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How much is a life worth?

By I am Jack's username in Culture
Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 02:47:19 AM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

The USA government has entrusted Kenneth Feinberg to decide the economic worth of the 2001-09-11 attack victims to their families. It seems that those terror victims are worth much less than the ones killed in Pan Am flight 103 for which [USD] $2 021 million's damages were sought, and even what was actually awarded for one of the victims: more than $19 million.

Lily Gray was killed and Richard Grimshaw severely injured in 1972-05 because of fuel leakage problems in the Ford Pinto they were in - a jury awarded more than $128 million in damages, which was reduced to $6.56 million. The Ford Motor Company later argued that paying $11 to the fix fuel leakage problems was $7.04 too much compared to having customers burn to death, receive burn injuries, or suffer property loss. This was based on a 1972 [USA] Highway Traffic Safety Administration calculation of the cost to society of a person being killed in a car accident, the approximate worth a human life: just over $0.2 million.


A recent Harvard Center for Risk Analysis evaluation found the costs and benefits to be roughly equal for a ban on non-emergency cell phone use while driving:
[Senior Research Scientist Joshua Cohen, PhD] compared the benefits of such a ban, measured by reduced medical costs, reduced property damage, and estimates of what people would be willing to pay to avoid pain, suffering, and death, against the benefits of cell phone use by drivers, measured by estimates of what subscribers pay to use their phones while driving. The benefits of a ban would be worth approximately $43 billion (range $9 billion to $193 billion). Those savings would be roughly offset by the economic value of the banned calls, also around $43 billion annually (range - $17 billion to $151 billion), or $340 per cell phone user per year (range - $130-$1,200.)
George Soros however, wrote in an article in the New Republic, "Busted: why the markets can't fix themselves" that
market fundamentalism [laissez-faire] endows the pursuit of self-interest with a moral quality. [...] What distinguishes markets is exactly that they are amoral [...] It is exactly because markets are amoral that we cannot leave the allocation of resources entirely to them. Society cannot hold together without some consideration of the common interest. [...] as rulemakers we must be guided by the common interest--and in a democracy we are all rulemakers.
Markets are sometimes an excellent way to determine something's value. In societies where greed is considered as essential, original, and human nature; what is your or your loved ones' lives worth?

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Poll
Your life is worth:
o water in body minus usefulness 13%
o about $3.96 15%
o more than $10 000 000 14%
o a coltan mine 0%
o cheaper oil 4%
o your weight in verdant spam 4%
o "What have you got?" 34%
o more than Inoshiro's 10%

Votes: 201
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Kenneth Feinberg to decide the economic worth of the 2001-09-11 attack victims
o Pan Am flight 103
o Ford Motor Company later argued
o paying $11 to the fix fuel leakage problems
o the approximate worth a human life: just over $0.2 million
o Harvard Center for Risk Analysis evaluation
o ban on non-emergency cell phone use while driving
o George Soros
o "Busted: why the markets can't fix themselves"
o Also by I am Jack's username


Display: Sort:
How much is a life worth? | 218 comments (176 topical, 42 editorial, 0 hidden)
my life is worth (3.75 / 8) (#3)
by speek on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 05:11:22 PM EST

Prison time for those responsible for killing me. Life in prison if killed with dispassionate forethought. Lesser sentences can be given for mitigating circumstances.

Monetarily, for my family, my life is worth my economic value. Wise people take care of their family's needs with life insurance. But even so, responsible parties probably should be held accountable for what I provided my family. It's not hard to calculate a lump sum that essentially represents my earnings potential, and/or the economic benefit of my life if I am a "unemployed" homemaker.

For most people, it doesn't come close to those multi-million figures you mention. Deterrence of these crimes is best accomplished in criminal court, IMO. I let out all the marijuana users from the jails to make the necessary room.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees

Kenneth Feinberg (2.33 / 6) (#17)
by Ghost of Christmas Past on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 06:58:11 PM EST

I have visited Kenneth Feinberg several times, and he has yet to understand the value of Christmas.

What I learned in Engineering Ethics (4.80 / 10) (#19)
by RyoCokey on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 07:22:01 PM EST

I'd quote you the exact book, except that it's sitting in a box in my car trunk, but I remember one quotation very distinctly:

"Although the value of human life can vary significantly by the individual, for engineering purposes where no other method is available for selecting a value for human life, $6 million is the standard amount."

For the purposes of calculating safety measures, etc.



"There is no reason why we should not have peaceful relations with the rest of the world if we cease playing the role of Meddlesome Mattie." - Sen. Art
It would be interesting ... (3.00 / 2) (#52)
by Simon Kinahan on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 08:13:52 AM EST

... to know just how they reached that number.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
primary determining factor (4.00 / 1) (#77)
by demi on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 02:17:58 PM EST

is the average size of a 100% liability verdict in compensatory damages for an accident of the type in question, plus whatever punitive damages could be anticipated. The expected amount depends on the environment. If you somehow kill or maim a doctor and subsequently deprive him and/or his family of a primary means of income, you're going to be liable for a lot more than if you do the same to a construction worker or otherwise average American. The only other significant factor that would be independent of the lawsuit would be workplace stoppage, which is sometimes required by OSHA or worker unions in rare cases.

[ Parent ]
obvious (5.00 / 2) (#148)
by Perianwyr on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:46:45 AM EST

That's how much it will cost to rebuild him. Stronger. Faster. Better.

[ Parent ]
Magic numbers... (none / 0) (#53)
by Trevor OLeary on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 08:17:20 AM EST

It amuses me how certain numbers are declared to be important for no apparent reason. In stats, for some reason 0.95 is a magic number...

But does that mean that if you know someone is going to die from a faulty product but it'll cost you >6 million to recall it, you shouldn't?


[ Parent ]

Multiply by the odds of the accident (4.00 / 1) (#66)
by RyoCokey on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 11:01:59 AM EST

To reach the total cost of not correcting the problem. After all, that's how many of these $6 million dollar deaths you're going to get.



"There is no reason why we should not have peaceful relations with the rest of the world if we cease playing the role of Meddlesome Mattie." - Sen. Art
[ Parent ]
0.95 (2.00 / 1) (#81)
by wiredog on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 03:17:17 PM EST

On the standard normal curve (the bell curve) 95%, or 0.95, of the population falls within one standard deviation of the middle of the curve. It's not magical, it's math.

More Math! Less Pr0n! K5 For K5ers!
--Rusty

[ Parent ]
no.. that's 2 (5.00 / 1) (#91)
by BWS on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 05:52:08 PM EST

95% is 2 SD...
-- Comments are by ME, not YOU! ME! ME! ME!
[ Parent ]
Oops (none / 0) (#119)
by wiredog on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 08:07:05 AM EST

2. Ah well, at least I remembered that it had something to do with the standard deviation.

Professor Cotts would be pleased.

More Math! Less Pr0n! K5 For K5ers!
--Rusty

[ Parent ]

No (none / 0) (#96)
by Trevor OLeary on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 08:48:14 PM EST

You can say that there is "evidence against" a hypothesis if within it's statistical model the probability of the measured events occurring < 0.05 (1 - 0.95). It's got nothing to do with math, it just "is".  

And 1 SD is .68, IIRC.

[ Parent ]

$6 million for a man eh? (none / 0) (#105)
by DrSbaitso on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 02:57:45 AM EST

That sounds like the plot to some sci-fi TV show or something :)

Aeroflot Airlines: You Have Made the Right Choice!
---Advertising slogan for the only airline in the USSR
[ Parent ]
More bailouts... (3.75 / 4) (#20)
by dipierro on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 07:23:20 PM EST

Sure, the government isn't paying the airlines directly, but instead they're paying off families for not suing the airlines.  Just more corporate welfare.  Move along.

Eh? (3.66 / 3) (#31)
by greenrd on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 10:12:09 PM EST

But why should the airline industry be expected to compensate the families of the victims of a terrorist attack which was in no way their fault? It seems to me to make much more sense that the cost of compensation should be spread out amongst all taxpayers.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

It was their fault (3.37 / 8) (#33)
by dipierro on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 10:24:31 PM EST

But why should the airline industry be expected to compensate the families of the victims of a terrorist attack which was in no way their fault?


It was their fault.  It was their plane, it was their pilot who gave up control of the plane, it was their security which failed.  They are now complaining about federalization of the security.  I could see the federal government taking responsibility if that was the case.  But on 9/11/01 the security was not federalized.


It seems to me to make much more sense that the cost of compensation should be spread out amongst all taxpayers.


Well that's for a judge and jury to decide, not for the federal government to bribe people into not suing.



[ Parent ]
By that logic ... (3.75 / 4) (#73)
by DigitalRover on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 01:05:39 PM EST

If someone car jacked me and then ran down a slew of pedestrians with my car, I'd be at fault.

I know that anti-capitalistic knee jerk commentary is all the rage around here, but at least think things through a little before you post.

<sheesh>

[ Parent ]

Maybe (2.00 / 1) (#137)
by dipierro on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:02:43 AM EST

If someone car jacked me and then ran down a slew of pedestrians with my car, I'd be at fault.

Depends on the specifics. If you left your car running with the keys in the ignition while you banged some chick in the back seat and your car got jacked, then yes, you'd be legally at fault.

For the passengers in the car who died it's even less of a standard. You could probably win a case if the driver simply had been driving through a bad neighborhood with the doors unlocked. I say that getting carjacked was foreseeable and that locking the doors is a basic level of due care.



[ Parent ]
Ridiculous (4.00 / 1) (#164)
by Arkaein on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 01:52:18 PM EST

Comparing a jetliner with a car is absurd. Millions of people have cars, letting one more have access to a car cannot possibly be considered a strong risk. Is a car rental agency liable if some goes on a rampage in a rental car? No.

A plane is different, especially a huge passenger jet. The level of responsibility is much greater due to the number of lives and amount of property in potential danger (both in the plane and on the ground). Airlines have a much greater responsibility for the security of their planes than drivers do for an ordinary car. A large semi may be a little greater in terms of potential liability, but nowhere near a 747 or the like.

----
The ultimate plays for Madden 2003-2006
[ Parent ]

not really, but... (2.50 / 2) (#189)
by dipierro on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 12:01:39 PM EST

Comparing a jetliner with a car is absurd.

Not really, but I wasn't the one who made the comparison.

The level of responsibility is much greater due to the number of lives and amount of property in potential danger (both in the plane and on the ground). Airlines have a much greater responsibility for the security of their planes than drivers do for an ordinary car. A large semi may be a little greater in terms of potential liability, but nowhere near a 747 or the like.

Absolutely, but that goes towards the questions of due care and foreseeability.



[ Parent ]
You're kidding, right? (1.00 / 1) (#193)
by DigitalRover on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 01:02:01 PM EST

If I'm engaging in perfectly legal behavior and someone robs me, and then uses the stolen property to commit a crime, I'm somehow legally liable?

Maybe with something like a weapon the argument for negligence could be made if reasonable and prudent measures were not taken to secure said weapon. However, prior to the attacks no one had hijacked a plane and used it as a guided missile; that scenario was purely theoretical. If you're going to worry about all the theoretical ways in which people could do harm then you would do best to stay at home cowering under your wet blanket.

[ Parent ]
wrongful death (4.00 / 1) (#194)
by dipierro on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 01:20:19 PM EST

Maybe with something like a weapon the argument for negligence could be made if reasonable and prudent measures were not taken to secure said weapon.


Are you saying that a car or a plane isn't a weapon?


However, prior to the attacks no one had hijacked a plane and used it as a guided missile; that scenario was purely theoretical.


If indeed that's true (and I doubt that it is), then that's evidence to present to the judge and jury when they decide whether the event was forseeable.


Also, whether or not the plane is going to be used as a guided missile is irrelevant to the lawsuits for the wrongful deaths of passengers.



[ Parent ]
Weapons and such (3.00 / 2) (#196)
by DigitalRover on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 02:11:00 PM EST

Are you saying that a car or a plane isn't a weapon?

They are as much weapons as a brick used to bash in heads is a weapon. What is their purpose? For planes, trains, and automobiles the intended function is transportation. For the brick, it is to be used as part of a structure. A gun or a missile are weapons whose purpose is to inflict injury on people and property.

By original poster's argument, we should lock up bricks because the potential exists for them to be used as weapons. Can you name me one item that couldn't be used to cause injury to another? Are we going to open the door for wrongful death lawsuits because someone stole a monitor cable from my desk and used it as a garrote?

If indeed that's true (and I doubt that it is), then that's evidence to present to the judge and jury when they decide whether the event was forseeable.

Can you present me a case where a passenger airliner was used in the manner of the 9/11 attacks? No?

Also, whether or not the plane is going to be used as a guided missile is irrelevant to the lawsuits for the wrongful deaths of passengers.

How, pray tell, is it irrelevant? How can there be liability when all reasonable and prudent measures were taken to insure passenger safety? Would the airliners have been liable if instead gunmen had opened fire in the airport terminal?

[ Parent ]
Reasonable and prudent? (1.00 / 1) (#197)
by dipierro on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 02:43:02 PM EST

They are as much weapons as a brick used to bash in heads is a weapon.


Good, so you agree they're weapons.


A gun or a missile are weapons whose purpose is to inflict injury on people and property.


I thought the purpose of a gun or a missle was to scare people.


By original poster's argument, we should lock up bricks because the potential exists for them to be used as weapons.


I believe I am the original poster, and my argument certainly did not imply that.


Can you name me one item that couldn't be used to cause injury to another? Are we going to open the door for wrongful death lawsuits because someone stole a monitor cable from my desk and used it as a garrote?


Of course not.  Showing negligence requires showing that the abuse was foreseeable, that there was a basic standard of due care that should be followed, and that basic standard of due care was not followed.


Can you present me a case where a passenger airliner was used in the manner of the 9/11 attacks? No?


Your assertion was that a plane was never hijacked and used as a guided missle.  Can I find a case disproving that?  Probably, but you'd have to pay me by the hour to look for it.


Me: Also, whether or not the plane is going to be used as a guided missile is irrelevant to the lawsuits for the wrongful deaths of passengers.


How, pray tell, is it irrelevant?


Because it was clearly foreseeable that the plane might get hijacked and that that hijacking might lead to the deaths of passengers.  Whether those passengers died crashing into the World Trade Center or some other way is irrelevant.


How can there be liability when all reasonable and prudent measures were taken to insure passenger safety?


There can't.  But how do you know that all reasonable and prudent measures were taken to insure passenger safety?


Would the airliners have been liable if instead gunmen had opened fire in the airport terminal?


Perhaps.  Depends on the specifics of the situation.



[ Parent ]
dipierro (1.00 / 2) (#200)
by DigitalRover on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 04:27:22 PM EST

Perhaps when you're through rating all my posts to 1, you can actually take some time to think before responding. At that time maybe you can explain:
  • Why those posts rated a 1.
  • Why you're so gung-ho to blame the airlines.
  • In the mean time, let's pick apart your sorry excuse for a post <g> ...

    They are as much weapons as a brick used to bash in heads is a weapon.

    This is only a so-so example of quoting out of context while still demonstrating a complete inability to use basic reading comprehension skills. I give it a 3. I'm pretty sure that readers with a greater than room temperature IQ would understand the point being made: Anything can be used as a weapon, but that doesn't automatically make it a weapon. I'm guessing that this concept escapes you.

    Of course not. Showing negligence requires showing that the abuse was foreseeable, that there was a basic standard of due care that should be followed, and that basic standard of due care was not followed.

    ... and in this case the events were not foreseeable. As others have mentioned, the prudent course of action was to cooperate fully with the hijackers so as to minimize the risk of injury to civilians.

    Your assertion was that a plane was never hijacked and used as a guided missle. Can I find a case disproving that? Probably, but you'd have to pay me by the hour to look for it.

    Me: Also, whether or not the plane is going to be used as a guided missile is irrelevant to the lawsuits for the wrongful deaths of passengers.


    So now we're going to talk "probablies" and "maybes"? The fact is there was never a case of an airliner being hijacked and flown into a target. The closest you can get is the EgyptAir case where a pilot allegedly flew the plane into the ocean.

    The issue of the the behavior of the hijackers once they were in control of the plane is hardly irrelevant. You can't build a suit upon the defendants' inability to foresee all possible circumstances. That's like my boss coming to me and asking to me notified ahead of time before all possible unplanned downtimes. To try to plan for all possibilities is to paralyze your behavior and you're right back in bed under your wet blanket.

    Because it was clearly foreseeable that the plane might get hijacked and that that hijacking might lead to the deaths of passengers. Whether those passengers died crashing into the World Trade Center or some other way is irrelevant.

    As has been said before: Cooperation with hijackers was the most reasonable and prudent course of action when it came to minimizing passenger casualties. It seems like you'd want the gas stations in DC to be liable because their customers were shot by the snipers.

    There can't. But how do you know that all reasonable and prudent measures were taken to insure passenger safety?

    Can you prove that they weren't? The burden of proof lies with the complaintant. Of course, asking you for proof is a futile gesture. You've already proven before that you cannot produce facts when called upon, relying instead on a waffling reply.

    Perhaps. Depends on the specifics of the situation.

    Care to outline a situation where they would be rather than just saying "It Depends ..." That's a cop-out. If you can't support your position, then maybe it's a position that's not worth defending.

    And before you ask, I'll answer: Your posts were rated that way because they are poorly written and clumsily argued.

    [ Parent ]
    I can't be sure of this, (5.00 / 3) (#129)
    by davidduncanscott on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 09:21:30 AM EST

    it was their pilot who gave up control of the plane
    but I would bet money that cooperation with the hijackers was a policy recommended, if not insisted upon, by the Federal government. Remember, for years about the worst that happened to American flights was that passengers got a free trip to Cuba. In fact, I'm trying to remember a fatality on a hijacked US domestic flight before 9/11 and I can't think of any

    [ Parent ]
    I can't be sure either (2.00 / 1) (#139)
    by dipierro on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:11:45 AM EST

    but I would bet money that cooperation with the hijackers was a policy recommended, if not insisted upon, by the Federal government.

    If that's indeed the case, then that would be thrown out as a factor. Still doesn't mean the government should bribe people into never even getting their day in court. But I have no reason to believe it was federal policy and not airline policy.

    I don't know if they would win or lose, but in a free market the government shouldn't interfere with whether or not they sue in the first place.



    [ Parent ]
    No reason to believe? (4.00 / 1) (#149)
    by davidduncanscott on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:50:33 AM EST

    Then you must not have spent much time with the Federal government. When was the last time they told you to look out for your own defense and use your best judgment? :)

    That's partially cheap sarcasm, of course -- seat-belt and air-bag requirements aren't quite equatable with air piracy, but I do recall SkyMarshals and I don't recall any urging on the part of the Feds for airlines to create their own in-flight security (witness recent discussions about arming pilots.) The general approach to hostage situations in the US has been, historically, to leave resistance to the professionals and yes, cooperate with the hijackers / bank-robbers / carjackers / Klingons etc. The FBI has a "Hostage Rescue Team", but not a "Teaching Hostages to Beat the Crap Out of Bad Guys Team."

    And hell, 9/11 was bizarre for us. We haven't had a lot of this sort of thing, and the old policy worked pretty well. Hijackers here wanted money, or attention, or Cuban sunshine, not death to America. Going along with what they wanted was a rational, albeit painful, approach, and there was every reason to believe that fighting back would only make things worse, at least on that flight.

    That said, I was riding into DC on that day, and for all I know flight 93 would have dropped on my head. It's just barely possible that those people saved my sorry ass by fighting back, and I'm grateful they did.

    [ Parent ]

    I don't know (1.00 / 1) (#156)
    by dipierro on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 12:10:11 PM EST

    Then you must not have spent much time with the Federal government. When was the last time they told you to look out for your own defense and use your best judgment? :)

    In a sense we have a chicken and egg problem there though. I'm not in favor of government seat-belt or air-bag requirement laws either. I'm not your standard liberal, or conservative, or libertarian, or green party member, or any of those other pidgeonholes. I'm sort of a mix between a green and a libertarian - little government but high property taxes, really high inheritance taxes, and high to really high pollution taxes.

    Going along with what they wanted was a rational, albeit painful, approach, and there was every reason to believe that fighting back would only make things worse, at least on that flight.

    Well that's another question that a court ultimately will decide. Was it forseeable to the pilot who gave up control of his airplane that the hijacker may have crashed the plane into a building? Is locking the cockpit door a reasonable level of due care which should have been taken to keep hijackers out of the cockpit? That's only two of the questions which need to be considered.

    I'm not saying I have the answers. Maybe ultimately the airlines will not be found negligent. But the legislative branch should stay out of that question.



    [ Parent ]
    Liability for security problems (5.00 / 2) (#158)
    by Sloppy on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 12:32:18 PM EST

    Weird hypothesis: suppose the people who committed the 9/11 attacks had somehow survived (e.g. it was implemented with robots instead of the terrorists getting onto the planes themselves) and they were apprehended and happened to have enough seizable assets to cover the expenses.

    In this scenario, would the airlines be held accountable for their security laxes? Partially or completely? I think all (or almost all) of the liability would be paid out of the funds seized from the terrorists. (I gotta admit, though, it would be very interesting if the terrorist only paid 80% for committing the act, and the airline paid 20% for letting it happen.)

    That can't happen, of course, because the people who are really responsible, died in the cockpits (although there is an ongoing effort to catch some indirect accomplices).

    Given that, I think that the airlines are not fully liable for the damages, thus the victim compensation fund, while welfare, is not really a good example of "corporate" welfare. If there's corporate welfare at all in this case, it's fractional.

    The key point, though, is that it is welfare, not compensation. The parties that owe compensation are dead, so it's an uncollectable debt. It would be the same as if I were murdered and the murderer were caught but had no assets (or wasn't identified or caught at all). Does the government step in and pay welfare to my estate when that happens? I don't see what's so special about the 9/11 victims.
    "RSA, 2048, seeks sexy young entropic lover, for several clock cycles of prime passion..."
    [ Parent ]

    IANAL (1.00 / 1) (#190)
    by dipierro on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 12:05:42 PM EST

    In this scenario, would the airlines be held accountable for their security laxes?

    They certainly still could be, though I believe that any actual damages would be mitigated by any collections from the lawsuit against the terrorists. IANAL, though, so I'm not sure.

    Given that, I think that the airlines are not fully liable for the damages

    That's fine, but if that's the case then the federal government shouldn't force victims to not sue.



    [ Parent ]
    Economic Analysis (4.33 / 6) (#28)
    by nomoreh1b on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 09:37:58 PM EST

    The Nobel prize winner George Stigler did a classic analysis of this question that looked at how much extra wages were paid to workers in a dangerous occupation compared to workers in a similar less dangerous occupation. The answer in 1970 dollars was something like $180,000(figure $900,000 today).

    Bucky fuller said that on the average, a man died for each floor on each skyscraper on the New York skyline. Next time you see that famous scene, consider that human sacrifice is alive and well in the modern era.



    Human Sacrifice? (none / 0) (#152)
    by jubilation on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:55:15 AM EST

    Bucky fuller said that on the average, a man died for each floor on each skyscraper on the New York skyline. Next time you see that famous scene, consider that human sacrifice is alive and well in the modern era.
    Let's get a sense of proportion here. Skyscraper construction workers are rational players, who are taking risks for money, by their own choice. This is human sacrifice.

    There is also the whole question of intent and coercion. Your skyscraper rivet-man does not choose to die, he has no expectation that anyone has it in for him. Joe Olmec *knows* that his Aztec neighbors are as eager to sacrifice him as he is eager to escape that fate.

    Corporations can be accused of callous disregard for human safety, but not intent to murder.

    [ Parent ]
    Re: Human Sacrifice? (none / 0) (#159)
    by nomoreh1b on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 12:35:25 PM EST

    Let's get a sense of proportion here. Skyscraper construction workers are rational players, who are taking risks for money, by their own choice.

    The exact same thing could be said of anyone that worked in the World Trade Center. That place had been the target of past terrorist attempts. Jewish interests and Islamic interests have been at war for quite some time. If I were running an unregulated insurance company, I know I'd place pretty high rates on people that support Israel given the capabilities and feelings of Arabs on that issue.

    There is also the whole question of intent and coercion. Your skyscraper rivet-man does not choose to die, he has no expectation that anyone has it in for him. Joe Olmec *knows* that his Aztec neighbors are as eager to sacrifice him as he is eager to escape that fate.

    Well, there are a couple issues here. First off, in some societies, the most impressive "human sacrifice" involves someone that volenteers for the honor. That is certainly the case with Palestinian suicide bombers-in which case they know their family members will get much better treatment if they complete a successful suicide mission than if they didn't. Lots of folks get impressed by acts of bravery and sacrifice-this is common in a lot of cultures. Basically, the suicide bomber gets good treatment for his family. The organization sponsoring a suicide bomber gets to impress their constituency.

    Corporations can be accused of callous disregard for human safety, but not intent to murder.

    I'm saying that some of the same principles that work for suicide bombers are at work with corporations that created things like the New York City skyline. Part of what makes it impressive is that the NYC skyline is a monument to the deaths of thousands of brave men that gave their lives to create it.

    [ Parent ]

    Different sorts of courage (none / 0) (#205)
    by jubilation on Wed Dec 11, 2002 at 01:17:25 PM EST

    Corporations can be accused of callous disregard for human safety, but not intent to murder.
    I'm saying that some of the same principles that work for suicide bombers are at work with corporations that created things like the New York City skyline. Part of what makes it impressive is that the NYC skyline is a monument to the deaths of thousands of brave men that gave their lives to create it.
    Hmm... I would argue that construction workers are possessed of an entirely different sort of courage than suicide bombers. The SBs are (supposedly) entirely convinced that they are going directly to Paradise; their intention is to die. They are fueled by desperation, rage, and a shitty life. (I pause here to note that the leaders of SB organizations are usually educated and well-off; the guys who do the actual exploding are typically off-the-street folks with few good choices in life.)

    The CWs are hoping not to die; they view it as a Bad Thing. They are risking their lives -- not spending them -- to do a job they want to do. Their courage is of an entirely different order, and is fueled by pride in their work, and anticipation of reward.

    Likewise the corporations who build the buildings are not interested in people dying. If anything, the opposite. Now you may draw a paralell between the corporation and the SB leadership (who doesn't go on the "missions"), in that they are goal-focused and willing to incur the loss of personnel to get there, but it seems a little bit of a stretch to me. And there is no comparison possible between the actual SB and CW.

    What I'm getting at here is that it doesn't seem quite correct to lump both groups' attitudes under the same label "courage". These groups of people are working under vastly different mindsets.

    [Off-topic side point: Just in case I haven't made it sufficiently clear, I am entirely in favor of the construction worker's real courage, and entirely at odds with the suicide bomber's houri-dream death fantasies.]

    [ Parent ]
    Courage (none / 0) (#206)
    by nomoreh1b on Wed Dec 11, 2002 at 04:47:20 PM EST

    I'm not saying there are no differences here, I'm saying that there is a "charisma" that acts of self-sacrifice/risk taking do have/take on.

    As someone that worked on some dangerous types of construction work-the dare devil mindset there is real.

    Likewise the corporations who build the buildings are not interested in people dying. If anything, the opposite. Now you may draw a paralell between the corporation and the SB leadership (who doesn't go on the "missions"), in that they are goal-focused and willing to incur the loss of personnel to get there, but it seems a little bit of a stretch to me.

    Well, in both cases, the leadership are leveraging the sacrifices made by others.

    And there is no comparison possible between the actual SB and CW.

    What I'm getting at here is that it doesn't seem quite correct to lump both groups' attitudes under the same label "courage". These groups of people are working under vastly different mindsets.

    The mindsets are different-but have more in common with each other in some dimensions than either have with folks that have a great ambition to die home old in bed. Also, keep in mind, for each suicide bomber, there are many more that die in other wise-the suicide bombers are just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the folks on the suicide bomber's "team" work quite hard to avoid dying(actually, one of the characteristics of Arab soldiers in the crusades was that the Crusaders were much more likely to adopt suicidal war tactics than were the Arab soldiers.



    [ Parent ]

    In the UK... (4.66 / 6) (#29)
    by grahamsz on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 09:53:27 PM EST

    According to the 1999 Fatal Accidents Bill ( http://www.lawcom.gov.uk/library/lc263/bill.pdf ) which i dont believe is yet law. It sets the standard value of a human life lost in an accident at 10,000 UKP (around $16,000).

    Are we less valuable than our american counterparts?

    --
    Sell your digital photos - I've made enough to buy a taco today

    Of course! (5.00 / 2) (#90)
    by Big Sexxy Joe on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 05:51:04 PM EST

    We're usually to polite to bring it up though.

    I'm like Jesus, only better.
    Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
    [ Parent ]
    Must. Resist. Urge. (none / 0) (#120)
    by wiredog on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 08:09:06 AM EST

    Arrgh. Can't resist! Must rate '5'. For humor.

    More Math! Less Pr0n! K5 For K5ers!
    --Rusty

    [ Parent ]
    WBEZ Chicago (4.66 / 3) (#35)
    by pistols on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 12:02:07 AM EST

    There's a This American Life episode on how to determine (and improve!) the value of your life (It's at the end, Act III). Pretty funny, if you're into that morbid stuff like that :-)

    How to improve the value of your life. (none / 0) (#211)
    by I am Jack's username on Sat Dec 14, 2002 at 04:40:03 PM EST

    From the episode
    • Meet your parents and family often.
    • Have a child.
    • Girlfriends don't count: get married multiple times so you have lots of dependants, and have sex with your wife a lot.
    • Join community groups.
    • Tutor some poor kids.
    • Get a college degree.
    • Get a high paying professional job.
    • Die in Chicago, The Bronx, LA.
    • Go out into the great outdoors often, swim, watch sunsets.
    • Don't waste time watching foreign films on tv, or reading.
    • Don't die - instead be severely injured, burned, or a quadriplegic, and suffer a lot - being brain dead also helps.
    Lovely.
    --
    Inoshiro for president!
    "War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell
    [ Parent ]
    haha! (2.80 / 5) (#37)
    by turmeric on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 12:59:22 AM EST

    we are the singers of songs we are the dreamers of dreams.

    Similar argument in English class (3.20 / 5) (#38)
    by nodsmasher on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 01:16:11 AM EST

    Where discussing the things they carried and we are talking about how he felt that he was "too educated" to go to war. This one girl (whose ugly and Belgian, so this was like strike 3) was talking about how that was wrong because you can't be too good to have to go to war.

    So I was like but if your more educated we've invested more in your "human capital" (I'm taking econ this year as you can tell) and thus its in society's best interest to have you spared because you are less replaceable then a pig farmer for shitsville Kentucky.

    now this made her go rip shit because "all human life is precious and no one could be better then any one else."

    I was about to retort about relative cost to society, when weird Jewish girl professed her hatred for me and the teacher had to break up the class

    true story


    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Most people don't realise just how funny cannibalism can actually be.
    -Tatarigami
    I think I'd agree with her (5.00 / 3) (#47)
    by vadim on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 06:51:41 AM EST

    Just the fact that you aren't very educated and don't have any skills many other people don't shouldn't mean you're replaceable. If we follow that logic we could as well start killing homeless people - since many of them don't contribute to society and live on other's money.

    A world where I can be shot or forced to go to war just because my house burned down and I lost all my money is definitely not the world where I want to live in.
    --
    <@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
    [ Parent ]

    with poor logic and bad answers but still voted up (2.00 / 1) (#115)
    by auraslip on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 07:04:54 AM EST

    becuase you say what they want to here, even if it completely obvious.
    He was talking about the economic worth of man, and in desperate situations, what is economicly best is usally best for the most people. Thus being moral.
    Of course, your right "morally" everyone really is "equal".
    124
    [ Parent ]
    Following that logic... (none / 0) (#209)
    by HalfFlat on Fri Dec 13, 2002 at 04:12:31 PM EST

    If we follow that logic we could as well start killing homeless people - since many of them don't contribute to society and live on other's money.
    In a sense though, that's what is already being done in the US and in other countries.

    Once you have a differential health system, where people with more money have better health care, you have already made the decision that the lives and life quality of rich people is more valuable than that of poor people. Once an economic system is in place that creates a significant proportion of homeless people, there is a system which effectively has that the poorest people will be much more subject to the dangers of the environment such as cold, disease, etc.

    Some may see this as just or good; but I don't!

    On the other hand, war does change things. Once a government has decided that they'll go to war and sacrifice lives for (hopefully) some sort of gain, surely it is in the interests of the country to make that sacrifice the least destructive possible. It's easy to believe that the economic considerations can outweight the social friction that would result from differing treatment of people in the society. If they in truth do, then it would indeed be better to bear economic costs in mind when deciding who should be fighting whom, and who should be sacrificed in a war.

    Be a lot easier though if we could all just get along...



    [ Parent ]
    I have news for you (4.33 / 6) (#49)
    by pyramid termite on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 07:12:53 AM EST

    There are pig farmers in Kentucky who can probably write better English than you, judging from what you've written here, so you lose on educational level. Furthermore, more people eat bacon than listen to college students, therefore pig farmers are more useful to society. Which is why, if they institute the draft, a college student is going to be more likely to go to war than Bob Evans.

    On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
    [ Parent ]
    Nah. (4.00 / 1) (#61)
    by tkatchev on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 09:49:32 AM EST

    College students are very hard to order around, and they also make very poor soldiers.

    So, from the government's point of view, college students form the very dregs of the conscription barrel. This resource gets tapped only if things are going really bad and there is no other place left to draw human resource from.

       -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
    [ Parent ]

    Not too good to go to war (none / 0) (#67)
    by Rande on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 11:35:12 AM EST

    Maybe just not in the front line. Educated people can come up with more inventive ways of killing the opponents than plain ole shooting them.

    [ Parent ]
    History bears this out (none / 0) (#69)
    by dark on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 11:40:22 AM EST

    Without educated people, we'd still be throwing spears and stones, and hitting one another on the heads with clubs. Think about that the next time you go to war.

    [ Parent ]
    Educated people the root of all evil (2.50 / 2) (#113)
    by Quietti on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 06:58:42 AM EST

    Has it ever crossed your mind? The clergy, kings and queens have been responsible for crusades, wars, forced evangelization of peasants in remote countries and at home, passing of laws that essentially consider people as nothing more than instruments for their personal glorification... yet those were supposedly educated people. Now that I think of it, things haven't changed much, despite a democratic sheep's clothes some countries might think they have.

    --
    The whole point of civilization is to reduce how much the average person has to think. - Stef Murky
    [ Parent ]
    Even if it was true (none / 0) (#146)
    by RyoCokey on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:38:29 AM EST

    What good do the peasants and uneducated masses do? What positive world-altering affect did the serfs toiling during the middle ages effect? You'd have stasis at best, or perhaps in the absence of all civilization, barbarity and wanton murder.

    If it's an evil, it's a necessary one.



    "There is no reason why we should not have peaceful relations with the rest of the world if we cease playing the role of Meddlesome Mattie." - Sen. Art
    [ Parent ]
    You = scum (none / 0) (#118)
    by frogman on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 08:04:03 AM EST

    I think your argument is valid if you only count monetary value on individuals, but that is immoral in most cases. For example killing people who do not contribute to society is not OK.

    I think it is very interesting that the US is very eager to go to war now when all the rich kids don't have to go to fight. Kind of odd that so many people opposed Vietnam when they were in danger of getting drafter. Also it's rather interesting that the Colin Powell is opposed (atleast more so than Bush) to war in Iraq and he also is the only person in the government with combat experience.

    I mostly believe that you should generally "Do onto others as you would wish them do onto you" (and NO I'm not a Christian). If you are not willing to go to war, can you really with good conscious order others to go kill and die in some far away country?

    The only plus side on a conscription based armed force, is that if somebody decides to go to war, they can be certain that their own kids will go too or at least are in danger of getting drafted.



    [ Parent ]
    Molly Ivins (4.00 / 1) (#121)
    by wiredog on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 08:16:44 AM EST

    Several years ago, in one of her columns, she made the point that the anti-war movement in the 60's didn't get large until the draft lottery was instituted, which made it much more likely that the children of the middle class would go off to war.

    AIDS didn't become a 'crisis' in the US until the middle class began to see that they, too, were at risk.

    More Math! Less Pr0n! K5 For K5ers!
    --Rusty

    [ Parent ]

    The golden rule. (none / 0) (#212)
    by I am Jack's username on Sat Dec 14, 2002 at 05:58:36 PM EST

    "Do onto others as you would wish them do onto you"
    The correct golden rule is "Do not do unto others that which you would not want to be done unto you.". Under your rule, sadomasochists could torture other people because they, the SMs like it. Under the real golden rule, you are prevented from doing something to someone else that you don't like, so if you're a SM that means you're not allowed under the rule to torture people. Of course now, if you don't like to be left alone, and need constant mindless small talk, you should not leave others alone, and force them to live with your extroverted babble.

    In the end, simple rules just aren't complex enough. Instead I decide for myself what is right, others can make all the rules they want.
    --
    Inoshiro for president!
    "War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell
    [ Parent ]

    What is gained by taking a life? (5.00 / 7) (#43)
    by michaelmalak on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 03:55:28 AM EST

    Is it worth the convenience of a few thousand cell phone calls to take the life of one person? Dollars are not the only -- and certainly not the best -- way to measure human life.

    My blog article on the subject, Harvard: Deaths caused by driving with cell phone "worth it", has proven to be popular, so I copy it below:

    In a widely reported story, for example the Dec. 2, 2002 Washington Post story, it was reported that "drivers talking on their phones are responsible for about 6 percent of U.S. auto accidents each year, killing an estimated 2,600 people and injuring 330,000 others."

    And what was casually reported along with this story -- I heard it reported on the radio the same way -- was that the convenience of the cell phone outweighed or equaled the 2600 lives lost:

    The Harvard researchers calculated the costs associated with accidents caused by cell phones, such as medical bills and loss of life. The costs added up to an estimated $43 billion a year -- about the same as the researchers arrived at for the value that cell phone owners put on their phones.
    I'm not going to suggest that the economic value of a human life is infinity. While from a moral perspective it is, from the practical perspective of efficiently allocating limited resources (the definition of the word "economics"), a value has to be assigned; otherwise, everyone would starve.

    But unlike economists, I don't believe all dollars are equal. What the authors of this study are trying to say is that when a meat-packing executive is able to handle a cell phone call on the way to work, it saves consumers money at the grocery store -- perhaps $10 million. But when that executive runs into a pedestrian as a result, it was "worth it" because that $10 million was saved by the economy as a whole and can be deployed to other uses, such as medical research.

    That's putting as a good a face on the story as possible -- I've used noble causes in my anecdote, such as food and medical. But what's that really saying? It's saying that in order to maximize "efficiency" and "productivity," we all need to be zooming around multitasking and killing people. The people killed are not the only victims here; the stressed-out executives are double victims -- first for being forced (by the competitive workplace) to work while driving, and second for experiencing the trauma of killing someone.

    Talking on a cell phone while driving is a lose-lose situation. Neither the automobile deaths nor the stressed-out executives are "worth it" (worth the dollars "saved" by the economy). It might be nice to think that dollars saved by the economy would automatically go toward basic human needs and rights, such as food, clothing, shelter and basic medical care, but we know that is not the case. In current economic systems, dollars saved usually go toward simply increasing efficiency further and consolidating power into larger companies.

    Society would be better off banning the use of cell phones in cars, so that there would be no competitive pressure to use them.

    --
    BergamoAcademy.com  Authentic Montessori in Denver

    Society would be better off banning cars. [n/t] (5.00 / 2) (#50)
    by dark on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 07:25:28 AM EST



    [ Parent ]
    the meat-packing argument is simply ridiculous (none / 0) (#125)
    by criquet on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 08:52:36 AM EST

    what if the meat-packing executive was simply talking with a friend or his mistress or even scheming illegal activities that might ultimately cost the economy $10 million or more.

    there is NO valid justification for killing another human being except maybe self defense (and most definitly, there is NO economic nor religious justification).

    e.g. economically, how can you know that the person that was killed did not already or could not have gone on to produce more for the economy that the person that killed them?
    religious justifications are simply contrived by people to allow them not to feel guilty for committing murder.

    [ Parent ]

    No economic justification for killing another (none / 0) (#217)
    by vectro on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 12:55:33 AM EST

    Consider an motor vehicle manufacturer. The auto manufacturer's products are guaranteed to kill some people. The number of people killed can be reduced, but it can never be eliminated, short of refraining from manufacturing any vehicles at all.

    According to your morality, then, vehicle manufacturers ought to close their doors and liquidate. But what would be the effects on society if this happened? Modern America, at least, is highly dependant on the car (not to mention the truck). Without cheap transportation, there would be no ambulances, which might end up letting even more people die. Not to mention the potentially unsafe side-effects of alternative modes of transportation.

    “The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
    [ Parent ]

    Not a left versus right issue (5.00 / 6) (#44)
    by Alan Crowe on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 05:24:07 AM EST

    If I am the chairman of the safety sub-committee of the economic planning committee of a communist state, I have a budget to spend on safety measures. I order the various proposals before me according to how many Roubles they cost per life saved. For example, it might be that putting crash barriers in the central reservations of motorways costs a million Roubles per life saved, while insisting on safety harnesses for building workers on scaffolding costs two million Roubles per life saved. I go with the crash barriers first. If that exhausts my budget we can describe the situation by saying that I put a value of one million Roubles on the life of a communist citizen, and I didn't fund the safety harnesses because they cost too much.

    The concept of a monetary value for a life arises immediately you have

    • Finite resources
    • A list of decreasingly cost effect safety measures
    It is independent of the ownership of the means of production. "Market fundamentalism" is a red-herring.



    I agree (4.00 / 1) (#54)
    by Trevor OLeary on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 08:22:44 AM EST

    That this story just tacks on market forces at the end as a complete non-sequitur. Which is a shame because that is an issue, that people are generally awarded compensation based on their earnings, which is incredibly inequitable and disgusting.

    I think the main point is how absolutely friggin stupid people are - everyone is afraid of planes so planes have to be REALLLY safe but people don't care about cars. Real double standards based on irrational fears and stupidity.

    [ Parent ]

    And there's no options! (none / 0) (#56)
    by QuantumG on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 08:40:38 AM EST

    Where is the shoddy airline? I want to fly in a plane with paper wings! Get me there at 1/8th the price and don't make me book 4 months in advance and I'm all yours. Hell, even if the odds are heavily stacked against me it'd be blast!

    BTW - I am not being sarcastic. Sometimes people think I am.

    Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
    [ Parent ]

    We SHOULD set a consistent value on human life (4.82 / 23) (#46)
    by Paul Johnson on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 06:26:16 AM EST

    If we do not set a consistent financial value on a human life then the only alternative is to set lots of inconsistent ones.

    Here is a little thought experiment. There is a man lying in hospital. His life can be saved for $1. Should we do this? Certainly. Some more extreme libertarians might argue that it is theft (and therefore immoral) to force someone else to pay for this, but most people would feel that we have a collective responsibility to each other that certainly extends to paying $1 to save a life. I'm certainly in that camp.

    One might make an economic argument that this man is probably a net contributor to society, and at the very least our $1 investment will be recouped in future taxes. But suppose he is a long-term drunkard and petty thief? Does this alter our opinion? Most people would, I think, say no. We have a moral duty to save his life regardless of is worth to the rest of us.

    Suppose now it was $1000 to save his life. Few would demure. How about $1,000,000 ($1e6)? $1,000,000,000 ($1e9)? One might ask about $1e12, but I think that is probably larger than the US GDP.

    If you say "you can't equate lives to dollars" then your answer to all of these questions should be the same. Either we save the life regardless of the cost, or we let him die even if $1 would save him. As I noted above, letting someone die for want of $1 is repugnant. But on the other hand spending billions to save one man would be counter-productive because it would divert resources that could be used to save others. People die for all sorts of reasons, and we can never stop death no matter how much we spend. Some deaths are more expensive to prevent than others, so in a world of finite resources we must be content with minimising deaths as far as we can. It makes no sense to spend $1,000,000 preventing one death when we could have spent the same amount to prevent 1,000 deaths for a mere $1,000 each.

    Incidentally, we do in fact do something similar. As noted above, agencies responsible for road maintenance in the US set a value on a "statistical life" of around $200k, and in the UK the figure is similar. But the nuclear and airline industries spend millions per statistical life. A couple of years ago the UK rail network was reduced to half capacity for months after a railway accident in which a broken rail killed 4 people. The cost to the country was measured in hundreds of millions of pounds, but I'd guess the number of statistical lives saved was less than one, and may in fact have been negative because people were forced to take the more dangerous option of driving cars instead.

    The image of the man lying in hospital whilst the doctors carefully add up the bill for saving him is of course an over-simplified model, and one carefully calculated to tug at heart strings. But many of the decisions made by government have a similar flavour at a statistical level. The original article includes a fair sample. Morally there should be no difference between the life of a known individual in a hospital bed and the probability that one individual will be saved by an investment in safety measures. But it feels easier to condemn an unknown statistic than a solid human being currently lying in front of us. Should we pay attention to this impulse to favour those needing help here and now over those who might die in the future? If so, how much? I feel strongly that we should harden our hearts and treat all deaths as equal, but others may disagree. Even if we do favour the currently dying, the question of how much still applies.

    So either way, we find ourselves forced into the position of setting a value on a human life. How, exactly, do we do this?

    The rational view of this is easy. Just tot up the average worth of a human being in contributions to society, including money earned for family and homebuilding work. But that doesn't really cover it. If the person on the hospital bed were me, or one that I love, then I would cheerfully spend my entire net worth and demand that others do so as well. How then, can I refuse others the same? But I would. I would contribute lots of money to save a close relative, significant money to save a friend, and much less to save a stranger. I believe that most people would do likewise.

    So how do we as a society set a uniform value on each of us? One interesting method is to ask people (or even measure experimentally, if the situation should arise naturally) how much people are willing to spend in order to reduce their chance of death. Suppose that an epidemic disease is sweeping the nation. There is 1 chance in 1000 that it will kill you. How much is the vaccine worth to you? The theory of "expected value" says that the value you place on your life will be 1000 times the price you put on the vaccine.

    The problem with this measurement is that different people will put very different prices on the vaccine. Some will pay nothing whilst others will pay a substantial fraction of their net worth. (At least, thats people said when the question was discussed in a course I attended). And if you say that the disease kills 1 in 100 people don't say they will pay 10 times more. People also give very inconsistent answers to similar questions that merely involve money, and also don't behave in very consistent ways when real risks are involved. So that doesn't seem a very effective way of deciding things.

    Perhaps a better way would be to announce a reasonable value for a "statistical life" and then apply it across the board. Damages for death would be limited to that level, for instance (although any individual could buy insurance for more if they wished). If people wanted to see the value increased or decreased then they could lobby and vote for it in the same way as, for example, the minimum wage. The level would not please everybody, but at least it would be fairer than the current system. It would save more lives too.

    Paul.
    You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.

    Moral responsibility? (none / 0) (#55)
    by QuantumG on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 08:37:13 AM EST

    No, I don't feel a moral responsibility to save anyone's life. Not for $1000, not for $1. It's your life, deal with it.

    Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
    [ Parent ]
    Libertarianism (5.00 / 6) (#59)
    by Paul Johnson on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 08:56:45 AM EST

    I did think of putting in a counter to the libertarian position, but it would have made an already long post even longer. So I'll deal with it here.

    I've yet to see a clear libertarian response to the "public goods" problem. These are things that everyone wants but which cannot feasibly be parcelled up and sold to individuals. Examples are clean air, low crime rates, low infectious disease rates, safe roads, street lights and so on. You and I may have different opinions on how much we want to spend on street lighting versus the risk of walking or driving without them, but its not practical to provide me with street lights without providing you with them as well. Similar problems crop up for the rest of those examples.

    You may not feel obliged to help save the life of someone on a hospital bed. OK, I wonder at your lack of common humanity, but it is as you say your life. But we still have to make collective decisions about public goods that will save lives. Spending on street lights will reduce death rates, and incidentally also reduce your chance of dying in an accident. How much is the improved safety from any given extra light worth? We need a way to decide, and whatever decision we make will put a value on a human life.

    Paul.
    You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
    [ Parent ]

    therein lies the problem. (2.00 / 1) (#65)
    by treat on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 10:56:35 AM EST

    I may have different opinions on how much we want to spend on street lighting versus the risk of walking or driving without them, but its not practical to provide me with street lights without providing you with them as well.

    You can buy a flashlight. Street lights are a source of light pollution, destroying the natural beauty of the night sky. They also destroy the nighttime beauty of the environment on the ground. People living in cities forget that in the absence of a full moon, it is DARK AT NIGHT!

    People walked in the dark for millions of years. We are quite well adapted to it. Automobiles are equipped with headlights, and are frequently used in areas with no streetlights without any complaint. Street lights are simply unnecessary, and the small risk they eliminate does not equate to the immeasurable cost of losing the beauty of the night sky.



    [ Parent ]

    Silly (5.00 / 1) (#71)
    by BushidoCoder on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 12:17:19 PM EST

    Street lights pay for themselves when you consider the decreased crime and accident rate. I suppose people could use flashlights to a much smaller effect, but cars are out: A state unwilling to spend on street lights isn't likely going to have the best of roads either.

    If you want to go create an ultra-libertarian state with no street lights, you're welcomed to it. It is, however, complete silliness to talk about converting modern society back to such a state, because I'm sure 99.9% of the citizens of society would quickly include the cost of street lights into their social contract after thoughtful deliberation. If you want the beauty of the night sky.... don't live in the city!

    \bc

    [ Parent ]

    Country livin' (none / 0) (#132)
    by Kintanon on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 09:51:40 AM EST

    Unfortunately you can hardly escape the massive light pollution even by driving out into the boonies. I tried to go out to enjoy a Meteor shower and it took me 6 hours to find a place that didn't have street lights within view or a factory just over the hill to destroy my viewing experience. And this was in a county in Georgia that does damn near nothing but raise cows. I had to hike for two hours up a hill, find some guys old deer stand, and climb up into that to get a clear view of the sky without any artifical lights around.

    Kintanon

    [ Parent ]

    Value of sky? (none / 0) (#82)
    by carbon on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 03:21:08 PM EST

    Street lights are simply unnecessary, and the small risk they eliminate does not equate to the immeasurable cost of losing the beauty of the night sky.

    Well, okay, while we're on the subject of putting finite values on intangibles like life, what would you place as the value of the beauty of the night sky? Bidding starts at $5,000...


    Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
    [ Parent ]
    Missed points (5.00 / 1) (#111)
    by Paul Johnson on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 04:44:15 AM EST

    First, I was using street lights as a random example of a public good. Are you denying the existence of public goods in general? If not then how do you propose to deal with them?

    You then assert the "immeasurable" value of another public good: the ability to see the stars. Whilst I'm inclined to agree with you about the value of the night sky, street lights are not the only contributor to sky glow. I recall visiting a hotel and seeing multiple kilowatts of lighting pointing upwards through a glass roof. I did consider complaining, but I'm sure that they would have filed my complaint in the Round Cabinet.

    So to really preserve the night sky you would need a law banning lighting that creates too much sky glow. At what cost to those who (for whatever eccentric reason) prefer such lights?

    Paul.
    You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
    [ Parent ]

    Drifting the thread a bit (3.00 / 2) (#74)
    by DigitalRover on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 01:18:49 PM EST

    I've yet to see a clear libertarian response to the "public goods" problem. These are things that everyone wants but which cannot feasibly be parcelled up and sold to individuals. Examples are clean air, low crime rates, low infectious disease rates, safe roads, street lights and so on. You and I may have different opinions on how much we want to spend on street lighting versus the risk of walking or driving without them, but its not practical to provide me with street lights without providing you with them as well. Similar problems crop up for the rest of those examples. You're making the assumption that everyone wants exactly what you want. That's not to say there isn't a legitimate governmental role in some areas. For example, I wholeheartedly support the police in their role of apprehending murderers and theives. Yet at the same time, other governmental endeavours like the War on Drugs are creating more crime. The government, like any large beauracracy, is prone to behavior that creates all sorts of diametrically opposed policies. So you're saying that we should let it then determine the value of a single human life? Life, like any intangible, is worth exactly as much as you're willing to pay for it. Because of your abilities and contributions your life may be worth much more than mine, to certain people. The notion that we can put a dollar sign (or a euro for that matter) in front of any human life is ridiculous.

    [ Parent ]
    So.... (none / 0) (#89)
    by bjlhct on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 05:35:49 PM EST

    Are you opposed to any law that compels people to do something? Ever heard of "negative rights?"

    Once you come up with a mathematical way to determine what's in the "Catch killers" category and what's in the "Drug War" category, come back.

    The point is we do put dollar signs in front of people, every day. We have to. The point is to do it efficiently, which would prevent all sorts of waste, doing all sorts of good.

    Read the fucking comment before you reply next time.

    * kur0(or)5hin - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
    [ Parent ]

    So ... What. (none / 0) (#195)
    by DigitalRover on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 01:56:56 PM EST

    Are you opposed to any law that compels people to do something? Ever heard of "negative rights?"

    Laws don't compel people, the potential for personal loss (monetary or otherwise), compels people. It boils down to whether or not you're comfortable using force to get someone to do what you think is "right" regardless of whether or not your rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are impacted.

    Once you come up with a mathematical way to determine what's in the "Catch killers" category and what's in the "Drug War" category, come back.

    Gee... I dunno. Maybe we could stop trying to treat a social problem as a criminal problem, and instead focus on upholding the rights of the citizenry. But I guess you know better than anyone when it comes to running our lives.

    The point is we do put dollar signs in front of people, every day. We have to. The point is to do it efficiently, which would prevent all sorts of waste, doing all sorts of good.

    You slay me with your wrongheadedness and inability to reason! First, you want to "mathematically ... determine what's in the 'Catch killers' category" and then when it comes to properly defining the benefits of the position you advocate you lapse in to the generallity of "doing all sorts of good." Maybe later we can have some sort of fun with all the sorts of good.

    The fact is, the imposition of a centralized, government-mandated value on human life is not only opening the door to potential abuse but it will also be creating a form of governmental control of the insurance industries. If you'd bothered to read what I wrote before spewing invectives like "read the fucking comment" you might have been able to ascertain that I was speaking to a specific notion of valuation of human life. Namely, a centralized "line the sand" type imposition of value rather than assigning an intangible value.

    Finally, if my prior post was in fact garbage and rated a 1, why would you then deem it necessary to reply? Furthermore, if it was so bad then why is it also getting a 5 rating from another user? I would suggest that you're attempting to attack the arguments of the post with the rating rather than the quality of the post. As put forth in the help section of kuro5hin, are you able to explain your rating?

    [ Parent ]
    Well.... (none / 0) (#202)
    by bjlhct on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 06:32:19 PM EST

    My feeling is that a 1 needs some justification: a 1 rated comment sitting along usually bothers me.

    What you did is spit out arguments that were answered in the post you replied to. That is 1-worthy.

    * kur0(or)5hin - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
    [ Parent ]

    What you mean (1.00 / 2) (#204)
    by DigitalRover on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 10:24:54 PM EST

    Is that I "spit out" arguments that you disagreed with ... Why can't you be honest and admit that you're rating not on the quality of the post, but on the views of the poster?

    The original poster asked for a "libertarian response" to certain questions. I replied with the view that he was making an assumption about what "everyone wanted." You rated the commentary 1 because you lacked a coherent response to the issues I put forth.

    [ Parent ]
    Hogwash (none / 0) (#216)
    by QuantumG on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 05:36:01 AM EST

    Libertarians have always had an answer to the public goods question: If you want it, you pay for it. There is no part of libertarianism that prevents individuals from forming into groups with common goals to produce public goods. The emphesis, however, is on my *choice* to enter that society and donate my share to produce the public goods I want.

    You're example of street lights is baffling, however.

    Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
    [ Parent ]

    What do we do (5.00 / 1) (#70)
    by BushidoCoder on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 11:41:19 AM EST

    when the amount necessary to save that person's life exceeds the amount necessary to save a person's life in a third world country.

    People die in poverty-stricken countries of hunger and easily eradicatable diseases daily. The cost to vaccinate one person in those countries is relatively low, and buying a family in country X a month's supply of food can also be done rather cheaply.

    Lets pretend for a moment that it costs $100 per year to sustain a person in country X, and assume that without that $100, that person will likely die of starvation or disease.. So when it costs 1 million to save the life of the American in the hospital, that money can also translate to 10,000 lives saved in country X. Does this mean that spending over $100 dollars on a patient in the US is assigning a greater value to the American?

    The problem is non-existant in terms of government; Government only has the assumed responsibility over its own citizens. This conflict does exist for non-profit humanitarian organizations though. After all, if it costs $100 to save a life, and a child in country X needs a $700 minor surgery to correct a life-threatening condition, does he or she get it at the expense of 7 other people (they're still gonna need the $100 in food, so they cost $800 in the end).

    I realize that this is not the point you're neccesarily trying to make, but it leads into this; I think trying to assign a dollar value to life is dehumanizing, unfair and impossible. We judge lives on a moral metric that states that all men are created equal, but to assign a monetary value to a person forces us to overlook the "moral" or "fair" judgement, and examine the economic impact of the individual. You're kidding yourself if you think a Senator or the President is not worth more money in this system than the average Joe. We shouldn't set an upper limit on how much it takes to save their lives. I think most people would agree with that. However, what happens when we turn the focus over to simply rich people, and other people important to society. If a factory worker dies, the impact his death has on the economy is minor in comparison to the effect that the death of that company's CEO has on its stock price. Although I'm certain most people here wouldn't mind it, Bill Gates' death would be very bad for the economy right now. You could argue that these people could always pay for increased medical bills out of their own pocket, but what about other people who are simply important, but not neccesarily rich - Researchers at a University working on a cure for AIDS, famous authors, musicians, or (I hate to say it) actors? If the amount necessary to save the life of a researcher who had a realistic 5% chance per year over the next several years to cure AIDS exceeded the amount set by the government, and I were in a position of power, I'd happily up the cost for that person.

    Do we treat all circumstances the same? Is the baby born with an immune deficiency by sheer chance limitted to the same net value as the heroin addict who only has medical problems as a result of something he or she willingly did?

    Please excuse all the spelling errors, I'm in a bit of a hurry.

    \bc

    [ Parent ]

    So what would you prefer? (5.00 / 1) (#83)
    by Paul Johnson on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 04:08:33 PM EST

    Does this mean that spending over $100 dollars on a patient in the US [rather than a starving African] is assigning a greater value to the American?

    Yes.

    I think trying to assign a dollar value to life is dehumanizing, unfair and impossible.

    So what alternative do you propose? If you were in charge, how would you decide how much to spend on, say, medical treatment for poor people, crash barriers, street lamps, fire services and all the other things that governments spend money on to save lives? Also, how would you decide if private enterprise should be required to spend money (e.g. in auto safety or aircrash prevention systems). If you spend different amounts per life saved in different places then you are wasting lives because you could save more people with the same amount of money.

    to assign a monetary value to a person forces us to overlook the "moral" or "fair" judgement, and examine the economic impact of the individual.

    I disagree. Economic impact might be a starting point but it certainly isn't the end point. Ultimately it has to be a collective decision taken by democratic means. I certainly would want the figure to be higher than merely the average Discounted Future Product of an individual, and I wouldn't want to see distinctions made between individuals based on their future worth either. I suspect most people would agree with me on those two points.

    Let me extend the analogy with the Minimum Wage. Its been introduced because a majority of people believe that having people work for starvation wages is morally wrong, they want to see it stopped, and they are prepared to put up with higher prices and/or more unemployment. Exactly where you set the minimum wage is the subject of much wrangling and lobbying, with various interests trying to push it up or down. There is no morally "right" level, but people can weigh the costs and benefits (including the lack of guilt for those on higher wages) and make a decision. There is no reason why the value of a life cannot be set in a similar way. Putting a high value on it means that we become safer in our everyday lives, but at an economic cost. We trade off safety against economic cost every day as individuals. Why not do the same collectively? Especially as it would increase the number of lives saved without imposing an economic cost.

    Paul.
    You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
    [ Parent ]

    An attempt at a response (5.00 / 1) (#94)
    by BushidoCoder on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 06:27:01 PM EST

    So what alternative do you propose? If you were in charge, how would you decide how much to spend on, say, medical treatment for poor people, crash barriers, street lamps ...

    There is a difference between knowing the right answer (which I don't) and knowing that an answer is wrong. I can't spell out for you a perfect policy that makes everyone happy, but I can make a couple jabs at things that might work....

    Firstly, define your solution. Is it a governmental solution, a private solution, or a hybrid? In my previous post, I discussed how a governmental "unilaterally fair" policy is harmful to society, so lets scratch that. A wholey private solution would say "Yes, the CEO is important, let the company he works for carry his/her medical bills since they have an interest in him/her living." Of course, companies don't always carry an emergency medical reserve of cash in their back pocket, so it would make more fiscal sense for them to pay premiums to some other company that does, and insures the individual. That sounds strangely like the way it works. In this manner, those persons who either have money themselves, or provide something of value to someone (for example, the researcher) will be covered.

    Fantastic! Now everyone who contributes value or has money is covered. The problem here is that the poor and replaceable aren't protected, because no one thinks they're worth the cost of their premiums. So, if you're basing the system off a moral decision, you have to scratch the private solution too.

    My vote is that its a hybrid solution. This leaves three categories of people; Those who can afford good health insurance without help, those who can't, and those for which it doesn't matter because no insurance company would insure them.

    Don't worry about Group A. For Group B, its possible with regulation to subsidize a varied percentage of health insurance premiums for those under a certain poverty line. Basically, say that single mothers, people who are working, or people who are eligible for unemployment are also eligible for a program that ensures that they have health insurance if they want it. Make it so that people who abuse illegal drugs, drive under the influence of alcohol, commit a felony, etc, lose their subsidy check until they are certified clean. The government will have to force insurance companies to pick up group 3, and I imagine the government is going to have to foot the bill for it, but from a "moral" viewpoint, it would be the only way to keep it fair.

    How much insurance should the government give them? You don't have to decide this, let the people decide. Increase the percentage of the subsidy that the government pays for as the individual buys more insurance, so that the individual will limit the amount of insurance they have based on the amount of disposable income they want to invest, but still have the option to get all the insurance they need. You can also institute additional programs in which a person trades something of value to the government in exchange for insurance. Offer free lifelong health insurance up to a certain level to anyone who volunteers 5 years in the Uniformed Services (I think there is something like that in place already). Give additional subsidies to health insurance costs to people who become a teacher. In other words, always leave an option open.

    Expensive? Of course, what were you expecting? The Fed should be able to, with proper regulation, lower medical costs some. Will the insurance companies be hurting? Perhaps, but likely not. After the right cost levels are found, it should be close. Perhaps at this point the Fed can lend the insurance companies money at a discounted rate over what the banks get it at for the exclusive use of paying on claims. This should allow the insurance companies to keep a smaller cash repository without worrying about having to borrow from the banks at higher interest rates when an unanticipated number of claims come in.

    This subject is pretty near to my heart. My brother is categorized as uninsurable by previous medical condition. There's no way in hell that he's going to be able to afford his medical bills on his own when my parents pass away. Fortunately for him, they are still around, and being middle class, they can ensure that the bills are paid. In my humble opinion, everyone deserves a certain level of coverage, and I think the taxpayers should foot a portion of that bill.

    Economic impact might be a starting point but it certainly isn't the end point. Ultimately it has to be a collective decision taken by democratic means. I certainly would want the figure to be higher than merely the average Discounted Future Product of an individual, and I wouldn't want to see distinctions made between individuals based on their future worth either.

    I think the system should be fair across the board too. However, the argument that it should be is based on morality and economics. When you concede that American life must be rated differently than foreigners, you lose a good portion of your moral imperative, and although some remains, the argument is now principally an economic one.

    Minimum wage is not entirely a moral argument, either. In fact, I would argue that only its existence is moral. In the endgame, the state is providing a system that allows the lower class to live in semi-respectable fashion while still spending money and contributing to the economy as a consumer. I once heard someone say, "I bet McDonalds wishes that they did away with minimum wage." I disagree! A good portion of McDonald's repeat customers come out of the minimum wage bracket. If you took away what little spending money they had, they would stop eating at McDonalds.

    I, for one, believe that the current system simply needs to be fine-tuned to offer similar protections to its poor as it does to its rich, and that starting from scrap by defining a value to human life is a horridly bad idea. There is no upper limit to it. If you want corporations to make products that respect the safety of their users, make it economically inconvenient for them to ignore safety by either raising the level of damages achieveable in court, and making the situations under which a company must recall and fix its shipped products more frequent.

    \bc

    [ Parent ]

    Begging the question. (5.00 / 1) (#107)
    by Paul Johnson on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 04:03:29 AM EST

    Thanks for the response.

    Most of your post is concerned with health system funding. This is a very specialised bit of the topic I was discussing. Although I started off with a thought experiment about purchasing medical treatment for a dying man I was actually trying to look at a much broader topic of how we should collectively manage risk to individuals, and how we trade off low risk against other things that we want, like low prices and fast transport.

    Towards the end of your post you say:

    ...contributing to the economy as a consumer...

    Side note: This is a fallacy. If I enjoy a McDonald's burger then that is good for me, but it doesn't benefit anyone else. What does create benefit is the work I did in order to earn the money that paid for the burger. But if the government takes money off someone else to give to me to buy a burger then that creates no benefit to anyone else whatsoever (its all the same to McDonalds who buys the burger), and deprives the previous owner of the money of the same benefit, cancelling out the benefit done to me. Also there are frictional and deadweight losses due to the administration involved and the lowered incentives provided to the original owner of the money to go out and earn more. This all applies whether we are talking about the minimum wage or a benefit paid by government out of tax revenue.

    In short, you can't create wealth by shuffling money around. People who think you can do so are falling into the same fallacy as the "Make Money Fast" Ponzi schemes.

    ...defining a value to human life is a horridly bad idea. There is no upper limit to it. If you want corporations to make products that respect the safety of their users, make it economically inconvenient for them to ignore safety by either raising the level of damages achieveable in court, and making the situations under which a company must recall and fix its shipped products more frequent.

    I quite agree, but this begs the question "how much?". If you raise the level of damages and recalls then the corporations in question will have to feed the resulting costs through to their customers. This applies whether the costs are incurred in damages and recalls or in expensive over-engineering of safety features: a sensible corporation will try to balance the two in order to minimise the total. Either way the consumer winds up paying. Eventually you reach a point where nobody can afford the resulting product and the manufacturers are forced to stop making it. This is a cost to society just as much as if it were from a tax to pay for street lamps that have no effect on safety.

    So the question still hangs around with its begging bowl out: what is the right level for damages for unsafe products that kill people?

    Paul.
    You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
    [ Parent ]

    The blessings of federalism (4.00 / 1) (#147)
    by BushidoCoder on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:41:03 AM EST

    You're right - I only did discuss the health system and left the other topics out in the cold. Like I said, I don't have the answers, and I'll be honest, I haven't the first clue at estimating the needs of these other services and their costs.

    That said, street lights, safer roads, fire services, etc, are all subjects which would be more aptly financed and controlled at a State level, whereas health insurance is more of a federal issue. These issues all revolve around a geographic locality; Obviously, the number of street lights in Tulsa has little to no effect on people stumbling around in the dark in Atlanta. As such, they should only be reviewed by the locality they are in. Health insurance is different in that whatever your coverage is in Tulsa, you'd like it to be the same or better when visiting Atlanta.

    I prefer it this way. Each state can take their own jab at it, and if the citizens of that state are unhappy about the results they are seeing, they can "vote with their feet" over to another state. The different states don't have to agree on a dollar amount per life to spend on each service; In fact, its better if they don't, as it gives people more variety and choice dependant on their political and philosophical leanings.

    In short, you can't create wealth by shuffling money around. People who think you can do so are falling into the same fallacy as the "Make Money Fast" Ponzi schemes

    What? Pyramid schemes don't work?

    Yes, which is why I said the existence of minimum wage is rooted in morality, not economics. The exact value of the minimum wage is more of an economic decision than a moral one, though. How does raising the minimum wage effect the bottom line in certain industries? What percentage of the workforce will the average firm lay off to support these new changes?

    While moving money around in microeconomics doesn't make money, on a macroeconomic level, it can if done properly. The faster money is spent, the greater its value. If Uncle Sam had 200 bucks to give out, and his choices were my thrifty student friend Clara who would stick the cash under her mattress for a year to help with tuition next year, or someone like me, who would go and buy a Gamecube on the way home, I would be the better macroeconomic choice.

    Poor people spend money fast. They don't have the luxury of being allowed to save for the most part, so chances are whatever money they earn is going right back out in the next 2 weeks. On the flipside, it takes alot of people spending to match the amount of cash McDonalds corporation pushes out on a daily basis. I don't know which is more vital to the economy, but really, the answer to that question is moot. What is important is that economists and lawmakers think about that question before proposing changes to the minimum wage.

    what is the right level for damages for unsafe products that kill people?

    I tried to touch on this in the last posting, but I did it so briefly that I did a pretty piss-poor job at it. Basically, I believe that no value should be set for this. It should fluctuate based on the whim of juries. To provide a static amount gives corporations the power to use it as an element of an equation for determining how much to spend on product safety. If you leave it flexible, however, a corporation has to take a risk before excluding that $10 part; They might lose 10 million in court and save money. They also might lose 2 billion in court. Since stockholders, investors and lenders are not exactly fans of "big surprises" at earnings time, the result is that most companies will err on the side of caution. This is especially true if consumer advisory boards are dillegent at finding the "fast ones" companies try to pull over on you, and demand recalls. If Ford thinks spending $10 for a part hurts, wait until it has to spend $300 bucks in recall costs per vehicle + $10 for the part.

    \bc

    [ Parent ]

    Federalism (4.00 / 1) (#175)
    by Paul Johnson on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 05:34:24 PM EST

    I haven't the first clue at estimating the needs of these other services and their costs.

    Neither have I. Thats not the point. The point is how you go about the task of deciding.

    Whether its done at a federal or state level, or even just me and my neigbours clubbing together to buy some streetlights (which a libertarian once proposed to me as how it should be done) the basic problem remains.

    Even at County or City level, if they don't have a consistent method of deciding how much money to spend on safety then they will wind up over-spending on safety in one area whilst leaving people exposed to danger somewhere else. And putting a value on human life is not something that can be avoided. Every decision made on safety spending does it. If you know the cost and the relative risks then you can work out what that value is. What bothers me is to see my life valued at millions of pounds when I'm on an airliner, billions of pounds (literally) when I'm on a train, and then a measly couple of hundred thousand when I drive a car or walk down the road. I want some of that safety spending shifted from trains and planes to automobiles. Is this unreasonable?

    To provide a static [value for a human life] gives corporations the power to use it as an element of an equation for determining how much to spend on product safety.

    Which is exactly what they should do. If a car maker values my life in the tens of millions it makes my car more expensive to buy and run, but makes almost no difference to my safety if the Department of Transport still only values it at 200K. I'm far more likely to be killed by bad roads than bad brakes, and forcing car makers to make cars even safer won't fix the roads. I'd be safer if both the Dept of Transport and the car manufacturer both used a figure of, say, 500K, because the car would be cheaper, taxes would be higher, and the money would be spent where it would have the most effect.

    Thats an over-simplified argument of course. Real safety issues tend to be much more complicated with injury and death resulting from cumulative causes. But having different players put wildly different figures on my life makes things worse, not better.

    And I haven't even mentioned quality of life issues for those with serious injuries. Just dealing with deaths has been complicated enough. I could write a book. Maybe I should.

    Paul.
    You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
    [ Parent ]

    Cool down sparky (none / 0) (#112)
    by newellm on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 06:16:53 AM EST

    Make it so that people who abuse illegal drugs, drive under the influence of alcohol, commit a felony, etc, lose their subsidy check until they are certified clean.

    Please don't group illegal drug use with actions that could potentially hurt others. Does a heroin addict that would give anything to rid themselves of their horrible disease deserve the same treatment as a cold blooded killer? It seems to me that is what your statement suggests.



    [ Parent ]
    Sorry, that was a bit out of context (none / 0) (#138)
    by BushidoCoder on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:03:04 AM EST

    I don't mean to say that a heroin addict should be "punished" in the same manner as a violent felon. I included drug addicts, however, because their illegal activities increase the medical bills that the State will eventually have to cough up for them.

    I included the statement really just to say that these government subsidies should be revokeable. I didn't mean to say that we should treat all those cases equally. I do believe, though, that if such a program existed, and a person was found to be an illegal drug user, the State should give them the option, "Treatment center, or we will revoke your health insurance subsidy." I think that is more than fair.

    \bc

    [ Parent ]

    McDonalds is cheaper... (none / 0) (#218)
    by vectro on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 01:08:38 AM EST

    ... than cooking your own food. How can this be, you might say? Well, if you consider the value of your own time, McDonald's can deliver food so quickly that it becomes worthwhile (economically) to eat there. Think of it as an example of division of labour.

    So in essence, the poorer you are (to a certain extent), the more likely you are to eat at McDonalds because you need to spend more of your hours working to pay for the essentials.

    “The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
    [ Parent ]

    But if we were to set consistent values (none / 0) (#84)
    by Rogerborg on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 04:12:26 PM EST

    Then the amount you could squeeze of out someone wouldn't depend on how good a lawyer you can afford.  What sort of a crazy mixed up world would that be?

    "Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
    [ Parent ]

    Somebody's sig... (none / 0) (#88)
    by bjlhct on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 05:27:39 PM EST

    "God bless America, where laws are passed to protect people from the legal system."

    * kur0(or)5hin - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
    [ Parent ]

    Do you (none / 0) (#100)
    by medham on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 10:17:22 PM EST

    Like spanking as much as the real Paul Johnson? No matter.

    What is at fault here is your liberal utilitarianism, which Adorno has quite conclusively shown leads to the star chamber.

    The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
    [ Parent ]

    Please explain (none / 0) (#110)
    by Paul Johnson on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 04:22:11 AM EST

    A Google search led me to this brief summary of the thinking of Theodor Adorno. I have to admit that I don't understand most of it ("negation of the negation"?) but what I can understand doesn't seem to have anything to do with liberal utilitarianism. Can you explain further please?

    (BTW if the word "liberal" is being used in its original sense of providing maximum freedom then I'm inclined to accept it as a good label for my way of thinking).

    I've seen some attempts to refute utilitarianism, but they all seem to be straw man attacks. They start by defining "the greatest good of the greatest number" in some narrow-minded way, often by ignoring the very real good of pluralism and freedom (note the "liberal" part of the label) and then deducing that their straw-man version of utilitarianism will sacrifice pluralism and freedom in pursuit of its narrowly defined definition of "good". Which is neither surprising nor useful.

    Paul.
    You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
    [ Parent ]

    Hey Paul... (none / 0) (#101)
    by RyoCokey on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 11:05:57 PM EST

    How to you switch between a fairly lucid post like this and arguing the burning tires and smashing things in downtown protests is a "good start?"



    "There is no reason why we should not have peaceful relations with the rest of the world if we cease playing the role of Meddlesome Mattie." - Sen. Art
    [ Parent ]
    Please elucidate. (none / 0) (#109)
    by Paul Johnson on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 04:11:01 AM EST

    Sorry, where did I say that? Paul.
    You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
    [ Parent ]
    To extend this globally ... (none / 0) (#102)
    by medusa on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 11:50:47 PM EST

    Would imply that we need to have a common standard on societal values among different societies, and I don't see how this would work, at least at present. Disregarding the extra value placed on a human being--e.g., a family member--by an individual, by setting a common societal value, would have to be extended by disregarding the extra value placed on a member of a particular society by that society.

    Unless every human being lived in a uniform society on earth, trying to set such common value will inadvertently force a uniformization of cultures. In practice this is hard to achieve. Maybe in a few centuries.

    Not trying to set a common value will imply, for example, that a human being living in Afghanistan is worth less than one living in US, which is currently, sadly, the case.

    [ Parent ]

    cell phone headsets (4.00 / 2) (#48)
    by etherdeath on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 06:54:04 AM EST


    The benefits of a ban would be worth approximately $43 billion (range $9 billion to $193 billion).

    Headsets.  Even if you figure they're $20 each, and there are 150,000,000 Americans with cell phones, buying a headset for each of these people is $3,000,000,000 (per year if you want to figure that the headset will only last a year)  There may be some inconvenience having to use a handset.  How much is that inconvenience worth, then?  I suppose one might argue that it's the remainder of that $9-$43 million.  It doesn't bother me to the tune of $40-$266.

    Problem is... (5.00 / 1) (#76)
    by magney on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 02:01:53 PM EST

    a lot of the cell-phone-danger studies suggest that headsets don't really help much. The bulk of the danger in using a cell phone while driving is that the phone distracts you from anything else you may be doing, not so much the act of dialing or looking at the phone screen.

    Do I look like I speak for my employer?
    [ Parent ]

    Distractions? (5.00 / 1) (#207)
    by thejeff on Thu Dec 12, 2002 at 06:10:15 PM EST

    I somehow doubt that a cell phone distracts significantly more than talking to someone else in the car. The difference would be because the other passenger would be more aware of conditions and react to them. On the other hand there's more temptation to look at the passenger as you're talking.

    The obvious solution is to ban passengers.

    [ Parent ]

    Chemicals (4.00 / 2) (#57)
    by Silent Chris on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 08:50:30 AM EST

    Wasn't there once a study where they determined the chemical content of the entire human body was only worth a couple of dollars?

    So? (4.50 / 2) (#78)
    by carbon on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 03:08:20 PM EST

    Probably, but what meaning would that have. Whole is more than the sum of the parts, and all that. If I had those chemicals in their exact measures, and put them indiscriminately into a vat, it wouldn't be a human.


    Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
    [ Parent ]
    Lower limit (none / 0) (#116)
    by Mr Dyqik on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 07:44:07 AM EST

    It allows you to set a lower limit.  You can then have a chemical value, an organ value (assuming some average medical history), and a whole functioning human economic value (and maybe a personal value as well, I don't want to go there at the minute).

    The individual organ value would decrease overtime as the donor aged, but the total organ value could increase with time, as more transplants (and better anti-rejection techniques) are developed.

    Economic value of a functioning human changes with time as well I suppose, as skills are acquired, and maybe go out of fashion amoung those studying, or out of use.  Plus total remaining economic value decreases with time/life expectancy.

    [ Parent ]

    1920's figure - much higher today (5.00 / 2) (#98)
    by Blarney on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 09:15:45 PM EST

    That was true once upon a time, but is no longer. I have read this figure in a set of encyclopaedias from the 1920s. First of all, though this is a minor point, a dollar back then was a gold-backed dollar worth 1/30th of an ounce of gold, so this $2 is more like $25.

    Secondly, there were no organ transplants back then. You couldn't just take a liver out of a fresh corpse and give another 20 years of life to some lucky person. No cornea transplants to restore sight to the blind, no kidney transplants, no use of cadaver bone to repair serious fractures - amputation was the standard treatment for shattered limbs. There were no cadaver skin grafts for burn victims, and there were no collagen injections for plastic surgery. No need to transplant dura mater, because there was no such thing as brain surgery except for the occasional drainage hole drilled in some unfortunate patient's skull.

    Finally, modern biochemistry had not been developed, and human tissues were not used in experiments. Many prescription drug candidates are tested first in enzyme assays, then on bacterial cultures, then on animal tissue cultures, then on human tissue cultures, and only then are the much-publicized animal and human drug trials performed.

    In conclusion, a fresh human corpse is today worth hundreds of thousands of US dollars. There have been quite a few news stories about how people donate the bodies of their loved ones to a "non-profit" tissue bank and find out that their dead relative is being stripped for parts and sold for a great deal of money while they receive nothing. I won't get into the details here, you can google for it, but it's fairly well known that a lot of people make a lot of money off of donated cadavers. It's not about $2.

    [ Parent ]

    It's done all the time (4.00 / 2) (#60)
    by akma on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 09:30:44 AM EST

    Prices are set on the value of human life thosand of times a day all over the world. Sometimes a person sets the value of their life themselves. Sometimes others do it for them. Insuarance compaines are directly in the business of setting a value on life. Then there's also the judiciary. The medical and pharmacutical compaines do it as well. I'm sure someone with too much time on their hands has already calculated it out at least partially for limited regions.

    __
    Those in the world shouting "Yankee go home" should bear in mind that the people of the South have been saying the same thing for over 100 years now, but the damned bastards won't leave.
    World Bank article on this subject (5.00 / 3) (#63)
    by dark on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 10:19:00 AM EST

    While googling around for references, I found an article about this problem:

    Public Choices Between Life-saving Programs: how important are lives saved?



    Life value should be public knowledge (4.83 / 6) (#64)
    by p3d0 on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 10:34:01 AM EST

    It is logical for different industries to set different values on human life in order to make financial decisions. I think this is fine, so long as the public has a right to know what dollar value was assigned when a product was designed.

    For instance, suppose you go to buy a car, and find out that its designers valued a human life at $1 million, making design choices for safety based on this value. If you consider yourself to be worth more than this, you can move on and look for a car whose designers assigned a higher value to human life. The choice is yours.

    If you want to save your money and buy a car whose designers value life at $2000 (taking the corresponding cost-cutting measures) then that's your call, and you are making an informed choice.

    In such a system, the only safety-based lawsuits would be ones in which the designers are accused of claiming they used a higher life-value than the product actually exhibits.
    --
    Patrick Doyle
    My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.

    There's a catch. (5.00 / 4) (#68)
    by dark on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 11:38:10 AM EST

    The life they assign value on is not necessarily the car owner's. In many cases it can be a random stranger's life. How much money is spent on making sure the brakes work reliably? How much money is spent on making sure the car doesn't slip even if it's braking while turning sharply? Such decisions will affect whoever is in front of the car as much as they affect the people in the car.

    [ Parent ]
    Well, there are many factors... (4.00 / 1) (#75)
    by gordonjcp on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 01:25:15 PM EST

    You could design a car that was unconditionally stable, even under extremely unusual conditions. Citroen Xantia and XM cars, and the newer C5, have electronically stabilised suspension that makes them impossible to roll, and prevents the car oversteering even in very slippy conditions. These cars are really expensive (well, XMs aren't, because they have a terrible reputation for electrical problems. They're a really good deal if you can fix them yourself). Smaller, cheaper cars, with conventional springs, skid and spin easily, but are much cheaper and simpler to make.
    You can't have it both ways. It has to be cheap and simple, but inherently unsafe, or far safer but far more expensive.

    Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


    [ Parent ]
    Marketplace (5.00 / 1) (#79)
    by wiredog on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 03:10:08 PM EST

    The NPR business show Marketplace did a report on The Value of a Life as part of the Sept 11 stuff.

    More Math! Less Pr0n! K5 For K5ers!
    --Rusty

    this is crap (3.50 / 4) (#85)
    by aurelito on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 04:15:48 PM EST

    Markets are sometimes an excellent way to determine something's value.

    you haven't demonstrated any evidence at all why this is true. in fact, your entire article is tautological, in the sense that this is exactly the same premise you start out with.

    life insurance and court settlements are not indicative of the value of human life. the insurance company has no pretense of replacing the lost loved one with something of equal value. the court settlement doesn't reimburse you for the loss of the relative. the money awarded is to assist the family in the process of rehabilitation as much as possible.

    in the case of negligence lawsuits, the money is also symbolic of the company taking responsibility of their actions. anyone can apologize, but to pay US $100,000,000 means you recognize you've made a big boo-boo and will think twice before acting so negligently again. that this is pocket change to many contemporary corporations and has consequently lost a degree of effectiveness is another matter altogether.

    furthermore, it's ridiculous to look at this as a legitimate transaction. nobody in the wtc of the panam flight agreed to this transaction. the life was lost, first of all, and only then was a compensation negotiated. i don't think anyone killed by the wtc attack would agree beforehand to giving their lives for US $19 mil.

    even if you found instances of people agreeing to give their life in exchange for a post-mortem compensation, other figures have to be looked at. how much misery is in this person's life? to what degree can we say they are living, when they are spending eighteen hours a day working so that their family may eat, because they'd rather die than see their family suffer. joe smith who earns $100k/year probably wouldn't trade his life for any amount of money in the world, but joe smith who earns 25c/day might, if it means his kids can have a stab at a better life.

    human life is the ultimate end in market environments. the worth of anything is measured by its benefit to human life. if we agree to use cellphones, it's because we value the added convenience to our lives. human life is the criterion of worth, and therefore it cannot be used to measure itself. life's value cannot be measured by money.

    The value of something (1.00 / 1) (#122)
    by wiredog on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 08:18:46 AM EST

    is what people will pay for it. For physical things, anyway.

    More Math! Less Pr0n! K5 For K5ers!
    --Rusty

    [ Parent ]
    Folks should have known the risk (3.00 / 1) (#86)
    by nomoreh1b on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 04:24:06 PM EST

    I know that I personally spoke to someone who was working at WTC about the risk of a major terrorist attack. There is a real question of if the US government can afford to both fight an expensive war in Iraq(and possibly elsewhere in the middle east) and to indemnify families of civilian casualties. At some point, the bank will be broken.



    I think we're doing just fine (4.50 / 6) (#87)
    by Rogerborg on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 04:26:17 PM EST

    The dollar value of your life/health/happiness should be entirely dependent on the quality of lawyer you or your relatives can afford.

    I mean, how else can we preserve the priviledge of class?  Tax avoision and nepotism can only go so far: when it comes down to sueing the pants off of someone to allow your dependents to continue living in the style to which they have become accustomed, access to expensive lawyers is really the the only fair way to measure worth.

    Otherwise all council would be state appointed and paid at a flat rate from tax money (raised in lieu of tort settlements), right?  I mean, we do work on the basis that capitalism is correct, and that access to expensive lawyers allows you to define what the law is, right?  We're not communists, are we?

    Gnnn, I had a whimsical point when I started this, but now I'm seeing the red mist (I must be a closet commie), so I'd better go and lie down for a bit.  But have a think about it.  Mandating fixed or capped settlements hurts the abilities of lawyers to make money.  Half of all career politicians are members of the American Bar Association, and half of them aren't sitting in the House or Senate at any given time.  What do you want them to do, pass laws that reduce their ability to rake in money as lawyers when they're not living off of your taxes?  Do the arithmetic.

    "Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs

    Life Value (5.00 / 1) (#92)
    by bugmaster on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 06:10:17 PM EST

    Ok, I read an article once on a similar topic, and I can't find it now (can anyone help me out ?). The article did a study on the value of human life as it was determined in various disaster relief programs, etc. Turns out sometimes some politician or other managed to convince people that "the human life is priceless", and that putting a monetary value on it is wrong. In those cases, the disaster relief campaign in question was allocated less funds than the amount of money they would have received if they put a value on human life based on statistics.
    >|<*:=
    I guess I should know by now... (2.00 / 1) (#93)
    by Lord Snott on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 06:13:18 PM EST

    ...but who the hell is Inoshiro?

    I see the name pop up in polls all the time, is Inoshiro our version of CowboyNeal?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    This sig in violation of U.S. trademark
    registration number 2,347,676.
    Bummer :-(

    Inoshiro is Inoshiro (none / 0) (#95)
    by jt on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 07:22:22 PM EST

    http://www.kuro5hin.org/user/Inoshiro

    [ Parent ]
    And he hates (none / 0) (#124)
    by wiredog on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 08:19:57 AM EST

    being the default poll option.

    Because he's not CowboyNeal.

    More Math! Less Pr0n! K5 For K5ers!
    --Rusty

    [ Parent ]

    Inoshiro poll option. (none / 0) (#213)
    by I am Jack's username on Sat Dec 14, 2002 at 06:03:15 PM EST

    The Inoshiro and CowboyNeal poll options mean none of the above.
    --
    Inoshiro for president!
    "War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell
    [ Parent ]
    +1 Section, because it's worth discussing (4.00 / 2) (#104)
    by duncan bayne on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 12:29:41 AM EST

    In societies where greed is considered as essential, original, and human nature;

    Self-interest is essential, original and human nature; it is the root of moral behaviour. The problem is that many people assume that self-interest, selfishness or greed must require the sacrifice of others - and in this we learn a great deal about those people.

    For example, consider Patrick Fitzgerald, a regular poster to nz.politics. He's forever raving about corporate greed, and the evil of profit seeking. He wouldn't be raving like this if he understood that one can gain without sacrificing others. However, he doesn't - to him, all rich people are evil exploiters, who make their money by exploiting the poor.

    Now, don't get me wrong. Many companies have engaged in immoral behaviour, like theft and fraud, in the past. I suggest reading my article about Microsoft for some nice examples. Not examples of non-crimes like monopolistic behaviour (having more customers than anyone else) or restrictive licensing (dictating the terms by which their products are used), but real crimes, like theft.

    I don't see there being any argument in favour of market regulations. I do see there being very strong arguments in favour of:

    The second point might need some clarification. Examples of Senators and other politicians representing interests other than those of their constiuents are commonplace throughout the world, especially in the U.S.A. The reason for this is that the State controls the market in these countries. In a truly capitalist society, freedom of trade would be enshrined in law, so there would be no point to a company buying a pet Senator, because that Senator could pass no laws to benefit the company, or hinder its competitors.

    In other words, the more people cry for State control over the market, the more cronyism and legislation-buying we'll see.



    "real crimes"? (none / 0) (#117)
    by dark on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 07:48:35 AM EST

    You make a strange distinction here. Why are copyright infringement (putting the same file on more than one floppy) and patent infringement (having the same idea somebody else had) more "real" crimes than exploiting and maintaining a monopoly position through anticompetitive practices?

    I've read your article about Microsoft, and what you call "theft" simply isn't. I'll grant you fraud, though.

    I find it especially worrisome that you consider the Stac case to be a "real crime". The patent in question has this abstract:

    An apparatus and method for converting an input data character stream into a variable length encoded data stream in a data compression system. The data compression system includes a history array means. The history array means has a plurality of entries and each entry of the history array means is for storing a portion of the input data stream. The method for converting the input data character stream includes the following steps. Performing a search in a history array means for the longest data string which matches the input data string. If the matching data string is found within the history buffer means, the next step includes encoding the longest matching data string found by appending to the encoded data stream a tag indicating the longest matching data string was found and a string substitution code. If the matching data string is not found within the history array means, the next step includes encoding the first character of the input data string by appending to the encoded data stream a raw data tag indicating that no matching data string was found and the first character of the input data string.
    I don't know about you, but this method is completely obvious to me. If you expect repeating sequences in your input stream, then you can condense it by replacing the repetitions with codes that refer to the first occurrence. The only possibly interesting aspect would be a fast way of finding the longest applicable sequence, and this was not detailed in the patent.

    Microsoft was entirely in the right in trying to break this silly patent. Its only moral failure in this case is that it does not acknowledge the invalidity of software patents in general.

    [ Parent ]

    software patents (none / 0) (#131)
    by Burning Straw Man on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 09:38:20 AM EST

    Even as the holder of a couple of software patents (my company files them on my behalf) I truly agree with you that software patents are completely bogus. Pretty much after the first programmable computer was created, software patents ceased to be viable. For one, you are only using other people's ideas to build larger solutions. For another, most software patents are actually just attempts to patent business logic.

    However, what about really neat "algorithms" like MD5, RSA, etc? I think that copyright is sufficient for software like this.
    --
    your straw man is on fire...
    [ Parent ]

    On principle... (none / 0) (#167)
    by Count Zero on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 02:14:38 PM EST

    ...I agree with everything you said. In our current reality though, I'd prefer clever algorithims be patented rather than copyrighted, just because patent terms actually *end*.


    [ Parent ]
    On copyright... (none / 0) (#174)
    by Burning Straw Man on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 04:46:06 PM EST

    I'd prefer clever algorithims be patented rather than copyrighted, just because patent terms actually end.

    A good point which I overlooked, probably because my quasi-rational mind assumes that it is natural for a copyright on a software algorithm to end. Of course this brings into the discussion the notion of what copyright is, and how long should copyrights be given for, etc.

    Attempting to grant copyrights of differing lengths to different "categories" of copyable media, e.g., "software", "book", "song", "art", would simply lead to all authors attempting to classify their work as whichever category is the longest.

    A simple compromise could be to limit all copyrights to 5 years. In the digital world, with "internet" speed, and all that, this is sufficient.

    But how would that affect software? Imagine that next year, the copyright on Windows 98 would be expiring. Would this mean that you could make 100 copies of Windows 98 and pass them out on a street corner? What about draconian software "licenses", ranging from Apache and BSD, to GPL, and on into the proprietary "End-User" licenses of Microsoft, et al? Could those effectively extend the copyright?

    But in the end, even if algorithm "copyrights" never expired, as long as I created my version of the algorithm without copying yours, then it is not copying, and therefore legal. With patentable software algorithms, even if I have never heard of your algorithm before, and I create my own, it becomes illegal.
    --
    your straw man is on fire...
    [ Parent ]

    I understand what you are saying (none / 0) (#136)
    by krek on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 10:35:30 AM EST

    But, I think yo are wrong.

    Could you give an example of a market situation where one can gain without it being at the expense of another?

    It is completely obvious that the elimination of all government influence over the markets would eliminate "cronyism and legislation-buying", in the markets anyway. But, I have to point out that, that is only because without influence, there is very little point in soliciting the governments for change.

    What this means, of course, is that the markets, and all those beasts of the markets, like corporations, will be completely relieved from obeying the law, as the law would be an encumberance to business. I hazard a guess that the only reason that we are not yet paying for the air that we breath is simply that the markets knows that the governments would never allow it.

    What do you suggest we do once Kraft decides that selling slaves might boost their bottom line? Technically the governments would not be allowed to interfere in their business practices, and would be unable to tell Kraft to knock it off, in fact, they would be unable to even suggest to Kraft that they refrain from dealing in slaves

    What do you do when your company decides to start forcing it's employees to work fourteen hour days? Quit? Chances are that every other company on the block has upped it's hours to fourteen as well. We already have too many people to employ in a meaningful way. What do you think happens when everybody nearly doubles their hours? Gee, perhaps those same companies will need less employees. And, if all companies need fewer employees who are all working longer hours, where does that leave you? Unemployeed! That is, as long as you refuse to capitualate to the demands of the employer.

    There is some good to be said about free and open markets, but, at the same time, there is some good to be said about the laws that restrict those same markets. The only reason that the markets give two shits about whether you live or die as a result of their actions is because the governments force them to.

    The only people who would benefit from complete deregulation of the markets would be those at the top of the markets, everyone else would lose.

    [ Parent ]
    Getting a job (none / 0) (#142)
    by Eccles on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:32:06 AM EST

    Could you give an example of a market situation where one can gain without it being at the expense of another?

    I work for a company. I gain because I can trade my time for money, which I clearly value more than the time. The company gains because I help produce a product that they can sell for more than our salaries. Out customers gain because they can buy a product they value more than the money they paid for it.

    [ Parent ]
    You forgot one (none / 0) (#151)
    by krek on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:54:49 AM EST

    As an employee or as a customer, the company values money more than your life.

    [ Parent ]
    Yes but... (none / 0) (#208)
    by Eccles on Fri Dec 13, 2002 at 10:09:30 AM EST

    Unless you give all your money beyond a subsistence level to live-saving charities, you value your money more than human life too.

    [ Parent ]
    Many (none / 0) (#168)
    by duncan bayne on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 02:46:48 PM EST

    Could you give an example of a market situation where one can gain without it being at the expense of another?

    When buying and selling something - assuming the transaction is voluntary (e.g. not compulsory vehicle insurance as in Australia) both parties gain - this is the how free trade works.

    Besides which, I never said that all market activity happened without people gaining at the expense of others. That's what competitions about - out-doing your competitor, so you take his custom. What I said was that there's no sacrifice involved - nothing is taken by force, nothing by coercion, and nothing is regulated by the Government.

    What this means, of course, is that the markets...will be completely relieved from obeying the law, as the law would be an encumberance to business.

    Say what? I think you misread my response. One of my arguments was that in the current climate, legal penalties against companies found to commit real crimes (e.g. theft) ammount to no more than a slap on the wrist. They need to be increased to the point where they'd have an effect on a company that was just as deleterious as penalties applied to an individual for the same crime. Breaking the law should hurt, both companies and individuals.

    I'm not proposing that any individual (real or virtual, e.g. corporations) be able to do anything by force or fraud to anyone else - the same law would apply to both, with penalties equal in effect.

    What do you suggest we do once Kraft decides that selling slaves might boost their bottom line?

    Remind them that initiating force against people is against the law, and if they break that law, their company could well be destroyed by the penalties applied to it by the courts.

    What do you do when your company decides to start forcing it's employees to work fourteen hour days?

    Forcing them, as in at the point of a gun? Same as if they decided to deal in slaves. Simply said 'do this, or you're fired'? Nothing - that's what unions are for, and that's why they were formed. Not unions as they are now (at least in New Zealand), where their prime function seems to be preventing companies from firing lying, cheating incompetent employees, but unions of workers organising for decent working conditions.

    And yes, companies could well fire strikers; they could well hire labour to replace the strikers. The decision is - are the striking workers and the associated union problems worth getting workers to work 14 hour days? Historically, this hasn't been the case.

    The only people who would benefit from complete deregulation of the markets would be those at the top of the markets, everyone else would lose.

    You're forgetting one thing - how many of the businesses currently at the top of their business models actually got there through graft and corporate cronyism? Deregulation benefits everyone, from farmers in impoverished countries who can sell their produce on an open market, to the largest corporate bodies who can trade without fear of mistreatment by Government.



    [ Parent ]
    Let me get this straight (none / 0) (#170)
    by krek on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 03:31:15 PM EST

    You are against the government regulating how businesses are to operate through the use of law, and yet, at the same time, you are in favor of increasing the penalties incurred by companies that break those laws that should not exist.

    You are against the idea that companies should be beholden to anything other than market forces, and yet, at the same time, you suggest that labour unions are the best way to convince those companies to treat their employees fairly.

    You should do some history research, Capitalism and the concept of The Free Market have been around for a couple hundred years already, and during this time, has gone through practically all conceivable configurations, including completey unfettered. There have been mass-protests and revolutions, people have given up their lives for the goal of placing government restraints on corporations. There is an entire day dedicated to this phenomeneon. May Day, dedicated to the workers, the haymarket martyrs, who were hanged to death in Chicago for demanding an eight hour work day in 1886. What did these people understand that you do not?

    You say that many of the businesses currently at the top of their business models actually got there through graft and corporate cronyism. That despite, or pehaps because of, government restrictions, corporations have managed to pervert the legal and political systems to improve thier bottom lines at the expense of our society, culture and environment. And that was with restrictions! Can you even begin to imagine what will occur once the governments have removed their restraints?

    [ Parent ]
    For Krek and Virg (none / 0) (#176)
    by duncan bayne on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 06:25:22 PM EST

    Okay, I didn't make myself clear. It's bullet-point time:

    • Many corporates at the top of the food chain today got there by graft, Government favours etc.
    • These abuses of power would not be possible if the Government couldn't restrict (or support) any particular company or type of legal trade - i.e., they would be impossible in a free market economy.
    • There is a difference between restricting free trade and enforcing the law - e.g. preventing someone selling vegetables on a sidewalk, and preventing that same person killing someone.
    • Currently, penalties applied to companies comitting real crimes (i.e. those based on force or fraud) ammount to little more than wrist-slaps

    I'm not suggesting that companies should be above the law. What I am suggesting is that most of the current laws restricting trade are immoral. Laws against the initiation of force or fraud, in whatever form, are not immoral and so should be kept. Breaking those laws should have severe consequences, regardless of whether the violator is a person or a business.

    Is that clear?



    [ Parent ]
    Actually, no, it isn't clear (none / 0) (#187)
    by krek on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 09:30:45 AM EST

    You just introduced moarlity, and you expect that to clear things up?

    Again, you state that 'these' abuses of power would not be possible if the government could not restrict trade, I state that 'those' abuses of power would be unnecessary if the government could not restrict trade.

    You state that there is a difference between restricting trade and enforcing the law. So, what is it? What is the difference? It is clear that they are just on opposite end of the same scale of 'rules'... so where does it change from enforcing the law to restricting trade? Is employing slave labour breaking the law or acceptable business practice? How about unsafe working conditions? Polluting the environment? How about not being able to sell cigarettes to children, is that a reasonable law or is it an unfair restriction on trade? How about saftey standards in automobiles? Was the governemnt correct in forcing Ford to deal with the Pinto problem?

    I agree 100% that corporations do not get the punishments that they deserve.

    You are not suggesting that companies should be above the law, just above morality.

    [ Parent ]
    History Lessons (none / 0) (#173)
    by virg on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 04:31:08 PM EST

    Egad. Where to start?

    > When buying and selling something - assuming the transaction is voluntary (e.g. not compulsory vehicle insurance as in Australia) both parties gain - this is the how free trade works.

    This is how free trade is supposed to work. More below.

    > I'm not proposing that any individual (real or virtual, e.g. corporations) be able to do anything by force or fraud to anyone else - the same law would apply to both, with penalties equal in effect.

    A worthy concept, but you'll find that individuals and corporations find different challenges, and address them differently. Again, see below.

    > Forcing them, as in at the point of a gun? Same as if they decided to deal in slaves. Simply said 'do this, or you're fired'? Nothing - that's what unions are for, and that's why they were formed. Not unions as they are now (at least in New Zealand), where their prime function seems to be preventing companies from firing lying, cheating incompetent employees, but unions of workers organising for decent working conditions.

    And yes, companies could well fire strikers; they could well hire labour to replace the strikers. The decision is - are the striking workers and the associated union problems worth getting workers to work 14 hour days? Historically, this hasn't been the case.


    Um, actually, until given the force of law, it was exactly the case. In the USA, the only reason unions were able to prevent strikebreaking and mass firings (called lockouts, if you wish to research the issues) was that the AFL and CIO lobbied Congress for laws preventing such practices. Before these laws, many, many corporations eagerly implemented such measures to prevent the formation of unions.

    > You're forgetting one thing - how many of the businesses currently at the top of their business models actually got there through graft and corporate cronyism? Deregulation benefits everyone, from farmers in impoverished countries who can sell their produce on an open market, to the largest corporate bodies who can trade without fear of mistreatment by Government.

    You must live in a fantasy land. How many businesses got to the top through graft and corporate cronyism? Virtually all of them. I am not anticorporate in most senses, but when you say "deregulation benefits everyone" and then specifically mention small farmers, I say that you're either out of your mind or you haven't done your research. Have you ever heard the term "grange-busting"? Apparently not. Here's how it worked (and all of this is historical record, not worst-case scenario). A big railroad company decides that they want to get into the market of shipping agro-goods from a certain area. First, they need to take over the railroad companies in that area. They do this by opening routes to the area, and then offering to ship the goods at such a low rate that they're taking a severe loss on the transaction. They support it by pumping money in from other parts of the company where they already own all of the freight lines. Soon, all of the local rail carriers must lower their prices so much that they are also running at a loss, or they get no business, since the farmers will go to the lowest charge. Soon, all of those local rail companies either sell at a huge loss or go flatly out of business when the money runs out. Next, the big rail company raises prices to whatever they want, because now the farmers have nowhere else to go. This is where grange busting starts. Unions of farmers were called granges. They'd get together to help each other level out the vagaries of weather and to present a united front to shipping companies (at the time, railroads were the only viable shipping method) to get better prices. The railroads would drive out all competitors as described above, and then they'd flatly refuse to do business with granges. On several occasions, they'd stop accepting shipments of any kind from anyone at all in a certain town, which would then go quickly bankrupt. After the banks foreclosed on the farmers and businesses, the rail company would come in and buy the entire town, literally, and then sell the farmland to farmers who had to sign no-grange contracts to get the land. Lest you think this is just dire description, these things, and more, actually happened, and led to the regulation of the railroad industry as a result. Would you say that deregulation would be good for this industry? How about oil companies (Standard Oil)? Or telecommunications (AT&T)? Tell me about regulation's effects on the market when you understand economics. Sorry to sound insulting, but right now, you just sound uninformed.

    Virg
    "Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
    [ Parent ]
    Indeed it is (none / 0) (#179)
    by pr0t0plasm on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 09:07:21 PM EST

    1 question: In what way is a market controlled by a single publicly traded company more free than a market controlled by a state agency of a democratically elected government? In either case, a small, semi-accountable group of people will find that it makes financial sense to spend a large fraction of their profits erecting and enforcing barriers to entry, or regulations, respectively. In the first case, the populace pays monopoly rents on the products they buy to finance this activity, and in the latter they pay taxes. Is either qualitatively more free than the other?

    - - - - - Patent applied for and deliver us from evil.
    [ Parent ]

    here's a specific example (4.33 / 3) (#106)
    by Sleepy In Seattle on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 03:56:21 AM EST

    Some of you may be familiar with the multi-state lottery in the northeastern U.S. that's known as Powerball. Powerball jackpots sometimes end up being many tens of millions of dollars, and when that happens, you get lots of people from states that don't participate in Powerball (like New York) driving to states that do participate (like Connecticut, IIRC) to purchase tickets in hope of hitting the jackpot.

    Here's the part that I found amusing: A few years back, a statistician computed that if the average person drives something like 20 miles each way to cross the border and buy a Powerball ticket, he is 17 times more likely to die in a car accident than he is to win the jackpot.

    And I would say... (4.50 / 2) (#143)
    by RyoCokey on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:33:58 AM EST

    Either way, his problems are solved! :)



    "There is no reason why we should not have peaceful relations with the rest of the world if we cease playing the role of Meddlesome Mattie." - Sen. Art
    [ Parent ]
    corporate control (4.00 / 4) (#108)
    by cronian on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 04:07:24 AM EST

    Large corporatiosn generally are able to raise vast amounts of money through bonds and public markets. These companies are then able to able to engage in anti-competitive behavior and buy political support to muscle out their competitors and critics. These companies can support a sophisticated PR department to defend them against all ethical allegations. Businesses need not be unethical, but that is the modus operandi for large corporations. In small businesses the owners have more direct relations with the customers and they don't have to be concerned with bureacratic overhead. Smaller specialized businesses generally are more efficient execept for the fact that they must be more ethical. The way to remedy the situation would be to get money invested in small bussiness ventures instead of the stock market.

    We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
    Worth in money? (5.00 / 3) (#114)
    by Herring on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 07:02:42 AM EST

    There were murmurings of "corporate manslaughter" legislation coming into the UK a few months ago but this seems to have disappeared. Again. At the moment, as a private individual, if I drive my car recklessly and end up killing someone, I would expect to do some jail time. If I drive a company recklessly and some gets killed - well, there might be a small fine involved for the company (not me).

    Monetary compensation is one thing, but if a director or executive acts in such a way that means that someone will probably get killed, when it happens, they should go to prison. What is the essential difference between a drunk driver speeding through a residential area and a CEO of a building firm that hires casual labour, doesn't train them and instructs them to use unsafe practises?


    Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
    the difference (5.00 / 1) (#130)
    by Burning Straw Man on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 09:24:28 AM EST

    What is the essential difference between a drunk driver speeding through a residential area and a CEO of a building firm that hires casual labour, doesn't train them and instructs them to use unsafe practises?

    The drunk driver made a conscious decision to drink, leading directly to a situation involving him being subconscious behind the wheel of a moving, ton-and-a-half vehicle.

    The CEO followed the laws of capitalism, with workers who could in that same supposedly free society refuse to do the unsafe work.

    If the CEO hands someone a gun and say, "Here, shoot yourself with this, and I'll pay you $5 an hour" I could see strict criminal liability. But if this guy is handing power saws to people who claim to be able to use power saws, and those people use said power saws, and tragedies ensue... well, it is hard to hold that CEO to strict criminal liability for what happens. Does it make the CEO a cold-hearted bastard? Possibly. But to put him or her in the same boat as a person who gets drunk and drives a car? Ridiculous.

    Drunk drivers should have their licenses permanently removed on the first offense, and someone caught driving a car after having their license removed for drunk driving should never leave the walls of a prison cell. Okay, maybe that is a bit severe. But it had better be a little more than a slap on the wrist and some AA meetings. Driving while intoxicated is preventable in every single case (okay, perhaps you could catch sidestream inhalant fumes). It is also voluntary in every single case (okay, someone could hold a gun to your head and make you drive drunk).

    Here in my county, a person with repeated drunk driving offenses, and repeated offenses of driving drunk after having their license suspended, was out on bond after one arrest, and got drunk again, and killed a family. He didn't care that he wasn't allowed to drive, or that he wasn't allowed to own or insure a car. Yes, he may have a "disease" called alcoholism. But an alcoholic can give his car keys to a friend just like anybody else. You'd like to think you can rehabilitate everyone. But drunk drivers do not get my pity. They choose to put the lives of other people in danger, in return they get a buzz while saving themselves the inconvenience of a cab or bus ride.

    Obviously there are worse people in society. Murderers, rapists, etc. But drunk drivers make me scream in frustration. They are not essentially bad people, necessarily, nor do they probably wish anyone consciously any harm. I just don't understand how someone can drive drunk, despite the tragedy of the history of that action.
    --
    your straw man is on fire...
    [ Parent ]

    Hitchcock (none / 0) (#140)
    by Eccles on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:24:27 AM EST

    Driving while intoxicated is [...] also voluntary in every single case

    Ok, somebody hasn't seen "North by Northwest." Time for you to head to the video rental place.

    [ Parent ]
    NxNW (none / 0) (#161)
    by Burning Straw Man on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 01:08:09 PM EST

    Ok, somebody hasn't seen "North by Northwest."

    Yup, it is fairly likely that I will be mistaken for a government agent by an international spy gang, and chased across the country. :)
    --
    your straw man is on fire...
    [ Parent ]

    Boating while drunk is ALSO dangerous (5.00 / 1) (#169)
    by gte910h on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 03:24:01 PM EST

    But to put him or her in the same boat as a person who gets drunk and drives a car? Ridiculous.

    But the CEO could be the DP (Designated pilot) for the boat and save both their lives. ;)

    [ Parent ]
    Yes and no (none / 0) (#180)
    by Herring on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 03:41:40 AM EST

    I would argue in the Ford case that the executives also consciously made a decision which they knew would likely result in someone dying. In my book, that's at least manslaughter/2nd degree murder.


    Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
    [ Parent ]
    the Ford case (none / 0) (#188)
    by Burning Straw Man on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 09:32:53 AM EST

    Is outside of the description of the desired state of the law which was described in the post to which I replied. But I agree with your assessment of liability in the Ford case.
    --
    your straw man is on fire...
    [ Parent ]
    Too many unknown variables... (4.00 / 4) (#123)
    by duffbeer703 on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 08:18:52 AM EST

    To quote your story:

    "[Senior Research Scientist Joshua Cohen, PhD] compared the benefits of such a ban, measured by reduced medical costs, reduced property damage, and estimates of what people would be willing to pay to avoid pain, suffering, and death, against the benefits of cell phone use by drivers, measured by estimates of what subscribers pay to use their phones while driving. The benefits of a ban would be worth approximately $43 billion (range $9 billion to $193 billion). Those savings would be roughly offset by the economic value of the banned calls, also around $43 billion annually (range - $17 billion to $151 billion), or $340 per cell phone user per year (range - $130-$1,200.)"

    Dr. Cohen has no idea what economic effect a cell phone ban would have, nor what economic effect of using cellphones is.

    The benefits of a ban are worth between $9 and 143 billion????? This guy sounds like a TV weatherman that predicts "temperatures between -10 and 30 and partly sunny to snowy skies".

    The biggest economic impact will be on the dinky townships that collect $300 fines from unwary motorists, and the police officers who consume that money in overtime.

    There are many problems with a regulation like a cell phone ban. Anti-cellphone people claim that 30% of accidents are directly caused by cellphone use. Anti-speeding people claim that 65% of accidents are directly attributable to excessive speed. The drunk driving zealots claim that 50-70% of accidents are alcohol-related...

    You get the idea? Since we don't monitor people's activities in the car, we really don't know much of anything about accidents. How many deaths each year are actually caused by crying children, radio tuning or billboards? Who knows!

    Before pushing for more unenforceable traffic regulations to give police one more reason to pull you over and perform their tax-collection fuctions, let's find a way to get real data as to what causes car accidents.

    real data (none / 0) (#154)
    by dirtmerchant on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 12:01:13 PM EST

    Before pushing for more unenforceable traffic regulations to give police one more reason to pull you over and perform their tax-collection fuctions, let's find a way to get real data as to what causes car accidents.

    And how would you propose we do this? Stick a camera in ever car? Have drivers fill out surveys? Or how about recording statistical data of car crashes that result in fatalities? Oh wait, that's how we already get data on the most likely causes of crashes.

    Anti-cellphone people claim that 30% of accidents are directly caused by cellphone use. Anti-speeding people claim that 65% of accidents are directly attributable to excessive speed. The drunk driving zealots claim that 50-70% of accidents are alcohol-related...

    If you're going to throw out numbers like this at least quote your "zealot" sources.


    -- "The universe not only may be queerer than we think, but queerer than we can think" - JBS Haldane
    [ Parent ]
    Read the paper. (none / 0) (#165)
    by duffbeer703 on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 02:10:17 PM EST

    My info from my local paper, which was heralding New York's new lowering of DWI standards to from .10 to .08 BAC (two drinks for a 200 lb male)

    Statistical data is fatally skewed. I read of a case where one "alcohol-related" car accident where a driver slid on an icy street and ran into a dumpster, killing a drunk homeless person sleeping behind it. Cellphone-related accidents are defined in some studies as accidents in while a powered on cellphone was present in the vehicle.

    My whole point is that you cannot gather the data, and should pass boneheaded laws in the absense of data. But then again, traffic laws exist to keep policemen employed, not to keep anyone safe.

    [ Parent ]

    Answering the Question (none / 0) (#171)
    by virg on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 03:34:07 PM EST

    > My info from my local paper, which was heralding New York's new lowering of DWI standards to from .10 to .08 BAC (two drinks for a 200 lb male)

    Not really an answer, unless the paper itself performed the study. Where did they get their data?

    > Statistical data is fatally skewed.

    Um, statistical data can be fatally skewed, but saying that it's always skewed is exactly as incorrect as saying it never is.

    > I read of a case where one "alcohol-related" car accident where a driver slid on an icy street and ran into a dumpster, killing a drunk homeless person sleeping behind it.

    So what? I read about a case where a person with a blood-alcohol content of 0.45 drove through a line of pedestrians, killing seven of them. Who cares about one particular error? The question (see above about skewing) is whether the average person at a given BAC rate is significantly impaired or not (keeping in mind that "average" and "significantly" can be moving targets themselves).

    > Cellphone-related accidents are defined in some studies as accidents in while a powered on cellphone was present in the vehicle.

    And in other studies, they are defined as accidents in which a live call was connected. Again, so what? What are the averages? I'm not interested in anecdotes. Even if I reject that study, what's out there?

    > My whole point is that you cannot gather the data, and should pass boneheaded laws in the absense of data.

    Sorry, but although you're right about the second part, the vast majority of people disagree with your assessment in the first part.

    > But then again, traffic laws exist to keep policemen employed, not to keep anyone safe.

    Aw, you're breaking my heart. Please. You're being very melodramatic here. Thinking as you do, do you stop at green lights? If not, why not? Maybe we can just toss those darn signals anyway, since it's just so cops can buy more doughnuts. While we're at it, we could save a fortune on paint and labor to get rid of those ugly yellow lines everywhere. I could go on, but I think you get the point. Traffic laws exist for a reason (that's more important than your inconvenience). It's possible (and in the case of cell phones, likely) that the data is being skewed to back up the point, but to say that this skew completely invalidates the point is meaningless (and keep in mind that data can be skewed in both directions). The fact is that decades of studies have shown that drinking impairs driving ability. The extent can be argued, but the weight of the data says that there is indeed some level above which most people cannot drive safely. So, there are laws. Decades of study likewise show that traffic signals reduce intersection collisions, so they are installed. The data are still coming in on cell phone use, but what data we have point to the fact that people talking on cell phones get in more accidents than those who don't. Therefore, laws will be passed. You can assume that these laws are stupid, just as I can assume they aren't. Time will tell who's right. The point, however, is that traffic laws do not exist to finance police departments. Get over yourself.

    Virg
    "Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
    [ Parent ]
    Maybe my point was a little extreme (none / 0) (#192)
    by duffbeer703 on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 01:01:30 PM EST

    But I still think that passing unenforceable laws based on uncertain or skewed data benefits municipal governments more than driver saftey.

    You are also correct about my lack of data. Unfortunately, I do not have ready access to such data at work and rely upon my memory, which tends to remember anecdotes more accurately than statistics.

    Your last paragraph made alot of sense to me, and I should have clarified what I said better. I think that improved lights, traffic signage, automobile design and road design has made the roadways alot safer. But -- I also truly believe that the issuing of tickets for seatbelt use, speeding and other moving violations has little, if any impact on dangerous driving.

    Laws that would improve our saftey would fall mostly on highway departments, parts and auto manufacturers. Improving signage, repairing roads, eliminating merges where possible and properly labeling streets and curves make the roads safe. Requiring things like steering-wheel radio tuners, good all-season tires, stiffened door beams in trucks, headrests and side airbags on passenger vehicles would have an immediate positive affect on traffic saftey as well. All without spotty and subjective enforcement of vehicle laws.

    [ Parent ]

    CB Radios (none / 0) (#155)
    by kurthr on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 12:04:03 PM EST

    I've often wondered if we are also going to ban CB radios, and other non-hands free communication tools in vehicles. Do we simply assume that 18-wheelers and police on call so well trained in their use that they are unimpaired? It's interesting that I don't remember this even coming up in "Convoy" hayday, though I suppose it was probably the chimp doing the driving in that case.

    The further question is whether "hands free" really means much about the amount of attention one give the road. Certainly changing the radio tuner is just as distracting, and so is an interesting/annoying passenger or phone conversation. Are those rubber-neckers calling to tell their friends about the accident victim they're trying to spot?

    I'm suspicious that people just don't want to be reminded by seeing the phone actually in someones hand. Like airport searches, it doesn't really matter whether safety is really significantly improved, only if the public perceives something being done... placebo security again. People are in general very bad at estimating risks to thier life. Guessing at that or the value of others lives is yet another impediment that problem.

    [ Parent ]

    Guess the value of lives is a distraction... (none / 0) (#166)
    by duffbeer703 on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 02:14:27 PM EST

    The real question is:

    Can we pass laws to make the highways safer?

    New York banned cellphone use in motor vehicles (except for police, fire and legislative workers, as well as people calling medical doctors) last August.

    Nobody has stopped using cellphones.

    The only beneficiaries of this law are the courts who  collect the $200 fines and the police who get paid OT to attend court.

    [ Parent ]

    Simple explanation (none / 0) (#191)
    by yardbird on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 12:59:48 PM EST

    Anti-cellphone people claim that 30% of accidents are directly caused by cellphone use. Anti-speeding people claim that 65% of accidents are directly attributable to excessive speed. The drunk driving zealots claim that 50-70% of accidents are alcohol-related...

    Clearly there are a lot of drunk cell-phone users speeding out there.



    [ Parent ]
    The easy answer. (5.00 / 1) (#126)
    by Pyrion on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 08:54:49 AM EST

    "You cannot put a value on human life."

    Of course this also means you cannot pay restitution to the families, and in our litigious society, good luck that not happening.

    *wonders how much value is placed on elven life*
    --
    "There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge." - Bertrand Russell

    I think that's a good point... (5.00 / 2) (#133)
    by z84976 on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 09:59:20 AM EST

    Sorry though I am for the people that were wronged by the attacks, especially those who lost friends, relatives, etc, I have to wonder: why exactly should the family of someone who was killed in the event deserve "compensation" at all? I mean, accidents happen every day. People die, for various reasons every day. Should we start paying off family members when there's a death? Oh yeah, we do already, it's called INSURANCE (ok many have it but not all) and it's generally not supported by the government, but rather by the people insured (those who want it, get it, those who don't, don't complain). Radical concept, this.

    Human lives are priceless. If you don't believe me, kill a friend of yours then try to find enough money in the universe to bring them back. Since no amount can make up, WHY ARE WE PAYING THESE PEOPLE TO DIE? It's stupid, expensive, and perpetuates a very dangerous precedent I've seen in our society: that everyone DESERVES to be paid any time things don't go their way.

    Argh. Please, world, come back towards reality and sense... please...

    [ Parent ]

    I'm close to this (4.50 / 2) (#141)
    by Eccles on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:26:11 AM EST

    The physician husband of a friend died suddenly, without insurance.  She's no less grief-stricken than any widow of 9/11, but there's no million dollar payout for her; instead we're trying to help her find full-time employment, and she'll probably have to remove her kids from private school.

    The families of 9/11ers try to justify their cash demands based on the claim that the U.S. should somehow have anticipated and prevented these attacks.  But there was no similar payout for Oklahoma City, the U.S.S. Cole, etc.  It really seems to be an issue of having enough angry people and enough public sympathy that they're able to get anything at all.

    [ Parent ]

    One more point... (4.00 / 1) (#134)
    by z84976 on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 10:01:35 AM EST

    If someone is killed as a result of some mindless event, it's a tragedy. If we as a society are forced to compensate the victim's family/survivors JUST BECAUSE IT WAS A TRAGEDY (and outside of private insurance) then in my opinion it is NO LONGER A TRAGEDY, but rather a business transaction. Kind of disrespectful to the deceased, too, I think.

    [ Parent ]
    Crackle, splash (none / 0) (#184)
    by PigleT on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 08:04:47 AM EST

    "You cannot put a value on human life."

    Bear in mind that fire-fighters in the UK have been on strike recently over pay "negotiations".

    Sounds to me very much like they've put a price of GBP30k on human life.

    ~Tim -- We stood in the moonlight and the river flowed
    [ Parent ]

    The problem isn't "what is a life worth" (5.00 / 4) (#128)
    by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 09:07:01 AM EST

    The problem is "what is your life worth compared to my life".

    If the family of every victim of 9-11 sued for damages there would be three inevitable outcomes:

    1. Different juries would assign wildly different values and liabilities resulting in very different judgments
    2. Lawyers would suck up most of the money
    3. The economic drain of the previous two points would delay and impair the recovery from 9-11, resulting in social costs and pain to many other people. If the drain is bad enough, it could result in bankruptcies that would prevent later claimants from receiving any money at all - because earlier judgments broke the bank.

    Since there is no "fair" way out of this, I think Ken Feinberg isn't doing too badly.


    --
    Once one sock is sucked, the other sock will remain forever unsucked.


    Re: The problem isn't "what is a life worth&q (5.00 / 3) (#172)
    by parker51 on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 03:39:52 PM EST

    The problem is "what is your life worth compared to my life".

    This is the most succinct way to describe the purpose of such value assignment. Such assignment does not disagree with the assertion that a human life is infinitely valuable. In addition to the example given above (avoid a "race to the courthouse" where some get astronomical sums, and others get little or nothing), such a valuation is also useful to determine if society's finite resources are being used most efficiently to save the most lives overall. If a proposed life-saving measure costs more than this valuation, then lives can be more cheaply saved via other means. To not ration society's finite resources in this manner commits "statistical murder" where more lives are lost overall.

    For example, in the Philip K. Howard book Death of Common Sense, he notes that some ill-advised OSHA Regulations cost society upwards of several hundred million dollars per statistical life saved. This is money wasted, and people killed, because the money would be better spent saving more lives for less (i.e., seat-belts, DWI enforcement, more rescue squads, immunizations, etc.).

    The FAA is rumored to value the worth of a human life (again, as a reference to gauge the quality of a life-saving measure) at about $2.5 million. If a new FAA regulation will cost more than $2.5 million per expected statistical life saved, then it is considered wasteful of society's resources (and by diverting such finite resources from better live-saving measures, it would be committing "statistical murder").

    [ Parent ]

    My principles on fairness... (5.00 / 7) (#135)
    by sphealey on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 10:30:27 AM EST

    I have long tried to apply two principles regarding fairness to my life:
      Life is not fair

      That is no excuse for deliberatly making life less fair for other people.

    I guess I will have to add a third priciple:
      Life isn't fair. If someone else experiences a misfortune/unfairness, and is assisted or compensated by an outside agency, feel happy for them. But DO NOT whine or complain that you have been treated unfairly as a result, for you have not. Someone else has just been treated a bit LESS unfairly.
    Can anyone assist in making that statement a bit shorter and more pithy?

    sPh

    "covetousness" (5.00 / 1) (#145)
    by Perianwyr on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:37:49 AM EST

    "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's."

    [ Parent ]
    But my neighbour's got a great ass! (none / 0) (#153)
    by davidmb on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 12:00:37 PM EST

    I know, I know. Sorry!
    ־‮־
    [ Parent ]
    Four legs good. Two Legs Bad. (3.50 / 2) (#150)
    by krek on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:51:20 AM EST

    All animals are created equal.

    Some animals are more equal than others.

    [ Parent ]
    I think "Jack" said it best... (4.66 / 6) (#144)
    by jubilation on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:34:30 AM EST

    JACK
    Take the number of vehicles in the field (A),  multiply it by the probable rate of failure (B), then multiply the result by the average out-of-court settlement (C). A times B times C equals X...

    JACK
    If X is less that the cost of a recall, we don't do one.

    BUSINESSWOMAN
    Are there a lot of these kinds of accident?

    JACK
    You wouldn't believe.

    BUSINESSWOMAN
    Which car company do you work for?

    JACK
    A major one.

    Life may not be fair (4.60 / 5) (#160)
    by jd on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 12:35:28 PM EST

    Whoever said it was? The problem is not whether life is fair, but whether the inherent unfairness is being added to for personal profit.

    To use a sporting analogy, there are no truly level playing fields. There's going to be some irregularity. But if one team built their pitch on a movable platform, so they could always have it tilted in their favour, no matter where they were, the other team would scream blue murder. And rightly so.

    The difference between the two situations is deliberately extreme, so that it's very clear that there isn't just one brand of unfairness.

    In the case of accidents, you are talking the first kind of unfair. Accidents happen, and they are going to range from the negligable to the catastrophic, regardless of who is involved or what measures they took.

    In the case of deliberately flawed designs, penny-pinching, and failures to properly notify people of hazards, you are definitely in the realm of the latter. That's got nothing to do with accidents, that's got to do with companies gambling, where other people are the poker chips.

    We also need to differentiate between cases where there really wasn't much anyone could have done, versus where attitude was the killer, and the incident merely the means.

    In the case of the WTC, it seems reasonable that the people on the floors actually struck by the jets were in a place where not much could have been done to save them. Their deaths were tragic, but were as much a factor of chance, and there was really nothing the designers or owners of the WTC could have done. Jets tend to be very massive and rather hard to stop.

    Now, the people on the other floors... Ah, now that's a different matter. Now, you've got to factor in the use of a single bolt to hold girders in place. Cost-cutting, which made the tower incapable of withstanding even relatively low levels of heat.

    A fire in the tower, caused by a careless smoker, could have caused exactly the same type of collapse, if current findings are accurate. Tower blocks are -supposed- to meet certain safety standards, and it's pretty clear that these two towers did not.

    Are the owners to blame for those deaths? IMHO, yes. Much more than the terrorists, because there's only one scenario in which the plane can hit the building, but many thousands of ways a fire can start. This is what I mean, when I say that the actual incident can be irrelevent, that it's just the means by which the tragedy occured, and not the cause.

    It's compensation, not worth. (4.00 / 1) (#162)
    by Godel on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 01:12:32 PM EST

    Look, this has nothing to do with putting a "value" on a human life. Everyone has a different opinion on how much a human life is worth. In God's eyes every life is precious. In my eyes, many lives have negative value, while others are priceless. This has nothing to do with the "value" or "worth" of a human life, it has merely to do with assigning a monetary value to the work they would have done had 9-11 not happened and compensating their loved one as best as possible. People have mortgages, cars, children going through college, etc. Since the goal is victim's compensation, then obviously if the lost family member was making more money, then the family should be compensated with more.

    I can't think of a reason for confusing the very different terms of "worth" and "compensation" other than being purposely provocative and inflamatory.

    [ Parent ]

    Huh? (5.00 / 1) (#177)
    by curunir on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 06:54:14 PM EST

    Cost-cutting, which made the tower incapable of withstanding even relatively low levels of heat.

    A fire in the tower, caused by a careless smoker, could have caused exactly the same type of collapse, if current findings are accurate. Tower blocks are -supposed- to meet certain safety standards, and it's pretty clear that these two towers did not.


    I highly doubt there is a single building code anywhere that mandates that buildings be able to withstand not only the impact of a 747 airplane, but the ensuing fire caused by the large quantities of airline fuel. The resultant temperatures were by no means "low level." The fires that day could only have been started by a smoker if they were careless in the vicinity of thousands of gallons of airline fuel.

    Remember, the WTC complex did fine when it was bombed a few years prior to 9/11. If a bomb didn't cause it to colapse, I highly doubt a careless smoker could have.

    [ Parent ]
    Read more. (2.00 / 1) (#178)
    by Cyrius on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 08:50:51 PM EST

    I highly doubt there is a single building code anywhere that mandates that buildings be able to withstand not only the impact of a 747 airplane, but the ensuing fire caused by the large quantities of airline fuel. The resultant temperatures were by no means "low level." The fires that day could only have been started by a smoker if they were careless in the vicinity of thousands of gallons of airline fuel.

    The jet fuel burned almost completely in the initial explosion. The fires that kept burning and weakened the structure were fueled by existing materials inside the building.

    This does not necessarily mean your conclusion is incorrect, as the initial jet fuel explosion blasted the spray-on fireproofing off the WTC's structural steel. A normal fire would not have that "advantage".



    [ Parent ]
    Read no more. (4.00 / 1) (#199)
    by Hoo00 on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 04:25:04 PM EST

    Energy is conserved. When the jet fuel was burned is unimportant, as long as the jet fuel was there and a fire started.

    [ Parent ]
    Not that it invalidates your point... (none / 0) (#183)
    by scruffyMark on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 05:09:54 AM EST

    ... but a plane did crash into the Empire State Building with relatively little damage.

    Granted, the plane in question was a B-25, so 'only' about ten tons, and 'relatively little' damage does still include smashing a 20" hole in the wall, one engine flying clear through the building and out the far windows, and the fuel explosion sent flames shooting down from the 79th to the 75th floor.

    As terrible as the accident was, the fact that only 14 people were killed, even though the crash happened on a working day when workers were at their offices, is a testament to how solidly the Empire State Building was constructed.

    [ Parent ]

    It will take a very good source.... (none / 0) (#201)
    by Salted on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 05:42:24 PM EST

    to convince me of this:

    A fire in the tower, caused by a careless smoker, could have caused exactly the same type of collapse, if current findings are accurate.

    I am not completely up to date on the "current findings", but your claim seems patently absurd.  Jet fuel burns at thousands of degrees, and the buildings were drenched in it.  No smoker could start such a huge fire, nor could a smoker cause the damage from the actual impact.  Yet under these extreme conditions, the towers both stood for hours, allowing many people to reach safety.  

    [ Parent ]

    Broken Logic (3.42 / 7) (#163)
    by Alhazred on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 01:36:33 PM EST

    All this discussion confirms in my mind is that the entire concept of 'worth' is broken. First of all its a zero-sum concept, inherently. You all talk about this that or the other amount of money as if one guy having it means another guy doesn't. Even in terms of the way our economic system works today that is a total fallicy.

    For instance, our money supply is based on a system of 'debt monitization', so if Fnord Motors builds a bad car, which explodes and kills someone, they might be compelled to 'pay 10 million $' to the victim. Now, Fnord Motors is going to turn around and BORROW 10 million $ from some bank to finance this cost. That debt is going to be 'monitized' by a bank, $10 million BRAND NEW DOLLARS are created and handed to the victim's family. Is this actually a good thing or a bad thing? Who actually paid 10 million $???, not Fnord, they're paying interest on a loan. Not the bank, they created the money from nothing and in fact can use it as a 'reserve' to create even MORE money (90 million more dollars at a 10% reserve rate). Realistically the payment of the principal is made by society at large in inflation, (which may be largely delayed for possibly decades) and the principle is paid by the people who now pay more for a Fnord motor car...

    Even this isn't the main point, its just illustrating that questions like this almost immediately become INFINITELY complicated. You cannot answer them in terms of some simple zero-sum 'value judgement'. Given that there cannot be relative answers, then we have to look at the absolute answers. I noticed many people saying essentially that 'life has an infinite value, but such a concept is useless in practice'. Why? Demonstrate that its useless.

    What if we all actually tried to live by such principles? Is it REALLY true that they cannot be applied in the real world? I do not believe that point has been proven at all. I don't think its been even discussed, just asserted.

    My real point is that when a discussion devolves down to a point where nothing seems to be gotten out of it then one has to go back and look at the principles being applied. Think out of the box. Stop insisting on particular classes of solutions. You are in this discussion to learn and grow, right?
    That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.

    Can't assign worth to a life (none / 0) (#181)
    by The Timelord on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 03:56:16 AM EST

    The problem with people going around saying "oh look when such and such disaster happened the victims got $x but when this disaster happened the victims only got $y" is that no economic system (wether free market or otherwise) is equipped or is designed to assign value for the loss of a person.

    The best that can be determined with reasonable accuracy are short term costs (funerals, medical bills etc), it's even reasonable to try and determine loss of income over time caused by the loss of that person. Where it falls down is trying to 'compensate' people for the pain of the loss of their loved one. It would be better if the focus (of money and resources) was on making those responsible prevent a similar incident from ever happening again, and prosecuting individuals who were criminally responsible.

    No amount of money can bring back or lessen the pain of losing a loved one but if directed properly that money may prevent future such incidents.

    Litigation (none / 0) (#182)
    by ensignyu on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 04:26:10 AM EST

    If you have to sue somebody, it's already too late.

    What should be happening is that the companies should be required to ensure a reasonable amount of safety (good luck calculating that).

    It seems that there's two reasons why somebody would sue:

    1. Compensation for damages (lost income a la life insurance, trauma therapy, etc)
    2. Force a change in policy.
    The problem with #1 is that the damages awarded often exceed a reasonable coverage of suffering.

    The problem with #2 is that corportations are often aware of the risk of getting sued, but decide not to take precautions.

    Damages awarded should be scaled down to reasonable amounts, and punitive fines go to the government. Punishments should also require mandatory fixes/recalls/etc., or at the very least, optional with possible reduction of punitive damages.

    Instead of a fixed monentary fine, companies could  also be shunned from the marketplace. People are less willing to buy Firestone tires now, I presume. Government intervention or mass boycotts would help send a message.

    Remember, preventing deaths is better, morally, than a phony apology.

    quicherbichin! ;-) (none / 0) (#185)
    by zorkdork on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 08:10:52 AM EST

    where i am from, .ph, human life is and always has been PhP 50,000 as far as i can remember, about 20 years. that is about $1,000 now but that's only because the peso is now $1:Php53. it *could* be a little higher if you were a doctor or lawyer or someone who made a lot of money in your line of work when you got killed.

    Calculating in terms of Rwandans (4.50 / 2) (#186)
    by inkumbi on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 08:54:39 AM EST

    Well, if you happened to be a soldier in a first-world military in 1994, your life was calculated as being worth that of 80,000 Rwandans.

    Something to think about...

    Precedent (none / 0) (#198)
    by nomoreh1b on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 02:58:26 PM EST

    It has been a while since the US has fought a war on US soil. Still were US citizens in occupied territories in the Pacific compensated for deaths to their family? I've never heard of civil war civilian casualties getting significant compensation.

    I can see how there might be a reason for the government making sure that noone is impoverished by 911. Still what sense does it really make in maintaining the lifestyle of the relatives of various Wall Street fat cats? Those folks can certainly afford private life insurance. If there were a demand for riders that would adjust for things like working address and open political stands on Israel (or proxmity to folks that have a pro-Israel stands)-that could be arranged(it isn't like the New York folks don't have the resources or organizational skills to make this happen).

    Somehow, the scene of soldiers being economically deprived while folks are worried about those among the most privileged classes just doesn't strike me as a formula for success. Estimates of the war that I've seen here run in the area of $2-300 Billion--if everything goes right(this is on top of something like $1.6 Trillian spent on keeping Israel afloat the last 30 years).

    What we have here is a case in which poor boys from places like Harlem and Appalachia are being taxed highly and risk death so that some rich folks that aren't going to fight can pretend nothing is happening.

    It almost seems like the wealthy and powerful are "cashing out" their interests in the US-getting what they can before the gig is up.

    working like a charm (none / 0) (#203)
    by crazycanuck on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 09:09:46 PM EST

    says I, smoking a bong...

    George Soros (none / 0) (#210)
    by thanos on Sat Dec 14, 2002 at 12:24:45 AM EST

    is a big time hypocrite. He has been a Bilderberger'ing capital market rapist for years. Just ask Russia. Do what you please, but I'll avoid taking social justice advice from him.
    Savinelli testified that Pickard said on two occasions that he had accidentally spilled LSD on himself, dosing himself with the drug. Pickard acted "giddy" and was less focused and organized for about a month after the second dosing.
    Soros quote. (none / 0) (#214)
    by I am Jack's username on Sat Dec 14, 2002 at 06:08:25 PM EST

    See the responses in comment 13.
    --
    Inoshiro for president!
    "War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell
    [ Parent ]
    human life cheaper than animal life (none / 0) (#215)
    by moumine on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 07:58:08 PM EST

    Union Carbide's (now Dow Chemicals) settlement over the Bhopal disaster (which has so far killed 20,000 Indians after a leak of the unstable chemical methyl isocyanate) contrasts with Exxon's compensation after the Alaskan oil spill, and shows how cheaply human life is valued by some...

    The cost to Exxon of cleaning each photogenic seal was $944, while each victim (human) of the methyl isocyanate spill received an average of $500

    here it is: The Register



    How much is a life worth? | 218 comments (176 topical, 42 editorial, 0 hidden)
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