Anti-Life Boats

Dave Killion — March 3, 2013

Current federal regulations require all lifeboats be stocked with snacks.

Current federal regulations require all lifeboats be stocked with snacks.

A cruise ship near the Canary Islands recently lost five crewmen to drowning, and not long ago, the Costa Concordia grounded off the coast of Italy, with more victims. And in 1915, the SS Eastland rolled over in the Chicago River, killing over 840 people. The most surprising contributor to these losses? Lifeboats

“The 101st anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic arrives on April 14. We will hear a great deal about the importance of government regulations to ensure that every ship has enough boats for its whole company of passengers and crew.

Since the Titanic, this kind of regulation has been in effect. But as with most regulations, the effects have been mixed, to use a conventional kind of understatement. When American total-lifeboat regulations came in, two things happened. One was the ruin of America’s passenger steamship lines to the Orient. The owners couldn’t afford to meet the new standards (which, admittedly, included labor-protectionist provisions only notionally connected with safety). The other was the sinking of the steamship Eastland. The Eastland capsized in the Chicago River, with immense loss of life, because it had been overloaded with lifeboats.”

That government safety regulation would have mixed results will be no surprise to libertarians. But lifeboats? In a million years, it would never have occurred to me that the coercive state would threaten my existence with lifeboats. And I live on an island! I have to ride a ferry three or four times a year. Truly, there is no place where we are safe from government.

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