Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Explaining "Saving Lives"

My most recent post, "Saving Lives," was pure nonsense. I suggested that cars be manufactured such that their maximum speed would be 15 miles per hour, as this would reduce the 40,000 annual traffic fatalities to nearly zero. And indeed it would.

Now why would I suggest something so ridiculous? Because most of us own and drive cars, we intuitively understand the trade off between speed and safety risks. We are better off driving 65 mph on a highway even though we put our lives at greater risk. Otherwise, we would choose not to drive on the expressway.

Wade has solved the riddle. It is nonsense to endorse anything that would save just one life, or 40,000, unless we are prepared to ask the next question, which is, "at what cost?"

As a society, we have decided, quite rightly in my opinion, that the improvements in our lives, the greater freedom, the economic benifits, etc... provided by cars that exceed 15 mph are worth the loss of 40,000 lives, though we would probably prefer not to think about the loss of life.

This is life. We must balance risk with rewards. We must take reasonable chances. There are even risks associated with any effort to avoid risks. Total safety is not possible, and any attempt to provide it will have adverse consequences.

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