Monday, March 06, 2006


Two thoughts

While at my fiancee's this weekend, I was thinking about two issues:

1. The welfare losses of nighttime driving, i.e. the losses of efficiency, declines in safety, and slowed travel time because of headlight usage. This would certainly include those newer mercury/halogen ones that are very bright and the use of high beams that are not always turned off as one comes around the bend.

I was also thinking that this was likely not a significant concern when the highway and roadway systems were initially designed and it seems obvious to me that they did not effectively see the emergence of this sort of issue. When two cars are going in opposite directions on a two lane highway (one in each direction), the use of headlights at nighttime would almost necessarily cause distraction, temporary losses in visibility, and slowdowns. What would be a more optimal design? Neither a one lane seperated nor a two laner with a barrier seems like a good option to me.

2. Rights against vulgarity. What right does someone have not to be verbally offended or insulted? I am under the impression that individuals seem to have a right to life, liberty, and property, and I think the notion of liberty guarantees a certain quality of life. When someone yells a profanity from the top of their lungs, what right does someone have to not have to hear that noise and additionally that vulgar utterance. I know that the First Amendment guarantee on free speech does not cover "offensive" language. Should it? Should it not? And to what extent should rights be allocated? Can we have a Coasian solution here?

The first ammendment does cover offensive language. It doesn't necessarily cover obscenity. It's different.
I mean I know it covers the ability to produce pornography, but not show it in public or without covers over it in book and magazine shops. So it is allowed, but kinda... Please explain what you mean, Jenna.
What is obsene and what is offensive are two different things.

For example, the Klan can stage marches (very offensive), but we can't have porn on billboards (obscene).

The difference is that obscenity can be societally defined, especially if that definition is left to small communities or states (as is usually is). Offense can only be determined by an individual. There is little that can be defined as universally offensive. Therefore offensive speech is protected, while obscenity is not.
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