Cars, Your Stuff, and You

I got into an interesting argument with one of my brothers recently. I forget how exactly it got brought up in conversation (perhaps we were discussing self-driving cars or something), but my brother mentioned how, in the area we live in, it’s illegal to modify your own car.

If you are caught having tinkered, changed, or modified your own car without an appropriate license (like a mechanical engineering certificate). I looked up the law, just to be sure, and sure enough: “Rule 380 (a) of the traffic regulations states: A person shall not change the structure of a vehicle except with a written permission from the licensing authority.”

When I dove into this rabbit hole, the law is so severe it really seemed like Jackpot Casinos are less strict. The law further goes into detail, and any changes to the engine, chassis, brakes, structure, steering, power system, or even the seatbelts is prohibited without express permission from the appropriate authorities.

Since I neither have a license, nor a car (broke college student), I was unaware of this fact. Apparently, so were my brother’s car-enthusiast friends. What surprised me more was the fact that my brother praised the fact that you were required to bring your car to a licensed mechanic to make any changes.

I hard disagreed, and a polite argument ensued. I’m going to break down his argument, why I think it’s wrong, and seethe online about it because it would be weird to still be ranting about it several days later. But here on the internet, endless ranting is the status quo!

The Pro-License Position

I’m going to try and represent my brothers position as fairly and accurately as possible. His position was that cars are very dangerous machines, and if you modify them without knowing what you are doing, you could end up hurting not only yourself, but your fellow passengers and other people on the road.

If you change your brakes or your supsension or whatever without knowing how to do it correctly, people could die. Therefore, such work should be done by licensed professionals who have proven that they have posess the skills and the know-how to do such work safely. You may own the car, but your rights end where another’s begins.

My Counter Arguments

I want to acknoledge that there are some very good points in what my brother said. He’s not entirely wrong… but he’s not right either.

First, I don’t believe that the government has the right or the authority to tell you and me what we can and cannot do with our own stuff. I own the car, it’s mine, and I want to supe it up. Yes, there’s a chance I might not do it correctly. However, if I do possess the know-how to do it correctly, why shouldn’t I be allowed to?

Second, yes, you could endanger yourself or someone else on the road. That is a distinct possibility. There are two points within that to break down: One, if you willingly ackowledge the risk of making changes to your own car, and choose to do it anyway, you have that right. For the same reason, I don’t believe that cigarettes, alcohol, or weed should be illegal. In a free society, you’re allowed to make bad descisions for yourself.

Two, yes you could make changes that could hurt someone. However, its just as possible that you wont. My field of study is Mechatronics (mechanical engineering + electronics), so my field of expertise is adjacent to the one required for cars.

Nevertheless, I don’t have the piece of paper that says I’m allowed to mess with cars. I’m also not an electrician. Should I not be allowed to change an outlet or a fuse on my own? I could screw it up and burn the building down, potentially hurting people other than myself. But I have the knowledge to do it (and have done it), and so have millions of others across the planet.

Fireworks are another great example. They’re certainly dangerous to myself and others, but they’re fun and beautiful and sometimes I just want to make things explode, and I have every right to gosh-darn-it. Even if there’s a risk of blowing my own fingers off or starting a fire.

Of course, you have to live with the consequences of your actions. If you kill someone with your car, you’ll get punished… which is no different than if you kill someone with a baseball bat, bicycle, or a jar of pickles. In a less extreme example, it could disqualify your car from various insurance policies, which is on the onus of the insurance company not trusting you. Fair enough.

The point is that you have the freedom to choose – to weigh the risks and accept responsibility for your actions. The nanny state constantly looking over everyone’s shoulder might make everyone safer, but so would locking everyone in their own padded rooms.

The Actuality

I’ve tried to, so far, base my argument purely on principled grounds. The right to property and freedom of choice, which are both abstract and not overly respected by any government.

Nevertheless, I have also looked up how the law is applied here where I live, and I have found articles and facebook pages from people complaining about how absurdly strict the law is. There are anecdotes where people took their cars in for modifcation, the technicians assured them that the changes would pass inspection, and… they just didn’t. I’m not talking about major changes either, but for little things, like the colors of lights or tinting on windows.

However, I do not profess to being either a car nor legal expert. There might be some very legitimate reasons for a lot of these regulations that I am ignorant of. I cannot say.

This is a world I have only dipped my toe into, so to speak, but my opinion for most regulation is that the government should keep it’s big nose out of our lives as much as possible. Most regulation seems to be the government attempting to justify its own existance. Why do we pays billions in taxes when potholes never seem to get fixed? Uh, uh, uh- new regulations!

But dare I change the wheel-size on my own car, well! To the gulag with you, anarchist!