the inflation of overzealous warnings

Topics: Regulation
16 Aug 2006

From: Ervan Darnell

The idea of a market is more general than just dollar-priced commercial items.

So many activities come with overzealous safety warnings, we come to ignore the safety warnings as just drivel the lawyers force to be added. Just like printing too much money, this doesn't make people safer (or richer), it merely devalues all warnings (and dollars).

One example of this was driven home to me last week: I was on Mt. Rainier with friends. The ranger suggested we not climb after noon because conditions were not as good. Well, okay, we tried to arrange for that, but being near our goal we pushed through a bit late. We shouldn't have, or at least we should have arranged things differently to have not been so late. His warning was a deadly serious one about snow being too slushy to get a good grip as we slid downhill, snow bridges collapsing over deep crevasses as they melt, and increased rock avalanches raining down everywhere as the snow lets go. That was a real warning! We foolishly downgraded it as just more safety whining he was obligated to give.

How many are killed by over zealous warnings because none can then be taken seriously?

I suppose the hard question is who has an interest in preserving the quality of warnings? Here's a fantasy: if lawyers can sue over ridiculous things (where the harmed party took a known risk and the supplier did not provide something defective), then those of us who are harmed by ignoring warnings can sue for fraud those law firms that imposed senselessly dire warnings (like the three paragraph legalese sticker on my keyboard, telling me not to use it).
Ervan Darnell

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