Creating a Risk-Free World

Let’s start treating people as though their bodies belong to them, not to a controlling and “protective” government.

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.

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.

Even if it did, what right does it have to tell them what to do?

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.

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.

In what sense are we free if we can’t decide such things for ourselves?

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.

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?

The Drug Enforcement Administration jails pain-management doctors who prescribe quantities of painkillers that 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. Some cancer patients need large amounts of painkillers.

After the DEA jailed doctors, some pain specialists began to underprescribe. 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.

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.

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.

Also, while passengers were less likely to die, there were more accidents and more pedestrians were hit.

Perhaps the best safety device would be a spike mounted on the steering wheel—pointed right at the driver’s chest.

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.

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  • sarcasmic||

    1ieth!

  • JoshSN||

    John asks "In what sense are we free" if we can't, for example, decide whether or not to wear safety belts in our cars?

    We are free to decide where to drive that car. Not how fast we can drive, not whether or not we go through any intersection whenever we want, not about the weight of the car, or the contents of its exhaust, but in where we can go. That's the relevant freedom, the freedom to drive where we want (except certain gated communities of the rich, private land, or restricted military areas).

    In the most important way, we are free.

  • R C Dean||

    Individual restrictions taken in isolation can be made to look trivial in the big scheme, but that's missing the point(s).

    Those restrictions don't exist in isolation, but as part of an enormous, looming mass of other restrictions.

    And each of those restrictions instantiates the mindset that no, you aren't free to make a great many decisions for yourself.

    You aren't free unless you are free to be wrong.

  • JoshSN||

    You aren't completely free because you can't travel faster than the speed of light, and gravity keeps most of us on the planet, and you get hungry, so can't get more than a few weeks away from food.

    You never will be completely free.

  • sarcasmic||

    That has to be one of the dumbest comments I have ever read.

  • anon||

    No way, Mary isn't around anymore.

  • ||

    Of course she is. She reads this site obsessively, still.

  • ||

    Well, they at least understand the basic concepts of the speed of light and something called gravity.

    You may laugh but how many OWSers even have a grasp of these things?

  • ||

    That has to be one of the dumbest comments I have ever read.

    You haven't read much of Josh's work on this site then. He seems to try on almost every outing for that title.

  • ||

    lol...

  • ||

    By this logic, the only free being is one that is omnipotent, omniscient, that exists out of time, and (trololo) doesn't want to act (since that would imply a less-than-perfect state of being requiring an altering of surrounding environment meaning- uh-oh- the being is constrained by environment!).

  • ||

    Oh, and also, the being would have to be able to circumvent causality because it can't be constrained by choices made in the past. I guess that might be solved by existing out of time, but that is neither here nor there.

  • Mo' $parky||

    I guess that might be solved by existing out of time, but that is neither here nor there.

    I see what you did there.

    Also, you're statements are starting to approach my state of being Alack. Best to drop it now before something untoward happens.

  • ||

    Sparky: I actually used this argument in a philosophy paper to talk about the irrelevance of a perfect God, arguing that if you're going to bother praying to something it would have to not be perfect to be able to influence events (unless it was omnibenevolent as well, in which case there wouldn't be a need for any praying in the first place).

    CATHOLIC SCHOOL!

  • ||

    What other conundrums are there...

    Oh, it would have to be non-physical, since that's a constraint, but it would necessarily be able to become physical, since that is a possible action and thus covered under the definition of omnipotence; whether it ceases to be omnipotent at such a point is debatable. Again, however, it would have no desire to become physical or do any other thing besides exist since motivation is a constraint. So it could influence events, would know how, and would be unwilling to do so. A perfectly "free" (although I'd say you're arguing more about power than freedom, though there is some overlap) being is thus shown to be useless to anyone.

  • Loki||

    In other words, only God is free.

  • ||

    More or less, although if that's true then God doesn't care about us since we're clearly in a non-perfect state of being. Omnibenevolence is off the table if God is both omnipotent and omniscient.

    Unless, of course, we do not exist in a temporal state and only believe we have memories, the exact present moment representing some step that God had taken to achieve omnipotence or omniscience. No reason why an omnibenevolent, perfect God wouldn't end suffering in the past after he became complete, so existence must be only this instant. QED, or something.

  • Mo' $parky||

    Omnibenevolence is off the table if God is both omnipotent and omniscient.

    I wouldn't be so sure of that. You seem to be leaving out the "God has a plan for us all" factor. Just because you think something was a tragedy doesn't mean that God does. Being Omnipotent, God is capable of having a bigger picture view than any human could hope to.

  • Mo' $parky||

    Also, your argument is humancentric. Realistically, an omnipotent, omniscient God would be the creator of the entire universe. The death of thousands of humans has no effect (or quite possibly a positive effect) on the entirety of the universe.

  • ||

    If God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, why didn't he make us so that we wouldn't think that good things on a God level are good things on a human level? The idea that he needs imperfect tools to create something implies a lack of omnipotence, so either he's not omnipotent or he doesn't care for our suffering and isn't omnibenevolent (he could still be benevolent though).

    Or, third option, none of this exists except in the briefest of instants that was needed to achieve perfect Godhood and none of our experiences are real in any permanent sense.

  • wareagle||

    why didn't he make us so that we wouldn't think that good things on a God level are good things on a human level?

    is that god or man interpreting god? Irrespective of any deity, man has two characteristics that no other living organism does: a conscience and free will.

    Regardless, Josh has been coming here the past few days to deliberately stir folks up. Meet the new troll, not much different from some of the old ones.

  • ||

    Why couldn't we have conscience, free will, and no desire to have negative actions (or else the willpower to suppress such desire)? If God wants a world where there is suffering and negativity, I can accept that; I can even accept that, since omnipotence is essentially ultimate will, free will could be necessary for man to achieve godhood of his own (perhaps that is the great good that God wants?). But the fact that everything exists (or appears to exist) in a causal environment with a temporal factor either means we exist in time, and thus God could not or would not create a perfect state of existence for all, or that causality and time are illusory constructs and we do not exist as we believe we do. If God wants us to have godhood we are either all gods now and our perceived reality doesn't exist, or else God is lacking omniscience, omnipotence, or omnibenevolence.

    But you're right, back on topic:
    FUCK OFF, SLAVER

  • Mo' $parky||

    You're still arguing from a humancentric point of view, which is understandable since you are (I think) human. The understanding capability of an omniscient being is so far above that of a human that it couldn't even be comprehended. The assumption that allowing suffering means not caring about suffering also doesn't stand. God could quite possibly care about the suffering of every minute living being in all of creation, but God understands that such suffering must exist. Do you cry out in pain when you get a haircut? Do you weep for the loss when you clip your fingernails? Do you mourn the loss of every flake of skin that shed from your body every day?

  • ||

    God could quite possibly care about the suffering of every minute living being in all of creation, but God understands that such suffering must exist.

    If he's omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient, then it doesn't have to exist; he knows how to make everyone feel better, and has the power and desire to do it, then he does it. The only thing that exists for Him would have to be what he desires to have exist if he is capable of making anything in any way that he wants. Anything less undermines the tri-omni basis of this definition of God.

    But, again, we should return to the heart of the matter, which is that JoshSN is a slaver, etc, etc.

  • Mo' $parky||

    The only thing that exists for Him would have to be what he desires to have exist if he is capable of making anything in any way that he wants.

    This is what I'm saying. Just because humans can't understand God's motives doesn't mean It (more accurate pronoun when describing God IMO) doesn't have them.

    But, again, we should return to the heart of the matter, which is that JoshSN is a slaver, etc, etc.

    Well I thought that was evident from his comments and didn't see any need to pile on the poor guy.

  • Loki||

    Ah theology threads. Almost as good as abortion threads...

    Or, third option, none of this exists except in the briefest of instants that was needed to achieve perfect Godhood and none of our experiences are real in any permanent sense.

    In a way isn't that kind of true? On a cosmological scale none of our lives, and indeed our entire species' existence is anything but a brief, infinitesimally small moment of time, and non of our exeriences or accomplishments are permanent in any way. "On a long enough timeline the survival rate of everyone goes to zero."

    As for God's omnibenelovence, personally I think it's quite possible that, if he does exist at all, he may not "care" about us. Or at least not in any way that we mere mortals would understand as "caring". Maybe that's the ultimate explanation of free will.

    Or maybe He cares about us so much that He doesn't interfere with anything we do or anything that happens to us, good or ill. We interpret that as God granting us "free will", but really He didn't "grant" us anything. He just leaves us alone to live our own lives. If only our government was as wise.

  • Loki||

    Oh, and also, fuck you JoshSN, you slaver troll.

    There, back on topic.

  • Mo' $parky||

    Loki, that's another way of saying what I was trying to get across. Given the entire universe, who is to know that human suffering doesn't actually better all of Creation?

  • BakedPenguin||

    We are free to decide where to drive that car.

    Unless you decide to drive within 100 miles of the border. Or unless a police officer feels that you are not driving properly, or that you look scruffy or over melaninized. Or if you drive to a part of town where they don't think you "belong". etc. etc.

  • Pro Libertate||

    At least I'm free to think anyway I want. That's all we really need, right?

  • anon||

    Don't worry, they're working on fixing that bug.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Free to obey or die?

  • anon||

    Hah! Like they'd give you that choice.

  • ||

    Obeying incorrectly is a hate crime.

  • sarcasmic||

    As long as you keep it to yourself.
    Voicing certain thoughts can land you in prison.

  • JoshSN||

    >> We are free to decide where to drive that car.

    > Unless you decide to drive within 100 miles of the border.

    Really? Once you drive within 100 miles of the border you are no longer free to travel where you want?

    I think all you mean is, within 100 miles of a border, you might have to stop for more than just a red light.

    If you happen to be one of those people who believes stoplights are a gross, unconstitutional usurpation of individual liberty, then, fine, you are consistent.

  • Mo' $parky||

    Pssst, you forgot to add "If you have nothing to hide..."

  • ||

    Consistent it is!

  • anon||

    Never had a "random search" of your shit at a border crossing I see.

  • JoshSN||

    The random search near a border crossing is a problem.

    However, it's consistent with the Westphalian framework in which modern states exist. No one has the right to send stuff into your country. It's similar to you having the right to inspect people's bags before they enter your house, or to inspect people's bags after they enter, but as a precondition for staying, without being trespassers.

    It would be better if the inspections were at the border, but, instead, they push them inwards, catching people who weren't crossing the border.

  • T o n y||

    Why can't car manufacturers compete on seat belt comfort even in an environment of seat belt mandates? I don't get it. Government sets the minimum standard for a social purpose, such as saving lives, which is a measurable thing. That does not do anything to stifle the market mechanism. Markets always exist in some environment, including a regulatory environment.

  • sarcasmic||

    Why can't car manufacturers compete on seat belt comfort even in an environment of seat belt mandates? I don't get it.

    Because the moment someone gets hurt in an accident while wearing a seat belt design that is not the one explicitly mandated/approved by the government, trial lawyers will swoop in and bleed the company dry.
    Best to not take the risk.

  • ||

    Ding ding ding!

  • anon||

    Slightly off-topic:

    Certain manufacturers add seat belt reminder equipment to boost their safety numbers, such as cutting the radio off after a period of time or an incessant seat belt reminder chime.

    They do this of their own free will; they do it because having a reputation as a safer vehicle helps sell more vehicles, not because the government mandated it.

  • sarcasmic||

    Do a little googling and you'll discover that the reminders are indeed mandated by the government.

  • anon||

    The light is, but stuff like cutting the radio out isn't I believe.

    I probably drive 7 different cars a day, and I can assure you that not all brands have the same type of reminder equipment. Not even the same manufacturers are consistent.

    Hell, one Honda I was in recently wouldn't let me access the nav system without the seat belt buckled.

  • sarcasmic||

    There is a minimum standard required by law. I suspect that the rest of it is cya or catering to standards in other countries.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "Markets always exist in some environment, including a regulatory environment"

    Just pisses you off, doesn't it, Tony?

  • NotSure||

    Why not go ahead and do it then, sell these comfortable seat belts, perhaps you will realise then that there is no market for these things in the real world.

  • Muad'Dib||

    Minimum standards quickly become the maximum. It is not a simplistic argument to make. Decision fatigue and the need to have others vet information thus freeing you to contemplate other more pertinent decisions. Take local housing codes for instance. What incentive does a real estate developer have to build houses any more than perhaps a marginal amount above code? This, combined with tort laws as some have mentioned, is repeated everywhere look to the USDA stamp of approval, FDA, etc.

  • R C Dean||

    Why can't car manufacturers compete on seat belt comfort even in an environment of seat belt mandates?

    You tell me. Be sure to comply with the following:

    http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules.....eg=571.209

  • The Other Kevin||

    Based on that, I'm surprised they're even allowed to make them in different colors.

    Yep, the market mechanism sure does thrive in this type of environment.

  • sarcasmic||

    The regulations even go so far as to specify how much the color is allowed to fade after exposure to light.

    What the fuck business does the government have dictating color fastness in seat belts?

    I guess if you're a regulator you better regulate down to every detail to justify your employment, right?

  • The Other Kevin||

    This illustrates a point very well. I think most people who are in favor of "more regulations" think they are simple. Like, "all cars should have seat belts." But in reality, government regulations look like this. If the regulations for seat belts are this complicated and detailed, what do you think the ones for banks, health care, and energy production look like? If you can't come up with a new idea for a seat belt because the regulations are too complicated, how could anyone innovate in any of those other areas?

  • anon||

    You assume the vast majority of corporations with less than 1000 employees even knows ABOUT said regulations.

    3 felonies a day.

  • ||

    Drug Enforcement Administration jails pain-management doctors

    I saw my doctor today. When i raised this issue. His response was that, "they must have violated the law." No shit. Stupid cocksucker actually trust prosecutors to do what is right and legal.

  • ||

    Sounds like time to look for another doctor.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    Why, because a patient brings up a subject about an issue that could land him in jail and he states the statist line.

    By the way would you like to blow up a bridge?

  • califernian||

    If you don't own yourself, then SOMEONE ELSE DOES

  • sarcasmic||

    That would be anyone who represents The Public™.

    You are their bitch.

  • Concerned Citizen||

    My take on seatbelt laws - drivers who don't wear them, and are in a crash, are much more likely to be seriously injured. Those kinds of accidents, where the E-squad is needed, tie up traffice far longer than your average fender bender. So being restrained by a seatbelt will reduce your risk of injury, thus not causing avoidable traffic jams. And that would surely affect interstate commerce.

  • anon||

    Well then surely you support a ban on motorcycles.

  • NotSure||

    Lets make it simpler can you think of anything that does NOT fall under the almighty interstate commerce clause, using your logic, nothing actually does. Even someone picking his nose could cause a butterfly to flap its wings, causing a storm in some other place, causing a farmer to lose his crops, requiring government help in the end.

  • wareagle||

    let's say every word you typed is correct. Seems that free-thinking people would weigh their options and conclude without govt force that the pros of wearing a seat belt outweigh the potential cons. Man was given free will. Then he apparently gave himself govt to take it away.

    Part of being free is the inherent right to make choices that may harm you. So long as your decisions do not harm others or infringe on their rights, state involvement is not necessary.

  • sarcasmic||

    Car insurance companies would be free to put something into the contract that says you're not covered if you don't have a belt on when you get into an accident.

  • T o n y||

    But the rest of us are still on the hook for the extra public services that are required for the more serious injury.

    You can't escape living in a society or paying for it.

  • Raistlin||

    Yeah. Too bad ends don't justify means, huh. Then you might have a point.

  • T o n y||

    Ends don't always justify means. Try thinking in thoughts instead of cliches.

  • Raistlin||

    Ends don't justify means. Ever. Try reading posts instead of making morinic assumptions.

  • T o n y||

    Ever? What if the means aren't bad?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    We're being lectured by a Team Blue cheerleader on the subject of cliches.

  • Raistlin||

    Wow. You really are as stoopid as they say, aren't you?

  • Raistlin||

    The above was directed at Tony. In case he couldn't figure it out.

    Which is likely.

  • Emperor Wears No Clothes||

    But the rest of us are still on the hook for the extra public services that are required for the more serious injury. You can't escape living in a society or paying for it.
    I call "Canadian!" on T o n y.
    It's a common defence of seatbelt legislation up here in Canuckistan. It goes something like this:
    If I have to pay for your health care, I'm OK with the government making your wear a seatbealt.
    Which then extends to:
    When I counter with: "That's an argument for not forcing me to pay for your health care I'm usually met with dumbfounded stares and a lot of, um, room-leaving.

  • T o n y||

    Yes we could go to a society in which people's pockets are checked for methods of paying for healthcare before they're so much as given CPR. But that would be a shitty society nobody would want to live in.

  • Emperor Wears No Clothes||

    Nice non sequitur, Tony Canuck.
    Statists want to infringe my liberty vis-a-vis seatbelts based on the assumption that I'm not responsible for my own health care costs.
    I didn't ask you to pay for my health care costs.
    You turn that into some dystopian paranoia where EMTs check for a VISA card before getting out the Jaws of Life.
    I don't want to live in a world where Safeway checks me for method of payment before I carry away my groceries. Food is a human right, correct? So who do these rapacious capitalists think they are, exploiting my basic human rights? I demand the government nationalize food retail.

  • ||

    Don't go giving him more ideas...

  • Brandon||

    We need a better breed of troll. These new ones make Tony look rational by comparison.

  • Jtsulli||

    When our state mandated seat belts I stopped wearing them as much. I'm hoping they don't start mandating exercise, because if they do I'm probably going to go fat just to spite them.

  • np||

    http://freestateproject.org/

    I am actually surprised to learn that New Hampshire does not have seatbelt and helmet requirements for adults

  • Lincoln||

    This is most likely the cause for most (all?) of America's domestic issues. Proliferate like wildfire everyone!!!!

  • Paul E.||

    As Dennis Miller says, they're gonna make us so safe that we live to 103 and then take away the Jello, which is the only thing that we can gum, because they think it isn't safe for us.

  • Huck||

    One's home is just like one's country! Wow, I wish someone had explained that to me a long time ago. Now I can fire the forest service for doing a shitty job of preserving the flora in my yard.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Instead of novelty ball and chains, wouldn't a prop alarm clock be better for waking America up.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Stoss is really working the bling tonight.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Deroy is right, we are on the road the hell, but it's not paved with actual good intentions.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Obviously you fight a rigged system by making the system so big it's easily rigged.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    American mobility hasn't worked. Let's try a caste system.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Stossel hasn't mentioned his book, yet. Is this a repeat?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Oh, no, there it is. Not a repeat. I'd hate to think I was wasting my time here.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Means testing is UNfair!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    For the next 45 minutes we're going to watch Stossel's favorite scenes from Tombstone.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    This is all because endangered species vote in secret bureaucrat elections.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "And without going into the weeds, the Tenth Amendment..."

    Good thing she didn't go into those weeds, because you might step on a frog.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Some people think when we get central planning they'll be the special pawns.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Hieb is telling me socialized medicine isn't all it's cracked up to be, but Andrea Mitchell was singing its praises. Am I going to believe the surgeon or the administration mouthpiece?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Wait a minute, is this whole episode a paid program advertising Lasik surgery?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Puerto Rico is too far away for central planning, anyway.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Wait a minute, is Congressman Mica wearing the same clothes as he was in Stossel's location shoot? Did Stoss fly from NYC to D.C. on the same day he recorded this episode?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I'm crazy for handing over my tax dollars for the government to manage? That's a serious accusation, Congressman.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Serf's up!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I will say it: THE WELFARE STATE IS NOT WELL INTENDED.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Julia grows up a whore.

  • vivian||

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