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Government in Action

Two stories that were displayed on inside (but prominent) pages of the newspaper and on the website strike me as classic examples of what good journalism should be doing: pointing to important examples of government failing in its responsibilities. Walter Pincus reports today that the Air Force wants to retire 85 airplanes that essentially are too old and tired to use. Congress won't let it do so. On Saturday, Annys Shin walked us through the legislative, bureaucratic and political snarl that has kept the Consumer Product Safety Commission from recalling an all-terrain vehicle it calls defective and dangerous. ATV accidents kill about 700 people a year, about a fourth of them younger than 16. There are no comments at this moment on the Pincus article, but most of those few who wrote to us about the ATV article suggested that a decision to ride these things should be the concern of individuals, especially parents, not government. Not everyone agrees.

On the ATV article, mark16 wrote, "This is a case where the product category -- the activity itself -- is intrinsicly dangerous. Unless you're going to outlaw kids from riding these things, I don't really see what you can do... Have skateboards been outlawed? Were kids never hurt riding horses?"

hobbymanbill wrote, "Most parents don't have the sense to come in out of the rain. LIFE is dangerous, the average person today is scared of everything. I don't and you shouldn't need the GOVERNMENT to tell you how to raise or protect your children..."

But diamond2 said, "This news item shows the irrelevancy of the federal government when it comes to protecting "the home front." Couple this with the water story in Georgia/Alabama/Florida and we are presented with a government that does not know what to do in emergencies which threaten people's lives."

All comments on the ATV article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  October 29, 2007; 10:08 AM ET
Categories:  Journalism  
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Posted by: gmzzr | October 30, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

When things become so safe that there is no element of risk, then there is no need to strive to overcome the obstacles; and hence, no fun.
Without risk, there is no growth.
Let those who engage in such activities judge the level of danger and determine for themselves the worth of the activity. Just don't saddle the rest of us with the bills for their bad judgement.
If you or your child run into a tree and put yourselves into a permanent vegetative state, then none of us owe you squat to take care of you or your child.

Posted by: Michael Houst | October 30, 2007 9:09 AM | Report abuse

So some ATV riders are safe and have fun without taking liberties from other people, and some are completely irresponsible, rude, and trespass on MY property without asking, and certainly without permission.
So how do we seperate the good from the bad?
For reference I have driven off about 6 different people on ATVs off of my property and exactly 0 of them were wearing helmets or ANY kind of safety gear.
Keep in mind there is a helmet law here. There are also rules about being at least 16 to pilot an ATV over 90CC in capacity (all of the ATVs I have seen around here are well above 90cc) and half the riders are below 16. The terrain here is solid woods. I just don't understand how these kids' parents (and the few adults I've run off as well) can justify riding without any safety gear, and not knowing where their children ride..
I'd like to think that they don't know their kids are trespassing, but with the sad state of parenting in the US, I just don't know.
By way of reference I have dirt bikes that I ride on my own property and I ALWAYS wear at least a helmet for my own protection. And when my son and I ride, we put on ALL our safety gear... someone has to set a good example!
I think people should have to take a common sense test before becoming a parent... it's just pathetic around here!

Southern Pines, NC.

Posted by: Jason S. | October 30, 2007 8:29 AM | Report abuse

There's a lot of weak rhetoric here to try and justify a lot of government intervention on this issue... The fact is there's plenty of ATV users who ARE responsible and don't violate others' rights and don't ruin the environment, and still have a blast. Quit assuming that because there's a group of irresponsible dolts out there that everyone needs the same level of government "parental" supervision. Just deal with those issues independently.

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Posted by: hank | October 30, 2007 6:27 AM | Report abuse

In any political entity, the government of that entity has some share in the responsibility for what happens to and becomes of the children in that entity--thus child labor laws, agencies to protect children from abusive parents, etc. And while governments are primarily responsible for protecting people from natural dangers and other people, they surely have some responsibility to protect stupid or ignorant fools from themselves as well, whether the source of their disability is merely the insufficient experience for development of sufficiently good judgement that often goes with childhood, or some other condition. So if children (and adults of insufficient judgement) are killing themselves needlessly with gratuitous tools, why shouldn't government step in to regulate access to and use of those tools? In fact, when it comes to tools like ATV's, concern for their damage to the environment alone, not to mention the danger they pose to non-users who happen to be in their vicinity (regardless of their effects on the users themselves) easily justifies--indeed demands--governmental intervention. Why is it difficult for some people to understand that "freedom" does not mean a license to harass other people, hurt other people, commit suicide on a whim, or destroy the environment just for fun. Come to think of it, where do they get their ideas of what is "fun?!!!!"

Posted by: Gene Claburn | October 29, 2007 9:17 PM | Report abuse

ATV users often invade private or public property without permission or authorization. They cause environmental damage, and constitute a nuisance to others whose rights are violated in the process of exercising rights they claim for themselves. In addition when accidentws happen, resources are called into play that often involve costs to the general public. Regulation is justified.

Posted by: Rudy Dalpra | October 29, 2007 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Yes riding ATVs can be dangerous and parents who allow their children to ride them should accept some responsibility. That said, this particular ATV is designed and marketed toward children. This product contains obvious design flaws that a child can not overcome w/muscle power or quick reflexes as an adult might be able to do.

The reason the CPSC even exists is because manufacturers of products that are dangerous would never disclose these dangers to us unless there was a government agency making them do so. But politicians have been chipping away at the CPSC's ability to do it's job since the Reagan administration. Every pro business politician benefits when they weaken this agency's powers. I doubt they do this to preserve your personal liberties.

Posted by: jes | October 29, 2007 5:04 PM | Report abuse

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