Did you know a human life-yours, mine, the President's, Andy Rooney's, Kathie Lee Gifford's-costs exactly $2.7 million? That's the word our sister publication, Automotive News, got from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In doing cost-benefit analyses of pending regulations, NHTSA uses a cost parameter set by the
Office of Management and Budget. According to that parameter, $2.7 million per life saved is the upper limit any safety regulation can cost.
If it costs more than that to save a life, NHTSA officials said, the OMB considers the rule too expensive and rejects it.
I'm sure the tire industry is grateful to NHTSA and the OMB for trying to keep a lid on regulatory costs. But each individual in the tire industry, and everyone else, might pause a little at this revelation.
It is comforting, after all, to know the federal government considers your life of considerably more value than your house and car combined. It is more worrisome, however, to know your life is worth far less than, say, what Madonna earns every year.
There's also the obvious point that safety costs are astronomical in general-unless the life saved is your own, or that of someone close to you.
In fairness, the cost per person of saving lives is only one of many factors considered in a cost-benefit analysis. Also, the Automotive News article that revealed the $2.7 million figure involved a failed rollover standard for sports-utility vehicles-a proposal so expensive, NHTSA ruled, that it might bankrupt the sports-utility industry.
Nevertheless, putting a price on human lives is scary business-particularly since, as anyone in industry can tell you, it's the regulations which DON'T save lives that prove onerous. If regulators make sure that the rules are necessary in the first place, the cost-benefit issue will take care of itself.
There's little else to say about this, except for a little poem of my own composition:
There's glory in Enforcement Heaven
If you cost only two-point-seven,
But be prepared to meet your fate,
If you come in at two-point-eight.
Moore's day job is being Washington reporter for Rubber & Plastics News. He also is a published poet, currently working on his second book.