Tuesday, August 01, 2006

People who died because government set the standards

How many people have died because government created a false sense of illusion? Too many.

There was a terrible tragedy on Lake George last October, when a sightseeing boat capsized. The captain survived, but 20 of the 47 passengers (mostly senior citizens) drowned. Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board issued its findings: the boat was overloaded, and combined with waves (whose severity is still uncertain) hitting one side, it tipped over when many of the passengers shifted to the other side.

That North Country Gazette article has a number of curious things: the Coast Guard had certified the vessel in 1964 (when it was in Connecticut and classified under federal bullshit jurisdiction) as able to carry 48 passengers and two crew members. The state of New York "granted" the same certification when the boat was moved to Lake George in 1979. But ever since the boat owners installed a canopy in 1989 (which changed the boat's weight distribution), no level of government was aware of that modification, so no officials or agency determined its new capacity.

I would say that the boat captain and company are criminally negligent, since they should have exercised their own private discretion as to the boat's limits. However, they're only partially liable: after all, government had told them how many could fit on the boat. Government bred dependency by establishing its monopoly on safety standards, so it is therefore at least as liable as the owners. After all, who are we, the common people, to question government's official determination? Government's negligent stupidity was also setting average passenger weight at 140 pounds: not until after the accident was that raised. Americans are clearly heavier than in the 1960s and 1970s, so now New York finally uses an average of 174 pounds, and the Coast Guard uses 185 pounds. Gee, isn't that a comfort to the survivors and the loved ones of the deceased?

Of course, someone ran a "news" article that was all about promoting the need for more government standards: is anyone surprised that it's the New York Times? But who in their right minds, after government set standards that turned out to be wrong or at least have imperfect foresight, would trust government to set even more standards?

Unfortunately, most of the American people would. We're bred by public schools and public service announcements to trust government bureaucrats that tell us what medicines are safe, what medicines we may and may not take, and what combination of foods ("Recommended Daily Allowance") will give us optimum health. There's no need to think for yourself any longer: let government tell you how to do every little thing, and you'll live and die by its decisions like a good citizen ought to.

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