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Is driving a privilege or a right?

asked Oct 20 '10 at 15:43

capitalistswine's gravatar image

capitalistswine ♦

edited Oct 20 '10 at 17:03

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Certainly it is (or should be considered) a right. However, this doesn't mean one has the right to drive whatever and wherever one pleases -- any more than the right to free speech means one has the right to use someone else's newspaper or TV station to spread their message.

The right to free speech and the right to drive are really expressions of the more basic rights of liberty and property: in acting, you do it somewhere using something. In our examples, speaking involves a medium, and driving involves a car and road or other surface. If the property involved is your own, then you (properly) act by right in your speaking and driving -- but if the property involved is not yours, then you only (properly) speak or drive if the property owner consents.

Confusion arises when people (and therefore laws) neglect the fact that the implementation of all rights rests on property rights, telling someone that he has a right to act freely (to exercise a liberty right) using someone else's printing press or road (trampling on their property rights).

One final wrinkle that adds even more confusion to peoples' thinking in the area is that most roads are government roads, "owned by" nobody and everybody, leaving decisions on their use not an exercise of individual rights, but of majority vote.

answered Oct 20 '10 at 16:49

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

edited Oct 21 '10 at 07:25

Good answer, however, regarding your last paragraph, see my question http://objectivistanswers.com/questions/927/is-the-concept-of-a-right-of-way-legitimate

(Oct 20 '10 at 19:22) anthony anthony's gravatar image

What about in the cases of being sentenced an operating while intoxicated, or ensuring basic sufficiency in driving a motor vehicle for adolescents, and ensuring they understand "general" driving laws if there would be any. Also, how would one deal with the elderly, of whom many choose to continue driving well beyond their ability to do so safely?

(Oct 20 '10 at 20:35) capitalistswine ♦ capitalistswine's gravatar image

capitalistswine, I think a followup like that would only distract people from the essence of this Q&A, and therefore should be asked in an entirely new question. (perhaps the question anthony references, and which appears first in the "related questions" list, would naturally cover that.)

(Oct 21 '10 at 07:32) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image
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This issue raises what I think is an interesting distinction between saying that "X is a right" and saying that "you have the right to X." (I should say that this is a distinction I came up with on my own, but two well-established Objectivist professors expressed agreement with my idea in graduate-level seminars. So take it as you will.)

Note that Ayn Rand specified certain of "man's rights," including life, liberty, property, the pursuit of happiness, and freedom of speech. Why enumerate these, and not others? Why not say that you have a right to blow your nose, to scratch your ear, to call your mother on Saturday, or to drive a car? All of these things you have a right to do, but they are not "a right."

To claim that "X is a right" is to claim that X is a fundamental requirement of man's social existence — which means that it is a political expression of man's metaphysical nature. For example, man must survive by productive effort... therefore, he has a right to property in his achievements. Man must be rational, therefore he must have the right to act on the judgment of his mind... therefore he has the right to liberty.

Driving is not a fundamental requirement of man's existence, it is an expression of the rights to life, liberty, and property (in your car, and in the owner of the road). Therefore, I think it is a confusion to say that driving is a right. You drive by right, insofar as you haven't stolen the car you're driving and you are abiding by the rules of the owner of the road, but you do not have a right to drive.

In a society with privately-owned roads, driving would indeed be a "privilege," just as it's a privilege to attend a party in your friend's house.

answered Oct 27 '10 at 11:00

Robert%20Garmong's gravatar image

Robert Garmong ♦

edited Oct 27 '10 at 11:02

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Asked: Oct 20 '10 at 15:43

Seen: 1,337 times

Last updated: Oct 27 '10 at 11:02