I enjoyed Mr. Orlet’s article, but would disagree with him on a fundamental point. While it is true that there are “safety Nazis” out there sucking the fun out of life, most of the safety regulations he points out (smoking bans, seat belts, air bags, etc…) are driven by a combination of simple economic logic and the fact that we are an exceptionally charitable nation. And, in economic terms, there is a price for everything, including charity.
As Mr. Orlet points out, people who engage in reckless activities are pinheads. But that does not stop us from indulging in our generous nature and offering these pinheads care and aid after they have damaged themselves and the people around them.
When some pinhead inflicts terrible damage on himself, we do not allow “the herd to thin,” to use Mr. Orlet’s phrase. If some middle-aged guy going through a badly planned second childhood spins his overpowered motorcycle out on the shoulder of the highway, splitting his unprotected head open and ripping away his face, we rush him to the hospital and our medical system goes into overdrive to save him. Questions about insurance and cost are kept at bay while paramedics and then emergency room personnel do their best to save the pinhead. Maybe the victim has insurance, maybe not. Maybe, if he lives, some arrangement can be made for him to pay for the care. Given the disabilities that flow from a catastrophic accident, probably not. We, the taxpayers, pick up that tab. Given the state of modern medical economics, the public care that is extended to victims of catastrophic injuries is outrageously high.
The same story is played out for the teenage kid who is thrown from a car wreck because he didn’t buckle up. Or for the smaller child who ignores the well know local hillside used by all the other sledders and decides to show off by going down the steeper hill that has obstructions or traffic running nearby. Pinheads all, but they are our pinheads. Our sons and daughters, our friends and neighbors. Flawed and imperfect, but still people.
Even if we had the ability to step into a trauma room and make snap decisions on which accident is truly unavoidable and which is caused by a pinhead, should we just let those pinheads die? That would seem to be the logical response that Mr. Orlet is hinting at. The thing is, Americans are a compassionate people, its part of the religious values that readers of The American Spectator should understand. We do not turn our backs on people who are suffering.
But the cost of caring for those pinheads is excruciatingly high. Not just the paramedic response and the emergency room care, but also the long term, sometimes life long, medical expenses that come after an accident. And in a pure economic analysis, you have to add in the additional cost to society at large since a severely injured person may no longer be able to work to his full ability.
And let’s consider the legal costs. Everyone gripes about the high amounts awarded in personal injury suits, but where do that awards come from? A lawyer may ask for a certain amount, but what is finally given is decided by a jury. Once again, you see the basically generous nature of Americans. Juries are made up of ordinary people, and most people are able to recognize pinheads when they see them. But the battered, pathetic pinhead who sits in the courtroom, surrounded by grieving family and looking forward to a life of pain and misery, draws on the sympathy of the jury. In most personal injury cases, I believe that juries are less interested in blaming someone and more interested in being charitable to the injured party. Is that wrong? Yes, in a purely legal sense, it is. But since huge personal injury awards are common, I think that we are seeing a very stubborn American trait (charity) in action there. A trait which will not be changed by tort reform.
Safety regulations are a logical attempt to control both the legal and medical expenses. The regulations are essentially the cost we pay for being generous to pinheads. Do some of the regulations go too far? Sure. No question. But regulations are not perfect. They can’t be, since regulations are created by people and we are intrinsically imperfect beings.
I do think that Mr. Orlet goes too far in the article when repeating the claim that air bags kill. Have there been deaths from air bags? Yes, including the tragic deaths of small children. But the question should be: Do air bags save more lives than they kill? By simply repeating that air bags kill, without examining the whole question, Mr. Orlet is engaging in the same kind of hysteria that he accuses the safety Nazis of propagating.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?