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Monday, September 21, 2009

Dwight Filley begins Risk Homeostasis and the Futility of Protecting People from Themselves by stating:

There is a growing body of evidence...that points to the surprising conclusion that most coercive measures intended to increase safety either have no effect or an opposite effect. Thus for example, when the government mandates the use of automobile seat belts, fatality rates do not decrease as expected. This counter-intuitive result is consistent across a broad range of governmental attempts to protect people from themselves.
I firmly support the risk homeostasis theory, and in reading on it lately, I just as strongly believe it applies to the environment. Particularly, environmental homeostasis applies to government mandated fuel economy standards.

Here's a story that may sound familiar. An environmentally conscious person who normally takes mass transportation to work every day buys a Prius (or another highly fuel efficient vehicle). The government may have even influenced the decision by providing an economic subsidy. Now, this person feels better about driving to work over taking mass transit.

Yes, the vehicle travels many miles for every gallon of fuel. However, the mass transportation system is still running. Every efficient gallon of literal fuel adds figurative fuel to the problem. This environmentally conscious person became comfortable in the thought of driving a vehicle with admirably-high fuel efficiency, forgetting the reason why mass transportation was the favored option all those previous years.

When the government manipulates the market, more harm occurs to the environment than would otherwise result from individuals making decisions according to their own free will (i.e. free from coercion). Forcing the automobile industry to increase fuel efficiency standards or providing economic subsidies to individuals who purchase more fuel efficient vehicles distorts the market and changes behavior. Ironically, the government's fuel efficient mandates and market manipulations will lead to increased subsidies for government-run public transportation systems, further hurting taxpayers, the economy, and the environment.

Posted by Eleutherian

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