Friday, 17 October 2014

Of Bureaucrats, Overregulation and Sheep (Updated)

We seem to be becoming a nation of bureaucrats and sheep. Let me try to explain what I mean. In the category of bureaucrats I include elected officials. In that of sheep, I include many of us ordinary citizens.

Bureaucrats pass laws. Sometimes, I am convinced, just to have them. It may be just in attempts to justify their existence, but I believe it is more the case that they have come into power because they are the type of people who want to enforce their will on others. And the populace as a whole often doesn't seem to question these laws. Let me give just a couple of examples, although examples seem to be everywhere one looks.

The first is secular. In my province we have photo radar. For those who may not know what I'm talking about, this involves a vehicle sitting beside a road, taking photographs of the licence plates of speeders. The speeder then will have a speeding ticket show up in the mail some time later. Officials will insist that this has everything to do with safety. I think it has almost nothing to do with safety and everything to do with income.

There has always been a, "grace spread" with these tickets. In other words, you won't get a ticket unless you exceed, say, 10 km over the posted limit. In Edmonton, this grace spread was recently reduced from 15kmh over down to under 10. Arbitrarily. No one was told, but all of a sudden people started complaining about now getting tickets where they never did before. Now, I could issue the challenge to show me one accident that could have been prevented by a difference of 5 km an hour, but that's not my main point. The letters to the editor were suddenly filled with argument from both sides, but I was amazed at how many took the position, "If you don't want a ticket, don't speed." Sheep. Not that I am trying to condone speeding, but I guess my point is that a prevailing attitude now seems to be not to examine a particular law or rule, but to accept it blindly and say that anyone who disobeys deserves their punishment. I just use the volume of opinions in favour of this photo radar business as an example.

None question whether the new practice was fair. No one questioned whether the speed limits were reasonable (there are cases where I think they are not). No one questioned whether hiding on the overpass of a 3-lane expressway, as if 2 kmh over or under the grace limit would cause or prevent an accident. Just, "There's a law. We must obey it."

My other example touches more on matters of faith. Freedom of conscience, religion and speech. A most recent example of what I mean was the story out of Houston where city council passed a motion requiring certain pastors to submit to them their sermons (now revised to speeches) addressing issues of sexual orientation and gender identity for approval. Bureaucrats in action. "Let's make a law just because we think there should be one." Overregulation.

And sheep. The sad thing, to my mind, is that there are a great many people who might think this a quite a reasonable law. The pendulum has swung so far over toward the spirit of which this law represents, that a lot of people think that anyone who differs with them should not have the right even to express a contrary opinion. The funny thing, to my mind, is that a decade ago, many of these same people probably held the same opinion they now so condemn. "Yes, I thought a certain way then, but what I think now is right, and you don't have the right to still think the same way I thought then."

Another example is the arrest, documented here, of a couple of protesters at the University of Regina. They were protesting homosexuality (which I think is pointless) and abortions (which I think is not.) What I found interesting were the comments of students near the end of the video clip. One said, "We believe in diversity - they don't." So they should be arrested? Apparently her belief in diversity applies only to those who agree with her. Another said protests were okay as long as they didn't "infringe on anyone's quality of life," whatever subjective interpretation can be applied to that nebulous phrase.

And these sheep will one be the bureaucrats. Just my interesting speculation.

Take Care


Warren said...

Edmontonians must be special. Wherever I've lived and traveled, I've always assumed that, as my speed approached 10 km/h over the limit, so did the risk of getting a ticket. I think you missed the primary issue - change. If, when photo radar had been instituted, it was generally understood that you were safe up to 10 km/h over the limit, virtually no one would be complaining. It is the change (whether true or not) that has everyone up in arms. It's the same thing with Air Canada starting to enforce the carry-on size limit. Had it been enforced consistently, there would be no bother. It is the sudden change that is causing all the controversy.

I think you missed another point. On a percentage basis, 10 km/h over the limit in a 30 km/h school zone is very different than 10 km/h over the limit in a 120 km/h zone. Are you also all torqued because you can't get away going 45 km/h in a school zone?

I do think it is valid to question the science behind setting speed limits in the first place. I've certainly wondered at the logic behind many posted limits. I haven't, however, begrudged the police in enforcing limits. Neither have I thought that the logical solution was to allow a large grace zone. All in all, this seems to be a tempest in a tea pot. And I'm wondering if someone got a ticket recently. ;)

Of course, I may be missing your main point - which is really a conservative rant against government intrusion into the affairs of godly, law abiding (?) citizens. And the propensity of those citizens to blindly go along with those intrusions. Except, of course, those few enlightened ones who see what is really going on. It must be nice to be so much more intelligent than the mass of sheep generally inhabiting the land.

Going back to Air Canada, if one was to replace speed limit with size limit, the two issues are very much alike. Except for one thing. With speed limits, the government (and bureaucrats) is calling the shots. With luggage size limits, corporate executives concerned with shareholders and maximizing profits are calling the shots. Does this make a difference? If the motive is profit in the name of free enterprise, and the playing field is the capitalist market place, does that mean that those changing the rules are justified and should be supported in their endeavours?

Inquiring minds want to know.

John K said...

Hi Warren,
No, my point wasn't that I didn't think speed limits were an intrusion on my freedom. In fact, your point about school zones is well taken. Personally I adhere strictly to the 30 kmh limit there. I have heard that the difference in combined reaction time and stopping ability between 30 and 40kmh is just about the width of a school crosswalk.
Nor was my point about strict enforcement of speed limits themselves. I do believe we need some kind of grace allowance, if only for speedometer and/or equipment error. My real point was the seeming attitude of rather blind obedience to authority. If I receive a speeding ticket, and deserved it, I'm fine with that. But what I don't need is the finger wagging, kindergarten teacher attitude I see more and more of saying, "If you don't want a ticket, don't speed." I'm well aware of their logic, but I'm surprised at the growing need, on behalf of more and more people, to feel they have to point it out. That's what I mean by sheep. They don't ask, "Is this a reasonable rule. They just blindly accept it. People seem to be losing their ability to question.
Anyway, you were the one who convinced me not to get too political on this blog, so perhaps I should quit when I'm, if not ahead, at least not as far behind as I might be if I keep spouting off.

Warren said...

I do think you would have an ally in Don Quixote. To be fair to the sheep, some who may seem to be blindly following rules in one area - such as speed limits - may be actively challenging them in another. To extend the Don Quixote theme, there is wisdom in knowing what windmills to tilt at. And no one can tilt at all of them. I suspect there are verses in Proverbs that say much the same thing, but it's too late in the evening to try and find them.

Political or not (and whether I agree with them or not), I enjoy your diatribes.