walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Public Policy by Body Count

I've got a new theory, essentially, that public policy in the United States over the last hundred-ish years has been largely driven by how we think we can most easily reduce death. This is heavily informed by having just read two books about transportation policy in the late 19th/early 20th century. While it was hard to get people to do things that wouldn't make money/would cost a ton of money with no return, it was possible if everyone could be convinced that death rates (due to tuberculosis and other diseases, accident, etc.) would go down.

So I got to thinking about the current round of Let's Do Something About All These Guns. I looked at list of causes of death for various ages and genders and so forth. And I concluded that my theory is Not Wrong. It's getting harder and harder to meaningfully reduce death due to heart disease, cancer, etc., and accidents is a biiiiiigggg category (we've done a lot there, to, mind you). We've pushed hard on smoking and drinking. We're currently tangling with foodways, which is a tough, er, nut, even if that weren't the industry that all the people who used to push tobacco had gone when that horse was ready to die under them.

By contrast, if you look at how many gun deaths are suicide -- and how many successful suicides involve guns -- you cannot help but think, hey, if there were fewer guns lying around, it'd be a lot harder for people to kill themselves. We may be talking about Newtown and other mass tragedies, but at least some of the make-it-harder measures are more likely to reduce impulsive actions than planned mass murder.

And that sounds a lot like policy by body count.

I'm in favor.
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