"The most common characteristic of all police states is intimidation by surveillance. Citizens know they are being watched and overheard. Their mail is being examined. Their homes can be invaded." ~ Vance Packard
A Tax on the Tiny: Air Bags and Nanny Gadgets
It's time to replace my trusty old 1991 Honda, which I have loved since I bought it to replace the earlier Honda that preceded it in my affections. How I've dreaded this day: Now I'm facing a head-on collision with the issue of airbags, and assorted other nanny gadgets that may not be optional whether I buy new or used. In addition, since I will not buy a vehicle that is beyond my means, I look forward to federal scrutiny of an unusually large financial transaction: Since I refuse to go into socially acceptable debt, I must be a terrorist with a penchant for used economical foreign cars, preferably without air bags, that I can pay for without taking out a loan. With an ashtray, a manual transmission, plenty of cargo space, a CD player, sporty handling, and a sun roof on top, please. I like seat belts, but not a car that tells me to wear one--that's what my brain is for.
Responsible carmakers do not kill their customers; carmakers that do turn up as road kill on the way to the market. Unfortunately, carmakers that are forced to meet government's regulatory standards may; but carmakers cannot reasonably be held responsible, when the government made them do it. If carmakers are primarily accountable to government, what voice does the hapless consumer have? Your complaint may be heard in the court of the car salesman, but your salesman can't sell you the car you want, and you can't buy it: Your desired car does not exist, because it's prohibited by law. Just remember that it's all for your own good according to bureaucrats who will never drive your car, never ride in it, and never send flowers if their good intentions pave your road to . . . wherever.
You're 5'1" and 100 pounds, and sit nine inches away from the steering wheel? Your child screams for attention in the back seat and you'd feel safer driving with her in the passenger seat, and not having to turn your head constantly? You had abdominal surgery or a mastectomy, and the harness rubs you the wrong way? Tell that to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and if you're lucky, litigious, and persistent, you might be able to purchase a car that meets your needs in five or ten years, assuming you want to make a full time (class action?) pursuit of buying a car.
It would be so much nicer (and customer friendly) to inform yourself on the risks and advantages of the available options, decide what you want in a car, and then buy it from someone who is willing and able to sell it. Try to find someone who will take the legal risk of disconnecting your airbags so you can feel safer driving your own vehicle, realizing that if you turn around later and sue them for doing what you asked them to do, the law may come down on your side. "May the supplier beware, and the wary buyer left without options?" Am I old-fashioned to miss "Let the buyer beware?"
If I had children, perhaps I'd tangle with enough bureaucracy to get airbags de-activated, but I probably won't because it's too much paperwork to shuffle for my own sake. After all, I'm not a child; I'm a responsible adult and a careful driver. At one point, I believed that being an adult would entail being responsible for my own decisions. How can I act responsibly when I do not have choices? It's easy not to make choices in a "safe" society; it's hard to feel safe in a society where choices are up to someone else to make by default. Small wonder if people clamor for security: It's impossible to feel safe when you're powerless. Powerlessness results from an inability to take responsibility for choices. So much for safety: please bring back the good old dangers that I can avoid. I'm pro-life and pro-choice (my own): what possible problem could anyone have with that?
Government holds a monopoly on shell games for social responsibility. The 'Whodunit' version of "Where's Waldo," at your public service. "It's all for your own good, ma'am." (A friend calls this "the 'I know you want it, baby' excuse for coercive behavior." Right on!) Never mind the fact that these nanny gadgets may add $1,000 to the price of a new car; it may cost several hundred more to get the darn things disconnected if I can find someone who will do it at all. I'm sure a seller who has had their airbags disconnected will have to have to have them reconnected in order to legally sell the car to me. No wonder "doing good" is getting such a bad reputation! Please, please, don't do anything to help me . . . .
What's wrong with this legislature? Where did the buck go? Connect the dots, and see if you can figure out where the buck ends up. Tell you one thing; it didn't stop here very long. Maybe I'll start putting up "Missing: Buck" posters all around town. "Green and white; answers to the name of Bill; last seen at the intersection of Bureaucracy and Good Intentions. Bag the reward: bucket seats full of gratitude. Owner is officially strapped."