Safety is our primary concern

Monday, 17 May 2010

I have heard this assertion a lot in recent years, and especially in recent weeks, regarding the problem of the airspace closure over Europe, because of the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland.
This seems to be stressed even more, when Airlines claim that the restrictions are too tight. But you could argue that you shouldn’t believe airlines, as they are biased, and therefore not objective, while airspace agencies only worry about people’s safety.
However, probing at the details, I have become sceptical of the affirmation that safety is the primary concern here, and in many other cases where this is given as the reason for not providing a service.
I have become more and more convinced that the primary concern is not safety, but avoiding blame in case things go wrong.
Aviation authorities cite the “experts” as the source for their decisions. These experts seem to be a mix of scientists, aircraft engine engineers, etc. none of whom seems to have enough data or knowledge to determine what the risk actually is, and a response of the type “we don’t know” or “we do not have the data”, becomes “it is not safe”, going through the some sort of “we cannot take liability if something happens”.
So because nobody is taking the bother (i.e. spending the money) to get some proper assessment in place, everybody else has to live with the consequences of the drastic “safety” measure, which seems less concerned with actual safety, and more with covering somebody’s back.

What similar situations have you found where the same process “we don’t know” -> “we can’t take liability” -> “it’s not safe”, applies?


NIMBY vs YIMBY

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Almost every other day we hear about some manifestation of NIMBY, where somebody (usually a group of people) don’t want something to be near where they live. And in recent times, I seem to hear quite often about people not wanting wind turbines for electricity generation anywhere near them, because they are noisy, or they spoil the landscape, or whatever.

I don’t want to argue whether the reasons put forward for not wanting electricity generating wind turbines nearby, are valid or not. For all I know they might well be. However the reasons for having wind turbines somewhere seem pretty good (renewable and clean energy, good availability of wind, etc.).

Personally I think wind turbines can be quite beautiful, and whenever I pass by a wind farm, I am always fascinated. However if somebody said that a wind turbine was coming right where I live, I might feel a bit uncomfortable, after all.

What I think is needed, is to make the reasons for having a wind farm near you, more pressing than for not having it. Now the greater good and the environment might be a very good reason, but might not be all that pressing to the average person. However, if people living within a certain distance from it were to get, say for example, free electricity (or substantial discounts on their electricity bill), I think the trend might change, and people might actually bit to have a wind farm near them. Or, even better, if communities were to offer to have a wind farm near them, electricity companies might bid for the site, by offering the most advantageous conditions in terms of subsidized energy. Similar schemes might apply for other forms of renewable energy production, where new sites have to be found.

Wouldn’t something like this give a boost to the adoptions of renewable energies?


Bailout

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Are governments going the right way about bailing out the economy? Let’s see. They are spending lots of money (lots so big that I am not entirely sure how many digits the total figure has got!), on banks and car manufacturers (mainly). The rationale being (as I understand it), that if the banking system fails, the whole economy fails, and that car manufacturers employ so many people (directly and indirectly), that the economy would badly suffer (not to talk about all the votes lost for the next round of elections) if the industry didn’t get help.
This way however many people feel cheated, as they see the banks being given lots of money after they have made a mess of it, often on our backs, and the car manufacturers get help even though they got stuck making cars people don’t want, and that are bad for the environment. And what about all those working in viable businesses, who have applied best practices over the years, but who don’t get any bail out help during this recession? I would say there might well be quite a few resentful people out there. Not good for votes. And those people who do not get bailed out, won’t be producing and therefore won’t be helping the economy either.

How about giving the money to the people directly, to spend on paying back their mortgages, and buying new cars? The money could be given in form of vouchers, so that people can’t spend it on holidays and booze (for example), but can only use it for mortgages and cars. This way, a good chunk of the loans gone bad because of falling house prices would be paid back (as well as the good loans, so that everybody can own their own home, and nobody feels cheated), and people could buy new cars. The details could be worked out to try and make it as fair as possible to everybody, but the idea being that the vast majority of people would end up owning their own home, and a new car. Banks would get rid of lots of outstanding loans, thus reducing the uncertainty about their exposure to bad loans, which is at the base of the credit crunch, which is at the base of the recession. Car manufacturers would still receive an injection of cash as people would be buying new cars, and the system could be skewed towards greener cars, so that manufacturers who have invested in green technologies are advantaged.
It seems to me that this would be good for the economy, and for votes.
The main argument I can see, against my solution, is that it would cost a lot more than current bail out schemes. But that is assuming that the current bailout figures are the final ones, and I am not convinced of that.

Why wouldn’t my scheme work any better than what governments are currently doing?


The price of justice

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

I recently asked myself “What is the price of justice?”. The first answer that surged through my mind, with strong feelings associated to it, was something along the lines of “It’s priceless, of course!”.
But what does that mean? If it means that it can’t (or shouldn’t) be bought or sold, then I think most of us would agree.
However it doesn’t mean that justice is administered for free: otherwise lawyers and judges would be a very poor lot (and by all accounts they are not), and of course police, court staff, facilities, equipment etc, they all cost money.
As part of society we all benefit from the justice system (except when it goes wrong), so one might say it is right that we pay for it through our taxes.

Some time ago in the news, however, the case of a robbery (loot value about £1.75M) collapsed for the third time (or was it the fourth?), and so far the bill to the taxpayer has been about £22M, over 12 times the value of what was stolen.

Now we all agree that justice needs to be done, but as you wouldn’t expect a shoplifting case to up to the high court (as the gravity of the crime is not worth it), is it worth spending all this money in prosecuting a case where the crime consists of less than a 12th of the money stolen?

As for the victim(s), he/she/they could have been repayed at much less a cost to the taxpayer, so the compensation part of justice could have been done.

In case of compensation only to the victim however, that part of justice which demands that the perpetrator of the crime pays for it, and gets the appropriate punishment, would still be unresolved.

So how valuable is this aspect of justice? Can a price tag be put on it?

Is it priceless? Does that mean we should be ready to pay any price to see justice done?