In response to my recent columns on the Nevada DMV urging (or even requiring) that 83-year-old widows who prefer to retain their late husbands’ surnames “get their names changed” to match those on Social Security cards likely issued when they were 16 years old, I received numerous smug and sanctimonious assertions that “Driving is not a right; it’s a privilege.”
While we rarely waste time rebutting mere memorized windbaggery, this is such a classic example of internees miseducated in our government youth camps, putting on a pompous and patronizing demeanor and chanting a memorized sound bite without even considering the meaning of their words, that we will pause here for a moment of analysis.
My Simon & Schuster’s “Webster’s New World” informs us the primary definition of “privilege” (from the Old French “privilegium,” which in turn devolves from the Latin privus — private — and Lex — law) means “a right, advantage, favor or immunity specially granted to one; esp. a right held by a certain individual, group or class, and withheld from certain others or all others.”
So a “privilege” is something that most people are not allowed to have. It is, by definition, bestowed upon “one person or group,” while being purposely and arbitrarily withheld from the majority.
Let us see if we can come up with an example of a legitimate “privilege.”
I own my house. Yes, there’s a mortgage, and the county seems to believe I owe them rent in the form of “property taxes,” but I believe a court would agree I own my home, and therefore have a property “RIGHT” to grant or withhold the “PRIVILEGE” of entry to whomsoever I choose.
There are limited exceptions — police officers with search warrants, firemen racing in to save a child from a fire. But if I see fit to put up a sign saying only military veterans are allowed to enter my home, or that left-handers or redheads are barred, I can do that.
I have no intention of doing this, mind you. I choose these examples precisely because they’re so goofy, to demonstrate just how arbitrary power can be when it grants a “privilege.”
I throw a party. You show up and my door, seeking entry. I refuse you entry because you’re not a veteran, or because your hair looks “too reddish” to me.
You go to court, seeking relief from my arbitrary and capricious behavior. Guess what? You’re out of luck. Because I OWN the home, because it can by no means be held to be a “public accommodation” like an inn (that concept itself representing a massive invasion of business owners’ property rights, no matter how noble the initial intent of barring racial segregation), I can grant or withhold the PRIVILEGE of entry as I see fit.
Now let’s imagine that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and his appointed DMV chief, former Sparks Mayor Bruce Breslow, put their heads together and decide to follow this example. From now on, they will grant the “privilege” of driving on Nevada streets and roads only to military veterans, and they will systematically withdraw said privilege from left-handers and redheads, whose “privileged licenses” to drive will be summarily revoked.
Do you think that would hold up in court? I don’t. I believe the courts would quickly rule that restricting drivers licenses only to military veterans would place an improper hardship on women (just for starters.) I further suspect the courts would also hold that left-handers and redheads have the same, … gee, what’s the word I’m searching for here? … have the same “right” as blondes, brunettes, and right-handers to use the roads which are funded with their taxes in order to drive to work or wherever else they please.
“Privilege” stems from ownership. Do Lord Brian and Sir Bruce “own” the roads?
Under the model of the feudal monarchy, especially after the conquest of England by the Normans (basically a bunch of Vikings who had learned to speak bad French), the king claimed to own the whole country and everything in it. He could and did grant to his big-time barons and other war-lords the “privilege” of hanging miscreant peasants and collecting taxes from the serfs living in given counties or shires, which were divvied up as he saw fit.
There was a whole hierarchy of “privileges,” eventually working its way down to the point where a local, minor lord would grant to one local family the “privilege” of harvesting pike from a given pond. Those not so “privileged” who tried to do these things without permission could be jailed or even hanged, as famously illustrated in the tale of Robin Hood, arrested for killing one of “the king’s deer.” (The king, of course, was held to own ALL the deer, including critters he had presumably never laid eyes on.)
NOT IN AMERICA
This does not match our set-up here in America. Our forefathers decided individual Americans have almost limitless rights — so vast they can’t even all be “enumerated.” On the other hand, the folks we temporarily elect to public office have LIMITED powers, which WE grant to THEM — not the other way around. Their powers are LIMITED by being included on the very short lists written down in our federal and state Constitutions.
The memorized sound bite “Driving is a privilege, not a right” may be convenient piece of memorized buffoonery for statists anxious to justify the origins of the current system for lining up and numbering the populace, like cattle getting their ear tags. But we should be wary of chanting such slogans — taught us as impressionable children by low-level flunkies in the mandatory government propaganda camps — without re-examining the real meaning of the words.
As I’ve pointed out before, George Washington was not required to seek any “rider’s license” or “registration plate” to hang over his horse’s rump when he rode back and forth from Virginia to Massachusetts to New York in the 1770s.
So when was this previous unquestioned right to free travel converted by constitutional amendment into a “privilege,” which by definition can be arbitrarily “granted to some … and withheld from all others”?
Why does this matter? Words are used not only in speech, but also in thought. If we don’t know the definitions of the words we are using, our thought becomes fuzzy, muddy, cloudy. It is then far easier for our would-be masters to dupe us into believing some made-up and undeliverable new “right,” such as the “right to feel safe” — supposedly delivered by making us line up and submit to ritual public groping — takes precedence over the vital right to travel freely, which our ancestors never imagined we could be convinced to surrender.
Initially, in the very early 20th century, some states decided they could raise revenue to help fund road maintenance and improvements by charging excise taxes on COMMERCIAL activities which placed added stress on their newly paved roads — hauling freight or passengers commercially. Operators of such commercially licensed and inspected vehicles were then required to acquire a state “driver’s licenses” — “driving” being a term of art for this commercial activity, not originally considered to impact the right of common folk to “travel” on the roads.
The culprit? I’m told the sainted Sam Rayburn played a role in dreaming this one up, at the state capitol in Austin from 1909 to 1912.
And now we see where we get when we allow “just a few, limited, reasonable, pragmatic” restrictions to be placed on an unenumerated right.
Go to an airport, today, and try to assert your right to travel freely, without showing your government-issued “travel papers” and undergoing a humiliating government strip-and-grope. There, you’ll find you can even be arrested for making a joke, or saying anything that might upset or puzzle your assigned groper, or the blue-gloved goon assigned to grope your young child.
“But that’s all necessary for our security!” bleat the well-drilled sheep, ignoring the fact that every time government inspectors check the real efficacy of such nonsense, they’re able to get their dummy bombs onto the planes a frighteningly large percentage of the time — as well as the fact that law-abiding passengers carrying their own concealed pistols (a right guaranteed by the Constitution) could have stopped 9/11 from ever happening.
By the way, the respondent at the Review-Journal website who contended “As I recall, the DMV said they would accept your passport and you refused to provided it (sic)” is incorrect, as will often be the case if we choose to make up “facts” not in evidence. I did carry my old passport — with fully recognizable photo — to the DMV, last month. While my columns are edited for length to run in the Review-Journal, the full version of the column in question, readily available at www.vinsuprynowicz.com, stipulates “They won’t REALLY accept my passport (which no American is required to have), because it expired in 2008.”
That column also details how my draft cards, alone, WERE accepted as valid identity documents by Customs and Immigration for re-entry from Canada to the United States, not so many years ago — despite the repeated fallacious claims of the know-nothings that these “are not valid identification documents.”
Since the definition of “valid” can obviously be changed by our masters overnight, the better question is “Why do I need an ‘identification document’ to travel about in my own country, at all?