This week's stupid idea, British edition

The London Telegraph is reporting today that the Department of Transport is proposing to impose a strict 20-mph speed limit on "residential roads and near schools." Quoth a department spokesman: "We are trying to get the balance right between motorists and everyone else and this is a way of reminding local authorities that they have got these powers and they should use them." I shouldn't think that local authorities needed much reminding on that score. In Britain, as in the United States, "local authorities" like nothing better than sticking their collective noses into the everyday life of ordinary citizens, chivvying them with ever more intrusive rules and regulations, backed up by the coercive power of the state. In the case of the proposed new speed limits, enforcement will be aided by the nearly ubiquitous surveillance cameras deployed nearly everywhere in Britain these days. (On which subject let me recommend Ross Clark's sobering book The Road to Big Brother: One Man's Struggle Against the Surveillance Society, published later this month by Encounter Books.) Like many proposals formulated by the bureaucratic soft-totalitarians that rule over us these days, the 20-miles-an-hour law strikes one alternately as amusingly absurd and downright sinister. The sinister side, I hope, does not require elaboration. The amusing side may be slightly less obvious. It reveals itself in such observations as this:

"Research has found that pedestrians hit by a vehicle at 20mph have a greater chance of survival. Only one in 40 dies at 20mph, compared with one in five at 30mph."