Saturday, June 17, 2017

Megan, Megan, Megan...

Just at a time when millions of people in Britain, Australia and other countries have been watching TV and saying "What?? Governments haven't been bothered to regulate whether developers can wrap a 30 or 40 story apartment building with stuff that can burn intensely and wildly out of control far beyond the reach of any firefighting service?!",  along comes Megan McArdle to write an article with the lines:
When it comes to many regulations, it is best to leave such calculations of benefit and cost to the market, rather than the government. People can make their own assessments of the risks, and the price they’re willing to pay to allay them, rather than substituting the judgment of some politician or bureaucrat who will not receive the benefit or pay the cost.
Opportunistically,  she also concentrates on just one safety matter relevant to the Grenfell fire - the decision not to try to retrofit a sprinkler system.

Megan, Megan, Megan:  this is such a extraordinarily tone deaf time to be talking the benefits of  letting markets (and residents) decide relative levels of safety because (so your argument goes) everyone makes safety trade offs (such as living further out in a city and taking the risk of dying in a car crash while commuting), I cannot believe the editor at Bloomberg let you publish it. 

She does make the following concession:
Grenfell Tower, of course, was public housing, which changes the calculation somewhat. 
Yes!   Because it wasn't a case of market choice at all for those residents. 

But even then,  she tries to make anti-regulation hay while the building is still smouldering:
And yet, even there, trade-offs have to be made. The government spends money on a great number of things, many of which save lives. Every dollar it spends on installing sprinkler systems cannot be spent on the health service, or national defense, or pollution control. Would more lives be saved by those measures or by sprinkler systems in public housing? It’s hard to say.
Look, there is time to make a statement of the bleeding obvious - not all government funded enterprises can be made perfectly safe if the cost of doing so is going to be astronomically high - and there is a time to instead make another bleedingly obvious one:   it is a bad idea for governments to leave it up to builders to decide whether to make high rise apartment buildings flammable, especially when the additional cost to use non flammable material is small.  

Just as I wrote a couple of weeks ago that you could expect anyone in the media to be pilloried if  their first reaction to a major Islamic terrorist attack (like Manchester's) was be to start comparing it with furniture accidents fatalities,  Megan deserves all the criticism she will undoubtedly get for making the wrong argument at the wrong time.

Update:  some example of Twitter reaction:

1 comment:

not trampis said...

What a goose!