Crampton on stupid Coroners

Eric Crampton blogs at Offsetting behaviour about stupid coroners and their endless recommendations. After detailing a comprehensive list of stupid and expensive recommendations from coroners, he comments:

I’m sure that these are all smart and diligent people. I’m also sure that there is no required training in cost-benefit analysis in a legal degree.

The problem seems to be in the Act. Pretty much anything that could reduce the chances of particular forms of death can be recommended; there’s no consideration anywhere of costs. It’s fine to say that that’s Parliament’s job. But Coronorial recommendations carry some weight – people take them as being something more than “This is something that could save lives, but I have no clue whether it’s worth it because I have zero training in policy assessment and cost-benefit analysis, so somebody else better figure out whether we’d be wasting a whole ton of resources in enacting it; moreover, the Act specifically asks me to just name any darned thing that might help even if it would cost a trillion dollars and save a life every fifty years.” 

I’d be willing to bet that a reasonable proportion of the above recommendations would fail any serious cost-benefit analysis. Mandatory high vis clothing for cyclists, licenses for nail guns, and mandatory skateboard helmets all seem exceptionally unlikely to pass any kind of “is this a reasonable policy” test.

This economist recommends that either Coroners get training in cost-benefit analysis, or start noting the limitations of their recommendations.

Update: Matt Nippert points out that the Chief Coroner wants it mandatory that government respond to Coroner recommendations. I would hope that the default response would be “The value of a statistical life for policy purposes in New Zealand is $3.8 million; the policy seems exceptionally likely to impose costs in excess of $3.8 million per statistical life saved. Please go away and come back with something reasonable.”


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  • Phar Lap

    Last one from a coroner was for cyclists to wear high vision vests.He said that even though Steve Fitzgerald,who he was having an inquest on was infact wearing one.Fitzgerald was hit by a truck four and a half years ago in Petone at a roundabout.Fitzgerald was lit up like a town hall Christmas tree at the time,yet died as the truck and trailer caught his bicycle and dragged him under the back wheels.Seemed the coroner must have overlooked the facts of the accident.I wondered what part of the high vision vest he didnt understand,as the deceased was wearing one.In fact at one time he was the NZ Chief Traffic Officer,in his previous employment.

    • Rodger T

      Stop…resisting…the conditioning…PL….nanny …state…knows ………..BEST!

  • cows4me

    I’m waiting for one to tell us to stay in bed because it’s to dangerous to get up, could handle that one for a day.

    • Rodger T

      Yeah, but then what happens we some-one dies in bed,we get banned from sleeping in?
      Bastards !

  • Hazards001

    The namby pamby paper cut brigade. Life and living has inherent risks associated with it. Seems to me that Coroners and many others would like to legislate us into bankruptcy and a cotton wool box so we all live to be 112 years old…but have never lived. I’m watching my kid climb a tree at the for her if she doesn’t fall out, she’s not wearing a helmet and there is no 6 inch padded mat to land on. Still I expect she knows that…after all..she is 8! Me I’m gonna see how high she gets!

  • BJ

    Why is it that we always have to ‘save lives?’ Why is it not tolerated for peoples lives to end and not be saved – surely when your time is up it is up.