Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Iron Man movie, which exceeded everyone’s expectations both in terms of quality and revenue, was apparently created without a script. What does that say about all of the movies that are so much worse that actually had a script? Should we just remove scriptwriters from the process altogether?

All of this is interesting, I guess. But the part of attraction and desire that I find interesting is not the universality but rather the particularism. Why do I find some actresses in Hollywood with perfect waist-hip ratios and symmetrical faces extremely attractive while finding others with perfect waist-hip ratios and symmetrical faces considerably less so?

The notion that exercise is the way to weight loss has taken a lot of hits lately. And no, saying “it doesn’t count if you eat it all back” isn’t a sufficient counterargument because exercising makes you want to eat more. For all of the talk of the role of what our sedentary lifestyles have played in our obesity problem, it seems to me that much more of the problem comes back to our intake.

I collect pictures of people in superhero costumes for my screensaver slideshow. It became pretty obvious early on that a good portion of the pics I was collecting were from homosexual quarters.

In a shocking development, it turns out that not all marriages are equally good for your health and that stressful marriages are bad for it. In other news, most or all of the “happiness deficit” among those with kids can be attributed to those that were ambivalent or conflicted (one wanting kids, the other not) about having kids. Oh wait, that part doesn’t tend to make it into the news…

Loneliness can be as bad for us as smoking and obesity. That’s why we need to stigmatize the obese. It will make them thinner, which in turn will make them more popular. Which in turn will make them healthier.

Is there no such thing as a hot streak in sports? Even though I’m not particularly superstitious, I find that surprising. Not because I believe that the gods watch over us when we’re hot, but because there is so much psychological in athletics that being hot tends to produce more confidence which produces better results. Huh.

I am of the school of thought that almost all of our political, moral, and theological views come from our innate personalities and our experiences rather than any genuine evaluation of the issues involved. So what do I make of the evolution of morals? Good question.

That we have far too many humanities majors for the job market to bear is no surprise. What is a surprise is that people were raising fears that the opposite may be true as recently as 1989.

When I was a kid they used to say “you are what you eat.” Some people never outgrew that, apparently.

Category: Newsroom

A while back, Herb Kohl (D-WI) was wanting the government to get involved with NBC’s (mis)handling of the Olympic Games. To which, James Joyner responds:

The Olympics are not a public good. There’s no right whatsoever to see them unless you’ve paid for a ticket.

The initial problem here is that the Olympics proclaim themselves to be something of a public good. It’s not really a private affair. While NBC has the right to do with its broadcasting rights whatever it wishes, if the Olympics were what they proclaim to be, they would make sure that clauses included not just gobs and gobs of money, but also a certain level of accessibility. But the Olympics simply isn’t what it claims to be and there’s not much to be done. I’d leave it at that if Joyner hadn’t gone on to say:

Nor, for that matter, am I a fan of exclusivity deals. It’s annoying, for example, that the only way for me to watch Dallas Cowboys games that don’t happen to be on my local FOX affiliate is to subscribe to NFL Sunday Ticket, which in turn requires me to be a DirecTV customer. But, again, the NFL doesn’t owe me anything. I’m free to choose to take what they give me for free or to be held hostage to a single television provider; I’ve opted for the latter.

Here again we have an organization that proclaims itself as a public good when it’s convenient but then gets to nitty-gritty profit protection even at the expense of what would benefit the public. When it comes time to hold a team for ransom unless the taxpayers foot the bill for a nice new stadium, we get to hear about how much good the NFL does a community or a city. But then when it comes to cracking down on fans that use slogans not invented by the NFL or churches that fund-raise with Superbowl parties, well we all have to understand that they are a private business. Which, of course, they are. They are not the public good that they represent themselves as being.

The difference between the NFL and the Olympics, though, is that the NFL (along with MLB and NBA) relies on government and the people to do what they need to do. From the people they demand money for new stadia. From the government, they demand and receive broadcasting anti-trust exemptions. For them to demand anti-trust exemptions, in my mind they have certain obligations. By that I don’t mean “Give away all your games for free!” but I do mean that they ought to stop restrain from using their position as the nation’s premier football league in order to maximize profits at the expense of access in virtually all cases.

Exclusivity deals are a part of that. I half-believe that we’re headed to a future where the Superbowl is going to be a PPV event. They allow us to watch some games for free on network television and through various providers we can watch even more games with cable. Increasingly, though, the real money is with exclusive contracts. Not like with NBC and the Olympics, where nearly everybody gets NBC. And the same really goes with ESPN. The issue is with DirecTV, who pays a fortune not just to be able to show all the games, but to be the only one that is. Offering games on networks and cable is win/win because it increases availability and profit. The NFL’s arrangement with DirecTV increases one very much at the expense of the other.

The games have to be played on some network(s), but the availability of the network in question should be as much a factor as dollars and sense if they are to be a public good. The benefit that the consumer gets from the NFL’s relationship with ABC is pretty concrete. The benefit of their relationship with DirecTV only works if you believe that what’s good for the NFL is inherently and always good for the NFL fan.

Beyond that, the NFL’s restriction on the number of teams it has is another example. Right now there are 32 teams in a nation of roughly 310 million. That is the worst ratio the NFL has ever had and at every decade marker since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 that ratio has gotten worse. This despite the fact that there are more avenues than ever for games to be shown on television. Cities considerably larger than NFL host cities were when they had teams do not get a team (and no, I’m not just referring to Los Angeles). Even now, there are cities without teams that are notably larger than cities with them (and not just New Orleans or Buffalo). In fact, there are between 7 and 10 markets larger than the bottom five current host cities. So why do the host cities still have those teams? In some cases because they got them when they were more vibrant locales (New Orleans, Buffalo) and or because of an intense potential fan-base (Jacksonville)

I see very little reason to believe that the NFL could not expand by a good half-dozen teams and maintain profitability. It’s not hard to figure out why they’re not itching to do so. The fewer teams, the less competition. The less the big market teams have to subsidize smaller-market teams so that the latter can stay competitive or split their own market. The easier it is to blackmail cities into building them stadiums or else they’ll move. The model is working for them. That doesn’t mean that it’s working for us.

I pick on the NFL mostly because it’s the most profitable. The others have pretty good excuses. The NBA is hemorrhaging money at the moment, the NHL learned the hard way how regional their sport is, and Major League Baseball has other problems on its plate. On the other hand, adding a half-dozen new teams would take a lot of the focus off of… other goings-on.

Category: Downtown, Theater

A while back, Web lamented the state of our current schools:

The incoming admissions staff at the University of Waterloo have a problem with what they are seeing from their prospective students. Articles like these have been fairly common in the past fifteen years or so, and a backlash against some of the worst methods of teaching (especially the “whole language” nonsense and the idea of “open plan” schools) is slowly taking root.

I can’t speak for whole learning and open learning, both of which I am skeptical of, but some “experimental teaching methods” can actually be quite effective in smaller, closed environments. Particularly high-trust environments. The same applies for schools that don’t grade students, unschooling, and a host of other things that excited educators.

However, quick and obvious problems can appear when you try to do these things large-scale. It’s similar to the way that homeschooling lends itself to methodology that wouldn’t work in classrooms where the teacher doesn’t have intimate knowledge of all of the students and the differences in development in students can be quite profound. In other words, there are plans that can be extremely effective one-on-one that can get completely lost in a classroom.

A lot of pilot programs fall into this trap. The pilot programs work because you have a limited number of students often self-selected by involved parents being taught by teachers self-selected to the program. So impressive numbers can be turned in at first, but then when you try to get other teachers that aren’t on-board teaching students of uninvolved parents, the kids end up much further behind than they would be with a more standard curriculum.

Further, some of these methods were never actually successful in the first place. Or rather, they were successful because you had motivated teachers and motivated parents motivating their children and not because of the particular teaching style involved.

I’m a pretty big fan of charter schools and the like where you can try new and different things particularly for those parents and teachers that want to be involved with it. When it comes to the general student population, though, I am something of a traditionalist with those somewhat boring lesson plans, icky standardized tests, and even a degree of rote memorization.

The problem with these methods is that they are often ill-suited to two groups: the intelligent and the education enthusiast (ie those that like learning for the sake of learning). The problem is that the educational establishment consists primarily of these people*. They find themselves thinking “School would have been cooler and much more interesting if we’d done X” when what they mean is “School would have been cooler for people like me if we’d done X.” These people are outliers and they can be wrong to begin with if what they hated about school was actually somewhat effective.

It’s sort of like college. College, as they say, is not for everybody. A lot of people, particularly among Sigmoids and on the right more generally, want to delineate by intelligence. I think that’s only part of the equation, however. The other part is temperament. There are some really intelligent people that just don’t have the temperament for college. They lack a broad, abstract thirst for knowledge. They don’t enjoy learning for the sake of learning. They got by and did well in K-12 simply because there were simple metrics to meet. The more intelligent they are, the less they even had to try.

But college success is determined less by metrics (though those obviously count, too) and more by enthusiasm. This was why I did better in college while my ex-girlfriend Julianne, just as intelligent as me, struggled. She was and is uninterested in how the world works and school for her was all about metrics. She had no enthusiasm, so she did what she always did which was the minimal amount required. Gauging the minimum required in college is much more difficult at the college level than the high school level and it’s harder to self-correct because by the time you realize you’re in trouble, it’s too late. An honors student in high school, she flunked out of three colleges.

People like me, meanwhile, were made for college. In High School, it was drilled into me that college was going to be this extraordinarily challenging place where you were going to get flushed out if you didn’t really try. This concerned me because I didn’t really try in high school. But once I got to college, I did really well. The places where I struggled tended to be the ones where the classroom structure was more like high school. The places where I excelled were the ones where I had enthusiasm and the studying took care of itself.

I think that the education experts tend to be more like me. They look back at their earlier learning experiences with a sense of loss because they didn’t like it and often didn’t even realize they enjoyed learning (for the sake of learning) until they got into a more free-ranging environment in college. So they ask themselves, “What can I do to make sure the next generation doesn’t dislike school as much as I did?” and come up with all sorts of wacky answers. Wacky answers that sometimes would have worked for them, sometimes would not have, but don’t carry over to the general population.

This is where I think charter schools and homeschooling and other more experimental methods can come into play. If you take a class full of intelligent people, they may succeed in either a metrics-based or more open learning environment, but they will enjoy the latter more and it will often better position them to keep learning as they get older. But it can be a disaster when it comes to the general population where, the more open the environment and less metrics-based the environment, the less they really have to do. And the less they will do.

Gradeless education is perhaps the best example of this. Taking the focus away from grades in a high-trust environment can be a godsend. It removes a grand distraction and lets kids focus on learning. This assumes, of course, that kids want to learn. I think that this is often more true than the pessimists suspect, but it really isn’t the case with most young people. So grades are the only way to get them to learn. So they don’t learn. Learning by duress (under threat of a bad grade if they don’t) may not be ideal, but it’s better than nothing.

Standardized tests are another issue along these lines. There really is no argument against standardized testing that does not also apply to grading students on teacher or textbook derived tests. Standardized tests can and do get in the way of teaching and learning, but without any sort of metric you are giving teachers the same sorts of incentives you’re giving students if you don’t grade them. Some will teach no matter what, but a whole lot will do what’s required of them. That, by the way, would be essentially nothing.

A recent study by Teach For America did an analysis of what makes a great teacher and determined. While the goal was to figure out how to “make” more great teachers, the conclusions they came to are really things that only the most highly motivated people will do. Without metrics, there is little motivation for anybody but the enthusiastic. Enthusiasm on the part of teachers should not be and cannot be assumed. We should give great teachers the lattitude they need to do their job, but that should take place in charter schools and perhaps vouchered private schools or there should be a way to measure their progress against those of the average teacher with more structured requirements placed on their classrooms.

If there is no way that we can fairly measure their effectiveness, then they need to be placed somewhere that parents have a choice of whether or not they want their kids taught by an unaccountable but possibly fantastic teacher. For those parents that do not have a choice in where to send their kids, however, I think that the system has to assume that teachers will primarily respond to whatever incentives they have. That means you need incentives. If not standardized tests, then at least something other than the teachers’ and administration’s assurances that the kids are being taught.

I am a systems guy and have a general preference for systems that don’t rely on exceptional or internally-driven individuals and don’t rely on subjective evaluations drawn up by people with a vested interest in the reported outcome. If implementing such a system ties the hands of would-be outstanding teachers, I think that’s a fair price to pay for motivating the internally unmotivated. You’re typically going to get a lot more of the latter than the former.

That’s one of the things that impresses me about the Direct Instruction method, which unlike other teaching fads proposes (a) system-based, non-feel good solutions and (b) posts results that appear to be scalable because (c) they don’t rely on exceptional instructors. It’s that last part that makes people dislike the system. One of the common responses is that if you take autonomy away from the teacher you’re just going to get bad teachers. In my view, if you create a system good enough that the quality of the teacher doesn’t matter as much, it can still be a positive experience.

I realize that sort of thing is not for everybody and great teachers and un-metric kids may not particularly excel in that environment. That’s where charter schools and the like come in to play. Within reasonable limitations, provided that the parents want to send their kids there and the teachers want to be there, I really don’t see a problem loosening the reins. For everybody else: Systems, systems, systems. Even if it’s a system that I would have hated growing up.

* – Say what you will about the average intelligence of the average public school teacher, those that stick to education theory and become influential enough to set education policy are a different breed and do qualify as intelligent individuals. What could be argued, though, that what they have in intelligence can be negated and reversed by a lack of common sense and lack of interest in grounded thought and empiricism.

Category: School

Reading a story about a young cop that goofed up, Dave thinks that we should have a minimum age for cops.

It’s an interesting idea. My main concern is the negative effect it would have on recruitment because what are they supposed to do in the meantime? The military is the most obvious option. Security work is another obvious fillgap, though it can be hard to get by on the kind of money we pay entry-level security guards. Particularly if there is a family, and one observation I had with the Phillippi Police Department outside of Colosse was that cops had a tendency to marry and reproduce at pretty young ages. It seems that most of the obvious places they could go, except the military or perhaps working as a guard at a prison, is quite a bit to ask of people to do for 5-10 years when they know that it’s not something they plan to advance in. Or maybe they will advance and decide not to become cops.

In the current economy, as Dave points out, this is not likely to be an issue. Police work can pay pretty well, it’s steady, and it comes with a sweet pension. Dave is also right that in departments like the one in the cited article where the danger is minimal this is less of an issue.

In fact, one of the things I noticed about the Oakwood Police Department, which served the townlets of West Oak and East Oak where I was raised, was that there were no young cops. They tended to hire from other departments. You work for a while in the Colosse Police Department or Colosse County Sheriff’s Department and then you get hired on where the chief requirements are diplomacy and a steady hand. I think that the main thing that the OPD and similar departments are considering is experience, but the maturity that comes with age is probably also a consideration.

I know that there are at least a couple ways to become a cop. If you get hired by a large department like the Colosse Police (pop >1mil) Department or even the Phillippi Police Department (pop >100k) run their own academies. With Colosse in particular, below a certain (pretty high) rank, you have to go through the city’s academy. Delosa’s second largest city, Delianapolis, has no such requirement. For a while the DPD would have billboards posted in Colosse trying to pick off CPD officers. There was talk a couple of years ago of the CPD changing their policy, though I don’t know what became of it.

I had a flat tire at Southern Tech University back when I was a student. A University Police Department officer helped me out with it and we talked in the meantime. He had apparently gone to an independent academy and had run up head-first into the CPD policy wherein if he wanted to become a Colosse cop he would have to go through the academy all over again. The UPD had no such requirement, so that’s where he joined. He eventually wanted to relocate to the Colossean suburb where he was raised, but they, like Oakwood, wanted you to cut your teeth somewhere else.

As kind of an aside, one ambitious constable of one of Colosse’s worst sectors, Lucas Horton, assembled a mostly-volunteer department or Reserve Deputies (“Rangers”). Due to the local politics of the area, the Colosse PD kept a sort of hands-off approach unless called. Patrols avoided the area and arrest warrants were going unserved. The area was developing a vigilantism problem. So he let weekend warriors everywhere know that if you wanted to be a cop he would let you do real police work (including felony warrants). The Rangers had to pay for their own training through one of the independent academies (as well as pay for your uniform, equipment, etc.).

If Constable Lucas Horton’s success (albeit controversial success) is any indication, it’s hard to see how an age limit would act as a deterrent. And in the current economy it’s pretty unlikely that any department will have any difficulty recruiting officers. In the longer term it might be more iffy, especially if the economy picks up. I’d be interested in knowing more about what percentage of current officers are former military and/or did something else for a while before going into the academy.

Category: Courthouse

My friend Bob sent me this link a while back when I was talking about our (delayed) car hunt:

Granted, this is an internal Subaru video, but it’s quite impressive. One of the main reasons that we’re leaning towards Subaru is that neither Clancy nor I have much ice-driving experience. I drove in the snow and ice when I was living in Deseret, but it was almost entirely freeway driving. We’re probably going to get studded tires for Clancy’s car for the winter months. Depending on whether we decide to stay in Arapaho and depending on our experiences there, we may go AWD for all of our vehicles or we may just make sure to have one. The biggest issue, besides local driving, is that the nearest major city to our soon-to-be home is Gazelem, Deseret’s capital city. I also may want to take trips to Deseret to visit our friends out there. It’s a tough road.

If anybody has any similar videos or some good AWD tests in which Subaru is out-performed, please share them. The only one I’ve found is a Swedish video in which the Subaru was out-done by an Audi, which is out of our price range. I tend to have a little more faith in Subaru than in Toyota and Honda and the like because Subaru does AWD almost exclusively whereas for most of the competitors AWD is just an option they have. Ford brags on TV that they have more AWD models than any of the competition, so I might give them a gander.

Ford has, of course, been on a real uptick lately with an increasing reputation for reliability and a lot of good will since they didn’t need the government bailout. It would figure that right about the time I move away from Ford that they become cool again.

Category: Road

I should have known it was the Census bureau when both my home phone and cell phone went off. They’re the only ones that have the Google Voice number assigned to go to both numbers. When I picked up, some recording was talking to me about a guy named {recorded} Alex {end recorded} calling. My cell phone was still ringing and I hoped that by picking up that one I could start over and figure out what the heck was going on. Sure enough, I picked up the cell phone and it started over again. I hung up the landline, terminating both calls. Fortunately, Alex left a message. Transcribed by Google Voice as the following:

Hello, this is for we yam Truman this is Alan with the Census office calling to conform details about tomorrow’s training for career position. It’s gone a bee from 1 to 5, but it’s ass teeth job services or not, Samarai at the job services address is, 821 East 9th Street North if we should I bring your ideas and we’ll see you tomorrow. Give us ache all if you have any question. 869-1419.

I don’t think that I’m going to make a habit of posting GoogleVoice transcriptions because it’s impressive how much they get right. Even so, anything containing “ass teeth” and “Samarai” I figured was worthy of note. Anyway, here was the actual message:

Hello, this is for William Truman. This is Alex with the Census office calling to confirm details about tomorrow’s training for courier position. It’s gonna be from 1 to 5, but it’s at the job services and not at the Marriot. The job services address is 821 E. 9th St North. Be sure to bring your ID and we’ll see you tomorrow. Give us a call if you have any questions. 869-1419.

I turned off the call screening. The fact that terminating the call on one phone terminates it on the other could be a problem. We’ll have to see how that plays out.

Category: Theater

Life before we got those products in those ads.

-{Via Unfogged}-

Category: Market

I’m getting caught up on the TV show “V”. If you haven’t seen the first episode since it restarted this (or was it last?) month, spoiler alert and all that. If you don’t know diddly squat about the show (or really care, for that matter), that’s what I’m assuming as I write this so feel free to read forward.

In the opening episode of the second half of the season, the Queen of the Visitors (an alien race with nefarious intentions with us humans) decided to procreate an army. Not much is known about how the V’s do procreate, but it isn’t all that hard to guess knowing what little we do about them. One of her minions lines up a bunch of studly men and she picks one and the rest go walk off.

The actual procreation scene takes place at the end of the episode, a somewhat ominous sign in and of itself. The guy is laying there naked (smoke covering what needs to be covered) as she walks in and prepares. The stud looks nervous, which could simply be because he is in the sole presence of the queen. But you know it’s not that. You know that in some alien society wherein the woman has that much power, it’s never good to be the dude that she decides to procreate with. You’re not going to end up like Prince Philip, not a king but still an accessory to the queen in a society that values kings and queens alike. No, things never end well for you if you’re that dude. you’re going to get eaten like a preying mantis. The only question is whether you get eaten before, during, or after procreation.

I’m not positive why this convention exists at least to the point that I, no big scifantasy fan, am aware of it enough to feel at least a little sorry for the stud. If we’re supposed to be shocked or horrified, it doesn’t really work. I suppose it’s supposed to tell us that these people (presented as immaculate but cold) are savages(!!!!) or something of the like. From an internal plot standpoint, one could make the case that the Queen cannot let the stud live lest her power be threatened by the father of the army. I assume that’s the internal rationale they went with. Stretches credibility, though, because their society is so rigid and hierarchical (absent “contamination” due to contact with those dreadfully “empathetic” human) it’s impossible to imagine any sort of coup.

The answer to the before/during/after question is “after.” The guy, nervous throughout, seems a bit surprised as she lunges to eat him.

He should spend less time being a stud and more time being a geek. Then he would have seen in coming.

RIP, Stud.

Category: Theater

One of the things some people are wondering about the Phoebe Prince case is where her friends were in all of this. The papers mention that she had some. Why didn’t they stick up for her? Do something for her?

This, to me, misunderstands the Third Dynamic of Unpopularity: When you’re unpopular, even your friends don’t have your back in any meaningful sense.

There was an unspoken rule among my friends that if one of us being targeted by Bully X, the main concern of the other friends is to try to stay as invisible as possible. It sounds cold, I know. But by and large it’s the only reasonable course of action. Standing up for your friend does not help them. Even taking the bullet meant for him doesn’t mean anything when they’ve got a loaded gun. They’ll get back to them as soon as they’re done with you.

I think I objected to this ethos at first. Why the hell was my friend just sitting there while this bully was being so mean to me? It wasn’t until the situations were reversed that I realized why. Just because I was getting crap did not mean that he needed to be getting it, too. Besides, he was getting it from people that didn’t know me. As his friend, the maximum preservation of his invisibility (at less cost to me than the alternative would be to him) was a generous act on my part.

Other than directly standing up to bullies, the main alternative would be to alert someone who can do something. That still contains the same drawbacks as personal involvement if they find out who tattled. Plus, before the administrator can do anything, they would need to talk to the victim of the bullying. That puts them on the spot. Either they say nothing and the issue dies (except that you’ve exposed yourself to the liability of Bully X finding out) or they say something and it’s just the same as if they went to the administration themselves. That enlarges the target on their back and if that’s what they had wanted to do they would have done it their own dang selves. All you did was remove the choice. Yes, they have the choice of saying nothing, but they could still be liable if Bully X finds out that they were even talking to administrator just to lie and deny that bullying was taken place.

Bullies are not reasonable. They are not typically justified in doing what they do. They don’t respect alliances between outcasts. If you fight back, they don’t care 1/100 as much as you do that you will both get suspended. They don’t care if you didn’t actually do what they think you mighta done. Once they notice you and decide who you are to them (a target), that’s all she wrote. The only way I ever found out of it is rank bribery and that only works with some.

Category: School
“Today, the ongoing duel between radar-and-laser-detecting drivers and cash-strapped municipalities is about to become even more one-sided, as states are approving the use of automated, unattended speed cameras. But what most drivers don’t realize is that they never really stood a chance to begin with.”

MSN Auto has a really good and pretty thorough piece on speeding that’s a worthy read. The subject of traffic enforcement is a staple here at Hit Coffee, so much so that Web recently commented to me that if we weren’t careful, we could write a post about it every day. That we call our series of posts on it “Badged Highwaymen” should tell you where we stand. It’s important that people that are dangers on the road be held accountable, but enforcement as it currently exists is mostly a game of cat and mouse. According to MSN Auto, it’s a game that we the mice are going to lose. The technology is getting so good that we no longer have to be trapped by a cop car hiding behind a giant rock or sign anymore.

Now a part of me is sympathetic to mass enforcement of the law. Indeed, one of the big problems I have with enforcement as it currently exists is that it is sporadic and selective. If there were uniform enforcement of the law with a small but reasonable fine every time you were caught and insurance companies wouldn’t view someone with a ticket as though they are Luke and Bo Duke, I might actually object to it less. Instead we have sporadic enforcement so that when you get caught it catches the attention of the insurance companies which often operate under the assumption that if you were caught doing it once, you are probably doing it all the time. Of course, one big caveat to all of this would be that speed limits would need to be reasonable. And on a deeper level, I would have to be convinced that it really is about more than revenue-enhancement.

One of the reasons that I might be more amenable to more uniform enforcement is that it would probably force some changes on the drivers’ side. I don’t just mean getting us to slow down, though that would be part of it. Rather, I mean that if speed limits were uniformly enforced, you would start seeing a lot more actions on the side of the drivers to get speed limits up to more reasonable speeds. We would demand better and more frequent speed limit postings. And an industry would likely set up to help drivers in their task.

One of the problems with speed limits and speed limit enforcement is that a lot of speeders genuinely don’t intend to be speeding. My main fear with uniform enforcement (other than speed traps) is that it would penalize drivers who do not intend to do anything wrong, do not realize they are doing anything wrong, and would prefer not be doing anything wrong. It’s easy enough to say “Well they should be mindful of their speed” but frankly, if they’re going 30mph on a 25mph road, I would prefer that they be more mindful of the road.

I think that technology could provide a sort of solution for this. We’re already almost there. Some GPS systems actually have the speed limits on roads in the device. If you go over it, it turns red. It mostly pertains to freeways, but there is no reason that we can’t get to the point where all speed limits are included. And instead of it turning read, it bwoops whenever you’re speeding. Other than data volume concerns, which I believe will be addressed with time, the main concern would be data collection. How do they get all of those speed limits.

Now, one way of looking at it is that law enforcement agencies should be anxious to give their speed limits to the GPS makers because that would help reduce speeding. And since they’re not in it for the money, they should be glad to do so free of charge. Right? Getting real for a moment, I honestly think that making that data easily and freely available to the GPS-makers (and anyone else) ought to be another form of posting the speed limit. In other words, if they want to enforce the speed limit, they need to give out the data (or make sure that somebody else did). Otherwise, it’s an unposted speed limit and the speeder can get the charges dismissed on those grounds.

Tthis would come with its own costs in addition to data collection and disclosure on the part of the authorities. If successful, cities would lose a lot of revenue. They would need to raise local taxes. Everyone that gets less than the average number of tickets that thinks that they won’t still end up paying for some of the same things that tickets pay for now are deluding themselves. The money has to come from somewhere. There would be fewer traffic cops sitting around in expensive cars generating that revenue, though there would still be savings. But the speed cameras would have to be paid for.

Of course, all of this assumes that most drivers would, if given notification when they are speeding and reasonable speed limits, slow down. I think that this is true more often than some folks think. Some people like to feel smugly cynical and assume the worst of people, but the reasons that people speed now are plenty. A rule that isn’t regularly enforced isn’t really a rule and speed limits are not regularly enforced. Regularly enforce them and people will look at them differently. They will be more likely to demand that the rules be more fair and they will, because the alternative is a much higher likelihood of getting caught, follow the rules that are in place. People are more willing to follow the rules when they know that everybody else will, too. There’s nothing more frustrating than being the only guy on the road going the speed limit.

Category: Road