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Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Most Important Thing You Have To Think About This Week, This Month, This Year!!

This week's Sunday New York Times Magazine has a story about the life long work of an apparently very nice lady.  But it raises the most fundamental question facing the USA today.  Namely, how much government is enough and how much is too much.  The article starts below.

Safety Lessons From the Morgue

On a bright, chilly morning in February, Susan P. Baker sat in her fifth-floor office at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, staring at her computer screen. She had just completed a search for the word “sightseeing” in a federal database of U.S. aviation crashes between 2000 and 2010. Now she was scrolling through a seemingly endless list of grim case histories of people who were killed or injured when their sightseeing aircraft or balloon crashed. 

A month before, she read a news story about the crash of a tour helicopter in Nevada. Five people died, including a couple celebrating their 25th anniversary. “It made me sad and angry,” she recalled. “Such senseless deaths!” So Baker, an epidemiologist, did what she’s been doing for more than four decades. She decided to find out why people were dying and what could be done to stop it. 

Working with Sarah-Blythe Ballard, a doctoral candidate and Navy flight surgeon, Baker prepared an abstract and sent it to the Aerospace Medical Association. When it’s finished, the article will delineate the number of fatalities for each mode of sightseeing flight, including balloon, helicopter and fixed-wing; describe the circumstances that led to each crash, like encounters between hot-air balloons and power lines; and offer suggestions for reducing the risk of a crash — for example, increasing training for pilots on landing in unfavorable wind conditions and avoiding power lines. Then, if everything goes the way it usually does when Baker publishes her work, the article will be picked up by the media, putting pressure on the businesses that run sightseeing flights, as well as the legislative committees and agencies that oversee their operations, to improve the way these flights are conducted. Over time, the hope is, fewer people will die in these sorts of accidents.

Do we really need a federal agency to monitor balloon pilots?  (Confession:  I have ridden in a balloon and had a good time.)

But the much larger, and much more important question is, "How much government do we need to control individual behavior?"  It is clearly a spectrum.  At one end there is the government that protects you from getting killed by a lunatic, but at the other end there is the government that interferes in your bedroom.

Read the rest of the article and talk to someone, a friend, relative, about where the line should be drawn.  It has to been drawn somewhere.

Now the next dimension.  You will notice that nowhere in the article is cost/benefit discussed.  Given the end of the article, this is truly ironic, i.e, air bags add about $1,000 to the cost of an automobile and the best estimate is that airbags save some 300-400 lives a year.  We sell 11 million to 15 million automobiles annually in the U.S.  You can do the math to calculate the amount of money we all spend to save those lives.

O.K., get ready, here comes the irony.  Airbags are useless if you are not wearing your seat belt!! 

One final assignment:  Take a look at what is on your plate for lunch (breakfast, whatever) and ask your self whether it is a good thing that everything on that plate was approved in one way or another by some government inspector.

Best of all, get some Tea Party member to think about what is at stake here.

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