Acceptable Risk

The inimitable Heather Mac Donald takes the Nannies to task, in her inimitable way.  This paragraph in particular struck home for me:

We set highway speeding limits to maximize convenience at what we consider an acceptable risk to human life. It is statistically certain that every year, there will be tens of thousands of driving deaths. A considerable portion of those deaths could be averted by “following the science” of force and velocity and enforcing a speed limit of, say, 15 miles an hour. But we tolerate motor-vehicle deaths because we value driving 75 miles an hour on the highway, and up to 55 miles an hour in cities, more than we do saving those thousands of lives. When those deaths come—nearly 100 a day in 2019—we do not cancel the policy. Nor would it be logical to cancel a liberal highway speed because a legislator who voted for it died in a car accident.

Bill Whittle once said more or less the same thing about accidental gun deaths:  while even one such death was tragic, the plain fact of the matter is that some freedoms come with risk, sometimes deadly risk;  and the overall benefit to our society is far, far greater than the danger that may (or may not) ensue.   Using statistics of “gun deaths” (even correct ones) to bolster calls for gun control / -confiscation is likewise irrelevant.

It’s called the price of freedom, and We The People have been balancing those freedoms against the collateral harm to individuals ever since our Republic was formed and the Constitution and Bill of Rights promulgated.  All individual rights are potentially harmful, whether it’s freedom of speech, assembly, religion, gun ownership, privacy or any of the others.

And to Heather’s point above:  driving isn’t even a right protected by the Bill of Rights.  How much more, then, should our First- and Second Amendment rights (and all the other rights for that matter) be protected, even when we know that some tragedy is bound to follow thereby?

“If it saves just one life” sounds great on a bumper sticker, but as a basis for public policy, it’s not only foolish but in many cases more harmful in the long run.  Heather again:

We could reduce coronavirus transmission to zero by locking everyone in a separate cell until a vaccine was developed. There are some public-health experts who from the start appeared ready to implement such radical social distancing. The extent to which we veer from that maximal coronavirus protection policy depends on how we value its costs and the competing goods: forgone life-saving medical care and deaths of despair from unemployment and social isolation, on the one hand, and the ability to support one’s family through work and to build prosperity through entrepreneurship, on the other. The advocates of maximal lockdowns have rarely conceded such trade-offs, but they are ever-present.

The current wave of totalitarianism and loss of freedoms caused by State overreaction to the Chinkvirus needs to be rolled back, and fast.  It just sucks that we have to rely on judges — many of whom, to judge from their records, are not especially friends of freedom — to hold back the mini-Mussolinis in their totalitarian quest for absolute power over the governed.

And just so we know what kind of “acceptable risk” we’re talking about, comes this from Fox News:


  1. 100 motor-vehicle deaths per day in 2019?
    365,000 per year?
    I thought it was around 50,000 per year in the US no matter what the speed limit was.

    1. You’re right: 365k is grossly inflated. Even the 50k number is high: the last time it was 50k or higher was 1980. The most recent year I could find in a quick search was 2018 with 36,560.

  2. >>”driving isn’t even a right protected by the Bill of Rights. ”

    AFAIK, there never was a horse riding license that was the precedent to the automobile driver’s license. Riding a horse, or driving a team drawing cart or carriage was rightly seen as the implementation of one’s right of travel. It was one of those things so deeply ingrained and taken as writ that like sucking in air, it didn’t need to be written down.

    It is a sad coincidence that the emergence of the motor vehicle in large quantities occurred during one of progressivism’s high water moments, when it was viewed as a rich man’s folly, a menace to horses (witness PA’s absurd law about pulling over and camouflaging the car to let the horse pass) and a hazard to the public.

    Had it been otherwise, during a context in which individual rights were understood as having priority over the collective, the fatuous premise that driving was a ~privilege~ gifted or withheld by the state would have been beaten about the head and neck until dead.

    And before the gibbering hysteria classes complain “OMG! TEH DRUNK DRIVERZ!”, I’ll point out that as a practical matter, there is little ~practical~ difference between suppressing a right as a consequence of criminally abusing it to threaten injury to others, and cancelling a state granted privilege, but there is a world of moral and ethical difference between those two. (And for those who are wondering what the practical difference between framing the matter as a right or a privilege is, you can cancel privileges for arbitrary reasons and tie them to unrelated required actions, which you really can’t do for exercise of
    rights. Most notably, the whole fraud of “implied consent” to be searched, and invasively bodily sampled, effectively trading your 4th amendment rights for your driving “privileges” would never have gotten off the ground to become embedded into longstanding practice. )

    1. You are exactly right on all points.

      All those laws really have not changed the amount of drunks on the road, I would hazard a guess. But having to pay the state to renew my license, and pay taxes each year on the mere possession of my vehicles is somehow just fine with the state. After all, they get lots of money from that. In some states, a whole lot.

    2. Driving is a privilege. Take Public Transportation. Take a Bus, Train or Airplane. Except now, we all need “Real ID” for public transportation (Buying ammunition, too. National Ammo Day is coming) . Without submitting to the full weight and force of government, it’s Shank’s Mare for you. With “The Homeless Crisis”, people on foot are only allowed to carry so much, although the regulations against bulky items have been suspended due to Chinkvirus.

      I’m waiting for a law or a court case to assume that presence on public property is consent to be searched at will. For public safety, you know. To prevent terrorism, or crime, of course.
      If the relaxation of search and seizure laws of homes under administrative law can somehow be extended to people on the street, the Fourth Amendment is history. It might be pitched as for health only, or an exception or an emergency provision, but the exception will swallow the rule.

      When the requirement that seatbelts be worn was first proposed, we were promised that the police could not stop people because they perceived a driver as not having a seatbelt fastened, there had to be some moving violation or other in order to make the stop, at which time the seatbelt law could be applied. That exception quickly went away, as my neighbor the stupid leftist lawyer told me one day in a blow by blow description of how he got his ticket.

      1. Far too many court decisions are following that sort of logic, and as a consequence, I no longer consider the courts to be adequate guardians of the people’s individual rights.

        They take the position that so long some right can be exercised under ~some~ exotic, difficult to obtain conditions, (such as in Boston’s “free speech” cages from the 2004 DNC convention)that therefore the specific oppressive measure at hand is deemed not to be an unconstitutional obstruction to the exercise of an enumerated right.

  3. 55 in cities? She needs to get out more….

    Salt Lake City is 70 through the cities on I-80 and I-15 (and still 65 on all the state roads, though everyone tends to go 75-80 regardless….).

    The last time I drove in Chicago (June 2019) it was 70 on I-90 at least as far in as O’Hare. I didn’t get closer to downtown than that (was just dropping my daughter off for a flight to Japan a year ago), but was very pleasantly surprised to get off I-355 (at 65 limit, which was a drop from 70 on I-80 and I-55 coming in from central IL) and see a higher limit on I-90.

    Denver was 65 in city last time I was there (February 2020).

    El Paso was 60 on I-10 a couple of years ago when I was there. Don’t remember exact date, but think it was spring of 2016 or 2017.

  4. A minor correction:

    The phrase ‘social distancing’ is newspeak for the act of Anti-Social Distancing.

    Used in sentence:
    * Are you ‘practicing’?
    * Be certain to ‘practice’!
    * Encourage others to ‘practice’!
    * Follow the floor-decals to ‘practice’!
    * Report anybody not ‘practicing’!
    Because ‘practice’.

    1. And the absolute master stroke is to make your “safety” and “protection” dependent on how others around you practice the “safety” measures. It invites individual action against outliers, skeptics and rebels. Kind of like a certain major world religion we know of that considers the salvation of each individual to be dependent on the behavior of everyone else. “You, little man, won’t go to heaven because someone, somewhere, isn’t praying to God/ Allah in the right way, or at the right times, or kneeling in the right direction, or they believe the Messiah will come out of a different well somewhere.” That’s a useful idea for soldiers; they depend on each other to survive, but it’s not sound theology.

    1. aside from some food, beer, liquor and other consumer products that I can choose to buy or not, there is very little from Europe that I would want to import from them


    2. Germany and Japan, too. Traffic jams might decrease. Road rage would almost certainly move from the traffic-engineered slow roads to the DMV where people’s ability to travel independently is removed by some faceless, nameless, unelected minor bureaucrat.

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