It's not the first time I've ever pondered such a thing and, from reading Stossel's commentary, the same is true for him.
Whenever someone is hurt in an accident, people say, "There ought to be a law!" Politicians rush to oblige them and then take credit for all the lives they saved.
But shouldn't they also accept blame for the lives lost because of those laws?
Lives lost? Yes. A joint study by the Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute found that government regulations that are supposed to save lives actually end up killing more people.
Why? Because safety laws almost always have unintended bad consequences.
Quite often laws or regulations that are meant to increase the safety of the public have just the opposite effect. When safety precautions are enacted – Stossel used bicycle helmets as an example – both those making use of the precautions and those nearby start taking them for granted and let down their guard, meaning that both parties are less mindful of dangerous situations. More often then not this leads to an increase in the very incidents the new laws or regulations were supposed to stop. In effect, it made people more reckless than they otherwise would have been had these precautions had not been mandated. The people became complacent.
Stossel cites other examples of the unintended consequences of safety laws and regulations. There was also a lively discussion about this in the Comments section following the column.