What is Government’s Role?

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A sign stating it is law to not allow your car motor to idle while stopped

This sign is from the city of Vancouver in British Columbia and it’s purpose is to inform motorists that letting their cars idle is against the law and punishable by a fine of $50 to $100.

Vancouver’s “Motor Vehicle Noise and Emission Abatement By-Law No. 9344″ [PDF] went into effect in Spring of this year after being adopted in July, 2006.

Here are some details:

“2.7 A person must not cause or permit a motor vehicle to idle:
(a) for more than three consecutive minutes in a 60 minute period; or
(b) while unattended and unlocked.

The City’s stated goals for the bylaw are to:

  • protect air quality
  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • reduce urban noise
  • reduce vehicle theft
  • save money on fuel.



The website Trans-Talk has details on how it’s been going, along with some good reference information other towns in Canada (and even some in the US) that have similar laws.

What do you think? Should we push to change our laws to force behaviors that are good for the environment? Or should government stay off our backs and allow people to do what they want?

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6 thoughts on “What is Government’s Role?

  1. The question of how far legislation should be allowed to extend into our personal lives is always difficult. I think that in this case, yes, governments should be allowed to pass laws that protect the environment, even if they seem dangerously close to interfering with our personal freedom. If we expect that our government should regulate large corporations and enforce trade restrictions on nations that don’t meet our environmental standards, it’s only fair that we make a few sacrifices ourselves. Our planet is our home. I think that it’s worth changing the rules a bit to keep it in order.

  2. If government has the duty to protect your person and your private property from assaults by other people, then government also has the duty to protect public property, the common air and water, and public health from assault. To dump garbage into other people’s air is as much an infringement upon the rights of others to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as it is to dump garbage over your fence onto their lawn.

    If government has no right to control individual behavior, no matter what its impact on other people, then wipe all law of the books and declare anarchy; that is at least a consistent stand.

  3. I see no problem with this. Nobody has a right to drive a motor vehicle. This is a privilege granted to qualified citizens with the understanding that they will obey all the applicable laws. The government has not only the right, but the duty to create and enforce motor vehicle laws to preserve order, ensure safety, and protect the environment on public roads.

    Empowering people is a nice idea until you start to think about it.

  4. Sure the government should be involved. Lack of any government authority leads to failed states – we may not be exactly like Somalia in that case, but their warlords would be our corporations and uncontrolled, aberrant capitalism. Perhaps government’s primary mission is to protect the common good, whether that is national defense, transportation, or clean air and water.

    The law recognizes that preponderance of good must decide the issues. For that reason, if you feel that cars and buses idling needlessly is a triviality, then perhaps legislation in that area could be considered meddling. However, if you feel, and know from studies, that air quality and asthma (and other illnesses) are directly affected by idling of vehicles, if you know that temperature increase is also caused by the volume of fossil fuels burned, and so on, then it should not be considered meddling by any government, whether city, state, or federal, to take action to protect the common good.

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