Big Government, or a Safer Saw?

Listening to public radio recently I heard a story about Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) hearings on table saw safety. The topic I found interesting since I am one of the 4000 people who had a serious table saw accident in 2010. I amputated the tip of my ring finger, and mangled the tip of my middle finger on my left hand (I am right handed), but even with small amount of damage I lost about 20% of the functionality of my left hand, and it is still tender thirteen months later.

Today there is technology available that will instantaneously stop the saw blade if it touches flesh. There is a brand available with this technology today, but the cheapest one I have seen cost almost $1600. Testimony at the hearings pointed out the technology could be added to future saws if it was designed in prior to manufacture for about $100. The CPSC was discussing making this safety feature a requirement on all table saws.

You are probably thinking that is interesting, but "So what?" We hear much about big government, and I think many would consider adding this safety mechanism to a home table saws an example of big government. Personally even though I am an accident victim, I am not sure if I would support this mandatory safety feature for home use, but I do think this is a valid and needed discussion.

The U.S. Constitution's Preamble states one of the document's goals is “promote the general welfare.” I believe that improved product safety falls under promoting the general welfare.

But, lets move from table saws to driving safety. When I was growing up, there were no air bags or even safety belts. Over the years improved vehicle and road safety has been a government goal. Is this big government, or is this a role of government? In 1958, 35,331 died on American roads in 2008 the number was 37,261. It does not sound like much of an improvement unless you realize that we went from 665 billion vehicle miles driven to 2,974 billion vehicle miles. Based on 1958's death rate and the increase in miles driven, the toll in 2008 would have been 158,000.

There are many causes for that reduction in fatalities, but our government has been the driving force behind the improved safety, from mandating safety products to better road design and traffic laws.

Listening to the election rhetoric, I know many would call requiring seat belts and airbags an example of “Big Government.” I call it “Promoting the General Welfare.” We should realize that there is no right answer to which it is. These are questions that should be debated and negotiated in the halls of Congress and state legislatures. These are issues we have to consider in the voting booth, but we need to fully understand the issues and facts when we make those decisions. Just calling it “Big Government” ignores that it might mean an additional 120,000 dead on our highways.

Posted in Economic Development | Related Topics: Government Policy  Regulation  Community Safety 

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