Oregon fines man $500 for using math to challenge red-light cameras

Engineer Mats Järlström was fined $500 for openly criticizing red-light cameras in Oregon. His wife received a ticket, and he decided to take a stand.

Few things in this world are as universally despised as traffic cameras. After his wife received a ticket for tripping a red-light camera, Oregon resident Mats Järlström openly criticized the Orwellian devices and the mathematical formulas these cameras use. It seems Big Brother doesn't take too kindly to dissenters, as according to the Institute for Justice Järlström was fined $500 for violating a law that prohibits mathematical criticism without a license.

Free speech is a term that's often misconstrued. It's not some blanket to hide behind while spouting ridicule and hate to anyone and everyone. In the US, what free speech does protect is the right of a person to openly criticize the government, as Järlström was doing when he argued that the equation which governs the traffic light timers was out of date. After being fined, Järlström filed a lawsuit against the ban on mathematical debate.

The actual fine was for Järlström calling himself a "professional engineer." The thing is, Järlström does have a degree in electrical engineering, though he doesn't carry a state license. In Oregon's eyes, that doesn't make him a real engineer. Järlström's initial issue was that the green-yellow-red progression was too short for lights with a left or right turn. Using his engineering expertise, he began to criticize the math equation that governs this timing, hence the fine.

Järlström and the Institute for Justice claim these licensing boards violate free speech by fining those who criticize both the boards and the government agencies behind things like traffic cameras. A lawyer for the Institute for Justice makes the point that you don't need to be a licensed lawyer to write an article disagreeing with a Supreme Court decision. Free speech, whether used to challenge Supreme Court decisions or traffic cameras, is a fundamental freedom granted by US Constitution.

And it's also no stretch to say that using mathematics is a fundamental human right - part of what actually makes us human. No law can take away our math.