All but one US state requires drivers to wear seat belts, and every airline flight must be delayed so all passengers can hear a safety lecture, but BASE jumping is widely allowed and terribly dangerous:
Barkley, Robin said there is only one state that does not require seatbelts, while there are many states that are not on the East Coast. The inconsistency is in the states which are not on the East Coast and allow BASE jumping but prohibit driving without a seatbelt.
Well, gosh, Robin. BASE jumping is illegal everywhere on the East Coast, except for one day per year at one site in West Virginia, which also happens to be a big tourist draw, given it is the highest bridge of its sort anywhere in the world. And, West Virginia is a poor state out to attract tourists, however. So, to the extent there is any inconsistency, it is on the part of West Virginia. But, we know they are poor and desperate for tourist cash, plus being hillbilly rednecks into all kinds a weird stuff an varmint chasin' an other reckless good for nothin' stuff after all that moonshahne...
Floccina, I think all of the things you mentioned, while possible, would (and should) require an extreme amount of evidence for us to be able to make such a broad generalization. While I certainly hope the police don't despise the poor, and it is possible they do (or that some do rather), the explanation for inconsistent enforcement seems come from elsewhere (like the laws themselves or the fact that poor people are more likely to commit certain crimes and are also more likely to live in the same area as other poor people), not hatred.
The difference in scale does seem to matter. There are going to be costs that just don't scale with it, such as the cost of drafting and passing a law.
Is it possible that the law is set not with the poor in mind but that enforcement is targeted at the poor because we do not like the poor? We do not like how poor people’s neighborhoods look. We do not like how they live. Democrats think that they can make the poor live and look like middleclass people by giving them money. Republicans think that they can make the poor live and look like middleclass people by giving them religion. Both would be very happy if they just disappeared. Could it be that the police just despise the poor? Could it be that the Paternalism is only in the enforcement not in the making of the laws?
Robin has pre-biased the discussion by labelling regulation as "paternalism".I think David J. Balan had no problem with the term when debating Hanson. The inventors of "libertarian paternalism" (really paternalists trying to argue with libertarians) didn't mind the term. I think it's value neutral.
Anyway, the information contained in laws helps make for a more efficient market.Really? Don't you think prediction markets would do a better job of that? How much information do legislators have?
a state would be criminally inhumanIs this the case even for people who are not citizens? I hate to get Will-Wilkinsonian here, but how does an artificial border creates a moral distinction? If it is really criminally inhuman, would doing so necessitate not only compensatory but punitive damages? And are you sure seatbelt laws lead to lower state expenditures? Some data might be in order. A lot of people think that the uninsured are a drain on the healthcare system but it turns out the larger amounts paid compared to those with insurance outweighs those that receive free treatment (it might sound hypocritical of me, but I'll have to go find that link and post it later).
There are few BASE jumpers who have any uncertainty about the risks entailed; most probably seek out the sport BECAUSE of them. However, when I give my neighbor's daughter a ride to school, she has no way of appreciating the risk of same -- heck, I'm a risk manager and don't know what the odds are. Anyway, the information contained in laws helps make for a more efficient market.
A second concern, not addressed by insurance, is the social contract: a state would be criminally inhuman if it did not care for victims of accidents regardless of whether they had insurance coverage; few of us would want to live in a world where the iron hand of fate was not softened by human care for our neighbors ("fellow man"). Those who are so unlucky as to be hurt can count on getting some help regardless as to whether they could afford insurance. Seat belt laws reduce the cost to the state of providing that safety net, at a truly trivial cost to the Libertarians' right to take stupid chances with no thrill attached. All real issues are about which rights are more important, and I'm sure most are quite happy to have that tradeoff.
I'm surprised to have seen no mention of the Isles report. Around the time that seatbelt laws were being proposed in the UK, the Govt commissioned this report to investigate the effect. The conclusion was that risk compensation (riskier behaviour by drivers) resulted in substantially increased hazard for those outside the cars, eg pedestrians and cyclists, and essentially no gains overall.
Of course, the report was suppressed and the legislation passed.
These are the first two google hits I found:
Paul Gowder basically gives the first explanation that came to my mind.
When you jump off a thousand foot cliff you KNOW there is an obvious risk of death. You have to go well out of your way to engage in such an activity, which is why I would suspect so few people do it (both those aspects combined I mean). Whereas with driving, there is a risk of death, but many people go many long years without witnessing or being part of a fatal accident. And, driving is a part of our every day experience. You don't have to go far out of your way to drive (for your typical person a drivers license and a car purchase don't necessarily require an extreme amount of effort). If I wanted to I could go out to the front of my house and get in my car and drive around till I run out of gas on a whim. I could not however, without serious mental (and financial) effort go jump off a thousand foot cliff or building.
So if there is inconsistent paternalism I think that it has to do with the ease and prevalence of the activities. Obscure, hard to get into activities with high fatality rates are less of a target for paternalism, but everyday activities that any (and nearly all) moron(s) can take part in are highly subject to government intervention.
I also agree this topic should be limited to why there are apparent inconsistencies in paternalism (or if there even are) and not whether or not it is a good or bad thing that paternalism exists because we could argue about that until our fingers are worn down to nubs.
Sorry, where did I or anyone else say that all government regulations were beneficial, rational, or consistent, let alone perfect?
Isn't this discussion infested with economists? Aren't there perfectly reasonable economic justifications for various government regulation? Aren't there entire subfields and journals dedicated to these issues? Or is this just a place for standard braindead libertarian whining?
Robin has pre-biased the discussion by labelling regulation as "paternalism". I wouldn't mind seeing an unbiased discussion of the pros and cons of various govt regulation, but it won't happen if everyone brings their ideological predispositions and doesn't examine them.
Drug laws are notoriously irrational, and I don't in general defend them. But highly addictive drugs pose a challenge to individual choice models of human action. Addicts might start out voluntarily assuming risks but find themselves with much less autonomy than they started with. There are plausible economic arguments to be made for government intervention in this area based on people's very poor ability to make the calculation between short-term pleasure and long term costs.
I wonder what results you would get if you surveyed cocaine and heroin addicts and asked them if they would have preferred that government regulation of these substances had been more effective, so that they would not have had access to them when they were starting out.
The larger point is that it is not always beneficial to have more choices.
Has anyone mentioned that fact that not wearing a seatbelt affects only the driver/passenger? Whether the driver is wearing a seatbelt or not has no bearing on whether he/she is going to get into an accident. I would argue therefore that seatbelt regulation has nothing to do with negative externalities.
These sorts of laws tend to be the result of grass roots movements so I wouldn't be surprised if they're inconsistent. I think your analysis is probably wrong; there are examples of marginal sports that have succumb to paternalistic laws. One example is quad bikes, which, after some high profile accidents involving children, were subject to various restrictions and required to display warning labels. Another is jet skis, which were required to have certain safety features. There's probably many more examples. Usually these laws are a response to parents of dead or injured children protesting.
BASE jumping itself is an illegal sport. It might be legal to jump off certain structures but the sports culture also involves a lot of breaking and entering and jumping off things for which they do not have permission. I doubt the claimed high mortality rate is at the legal, arranged jumps off structures like bridges, it probably has more to do with their illegal activities.
It's like nobody ever heard of James Buchanan. Or Bryan Caplan for that matter. People are just assuming that government does what's best, that voter decisions are best, and then finding some rationale to demonstrate the perfection of the result.
BASE jumping is an entirely optional activity.
Like cocaine use. That's why cocaine use is completely legal. Oh, wait. Quick, somebody rationalize that away.
Paul Gowder and Jess Reidel seem to have the best explanations, much better than the original socal-status theory. Rich people have to obey the same seatbelt laws and endure safety lectures just like poor people, unless they are rich enough to have a private jet.
People travel because they want to go somewhere, not because they want to stare death in the face, and regulation is designed to reduce side-risks. BASE jumping is an entirely optional activity. You can think of regulation as an effort to remove risk and uncertainty from everyday transactions. The seatbelt-wearing laws I could live without, but I'm grateful for the regulations that mandate that the seatbelts exist, because it means I don't have to think about whether they are there or not if I am buying a car or accepting a ride in someone else's car. When we used to have a functioning CPSC, we didn't have to put effort into worrying about whether there was lead in toys we bought for our children. Etc.
Regulations reduce transaction costs. They are designed to deal with involuntary rather than voluntary risks.
Frankly, all the defenses so far strike me as rationalizations, rather half-baked ones at that.
I'm really surprised that nobody has mentioned the obvious distinction. BASE jumping is a flagrantly dangerous, unusual activity. Anyone engaging in it has simply got to know that they're staring death RIGHT IN THE FACE. People tend to be a lot more casual about driving, etc. With the stupid jumping, the salience of possible death is vastly higher, so the need for gov't intervention to make sure people take care is lower.