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This is the latest Study realeast by Harvard Researchers:

In a widely reported story, for example the Dec. 2, 2002 Washington Post story, it was reported that "drivers talking on their phones are responsible for about 6 percent of U.S. auto accidents each year, killing an estimated 2,600 people and injuring 330,000 others."

And what was casually reported along with this story -- I heard it reported on the radio the same way -- was that the convenience of the cell phone outweighed or equaled the 2600 lives lost:

The Harvard researchers calculated the costs associated with accidents caused by cell phones, such as medical bills and loss of life. The costs added up to an estimated $43 billion a year -- about the same as the researchers arrived at for the value that cell phone owners put on their phones.

Read more for what this means from an economic and moral perspective...

I'm not going to suggest that the economic value of a human life is infinity. While from a moral perspective it is, from the practical perspective of efficiently allocating limited resources (the definition of the word "economics"), a value has to be assigned; otherwise, everyone would starve.
But unlike economists, I don't believe all dollars are equal. What the authors of this study are trying to say is that when a meat-packing executive is able to handle a cell phone call on the way to work, it saves consumers money at the grocery store -- perhaps $10 million. But when that executive runs into a pedestrian as a result, it was "worth it" because that $10 million was saved by the economy as a whole and can be deployed to other uses, such as medical research.

That's putting as a good a face on the story as possible -- I've used noble causes in my anecdote, such as food and medical. But what's that really saying? It's saying that in order to maximize "efficiency" and "productivity," we all need to be zooming around multitasking and killing people. The people killed are not the only victims here; the stressed-out executives are double victims -- first for being forced (by the competitive workplace) to work while driving, and second for experiencing the trauma of killing someone.

Talking on a cell phone while driving is a lose-lose situation. Neither the automobile deaths nor the stressed-out executives are "worth it" (worth the dollars "saved" by the economy). It might be nice to think that dollars saved by the economy would automatically go toward basic human needs and rights, such as food, clothing, shelter and basic medical care, but we know that is not the case. In current economic systems, dollars saved usually go toward simply increasing efficiency further and consolidating power into larger companies.

Society would be better off banning the use of cell phones in cars, so that there would be no competitive pressure to use them.

What the study is reporting is that cell phone users themselves are pricing the cost of not using phones as roughly equal to the cost of lost lives. Of course, the value of cell phone use is not properly distributed here - the person run down by your meat packer above is incurring the cost, while the meat packer gains the value. Tort law is supposed to handle this.

People make such tradeoffs daily. Driving a car in the first place is one such tradeoff - the added economic utility of mobility comes at the cost of loss of life in many forms (ranging from people run down to pollution to Iraqi peasants).

I understand disagreeing with where the bar is set (for instance, the economic utility of entertainment involving the death of participants, I personally believe, is not equal to the loss of life involved), and I do agree with you for the most part - "get off the ****ing phone and drive".

My point is simply that sampling trade-offs involving loss of life happens daily, and is best made by society at large, not by, for instance, the FDA, which makes these desicions for US citizens daily, with far less transparent criteria and inputs.

http://www.underreported.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=505&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0
 

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