Sunday, October 26, 2003

Blowing smoke about civil liberties

I'm all for civil liberties, but then I read crap like this: "Sounds like Big Brother - '1984.' It's horrible," said Bernard Karmine, an attorney. "It's not necessary to give up your civil liberties to cut down on smog."

The threat in question is a technology for detecting pollution from cars between inspections. If a car that drives past is out of spec, the license is photographed and sent to the perp.

So assuming that we're serious about air pollution, what's wrong with this? Would it be OK if there were cops using it and writing the tickets instead? Or is there something wrong with identifying the individuals who are polluting out of proportion to their fuel consumption?

The fact is that some cars pollute far more than others, and identifying and correcting those will result in more improvements per dollar spent on abatement. And if there's any justice at all, it will catch a bunch of people who like to fuss about pollution from power plants and other corporate sources. (Whether it does or not, there will be plenty of hollering. Because a lot of those cars caught will be old cars. And who owns the old cars? Seniors and the less affluent. Uh oh, disparate impact - it has to be discrimination!)

I predict that this will go nowhere, because it won't catch the right people.

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