The Pony Chronicles, Continued

In this great story about two entreprenuers who are making a killing bringing foreclosed properties up to St. Paul's exhaustive building code, one paragraph, in particular, caught my eye:

St. Paul’s building code fills seven single-spaced pages and includes a host of dos and don’ts that at first glance make no sense, Mr. Chandler said. Hand railings on the steps to the basement, for example, must curl into the wall at the top.

This, of course, is just the sort of thing that conservatives and libertarians would use as an example of a nonsensical government regulation. What an evil intrusion on to the property rights of homeowners! You are forcing people ("at the barrel of a gun", they always say) to make irrational purely esthetic choices. You hate America!

And then we read the next two sentences:

Why? To prevent firefighters’ hoses from getting entangled.

The usual conservative or libertarian response to this would be to let (private, unregulated) insurance companies dictate this kind of code. Conservatives and libertarians, of course, neglect over 100 years of economic arguments that show that having government set this level playing field makes things easier for everybody.

Look for more of these kinds of arguments to come forth as the debate on health care and "comparative effectiveness" of treatment looms. We're already seeing this kind of nonsense in the debate over the proposed banning of certain opiate/acetaminophen combinations. (I recommend you read the original article Rebecca links to, especially the comments section she mentions in her post.)

What's good about the Internet and the web is that folks like you and I can learn about the justification for these seemingly arbitrary rules, can challenge the ones that don't make sense, and learn from our mistakes.

Of course, the conservatives and libertarians will just accuse me of being a pony-hater.

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