Enough is Enough
November 1, 2019 | View PDF
Back in the 1990’s, WACV Radio talk show host, Don Markwell, regularly featured Montgomery Mayor Emory Folmar as a guest on his program. One day, a caller chimed in and complained about people speeding in his residential neighborhood. After he disclosed the location, Mayor Folmar said he would step up patrols in that area.
The very next day, the same man called again, and he was not happy. He reported that when he came home that previous afternoon, a policeman pulled him over and gave him a citation for speeding—for going about 30 in a 25 mph zone.
That was a classic example of “Be careful what you wish for.” Be careful indeed. Considering that all levels of government are already far too big, asking for more of it can slap you right in the face.
When it comes to law enforcement, there are a few areas where it is inadequate. We do need much more attention given to break-ins, burglaries, thefts, destruction, vandalism, and similar property crimes. In some cases, the police have even declined to take fingerprints, and in others, declined to accept and/or study videos and photos submitted by victims.
On the other hand, they have been vigilant in pursuing what we call consensual “crimes” that have no real victims—prostitution, gambling, possession of controlled substances, or being delayed getting to the courthouse on time. They need to hold back on these and spend that time addressing the above real crimes.
And enforcement of traffic violations seems to take even more priority. Although some violations are dangerous, most are technical infractions that would endanger nobody. Many streets have speed limits that are well below their maximum safe limits—often below the average speed of the traffic, which of course proves that point. Many signals (some with cameras) have yellows that are too short and have inadequate green time on the main thoroughfares.
Would our highways be a great deal safer with very strict enforcement? Some people claim that would be the case. But common sense proves otherwise.
There have been times when some of our highways had no enforcement at all. Did they have more violations and accidents? Not at all. The people policed themselves, and there were no problems.
Many people don’t understand that TRAFFIC RULES ARE ESSENTIALLY SELF-ENFORCING. Every person has a natural incentive to obey them. He knows that if he exceeds the limits of common sense, he could have an accident. He could wreck his car. He could injure himself. He could even get killed. Therefore, he has every incentive to drive safely, even if there is no traffic law enforcement whatsoever. Only someone with a death wish would dare disobey reasonable traffic rules; he would soon eliminate himself with a “Darwin Award.”
Lately, politicians have argued that we need to hire more state troopers. In January 16, 2018, we had “less than 250 troopers to serve all of Alabama,” and we got along just fine. By January 13, 2019, just one year later, that number had jumped to 418. That should be more than adequate.
But some, along with some of the media, are whining for even more. Some have even mentioned 1000 or more, which of course, is gross overkill. Mississippi has 375. Louisiana has 543. Georgia has 629, but it has over eight million people—twice Alabama’s four million.
Observations of flashing blue lights on our highways and complaints from people who have received citations for frivolous and non-dangerous “violations” verify that our current enforcement is more than ample.
In some cases, I have personally witnessed excessive enforcement. Just a few months ago, on I-459 (just south of Birmingham) late on a Sunday night and in just a few miles, I observed state troopers, local police, and sheriffs’ deputies all over the highway pulling over dozens of motorists.
And to make matters worse, Alabama has been guilty of accepting federal funding to finance enforcement “blitzes” on holiday weekends, thereby spoiling the vacations of hundreds of motorists.
A police state is NOT the solution for highway safety. In fact, overly strict enforcement can be dangerous. People who otherwise put 100% of their attention onto driving safely would be inclined to divert some of it into watching their rear ends.
Therefore, a small amount of traffic law enforcement is adequate. Anything greater can lead to abuse. It can even cause accidents.
The people of Alabama should stand up and say, “No.” We do not need nor want any more state troopers. We have enough already. Are you legislators paying attention?
And we must remember that for many years, Alabama has had a history of diverting road and bridge funds into the public safety department. This practice must be stopped. Let’s use that money for safer roads and bridges and repeal the stupid gasoline tax increase that was railroaded onto us earlier this year.
Remember Thomas Jefferson’s message: “He who is governed least is governed best.” We must always understand that too little government is better than too much. Bureaucracies thrive on growth, and the more they grow, the service diminishes, and the abuse increases. Never, never, NEVER ask for more bureaucracy; it is the bane of civilization.
I repeat; be careful what you wish for.