How government stops innovation with feel good laws

Rereading Super Freakonomics over the weekend reminded me of yet another story of government getting in the way to stop innovation.

As seatbelts became more common in cars, people realized that they just didn’t fit children particularly well.  Sometimes they could even be dangerous for kids.  So, the booster seat was invented.  A great idea for its time.  Today, we take the booster seat for granted as the only option for child safety.  But, does that really make sense?

About half of passengers riding in the back seat are children.  Is an additional device that needs to be purchased separately really the best solution?  A device that has to be removed when adults sit in the back? Why not have adjustable seat belts that just fit the child better?  Or, why not another innovation that no one has even thought of yet?

Well, once the car seat was invented, and everyone agreed it was awesome, every state passed a law requiring child booster seats for kids riding in the back.  Now, if you’re a car manufacturer, not only do you have to invent the perfect seat belt to keep children safe—you also have to get 50 state governments to consider and change their booster seat laws to make your product legal to use.  Does that sound like something you want to take on?

Even if it were blatantly obvious that your solution was better, parents would be breaking the law if they used it without a booster seat.   Since manufacturers aren’t going to invest in manufacturing a product that’s currently illegal, they would have to change 50 sets of laws first.

Certainly, the booster seat law had good intentions, and has likely saved some lives.  But, the vast majority of parents want their kids to live. They would use booster seats to protect them anyway.  (And the parents that don’t care about the safety of their children--also don’t care about violating child safety laws.)

All of this puts car manufacturers in an impossible position.  If they attempted to lobby to change the laws, some group would claim that their invention wasn't as safe as the booster seats, true or not.  Strike one.  And then they would have to deal with the booster seat company lobbyists.  Strike 2.  Not to mention, all of the favors they would have to do: “Perhaps if you built your new plant in my district, I could help the process along.”  Strike 3.

After all of that, it’s simply not worth the effort.  So, booster seats will exist forever and ever, amen.  Thanks government!

Glenn gives the latest coronavirus numbers, updating YOU on everything needed to know as Americans and officials monitor China's new COVID-19 virus:

Daily Stats as of 5:30 AM CT (from John's Hopkins)

  • Total Confirmed Cases Worldwide: 799,995 (up from 735,135 Yesterday)
  • Total Confirmed Deaths Worldwide: 38,735 (up from 34,807 Yesterday)
  • Total Confirmed Recovered Worldwide: 169,995 (up from 155,950 Yesterday)
  • 5% of Active Cases are considered serious (requiring hospitalization) Steady from 5% Yesterday, but down from 19% high back in February
  • Note that 11% of US Confirmed Cases require Hospitalization, roughly on par with Italy at 12% requiring hospitalization
  • US has 164,359 Confirmed Cases and 3,173 Deaths, up from 142,746 cases and 2,489 deaths Yesterday
  • The United States of America now leads the world in total confirmed cases, with 63,000 more cases than Italy (although Italy leads the world in Deaths with 11,591 officially dead)
  • US has 3,173 Dead vs 5,507 Recovered and 3,512 in Critical Condition
  • The US Currently has 155,679 Active Cases of COVID-19, with less than 0.6% of the total US population tested
  • 15% of Americans who have been tested have been diagnosed with COVID-19
The Moment of Trump's Conversion: Dr Anthony Fauci Takes Full Responsibility
  • Dr Anthony Fauci, the Chief Medical Advisor to the coronavirus task force, explained on CNN that Trump listened and "got it right away" after being shown new data projecting as many as 3 Million deaths in the US if COVID-19 mitigation policies were lifted.
  • Fauci also said Trump's "first goal is to prevent suffering and death" and this was part of the reason why he knew the COVID-19 guidelines should be extended.
  • "You know, interestingly, we showed him the data, he looked at the data and he got it right away, it was a pretty clear picture," according to Fauci.
  • "Dr. Debbie Birx and I went in together and leaned over his desk and said 'Here is the data, take a look.'
  • Trump reportedly looked at them, understood the implications and he shook his head and said 'I guess we got to do it.'
  • "Medically, this is the right decision, and I stand behind it 100%," Fauci said.
  • "From a public health standpoint, we felt strongly that it would have been the wrong decision to pull back," Fauci said. "I mean, we are scientists, physicians, public health officials. We're not economists. We're sensitive to the idea that the economy could suffer, but weigh that against tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of American lives."
  • " was patently obvious looking at the data that at the end of the day if we try to push back prematurely, not only would we lose lives, but it probably would hurt the economy as well. So you would lose on double accounts. So, to us, there was no question what the right choice was."
Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland Join States Issuing House Arrest Orders
  • Maryland and Virginia became the latest states on Monday to enact "stay-at-home" mandates amid the coronavirus outbreak, except for essential travel for work.
  • Virginia's order is in effect until June 10, making it one of the longest statewide mandates implemented so far.
  • Maryland's penalties for violating its order are among some of the strictest in the country, including a $1000 fine, and up to 30 days jail time for repeat offenders.
  • In total, more than 210 Million Americans now effectively live under some form of House Arrest or Shelter In Place type orders, with another, 50 Million facing travel or shopping/eating restrictions.
  • Only 6 states have not closed schools.