(by contributor John Bleimaier)
The automobile and the concept of freedom are intimately intertwined. The open road and the sense of mobility are at the epicenter of American culture. When foreigners think of our country, their predominant image is of the U.S. citizen behind the wheel of his car going wherever he chooses, whenever he chooses. Furthermore, the choice of vehicle driven by the free American represents a statement of his personal values and fundamental beliefs. This is the essence of the American dream.
There is no question in my mind that if the US Constitution had been written in the 20th Century, the automobile would have found its way into the bill of rights. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to bear arms, the right to a jury trial, the abolition of cruel and unusual punishments – these would have been joined by the right to drive, free access to highways and bridges, as well as freedom of vehicular choice. Thomas Jefferson and his colleagues were molded by the independence of the frontier life style. Self-reliance and self determination were the natural by-products of an environment far removed from king and constabulary.
When the automobile came on the scene a century and a quarter ago, it was just in the nick of time to reclaim the sense of freedom that could otherwise have been eroded in a hyper organized modern society. It’s our job as car fanatics to ensure that the inalienable rights attendant upon individual locomotion are recognized, protected and enshrined in the sacred document of the republic. The 9th amendment to the Constitution guarantees that all the rights not specifically mentioned in the Bill of Rights and elsewhere are nonetheless vouched safe to the people. Well and good.
However, the Founders recognized that government is an inherently voracious entity which devours freedoms and resources. Thus they framed a unique statement of rights and responsibilities replete with checks and balances. They also provided for amendment of the Constitution in order for this document to address changing times. We now need a new constitutional amendment stating that driving an automobile is a basic human right, that governments and their agencies may not charge for the use of public roads and that there is fundamental automotive freedom of choice.
From the dawn of the automobile era Americans took for granted their inherent right to utilize this miraculous new instrumentality as they pleased. Note that in Great Britain and elsewhere in the Old World a very different mentality prevailed. A hundred years ago British law required motorists to drive behind a flagman on foot warning of an approaching motorcar. How thoroughly un-American.
There is a natural bureaucratic tendency to erode freedom even in our democratic society. Behold the invidious notion that driving is not a right but a privilege. Furthermore, governmental authorities have arrogated unto themselves the prerogative to charge tolls for the use of roads and bridges which were built with public funds. Big brother has even devised electronics which register your use of turnpikes and parkways so that you can be sent a monthly statement. Additionally a federal agency has the temerity to tell the populous what cars it may and may not import. The Founders would be indignant.
Because the aforementioned infringements have gradually crept into the body politic notwithstanding our Constitutional protections, it is time to amend that mighty instrument to set right the injustice.
If driving is a right your driver’s license can not be revoked without a trial before a jury of your peers. The anomaly of charging citizens for the use of public roads must be recognized for what it is: extortion. The convoluted red tape surrounding the importation of uncertified foreign cars must be cut. When we implement the foregoing agenda we will have given real meaning to the phrase, “land of the free, home of the brave.”