a legitimate function of government? It's not really about whether the money was taken coercively or not, right?

I thought public vs. private is obvious by definition, which is why I didn't elaborate. But again, you guessed it anyway. It is telling someone they are free to choose when they are literally not. You can't compare that to telling someone they are free to choose when they are in fact free to do so. Opposites.

I'm not sure what you're trying to argue here, but the definitions of public and private are not being debated here. What is being debated is whether or not there is such thing as "public property". If so, are roads public property? If not, why not? If it's because roads are not part a legitimate function of government, then what does that mean for other supposed property; e.g. - what about money? Creating a form of money is not a legitimate function of government, does that mean all US currency is not property?

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So, you'll let government have property rights if it's property required for the legitimate function of government, but you won't allow property rights if it's not a legitimate function of government? It's not really about whether the money was taken coercively or not, right?

I'm not sure what you're trying to argue here, but the definitions of public and private are not being debated here. What is being debated is whether or not there is such thing as "public property". If so, are roads public property? If not, why not? If it's because roads are not part a legitimate function of government, then what does that mean for other supposed property; e.g. - what about money? Creating a form of money is not a legitimate function of government, does that mean all US currency is not property?

Yes, to the first part, though coercing money implies negating private property, and if a government is coercing, it is likely they are violating property rights elsewhere... which is what happens today with the roads.

To the second part, if we're talking about the existence of public property, then its definition is the first thing to establish. There is no difference between public property and public property. But, there are two definitions of public property. It could be state-owned property, legitimate or not; or it could refer to the property's purpose, such as parks or roads. Neither of these definitions decides if the property is used for a legitimate government function, but as I said, the legitimacy is still related.

If it is state-owned property, obviously it should only exist to serve legitimate functions of the state, such as courthouses, garages for cop cars, jails, and so on. If it does not exist to serve legitimate functions of the state, I say it never belonged to the state to begin with, and whatever you personally want to do with it is "proper." Who's going to be able to decide who the property belongs to, anyway? But "proper" here is in the context of largescale, long-establish infringement on a population's property rights, bad laws galore, and a general confusion toward the line of legitimate versus illegitimate government functions and the upholding of those functions.

So, in this much-less-than-ideal society, all ideal principles of governing are out the window, and bottom-grade pragmatism kicks in. Such is the way with the roads, and all illegitimate government functions. A government isn't created to make life worse with bad, compulsory laws. That is, the government doesn't exist to serve itself.

As to money, I'm not sure why you brought that up. Money is created by the government, and currently "guaranteed" by nothing but the future earnings of its citizens (ie. there is no tangible asset besides the paper itself and future taxing/future production) which would "peg" the money to actual trade-able goods and services, but it still belongs to the people who own it (as much as the government lets them, anyway). The government makes no explicit claim to an individual's wealth, only implicit, and it also implicitly guarantees the value of the money by controlling its production and distribution... even if its producing and distributing actually devalues the money.

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But, there are two definitions of public property. It could be state-owned property, legitimate or not; or it could refer to the property's purpose, such as parks or roads.

I don't see the distinction. Both are owned by the government.

If it does not exist to serve legitimate functions of the state, I say it never belonged to the state to begin with, and whatever you personally want to do with it is "proper.".../... As to money, I'm not sure why you brought that up.

Forgive me for the long parse, but it should help to clarify my earlier point.

You argue that if something serves the legitimate functions of the state, then it is property and one can assume all rights pertaining to it. If we extend this principle to money then it should follow that money cannot be property, therefore no rights are applicable. "Money is created by the government," which is not one of its legitimate functions. Therefore, it can not be property; therefore, no one has any rights to US currency.

If an entity acquires property by illicit means, is its claim to ownership valid?

Certainly not, but that only puts us back to the earlier question of whether or not it would be moral for you to steal a cop car. Is it? If roads were obtained through illicit means, then so was the cop car.

There is an easy answer to your original question, and Jake had it from the beginning: The morality or immorality of any choice is dependent upon how the consequences of the choice will impact your own life. You mention you have "accumulated hundreds of dollars in speeding tickets." So, how has your choice to violate the speed limits impacted your own life? Has violating the speed limits enabled you to lead a happy and productive life?

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Maybe if I word this from a different angle I'll be clearer: The ultimate ideal here is a government which receives only voluntary funding and only uses that funding toward legitimate ends. No taxing, no welfare, only donations, only courts, foreign and domestic defense, jails. Anything besides that is not ideal and so requires a lightly or heavily altered set of principles. That alteration is what we're discussing here.

As I see it, in this less-than-ideal altered state of things, one should always consider one's life and the consequences of breaking bad/illegitimate, yet existing, laws or property and act accordingly. You implied this as well. But, for this reason (not having to worry about the consequence of breaking laws), because an ideal government is the goal, and because the legitimate portions of laws/property that do exist would also exist if there was no illegitimate counterpart, one should follow and respect those legitimate government functions and property, even if it was taxed. Again, not ideal, but a compromise is the reality. If there was no tax, the legitimate property/government functions would still be in place.

So, you don't invalidate money because it is facilitated by the government. Money still represents value, it still belongs to those who own it, as it would if it was facilitated by the private populace instead. The government might facilitate the creation of money, but it doesn't the creation of value. Like all property, government-owned or not, legitimately operated by the government or not, it is still property which holds value outside of government ownership. Same thing with money. The next step is to determine the validity of ownership and act accordingly on those findings -- whether there are laws to support that or not. You judge it for yourself.

Which finally leads to the flip-side of all this, which is what brought this all up: how should we act toward property the government should not really own? And I've said what I think about that.

Quick response about the definition of government property: the one follows from the other. The purpose distinction is necessary after you determine that the property is state-owned. People may talk about government property generally or specifically, which is why I noted the distinction.

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Maybe if I word this from a different angle I'll be clearer: The ultimate ideal here is a government which receives only voluntary funding and only uses that funding toward legitimate ends. No taxing, no welfare, only donations, only courts, foreign and domestic defense, jails. Anything besides that is not ideal and so requires a lightly or heavily altered set of principles. That alteration is what we're discussing here.

And I suppose that's where our disagreement lies: you're not altering principles, you're altering the concept of property. This alteration leads to not just the problem with money, but across the entire spectrum of property.

Suppose President Joe Rational took office tomorrow and said, "Owning vast swaths of the North American continent is not a proper function of government. Starting today I will begin the dispossession process of all Federal lands, including Federal roads." How should he go about doing this? Using your altered principle of property, he can't sell the land or the roads to the highest bidder because the government has no right to them. He cannot make any decision about the land and the roads because, again according to your altered principle, none of it is property and the Federal government has no rights pertaining to its use or disposal.

Another example:

I own a house. I bought it from a developer. The developer (I assume) built it on land purchased from some farmer. That farmer (I assume) bought the land from someone else many, many years ago. Without going through too many iterations, eventually we get to the point where some guy bought (or was given) the land from the US government. The US government bought the land from the French government in 1804. The French government didn't buy it from anyone. They planted a flag, said, "All of the land from here (pointing at a map) to here (pointing somewhere else) is ours - it is our property to do with as we wish."

Now, according to your altered principle of property, I don't own a house; the house I am in right now is not property and therefore I have no property rights. The French government never had the right to sell it to the US government. The US government never had the right to sell it to that long-dead farmer, so he never had the right to sell it to the next guy, and so on until the developer never had the right to sell it to me.

If the concept of "property" can be negated simply because the government is involved, then there is no property in the US (or anywhere in the world). If the concept of "property" can be negated simply because the thing in question was obtained through illicit means, then there is no property in the US (or anywhere in the world).

Like all property, government-owned or not, legitimately operated by the government or not, it is still property which holds value outside of government ownership.

Property means nothing without the concomitant right to decide how the thing asserted to be property can be used and disposed of. To say the government does not have the right to determine how roads are used and disposed of is to say that roads are not property. Value is moot.

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And I suppose that's where our disagreement lies: you're not altering principles, you're altering the concept of property.

[...]

Property means nothing without the concomitant right to decide how the thing asserted to be property can be used and disposed of. To say the government does not have the right to determine how roads are used and disposed of is to say that roads are not property. Value is moot.

No, this is backwards. There is first ("the concept of") property, and there is then a government to support the right of a person to keep that property which he has earned, even if someone else wants to outright take it away. That's the whole point of the government. The government doesn't literally create property, people create property when they do something with the resources of the universe, including themselves. By this reasoning of yours, a person doesn't even own himself unless a government is created to tell him that he does... and that is your circular, cart-before-horse-problem by defining property literally as "stuff" sanctioned by the government.

As far as existing government property which shouldn't belong to it then becoming private, in the very unlikely scenario that the government suddenly decides tomorrow to break up all illegitimate property into private hands, the best way to do this would probably be a bidding war; the government gets some (presumably) needed money to fund only its legitimate functions, and the populace gets to start being productive with previously wasted land -- all with minimal conflict, such as would arise with a free-for-all land rush. Although, (forgive my dismal knowledge of American history), I'm fairly sure there was a land rush or two in America's past, which didn't turn out so badly (or did it?). Either way, the goal is to get the illegitimate property out of the government's hands and into private hands.

I think you may be mixing up property rights with property itself. While Rand doesn't speak of just property in these two links, only property rights, the difference is still implied. And she does go on at length about property rights:

Property Rights | Public Property

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"Public property" is an anti-concept. "Property" is valid, of course. "Public" also has legitimate usages. "Public property" presumes there exists a collective entity that can have and exercise the right to property. There is no such entity. The only things that come close are corporations and governments, but they can only have same rights and kinds of rights that the individuals who comprise them have.

The government is not the same as the public. Government can be a property owner, and property that it owns is not therefore public. Public access does not create public ownership.

The service which the government provides in orderly notation and transfer of titles to property should not be confused with the property right itself, which is prior in fact and logic. Implementations of property law rest upon a prior theory of property.

The paper at SSRN What is Property? Putting the Pieces Back Togetherby Adam Mossoff, George Mason University School of Law, (pdf, 74 pages) is a legal theory for implementing property rights.

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As far as existing government property which shouldn't belong to it then becoming private, in the very unlikely scenario that the government suddenly decides tomorrow to break up all illegitimate property into private hands, the best way to do this would probably be a bidding war; the government gets some (presumably) needed money...

How can the government sell something it does not own? How does the government sell something it has no right to sell?

I think you may be mixing up property rights with property itself. While Rand doesn't speak of just property in these two links, only property rights, the difference is still implied. And she does go on at length about property rights:

Property Rights | Public Property

I encourage you to read my posts again. I haven't argued that the government creates property. I haven't defined property as "'stuff' sanctioned by the government."

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I encourage you to read my posts again. I haven't argued that the government creates property. I haven't defined property as "'stuff' sanctioned by the government."

Well, I encourage you to provide your succinct and complete definitions of property, public property, and property rights if you think I haven't summed up your scattered posts correctly.
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Well, I encourage you to provide your succinct and complete definitions of property, public property, and property rights if you think I haven't summed up your scattered posts correctly.

That's so unfortunate. Just before I loaded up the forum this morning I was thinking, "The discussion with JASKN has been a nice change of pace. No ad hominems, no hiding behind internet anonymity to be a complete and utter prick. I must remember to thank JASKN for keeping it together and continuing a rational debate without devolving into school-yard antics."

Oh well, so much for that.

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That's so unfortunate. Just before I loaded up the forum this morning I was thinking, "The discussion with JASKN has been a nice change of pace. No ad hominems, no hiding behind internet anonymity to be a complete and utter prick. I must remember to thank JASKN for keeping it together and continuing a rational debate without devolving into school-yard antics."

Oh well, so much for that.

The great irony here is that, in this post, you have done all of the things you are claiming that I have done! But, where is the evidence that I've done any of this (especially the internet anonymity one. I have my full name in my profile!)? Whereas my post was requesting that you provide the most basically relevant information of all in a discussion or disagreement -- definitions of the basic concepts being discussed -- your post has been essentially pointless to, or has detracted from, the discussion, by avoiding definitions in favor of your own "school-yard antics."

Anyway, obviously I'm interested in the topic or else I wouldn't have replied to begin with, and, despite your snarky reply, I will still respond as thoughtfully as I can if you choose to give your definitions, which I see as the source of our disagreement. BTW, Grames summed everything up perfectly, minus all of the "chewing" which is necessary for someone not as clear about everything.

Edited by JASKN
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That's so unfortunate. Just before I loaded up the forum this morning I was thinking, "The discussion with JASKN has been a nice change of pace. No ad hominems, no hiding behind internet anonymity to be a complete and utter prick. I must remember to thank JASKN for keeping it together and continuing a rational debate without devolving into school-yard antics."

Oh well, so much for that.

It appears to me that you are taking offense where none was given or implied. The only word that you could possibly be focusing on is "scattered". But it is the nature of the back-and-forth short message format of a forum discussion that the key ideas and arguments behind a position become scattered across several posts. A restatement of the ideas that integrates them with the subsequent discussion and clarifications made can be helpful. I did not read the request by JASKN as a description of the ideas as scattered, or you as scatter-brained.

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I did not read the request by JASKN as a description of the ideas as scattered, or you as scatter-brained.

I did. The text and the fact that none of my questions were answered led to my interpretation.

However, I'm more than willing to admit we're working in an imperfect medium for debate and meaning can be imprecise. Perhaps better word choice, such as "various" rather than "scattered", would've helped.

So, JASKN, you have my apology for misinterpreting your post.

Here are the definitions you requested:

1) Property - a difficult one, and I'm still working through Grames' link. However, on the spot I would have to say that property is any thing to which property rights can be applied.

2) Public Property - as difficult as property since they share the same term. However, we can't define it since it doesn't really exist (see Grames' post #15). On the other hand, it's a useful fiction for discussion purposes since "public property" is commonly understood to be property owned by the government. In other words, it's things to which the government can assert its rights.

3) Property Rights - this, really, is the lynchpin of the debate. Like all rights, property rights are rights to actions. They are the rights to gain, keep, use, or dispose of the thing to which those rights can be applied.

Now, I don't really see how that helps us. I don't believe any of my posts stated or implied that my definitions differed markedly from the common (to this forum) definitions. If anyone should provide their definitions, I think it should be you. However, I thought we could get there by just working through the implications of your implied definitions, as I pointed out in post #13.

You argue the government does not have property rights with respect to roads. You then state, "... in the very unlikely scenario that the government suddenly decides tomorrow to break up all illegitimate property into private hands, the best way to do this would probably be a bidding war; the government gets some (presumably) needed money...." How can the government have the right to dispose of roads when the government has no property rights with respect to roads? Surely you can see the contradiction?

And, again, you have my apology. It's seems so common for internet posters to quickly devolve into rudeness and this board is no exception. I was so happy with your conduct up until post #17 that perhaps I too quickly interpreted that post in its negative rather than its positive light. I did want to remember to thank you for the debate so I'll do that now. Thank you for the civil tone.

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JeffS, you're correct. JASKN, you're incorrect.

But please get back to the topic of speeding, the reason why I clicked this link. Here are my 2 cents.

In a just society, all roads would be private. The owner of a road gets to decide the contract for its use. If a driver breaches this contract, the owner has all rights to exact any limitations and/or penalties, upon the offensive driver, to the use of that particular road or any of the roads he owns, pertinent to the contract.

But the driver's privileges would not be limited for ALL ROADS IN THE COUNTRY across any number of other private owners.

Though, currently, the Government does own all the roads in the nation, under normal capitalistic circumstances, this monopoly would never occur. This is where I personally and painfully feel the injustice. No one has the right to suspend my Drivers License, my national driving privileges, for breaching the contract of ONE PRIVATE OWNER.

Edited by dreadrocksean
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Though, currently, the Government does own all the roads in the nation, under normal capitalistic circumstances, this monopoly would never occur. This is where I personally and painfully feel the injustice. No one has the right to suspend my Drivers License, my national driving privileges, for breaching the contract of ONE PRIVATE OWNER.

Maybe I'm missing your point, but would you also argue that WalMart, for example, does not have the right to prevent you from entering any of their stores? If you would not argue this, how is it any different from the government preventing you from driving on any of its roads?

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