Weekend reflections

It’s time again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. Civilised discussion and no coarse language please.

66 thoughts on “Weekend reflections

  1. @Michael

    No comparison was made. The point that was made is that if you can foresee what can happen, that your action entails risk even if the agent of the risk will ultimately be another you cannot absolve yourself of responsibility. Every responsible person is responsible for their own actions. Their decisions have outcomes and entail risks.

    A problem with some reasoning about responsibility is that if you make someone else responsible that diminishes the responsibilities of others. In the example, the madman’s responsibility (assuming they are a responsible person) for stabbing someone is not diminished simply because someone else put the person in their path. Neither is the responsibility of the person who put the person in the madman’s path diminished because the madman might be held liable for their actions. Whoever put the person in the path of the madman with foreseen consequences is as guilty as they would be if it was a bull charging down the hall or some other danger. The police are no more or less guilty because of the guilt of the culprit. How much ‘hindsight’ is needed before what can be foreseen as an outcome that has a decent chance of happening can be predicted with foresight? The likelihood of someone who is being chased and is likely to go through red lights at high speed in a built up area having an accident and maybe a fatal accident is more likely than that happening if someone is driving under the influence. People are routinely prosecuted for driving under the influence because that is known to be a risky thing to do. So is absconding at high speed from the police, and so is encouraging that person to continue the absconding at high speed by chasing them and trying to catch them.

  2. Ernestine, FWIW, I’ve had a quick skim through the Climateworks plan, and I can’t see anything obviously wrong with it.

    Exhibit 4 is the key thing in the plan, which shows the things that are profitable for households and businesses to do without a carbon tax on the left side, and the things that only become worthwhile after a carbon tax on the right side.

    There are things in Exhibit 4 that have to do with cropland management and reforestation which I’m in no way qualified to comment on, and perhaps John might do that.

    However, the things in there about the cost/benefit of modifying commercial lighting, heating and air conditioning, etc. are correct.

    The things on the left hand side that I’m familiar with really are profitable. They actually do represent hundred dollar bills left on the pavement.

  3. @Fran Barlow

    Looks like NSW have similar rules for police pursuit to what I described for the SA police – scroll down to bottom and the second last letter by Brian Maguire QC is on the NSW police pursuit rules.

    BTW, I’m not making this up, but I know of cases where pursuit police have had to give chase at night, and they have obeyed the traffic lights even with no apparent traffic. Kind of makes a pursuit difficult but again, if a police accident involving other traffic occurred and traffic lights weren’t obeyed, the pursuit police may be in serious trouble (even with no injury involved). Each situation is assessed as it is, as far as I am aware. And that is as it should be, since the risk to public safety is a balance between the offender being free to harm, and the harm that may be caused in a pursuit of the offender.

  4. @Fran Barlow

    I’m an Atheist but this still made me sit up and say “Oh My God!”
    Fran, the police involved in the polac might have just had their first ever incident, in which case it is almost certain that they may be quite affected (ie traumatised). This isn’t to diminish in any way the trauma and grief of the friends and family of the dead. But assigning blame to the pursuit police alone isn’t a reasonable position to hold without knowing more about the circumstances leading up to the decision to pursue the suspect. I would be more inclined to agree with you on trying to absolutely minimise the situations in which police are allowed to pursue – as opposed to follow, with regard to all road rules including speed limits – a person suspected of an illegal act. Situations involving sieges, armed holdup, and a few other special cases, I think could justify allowing a pursuit (where the offendant is armed and an imminent threat to the lives of members of the public).

    BTW, police in the course of their normal duties may be required somewhere else, urgently. They typically speed with sirens on, but even so they must still drive with suitable allowance for traffic and weather conditions, and with due regard for the safety of others. I notice that crashes involving police speeding on the way to the scene of a crime garner far less opprobrium and far less press than “hot” pursuits.

    Finally, every car driver is a risk to the other members of the public: driving is inherently risky. Given the number of hours of driving, how many accidents are trained pursuit police involved in compared with the average Joe/Joanne with a license? Dunno, but my point is that if road users all obeyed the rules, and the minority who insist that the rules aren’t for them actually grew a brain and started obeying them, then there wouldn’t be as many accidents full stop. Too many drivers are at the left end of the distribution yet think they are at the right end 😛

  5. Well I’ve sent a direct request to Pr Q. From my review of the document, without any economic credentials, it all looks pretty authoritative, measured and sensible.

    Mind you, you would expect the first 25% to be far far easier than the next 25%. Is there in fact a structural flaw with this plan in that it is not transformative enough? Once we get to these reductions by 2020, have we laid the groundwork for the following 15 years?

  6. @SJ

    I don’t think it is as trivial as you suggest. The crucial points are the methodology and the assumptions.

  7. @Donald Oats

    Situations involving sieges, armed holdup, and a few other special cases, I think could justify allowing a pursuit (where the offendant is armed and an imminent threat to the lives of members of the public).

    Just so. Rational calculus is involved. Unless the vehicl;e involved is carrying someone that a reasonable person would regard as a serious prospect of committing a crime of violence unless immediately apprehended AND there is no reasonable prospect of that occurring without an urgent duty driving (their jargon) situation then I’d say do not pursue at speed or near proximity.

    Finally, every car driver is a risk to the other members of the public: driving is inherently risky.

    I agree.

    I’m very much in favour of an increase in electronic surveillance of roads and public places and again, this would substantially foreclose the need for such pursuits. I’d also like it to be impossible to start vehicles’ engines without a biometric log-in and a functioning wireless device successfully pinging a repeater station or broadcasting an encrypted signal available to a receiving device held by the police and emergency services. I’d also like it to become the case that far fewer vehicle miles per capita were driven in private vehicles, particularly in urban areas where there ought to be good public transport options.

    Much tidier, as experience shows that many people are temperamentally and/or culturally ill-suited to driving. With fewer vehicles and all of them controlled, we get almost no car thefts. So we get GHG abatement, import substitution, falling car insurance costs, vehicle-facilitated offences and improved road safetyy all in one go.

  8. @wilful

    Here are my comments on the climateworks paper.

    The paper has the format of a corporate strategic management plan. As such it is a corporate version of centralised planning.

    There are known problems with corporte strategic plans even for single large corporations. Only very few corporate strategic plans deal with contingencies even on the level of one corporation. This problem is potentially magnified for the climateworks plan because it offers only one specific scenario even though the authors of the paper don’t have the decision making power of ‘management’ (including board of directors) of a single corporation.

    There is an extensive bibliography. However, this list is useless because of the absence of references in the text to the items in the bibliography. This means the reader has to believe the ‘managers’. I do not wish to suggest that the members of climateworks and their advisors haven’t done an honest job. I am saying that the approach is not helpful for public policy because the readers have to go through all papers in an attempt to reconstruct the conclusions.

    The method involves what is known as incremental method of capital budgeting decisions. For a single decision making entity this is a reasonable method. The authors are aware that their conclusions depend on a specific sequenc of decisions. This is an extremely strong assumption given that decision making is decentralised.

    The method involves team judgements. This is not a bad method for a single corporation (aggregates information, including expectations). But, it is not clear at all how these team judgements are to relate to decisions made by thousands of major and millions of minor decision makers. While the paper says it is based on expert local and overseas advice, there are no names. Who would carry the responsibility for economic and financial consequences?

    An example of a team decision is the a priori picking of ‘winners’, 54 out of over 100. Why? To be more specific, why is the aviation industry not included at all?

    The paper’s method of allocating emissions (ie where measurement takes place) is, IMO, not administratively cost efficient. The changes in emissions are allocated to the end product instead of at the source. This works well for the ‘low fruit’ items (ie operational efficiency improvements) but not for major capital investment decisions. (It may provide a lot of jobs for cost accountants).

    The authors have done a good job in making explicit some of their assumptions. Unfortunately, these are only point estimates (as is common in capital budgeting decisions of some companies; ie those who do not deal with contingencies).

    Having said all this, the paper is useful in the sense that it presents one numerical worked example of a potentially very large set of possible development paths with at least as good results in aggregate. As such it may mitigate propaganda on the exorbitant ‘costs’ of climate change mitigation. If it achieves this, it is already a good thing. As a plan of action it is not obviously consistent with a market oriented democratic society.

    You asked for it, wilful.

  9. Thanks. Appreciated. Entirely appropriate, too.

    I would suggest that if you got into discussion with the authors on these points, they would largely agree wholeheartedly, but would be vociferous in defending your (their) final point. They don’t (seem to) claim to be totalitarians, or to have a worked plan that distinguishes between prices in some areas and regulation in others, but their plan is just as defensible as the BCA’s propaganda efforts.

  10. On police chases –

    There were 1803 in NSW in 2009, down from 2227 in 2004. The fall is attributed to stricter policies and closer monitoring.

    According to the Herald, and average of 5.4 people a year died in police chases in the 10 years to 2004.

    Road deaths in NSW average 466 a year over the ten years to 2009. So deaths in police chases are just over 1% of all deaths. 40% (176) of deaths involve excessive speed. I don’t know how many were bystanders.

    70% of all chases last less than 2 minutes.

    Police know that a large proportion of crimes (including theft, assault, driving offences and so on) are committed by a small number of high-risk taking individuals – usually young men.

    One effective strategy is to remove these people from the community, but the justice system (rightly) judges individual acts first, and takes account of patterns of behaviour only at sentencing. So any given incident can be a one-off or it can be a serial offender up to multiple things. Hard to know unless you apprehend them. Also hard to deal with them unless you repeatedly apprehend them, and make the case in court that the offender is a real menace.

    The offenders know this – so it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t for the police.

    And the sorts of judgements involved have to be made quickly, with limited information. I have had enough to do with police to know that the most common attitude to this is “oh no, here we go again. I wish they would just stop….” I recall the wry dismay of one officer who, driving home after a long day was revved at the lights by a bloke who fishtailed off. He felt he had to pull him over (despite this meaning another hour of paperwork). Unlicensed, unregistered, wanted for several minor offences, and a long list of unpaid fines.

    I don’t believe the application of ever larger does of managerial rationality will make this kind of problem go away.

  11. PeterT great work chasing down those figures and laying them out. We’ve had poor social policy for so long and this is just one consequence coming around to bite us. I’ve been in trouble with the law several times in my life, not too seriously, and had a copper for a mate and read numerous blog posts from coppers and they are without doubt the good guys and it is so unfair to saddle them with so much blame in relation to car chases.

    When governments ignore the realities in our community of 4th generation unemployed/alcoholic/drug addict/abused/mentally ill/criminal family groups or refuse intervention what can you do?

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