Sunday, 2 October 2016

What would happen if driver's licences weren't government-issued?

As of 2016, it's pretty normal for most people in most Western countries to seek a driver's license as soon as it's legal. Each country (or in some cases, each state within a federation) issues its own licenses, but they all represent broadly the same concept: the bearer of this card, identified by name and photograph and some sort of ID number, has demonstrated the competence to command a ton or two of motorized metal. But why should those cards be issued by "the government"?

A government is a body of people; usually, notably, ungoverned. -- Shepherd Book

There's no such thing as a "mail server licence", without which one may not operate a mail server on the internet. There's no "web browser licensing board" that decides who is and isn't allowed to publish a browser. How do you decide which web browser to use, which mail servers to talk to? (And web browsers crash about as often as cars do.)

With government-issued licences, you either have one, or not. Corrupt officials could issue or deny based on nepotism, bribery, laziness, or any other criterion, without people having any real recourse. There's no competing licensing board, and no legal option to drive unlicensed. There is an alternative, though...

Suppose driving schools and automotive clubs took responsibility for this. Instead of a Victorian Government Driver's Licence, you would carry an RACV Membership Card with a certification of driving skill. Traffic offence statistics could be easily divided according to which certification you carry (including a category for "None"; if you're pulled over and don't have any recognized card to present, you'll be more stringently checked and charged), and over time, there'd be an automatic sorting into "bands" - the best driving schools are the ones that produce the best drivers, and rather than lose their high status, they would decertify problem drivers (they would, in effect, lose their licences). Certify every man and his dog, and your card becomes worthless, and nobody wants it.

All this requires no legislation beyond the existing provisions for copyright and trademark protection. Remove the requirement to carry a card, and make it simply a tool of convenience. Put responsibility back on individual people.

Bonus: Self-driving cars automatically get the same treatment. You buy one based on the ratings and reputation of its manufacturer, and it stands or falls on its merits.


Michael Angelico said...

Like universities in the USA - anyone can register themselves as a university and the difference between Harvard and something I printed off my $39 inkjet is just reputation. "Yes employer, I have an honours degree in business leadership from the University of 7A Lesay Court Mount Waverley, can I be CEO?"

Really it just proves that a certificate is nothing but a piece of paper.

Chris Angelico said...

Exactly! Hmm. That probably means we'd start seeing spam trying to sell you a genuine driver's licence, but that's no worse than any other spam.

Ben F said...

You might be interested to read about the accreditation process for universities in the US. It's actually an incredibly highly regulated industry with government endorsed private entities deciding who gets to call themselves a university. There's a complex web of state laws on top of that regulating non-accredited institutions. IT Bootcamps, for example, have to register in every state they operate and report on their curriculum with students' rights varying widely.

While it may be possible to add the word 'university' to your business name, you can't take money from people in exchange for an education without jumping through a bunch of hoops in the US.

For a real eye-opener try to figure out how you would get a new .edu domain name. Which will answer the question why no IT bootcamps or other such educational institutions have one. Nobody asked me, but that system seems antithetical to the philosophy underlying the internet.

Finally the entire for-profit educational industry is currently under quite the attack / crackdown brought on by a few bad apples taking advantage of people. Arguably deserved, but hard to call it unregulated if the government can shut down large portions of an entire industry.