Drowning in irresponsibility
Two Mesa parents, whose child tragically drowned in a pool, want the
federal government to require the installation of safety fences
around all swimming pools, including pools in walled backyards. Is
this a good or bad idea? Before answering, let me first answer two
Question 1: What's the source of the notion that if Person A acts
irresponsibly, Person B should have to pay? Answer: A half-century
of bleeding-heart thinking
As a result, many Americans now believe that if Person A's child
drowns because Person A didn't keep an eye on her child and didn't
invest in safety measures, Person B should be forced to install a
safety fence around his pool, even if he doesn't have young
The same thinking is behind the notion that Person B should be
forced to pay for air bags because Person A doesn't wear a seat belt
and is impaled on the steering column. Similar thinking is behind a
new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulation, which
requires all new vehicles to be equipped with automatic tire sensors
in 2008, at a first-year cost of $13 billion, because Person A is
too lazy to check his tire pressure.
Question 2: Why don't bleeding hearts conduct a cost-benefit
analysis of proposed safety regulations?
Answer: So that when the cost of living goes up, they can complain
that workers are having trouble making ends meet and can then
advocate that money be taken from Person B and redistributed to
Incidentally, I have conducted my own cost-benefit analysis of
automatic tire sensors, based on NHTSA data. The cost will be $9.8
million per saved life. In other words, because Person A doesn't
value his life enough to purchase a hand-held tire gauge for less
than $10, the rest of us have to pay $9.8 million to save the
The local cost of mandatory pool fences is more difficult to
calculate, but is roughly $420 million, assuming that there are
300,000 pools without safety fences in metro Phoenix and that the
average cost of a safety fence is $1,400.
I'll now answer the opening question: No, the rest of us shouldn't
be forced to spend $420 million because Person A doesn't think his
child's life is worth the $1,400 cost of a pool fence or the zero
cost of parental vigilance.
By Craig J. Cantoni
The Arizona Republic
May 4, 2005
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