Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Stossel Rides a Bike

I think this is a good follow up to the last post.  I find a lot of this very counter-intuitive, like the issue addressed here, bicycle helmet laws.


  1. Great video. Love the dog taking a dump in the background at 4:10.

  2. Geraldo finally proved correlation = causation.

  3. ben,
    do I sense a hint of sarcasm?

    I thought this clip was interesting because it shows that things may not always be as they seem and that sometimes ideas that are counter-intuitive and seem flat out wrong, may not be so far off base.

    I may or may not agree with point of the clip(I don't walk down stairs without a helmet on), but I do think that it demonstrates the principle of unintended consequences nicely.

  4. But just because government actions have unintended consequences does that mean that we should just stop trying to pass laws that make the world better and safer?

    I myself am pretty psyched about seat belts.
    I'm sure that there have probably been lots of unintended deaths by seat belt, but I'll still take my chances.

  5. Yes! They should stop trying to pass laws to make the world better and safer! Because to assume that "they" know what laws to pass and how to effectively enforce them with out taking away peoples freedom to choose, be it good or bad, is to give "them" far to much credit. Its giving anyone far to much credit as far as I'm concerned.

    And I think that you are a little confused about what I am getting at with helmet/seat belt laws. It is IDIOTIC to drive a car with out your seat belt on. It is IDIOTIC to ride a motorcycle or bicycle with out a helmet. Are you telling me that if it weren't for the threat of getting a 100 dollar ticket for not wearing a seat belt, and not the real threat of never walking again or dieing, that you wouldn't wear one?

    Should absolutely all personal responsibility be taken away from people? Are suicide laws a good thing?

  6. No, I'm telling you that without government regulation there wouldn't BE seat belts in cars. I know, I know, I'm sure the auto industry would make them an add on feature that you could pay for if you had the money. Safety would still be on sale for those able to afford it.

    I think that the reason that we will never be able to agree on any of this is that for you the litmus test for a successful political-economic system seems to be the extent to which it ensures individual autonomy. For me the bottom line is social justice.

  7. There would be no seat belts if it weren't for the benevolent leaders ensuring that they were invented? Did a law mandate that all cars have breaks? Tires?
    It's crazy to think that a car would be sold today's safety obsessed culture without seat belts as a standard feature, like brakes, and seats. I mean, you can't walk into a grocery store without having your hands sanitized.

    More importantly though, how long would car company A stay in business if every time that their product crashed the occupants died or where paralyzed, when car company B sells cars with the added feature of a life saving seat belt? This is a very simple economics.

    Safety would be on sale for those who could afford it! These poor people you describe are about to spend 30 thousand dollars on a car, but they couldn't pay for a seat belt! Its a completely moot point anyway, due to the fact that they would be standard. Like brakes.

    I suppose we may never agree because I just don't feel like I am smart enough to tell every single person in the world how to run every facet of their lives or how to most wisely use their money/property. For me the bottom line is social justice.

  8. Hey G-man,
    Pay no mind to me. I think the video conveys the principle of UC fairly well. I was raging at the positivism oozing out of the background. I tire of such a heavy reliance on looking for laws out of statistical results. Indeed, social sciences and their goal of trying to fix life within an empirical formula (whether it be bayesian or cartesian) ignores too much experience for my taste.

    Clearly that dude did not get hit when he wasn't wearing a bike helmet because people could see his horrendous mustache.

  9. finally! A report that proves living in squalor is preferable to the alternative.

  10. Here are my two thoughts about your response that cars would all end up with seat belts (and presumably other, less visible/easy to understand safety devices as well) because of public demand.

    1) Perhaps you are right that every car would have ended up with seat belts anyway. There is/was certainly a lot of public demand for auto safety. But from the little I know about the subject, I am pretty sure that the auto industry fought tooth and nail against auto safety regulations. If they were going to be forced eventually by popular demand to do it, why would they have fought it. Perhaps you are right that they would have come around eventually, but even in the few years that would have elapsed between the government mandating seat belts and car companies installing them themselves, many people would have needlessly died. Don't their lives make it worth it?

    2) I have lived in countries (Venezuela and Ecuador) which either don't have seat belt laws or don't enforce them, and let me tell you, market demand has not ensured their existence. I have been in so many cars without seat belts, it's ridiculous. And that's just the start of it. I remember one cab ride in Ecuador where there were no longer any back seats, just a pair of lawn chairs bolted to the floor! And I have also see more horrific car crashes and blood on the side of the highway in those countries combined than I expect to see in the US in the entire rest of my life. Of course, this may have nothing to do with the lack of seat belts, it could have more to do with the lack of enforcement of drunk driving laws or the lack of government funds to repair roads... but you get my point.

    Also, when you say things like "these are very simple economics" I automatically get suspicious, and I think that you should too. The more elegant and simple and economic theory is the more likely it is to be based on a whole host of assumptions which have no basis in reality.