Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The 1968 Ford Pinto memo

This is pretty awful. It proves that capitalism is hopelessly corrupt and must be replaced by communism. Just kidding. But how should we be protected from these types of abuses.

14 comments:

Steven Carr said...

'This is the calculation typically used by the U.S. Federal government for performing cost-benefit analyses of highway construction projects (e.g. determining how safely we should build our roads and highways). Even today, such figures are commonly used by many state and local, as well as federal, government agencies to weigh costs of various tax-supported programs.'


The US Government puts a value on each human life and trades lives against cost.

All governments do the same. It is one reason why there is not a hospital on every street corner.

Is this an 'abuse'?

Ilíon said...

And, so do we all, every day, make calculations of this sort, balancing a cost in lives lives against a cost in other considerations (which can be represented monitarily).

What you you think you're doing when you decide to drive across town at 25-35 (as per the speed limit on the roads you travel) miles per hour, rather than at a *much* safer 1 mph?

Doctor Logic said...

Ooh! Ooh! Defend Ford on the Pinto, why don't you!!

If that $11 component would have made cars impractical, then your arguments might hold some water. However, the Pinto wasn't the only available car, and the Pinto was a profitable car for Ford. In other words, Ford could afford the $11 per car.

There are cases where safety has to be compromised in order to make a product viable. 1mph speed limits are not viable. Perfect car safety is not viable. Non-exploding Pintos ARE viable. No one was so poor that they could afford an exploding Pinto, but not a non-exploding one. Ford execs basically killed people for money.

Clayton said...

If I were an executive from Ford and gave someone you loved a Pinto knowing everything we now know about them, I guess when all the facts came to light (i.e., facts about their safety, what I knew about their safety, how easy it would have been to do something about the car's safety) Ilion would still think it was a kind gesture that I should be thanked for, right?

Ilíon said...

How shameless, how pathetic, how intellectually dishonest; in short, how like a fool is the being trying to assert that Steven Carr (*) has *defended* Ford's decision.

(*) And neither did I.

Ilíon said...

I wonder, will you fellows ever figure out that I *intentionally* offer you opportunities to demonstrate to one and all that you're intellectually dishonest?

Victor Reppert said...

What I think is morally horrifying about the memo is that the memo calculates the risk only from the point of view of Ford Motor Company's bottom line. People choose risk over safety in order to achieve a higher quality of life all the time. In other words, Ford wasn't calculating the total balance of pleasure of pain for everyone. Ford was calculating its effect on company profits. They thought that the cost of the wrongful death lawsuits would be less than the cost of a recall. That is why we are morally horrified.

Ilíon said...

VR: "What I think is morally horrifying about the memo is that the memo calculates the risk only from the point of view of Ford Motor Company's bottom line. People choose risk over safety in order to achieve a higher quality of life all the time. In other words, Ford wasn't calculating the total balance of pleasure of pain for everyone. ..."

VR, this moral horrificaton makes little sense; in making this decision, Ford did just exactly what everyone does -- and must do -- everyday: they weighed the perceived cost to themselves against the perceived benefit to themselves and acted accordingly.

However, the Ford executives didn't take into consideration all they ought, nor all they knew they ought, and because of that they make a faulty and immoral decision. Among the things Ford didn't take into consideration are:
1) one's moral obligation to take all reasonable and known precautions (*) pertinent to what one proposes to do
1a) one's moral obligation to give one's customers honest information about the transaction one proposes -- Ford withheld information from its customers which was critically important for them to make their own "quality of life" trade-offs between some imaginary absolute safety and realistic safety
2) how this decision would be percieved should it come out (as it inevitably will)
2a) when we would be shamed for others to know what we're doing, or *why* we're doing it, that's a pretty good indication that we ourselves already know that either the action or the act (the rationale) is wrong

VR: "What I think is morally horrifying about the memo is that the memo calculates the risk only from the point of view of Ford Motor Company's bottom line. ... Ford was calculating its effect on company profits. They thought that the cost of the wrongful death lawsuits would be less than the cost of a recall. That is why we are morally horrified."
But for someone to get on some leftist moral high-horse because a corporation made an economic decision -- there is no other kind a corporation can make -- is senseless ... or perhaps hypocritical.


(*) 1) one's moral obligation to take all reasonable and known precautions pertinent to what one proposes to do Now, and of course, 'reasonable and known' is quite an imprecise qualifier. But that's just the reality in which we live.

However, in good "liberal" (i.e. soft-leftist and inconsistently so) fashion, you're trying to assert that *Ford* has an absolute and unqualified obligation to take *all* precautions -- both the possible and the impossible. For, after all, precautons which are unknown at the time are impossible to undertake; but that never seems to matter when "liberals" mount their high-horses.

This is an impossible standard, and one that you quite sensibly reject as applying to yourself. So, why are you trying to assert that Ford has an obligation you reject for yourself?

As a side note, notice that I've played the "examine your thinking" card. But, notice further, I did not *start* with it, I did not *base* what I said upon it; used correctly, it is more similar to a conclusion than to a premise.

========
Perhaps you're so horrified because you refuse to critically examine, and consequently let go, the silly, childish, unrealistic -- and false -- mind-set which gives rise to the inanity that "If it saves even one live than it's worth it!"

Victor Reppert said...

Why not just test Ford's actions by utilitarian standards? One could promote the greatest general happiness at the sacrifice of some lives. But Ford's actions flunk even this standard.

Ilíon said...

Are you sure? Don't the employees and shareholders of Ford, and of Ford's suppliers, and of theirs, and of Ford's dealers count in this utilitarian critique?

Aside from the fact that it's objectively wrong (and ultimately immoral), "utilitarian ethis" can't be made to "work" except by engaging in gross simplifications and by ignoring its own strictures.

Rob G said...

"But for someone to get on some leftist moral high-horse because a corporation made an economic decision -- there is no other kind a corporation can make -- is senseless ... or perhaps hypocritical."

Hmmm....so if someone is critical of corporate capitalism they automatically have leftist leanings? That would probably be news to Chesterton, Belloc, the Southern Agrarians, Richard Weaver, Russell Kirk, Robert Nisbet, M.E. Bradford, etc., not to mention the vast majority of the conservatives at ISI and the Rockford Institute. Methinks you're a tad offbase here, Ilion.

Ilíon said...

Rob G: "Hmmm....so if someone is critical of corporate capitalism they automatically have leftist leanings? ... Methinks you're a tad offbase here, Ilion."

Are you unable to read?

Rob G said...

"Are you unable to read?"

Yes, but unfortunately English only.

Anonymous said...

This "memo" has nothing to do with the Ford Pinto. The clay models for the Pinto were finalized in Dec. 1968, which means that engineering for the gas tank & chassis could not have been completed. No testing could possibly have been done when this "memo" was allegedly circulated. The Pinto sold some 2 million units, not the 11 million cited in the "memo"

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Pinto

http://www.pointoflaw.com/articles/The_Myth_of_the_Ford_Pinto_Case.pdf