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Joe Biden’s Faulty Lifeguard Logic : “If it saves one life” — at what cost?
National Review ^ | 01/11/2013 | Jonah Goldberg

Posted on 01/11/2013 7:00:42 AM PST by SeekAndFind

‘As the president said, if your actions result in only saving one life, they’re worth taking,” Vice President Joe Biden declared on Wednesday as he previewed what his commission on gun violence might actually do.

“There are executive orders, there’s executive action that can be taken. We haven’t decided what that is yet. But we’re compiling it all with the help of the attorney general and the rest of the cabinet members as well as legislative action that we believe is required.”

Biden insisted that it is a moral imperative for the White House to do something: “It’s critically important that we act.”

Most of the attention, understandably, is on Biden’s suggestion that the president will consider using executive orders to do things he couldn’t possibly accomplish legislatively. The imperial presidency is always troubling, but when it rubs up against the Bill of Rights it is especially so.

But what I find to be arguably the most disturbing — and definitely the most annoying — part of Biden’s remarks is this nonsense about if it saves only one life, the White House’s actions would be worth it.

Maybe it’s because I wrote a whole book on the way phrases like “if it saves only one life, it’s worth it” distort our politics, but whenever I hear such things the hairs on the back of my neck go up.

The notion that any government action is justified if it saves even a single life is malarkey, to borrow one of Mr. Biden’s favorite terms. Worse than that, it’s dangerous malarkey.

Let’s start with the malarkey part. The federal government could ban cars, fatty foods, ladders, plastic buckets, window blinds, or Lego pieces small enough to choke on and save far more than just one life. Is it imperative that the government do any of that? It’s a tragedy when people die in car accidents (roughly 35,000 fatalities per year), or when kids drown in plastic buckets (it happens an estimated 10 to 40 times a year), or when people die falling off ladders (about 300 per year). Would a law that prevents those deaths be worth it, no matter the cost?

Now one obvious response to this sort of argument ad absurdum is to say, “We don’t have to ban buckets or cars to reduce the number of deaths. We can simply regulate them.” And that’s true.

Indeed, that’s the point. But when we regulate things, we take into account things other than the singular consideration about saving lives. Banning cars would cost the economy trillions — and also probably cost lives in various unintended ways. So we regulate them with speed limits, seat-belt requirements, etc. And even here we accept a certain number of preventable deaths every year. Regulators don’t set the speed limit at 5 miles per hour, nor do they make highway guardrails 50 feet high.

Every serious student of public policy — starting with Joe Biden and Barack Obama — knows this to be true. Some just choose to pretend it isn’t true in order to push through their preferred policies.

The idea that the government can regulate or ban its way into a world where there are no tragedies, no premature deaths, is quite simply ridiculous. But that is precisely the assumption behind phrases like “if only one life is saved, it’s worth it.”

Which brings us to the dangerous part. Pay attention to what Biden is saying. The important thing is for government to act, not for the government to act wisely.

And that’s the real problem with this kind of rhetoric. Not only does it establish a ridiculously low standard for what justifies government action — indeed, action itself becomes its own justification — but it also sets the expectation that the government is there to prevent bad things from happening.

Biden has a warrant to investigate the role not just of gun laws but also video games, movies, mental-health policies, and lord knows what else in order to make sure we don’t have another Newtown or Aurora massacre. I am wholly sympathetic to the desire to prevent such a thing from ever happening again.

But for starters, I would first like to hear exactly what Biden would have us do with regard to the First, Second, and Fifth Amendments before I think action is self-justifying on the grounds that if it saves even one life, it’s worth it.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: biden; guncontrol; guns; joebiden; secondamendment

1 posted on 01/11/2013 7:00:46 AM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

But, OTOH it may TAKE several lives while saving 1!

I think it was Thomas Sowell who wrote about this “if it saves 1” logic years ago in his column.


2 posted on 01/11/2013 7:06:18 AM PST by the OlLine Rebel (Common sense is an uncommon virtue./Technological progress cannot be legislated.)
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To: SeekAndFind

If gun control saves ONE life, how many lives will it take by preventing citizens from protecting themselves?


3 posted on 01/11/2013 7:07:08 AM PST by BuffaloJack (Children, pets, and slaves get taken care of. Free Men take care of themselves.)
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To: SeekAndFind

As Levin said last night. Unless they bring back DDT and larger/safer cars...

Plugs is full of shyt.


4 posted on 01/11/2013 7:09:55 AM PST by cableguymn (The founding fathers would be shooting by now..)
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To: SeekAndFind

They’re going after guns because it is a conservative cause. It’s a way to blame shootings on conservatives. Purely, a political strategy, has nothing to do with saving lives.


5 posted on 01/11/2013 7:10:08 AM PST by ryan71 (Water, food and ammo.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Even Biden who is mighty stupid is not so stupid as to believe the diarrhea that flows out of his mouth. He along with the tyrant occupying the president’s mansion are simply excreting out the same old tired stuff to try and push their dream - A society where only the police and military are armed


6 posted on 01/11/2013 7:12:19 AM PST by from occupied ga (Your government is your most dangerous enemy)
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To: SeekAndFind

“If it saves one life”- the last refuge of a statist looking to enslave you. Better to lose 10,000 lives as free-men, than to live safely as a slave.


7 posted on 01/11/2013 7:16:46 AM PST by Brooklyn Attitude (Obama being re-elected is the political equivalent of OJ being found not guilty.)
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To: SeekAndFind

If he won’t entertain the proven life saving method of letting upstanding citizens be armed, if he won’t investigate what HAS cut would-be massacres short many times, then he’s not serious about “if it saves one life...”


8 posted on 01/11/2013 7:17:51 AM PST by ctdonath2 (End of debate. Your move.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Well, then, VP Biden, how about we wipe out the CAFE requirements so that heavier (and, therefor, safer) cars can be produced? That would probably save at least several hundred lives/year early on, and once the auto fleet was once again filled with 4,000 - 5,000 pound cars (as it was pre-CAFE) that take advantage of airbags and better engineering, we’ll be saving thousands of lives per year. How about it, Joe? We know that the Greenies will all have a fit, but if it only saves one life....

Ditto for bringing back DDT - it kills far more malaria-bearing mosquitoes than other insecticides. Again, if it only saves one life.

Oh, and what about banning swimming pools? Your own CDC says that about 10 people per day die from drowning in pools. http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/water-safety/waterinjuries-factsheet.html If it only saves one life....

How about banning fertilizer - you can make ANFO out of it when mixed with diesel. We already saw how lives were lost in Oklahoma City because of it. Heck, for that matter just ban diesel. No diesel and no fertilizer means no ANFO...and you’ve just saved lives.

You moronic imbecile.


9 posted on 01/11/2013 7:22:19 AM PST by Ancesthntr (Banning guns to prevent crime is like banning cars to prevent drunk driving.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Slow Joe’s “If it saves one life ...” doesn’t even pass a utilitarian test, much less the categorical imperatives of liberty, self defense and defense of others.
Joe Bob clerking at the U-Totem understands this.
Why can’t Washington DC? Oh yeah, we know why ...


10 posted on 01/11/2013 7:23:46 AM PST by tumblindice (America's founding fathers: All armed conservatives.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Ban buggery.


11 posted on 01/11/2013 7:25:10 AM PST by Inwoodian
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To: SeekAndFind
Answer this question Joe,

Joe, government employee's at the local, state, and federal levels work all day in taxpayer funded buildings that can only be accessed by the public by going through metal detectors and passing armed guards, yet the pubic must send send their children to government buildings all day that you have declared to be "gun free" zones and are wide open to any criminal/nut-job/psychopath to come in and slaughter our children.

Can you explain that?

12 posted on 01/11/2013 7:33:33 AM PST by Doomonyou (Let them eat Lead.)
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To: Brooklyn Attitude
It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.... Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities)

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few ... or the one. (Spok paraphrasing Dickens in The Wrath of Khan)

13 posted on 01/11/2013 7:52:09 AM PST by Servant of the Cross (the Truth will set you free)
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To: SeekAndFind

Maybe, using the same logic, back yard swimming pools should be eliminated because they have been responsible for more than one death. Or legislation could require a very high fence that is impossible to climb and kept locked - - subject, of course, to unannounced inspections. And when in use, there should be a certified lifeguard on hand at all times. See how far that law would fly.

Or maybe we should eliminated showers and stairs, since they are responsible for so many deaths.


14 posted on 01/11/2013 7:56:17 AM PST by finnsheep
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To: SeekAndFind
‘As the president said, if your actions result in only saving one life, they’re worth taking,” Vice President Joe Biden declared . . .

Hey Biteme, just how does the above statement fit in with your party's pro-abortion stance??????

15 posted on 01/11/2013 8:06:05 AM PST by SoldierDad (Proud dad of an Army Soldier who has survived 24 months of Combat deployment.)
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To: SoldierDad

The “if it only saves one life” argument is behind nearly every liberal intrusion on individual rights, whether it be taxes on fast food, bans on tobacco advertising, mandated safety features on automobiles, etc., etc.. If you take that thinking to its logical conclusion, the government should put guardrails on every foot of public road and should restrict any vehicle from driving at a speed greater than 20 mph. And I’m sure there are some wide-eyed liberals who would do those very things if they thought they could get away with it.


16 posted on 01/11/2013 8:10:34 AM PST by littleharbour
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To: SeekAndFind

Well according to a recent story of a mother shooting an intruder, because of a gun at least one life was saved, so the Second Amentment is well worth it.


17 posted on 01/11/2013 8:21:36 AM PST by jughandle
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To: SeekAndFind
‘As the president said, if your actions result in only saving one life, they’re worth taking,”

Back in the Clinton days I used to argue with the antis, and when as always, somewhere is the discussion, they would pull that "if only" business.

I used to reply, "But what if it COSTS just one life?" I swear, they looked dumbfounded and couldn't/wouldn't reply. It was if that thought never occurred to them. After a while, I longed for that to come up just so I could blindside them and revel in their discomfort.

18 posted on 01/11/2013 8:48:05 AM PST by Oatka (This is America. Assimilate or evaporate.)
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To: SeekAndFind

How many cops, Secret Service agents, military members take their own lives - it’s now an epidemic in the military - using their service weapons?

So, Joe, if it saves just one life...

And face it, Joe, these are the lives that are definitely worth saving.


19 posted on 01/11/2013 8:52:35 AM PST by DPMD
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To: SeekAndFind

What a completely foolish, nonsensical argument.

I am absolutely certain that the statistics of deaths of unarmed victims versus deaths of those who were armed during violent crimes would prove the argument that everyone should be compelled to carry arms. Logic would be on the side of arming everyone.


20 posted on 01/11/2013 8:53:47 AM PST by Truth is a Weapon (Truth, it hurts so good.)
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To: SeekAndFind

‘As the president said, if your actions result in only saving one life, they’re worth taking,” To bad Obama didn’t feel that way in regards to Benghazi! Obama’s rules and beliefs are so transitory, much as he believes the Constitution should be, his morals and beliefs evolve and mutate to fit his agenda of the day.


21 posted on 01/11/2013 8:56:14 AM PST by Mastador1 (I'll take a bad dog over a good politician any day!)
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To: Oatka

Personally, I love the argument:

“Abortion takes the lives of women the world over. Banning it, if it saves just one life, would be worth it.”

“Homosexuality promotes AIDS, Hep C, and other diseases that kill thousands here, and millions world wide. Banning homosexuality criminally, if it saves just one life, would be worth it.”

“Homosexuality leads to pedophilia, a disease which cripples or kills millions of defenseless children each year. Banning it, if it saves just one life, would be worth it.”

“Automobiles kill millions. Banning them, if it saves just one life, would be worth it.”

“Bathtubs cause people to drown by the dozens each year. Banning them, if it saves just one life, would be worth it.”

“Doctors kill thousands of people every day. Banning them, if it saves just one life, would be worth it.”

Fatuous morons could go on like this all day, and mouth-breathing liberals intent on imposing a totalitarian police state will go on eating it up.


22 posted on 01/11/2013 8:58:13 AM PST by RinaseaofDs
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To: SeekAndFind

“If it saves one life...”????? How many American lives weren’t “saved” in Bengazi??????


23 posted on 01/11/2013 9:01:22 AM PST by hal ogen (First Amendment or Reeducation Camp?)
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To: SeekAndFind

If that is B-HO’s outlook, then why didn’t he save 4 lives in Benghazi? Or is 1 his limit?


24 posted on 01/11/2013 9:02:37 AM PST by abclily
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To: hal ogen

Ban young muslim males.
Would have saved 3000 lives.


25 posted on 01/11/2013 9:05:42 AM PST by Texas resident
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To: hal ogen

You have that right! Just one word says it all.

BENGAZI


26 posted on 01/11/2013 9:40:06 AM PST by 2001convSVT (Going Galt as fast as I can.)
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To: SeekAndFind

One life saved, against 25 million lives lost if Bill Ayres gets his way.


27 posted on 01/11/2013 10:07:50 AM PST by TexasRepublic (Socialism is the gospel of envy and the religion of thieves)
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To: Ancesthntr

>Again, if it only saves one life.<

Better ban bees of all kinds, deer, moose, bears, dogs, horses, hippos, lions, tigers, rhinos (chuckle), eggs, peanuts, 5 gallon buckets, and who knows what else.

Worst Vice President in history.


28 posted on 01/11/2013 11:04:38 AM PST by Darnright ("I don't trust liberals, I trust conservatives." - Lucius Annaeus Seneca)
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