Thursday, May 10, 2012

John Stossel: Give Me Liberty AND Give Me Death

John Stossel is chafing under the brutal, authoritarian yoke of his seat-belt and shoulder harness, which confines him like a particularly unsexy form of Japanese Rope Bondage.
 The folly of seat-belt mandates

A child leaving home alone for the first time takes a risk. So does the entrepreneur who opens a new business. I no more want government to prevent us from doing these things than I want it to keep us in padded cells. 

"Nor do I want it to make us wear seat-belts, because that's the moral equivalent of being wrestled into a straight-jacket by a couple of the more brutal orderlies from Shock Corridor, or The Snake Pit, or Harvey."
Everyone has a different tolerance for risk. One person takes out a second mortgage to start a business. Another thinks that sounds nerve-racking, if not insane. Neither person is wrong. Government cannot know each person’s preferences, or odds of success.
Some people prefer to be secured by passive restraints during a head-on collision, while others prefer to be launched through the windshield like a pebble from a Wrist-Rocket.  The former are more risk adverse, which you why you so rarely see crash-test dummies managing hedge funds.
Even if it did, what right does it have to tell them what to do?
Instead, they should listen to John Stossel, who will encourage them to drive without a selt-belt, because he knows that you don't get liberty without death.  In fact, if most of the people you know and love aren't dying in automobile accidents, burning alive due to faulty wiring, succumbing to the toxic side effects of untested drugs, or keeling over due to botulism or salmonella, that's a good sign that you're probably living under a totalitarian dictatorship.  Basically, John is the new, if somewhat less efficient Jack Kevorkian -- providing assisted suicide through bad advice. 
As I document in my new book, “No, They Can’t: Why Government Fails – but Individuals Succeed,” when government gets in the business of deciding which risks are acceptable and which aren’t, nasty things happen.
These are decisions which are best left to corporations, since they're people.  Unlike the government, which I believe is staffed mostly by Skrulls, and Hummel figurines.
This includes government’s attempt to improve life by regulating gambling and the use of medicine, banning recreational drugs and mandating safety devices in cars.
I'm glad I took the time to read John's column, because if you'd asked me yesterday, "which is worse for you -- seat-belts or heroin?" I probably would have piped up with the wrong answer.
In what sense are we free if we can’t decide such things for ourselves?
Who's to say that Thalidomide wouldn't make for a delicious non-dairy creamer?
Through the Food and Drug Administration, the government claims to protect us. But some people suffer because of that protection: Some die waiting for drugs to be approved.
Thanks to the FDA, you don't enjoy the same right your great-grandfather had to eschew "doctors" and "pharmacists," and treat your diabetes with a patented suspension of laudanum, grain alcohol, and catarrh snuff that you bought off the back of a mule-drawn wagon.
Don’t we own our own bodies? Why, in a supposedly free country, do Americans, even when dying, meekly stand aside and let the state limit our choices?
I want to die in a fiery Zeppelin explosion, but the FAA is all up in my face about it.
The Drug Enforcement Administration jails pain-management doctors who prescribe quantities of painkillers the DEA considers “inappropriate.” It’s true that some people harm themselves with Vicodin and OxyContin, but it’s hard for doctors to separate “recreational” users from people really in pain.
...or those who just have a really successful talk radio show.
After the DEA jailed doctors, some pain specialists began to under-prescribe. The website of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons warns doctors: Don’t go into pain management. “Drug agents now set medical standards. … There could be years of harassment and legal fees.” Today, even old people in nursing homes sometimes don’t get pain relief they need.
I hate to agree with John, but that actually is a genuine problem in this country.  Let's alleviate their suffering by cutting the seat-belts out of the nursing home activity van.
Even the best safety regulations have unexpected costs. Seat belts save 15,000 lives a year, but it’s possible that they kill more people than they save.
This possibility becomes even more likely when you realize that many seat-belts moonlight as hit men for Mexican drug cartels.
University of Chicago economist Sam Peltzman argues that increased safety features on cars have the ironic effect of encouraging people to drive more recklessly. It’s called the Peltzman Effect – a variation on what insurance experts call “moral hazard.” Studies show that people drive faster when they are snugly enclosed in seat belts.
On the other hand, my made-up studies show that people who drive recklessly do so because they're stupid and don't believe they'll get in a crash, and are only wearing their belt because they hate that beeping noise it makes when don't put it on.  I guess to settle this we'll need a double-blind test using deaf people.
Also, while passengers were less likely to die, there were more accidents and more pedestrians were hit.
Trust Jim Treacher to throw off the grading curve.
Perhaps the best safety device would be a spike mounted on the steering wheel – pointed right at the driver’s chest.
Actually, Henry Ford already tried that:
Model T Steering Wheel.  If you're of average height and lean forward, that nut fits rather neatly into your sternum.
There’s another reason to think seat belt laws have been counterproductive. Before government made seat belts mandatory, several automakers offered them as options. Volvo ran ads touting seat belts, laminated glass, padded dashboards, etc., as the sort of things that responsible parents should want. I concede that government action expanded seat belt use faster than would have otherwise happened, but by interfering with the market, government also stifled innovation. That kills people.
Well, as John says, seat-belts save 15,000 lives a year, and they've been mandatory in the U.S. since 1984 (making it a little surprising that Stossel continues to argue against them, but then, he's still bitching about the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906), so that's over a quarter million people who otherwise would have died a gruesome death on the highway. But we should, in all fairness, compare that to the millions of people in Stossel's head who were killed by the lack of Super Belts that the Invisible Hand of the Market might have installed in cars if the government hadn't decided to treat safety belts as safety equipment, instead of an expression of corporate altruism, like that United Way jar on the receptionist's desk.

I bet if those nannies at the DoT didn't require bumpers, cars would have their own Star Trek-like shields by now.
Of course, even if seat-belts are mandated, that doesn't stop a company from making better passive restraints and building a marketing campaign around their superior safety record.  But the Invisible  Hand is moody, and if you get bossy with it it'll shout, "I hate you, I hate you!", lock itself in its room and play its music real loud.
Here’s my reasoning: The first government mandate created a standard for seat belts. That relieved auto companies of the need to compete on seat belt safety and comfort. Drivers and passengers haven’t benefitted from improvements competitive carmakers might have made.
I presume, from your reasoning, that a government mandate also required you to make that argument.
If every auto company were trying to invent a better belt, today, instead of one seat belt, I bet there’d be six, and all would be better and more comfortable than today’s standard.
Yes, we might have some sort of Cross Your Heart belt that would lift and separate and be comfortable to wear for 18 hours!  Also, if we really cared about clean air, we'd stop requiring smog equipment.
Because they would be more comfortable, more passengers would wear them. Over time, the free market in seat belts would save more lives.
And if not, it would certainly lead to more spectacular Drivers Ed films. So a win-win either way.
We don’t know what good things we might have if the heavy foot of government didn’t step in to limit our options.
Our seat-belts might have wings, like Stayfree Ultra Thin Maxi Pads.
In a free country, it should be up to adult individuals to make their own choices about risk. Patrick Henry didn’t say, “Give me safety, or give me death.”
I like to imagine him screaming it as he's thrown from an out of control Corvair.
Liberty is what America is supposed to be about.  
But defense contractors discovered there was more money in Death.
Let’s start treating people as though their bodies belong to them, not to a controlling and “protective” government.
Exactly.  Your body belongs to you.  And momentum.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

How dare the government tell us which side of the road to drive on! etc etc

Carl said...

Really? John Stossel, whose crappy shitty career in which he fantasized he'd become the next Geraldo Rivera but instead became the next....well, John Stossel...started out as a CONSUMER WATCHDOG, has come out against the very protections he wasted hours of television time whining about?

I started out by viewing the marketplace as a cruel place, where you need intervention by government and lawyers to protect people. But after watching the regulators work, I have come to believe that markets are magical and the best protectors of the consumer. It is my job to explain the beauties of the free market

I blame the aneurysm ticking in his skull.

joel hanes said...

Good god.

I remember before seatbelts.

I was twelve, delivering papers on my bike, heard a crash and by pedalling hard was first on the accident scene, where a young woman in a smaller car had T-boned the big car of the drunk who pulled out in front of her. The drunk was OK.

She really, really was not.

Anonymous said...

Wait, I thought bodily autonomy was bad, at least when it involves people who contain a uterus?
Maybe only men should be free from the terrifying scourge of seat belts. Baby Factories should be strapped in tight.

Cole said...

Are these people stupid; are they liars; or are they stupid liars?

Stossel is obviously one of these people, who also claim that if we don't tax rich people they will give away all their money to charity. They only bitch and moan about helping their fellow citizens now because they are MADE to do it by the Feds. Ask nicely and they'd go back to throwing nickels out of airships like back in the Gilded Age.

Same with churches, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

What would Mr. Stossel think of my first old (pre-belt) sport coupe? It had a Simpson racing harness installed and I used it. No accommodations for passengers. I wish I still had it, I'd offer Stossel-stache a ride and show him what freedom really meant.

Helmut Monotreme said...

"I wish I still had it, I'd offer Stossel-stache a ride and show him what freedom really meant."


Wasn't that essentially the plot of the movie "Death Proof"?

Sharon said...

I too remember the pre seatbelt days. You didn't have to be going fast to go through the windshield. At 50-60 mph you went through the windshield and kept going for a long long way. Toddlers would stand in the front seat and a quick stop sent THEM flying as well. And for drivers there was the ever present possibility of being impaled on the steering column.(Seen once, never forgotten.)
These days I always wear a seatbelt. Even my effing dog wears a safety harness. And John Stossel can take a long walk on a short pier. What a tool.

HMDK said...

John Stossel, consumer advocate?
Yeah, and the sun is a snowball.
Fuck, insane libertarians are worse than insane republicans.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Trust Jim Treacher to throw off the grading curve.

Lol!

Baron Elmo! (in the comments):

I dreamed I saw Jim Treacher last night,
Alive as you and me,
Says I, "Say Jim, what brings you here?"
"Obama eats dogs," said he,
"Obama eats dogs," said he.

~

Anonymous said...

Oooh, Stossel won't do what the Nanny State tells him, so there!
Aaaah, what a manly man (except for the pornstache).
Is that mandatory for all Big Boy wingers now?
Suezboo

KWillow said...

Treacher may not be old enough to remember WHY the law was enacted. Who paid for the horrible injuries caused by people smashing thru a windshield, or even "just" flying over the seats and down onto the floor? Public Hospitals, usually, since insurance was ALSO not mandatory.

Even small fender-benders could cause serious injuries. Back in the 70's a friend & I were rear-ended "gently" (the car behind maybe going 10 mph) at a stop sign. She was flung forward into the steering wheel smashing her glasses and really banging up her face & torso. I was wearing the lap seat belt so I whipsawed forward and then back, nearly snapping my neck because the car owner had removed the ... head rests? because he thought they were "ugly". Boy was I happy when the shoulder seat belts came on the market.

My brother bought an old Datsun Z, and one of his first actions was to install modern seat restraints.

I also remember how common it was for house fires to kill families, because no smoke alarms! And everybody smoked cigarettes and then, apparently, fell asleep and dropped the cig onto their highly flammable sofa or mattress. Seems a story about such fires was on the evening news every night.

Oh that Nanny-boo-boo state, mandating smoke alarms and fire-resistant furniture! Infringing on my right to burn down my house with kids & pets sleeping inside it!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I say LET John Stossel drive without a seat belt. One good accident--or maybe even a real hard stop--and another nutter gets the Darwin Award...

Anonymous said...

"In a free country, it should be up to adult individuals to make their own choices about risk." Yes, and clean up their bloodstain and strewn body parts after an accident -- oh, wait, the government does that !

I recall that seatbelt laws were introduced in the 1980s because the Feds required passive restraints in cars. Instead of installing air bags the auto companies lobbied to get states to impose mandatory seat belt laws. Thus the mandatory seat belt laws are the product of free enterprise buying the state legislatures !

Woodrowfan said...

so the government saying the car companies had to install seat belts stopped the car companies from inventing better seat belts??? That may be the most stupid thing I've read all week, and I just finished grading 100 undergraduate term papers! Johnny Boy here seems not to get the idea that the car companies STILL have the incentive to develop more comfortable, more effective, and, in fact, do. Or does he think the seat belts in his 2012 model car are just like the ones in his 1985 ride???

James R MacLean said...

Also, Stossel ignores the research conducted by private insurance companies on this. Believe it or not, they have a commercial interest ingetting to the bottom of this. Google "risk homeostassis" and find out that the Peltzman Effect is a repeatedly-debunked urban legend.

And Stossel is an LSOS.

Carl said...

@Joel, et al

I once was less than methodical about wearing a seat belt, until I had a head-on with a K-rail center divider pn a New Jersey highway. I hit the wall at nearly 50 miles per hour, broke the steering wheel off with my hands and left a nifty dome in my windshield.

When I realized I had about three or four mph leeway before I ended up a red smear on a road, I started religiously wearing my seat belt.

The Federal government made the passive restraint laws for auto companies but it was the states who required them in use, because the Feds would withhold highway funds. While that''s still a government rule and Stossell is making hay of it, his column is disingenuous on this point

Stacia said...

Shock Corridor, or The Snake Pit, or Harvey

Best. Triple. Ever.

I can't imagine why anyone would complain about safety regulations that have been proven beyond doubt to prevent deaths unless they were just wanting attention. Geraldo Lite (tm) must be lonely lately. So lonely.

D. Sidhe said...

Shorter Porn Stache Stossel: My tolerance for risk includes going head first through a windshield and spilling my brains on the pavement, but not paying a fine if I'm caught not wearing a seatbelt.

He's not a poor man. You don't want to wear a fucking seatbelt, don't wear a fucking seatbelt. You can afford the fine, just consider it another risk, part of the thrill of defying the law. Fight the power!

I get the impression that the first draft of everything Stossel's ever written was "X is for pussies".

Jay B. said...

I concede that government action expanded seat belt use faster than would have otherwise happened, but by interfering with the market, government also stifled innovation. That kills people.

I'm working on an app that will murder John Stossel in his sleep. Is he in favor of it, or against it? I could sell millions of these apps...Or is he just some kind of statist pussy who'll sap innovation from the market?

Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

Hey, anyone remember this brave anti-seatbelt rebel?

Anntichrist S. Coulter said...

Wrong post, I know, but I wanted y'all to see this anyway:

Fucking Google motherfuckers, murdering my comment. Perhaps my last night in NOLA ever, wish I'd met you sooner, Suttree, and thank all of y'all for sticking with me through the hardest times of my life. There was more but the "accidental" deletion of my comment has blown it away like my money and meds have been stolen from me, all whilst trusting a stupid mofo from JERSEY to help me find an apartment. I leave tomorrow, if I've got the gas money, to head up to the 9th sigmoid colon of HELL, aka the Fallen Uterus' Incest/Baby-Rape Ranch, where her no-neck rapist fucktard rules the roost. Sorry to be a bummer, yet again, but them's the breaks when you've been illegally fucked out of ALLEGEDLY FEDERALLY-MANDATED SUBSIDIZED HOUSING, and can't find SHIT-ALL ELSE that you can actually AFFORD. Tried a nice rooming house w/no elevator today, but she wanted $400/mo., which wouldn't let me keep paying for my storage unit or my truck insurance. How I'll get back on the 18th for the dr. appt. or the 26th for bullshit traffic court, I dunno, but I'll figure shit out.

I'll always miss the New Orleans that we all lost, but it sure as hell ain't HERE no more, that's for damned sure. Racism rules the roost, along with sexism, breederism, and cult-freak fanaticism. "Community values," they call that shit. Suck a communal fart outta my ass.

But most of all, the bestest Crappers of them all, I love y'all and I won't be disappearing from HERE, no matter what. And fuck Stossel sideways with his moustache in rusty hepatitis, the idiot fucktard.

Christopher said...

"That relieved auto companies of the need to compete on seat belt safety and comfort. Drivers and passengers haven’t benefitted from improvements competitive carmakers might have made."

That's a nice story, but here on the planet I live on (We natives call it "Urth") they tell a second story, one where auto companies take a good look at things, decide "seatbelt comfort and safety" are low on the list of things customers want, and direct their money towards flashier, non-safety improvements.

It's always fascinating to me how, in politics, dogma can override the evidence of your own senses. Stossel surely must be familiar with at least one useful product that was either discontinued or never found investors in the first place.

It's kind of like people who complain about bureaucrats being put in charge of our health care decisions, even though most of them must've dealt with health insurance.

Snarl said...

Just noting Stossel quotes that eminently reliable scholarly outfit, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. In fact it's a bunch of rightwing loons, founded by a member of the John Birch Society and dedicated to fighting "socialized medicine."

TBP said...

As I commented over there, leaving aside the issue of whether or not seat belt use should be mandatory, what in the world is potential benefit that justifies the risk of not wearing a seat belt? We do risk/benefit analyses all the time, both consciously and unconsciously (is the benefit of going to work to earn a living, or going to the movie, or shopping, or out to dinner, worth the small but non-zero risk of being killed in a traffic accident on the way, would be one that we make unconsciously all the time, but we might make a more conscious analysis about going out in really bad weather). I don't see that anyone over there has articulated what such a benefit might be in the first place, let alone how said benefit outweighs the risk.

Kip W said...

Stossel's got a good point about the recreational drugs. Obama's less than stellar on pot, so maybe it's time to throw in for the otherwise totally shit Republican for an ounce of relief, and...

Oh.

Shit.

There's really no reason for anybody to vote for Mutt, is there?

D. Sidhe said...

Annti, I love you, and I'm really hoping things get better. Maybe you and Jay can collaborate on his ap idea. Personally, I'd like to see someone hold Stossel down and shave him and get him to admit he's just jealous of Geraldo Rivera.

TBP: Well, shoulder belts are a pain if you have big boobs. They can constrict every time you breathe out, and you end up feeling like you're being hugged by an anaconda. A fat ass can cause similar problems. My solution is to wait till the car has stopped and release and rebelt myself. But, I have big boobs, surgery notwithstanding, and I've always worn a seatbelt, long before it became mandatory.

I assume there's no similar upside for a guy like Stossel, who simply is a big boob and an asshole.

HMDK, check out FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, not the horrible racist rag. They have a whole section on How John Stossel Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love The Invisible Hand. Or, google Stossel and "can of peas".

He really is a tool. I suspect he litters, too.

Anntichrist S. Coulter said...

I love you, too, D. --- but I haven't written code since BASIC, so I doubt that I'd be much help there.

XOXOXOX

StickIt said...

"Liberty is what America is supposed to be about.

But defense contractors discovered there was more money in Death."

OK, you HAVE to make that into a Cafe Press bumper sticker. I would TOTALLY buy one.

Anntichrist S. Coulter said...

Screw Cafe Press, go to StickerJunkie.com!

Jaime said...

As usual the liberals among us fail to understand what conservative positions are as evidenced by the insane hubris in the comments that oppose them. While there are a couple of mildly clever statements in the writers ranting it is little more than parroting typical liberal propaganda. I would offer a retort, but there is too much to detail to people who are obviously not open-minded enough to understand it.

Scott said...

So your rhetorical brilliance is exceeded only by your laziness? Ah, what might have been...