Whose Side Are They On?

This page written circa 4 October, 1999.

A useful one-line summary contrasting American and British legal systems runs "British law protects the state from the individual, American law protects the individual from the state". Being a believer in freedom and the Natural Order, it should not come as a surprise that I prefer the American philosophy.
(This view is unconnected, I hasten to point out, to the ludicrous extent of some American justice, for instances the mechanism that allows someone to successfully sue the vendor of hot coffee for injuries sustained from squeezing a cup of same between the thighs, or that which enables one who saws off his own arm to sue the manufacturer of the electric motors used by a defunct intermediate company in the assembly of power saws.)

The most recent appalling news here is that the Benz has failed its smog test, emitting 168ppm of hydrocarbons instead of less that 130ppm. Cause is likely to be worn valve guides, maybe just sundry parts, or at worst piston rings. This is especially sad as readers will recall that I held the head in my hands only last February, a job of no small effort and in which I was very lucky to have assistance.

This event causes me to reflect upon the things checked at the insistence of the government in the process of registering a car. Here they check emissions, and that is about it. In Australia, they check a list of things typified by the state of tyres, presense of holes in exhaust pipes, structural integrity via the absence of visible rust holes, the effectiveness of brakes (a tiresome test which takes no account of certain vehicular differences), and for the presence of gross oil leaks. The philosophical aims are clear and disparate: The Californian state wants to minimise pollution, the Australian state wants to prevent you putting yourself at physical risk. I happen to think they both have it wrong.

What should the state prevent? Protecting a resource that is not uniquely Californian looks to me like you are working for the other side, or at least not my side. My government should exist for my benefit, even if that means your detriment... after all, I pay for the bastards. If we (humanity) decide to protect our environment, that is good, but we do it together, I do not do it for you. My 38ppm discrepancy will be utterly invisible next to developing-world industrial emissions.
Protecting me from myself smacks of that appalling attitude through which America once justified international interference to save potentially-communist countries from themselves, yet that is what Australia does when it "pink-slips" a car as California "smogs" a car. You might justify a lot of the rego tests as making me safe from you (and vice versa), and this can be justified, but it is not the original motivation.

At least the Californian system efficiently achieves what it sets out to achieve. The Australian system, which becomes more complicated and more (expensively?) enforced as each year passes, succeeds chiefly in pissing off mechanics and causing the diversion of a lot of otherwise-useful time and energy into subversion and ineffective fooling around. Checking tyres makes sense, checking brakes makes sense. What use to check high beam filaments are intact or that rust holes have been filled with putty?

I hold that government exists to protect me from the "other guys", so the Californian government must protect me from my neighbour and from other American states, the Feds from other countries. How has it come to pass that my representatives represent the competition?

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