NOTE: While looking through my old essays, I found another 15 that struck me as particularly interesting. Some may seem a bit dated, as they discuss current events during the period 2008 to 2010, but the principles they discuss are still relevant.
It is interesting sometimes how new circumstances give us a different insight on something we have considered many times before.
For example, for years I laughed at all the health code requirements for restaurants. Allow me to offer just one example. I worked at a racetrack as a bartender at one time. We sold only bottled wine, and beer and liquor in disposable cups. However, as we were dispensing drinks, we needed a three chamber sink, including one with sterilizing solution, or we faced fines, even though we had nothing to wash in it*. But, that is not the strangest part of this law. If you think about it, you eat 95% of your meals out of a kitchen which has only two sinks at most, that is at your home, or the homes of friends. And if you visit a lot, you eat off dishes used by strangers every bit as much as at restaurants, yet you don't worry if your host sterilizer his or her plates in a three chambered sink. So, the logic here is, we only need worry about this precaution in that small percentage of cases where we eat out, otherwise, a single sink is good enough.
I had a similar thought about medication. My wife is a nurse, and while RNs can give medicine, LPNs and CNAs/GNAs cannot. On the other hand, when I worked with the mentally retarded at 18 years old, I took a 6 hour medication course, and was allowed to dispense medicines. And, even more bizarre, family members of sick individuals can administer their medicines. Which means, someone with LPN training can't hand someone a pill, but his 4 year old cousin can.
And these are the thoughts that came back to me when my wife and I were speaking today. She recently left her hospital job and began training to become a school nurse. When she got home today she mentioned that she was surprised our son's private school did not have a nurse on staff, if only for liability reasons. And, from a lawyer's perspective, she is absolutely right.
However, we then began talking about whether or not students would be safer with a nurse. I thought a bit, and decided that a private school, if they didn't have a nurse, would do what anyone else would, and call 911. After all, I reasoned, most of your life, be it at home, in the park, in the mall, or anywhere else, is spent without nursing or medical care immediately available.
And that is what makes all these laws so amusing. As with the health codes for restaurants, or liability of schools for not having nurses, in most of your life you live perfectly well without these dubious protections, but the law acts as if their absences will cause your certain demise, even though everyday life proves otherwise. We lives perfectly fine with single sinks, or without trained nurses, but the courts have ruled, in effect, their absence is a sign of negligence. And that is just absurd.
* It was amusing for me many years ago to hear about the homeless shelter shut down for violating a similar law. Their response was "So, rather than food cooked without three sinks, they will go back to eating out of trash cans." Which seems a pretty good summary of the insanity of some health codes.
Actually, the health codes point out another problem with government, one I mentioned in ("The Inevitability of Bureaucratic Management in Government Enterprises" and elsewhere. Government is always "one size fits all" (in the best cases, as "discretionary" government is even worse...), but life rarely works well with a single rule. It is far better to allow consumers to determine what is "good enough", rather than impose a single rule through government. As Angie's List, the "Super Pages" and other rating systems show, people are happy to use private ranking and evaluation systems, so do we need to give them the force of law and let the government do it? Is it not better, safer and cheaper to simply allow private firms to rate and evaluate and return the government to protecting our rights? And I say that even though it may inadvertently put my wife out of a job.
I know it seems extreme, but I advocate similar private evaluation over government licensing even for areas such as medicine. See "Medical Regulations" and "Medical Regulation II", where I first proposed this scheme, through later developments in "Professional Education", "Licensing", "Business Licensing and Regulation", "Insider Trading" and "Gun Control, The FDA and Regulating the Law Abiding", as well as the more complete evolution of the concept in "Bad Economics Part 3", "Bad Economics Part 5" and "Bad Economics Part 12".
My wife corrected me, LPNs can give oral medications and some others. However, as they cannot give injections, while family members are allowed to do so (as I am taking injections currently, I know this is true), the logical problem still exists, just in a slightly more narrow context. But, as I was in error, I felt the need to make a technical correction, even if it doesn't change my point.
Originally posted in Random Notes on 2010/04/08.