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A New Rebel For a New Century, the Age of Civil Obedience

Rebels of 2013, unite! If you want to make a statement – if you want to “stick it to the man,” if you want to give the one-finger wave to the system, then sit down, become nondescript, blend-in!

There is no secret about the fact that we are useless parasites in the eyes of government if we do not “carry our own weight.” In other words, if we do not attract the attention of red light cameras, if we wear our seat belts, if we obey the speed limit, etc., then we are not doing our fair share to bring revenue into local and state governments. 1970s Hollywood churned out a few movies and TV shows about unscrupulous, southern sheriffs whose questionable use of enforcing traffic laws was their primary source of revenue. Today, it seems as though those movies and TV shows double as training videos for local and state politicians.

It’s no secret that Chicago has many problems. One that had received much attention due to the size of the practice, and has since seemingly dropped off of the media radar, is the issuance of parking tickets to individuals who had not committed an offense. Throughout the nineties, bureaucrats working for the City of Chicago were issuing tickets to individuals who could prove that they were not parked at the place and time where the ticket claims that they had parked. In fact, many “violators” had never been to Chicago.

Another practice by some of Chicago’s meter maids was to issue parking meter violations before the time on meters had expired. This is done under the assumption that the owner of the vehicle would not return to either drive away from that space, or add change to the parking meter before the ticket had become valid. While it is kind of hard to avoid receiving a ticket for something that did not happen, it helps to avoid the place where such an incident may occur, such as the streets of Chicago.

Driving in Chicago creates more than enough stress; the crime stories and related social breakdown are the first problem. Problem number two involves red light cameras. Almost since their introduction, critics have claimed that city officials have shortened the duration of yellow lights in order to catch more red light violators. Throw in speed cameras in areas that are unfamiliar to out-of-towners, and the extra stress caused by sharing the roads with the usual stereotypical city motorists, and a drive through Chicago using anything but the expressways, becomes hard to justify.

Along with tiny toilet tanks, mandatory seat belt usage has become an issue that many Americans have accepted, unfortunately. Yes, I wear my seat belt. And no, I do not wear it as a result of some politician or public service announcement telling me that I am not smart enough to wear it of my own choosing – I wear my seat belt because it came with my car. My car had cost a lot of money. Therefore, I am going to squeeze my money’s worth out of that car by using every feature that came with it.

Mandatory seat belt laws would not be as hard to accept if only the states that have passed such laws were to accept liability for any fatalities or injuries that were the result of seat belt usage. In all fairness, the federal government threatened to withhold highway grants to states that did not pass these laws.

When the first of these seat belt laws were passed in the early eighties, General Motors had run advertisements stating that GM would pay the estates of any seat belt-wearing fatality in a traffic accident one million dollars. About two years after making this offer, a small follow-up story in Motor Trend stated that GM had paid $214 million to qualifying recipients.

In the name of curiosity, I frequently wonder what would happen if an overwhelming majority of Americans decided to pick one month where they would do their best to avoid situations where having to pay a fine is an end result, such as speeding, no seat belt, and the other usual expensive laws. Would revenue from this collective action drop? If so, then how much would that decline total? And if that number is substantial, would politicians and bureaucrats celebrate the “newfound safety awareness” of Americans, or would a panic arise due to the loss of “needed” revenue?

As a nation, we recognize the rule of law as a means to preserve order and civility. However, we have a ruling elite class at every level of government which chooses to exploit our respect for the law by passing laws and regulations that are intended to restrain us via higher taxes, crony capitalism, and the erosion of our Constitutional rights. As these laws and regulations multiply, a majority of Americans feel as though there is no recourse, either due to minimal knowledge of the Constitution, due to minimal emphasis in school, a corrupt political system, or equating the thought of talking with an elected official with dropping a comment card into a bottomless suggestion box that had been hung above a trash can.

If our elected and non-elected leaders want us to obey the law – if they claim that the recent laws that have been passed have been for our safety — then maybe we should follow them. Although many of us do, we need the old-time rebels on board with us – the “I’ll speed without wearing a seat belt” rebels. If there is a significant decline in revenue from traffic and other offenses, we would quickly find out if politicians and bureaucrats really care about protecting us from ourselves.

We are well beyond the point where a month of civil obedience is in order. With 2014 only weeks away, perhaps January is a good time to celebrate our ability to “blend in” as a means to start a new counter-counterculture; one that chokes the system by “playing by the rules”.

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Chuck Gruenwald

Born in Chicago and raised in northwest suburban Cook County, Chuck Gruenwald developed an unfavorable opinion of machine politics quite early in life. In addition to cars, electronics, law enforcement, and politics, Chuck enjoys writing, and is also a horse racing fan. He has recently written op-eds for