Thursday, November 12, 2009


Here is another reason we should get rid of motorcycle helmet laws:


The point is that while it is true that helmets may reduce DEATHS, they increase total costs. If you have a bad motorcycle accident, wearing a helmet means (a) the casket can be open, because your face is still all pretty, or (b) you are a paraplegic, and a permanent tax on society. Helmets don't protect from spinal injuries or broken necks. And bad accidents are nearly always going to result in spinal injuries or broken necks. So the cost of wearing helmets is enormous, unless you really value the lives of people who can only communicate by blinking.

Worse, wearing a helmet likely causes more accidents, by increasing risk taking behavior. (I can hit a truck when I am driving 150 km/hr on my donorcycle, because I am wearing a HELMET!)...

(Nod to the Bishop. The Bishop also thinks "get 'em out of the gene pool" is a legitimate argument against helmets. Bad, bad Bishop!)


Anonymous said...

Should people be prohibited from wearing helmets, then?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mike, it is arguments like this one that made me decide on economics as my major. You are a great inspiration to us all to be as rational as possible. And Anonymous, it would be better to require anyone with a motorcycle to hold insurance coverage to meet the cost of the externalities. Give people the chance to decide if they want to wear a helmet. In Washington you are not even required to hold liability insurance if you own the motorcycle outright.
Jayson W

Tom said...

Jayson thinks there are externalities associated with this risky behavior. Maybe so, but they are artificial -- "we" have decided to cover medical costs. We could have decided not to and had no "externalities", but we made the decision we made, so there are potentially unlimited externalities.

By the way, all you "risk takers," you cycle riders and you smokers and you French Fry lovers, because we are so generous, we own you.

Anonymous said...

Tom, We (as a society) have a very hard time to committing to not take care of you ex post if you are hurt. The externality is that the ER staff will feel awful watching you die, and worry that you made time-inconsistent decisions and that what seemed like a good idea ex ante may not be what you'd choose ex post. I don't have a good solution to that, but I don't think you should discount this problem entirely.

Anonymous said...

I left the first comment. Regardless of all of the above, I don't see why, from a libertarian perspective, one would use this type of policy analysis to argue that helmet laws should be eliminated. The reason, as I understand it, is that it infringes on liberty.

If you use policy analysis to argue that the laws should be eliminated, what happens when policy analysis shows that a different law, for example, one that provides for regulations making sure kids don't choke on toys, is effective from a cost benefit standpoint? Do we accept that law even if it imposes regulatory burdens? From a libertarian perspective, I think the answer is obviously not. But please tell me if I'm wrong. (Really, I'm looking to learn-no sarcasm).

Tom said...

Anon#3 says "we (as a society) have a very hard time to committing to not take care of you ex post if you are hurt." I didn't claim it would be easy; I only pointed out the ethical absurdity of asserting a right to control people because you have "volunteered" to be responsible for their health.

The absurdity is bound up in the meaning or "we". "We," the voting majority (sort of), have not volunteer to do this; rather, we volunteered to compel others (taxpayers) to do so. This too is an ethical absurdity. Because it's very hard to break this cycle, here we go, careening into the pit named Enslavement of All to All.