Jonathan Zimmerman: Curse of the Traffic Courts
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history at New York University and lives in Narberth. He is the author of "Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory" (Yale University Press). He can be reached at email@example.com.
'Americans have made the worst botch of government in the recorded history of the world." So declared Harvard president Charles W. Eliot in 1910, citing "the daily report of automobile accidents" in the country. He concluded, "In no other civilized land could you find such a record of official incompetence or indifference."
The solution was a new institution, the traffic court - which in turn brought new forms of incompetence and indifference. Witness the recent report on Philadelphia's Traffic Court, which found "two tracks of justice": one for the connected and the other for everyone else.
In the dance of dishonesty, though, it takes two to tango: You can't have crooked officials without citizens who sway them from the straight and narrow. For almost a century, Americans have bribed, begged, and wheedled their way out of traffic tickets. People who never think of evading other kinds of justice will eagerly do so when their automobiles are involved....
comments powered by Disqus
- Harvard acquires Thoreau's notes on the death of Margaret Fuller
- It’s a national historic site, but hardly anybody visits the Idaho internment camp where thousands of Japanese Americans were incarcerated in WW II
- Big-time Hollywood director makes a movie about Stonewall
- HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later
- A salute lost to history
- Richard Rothstein says government policy created ghettos
- The Islamic historian who can explain why some states fail and others succeed
- High school senior credited with debunking book by Professor Richard Jensen
- Historians at loggerheads over the AP standards
- Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems