Save the Wales?

April 2024 Forums General discussion Save the Wales?

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    So, there is controversy abounding that Whales intends to introduce a 20 mph speed limit by default in all urban areas. “From 17th September, in areas across Wales where you see streetlights, you should assume that the speed limit is 20mph – unless there are signs saying otherwise.”

    The argument is that it will prevent accidents, and save lives, a quick look for figures suggests 1200-2000 casualties and 6-10 lives per year, all for the light cost of adding about five minutes to the average journey time.

    So, as with the Ulez controversy, there is a vocal opposition to the policy (but the Welsh government can claim a democratic mandate, as could Khan, since it was in their manifesto). Like the smoking in pubs ban, this will undoubtedly save lives: my question is, how would we deal with such problems in socialism? Obviously, we’d not reach for the authoritarian tool of men with clubs and fines: but, given a need to have rules that enjoy support, what to do when a recalcitrant minority refuse to abide?


    In the London borough where I live the local council have introduced this. Before they did they carried out a consultation, which showed more were against than for (“opinion was split among the nearly 10,000 respondents on whether to implement our 20mph proposal in its original form (47.9 per cent in favour and 49.7 per cent against)”. They still went ahead. I can’t see that happening in socialism.


    There is also this for the town and transport planners of the future to consider:


    I’m starting to see a lot of adverts for the recent (and universally ignored) change to the highway code that effectively turns all side streets into zebra crossings (pedestrians get priority over cars turning into a side road).

    Now, this change was made by the highways agency, and I’d imagine that agency would continue to exist into a socialist society (or something very like it). I doubt we would vote on such changes to highway codes, though we would expect some sort of consultative process (I don’t recall one, though for this)…I’d expect in this sort of case we’d leave the agency to get on with it most of the time, and wait for a clamour to greet and change anything objectionable…


    I can see an objection already if it applies to cars (and bikes?) turning right as well as left into a side street (or the other way round for those not living in Japan, Indonesia or the old British Empire). The driver has to concentrate on looking out for oncoming vehicles from their left and not on whether or not a pedestrian is trying to cross the side road.

    I look forward to raising this objection when socialism is established.


    So they have actually gone and done it. It is now illegal to drive at more than 20 mph in a built-up area in Wales. Of course people are not going to respect it but will continue to drive in such areas at a speed between 20 and 30 if there is not too much traffic about and you don’t need a law to tell people not to drive fast pass a school or a hospital.

    This hare-brained regulation seems to have been concocted by some desk-bound bureaucrat who has obviously never tried to drive a modern car at 20 mph all the time. Of course it could just be a revenue-raising scheme.

    One of the measures that will hopefully be rescinded when we get socialism, if not before.


    Arguably in a socialist society traffic would be nowhere as near as bad as it is now. Life would be less frenetic. Built-up areas might be a lot less busy. Much more use would be made of ‘public’ (i.e. communal) transport. Instead of multiple cars parked outside every home and on every street doing nothing most of the time there would presumably be local car pools and more taxi-like services.
    That’s not to say loonies wouldn’t still exist who liked to travel at irresponsible speeds and generally make nuisances of themselves. In fact with no threat of imprisonment or a fine, this small minority of prats might increase in number.


    “Obviously, we’d not reach for the authoritarian tool of men with clubs and fines: but, given a need to have rules that enjoy support, what to do when a recalcitrant minority refuse to abide?”

    I’m guessing that some might not like to hear it, but socialism – like every human society – would have to feature some form of coercion. The reason being that not everyone will choose to go along with the rules all the time, and as the example of irresponsible (and potentially fatal) driving shows, the community would sometimes need to take coercive action to protect itself from such people.

    The difference being that in socialism the coercive forces wouldn’t take the form of a special body above society in general and would instead be democratically accountable to it. This could, in extreme cases, involve (delegated, accountable and recallable) “men with clubs”, but given that such bodies would not be in a permanent position above society (like a standing army or a police force), I don’t think such actions would be “authoritarian”.


    I wouldn’t have thought socialist society would need “men (or women) with clubs” to deal with traffic offences. A simpler solution would be to take away or suspend the offending driver’s licence. As cars would not be owned by individuals but either lent to them or made available to them by a community garage when needed, in both cases on proof of a valid driving licence, a person without a licence would not be able to get a car to drive.


    “I wouldn’t have thought socialist society would need “men (or women) with clubs” to deal with traffic offences.”

    You might think that, but then you’ve never seen my driving!

    Seriously though, removing a licence would be on the spectrum of what could be considered “coercion”.


    I’d like to think that socialist humanity could find a solution to disputes different to the manner in which dogs resolve their disputes over the ownership of a bone.

    At present politics is depressingly about ratting on rivals to teacher ‘surely XXXX can’t be allowed to do that’ and in a socialist society we’d rely on freedom and responsibility: with no group able to claim a monopoly of violence.

    When I read Graeber and Wengrow’s ‘Dawn of everything’ I found their account of early anarchic cities a fascinating thought experiment: how could a group of humans without a central authority build a city, but fi they can, it must depend upon resolving disputes, and maybe resolving them without resort to force (and, maybe, sometimes living with being unable to resolve them because of one recalcitrant individual).

    I suspect that dispute in socialism about driving speed would be resolved through long debates, late into the night, because we’d have the time to care about such things: or it’d be settled, and noone would dispute them.

    And, just because ALB loves this article so much: The Pace that Kills


    Or they could be offered to go on a speed awareness course as an alternative. . .

    In fact I don’t see why the whole system of penalty points, etc couple not be retained. No need to re-invent the wheel. Not in other matters too.

    After all, we are not designing an ideal new social system from scratch but are proposing a practical solution to the problems generated by society, where it is now at its present stage of technological development, being organised on a capitalist basis (minority ownership and production for sake and profit).


    “I’d like to think that socialist humanity could find a solution to disputes different to the manner in which dogs resolve their disputes over the ownership of a bone.”

    The dogs fighting over a bone is a case of domination.

    A democratic and cooperative republic deciding upon rules and enforcing sanctions isn’t. Since those who face the sanctions are also a part of the rule-making body.

    Socialism won’t be a Smurfland where everyone agrees and nobody goes against decisions already made. It doesn’t need to be. All that is required is that the means of making the rules, and the means of enforcing them, are carried out by the whole of the society – not some special elite that rules from above.

    But before we even get to the stage of rules and enforcing them, people’s behaviour is shaped by the norms of their society. As socialism has eliminated market competition between people, and as it requires a co-operative and non-dominating ethos to operate, we can expect this form of social pressure to shape how people act. Trying to be the big man or the boss would be frowned upon and ridiculed – the opposite of what occurs today.

    I don’t know how useful Graeber is all of this. Probably anthropologists like Christoper Boehm (who was mentioned in this review of the latest Graeber book ) and neo-republicans like Philip Pettit and Quentin Skinner have more useful things to say.


    Of course, there were two reviews of that book in that issue. The key point is that urbanism did not require domination, nor did ‘the state’ arise from concentrated population.

    I didn’t suggest it would be “smurf land where everyone agrees”, but, rather, that in cases of conflict it would involve prolonged discussion, debate and attempts at consensus, rather than one side (even a majority) being able to simply enforce its will by force.


    “And who will enforce these ‘matters’”

    Those that have been mandated and delegated to do it. There’s no great mystery to it.

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