Ban the box

Ban the box

Just how much intrusive government can this country stand?

Ever hear of the law of unintended consequences? If not, here's a frightening example.

The federal government has been pushing auto companies for years to build vehicles that get better gas mileage. Automakers have done so and, as a consequence, motorists are purchasing fewer gallons of gasoline. As a result, the federal and state governments are collecting less money in gas tax revenues than they want and say they need.

The solution some are proposing is a different form of taxation, outfitting each vehicle with a black box that would track every mile driven and, possibly, where they are driven and then sending a bill directly to the vehicle owner.

Supporters are calling it the "mileage based user fee" while opponents have labeled it as one of the greatest threats imaginable to civil liberties and personal privacy.

It may well be that it is a "mileage based user fee," requiring those who use public roads the most to pay the most for the privilege.

But it's a reality that any power that can be abused will be abused. The black box, which is no doubt driven by the purest of intentions, has Big Brother written all over it.

The federal government is deeply interested in the plan. Two past U.S. transportation secretaries have endorsed it. Meanwhile, several states, including Oregon and Nevada, are experimenting with it. Illinois reportedly is trying out the black box on trucks.

The idea for the black box ought to be dropped down a black hole. There has to be a better way of raising revenue to maintain public roads than putting every motorist in the country under government surveillance.

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