Saturday, December 22, 2012

What Next? Road Control Laws?

Without roads people wouldn't be able to drive
cars anywhere so they wouldn't have car
accidents anymore and the middle class would
be preserved - right?

I took two graduate courses in statistics and research. One thing I learned is that Benjamin Disraeli’s purported comment about statistics is true.  There are, in fact, “Lies, damned lies and statistics.”  Used properly statistics can be quite useful. They show us which medications work, what problems our society needs to solve and Mark Twain’s overall negativity at different stages in his life.  The study was based on the number of times he used a form of the word “NO” in Huckleberry Finn vs. Tom Sawyer.  It’s burning issues like that now that really show off the power of statistics. 
We are constantly showered with meaningful statistics on the news, in books, magazines and even in our Sabbath sermons. For some reason we accept cold mathematical statistics as proof over almost any other form of persuasive data. After all, how can math lie?
Well you might ask.  The truth is, math doesn’t lie.  People lie. They just use math as a tool to support the lies.  One group uses statistics to prove that gun control doesn’t work.  Another uses statistics to prove that it does.  Throw in a few logical sounding anecdotes and you’ve got enough proof for your average drive-by consumer of information - whichever he happens to hear that most closely meets his already preconceived notions.
I stumbled across an interesting set of statistics from the WHO today that I’d like to throw out there for your consideration and to point out how you can get a wrong-headed conclusion from any statistic.  I was looking at worldwide causes of death as parsed out by the income levels of the country in question.  Of the top 10 leading causes of death, the first nine are all forms of disease. The slaughter caused by so-called “natural causes” runs to a staggering 28.32 million deaths annually. We don’t get to the first non-natural cause of death till we get to #10: Road traffic accidents.  More than 1.21 million people die as a result of road-related accidents.
These roads must be stopped.  Ah, but “No!” says the chairman of the American Automobile Association. “Roads do not kill people.  People using roads kill people.” 
Immediately the chairman of the Amelgamated Society to Stop Highways and Open Lanes from Existing shoots back, “Well that’s just absurd. Everybody knows that when the nation of Lower Bulemia banned roads altogether, road-related accidents dropped by 46%.
Next thing you know, you’ve got some fool in Congress sponsoring a National Roads Limitation Act, especially after he sees polls that say that 52% of people in his district support the idea.
Or better yet, let the progressive socialists get hold of it.  Did you know that according to WHO, road accidents are highest among middle-income nations; ranking seventh in total deaths in middle income nations. Road accidents don't even show up in the top ten causes of death among poor and rich nations.  So, now roads are obviously a threat to the middle class.  Amid much hand-wringing and cries of “What shall be done to save our middle class from all the road-related carnage?”  The media starts pouring on stories about how roads are at war with the middle class and they lay the blame at the feet of the construction companies that build roads.  If it wasn’t for their incessant greed which drives this road-building madness, thousands of innocent middle class people would still be alive and actually going to the polls themselves to vote for Democrats.
“I know,” some bright would-be member of central planning says. “Let’s get rid of roads and we can all ride trains.”  The reasoning is like this.  Poor people don’t drive so that’s why road accidents are fewer in poor nations.  Rich people don’t need to go anywhere on roads, the central planner reasons, because everything gets brought to them by the middle class and the poor, so they don't need to drive on roads. Either that, or they fly helicopters, take their yachts or hire chauffeurs. In any case, the top 1% don’t need to use roads which road accidents don’t make top ten list. 

Therefore, using our best Socratic logic, as learned watching David Letterman on late night TV, road accidents makes the top ten death toll in middle income nations because:
  1. Using roads is what kills so many middle class people. 
  2. If these roads didn’t exist, middle class people couldn’t use them.
  3. If middle class people could no longer use roads and used trains instead then…..
  4. The death rate by road related accidents would go down if we passed a law banning roads.
Voila!  Something gets done. A law is passed.  Passing a law is always the solution step on any progressive's list of logical reasons we must do something about anything that shows up in the news. Remember the progressive creed. Never waste a good crisis! And to the progressive socialist, passing a law is always the thing that must be done since passing laws, according to their creed, solves everything.

Of course, nothing ever actually gets done about reducing the number of roads cause to the surprise of central planning, people actually need roads and trains are too danged expensive.  A new federal bureaucracy gets created, however.  It becomes more costly to build roads what with all the new paperwork.  The existing roads deteriorate because instead of maintaining them, the funding is going toward paying for the new road reduction regulations.

And the final kick in the teeth - death by train wrecks rise.
But, what about the dingbat who thought the whole thing up? Well he gets himself re-elected because the media trumpets said dingbat’s spectacular success at getting “important” legislation passed and nobody bothers to ask whether any of his legislation did any actual good.
And civilization careens merrily on down its poorly maintained roads toward a certain destruction of its own making.  God save us all – or at least the 52% of us who want to be saved according to a recent Gallup Poll.
© 12/22/2012 by Tom King

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