Government has blinders on
Some 50 years ago, my boss assigned me to a team to work for a client whose organization had control of nuclear power stations. The case involved a proposal to license a new method of producing nuclear power that was, in the client’s view, better than existing methods. The major advantage was that the decay products had lower potential to damage health by radiation.
There was, in my mind, a substantial problem: One of the non-radioactive products was a metal whose toxicity was not known, but similar metals have clear health effects, some good, some bad.
The client’s estimate of the number and size of plants that would use the new process would increase the amount of this metal in the Earth’s outer layer more than 20-fold in the next 100 years.
The client did not care; his concern was damage by radioactive materials; other agencies were in charge of toxic materials. His blinders prevented him from realizing that those agencies could not pass rules to change the laws of physics once new plants were licensed.
Fortunately I managed to convince my boss to replace me on the team.
That episode came to mind on reading “Minister sparks legal driving age debate” (Taipei Times, July 10, page 4). From that piece it seems clear that the blinders are firmly on.
The concern is focused on two considerations: First, what would be the effect on the number of unlicensed drivers and second, what effect would it have on the deaths and casualties caused by licensing people over 16 years of age (with no statement of which of the three methods of reckoning age used in Taiwan would be used).
A few other effects might be worth considering. Among them:
What would be the effect on people under 16 becoming unlicensed drivers?
What would be the effect on air pollution?
What would be the health effects due to teenagers walking less than they already do?
How would incentives to reduce exercise affect the nation’s ability to defend itself in an emergency?
What would be the effect of the additional vehicles used by the newly licensed (and newly unlicensed) driver on the availability of parking in the already overburdened streets?
I hope that the government will, at some time in the future, develop the ability to think more broadly about the issues.
If not, maybe they should ask five-year-olds how many of them think that five-year-olds would do a better job of governing than the current government officials.
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