Government doesn’t want you to go and git thinkin’. Leave that to the “experts.”
Meet Mats Järlström, the man who was fined for doing math without a license.
As Reason reported earlier this year, Järlström’s wife was issued a citation in May 2013 after a red light camera in Beaverton, Oregon, caught her clearing an intersection a tenth of a second late. That small amount of time made Järlström—an electrical engineer by training—curious. He started researching traffic light timing in the city.
What he found suggested to him that there was a problem with the mathematical formula that Beaverton was using to time its yellow lights. He tried to bring his research to the city council but was repeatedly rebuffed. Next he brought it to the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying. Instead of investigating his claims, the board investigated Järlström. In 2016 the state fined him for daring to call himself an engineer. (Järlström had formal engineering training in his native Sweden and runs his own equipment calibration business, but he does not hold an Oregon engineering license.)
A lengthy (and ongoing) court battle ensued between Järlström, who believes he has a First Amendment right to promote his theory, and the Board of Engineering, which believes Järlström has the rights they say he does. Throughout this process, the board has used the threat of further fines to keep Järlström from publicly discussing his research. But on Tuesday, a federal judge granted an injunction against the board, preventing them from fining Järlström for talking while his court case grinds on.