-8 votes

Debate: Speed Limits and Drivers Licenses Needed?

I have heard several liberty minded(often times minarchist or anarchist) people suggest that there is no good reason for speed limits or driver licenses.

Let us suppose that a blind man is driving in a free society without the need of a driver's license. He gets into a wreck and the two people that were in the other vehicle are killed. Is the man charged in court with reckless driving because he is blind? How do you prove that it was his blindness that caused the accident?

Suppose that you are in your car with you family driving down the highway at 60mph. People are passing you at 120mph.
Does that make you feel any more free by having to worry and avoid such insane drivers? What if your on a bicycle? What if they are going 120mph through a neighborhood?

It seems like to me that speed limits could actually maximize freedom to a certain degree. What do you guys think?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

The owner of the road can require licensure or speed limits

But I'm pretty sure they mostly wouldn't.

Licensure certainly has nothing to do with safety. It's to get you in their data system. A road firm wouldn't do that, it would be far too expensive and inefficient and annoys your customers. The goal is safety and efficiency.

They would most likely simply disallow anyone on their road that had harmed someone with their vehicle out of liability concerns.

There would be some market way to make roads safe, assuming we even had roads, because people want to be safe.

But one size fit all asinine speed limits are idiotic, and compulsory licensure even more so.

Monopoly on public space.

Many good explanations in this thread already.

The very presence of government and its monopoly on 'public' roads lead to certain dilemmas (such as who is responsible for a fault) that had to be solved with more government laws such as speed limits and licences.

For a moment, let us put aside the individual act of driving in a libertarian world ...

Say you want to fly from A to B. You've got to choose an airline and choose an airport. You would worry about which airline is the quickest albiet being safe and at the same time optimizing on cost. In case of airport you would opt for a more hassle free passage and one with multitude of passenger facilities. Obviously an airplanes past safety records and passenger care comes into scrutiny when such a decision is made. Without any laws you are able to decide on an airline optimizing on cost, safety and various other parameters.

Now getting back to the case where every individual operates a vehicle - this is no different from competing airlines in which a person causing voluntary accidents will eventually lose his ability to buy or ride a vehicle. No government mandated laws doesn't mean no laws. Private road owners will come up with smarter solutions to speeding and safety problems.

Disabled and blind people

I hate to mention it, but Freedom means something more than just privacy. Freedom ultimately means responsibility.

If disabled or blind people don't have the ability to safely drive an automobile and take individual responsibility of their action then they have to face the consequences.

Given the current state of transportation technology and condition/mechanism of our roads, I would find it hard to believe that blind people would be driving cars.

There is a reason why in the third-world an act of helping a blind person cross the street is considered a noble act. However here in US, I see that there are sloped side-walks and crosswalks with guide sounds - that seem all great for blind people and disabled folks but also an unnecessary spending by the government. I can imagine that such facilities will be absent in an anarchist society.

No Drivers license required

First of all a blind person could not pass an eye test to get a license and therefore could not be licensed to operate a vehicle in commerce. When is a license needed. When you wish to act in commerce. License is the right to do that which is otherwise unlawful.

I will use all upper case for words that are commercial terms.

As one who is a traveler and not in COMMERCE (trade), have no VEHICLE, am not a DRIVER, have no PASSENGERS, am not TRANSPORTING; I do not need a license. This is part of what life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is about. I am at liberty to travel as I please, unrestricted, so long as I do not infringe upon rights of others, harm or damage them.

A license is required if you DRIVE a VEHICLE, carry PASSENGERS, TRANSPORT goods, are a CHAUFFEUR, and etc. because you are in commerce. Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 the commerce clause kicks in and a license is required for several reasons.

My 1991 Plymouth Acclaim is not a VEHICLE, it is my automobile for my private use and I do not use it in commerce. Highways are "right of way" and not owned by government. Government is but charged with the duty of maintenance and so forth. They accept public position and pay for their services. I travel and there has never been authority given by any constitution to allow them to regulate my liberty. Freedom of travel existed long before any government on earth, is a god given and natural right like eating and drinking and shelter.

While in commerce under license, speed limits and signs are well within the governments ability to control and mandate. If you work for McDonalds you punch their clock, where their badge and obey their speed limits and stop signs (while on the job). If you are blind they likely won't be allowed to work in their kitchen or at their cash register.

There is ample case law on freedom of travel to validate what I say. Corporate America, courts, cops and so forth would like you to believe you need a DRIVERS LICENSE as their are major monies and positions at stake. The truth is, you have to be in commerce and if the government regulates it, then a license is required, but only while acting in commerce.

If a blind man kills someone

If a blind man kills someone driving a car he's guilty of murder.

It's not complicated. You just make things much worse when you start 'criminalizing' some factor you think may contribute to a problem. The only valid purpose of laws is to deter harm, not behavior we consider problematic or disapprove.

Also there's no problem with speed limits. The problem is with socialized roads and coercive enforcement of speed limits.

In a free society there may well be speed limits on roads, and they would be enforced ultimately by property rights. The road business would be incentivised to maximize customer usage and thus maximize safety. The road firm doesn't care how this is accomplished, and thus the solution to safety and throughput may be speed limits, enforced ultimately by refusal to accept the customer. Intermediate steps would be charging known unsafe drivers more, or more likely by insisting drivers have liability insurance.

The particular solution is not of much import, but the fact that profits depend on it being solved in a non socialized market is important.

Similarly 'licenses'. It may or may not make sense to have some proof of minimal driving competence.

Ultimately the problem with government solutions to problems is that they have to fail, or else the program cannot make a claim against more resources.

No one will give more money to a program that is doing it's job efficiently, or worse actually solving the problem. A government program that solves a problem is committing suicide. They will not commit suicide. Ever.

I think in 5-10 years the

I think in 5-10 years the entire debate will disappear because cars will be required by law to have self-guided technology. Your car will take you anywhere you want to go at whatever speed works for the current traffic load.

Laws do not create common sense or morality

Can you come up with any examples of laws that have improved either common sense or morality of the nation? When a law boundary is set the effect is for people to push right up to the limits of the law rather than following common sense and morality in effect killing the morality of the nation. Statistics can be used to show some instantaneous change that one side or the other uses as 'proof' that a new law choice was right or wrong but the long term net effect is never shown in context. Laws being made and changed today can be easily compared to a drug addiction. Once the original intrusion was made the dosage and frequency of new regulations must increase exponentially to overcome the tolerance and loss of common sense (common decency)of the people for fear of coming down from the regulation 'high'. The only way to get over an addiction is to stop the action. It might be painful for a little while, but it is the only 'right' thing to do.

As with most problems in our society - the layers of

governmental protection and argument have been well built.

We do not need either. What we need is a moral society, which thanks in most part to governmental intrusion, we do not have. You see, people no longer base actions upon morals and prudence as a litmus test - they base it upon legality. We are so ingrained to believe the government has thought it all out that we naturally assume if it is "legal" it is safe, prudent and tested. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.

Lets break down your arguments.
The blind person is stupid for too many reasons.
As for being passed at 120. Umm- you clearly dont live in New England. I regularly do 80 on the highway and am passed by car after car after car. Your scenario happens everyday. And what happens to these "law breakers". Maybe 1 in a 10000 are given a ticket, they pay up and NOTHING HAPPENS. So am I now safer? No - this person is right back on the road tomorrow - again - because if the law says he can still have a license it must be ok. How many times do you hear of people having 3,4,5 dui's???
So what good has the law done. None. But it has generated lots of money that is NOT put back into the roads as it is supposed to be.

Now lets take a history lesson. You do realize "back in the day" - say 100 years ago - we didnt have the big federal government handing out money for roads. What we had was a community that decided that working on a road between point a and b would benefit the community(mostly for the transportation of goods, but also for civic things like churches and such). No big studies done, no million dollar engineers, just local people with local smarts doing what came naturally. OHHH, but who maintained the roads. Well, in my small town it is known history that two of the big farmers used their equipment to do it. One, because they HAD the equipment and skills, and two - because they were good business men - they knew good roads meant more business for the farm. It was in THEIR best interest to plow roads and maintain them.
You see, those who benefited the most for the road paid for the benefit - not by law -but by good old common sense business.

Then came lawyers and politicians and all was downhill - lol.

Of course - the world got bigger and that really isnt practical - but the point is - the license and the limit do nothing. They do not promote freedom, they give you the illusion of freedom wrapped in a cute blanket of "security" and protection from others.

ChristianAnarchist's picture

I drove the autobahn a total

I drove the autobahn a total of twice and I was amazed at how safe I felt going 110 + on that highway. There's only 2 lanes most places and the trucks are going 55 - 70 in the slow lane and big black Mercedes (and others) are going 140+ in the fast lane. I looked carefully at the guardrails and the greenery along the highway for signs of the huge burn marks that must exist from the fireballs resulting from the high speed crashes but I saw NONE!. The guardrails were straight and true and the pavement was flat and smooth (real smooth). What I noticed very quickly was the way people drove on that highway. NO ONE ever switched into the "fast" lane until right on the bumper of the car they were overcoming. After lane signals, a very brisk lane change to the fast lane was taken and IMMEDIATELY after passing the slower vehicle another brisk lane change back into the slow lane. It was like watching a ballet. Every car moving in a predictable fashion. These rules were not enforced by "police". They were "enforced" by common sense. Traveling at high speeds requires extra caution and skill and if you aren't up to it, you stay in the slow lane. Before I learned this "rule" I thought I was pretty hot driving 110 and stayed in the fast lane for a while since I did not see any other traffic coming. I was quite surprised when I looked in my mirror to see a black Mercedes behind me with his left blinker on (a signal to get out of his way) and I quickly moved over and let him zip on by at what I estimate was about 130mph.

No, you don't need slow speed to keep you safe, you need drivers who exercise common sense. When you keep people "restricted" to the lowest common denominator, then "common sense" is a casualty. People stop exercising it and soon it withers and dies...

Beware the cult of "government"...

Actually, German drivers are

Actually, German drivers are much better trained in the "rules of the road" than their American counterparts. The training is much more rigorous, the laws are very specific about what one can and can't do and the penalties for breaking those laws are heavy.


NO! Speed Limit and Driver's License NOT needed!!

Let's start by NOT Supposing those things you supposed earlier as the are completely irrational and would never happen. (ie. A blind man is no more or less likely to get behind the wheel of a car today as he would be if there were no government issued driver's licenses.) You can use absurdness to illustrate a point every now and then, but it only works if the absurd scenario is a logical scenario. Suggesting that the only reason blind people know not to drive is b/c the government told them not too is neither a logical argument nor a sincere one.

When you are driving down a road and you do not know what the speed limit is, what do you do? I'm willing to bet that you have never given it a second though. You probably don't even notice. Why? B/c you are driving at a safe speed as determined by YOU. Everyone does this and 98% of them will come up with a number that will within 10 mph of each other. Human nature is to be careful not wreck less. We do not drive down winding residential roads and around kids on bicycles at 135 mph just b/c we have some assurance that we won't get a ticket. We slow down where there are pedestrians and in residential areas, not b/c IT'S THE LAW, but b/c it's safe to do so and we do not want to harm other people.

Are there exceptions? Yes, there are. And those exceptions exist either with or without the law (an idea that libertarians should understand very well) so why have the law harming us all? as a rule of thumb, speed limits are set 10 mph that magic number that 98% of people drive at so that states and localities can issue tickets at will. Red lights have been shown to CAUSE more accidents and INCREASE traffic and wait time. Much the same way the new red light cameras are doing. Yet, if we don't get rid of Red Light Cameras now, then in 20 years I will be having an argument with someone who can't imagine that they don't save lives and who believes that without them everyone would run red lights and "what we do then?"

"When I say liberty I do not simply mean what is referred to as 'free enterprise.' I mean liberty of the individual to think his own thoughts and live his own life as he desires to think and to live..." - Robert A. Taft

Actually, when I am driving

Actually, when I am driving down the road and I dont know the limit, I will go by what other people are doing. If there are no other people, I will go about whatever speed limit is usually set for a similiar looking road.
If there were no speed limits, we would end up with imprecise conventions at how fast you should go.(I am not saying right or wrong here)
On the topic of the red light cameras, they actually do help stop people from running red lights. The figure I saw was something like a 98% reduction in red light runners once cameras were put in. Do I think what they currently do with them is right? No, I dont and there are better ways to manage them. The increase in accidents come from people being rear ended. What needs to be done to fix this is either giving every yellow light a standard time, or base the time on whatever the speed limit is. Is that going to happen? Not likely because they likke fucking with the light times so they can give more tickets.
There was one study done where they removed all signs and such from a town intersection and found it actually reduced incidents. Instead of relying on the signs, people were actually being cautious. This was a small town square though and what effect this might have in a larger more crowded city like New York, I dont know.

To climb the mountain, you must believe you can.

we would not have imprecise conventions

This has been studied. As I mentioned in my first comment, the Conventions would be within 10 mph of each other which is roughly what they are now, in practice. The fact that your first instinct is to do what other people are doing when you don't know what the speed limit is give credence to my point. That is what we all would do if there was no speed limits and the speed we would find would be, on average 10 mph more than what the speed limits are currently. (most people drive 5-15 mph over the posted speed limits. And again, this does not happen by chance. Studies show that with no other direction, people will generally drive at roughly the same speed.

As to the red light cameras, I'm not sure what your point is. However, to make the discussion more fun, we should focus on the red lights themselves as I do not believe they are necessary and are actually harmful as the study you pointed out shows.

"When I say liberty I do not simply mean what is referred to as 'free enterprise.' I mean liberty of the individual to think his own thoughts and live his own life as he desires to think and to live..." - Robert A. Taft

An Automobile

Travelling at almost any speed is comparable to a loaded weapon.

I suggest a compromise..either no DL and lower speeds or a DL with unlimited speeds.

With the added congestion and everyone practicing their so called NASCAR skills on the roads the penalties for at fault accidents should be stiffer imo.


I think you have the wrong

I think you have the wrong assumption about human nature. If there were no speed limit, I don't think you would see a sudden surge in drivers plowing through school zones at 120+ mph. Most people will simply drive at a speed that feels comfortable to them. In a residential neighborhood, people slow down because there is a lot more foot traffic, the road isn't as wide, often there are no stripes down the road to segregate the flow of traffic, cars on either side parked parallel to the road can turn out, cars coming out of driveways, etc. All of these circumstances create a realization in the average driver that they are not in total control of the events around them, and will therefore add some form of safety such as slowing down, centering within the street, etc. That same driver, seeing an empty street adjacent to a school with no foot traffic might be inclined to go 35 instead of the flashing 15. On the other hand, I think the majority of traffic would heed the caution lights and slow down, maybe not all the way down to 15, but whatever they felt was necessary.

As far as the impact on other drivers, so what? No one owes any other person a sense of personal safety. I don't have to impede on my desire to drive at a speed I feel comfortable with simply because some 70 year old lady next to me thinks I'm being dangerous at that speed. If I am being dangerous, nature has a way of eliminating me from the roadways naturally. Also, since the roads in my world wouldn't have guardrails unless someone volunteered the money and effort to put one in, natural selection wouldn't be impeded.

Speed limits propose to make people on the road to be somehow obligated to ensure a feeling of security for other drivers. Same with driver's licenses. "Oh, you passed a test 30 years ago...you must be a fantastic driver." If a driver's license was truly about ensuring only safe drivers were on the road, you would have to be tested regularly, not just once as a dumb 16 year old kid. Nope. Driver's license are about tracking people. Infractions aren't just measured as individual occurrences, they are tracked as part of that database they have on you. Get a speeding ticket today and it isn't just weighed on the circumstances unique to that occurrence, it is also considered as part of your pattern of behavior. Exercise your freedom to determine for yourself what speed is prudent too many times and they yank your license.

Ultimately, the only thing they can do is toss you in the jail. They can assess fines, etc., but if you refuse to pay, that is the only recourse they have against you. Don't be afraid of jail and they lose that measure of control over you. I had a fail-to-appear over an expired registration ticket before and they eventually arrested me. I called my wife to let her know where I was and she asked if she should try to bail me out. I told her no, that I was fine and would probably be out in the next day or two. It was 36 hours before I was finally out but it was done and they didn't get a single dime out of me. Since I didn't have the fear of jail for that offense, they never scored a victory over me.


The first point you make is dead on

Just think of the times when a down pour occurs on the highway. People naturally slow down well bellow the speed limit because we are pretty rational and good at judging how safe the actions we take are. You still have the few idiot that drive a million miles an hour regardless of how bad the weather is but they are the exception not the rule. I think the same thing would happen if we got rid of speed limits. People would know what a safe speed is for them.

  • New Jersey's Premier Junk Removal Junk Service!
  • Accepts Bitcoin
    Check out my blog:


    The autobahns in Germany prove that "speeding" in and of itself is not the problem. Autobahns "work" because drivers tend to be less distracted and complacent. Yes, the mortality rate is higher when accidents occur but the accident rate is much lower than here in the US (where you drive just fast enough to maybe survive an accident and become a paraplegic). Speed limits are nothing but mere fundraisers for enormous government spending.

    The job of government

    is to protect citizens from one another, whether it be murder or theft.

    Driver's licenses, I agree are stupid. They fail to do anything constructive.

    Speed limits, however, are a tool to prevent citizens from doing unnecessary harm to one another.

    Those who say that people don't have to drive aren't thinking of pedestrians and buildings near roads that would suffer from trucks driving through/over them at 100mph. People driving unsafely present unreasonable risk to anyone around them, driving or not.

    Given limitations on reaction time, friction of tires and visibility, there is unquestionably a maximum safe speed to drive in any given place, and government would be well within its purpose of protecting citizens life and property by preventing people from exceeding this speed.

    People shouldn't be allowed to drive multi-thousand pound vehicles at high speed through crowded areas for the same reason that people shouldn't be allowed to whirl swords over their heads in crowded restaurants.

    However, are speed limits too restrictive? Maybe. Are there places that don't need speed limits at all? Almost certainly. Are they necessary in certain areas? Absolutely.

    I don't trust the government, but I trust 17 year-olds with big-block Chevelles even less.

    Author of Shades of Thomas Paine, a common sense blog with a Libertarian slant.


    Also author of Stick it to the Man!


    Your premise is incorrect.

    Respectfully, your premise is incorrect.

    The job of government is NOT to protect Citizens from one another. It IS, however, to defend EVERYONE'S Natural Rights, which among them are the Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property.

    The fine print here is the difference between "defend" and "protect." The former is a reaction to aggression. The latter permits anticipation of aggression, which may or may not occur, but which may deprive someone else of their liberty regardless.

    This is a very different arrangement from the one you suggest.

    ~ Engage in the war of attrition: http://pacalliance.us/redamendment/

    only law should be reckless driving


    Tools of war are not always obvious. The worst weapon is an idea planted in the mind of man. Prejudices can kill, suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has an everlasting fallout all of its own.

    Nobody is forced to drive. If you choose to drive

    you assume the risks. Having said that in a free society I'd expect most people would drive safely under the conditions and I'd expect most people would choose to purchase insurance. But arbitray speed limits and other revenue generating schemes are crap.

    In a free society with sound money people would have so much more wealth that would enable them to pay for damage they caused or fix damage someone else caused but refused to pay. New cars would cost 1/2 or less of what they cost now. Homes would be paid off in 10 years or less. Private central banks, fractional reserve banking, and fiat money in addition to 100's of thousands of "laws" and statutes enslave humanity!

    you don't understand their positions

    You assume they believe in government roads and then want to change the rules. They don't. They don't want government roads.

    So they are saying tear up the existing roads?

    So they are saying tear up the existing roads and start from scratch? No sir they DO believe in government roads.

    Look up the history of turnpikes

    and stop being such a statist.

    Simple Facts and Plain Arguments
    A common sense take on politics and current events.


    They are saying the

    They are saying the government road paradigm isn't useful for understanding the larger principle.

    Just like if we wanted to discuss education and your only reference point was the modern public education model.

    You would only be able to discuss kids sitting in rows absorbing state-approved curriculum. For getting better outcomes, you could only stretch your imagination to the point of rearranging the rows, or tweaking the state-approved curriculum. You wouldn't be able to discuss homeschooling, unschooling, the advantages or disadvantages of allowing children into the labor force, etc.

    You have to be able to think outside of government systems to even have this discussion.

    Uh, common sense dictates

    Uh, common sense dictates that a blind person logically cannot drive. If they attempt to drive, they obviously have some sort of mental illness, which should have been taken care of by the family.

    Your second point about speeding is that anyone doing 120 mph is out of control and that it's an insane notion. That argument is an appeal to emotion, not logic. Liberty is unemotional, it's logical.

    Licensing is anti-freedom. It's a way for people who can't deal with "shit happens" to dig their emotional claws into people's lives. Licensing used to only be for vehicles of commerce. People had enough sense to not drive if they didn't know how (cough most women, it was a man's piece of equipment).

    Like everything else, if we removed speed limits, there would be a few morons that went hog wild at first, and then they would die. It's your problem if you would choose to be out on the road during that time.

    Please come join my forum if you're not a trendy and agree with my points of view.

    tasmlab's picture

    Pick something hard for the an caps

    Like how would we stop priests from raping children or solve for international air polution.*

    Private road owners would probably have more stringent requirements than the state for their customers anyways.

    I digress, but google the driverless cars google is piloting. Free market ground transport probably wouldn't even resemble what we do now. Your blind driver might be feasible.

    * curiously, issues not quite solved by the state

    Currently consuming: Harry Browne, Free Domain Radio; JT Gatto and Holt; Wii U

    wolfe's picture

    When you are in a parking lot at walmart...

    Do you obey the stop signs? Probably. Does everyone else? Yes. Is the stop sign generally only ignored when it is 100% safe to do so?

    All traffic signs in a parking lot are guidelines, and not laws (this may be different from state to state, and I am drawing on information for a specific state a very long time ago).

    People don't follow rules/guidelines because they are the law and want to avoid a ticket. They follow the rules/guidelines because it is what makes sense in many different ways.

    The guidelines are good things to follow, and generally would be. The law enables them to pull you over, extort money, search your car, potentially arrest you, etc.

    As far as the blind man. If he is mentally unstable enough to to attempt to drive, do you really think a law matters to him? This is where these "panic" questions fall apart. The man is blind, he would have to be mentally unstable or flawed to overlook the fact that he is blind and try to drive, so why on earth do you think a law would stop him?

    As far as criminal negligence, yes, he would be found guilty.

    The Philosophy Of Liberty -

    tasmlab's picture

    Never thought about the blind people driving

    I didn't realize that the state issued card in our wallets were keeping the blind from driving.

    Hillary 2016!

    Currently consuming: Harry Browne, Free Domain Radio; JT Gatto and Holt; Wii U

    lmao right.

    lmao right.