I think Walter Olson is dead on with this:
Steve Chapman at the Chicago Tribune looks at the cultural and legal responses to the mounting evidence that professional football inflicts brain damage on many of its players. He quotes my view that if the litigation system carries over to football the legal principles it applies to other industries, the game isn’t likely to survive in its current form. [sorry for quoting the whole thing Walter, I just couldn't figure out how to excerpt it]
There is a very good chance that the NFL could go the way of Johns Manville or Dow Corning. Those companies still exist after being sued into bankruptcy, but that is only because they had other businesses to shift into. The NFL just has football. And after reading the concussion stories recently, plaintiff's lawyers are going to have a hell of a lot better scientific case than they had with breast implants. I honestly think it will take an act of Congress to keep the NFL alive, giving them some sort of liability exemption similar to what ski resorts got years ago.
And don't think the NFL does not know this. If you are wondering why they handed out insanely over-the-top penalties for bounty-gate in New Orleans, this is why. They are working to establish a paper trail of extreme diligence on player safety issues for future litigation.
As an aside, I find it frustrating that there is not a better helmet solution.
As a second aside, there is a guy here in Phoenix who was showing off an accelerometer for football helmets, with some kind of maximum single g-force or cumulative g-force trigger that would cause a player to be pulled from a game, sort of like how a radiation badge works. Good idea. Look for these to be mandatory equipment in high schools in colleges. Takes the absurd guess work out of concussion diagnosis today, particularly since this diagnosis is done by people (the player and their team) who have strong incentives to decide that there was no concussion.
As a third aside, there are those who argue helmets are the problem. Just as people drive less safely with seat belts and air bags in cars, helmets lead to less care on the field. I will say I played rugby for years (without a helmet of course) and never had one concussion, or any head hit anywhere close to a concussion. In amateur rugby in the leagues I played in, reckless behavior that might lead to injuries was strongly frowned upon and punished by the group. Teams that played this way quickly found themselves without a game. There were plenty of ways to demonstrate toughness without trying to injure people.
Steve Chapman via Ilya Somin:
Watching Washington policymakers in action, I sometimes think they make mistakes because of unrealistic goals, flawed thinking, blind obedience to party, or dubious information. And sometimes I think they make mistakes because they are"”how to put this?"”clinically insane.
There is no other way to explain what is going on at the Federal Housing Administration, which provides federal guarantees for home mortgages. Given the collapse in real estate prices, the weak economy, and the epidemic of foreclosures, banks are acting with more caution than before. They now commonly require home buyers to make down payments of 20 percent to qualify for a loan. But the FHA often requires only 3.5 percent.
That's the equivalent of playing pool with a guy named Snake, and it's had two predictable effects. The first is that the agency is insuring about four times as many home loans as it did just three years ago. The other is that the number of FHA-approved borrowers who are not repaying their loans is climbing. Since last year, the default rate has jumped by 76 percent.
Another likely consequence looms: you and I eating the losses. A former executive of mortgage giant Fannie Mae told a congressional subcommittee that the FHA "appears destined for a taxpayer bailout in the next 24 to 36 months." Commissioner David Stevens had to assure the subcommittee that it would not need help"”well, unless there is a "catastrophic home price decline." But who says there won't be? It's not as though anyone at the FHA foresaw the housing bubble or the housing bust. Yet now it feels confident betting its $30 billion cash reserve that prices won't fall.
Unlike Chapman, I don't think the policymakers are "insane." They are responding rationally to perverse incentives. If another mortgage crisis occurs, they hope to shift the blame to a supposedly insufficiently regulated private sector "“ which is more or less how many of them managed to escape blame the last time around. The public did punish the Republican Party in the 2008 presidential election. But most of the members of Congress and federal bureaucrats who supported the GSEs got off scott-free. Moreover, the full negative effects of risky government-backed lending may not become evident for years to come "“ perhaps at a time when some other administration and Congress will be in office. In the meantime, the administration, the FHA, and key members of Congress can reap the political benefits of getting support from grateful borrowers, real estate developers, and other interest groups that benefit from easy credit.
Via Steve Chapman at Reason:
[President Obama] says though the United States spends more per person on medical care than any other nation, "the quality of our care is often lower, and we aren't any healthier. In fact, citizens in some countries that spend substantially less than we do are actually living longer than we do."
That's one of the favorite rationales for a government-led overhaul. But it gives about as realistic a picture of American medicine as an episode of Scrubs.
It's true that the United States spends more on health care than anyone else, and it's true that we rank below a lot of other advanced countries in life expectancy. The juxtaposition of the two facts, however, doesn't prove we are wasting our money or doing the wrong things.
It only proves that lots of things affect mortality besides medical treatment. Heath Ledger didn't die at age 28 because the American health care system failed him.
One big reason our life expectancy lags is that Americans have an unusual tendency to perish in homicides or accidents. We are 12 times more likely than the Japanese to be murdered and nearly twice as likely to be killed in auto wrecks.
In their 2006 book, The Business of Health, economists Robert L. Ohsfeldt and John E. Schneider set out to determine where the U.S. would rank in life span among developed nations if homicides and accidents are factored out. Their answer? First place.
That discovery indicates our health care system is doing a poor job of preventing shootouts and drunk driving but a good job of healing the sick. All those universal-care systems in Canada and Europe may sound like Health Heaven, but they fall short of our model when it comes to combating life-threatening diseases.