The Cost of Negligence
As GM receives the scathing light of governmental review and watches it's barely cleaned (depending on whom you ask) image muddied again in the court of public opinion, several recurring themes arise: lack of communication; poor judgment; sub-par quality control; unwieldy corporate structure; potentially illegal suppression of pertinent information.
Each of these provides a salient and overarching view that will become the basis for legal activity including fines, firings, and possibly even criminal charges: negligence.
Now, there is already a lot of noise out there in general; blame is being flung. Congress, NHTSA, the guy who owned a Pontiac in the 80s: all have an opinion. Most of them are stupid ("let's post the LinkedIn of the GM employee that may be involved"), wrong (everybody in GM doesn't know everything about everything nor are they expected too…even the CEO ), and frankly, not in a position of passing judgment (Congress).
But even in their stupidity there is an air of truth. Negligence. It is not a misplaced term here as the wrong decisions were made. Not by "GM" as many would have you believe, but by a select number of individuals. And whether they will or won't be dealt with to the content of the mob is not my concern. That is the cost at the end of poor decisions and paper trails.
The Truth and The Lie
People die daily in fully functioning automobiles. Their air bags deploy, their steering is working, their seat belts clasp, their brakes clamp. But they still die. I've known some of those individuals. And while a Toyota or a Buick or a BMW may have worked flawlessly and the cost management of them not found wanting, it was still done on a scale of choice. None except the deeply affected try to reach out with an assignation of blame and that is because the assumption that negligence was not involved is universal. Sometimes death finds us even when everything works right.
And that is the lie.
The truth is that the technology exists to keep occupants from dying in automobiles in totality. 0 fatalities per year. It is not fictional. Speed-limiters, disintegrating body panels, active/passive safety systems; each could be installed on cars. But inherent to this we see the conundrum of personal choice and consumer products. We buy what we can afford, and manufacturers produce what they can sell and make a profit on. There is an assumption of risk with all products, but the more that is paid (for technology and safety) the more that is accepted that whatever you are getting it will work as intended. Even a Kia should work given what you shell out…
When it comes to cars, the technology to death-proof them is "expensive" and "cost prohibitive"; the insurance rate of replacing a totaled vehicle in every accident would be astronomical. Only the exceptionally wealthy would be able to afford it (as the theory goes, though anyone caught in a flaming Ferrari may disagree). But are their lives really worth more than yours or mine?
The Negligence of Cost
No, of course not. All human life at a fundamental level is equal either in its lack of value or in its complete valuation…and no, we are not talking about utilitarian ridiculousness (have a care). Yet every company weighs life on the scale of profitability doing just enough to avoid negative publicity, just enough to meet government guidelines, just enough to sell you an incremental piece of technology for the sake of finding a bit of market share but not spoiling the whole thing. In essence, negligence is built into the cost. And we aren't communists, remember; giving it away for free is not an option.
While GM will receive…whatever it will receive…remember that in this case GM was simply caught out with a negligence that every car manufacturer walks the line over (sudden recalls by all and sundry are not a coincidence). It may not be a hard equation of dollars to human life, and it is not an active conspiracy, but it certainly is a simple concept of "doing everything possible to keep you alive isn't necessarily going to help the share holders." It is a fact. At this point, you have already bought in to a certain amount of negligence, you just might not have known it.
And yes, I know I used too many commas and parentheses. I was trying to just spill this thought out before I lost it. If you thought that was all BS, I hope instead you enjoy this video of baby sloths squeaking: