Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Chain of Causation

Hello, boys and girls! Artie the Aardvark here again. Against Artie's better judgment, Artie is going to pose a question to Artie's readers:

For want of a nail, the shoe was thrown.

For want of a shoe, the horse fell.

For want of a horse, the rider was thrown.

For want of a rider, the war was lost.

For want of a victory, the kingdom was conquered.

Was the blacksmith who shoed the horse liable for the fall of the kingdom? Why or why not? Discuss.

More later, if Artie feels like it.

UPDATE:

OK, boys and girls, Artie is back. Since you remain the most disengaged ThunderJournal audience in the world, I'll just offer up the answer:

The answer is no.

The law (and really, society for that matter - save for certain political parties who have an unquenchable thirst for power and the activists who love them) does not require human beings to be perfect. Nor does it require them to be clairvoyant. The law of torts imposes liability only for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of ones's actions. Therefore, while it's reasonably foreseeable that a horse would throw a negligently applied shoe which would make it fall and throw its rider, it is not foreseeable - much less reasonably foreseeable - that a war would be lost because of the loss of a single soldier.

And it makes sense if you think about it boys and girls: when one foresees grave consequences for an act or failure to act, we expect that person to take the care necessary to avoid the possible bad consequences of such action. The actor is the pilot of his or her own destiny - but only insofar as he or she can fathom it.

*yip* *yip*

Oh, look everyone - it's Spot the talking dog!

That was a real nice little lecture you gave there, but you're forgetting one thing.

Oh, really? What's that?

Bridges simply don't collapse in this country.

With few exceptions, that's true enough Spot. So?

So, such things don't happen without negligence - res ipsa loquiter.

You know Spot, you tend to undermine your ability to speak authoritatively on the matter when you can't even spell it right. But anyway, what form did the negligence take exactly?

Bridges don't just fall down in this country.

I know, you said that. But what form - what act or omission - did the negligence take?

The GOP's insistence on funding a war in Iraq and giving tax cuts to the rich at the expense of our crumbling infrastructure.

Wow - Artie hasn't seen that many talking points crammed together in a single sentence since he took his name off the DFLic mailing list. But let's roll with that.

Yes, let's. Governor Pepsodent would rather run government on the cheap than repair our bridges.

Fair 'nuff. We'll assume that that's "negligence" for purposes of this discussion. But if we're going to misapply tort law, we had better do a fully-assed job of it.

Agreed. I think Spotty will be vindicated because he's never been wrong before.

We shall see. The next question that must be answered is: did the purported negligence cause the bridge to fall?

Of course it did. Bridges do not fall in this country.

You keep saying that. But it's a little circular. Try again. Was any money spent on this bridge?

Well, sure. There's occasional surface work. Some deicing system was installed a few years back. There were inspections that found the bridge "structurally deficient"...

OK, so the bridge was on the radar screen. Were they doing anything about it, Spotty - and remember we deal in facts here not made up shit and gaping omissions like you use on your shitty little blog...

Engineers recommended that the bridge be replaced soon, and they recommended that the deck be reinforced with steel plates. But MNDoT did neither....

Why not?

They were afraid that drilling holes in the bridge may weaken the structure to the point of collapse. They didn't replace the bridge because governor Pepsodent is a tool of the Tax Evader's league.

Assumes facts not in evidence. Don't you think that the major disruption of traffic may have been in the calculus too?

Spotty will grant you that. Yet the fact remains that bridges do not collapse in this country -

But the decision was made last year to keep a real close eye on the bridge, to see if any further damage to the superstructure presented itself, correct?

Yes, they took the cheapest way out. Had governor Pepsodent raised our absurdly low gas tax, we would have had the money to replace the bridge. The bridge wasn't replaced, and in the meantime it fell. Bridges don't fall in this country. Res ipsa loquiter.

So then what your asserting is that despite assurances from engineers over the course of several inspections that the bridge would stand for the time being, Pawlenty is still responsible for the disaster because it was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of not raising the gas tax 5 years ago?

Yes. Bridges don't fall in this country. It must be negligence.

One more question, Spotty...

Shoot.

If, as you have repeated many times, "bridges don't collapse in this country," how could it be reasonably foreseeable that this one would?

...

Spotty?

[Spotty spontaneously combusts].

Ewww. Burning dog hair.

Actually, it's an improvement. Artie out.

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