An Austrian atheist has won the right to be shown on his driving-licence photo wearing a pasta strainer as “religious headgear”. Niko Alm first applied for the licence three years ago after reading that headgear was allowed in official pictures only for confessional reasons. Mr Alm said the sieve was a requirement of his religion, pastafarianism.
TAL Commentary: Pastafarianism? Really? From the BBC headline, you’d think this was a story in The Onion, but no. This kind of goofiness becomes reality when courts try to balance rights in the public sector. It’s another example of how government regulation causes political conflict. (See The Truth About Liberty, p. 47).
All resources are limited, and so rationing is inevitable. The only issue is how they will be rationed. When people demand the right to speak on public property, the rationing occurs in the office of a bureaucrat or in the courts, balancing the needs of various segments of the population. If you happen to be a member of a politically favored group, you get special treatment. If not, you lose.
That’s what happens when people fight about their pictures on a driver’s license. The government has secured a monopoly on licensing drivers, and so the photo specifications are set by political pressures. To determine what kind of pictures we’ll have on driver’s licenses, we have to engage in political conflict.
On private property, rationing occurs by pricing. If the private sector licensed (or “certified”) drivers, some certifiers would allow the driver to wear a pasta strainer on his head, and some would not. Or maybe the road manager would require certain specs in the photo, and if the driver didn’t like it, he’d have to drive on someone else’s roads. Or maybe the road manager’s insurer would make the decision.
In a free country, if Mr. Alm had a hard time finding a certifier to allow the pasta strainer during the photo shoot, he might have an entrepreneurial opportunity; he could start up a driver certification company for all the fringe wackos who wear pasta strainers. They might have to pay a premium, but their freedom would not be denied, and the taxpayer wouldn’t have to support it.
Freedom is a wonderful thing. I wish we had more of it, don’t you?