Where do you draw the line on tradeoffs?

John Bredehoft ponders the question in his post, A steering wheel desk – where do you draw the line between personal and corporate responsibility?

Under discussion is a portable desk you can set up while in the driver’s seat. The illustration at Amazon makes it clear it fits over the bottom of the wheel and would make turning impossible even if you could handle dumping everything on your lap.

John, who  is a friend of mine by the way, ponders the tradeoffs on something people could easily misuse versus a tool that would be handy to eat lunch in the fast-food parking lot, make notes before walking into a meeting or sending followup e-mails from the parking lot after a meeting.

Should such a product be banned?

Yes, some might answer the question, if it saves just one life.

His very good point is that tools are neither moral nor immoral.  (THink I will return to that idea in a separate post.)

To continue the pondering, John looks at the evidence that dropping the legal blood alcohol level from 0.1% to 0.08% hasn’t had a statistically significant impact on reducing drunk driving deaths.

But it’s still worth it, right? If it just saves one life, it’s a good thing, right?

The rhetorical answer ignores the concept of tradeoff issues and enforcement costs.

His tongue-in-cheek solution to getting a dramatic drop in the rates? (At least I think he’s joking.)

Ban automobiles.

That sure would reduce the deaths from drunk driving tremendously. Like to zero.

But there would be other little tradeoffs. Like collapsing the economy. Like severely limiting our freedom.

And that’s the issue. What are the tradeoffs?

One thought on “Where do you draw the line on tradeoffs?”

  1. This is not the first time that I have publicly “endorsed” the banning of automobiles.

    I live in Ontario, California, and there was a fight in Ontario for several years regarding the proposed construction of a Walmart. You can probably imagine some of the arguments from the opponents – 24 hour stores increase crime, stores increase pollution because of more vehicular traffic, and (unbelievably) Ontario doesn’t need the tax revenue.

    The coalition was “advised” by a lawyer who, in a remarkable set of coincidences, was involved in a lot of fights against big box businesses that were non-union. The lawyer himself had family connections to a transportation business in another part of Ontario that had received a minor citation for a pollution-related issue.

    So I proposed creating an “organization” to clean up that part of Ontario – in part, by banning use of all fossil fuels in that part of the city. The fact that a major interstate freeway ran through that part of Ontario was of no consequence. After all, “it’s for the children”…

    Jim, I look forward to you addressing the issue of tradeoffs. One thing that interests me in these types of discussions is that they sometimes lead to placing a value on a human life. (For example, if we spend the money to place a traffic light at an intersection, it is projected that X human lives will be saved.) One can look at these questions from a financial perspective, and one can look at them from a moral perspective (or possibly multiple moral perspectives). How can such questions be approached?

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