Keen automobile expert Eric Peters recently sounded the alarm to a bill about which many Americans are unaware, and the information and its ramifications are even more disturbing than the tortured title of the bill.
Representatives Peter King (R-NY) and Jan Schakowsly (D-IL) recently tried to jump-start the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats -- or “HOTCARS” -- Act.
Yes, “HOTCARS”! The idea’s been floating around DC since 2017, and is getting more “traction”, as they say in the not-so-hallowed halls of Washington. And it’s not only a perfect example of unconstitutional government meddling that can teach all of us a lesson about federal corporate “regulations” and freedom of choice revealing what consumers prefer, it also offers us a chance to see how previous government mandates have yielded deadly unintended consequences for auto owners.
A key provision of the Bill states:
Not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of the Hot Cars Act of 2019, the Secretary shall issue a final rule requiring all new passenger motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds or less to be equipped with a system to detect the presence of an occupant in a rear designated seating position after the vehicle engine or motor is deactivated and engage a warning. In developing the rule required under this subsection, the Secretary shall consider requiring systems that also detect the presence of any occupant unable to independently exit the vehicle as well as detect the presence of a child who has entered an unoccupied vehicle independently.
The bill also commands:
The alert required under subsection (b)—
shall include a distinct auditory and visual alert to notify individuals inside and outside of the vehicle of the presence of an occupant, which shall be combined with an interior haptic warning; and
shall be activated when the vehicle motor is deactivated by the operator and the presence of an occupant is detected.
Regardless of whether there's an immediate threat of an “electric ear/electric eye” audio-visual monitoring system mandatorily installed in one's car, there’s nothing quite like a gang of political busybodies playing fascist to order around you and the car seller, then demand the snooping power to see that you comply. And who in their right mind would think that a politician or bureaucrat might want to use technology to circumvent the Fourth Amendment and collect data on you without a public warrant?
This is a powerful moment in US history. It’s a time when Americans can stand up against increasing government meddling and respect the importance of private contract, or they can behave like the British Monarchs the Revolutionaries fought.
And it’s a time when we can consider two other political phenomena.
The first is “normalcy bias”. When I lecture on government regulation, I ask students under 30 if they know why they rode in the backseat of cars as babies and toddlers.
None of them know. They never thought about it. They just assumed that was where babies and tots rode in cars.
They don’t know that they were put there as a result of legislation, which was, in turn, passed to “fix” deadly problems caused by other statutes. They don’t know they suffer from the generational or gradual adjustment of society to become accustomed to government tyranny, to forget what normal really is. They don’t know their innocent inability to see what life used to be like is a form of incredibly dangerous normalcy bias, and it’s what George Orwell mentioned numerous times about the British population in his dystopian novel, “1984”.
Which leads us to the other lesson we can carry with us – about the law of unintended consequences, and the fact that all government actions carry negative unintended consequences, because all government actions are undertaken through force, thereby eliminating what the citizen might have chosen, and introducing a non-market creation to run rampant upon the people.
Those students don’t know that during the Carter Administration, the feds mandated that by 1990 all automobiles would have to contain dashboard airbags, and that this mandate, like so many others, led to deadly unintended consequences.
Joan Claybrook, a heroine to government boosters for decades, knew air bags were potentially lethal when she headed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) during the Carter years. Not that she cared. A Naderite lawyer with no knowledge of vehicle design or engineering, Miss Claybrook chose to ignore the warnings of auto industry experts about the dangers of air bags… General Motors had given NHTSA the results of crash testing that showed air bags could seriously injure and even kill infants and others of small stature. The engineers warnings were, of course, dismissed, while Miss Claybrook preened before the media for forcing the automakers to install these "life-saving" devices.
Many children sitting in the front seats of these government-mandated-airbag-containing cars were killed by the airbags, most in low-speed accidents, and as Thomas DiLorenzo wrote in 1998:
Even after it became known that air bags could kill children and smaller adults the government continued to insist that they be used, propagandized in favor of their use, and refused to make them optional. The regulators finally caved in and allowed switch-off devices in 1995, but it is nearly impossible to find an automotive service center that will install one because of their liability fears.
States across the US reacted to the federally-inspired airbag tragedies by, yep, you got it, creating more mandates.
Soon, all 50 state legislatures had mandated that children be carried in rear-seat boosters.
Hence, the final unintended consequence of government intervention in the free market, something Eric Peters recently mentioned live on the David Knight radio program: more parents who are in hurries end up forgetting their unseen children in the backseats when they get out of their cars.
Which brings us back to HOTCARS, yet another unconstitutional mandate to fix a problem that has grown out of a series of already deadly government mandates.
And for those who argue, “Hey, these are corporations, and they sign on to government regulation when they ask for 'corporate' liability protection from the feds,” I hear you. But it’s important to note that the power to confer “corporate” status on businesses is not in the supposed rules of the Constitution, so the entire paradigm is illegal, from the “liability protection” to the federal regulations. The politicians simply have no power to get involved with any of it.
But they keep doing so, and the unintended consequences (as Bob Murphy notes, there are many more, from many other regulations, if folks would like to investigate them), and the normalcy biases of Americans continue to grow.
This was my opportunity to draw attention to the newest car in a long train of government abuses, a train that has killed many, and destroyed the liberty of all.
Let’s tell our friends.