Illegal Driving

Some excellent points from Tim Lee:

Speeding is illegal. You can get fined for it, and if you do it fast enough and often enough you can lose your license and even go to jail. Moreover, speeding kills.

Yet we don’t have a national debate about “illegal driving.” No one frets that peoples tendency to drive over the speed limit threatens the rule of law. People would think you were crazy if you said: “I don’t have a problem with driving, but it needs to be done legally.” Nobody complains that tolerating people who go 65 in a 55 zone is unfair to other drivers who are driving exactly 55. Bill O’Reilly and Lou Dobbs doesn’t do segments about “illegals” (that is, people who engage in “illegal driving”) and what a menace to society they are.

In some ways the analogy is inexact, but what I think is really important here is that we don’t have the rhetoric of “illegals” to refer to people who drive illegally fast, or to jaywalkers, or to people who commit tons of other regulatory violations. But we do have this incredibly dehumanizing discourse around people who’ve violated the immigration laws. And I think the way in which the analogy is relevant is that if someone were to propose changing the way we handle speed limit violations, people would recognize (a) that “illegal drivers” are human beings whose interests count in the equation and (b) that attempting to construct perfectly enforced speeding laws is almost certainly counterproductive.