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Safety Mania

October 1st, 2012 by Viv

Viv Forbes
Written 6 April 1992

“A new source of power… called gasoline has been produced by a Boston engineer. Instead of burning the fuel under a boiler, it is exploded inside the cylinder of an engine… “The dangers are obvious. Stores of gasoline in the hands of people interested primarily in profit would constitute a fire and explosive hazard of the first rank. Horseless carriages propelled by gasoline might attain speeds of 14 or even 20 miles per hour. The menace to our people of vehicles of this type hurtling through our streets… would call for prompt legislative action even if the military and economic implications were not so overwhelming… In addition, the development of this new power may displace the use of horses, which would wreck our agriculture…”

The above was reported in the US Congressional record in 1875. Luckily, no one took any notice and no harm was done.

But the coercive do-gooders are still with us. In 1979, Mr Einfield, the champion of consumer safety in NSW, threatened to legislate against self-service petrol stations because they were “too dangerous and too heavy to use, especially for women drivers”.

To some extent, Mr Einfield was cynically using the smokescreen of “safety” to featherbed his union mates. But he was also reflecting a modern mania for safety at all costs.

Examples abound.

A great debate now ranges about compulsory pool fences. There is undoubtedly a problem with toddlers drowning but this is caused by unsupervised children who can’t swim.

The proposed legislation will not help to solve either problem. In fact, it will aggravate them. Fences will give parents a false sense of security. With less supervision there will be more accidents of all kinds – not just drownings, but road accidents, getting kidnapped, getting lost etc. Secondly, fences will not teach kids to swim. Again the tendency will be to assure parents that early swimming lessons are unnecessary because all pools are fenced.

Safety, like environmentalism, has become a tool of the anti-capitalist crusade. As Paul Johnson said “Uniting as it does a wide range of health and consumer pressure groups, animated as it is by a quasi-mystical vision of total purity, safety provides as unrivalled emotional outlet for educated, middle-class opinion. It has become the leading, progressive good cause of our day, combining fear of technology, hatred of capitalism, the itch to interfere and the eternal nanny principle.”

The anti-growth, anti-multinational, pro-union, pro-bureaucracy theme of this group is quite distinctive, and reveals more concern for ideology than for safety.

The high priests of this new religion have brought us child proof lids (which fumble fingered parents can’t open), compulsory health and accident insurance, costly job licensing, harassment of alternative medicine, prescriptions for analgesics, censorship, gun controls, rigid and costly air traffic regulations, fluoride in our water and complex and compulsory product standard laws.

In Norway, the nutritional totalitarians have “an integrated policy on nutrition, food and agriculture” whose aim is to forcibly change the diet of the people in the hope of reducing coronary disease. In the USA, it is illegal to sell even a ladder or a sledge hammer unless it bears a label which warns of the danger of misuse. In Australia, politicians discuss whether prescriptions for vitamins, governors for motor cars and licences for baby sitters should be made compulsory. World wide, governments have decided to eliminate smokers at any cost.

Everyone is in favour of better health, safer work places and risk free drugs. But there is no free lunch. It is a dangerous delusion to believe that improvements in safety can be achieved at zero cost.

It is also a delusion to believe that a bungle of bureaucrats can discover the correct balance of safety and cost for every human activity. Safety is a relative thing which every individual may value differently. For example, to a refugee in the South China Sea, the absence of mandatory safety flares in his escape vessel is of zero consequence. He would trade all such luxuries for an extra can of drinking water or a pistol to protect his family from pirates. On the other hand, the millionaire yachtsman on Sydney Harbour will spare no expense to ensure his Sunday safety.

Similarly, the worker with six kids and no house is chiefly concerned to find any roof he can afford. He is not overly concerned whether or not his shack is built to conform with government building regulations. But the comfortable executive is happy to pay for secondary needs such as safety and aesthetics.

In both of these examples, enforcement of uniform standards of safety would deprive the poor man of something he values more than added safety and would not satisfy the rich man. Who then sets the standard and how is it set?

The morbid preoccupation of governments with safety at any cost has another perverse consequence. History shows that improvements in health and safety are closely correlated with economic progress. Prosperity, not legislation, produces safety.

The pioneering which precedes progress is always more dangerous than doing things in the old ways. Is pioneering to be outlawed because of its risk? Where would we be if the Seamen’s Union had prevented Captain Cook from leaving England without a decent map and accurate navigation equipment? Would Reg Ansett’s first plane have been cleared for takeoff by DCA? What if Leichhardt, Kennedy, Forrest and the squatters had sat in Botany Bay waiting for government surveyors and road builders? Will the pioneers of today be free to explore the mysteries of genetics? Where is our future if compulsory safety and regulated security smothers the urge to innovate and explore?

We are becoming a bunch of sissies. Maybe it is better for the future evolution of the race if persistent glue sniffers and metho drinkers are allowed to learn from experience. If we try to outlaw foolishness, we merely breed complacency, negligence, boredom and folly. All attempts to use legislation to solve non-criminal problems will achieve perverse results. (It is of course correct to ban the unauthorised supply of dangerous items to children or simpletons.)

All attempts at compulsory safety rest on the assumption that individuals are not competent to run their own lives and should not be allowed to choose risky options. To some government nannies, we are all government property. For example, in 1990, Paul Greene, a mechanical engineer, was prevented by the Victorian Marine Board from attempting to drive his amphibious Volkswagen across Bass Straight. (Foolish fellow thought it was his life and his car.)

Safety is an important consideration, but it is not the only consideration. And there is no single collective solution to the right amount of safety. Safety will be improved by organisations who value their brand names or their reputations as good suppliers or good employers. It will be published by voluntary co-operatives like the National Safety Council, The Master Builders Association, the insurance companies, the unions and the consumer and media watchdogs. Its value will be weighed and assessed every day by thousands of individuals with many desires and few resources. Government compulsion has no place in the area of safety except to combat contagious diseases, to ensure there is disclosure of abnormal risk, and to curb breach of contract, fraudulent claims or deceptive practices.

Life is an uncertain experience, but this is the essence of adventure and discovery. The only way to eliminate all risk, is to shoot yourself. Colin Fletcher in “The Complete Walker” puts it beautifully. He says –

… if you judge safety to be the paramount consideration in life you should never, under any circumstances, go on long hikes alone. Don’t take short hikes alone either – or, for that matter, don’t go anywhere alone. And avoid at all costs such foolhardy activities as driving, falling in love, or inhaling air that is almost certainly riddled with deadly germs. Wear wool next to the skin. Insure every good and chattel you possess against every conceivable contingency the future might bring, even if the premiums half cripple the present. Never cross an intersection against a red light, even when you can see that all the roads are clear for miles. And never, of course, explore the guts of an idea that seems as if it might threaten one of your more cherished beliefs. In your wisdom you will probably live to a ripe old age. But you may discover, just before you die, that you have been dead for a long, long time.

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Atlas of Australia

September 24th, 2012 by Viv

From http://economics.org.au/2012/08/atlas-of-australia/

Viv Forbes, 23 August 2005

Viv and Judy Forbes breed cattle and sheep on a grazing property at Rosevale in SE Queensland. Viv recently formed “The Grassland Protection Group” to protect and promote Australia’s productive grasslands.

The Constant Battle for Land & Water
Australia has supported humans for thousands of years. Over the millennia, one feature has been constant — grazing animals have been the key to their survival. The grazier is the “Atlas of Australia”.

The essential assets for graziers are grasslands and water. Every previous generation has valued, maintained and conserved these, our most precious assets.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Teach a Man to Fish

August 5th, 2012 by Viv

The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud of the fact it is distributing the greatest amount of free meals and food stamps ever.



Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us to ‘Please Do Not Feed the Animals’.

Their stated reason for the policy is because the animals will grow dependent on hand-outs and will not learn to take care of themselves.

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Topher on Freedom of Speech

June 6th, 2012 by Viv

Topher on Freedom of Speech – why free speech is worth the cost:

http://theforbiddenhistory.com/

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Interviews of Viv Forbes on Fair Dinkum Radio

June 4th, 2012 by Viv

The Dangers of Democracy – Viv Forbes Part 1.

Leon is joined by Viv Forbes as they discuss the current political status in Australia and the world. Together they discuss the definition of freedom, the need to limit government control, the dangers of democracy, an ever enlarging bureaucracy, and the difference between rights and privileges. 16 Mar 2012. 37 min.

http://fairdinkumradio.com/resources/16312 Viv Forbes.mp3

Viv Forbes – Freedom part 2.

Viv joins Leon for a continuation of their discussion on the principles of freedom, in our individual lives and in Australia today. They discuss the changing social and political landscape in Australia today. 23 Mar 2012. 37 min.

http://fairdinkumradio.com/resources/23.3.12 Viv Forbes.mp3

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Heroes of Freedom – Safe Worlds Television interviews Viv Forbes

June 3rd, 2012 by Viv

Safe Worlds Television, as part of a series entitled “Heroes of Freedom”, came to Sherana at Rosevale to talk to Viv & Judy Forbes:

www.safeworlds.tv/vivforbes/

Subjects covered:

  • The Early Years
  • Economics
  • Politics
  • Mining Days
  • The Environment
  • A Day on the Farm

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Public Debt

June 3rd, 2012 by Viv

“If we run into such debts, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in twenty-four, give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses, and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes, have no time to think, no means of calling the mis-managers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers.

“And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for a second, that second for a third, and so on ’til the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering…

“And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.”

~Thomas Jefferson

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The Constitution

April 9th, 2012 by Viv

“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to dominate our lives and interests”.

Patrick Henry

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Cicero on Taxation

January 29th, 2012 by Viv

“We are taxed in our bread and our wine, in our incomes and our investments, on our land and on our property not only for base creatures who do not deserve the name of men, but for foreign nations, complaisant nations who will bow to us and accept our largesse and promise us to assist in the keeping of the peace – these mendicant nations who will destroy us when we show a moment of weakness or our treasury is bare, and surely it is becoming bare! We are taxed to maintain legions on their soil, in the name of law and order and the Pax Romana, a document which will fall into dust when it pleases our allies and our vassals. We keep them in precarious balance only with our gold. Is the heartblood of our nation worth these? Were they bound to us with ties of love, they would not ask our gold. They take our very flesh, and they hate and despise us. And who shall say we are worthy of more? … When a government becomes powerful it is destructive, extravagant and violent; it is an usurer which takes bread from innocent mouths and deprives honorable men of their substance, for votes with which to perpetuate itself.”

Cicero http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicero, 54 B.C

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Viv Forbes in Sydney 2011: “Many Battles – Same War”

January 13th, 2012 by Viv

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