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August 2018 posts

Fake News Flashback

By Jonathan B. Wight

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”

Does this ring true today? It was written nearly 40 years ago.

--Isaac Asimov, “A Cult of Ignorance,” Newsweek, January 21, 1980


[Thanks to Ting Chen for the quote.]

Safety and Weight of Vehicles

By Jonathan B. Wight

The New York Times has an interesting piece on the Trump Administration’s plan to rollback fuel economy standards. The story examines a key ethical issue: will allowing cars to be heavier (and hence less fuel-efficient) save lives—specifically 12,700 lives over a ten-year period?

There are three areas of disagreement:

  1. Do more fuel-efficient cars spur people to drive more, and hence be in more accidents?
  2. Do more fuel-efficient cars cost more, hence leading people to use older and less safe cars?
  3. Are lighter cars inherently more dangerous if other cars also become lighter?

The article reaches a negative conclusion. Allowing automakers to make heavier, less fuel-efficient cars will likely not save 12,700 lives (a high estimate). Exactly how many it might save is unclear.

Ironically, it notes that Trump’s planned tariffs on cars would cause domestic auto prices to rise much more than the fuel standards would, leading many more people to keep driving their unsafe clunkers.

The bottom line is that Trump officials seem to be cherry picking data and studies to reflect what they want to see in the numbers.