Supply Side Economics vs. The Culture of Life

As part of a semi-tangential discussion that went on over here, I mentioned that while I favored supply-side incentives to increase the production of alternative fuels, I had full confidence that the Auto and Oil Industries would not only never do something like that themselves, they would resist government intervention aimed at furthering that end with all their might.

It seems that the safety of American drivers (and thusly, our lives) have the same value in their minds as the economy and our oil addiction, namely: squat.

You see, the government is trying to impose some new regulations that would increase the safety of the roof of cars in the event of a rollover. And guess who’s opposing such measures: the auto industry!

I can’t say that I’m surprised, but I am disgusted.

What does this have to do with the culture of life? Well, those who purport to value human life above all, and thus forbid abortions and IVF and such, you’d think they’d be furious. Sure, there are instances where death is encouraged, like capital punishment, but Auto Industry profits surely aren’t one of them.

I just wonder if Bill Frist is going to stand in front of the Senate and rail about how he’s seen the video of a car rolling over, and there’s no doubt, in his medical opinion, that the driver was alive when the roof caved in crushing his skull. Probably not.

So what can we do? Well, we can write to our respective representatives, and implore them to pass any legisltation that would make us safer, irregardless of lobbyist pressure. And we can make it clear that we will vote out of office any politician who accepts dirty money from the Oil and Auto Industry lobby (whether Democrat or Republican, but more likely Republican), because we will not stand for them undermining the safety and sanctity of American lives!

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5 responses to “Supply Side Economics vs. The Culture of Life

  1. General R. Blie

    While I agree that the government should provide incentives (supply side or otherwise) in certain situations, car rollover safety is not one of them. Government incentives are important in situations of public (not individual) safety and well being. As mentioned in the earlier post, incentives are appropriate to protect the environment. I could even buy into incentives to discourage smoking, as secondhand smoke has a significant effect on the non-smoking general public.
    However, this is a case of individual safety. An individual should be able to choose how safe he wants his car and how much he values that added safety. I think your argument would be stronger, if there were no cars that met the standards. Incentives may be appropriate to prod automakers to at least offer the option. But that is not the case here, as perhaps as much as 68% of the cars are already compliant.
    Simply put, the individual should be able to make his own rational, economic and/or emotional decision whether or not to purchase a car with this added safety feature. This is not a decision which will have a significant effect on anybody but the driver or other people who voluntarily decide to enter the vehicle.
    This is a slippery slope for someone who considers himself a “civil libertarian.” Heart disease is much more deadly than the 7000 deaths and injuries from rollover. Should the government subsidize the salad or tax meals over 500 calories? What about outlawing McDonald’s? Maybe fine everyone for every point there cholesterol rises each year?
    Just one step closer to “Demolition Man.”

  2. General – I don’t generally disagree with you, and I didn’t really judge the relative merits of the proposed regulations, and whether they are right or worth the government’s time.

    My point was more geared towards the general contrarian attitude the Auto Indistry takes to virtually all government regulation (good, bad or otherwise).

    I think you’re point about personal safety is a good one, and the PR people for the car companies should have made it, if that was the nature of their objection. Something tells me their objection was more about spending the money to comply, and more knee-jerk reaction to government regulation than anything else, but that may just be my mistrust.

    Just to play devil’s advocate, however, the premature death of any person has a cost and affect on the rest of society, even if indirectly.

  3. Seat belts and air bags are required by law. General makes a good point, but it must also be considered that the auto market is not 100% pure – there isn’t complete transparency or understanding on the part of buyers, plus the buyer might be “coerced” or compelled to buy a car without the safety features due to the personal necessity of having a car and the high costs associated.

    However, that argument only goes so far. There is a significant amount of competition in the auto market, with some auto makers (like Volvo) making their niche in safety features.

    All in all, I don’t think it’s cut and dry either way, but I tend to agree with Noyam that if a safety feature can be provided, it ought to be provided (as is the case with seat belts and air bags). However Noyam, I disagree with your connection to the culture of life. There are many other issues at play here. Yes, the auto industry lobby has the auto industry’s best interests in mind, and not the public’s. But Republicans have always believed in less government regulation, and the auto industry is therefore naturally drawn to them. Not that I’m defending lawmakers who vote against this law. But I just think their motivation could be pure-er than you think.

    Noyam there are plenty of seemingly inherent contradictions in both parties. For the Dems, how about the contradiction between wanting universal health care on the one hand and fiercely opposing tort reform on the other? I bet Gilad or your dad can explain the hypocrisy in that.

    There is no one issue or ideology in either party that can be a common thread for each and every position they hold. Each specific question at hand has intricacies and nuances that may touch on several of the parties’ core beliefs. So while personally my vote would be in favor of the regulations, I don’t think it’s fair to label the Republicans hypocrites over this one issue. Just say you think they’re wrong.

  4. Why is it that every time I needle the Life-lovers on the right, everyone gets all huffy?

    Yes, there are liars and hypocrites across the political spectrum. Pointing it out about one group doesn’t make that exclusive, nor is that the implication.

    But I like picking on the “Culture of Lifers.” It’s a fun issue for me to disect. I enjoy it. I even stretch the limits of what’s really an applicable criticism (like this post, the whole second half of which was tongue-in-cheek), because I enjoy it.

    Keep in mind, though, that while it may seem as though I was stretching the boundary, there is a point, and a valid criticism, I think. Don’t call your movement a “Culture” if you don’t intend for it to be pervasive. If you want to pick and qualify your position, refined and nuanced by situation, that’s perfectly fine. But then it’s not a “Culture.”

    Not to mention that I think the whole thing is bogus and BS.

  5. General R. Blie

    In general, I am inclined to lean toward less regulation. In the proper environment, free markets and laissez faire policies are beneficial. That being said, Government regulation is important to ensure that the market is operating effectively. The government should regulate to ensure that competition is fair and that information is available – the two key ingredients for an efficient market.

    However, I am not a purist. I am fine with the government taking the easy (read: practical) way out. For seatbelts, it is relatively obvious that the benefits far outweigh the costs. While in the end, the market would likely eliminate all non-seatbelt equipped cars, the government was better off simply requiring seatbelts than spending the money to educate the public on seatbelt safety and overcoming potential misinformation from the automakers. (Note: The regulation is supply side, the government still spends a lot of money educating morons to actually buckle their seatbelts.)

    I think the cost/benefit analysis is less obvious (based on my in-depth research of reading the one article to which you linked). In this case, the government should regulate to make sure people are well informed about the true risks in order to let them make an informed decision. This can be as simple as requiring dealers to provide information on rollover and certifying specific models which meet the government standards.

    Second Point:
    I didn’t want to get into an argument where I play the devil’s advocate. But here it goes.

    I cannot seriously disagree with anyone who claims that politicians are motiviated more by their own personal interests than by a desire to do what is best for the American people. However, I don’t think that this position is necessarily contradictory to the Republican’s self appointed role as protector of the “culture of life.” The Republican position (which I do not fully agree with and don’t want to argue)is not a culture of safety. It is not to keep everyone from any harm. Instead, it can be understood as in a more limited sense – protecting those who can’t protect themselves: Fetuses (or Feti, not sure which is correct), children, vegetables. Since every sperm is sacred, someone should stand up for them when they can’t stand up for themselves. This includes banning abortion and IVF, making sure marriage is kept man-woman (to protect the innocent children), and making sure the plug is not pulled unless we have a signed, notarized document with two witnesses engraved in stone and sealed in a high security vault. They do not need to protect stupid people who choose to buy cars that can kill them.

    Last Point:
    I agree that every death has costs. However, taking a rather cold view, there may be benefits as well. Looking from a purely economic standpoint, a certain amount of deaths are beneficial. Our generation will have to bear the economic burden of a large population of elderly due to a monumental shift in the death rate since WWII (coupled with the Baby Boom).

    Any individual death is tragic and should be avoided. However, policies should not necessarily by geared to minimizing death at all costs. The world would be safer but would you want to live in that world? Classic example: eliminate all swimming pools – Great harm versus little economic benefit (benefit being defined as least costly alternative).

    The point is that the blanket statement that all death’s have a cost does not ultimately lead to the conclusion that all deaths should be avoided. Again, this cold calculation is why many people shy away from pure economic analyses. Clearly, there are moral, ethical and emotional arguments to the contrary.

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