Tuesday, October 30, 2012

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Unintended Consequences [with correction]

_McGrath001

This week, Doc McGrath points the finger of blame. [See Correction below]

I wonder if readers noticed this news item about the road toll at Labour Weekend—specifically a horrific, fiery car crash South of Te Karaka near Gisborne that saw four dead.

The story of that crash is a chilling demonstration of the Law of Unintended Consequences which states:

  The actions of people, and especially of government, always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended.

Now, we often say that where there are consequences, those who took the actions should bear the responsibility. So when those actions are taken by government, and those unintended consequences bear directly on someone else—someone who has often been prohibited from avoiding those consequences, however dire—then who takes  responsibility for that? 

How does that bear on this crash? Read this:

Police say passers-by stopped to try to help those trapped in the burning vehicle, but they couldn't get their seatbelts released before the fire took hold.

Did I mention responsibility?  I put it to you that those lawmakers who made wearing seat belts compulsory all those years ago should be held accountable to the family of the three people who suffered agonising death in the Ford Explorer because they were trapped by their seat belts.

Now I'm not saying these three people wouldn't have used their seat belts without laws mandating their use. They might have. And perhaps, without the seat belts, they would have died from injuries sustained directly as a result of the crash. The fact remains however that the restraints intended to save lives were in this case a contributing factor in the deaths of these unfortunate motorists.  And the choice over using those seat belts had been taken out of their hands—so even if they decided they’d be safer without wearing a restraint, they couldn’t.

Every action has consequences, and parliamentarians - like everyone else - should be held accountable for these consequences. If a law results in needless death or injury, justice should be sought for the victims.

I believe New Zealanders should have recourse to legal action against legislators who introduce bills to Parliament that end up as laws limiting the action of peaceful citizens, where this restriction leads to avoidable death.

Richard McGrath
Leader, Libertarianz Party

CORRECTION:  Later more accurate reports indicate the inability of heroic rescuers to extricate the car’s occupants before fire took hold had nothing to with seat belts. So while the discussion is a useful one, it has nothing to do with this tragedy. We regret the error.

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12 Comments:

Anonymous Fentex said...

That's a pretty silly argument, for if you're not going to say that the people were only wearing the seatbelts because the government mandated them then there's no point trying to claim the government is responsible.

You can't rant about the government being responsible while issuing disclaimers that maybe they weren't.

That's trying to have a cake and eat it as well.

Not that I don't chafe under such legislation myself.

Personally I don't wear a seatbelt unless I'm on the open road, considering it safer to be able to move freely when I don't have as much concern about sudden impacts outside of my control.

My brother would be dead now if he'd worn a seatbelt every time for one night a unilluminated loon trying to flee police drove into his vehicle running a red light and my brothers being thrown from his vehicle saved him from dying in the aftermath.

For similar reasons I don't wear lifebelts on boats having narrowly survived being killed by them twice.

10/30/2012 12:01:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The fact remains however that the restraints intended to save lives were in this case a contributing factor in the deaths of these unfortunate motorists."

That is not a fact at all. In fact, it is contradicted by your previous sentence: "And perhaps, without the seat belts, they would have died from injuries sustained directly as a result of the crash."

Also this segment from a much fuller report http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/7845863/Horror-Gisborne-crash-Frantic-rescue-bid-fails from people actually on the scene doing the work never mentions seatbelts.

"I saw the guy in the back seat and me and another guy climbed in the boot to try and get him out.

"He was all entangled up in the seat and all squished up with his leg through to the driver's side.

"By that stage the fire had already started. It was so weird, it just started as a few sparks in the dashboard area. It was so quick."

She said the man was conscious as she climbed in the boot, but by the time the car started filling with smoke he was unconscious.

"We had to jump out because the car was going to explode. He was engulfed in flames within probably five seconds," she said.

"We didn't even realise there were two other people in the car. We thought it was just the two. We didn't even see them. We only found out there were more [the next morning], which is horrible."

So 'He was all entangled up in the seat'. Seats are compulsory in cars for passengers, therefore it's a fact the requirement to use a seat was a contributing factor to one person's death.

insider

10/30/2012 12:04:00 pm  
Blogger twr said...

As the official voice of the Libz party, don't you think it would be a good idea to consider whether this sort of ridiculous article does your cause more harm than good?

Whatever your motives, trying to claim the government should be able to be sued because people died in a car fire will put people off because you just look like a nutter. It really spoils the rest of the message.

10/30/2012 01:29:00 pm  
Blogger Peter Cresswell said...

I have to agree, I'm not sure it's Richard's finest piece of commentary.

10/30/2012 01:52:00 pm  
Anonymous cheesefunnel said...

I concur, I find myself warming to certain aspects of this blog, but I find myself going cool when I read articles as crap as this one. I get the point about actions & consequences, but the fashion in which it is made is thoroughly distasteful, if not wilfully ignorant of the actual facts. Add to that (as the above posters have pointed out), the woeful logic...maybe you guys would make good politicians after all.

10/30/2012 01:57:00 pm  
Blogger Peter Cresswell said...

@Insider: Yes, you're right, the much fuller report says nothing about belts. I'd suggest the earlier report did what we're familiar with journalists doing: extrapolating a little too much.

I'd say it was on that extrapolation that Richard based his anger.

That said, in my own open-top car I'm nearly certain that I'd be better off not wearing a belt and being thrown clear in a smash, rather than wearing one and being held in tight as it goes over.

But that choice is not mine to make, is it.

10/30/2012 02:06:00 pm  
Blogger Peter Cresswell said...

@Insider: Yes, you're right, the much fuller report says nothing about belts. I'd suggest the earlier report did what we're familiar with journalists doing: extrapolating a little too much.

I'd say it was on that extrapolation that Richard based his anger.

That said, in my own open-top car I'm nearly certain that I'd be better off not wearing a belt and being thrown clear in a smash, rather than wearing one and being held in tight as it goes over.

But that choice is not mine to make, is it.

10/30/2012 02:06:00 pm  
Blogger Richard McGrath said...

@Fentex: The main theme was one of unintended consequences. This story was not a perfectly clear-cut example of compulsion causing harm, but I believe the message is still clear.

The idea of litigating in a civil court (or out of court) where a person believes legislation has led to avoidable harm would be a matter for judge or jury to decide.

When a person dies in a vehicle wearing a seatbelt, there would always be speculation as to the degree of contribution from the retraint, as you have just shown by your comments.

10/31/2012 04:50:00 pm  
Blogger Richard McGrath said...

@twr: Can you be more specific about what you find 'ridiculous' about the post - was it someone questioning the infinite wisdom of politicians? Or speculating as to whether some laws might unintentionally result in death or injury? Or someone believing the government should be held accountable when it coerces people into behaving in a certain way?

Do please elaborate... and play the ball, not the man.

10/31/2012 04:56:00 pm  
Blogger Richard McGrath said...

@cheesefunnel: "thoroughly distasteful" - if you don't like what you read, you are free to stop reading.

"wilfully ignorant" - I was basing my opinions on a news article to which I provided a link (One News) - are you saying the news service deliberately falsified that story? If the story as it was presented was not an accurate relaying of the facts, then your gripe should be with One News.

"woeful logic" - can you provide the devastating critique that demolishes my argument?

10/31/2012 05:06:00 pm  
Blogger Richard McGrath said...

What I didn't say in the original story was that given the choice, I believe the vast majority of drivers would use a seat belt or other restraint to limit the extent of impact injuries.

But as PC pointed out the government don't treat us like adults capable of making that sort of decision for ourselves.

However, reading this link may make cheesefunnel and twr happier, as it supports the notion that wearing seatbelts reduces the risk of drowning or burning to death in a vehicle smash:

http://www.snopes.com/autos/techno/seatbelt.asp

10/31/2012 05:17:00 pm  
Blogger twr said...

Richard, I'm clearly making no comment on whether seatbelts are a good idea or not (they probably are), or whether government nannying of adults is a good idea (it's not). I was commenting on your choice of this issue as a platform for marketing the Libz message, which was ill advised, and, as we found out, ill informed as well.

Drawing a very tenuous and easily debunkable connection between these people's untimely death and government compulsion is unlikely to resonate with many potential voters, and is unlikely to get a single extra supporter to join the fold. Conversely, it is highly likely to put people off and to provide ammunition for people who oppose you as an on-record example of why they think Libz aren't fit for government.

You don't seem to have got the message from the commenters either. Telling someone who is generally a supporter to go and read something else shows a catastrophic lack of appreciation of your role as leader. I think you should have a good hard think about what you want to achieve and how best to do so. I would have thought the recent conference would have hammered that message home.

Listen and learn, please! I know it's a difficult job, but you need to be much more careful about how you present your message.

11/01/2012 08:41:00 am  

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