08 December 2010

Human life

Measured in dollars

$20 million per life seem about right to you? And this amount is a generous one, operating on the assumption that the government's estimates of lives saved is an accurate one, an assumption I would be hesitant to make. Of course the estimate does not include the cost of maiming or serious injuries either, which are more numerous, but it's the deaths that attract the legislators.

Meanwhile, this is just one such policy....

I'm pretty sure that a couple hundred dollars per car could be put to better use to save (or improve) far more lives by the automobile companies themselves, through the design of the car or even by increasing fuel economy. If they feel that this safety feature is worthwhile, then they've already included it on the car, or charged consumers an extra fee for it such that they (consumers) feel it worthwhile. Regulatory compliance becomes superfluous next to the power of markets to assess costs and benefits.

DOT is already not high on my list of sensible cabinet positions (in fact it's one of several I'd consider abolishing entirely), but LaHood is pushing past the boundaries of sanity almost every time I've seen a policy emerge.

As for the annoying fact (some have called it psychotic) that we're putting a price on lives, if we're going to use government power to regulate products and services then there are economic trade-offs and measurable costs and benefits of such regulations involved such that we have to put a ceiling on lives somewhere. That amount is almost certainly less than $20 million dollars, no matter how invaluable we perceive the lives of those we care most about to be.
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