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Why Didn't the Nanny State Protect Us From Toyota?


By Jacob Hornberger

Would someone please explain to me how it’s possible that millions of Toyota vehicles have that accelerator problem? I thought the federal government was supposed to keep us safe from these sorts of things. Consider, for example, this page (http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/import/fmvss/index.html), which contains the “Federal Motor Vehicle Standards and Regulations” issued by the Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance, Safety Assurance section, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation.. It states: “These requirements are specified in such a manner ‘that the public is protected against unreasonable risk of crashes occurring as a result of the design, construction, or performance of motor vehicles and is also protected against unreasonable risk of death or injury in the event crashes do occur.’”

Indeed, what about those much-vaunted car “safety inspections,” where people have to wait in line for an hour or two to get their cars inspected and, of course, hand over some moolah to the state for the privilege of having a pretty decal on their windshield? Since they’re supposed to ensure that our cars are safe (hey, they are called “safety” inspection stickers, right?), then how is it possible that people have been driving millions of cars that are obviously unsafe?

Do you see the problem?

It’s actually the same problem with respect to the hundreds of millions of dollars lost by investors in the Bernie Madoff scandal. How is it possible that such a scandal occurred? Wasn’t everyone in Madoff’s line of work subject to federal regulations ensuring that this sort of thing wouldn’t happen?

Or how about the recent bouts of salmonella poisoning from hamburger meat? How is this possible? Isn’t the meat industry close regulated by federal officials? Doesn’t the “food” in Food and Drug Administration include beef? Isn’t the purpose of such regulations to ensure that the public is not subjected to these sorts of things?

As we libertarians have been pointing out for decades, the paternalistic state is nothing more than a big fraud and sham, one designed to convince people to fund a gigantic, bureaucratic, parasitic state that will keep them safe from the vicissitudes of life. Yet, as people once again learn, all those beloved regulations and regulators don’t keep people safe at all. Bad things continue to happen in life, as they always will. The nanny society can’t stop that.

Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t just involve parasitic bureaucrats sucking hard-earned money out of people’s pockets under the pretense that they’re keeping them safe. It’s much worse than that. The nanny state lulls lots of people into a peaceful state of innocent bliss in which they think they’re being kept safe from the hazards of ordinary life. Thus, people become less cautious and more gullible, and thus, are less safe than they otherwise would be.

What’s the libertarian solution? A complete separation of the economy and the state, one in which the government has no more power to regulate economic activity than it does to regulate religious activity.

Would there still be safety defects, stock-market frauds, and other such bad things? Sure, just as there are today. But the difference would be that people would tend toward developing a keener sense of self-responsibility and caution in their lives, knowing that the nanny state wasn’t purporting to take care of them.

Moreover, the free market (free, as in free of all government control) provides its own self-correcting mechanism that tends toward keeping people safe. Consider Toyota. It’s moving quickly toward finding a solution to the accelerator problem not because some federal bureaucrat is ordering it to. It’s doing so because of the threat of lawsuits and falling consumer demand for Toyota vehicles. In the free market, the consumer is the ultimate sovereign. If consumers stop buying Toyota vehicles, Toyota goes out of business, no matter how big and wealthy it is today.

The nanny state, like the socialistic welfare state, has proven to be a disaster and a fiasco and an expensive one at that. It’s time that Americans restored a genuine free-market society to our land by separating the economy and the state.

Entry #363


Comment by GASMETERGUY - February 3, 2010, 5:34 pm
Do you actually think Toyota would be assembling this massive recall if it were not for the Safety Transportation Board? I think not. Too expensive and the hit to their image would be devastating. If were not for Sinclair Lewis and his book "The Jungle", eating processed meat would be like playing Russian Roulette (which it was back in the 20's and 30's). Had not the government mandated testing processed meat on a regular basis, salmonella would run rampant in our restaurants.

While I am not one supporting Big Brother, there are things the govenment does well. Unfortuantely most of what the government does is SNAFU'd.
The Dept of Health, Education and Welfare needs to be disbanded. All intrusion into education need to be abandoned (let the States take care of education). Dept of Energy needs to re-locate to Iran.

As for people tending toward that which is safe and/or reliable, experiece comes with age. By the time you realized the pitfalls with which con men will be peppering, you are too old to take advantage of that fact and your children will never listen to you. So your knowledge will be lost.

I know how you feel for I feel the same way. The problem is identifying those programs that work reasonably well, making those programs more efficient, and disband the rest. Now if only our politicians would see what we see. But they are only interested in spending your money, expanding government, and intruding upon your life as much as you will withstand.

time*treatComment by time*treat - February 3, 2010, 7:02 pm
"By the time you realized the pitfalls ... you are too old to take advantage of that fact and your children will never listen to you..." Too true :)

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