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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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Yesterday I made a comment in the meeting about something being like “speed limits, only a suggestion”—one of my favorite aphorisms (keep in mind that this is coming from someone who’s had four speeding tickets and countless photoradar tickets that got, um, lost in the mail). It reminded me of a former co-worker at McDonald’s, Wendy LaMarsh, who used to say in a rich Southern twang, “You gonna let a sign tell you what to do?”

This morning, thinking about the two previous thoughts, I came up with a third: “Speed limits are only in your mind.” That seems like such a pregnant thought. I could also recast it as “The only speed limits are in your mind.” How often do people erect mental speed limits, internal governors that regulate errant or wild-eyed thoughts! I thought it appropriate that my dislike of speed limits should also extend to mental ones.

[UPDATE (8/22/03): Someone pointed out to me that speeding is illegal and that how could I defend copyrights and yet break the law. I regard speed limits (and the laws that define them) as a minor example of laws imperfectly serving their purpose. The purpose of speed limits is ostensibly to prevent accidents and encourage safe driving. It presumes that speeding is unsafe. I disagree wholeheartedly. Speeding, by itself, is not unsafe: it is the combination of speeding with lane changing, inattention, and tailgating that is unsafe. I do recognize that speeding increases the chances of serious injury in an accident, but I don’t regard that as a valid reason to enact them.

I speed regularly and I’ve never had an accident that is attributable to speeding. I’ve had two accidents in my life: one my fault and the other someone else’s. I was going perhaps 5 mph in the one that was my fault and I hit the other vehicle because she stopped suddenly.

I believe that one should follow laws when they agree with your morality, but you should be prepared to face the consequences of breaking those laws with which you disagree. As noted above, I have had a number of speeding tickets. I have paid the fines (or gone to traffic school) for each of them. I did so willingly and without protestation.

As far as speed limits go, I think they fail to adequately address the underlying problem: recklessness. Reckless driving is speeding without control among other things. I think that such a law is both just and instructive. I obey that law.]