After reading a New York Times article, Iâ€™ll stay off South Africaâ€™s roads. Bizarrely tough driving exams are only one reason.
Test-takers give demerits for not looking in rear mirrors every seven seconds, or for coasting back one inch when stopped at a stop sign. And the driversâ€™ licensing bureau is so complicated that the words â€œByzantineâ€ and â€œKafkaâ€ come to mind . . . to the horror of Byzantium and Franz.
In a follow-up piece, Ryan Hagen expands upon the lesson: â€œSo South Africa must have the safest roads in the world, right? Well, no. The fatality rate per mile is five times higher than that of the United States, and rising fast.â€
Why? Lots of people donâ€™t bother getting a license at all. And the requirements, being about as undemocratic and illiberal as one could fear to find this side of totalitarianism, goad the people into near-open revolt; disrespect for the law being generally increased by its nonsensical rigor.
Lots of government programs similarly over-reach. If you demand too much of people, they will come to expect less of themselves. Theyâ€™ll simply ignore the rules. Ignore the advice. Go outlaw.
The lesson applies to much of what government does, almost everything. We need minimal reasonable requirements in society, yes: Do no murder; donâ€™t steal. Good ideas. Good rules.
But nitpick on every little element of imagined perfection?
Doomed to fail.
This is Common Sense. Iâ€™m Paul Jacob.