12/15/2011 12:15 pm ET | Updated Feb 14, 2012

To Regulate or Not?

I wrote a letter to the New York Times last week, suggesting that members of Congress who say they are opposed to government regulation should be asked a test question: offered the choice of two elevators, one inspected and maintained according to applicable regulations, the other not, which one would they choose to ride down in from their 11th floor office?

It was published in Monday's paper (Dec. 12). Then today (Wed. Dec. 14) the Times' City Room blog reported that a woman died this morning in a tragic elevator accident in N.Y. City, in an 85-year-old building.

It's not clear yet whether that elevator was properly inspected and maintained, but people don't get killed in elevator accidents if everything's working properly.

If it turns out that the elevator malfunctioned because the existing regulatory structure failed in some way, that's not an argument for deregulation; it's an argument for more effective enforcement of existing regulations, or perhaps for more stringent regulations.

What goes for elevators also goes for many other areas of life, e.g. food safety, product safety, drug safety, medical device safety, aviation safety, automobile safety, financial services, etc., etc.

Why has this commonsense truth become so obscured?