A friend of mine who is well aware of (and even often sympathetic to) my “politics” and penchant for attacking sacred cows (though not sacred chaos) was nevertheless caught off guard by some recent rancor I expressed toward MADD — Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
While I was able to sketch what I knew of the history of MADD and the legislation they’ve pursued, I still wish I’d had this much more thorough article to point to:
Where an idealist will go home after winning a war, a mercenary will prolong and seek out conflict, so long as he continues to get paid. But the money would only continue to roll in if the public perceived there was still a need for war, and a huge part of MADD’s budget is dedicated to keeping that perception in place.
MADD’s core statement, the one that gets the most attention, the one that is most repeated by the media, is this: Drunk drivers kill 16,000 Americans a year. It’s an impressive statement. It gives the impression that crazed drunks are swarming the roads, seeking out innocent victims to plow into, laughing maniacally all the while. With so many homicidal maniacs loose, an organization like MADD seems entirely necessary and even noble.
The only problem is that statement is a flat-out lie. And they know it’s a lie.
I do take issue with the article … for being too easy on the founder:
Disturbed by the shift from attacking drunk driving to attacking drinking in general, the founder of MADD later joined the liquor lobby, declaring, “I worry that the movement I helped create has lost direction. (The .08 legislation) ignores the real core of the problem. If we really want to save lives, let’s go after the most dangerous drivers on the road.”
The description of how MADD ousted its founder and transformed its mission is reminiscent of Cato and Rothbard, but the MADD founder can’t pretend that her own mission to raise the minimum drinking age from 18 to 21 is consistent with a distinction between drunk driving and drinking itself.
As the author says about blood-alcohol laws,
It’s the only legal circumstance I can think of where someone is arrested and imprisoned for presenting the mere possibility of committing a crime. It’s akin to the police randomly stopping and testing lower-income people for hunger. If they are hungry, they’re arrested for shoplifting, because there’s a possibility a poor hungry person will steal a loaf of bread from a nearby supermarket.
Damn straight. But then why let the founder off the hook for chronological profiling? Statistics about age and accident are no more relevant to criminal law than statistics about race and robbery. Either an individual has harmed someone or he hasn’t. The odds of his cohort doing something similar should have no bearing on the determination of his own guilt or innocence.
For a much more plumbline treatment of this question, please see Lew Rockwell’s great classic, “Legalize Drunk Driving”
I’ll close with this critical point from “Fighting MADD”:
How are they getting away with this sinister nonsense? They’re powerful. They’re a sacred cow with an aura of untouchability. What politician is going to call what the public perceives to be a well-meaning group of tragedy-stricken widows a gang of frauds and liars? That’s why the president of MADD is always selected from members who’ve had a loved one killed by a drunk driver. The perception of MADD as an organization of victims must be maintained.