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August 20, 2008


Charities have a lot of ways of raising money. Governments have basically three.

First, taxes. Second, lotteries (defined as a tax on those who don't understand math). And third, of course, the inevitable speed cameras.

I read somewhere a few months ago that the District of Columbia had placed speed cameras in all sorts of obscure spots. Naturally, the cameras caught a lot of speeders and brought in some huge bucks as a result. Foolishly, however, the D.C. government budgeted for a similar amount the next year. What happened instead, you will hardly be surprised to learn, is that drivers figured out where the cameras were and slowed down. So the speed cameras brought in a lot less money the following year.

But, you say, they still accomplished their primary mission of getting people to drive within the speed limits.

Are you out of your freakin' mind? No local government cares whether people drive within the speed limits; its concern is with raising money through fines.

All of which makes it particularly amusing that in Silver Spring, a 68-year-old man, driving a Toyota Echo with his 76-year-old wife, was charged with driving 100 MPH (that's miles, not kilometers, per hours) on a hilly, winding, narrow street -- in order words, with doing the impossible.

The photo above is not, by the way, a Toyota Echo, but it's a car that might have done 100 MPH on that road.

This is an Echo.

You really should read the linked article, because the man and woman are apparently your typical good-government Montgomery County liberals:

"While the Brennans strongly endorse the county's photo enforcement efforts, they are baffled as to how Terence Brennan could be accused of driving their Toyota Echo economy car at 100 MPH."
And Mrs. Brennan was saddened, not outraged:
"'We and our neighbors, who know well that even 40 MPH would be dangerous at this stretch, wonder how the camera could come up with such a reading,' Helga Brennan wrote to The Washington Post. 'This speed would be impossible on the Beltway at the best of times, and we have never in our life driven at this speed.'"
If you think it's unfair of me to make fun of their political views without knowing anything about it, you're absolutely right. But I'm going to do it, anyway. Because there's even more evidence of it. According to the Washington Post:
Terence, 68, and Helga, 76, paid the $40 fine promptly after receiving the citation in the mail. Like many people, they felt it wasn't worth the hassle of contesting the ticket in district court. Like very few, they also thought the county needed the money.
But the story did end happily at last. Helga Brennan wrote to the Post; the Post got in touch with the county police; and the county police admitted error, refunded the fine, and apologized for having failed to respond to the Brennans' letter.

And as for the rest of us, so long as there are people who think the government needs more money and are willing to pay fines that are obviously undeserved, I say, "Good for them!" The more people there are like that, the longer we can go between tax increases.