Thought of the day

I’ve always found myself bothered by the saying “A driver’s license is a privilege, not a right”. It’s a way for those with authority to warn drivers that they could lose their licenses at any point, so sure, it is rhetorically powerful. And, to an extent, it holds some truth. People can lose their licenses. But so what? People can lose their unfettered ability to walk around freely when they go to prison. But I doubt anyone is about to claim that we therefore don’t have the right to walk into our backyards whenever we damn well please.

So again, yes, the saying holds quite a bit of strength. But it is purely rhetorical strength. As for actual logic, it fails for the simple reason that we tend to define a right as something that is available to everyone on an equal basis (which is why marriage is a privilege where as the federal government and most state governments are concerned). Yes, there are requirements – people must pass tests. But people must also register in order to exercise their right to vote. And yes, there are ways to lose one’s license – drunk drivers do it all the time. But people also must not commit certain crimes if they want to continue walking around freely. So no, you rhetoric machines of authority, a driver’s license is not a privilege. I can get it, a Mexican can get, a woman can get it, and anyone else can get it. It is a right.

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6 Responses

  1. Hair splitting.

  2. I think you miss the issue of how it can be taken from you. You can lose your license administratively such as failing to submit to a breathalyzer. Even if found not guilty of DUI you would still lose it.

    A subtle difference but an important one when talking about rights and privileges.

  3. Then there is the 20% of people driving around in many states with no license and no insurance.

    Many of these AFTER their license was taken away.

  4. True enough bob.

    This seems as good a place as any to mention that after a recent change of medications by the VA’s doctors I’m having some wicked side effects. So if I don’t make sense just ignore me. I’m having trouble keeping my thoughts all traveling in the same direction and having my eyes focused on the same thing at the same time.

  5. Sorry to hear that, Nate. Get better quickly.

  6. They have started me on a different pain medication, one that doesn’t have as many risks of dependency. I appreciate that, but at the same time I like to be able to walk straight and focus my eyes too.

    The alternative is constant pain, but at this point its beginning to look pretty good.

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