Do-Gooder organizations usually start out with the efforts of a few concerned citizens who recognize a problem and want to solve it. They go along for a while gaining attention and getting financial assistance through contributions from other citizens sympathetic to the cause of fixing something that seems broken. After a while the organization gets noticed and gains more and more followers, and financial contributions. Next comes political power when the organization is able to persuade law makers to sponsor legislation designed to address some specific matter the do-gooders care about.
At some point enough progress has been made so that by any reasonably objective standard it can be said that the original goal has been achieved, the problem is either solved or has become sufficiently engrained into the public consciousness that other forces have arisen to carry on the fight.
It is at this point, which might be called a tipping point, that fanaticism takes over the organization. The original organizers may have advanced reasonable concerns but the newfound notoriety of the entity attracts a new set of members who see it as a vehicle to satisfy their lust for political power and financial gain. Often the original boards of directors are ousted by the newcomers when they object to the radical new direction.
That is certainly the case with MADD. Originally meant to bring attention to the carnage caused by drunk drivers it has become a modern temperance movement with all the fanaticism of the first one. Originally intent on getting drunk drivers off the road it now exists to criminalize harmless social drinking and force convictions for innocent conduct. The collateral consequences for those unlucky ones caught in the trap can be heinous, resulting in thousands of dollars of expense or lost income, as well as social stigma and loss of valuable freedoms.
Since no one is omniscient, attention focused in one direction necessarily detracts from focusing attention in another direction. We can’t concentrate on one thing without ignoring some other thing. MADD’s focus on prohibition through it’s campaign for lower and lower legal limits on blood alcohol levels necessarily diverts attention from the real problem of drunk driving. MADD has become the most financially and politically powerful special interest in the country and has successfully forced legislation to its liking on the entire country by getting Congress to impose uniform and unreasonable BAC levels on all states by threat of the loss of Federal highway funds.
This is the evolution of a do-gooder organization. It proceeds from logic, facts, and evidence to persuade others of the rightness of its cause to demagoguery and intimidation when the there is no longer any logic or evidence to support its position.
MADD uses intimidation in the same way race hustlers do. Just as one cannot criticize racial preferences in employment or education without being called a racist, one cannot criticize the thuggish tactics of MADD with being charged as supporting drunk driving. One is left to rely solely on the intelligence and fair mindedness of the reader to know it is a ridiculous charge.
I have long admired the writing of Eric Peters in Car and Driver and other publications. I think he gets to the heart of things with eloquent writing and has his facts straight. Please take a look at his latest effort on this subject from which I stole the title to this post: MADD Gets Madder.