Who’s to Blame When Air Bags Don’t Save Lives?

By Eric Peters, Automotive Columnist

Toyota just announced a recall of more than 650,000 cars — for potential problems with the air bags.

“Improperly manufactured propellant wafers could cause the inflator to rupture and the front passenger airbag to deploy abnormally in the event of a crash,” the company said in a statement.

Now, the relevant question to ask here is not whether Toyota is guilty of endangering the buying public — and what to do about it.

It is how come the government gets to endanger the buying public? And what do we do about that?


If air bags were not mandatory, people could weigh the potential risks against the claimed benefits — and come to a decision they were comfortable with. In exactly the same way people consider whether to sky dive, or any other such thing that entails both risk and reward. If something goes awry, they at least can take comfort in the fact that no one forced them to do “x.”

Certainly, Toyota is culpable for selling an apparently defective part in its cars. But at least, no one was forced to buy a Toyota car.

On the other hand, everyone who buys a new car is forced to buy an air bag — and thus, forced to assume all the risks, both actual and theoretical.

While the pro air bag crowd can point to “lives saved” — which is true enough — people like me (weirdos who believe in adults deciding things for themselves) can point with just as much truth behind us to the deaths and injuries air bags have caused.

Whether air bags have saved more lives than have been lost is not the issue. Even if they have, there is an effrontery that boggles a sane mind when it comes across another person asserting his authority to presume to make life and death choices for another human being — at gunpoint, never forget.

I realize I harp on the “at gunpoint” qualifier. But it’s necessary — critically necessary — to not permit these creatures who would control us to soft-sell the violence that underlies everything they do.

And, the hypocrisy.

You’ve no doubt heard the bleat — If it saves even one life! — as the justification for forcibly imposing “x” (or not allowing “y”).

Why is this bleat never applied when lives are not saved as a result of these violent interpositions? When a life would have been saved absent the violent interposition?


The ugly truth is that the people killed (and maimed) by air bags don’t matter to the control freaks. To them, these deaths are incidentals, the cost of doing business.

It’s DSM psychopathy.

How would you feel if you had forced another person to do something and it directly led to that person’s death or mauling? Would you ever presume to make such a choice for someone else, knowing that choice might result in that person’s death or injury?

No, of course not. Because you — like most people — are not a psychopath.

Normal people feel extremely uneasy at the prospect of making life or death decisions for others. But the two-legged things that issue regulatory decrees are not normal people. They don’t feel anxiety or angst — much less regret — over what they do to other people. It’s all in the “public interest” — as defined by them. If it ends costing the lives of some of the public, oh well.

Stalin once reportedly said: “A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths, a statistic.” This is the sort of mentality we’re dealing with. It’s not on the mass-murder level. Yet. But the attitude is exactly the same.

We’ll decide; you’ll obey.

Or else.

If there are negative outcomes, it will be your problem; all for the greater good.

This attitude now suffuses American society — and has become glib, commonplace. It’s routine for politicians of either party (Team Red and Team Blue) to cavalierly banter about the disposition of other people’s lives, as if this were perfectly reasonable.

I say it’s time to put an end to this disgusting routinization of playing with other people’s lives. No one has the right to do it. Whether you believe air bags — or whatever it happens to be — pose an “acceptable risk” is entirely beside the point.

The point is, it’s not up to you to make that calculation for anyone other than yourself.

Your job — your obligation — is to mind your own business and leave others free to mind theirs.



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