Saturday, January 07, 2006

Tennessee Jurisprudence

Tennessee has quite a history when it comes to their laws. Of course, we can't forget the anti-evolution laws that led to the Scopes Trial. In the late 1990s, the Tennessee legislature passed the infamous "Roadkill Bill," which allowed people to take home their roadkill to eat, though the real point was to facilitate poaching. Well, Tennessee has struck again with a law requiring that convicted drunk drivers do 24 hours of roadside cleanup while wearing orange vests saying "I am a drunk driver." The point of the law is to shame people into not drunk driving.

I'm not sure about the idea of shaming people. There is something perhaps slightly appealing about a society that uses such methods to curb antisocial behaviors. If it could be proven that such methods did improve society (unlikely) than maybe it would be something to consider under certain, very selective, circumstances.

However, regardless of that, the way this law works is typical of the forward-thinking of citizens of Tennessee. Of course, the law is unfunded. Counties and cities have to pay for it out of their existing funds. If you are running Memphis or Chattanooga, maybe there is a small chance that you could afford this. But if you are the police chief of Carter County in upper east Tennessee or Obion County in northwestern Tennessee, your tiny tax base is already stretched to the max. Now they have to use police officer hours and money to enforce this absurdity, rather than actually catch criminals and stop other drunk drivers. Thus, the law is opposed by the governor of Tennessee, MADD, and the Tennessee Sheriff's Association.

Really this is not surprising. Today's Americans love oppressive laws, so long as they don't have to pay for them. It goes all the way to the president and all the way down to state representatives and the people who vote them in.