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As a long-time SoCal boy, I have watched my former state’s efforts to get off the economic schneid with considerable interest. Yet no amount of concern for the Golden State’s finances can make me think of this suggestion as a good idea:

The California Legislature is considering a bill that would allow the state to begin researching the use of electronic license plates for vehicles. The move is intended as a moneymaker for a state facing a $19 billion deficit.

The device would mimic a standard license plate when the vehicle is in motion but would switch to digital ads or other messages when it is stopped for more than four seconds, whether in traffic or at a red light. The license plate number would remain visible at all times in some section of the screen.

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The LA Times’ story points out that the plates could also be used for such altruistic purposes as broadcasting Amber Alerts or passing on traffic information. But offering nothing more than a 4-second window before some irritating digital advertising pops up in the overheated faces of millions of disgruntled “Stuck in 2+ Hours of LA Traffic for My Daily Commute” drivers seems imprudent. It’s also far too Minority Report-esque for my tastes. We live in a seething morass of advertising as it is. Can’t we leave a tiny 4″ x 7″ space in our lives free of advertisement?

Still, the whole idea seems less imprudent than putting the California DMV in charge — talk about begging for trouble. That’s almost as patently absurd as someone suggesting that we put the Internal Revenue Service in charge of health care reform.

Wait. We did what?

  • Joseph Susanka

    Joseph Susanka has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. Currently residing in Lander, Wyoming — “where Stetsons meet Birkenstocks” — he is a columnist for Crisis Magazine and the Patheos Catholic portal.

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