I've been thinking about risk lately. Of course, excessive and unneccessary risk is silly and to be avoided. On the other hand, avoiding all risk is,
A. Impossible, and
B. Leads to a very dull, stiffled disobedient existence.
If you want to go look at a bunch of crazy risk takers, go read the bible. From God the Father to the whole lot of crazy misfits we call the apostles, they were all risk takers, sometimes extravagently so.
Unfortunately, I think our government is on a mission to protect us from everything. This is the so-called Nanny State.
One of the ways that we end up with an excessively large and intrusive government is the proliferation of laws to an extent that no ordinary person can really know what's against the law any more. And you can bet, one of the primary driving forces of this trend is the nanny state mentality. The government wants to protect you from everything, but itself. The underlying assumption is that you aren't really up to the job of looking out for yourself. Frankly, I am insulted by that.
Here is the logical conclusion to the overly protective and legislation-happy government:
Regular folks like you and me who haven't done anything substantively wrong, at all, end up in a Federal Penitentiary because of some stupid irrelevant detail in the Federal Code.
What got me thinking about risk is transportation. All the big auto makers have got it wrong in my humble but correct opinion. Liquid fuels are going to continue getting scarce and expensive. Transportation as we know it will have to change, quickly and dramatically, to maintain any semblance of the personal freedom and economic benefits we enjoy from our cars and trucks. The big automakers are moving at the pace of molasses in January, when we need the speed of greased lighting. The main cause of this is legislative.
I want to build a car. My concept car is small and light and extremely fuel efficient. It holds three passengers and luggage. At 50 mph, it should get between 125-175 mpg. Tweaking the Toyota Corolla using the current system is orders of magnitude too slow and will never yield a vehicle that gets even 75 mpg. The main roadblock to achieving that goal is the government. There are a jillion regs concerning how cars can be built/sold in the U.S. Side impact beams, redundant braking systems, multiple airbags, lap and shoulder belts, required crash testing, special glass that minimizes cuts in the event of an accident because it shatters into < 1 cm pieces, etc etc etc. In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with any of those individual requirements. The problem is, as a whole, they absolutely will result in heavy cars with poor fuel economy and pretty much kill any significant breakthroughs in car design, forever.
The great irony, and the great logical blindspot, is that the Feds still allow the manufacture and sales of motorcycles and horses/buggies. Both of these modes of transportation are exquisitely dangerous in the statistical sense, compared with big fat heavy cars. But the Feds will still allow you to (at least for the moment) take that risk.
However, I am forbidden to build a car that gets 3.5-5 times the fuel economy of the Toyota Corolla, yet is still safer than the motorcycle or the buggy. To get around that, I am forced to build it with three wheels so it is technically and legally a motorcycle to avoid the whole legal snafu. Before I get the job done, they'll probably close that loophole too, and then we'll just all have to buy inefficient vehicles that we can't afford to operate. But MAN will they be safe!
Phoeey! If the government at every level, including and especially the Federal level, doesn't stop expanding and consuming and protecting us from everything, they will end up crashing everything that is good and worthwhile about western civilization.
Please stop it!
Saturday, August 01, 2009
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