> SOUTHERN INDIANA — People love to share messages and make personal statements by slapping bumper stickers on the backs of their cars. As we drive around and read bumper stickers we can learn a lot about a person, assuming the bumper sticker was placed there by the current owner.
We can discover important distinctions, such as whether someone is a cat person or a dog person. Name the subject or issue and you can find a bumper sticker about it. There’s probably even a bumper sticker out there somewhere that says “down with bumper stickers.”
The messages displayed on one’s car can sometimes be quite controversial and yet rarely do we hear about them being the direct cause of a conflict with others. Since everyone enjoys the same freedom to control the privately owned areas on their cars, people can and do tolerate differences and co-exist peacefully.
However, there’s one space on your car that is not so peaceful. Although it’s a relatively tiny space, measuring a mere 12 inches by 6 inches, it’s been the cause of huge conflicts. I’m talking of course about your government-issued license plate.
This tiny space, this piece of metal the government requires that you screw into the rear end of your car, became a source of conflict shortly after the government started issuing specialty plates intended to help raise funds for nonprofit organizations. The problem was easily predicted because anytime the government controls any boundaries, although they claim that their existence in the area brings peace, in reality it often only brings conflict.
Last year, people who didn’t agree with the messages being promoted by some groups began to moan and complain because those groups were being allowed to raise funds and spread their message on government property. These people were never concerned about the government handing out this special benefit as long as they had no problem with the organization’s message.
As a result of this controversy, arguments arose about who should be allowed to use the government property to raise funds and promote their cause and who shouldn’t. After the BMV found a way to remove one particularly controversial nonprofit from the program, it caused even more controversy.
So now specialty plates are suddenly a “big problem” which means politicians now “need” to work on “fixing” the situation. Indiana’s government has already spent time and money on a legislative interim study committee created specifically for this issue and they met early this month.
The politicians are spitting out their usual controlling language, saying specialty plates are a good idea but there just needs to be “tighter regulations” and “more oversight.”
This type of language almost always translates directly into more money being spent as the government defines, creates and administers current and new regulations. This will not only add to the bureaucracy but it will very likely also lead to costly lawsuits. [There have already been lawsuits over specialty plates before last year’s brouhaha began.]
Many people don’t have much problem with specialty plates particularly because the folks who get them pay $40 extra and the money goes to the nonprofit. Well, not all of it — $15 goes to the government for, you know, “administrative fees.”
To me, it makes much more sense to simply buy a $2 bumper sticker and donate $38 to the organization, removing the government completely from the transaction.
It’s very likely though, that plenty of time will be spent during this winter’s legislative session fussing about specialty license plates. Many nonprofits have become dependent on this form of government assistance and will fight to keep it. To remain relevant, politicians will fan the fires and push opposing groups against each other.
This issue is a great example to use to critically examine whether or not what you’ve been told all your life about governments is really true. The next time you are sitting in a traffic jam looking at bumper stickers and license plates, ask yourself this question — which area is more peaceful, the boundary that exists in a state of market anarchy, or the boundary that is controlled by government?
Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson has no bumper stickers on her car because she likes to keep her opinions to herself.