The Overman Cuts People off in Traffic
Why late merging makes me better than other people
Every writer struggles with misanthropy to a greater or lesser extent, especially if they’re not some kind of leftist and don’t buy into egalitarian myths. Most of the time, I’m willing to accept that most people are small-minded and conformist as a kind of scientific observation that has limited emotional valence for me.
But seeing how people behave in traffic tends to be an exception to this rule. Often while driving, I’ll observe a situation where everyone crams into one lane in anticipation of either merging or taking a turn.
I always drive in the fastest lane I can get into and will not merge until it’s absolutely necessary. This is both the best choice for me as an individual, and the one that achieves the greatest good. There’s no reason to leave a perfectly good lane unused for long stretches of the road. When everyone crams into one or two lanes, traffic is at the mercy of the slowest drivers.
I’m often shocked by how early people merge. I’ve been in situations where, say, a lot of people have to turn left, but there are still two traffic lights until that moment. Of course, I stay in the right lane, and breeze through green lights as they turn red and watch with contempt the traffic next to me come to a complete stop. Why are people like this?
There are at least three possibilities. First, Early Mergers might be under the mistaken impression that they’re doing the pro-social thing. This could involve some kind of evil communist logic where the best system is one in which nobody gains too much of an advantage over anyone else, even if it makes the collective worse off. Or, they may simply be too lazy to calculate the ideal time to merge, and would rather just get it over with as quickly as possible, even if it costs them more time. Finally, drivers may be aware that they’re behaving illogically but simply worried about what others might think. An Early Merger could plausibly know that he should stay in the faster lane, but if he thinks other people don’t then he might fear looking bad in front of strangers. Some drivers might not let you through, but eventually someone does, so this generally isn’t a question of not being able to make the merge in time.
None of these hypotheses are flattering for normies. We can call them, respectively, the stupid, lazy, and cowardly (or conformist) theories of early merging. It appears that the vast majority of people are at least one of those things.
But I am not. I have the intellectual ability to know that I should not merge early, the energy to find the ideal time to cut someone off in traffic, and the moral courage to be the only one doing what I know is right. I not only get places faster, but I can go through life proud of the man I am.
An individual can have doubts about his own relative value as a human being. But in the end it really doesn’t take all that much to be better than other people. Most of them aren’t even trying. I think if I was hiring someone and wanted to test for non-conformity, I’d ask them to take a drive and see how they deal with lane mergers. This is one of the secrets of pick-up artists and why their methods can work. Most people are walking around barely alive – just putting the least bit of effort into self-improvement can make you stand out. Same with weight loss. Pretty much any diet anyone recommends will work as long as you can stick with it!
In addition to boosting one’s own self-esteem, understanding that most people are Early Mergers must have certain political and social implications. As a believer in markets and spontaneous order, I have to admit that it makes some kind of case for paternalism, given that people seem to for no good reason act in ways that are clearly harmful to both themselves and the rest of society. Traffic experts and journalists who have written on the topic recommend late merging, which makes the case for technocracy and against any kind of populism that would defer to the supposed wisdom of the masses. There’s too much of a tendency to only remember instances where experts appear to not know what they’re doing, but consider this a data point teaching the opposite lesson.
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