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Miscellaneous meanderings and philosophical ramblings. The title from a spiral notebook I used to jot down my thoughts on religion and other matters some years ago. I like to write, think and express my views on various issues. Robust discussion is welcome.

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"Lan astaslem."
I will not submit. I will not surrender.
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One word

I wonder why they didn’t use it.

A year ago, the Oregon Department of Transportation announced it had demonstrated that a new way to pay for roads — via a mileage tax and satellite technology — could work.


When the task force’s study and test were in the news in 2006 and 2007, critics worried that the technology could be used to track where vehicles go, not just how far they travel, and that this information would somehow be stored by the government.

In more than one interview with the Democrat-Herald and others, James Whitty, the ODOT official in charge of the project, tried to assure the public that tracking people’s travels was not in the plans.


The final report detailed the technical aspects of the program. It also stressed the issue of privacy.

“The concept requires no transmission of vehicle travel locations, either in real time or of travel history,” the report said. “Accordingly, no travel location points are stored within the vehicle or transmitted elsewhere. Thus there can be no ‘tracking’ of vehicle movements.”

Also, the report said, under the Oregon concept of the program, “ODOT would have no involvement in developing the on-vehicle devices, installing them in vehicles, maintaining them or having any other access to them except, perhaps, in situations involving tampering or similar fee evasion activities.” (source)

That word being – currently.

Using the words except and perhaps still illustrates the tendency for government to expand beyond original statements of intent. The camel’s nose in the tent saying comes to mind.

So, the government is planning to require you to add tracking technology to your personal transportation, that can be used to track your location, but they are not going to do that? Yes, nothing could possibly go wrong there.

I’m pretty sure Ohio didn’t set up it’s tax records, child support payments system and traffic ticket record keeping as means to harass people using their first amendment rights, though Joe the plumber might reasonably have some doubts about that now.

As at least one comment at the article noted, if you drop the tax on gasoline and use this method, it prevents out of state drivers from contributing to highway/road maintenance even though they still use the roads. It will be interesting to see how that objection is dealt with. Will they still try to go forward with this program and decide to keep the direct tax on gasoline, rather than just raise the gas tax? Or will they drop the gas tax and let that argument continue to be voiced louder so that eventually a federal program will need to be created to manage this interstate commerce? It’s not like the U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t used a constitutional clause to do just that in other matters.

There seems to be a fetish like attraction to technology and it’s use by government to find as many ways to tax us as possible. While technology itself can be amoral, it’s obvious that how it is used can have serious moral implications. This is even true despite the stated intent of those who propose this or that program. There is such a thing as unintended consequences; it would be nice if the bureaucrats and technocrats would be farsighted enough to consider that. Then again, perhaps some of them do and have no problem with the immoral actions that will eventually result.

Not that they will currently admit to that.


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