Re: Government & Public Safety [was Re: kathryn's comments]

Michael S. Lorrey (
Mon, 13 Sep 1999 22:35:57 -0400

Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:
> > I believe most licensing is handled locally, so in theory you should
> > have the opportunity to correct it locally. Presumably most of this
> > is done in the name of public safety...
> That's the common /justification/ for licensing laws, but not the
> usual /reason/ for them. Go through the state code picking out
> every licensing law, and I'll bet you even money that 80% of them
> were lobbied for by the licensed industry as a barrier to entry
> into the market (of course, even those industry reps used the
> "public safety" excuse for better PR).

As a recent Supreme Court ruling says, you should not have to pay fees or ask a bureaucrats permission in order to exercise your Constitutional Rights.

> > It would appear that a flaw in the libertarian approach is that
> > in some cases, the government simply "passing a law" *is* the
> > cheapest way to implement something.
> But public safety isn't one of those things. Tort liability is
> so effective at redressing those problems that industries often
> lobby to have themselves regulated by the government to protect
> them from civil liability. If anything, tort law is weighed too
> heavily in favor of safety. Dow Corning, for example, took a huge
> liability hit for its breast implants despite the fact that the
> case had absolutely no merit when the scientific facts came out.
> Juries were more moved by sob stories from sick women than by
> real evidence. Given that, anyone who actually does make an
> unsafe product or harms people with a service doesn't stand a
> chance in court. But if they can hide behind compliance with
> government regulations, they have natural incentive to take risks
> within the guidelines and to not implement new safer technologies
> outside the guidelines.
> Here's a prediction you can keep in the archives somewhere:
> There have been a few more amusement-park accidents than usual
> in California this year. Amusement park rides are currently not
> regulated.

Actually, this is not true. Amusement park rides are regulated in the National Electrical Code, the National Mechanical Code, and the National Structural Code, all of which are model codes that states use as a basis for their own state building codes. I know for a fact that amusement park rides are regulated in the California state building code (one passage which comes to mind is section 3314 of the electrical code, which pertains to exit lighting.)

Watch out when the media or some lobbyist claims something isn't regulated. There are very few things that are no longer regulated...

Mike Lorrey