Conservatives Shouldn’t Get Into The Banning Business

By Douglas Carswell
March 25, 2024

Beware of politicians who want to ban things.

What would you most like to see Mississippi’s elected lawmakers do during the current legislative session? 

Action to eliminate the reams of red tape holding our state back, maybe?  Further tax cuts, perhaps?  With so many other southern states moving ahead with school choice, you might wish that our lawmakers would do something similar.

I doubt that a bill to ban “squatted” trucks is your top priority. Yet, that is precisely what one bill in our state legislature aims to do. 

I’m not about to invest a lot of effort into opposing this bill, but I do think we should be wary of politicians in the business of banning things. 

Typically, politicians resort to banning things when they don’t have any other ideas.  The impulse to ban things is driven by their search for validation and purpose. 

Those in favor of a ban on “squatted” trucks are quick to tell us that action is urgent given how dangerous these trucks are.  I can think of a lot of things that could be deemed dangerous. 
Do conservatives really want to get into the business of banning things because they are dangerous?  Once you start, where do you stop?  If trucks are to be banned for being dangerous, wait ‘til you hear what progressives have to say about guns.
Under this proposed law, anyone caught driving a vehicle whose front ends are raised more than four inches above the height of the rear fender faces a $100 fine.  Will police officers pull people over to measure their fenders?  Should the guy with a truck raised a mere 3 inches expect to get pulled over every time?  

As the parent of a teenager, I’ve discovered how adding a young person to your insurance policy can make your premiums soar.  This is because the insurance system is good at assessing risk.  Higher risk = higher premiums. 
If squatted trucks really were the danger that the detractors claim, surely it would be reflected in raised insurance premiums to the point where they became prohibitively expensive.
In a free society, there must be an overwhelmingly good reason to use the state’s monopoly of force to restrict something.  It is not enough to ban something because we disapprove of it.  Or. as I fear, disapprove of the people that drive “squatted” trucks.  

Once politicians form the habit of seeking out things to ban for the benefit of the rest of us, they won’t stop.  Next will come a ban on certain types of vapes.  Or, as in California, certain food additives and Skittles.  If they can ban one type of truck, why not another?
If you want to see where relentless banning leads, take a look at my own native Britain.  Despite having had notionally conservative governments, politicians across the pond have relentlessly banned things from certain breeds of dog to plastic drinking straws.  From the ability to use email lists for marketing to self-defense pepper spray.  From disposable cutlery and gas water heaters to the internal combustion engine (from 2035).

On their own, none of these restrictions have proved to be a catastrophe (although the ban on internal combustion cars, once it comes into force, may yet prove to be).  Collectively, however, the blizzard of bans has been devastating by infantilizing British society.  
Treated like children, more and more people behave like children.  Denied responsibility, society grows irresponsible.  Britain today feels utterly demoralized as a consequence.  This is what happens when you put politicians in charge of deciding what’s best for everyone else.
Banning tilted trucks won’t be the end of the world for Mississippi.  It will be the end of a little bit more liberty.

The impulse to ban things, I believe, comes from what H.L. Mencken called “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be having a good time.”  Let’s leave Mississippi truck drivers alone.

Douglas Carswell is the President & CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.


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