Ever since I was a kid, I have heard the refrain, “Driving is not a right; it’s a privilege.” I read it today in an op-ed piece in the SA Express-News supporting a ban on talking on a cell phone while driving. I responded to the author, conservative District 10 Councilman Mike Gallagher, by asking him who is it that grants me this privilege to drive – the City Council? the state of Texas?
Gallagher is reportedly a conservative, and most thoughtful conservatives don’t think they are empowered by the government. Rather, thoughtful conservatives believe that people are born free and they freely empower the government to place reasonable restrictions on that freedom.
Although some might argue that this is a distinction without a difference because in either event, government has the power to prohibit cell phone usage while driving. But I think it is important for government officials to have the right mindset when they consider imposing limitations on the freedom of people.
The mindset should be that people are generally free to do what they want, but government may place a limit on that freedom if it is hurting other people. Clearly, cell-phone usage puts other people at risk, and I think that risk outweighs the damage to people’s freedom to drive and talk on their phone. This is not much different than imposing a speed limit.