Who’s Responsible?

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Last week, a huge (3.4 million vehicle) recall was announced – problems with the air bags people are forced to buy. According to news reports, a manufacturing defect involving the chemical propellant that inflates the bags could result in an affected vehicle’s air bag not deploying properly during a crash – or not deploying at all. There is also concern about the possibility of a fire being triggered. Most of the cars involved are Japanese – Toyotas, Hondas, Nissans and Mazdas.

Toyota announced last week it would recall 1.73 million vehicles – including the popular Corolla and Camry as well as the Tundra pick-up and the Yaris compact – built from 2000 through 2004. Honda is expected to recall 1.14 million of its cars; Nissan 480,000 and Mazda 45,500.

Luckily, no one has been killed – yet.

But if people had been killed – what then?

When Ford made Pintos prone to roadside immolation when rear-ended, it was Ford that was held responsible – civilly, if not (unfortunately) criminally. As well as socially – which is arguably the most important form of accountability. Ford’s reputation suffered. Many consumers stopped trusting Ford – and buying Ford vehicles.

But when government actions lead to injury and death – actual as well as potential – who is held responsible? Who pays out millions to the victims? Most of all, who loses credibility?

No one.

Because government – the people who issue orders to the rest of us – are never held responsible for the consequences of their actions.

Air bags are known to be dangerous. They can – and have – hurt people. Thousands of them, many severely. They have also killed hundreds of people. More people, in fact, than auto-igniting Pintos ever killed. Yet there is no outcry – no demand that someone be held accountable. Much less any chagrin on the part of those responsible.

Government officials simply decided that the “safety” advantages of air bags outweigh the known dangers of air bags. To put a finer point on it, they decided for us. As they do routinely – micromanaging ourlives as though we are little children. Or something much worse: Their chattel.

The arrogance of this is monumental.

Whether air bags “save lives” (most of the time) is completely beside the point. When did the government become something other than a guarantor of the peace? A protector of every person’s equal rights before the law? And become the parent of us all? The farmer – to our cow?

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