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According to the BLS, “law enforcement” is the 12th most dangerous occupation in America. It stands behind garbage collecting, truck driving, farming and ranching and taxi0cab driving. Firefighters are much lower down that list.  Among the policemen, half of all deaths (as regrettable as they are) come from automobile and motorcycle accidents. The point of course is that even the most dangerous public sector jobs are not that dangerous, even the “riskiest” ones.

Do you want to see how to eliminate oneself from being acceptable in polite company? Cite the above statistics, and then follow it with the observation that, “I just don’t see why public sector workers are deserving of any more respect, admiration, or compensation for doing the jobs that they voluntarily do. They willingly accept these risks. They are more than fairly compensated for them.” In other words, I don’t see why the policemen are the ones marching in our holiday parades? Why not the taxi-cab drivers? After all, the taxi-drivers are always looking to serve me. They never appeal to the public for special treatment. They do not have guaranteed and often outsized retirements that come out of my pocket. They do not claim to promote the public interest by arbitrarily pulling people over for all kinds of lawful activities. They do not abuse their powers.  In fact, when my children are old enough to understand, they are going to be taught that anyone who voluntarily serves the needs of others is advancing the public good, and should be treated with the utmost admiration and respect. When you are coerced into dealing with someone, “advancing the public interest” is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind. They will be taught to look upon “law enforcement” personnel with puzzlement.

HT for the data from Steven Greenhut in his book, Plunder!

6 Responses to “Fun Facts to Know and Tell, Job Safety Edition”

  1. rif says:

    To be fair, taxicabs aren’t a great example; taxicab drivers nearly everywhere in the US benefit heavily from government regulation that restricts competition via medallion systems and crazy rules about who can pick up where. [In Boston, the cab that takes me from Cambridge to the airport is legally barred from picking people up at the airport, so heads back empty.] Consumers and people who want to be taxicab drivers but can’t afford the medallions are harmed.

  2. chuck martel says:

    A police department in a smaller Minnesota city recently received over 300 applications for 3 patrolman openings. It’s not like it’s difficult to find people willing to accept the hard work and danger for the compensation offered.

  3. Rod says:

    Having operated a dairy farm, I can attest to the risks. We raised bulls, too, hoping to cash in on breeding a bull that would go to a bull stud company and become the sire of many holsteins.

    One of the most dangerous jobs connected with breeding cattle is the semen collector’s job.

    The bull we had spent years developing — breeding him to all the cows in our herd and then accumulating production and type data on his daughters — had been bred to every available non-close-relative in our herd, we had to send him off to the Golden Arches, but before we did that, we wanted a supply of his semen for future use and also for speculation on his possible selection by a breeding company, like Sire Power or Atlantic Breeders. Atlantic Breeders even had a collection service that would take semen from our bull and divide it into many frozen “straws” of semen, so we arranged to have Atlantic send the semen collector to our farm.

    First, you have to wonder about what kind of guy can do this all day, five days a week. Imagine this person appearing on Jeopardy and Alex Trebeck asks, “It says here you’re a semen collector. What does that mean, and whose semen do you collect?” Obviously, this is actually a pretty high-tech job, as the collector has to hustle to his truck after getting a sample and make sure it gets stored safely in refrigeration. I assume he also worked in the lab back at Sire Power, where they do this all day for the many bulls they keep there.

    But the real bucks must be for the risk. It’s like driving the nitroglycerine truck to the mine in Chile. In our case, the semen collector was working in a brand new setting, not knowing how secure the fences were in the breeding pen adjacent to the bullpen. Then this strange bull has to mount a cow that’s in heat while the semen collector gets underneath a combined ton and a half of holsteins and slips on this rubber sleeve gizmo that the bull thinks is the inside of a cow. After ejaculating, the bull gets to see this human being who has his hands curiously close to his testicles. Ole!

    Sadly, our bull did not make the major leagues of breeding. The USDA production proofs beg the question by incorporating the predicted differences for the bull’s sire and grandsire along with the raw results of the actual differences of the daughters over their dams. Our bull was the son of Thonyma Royal Prince, who had a predicted difference for milk of only 600 or so pounds, versus over a thousand pounds for the better bulls of his day. We did manage to sell our bull to an Amish farmer in Gordonville (near Intercourse!), and he did his best to improve that herd until the Amish farmer had his herd tested for brucellosis. Our bull had this thing for vets, and we always had to tranquilize our bull for annual bloodtesting. We forgot to tell the Amish farmer this, so our bull tore apart a significant part of his barn before being shipped out to the Golden Arches. Semen collectors were okay, but not veterinarians.

    Incidentally, it’s now possible to separate semen according to male or female sperm, giving a dairy farmer a 90 percent chance of getting a heifer in a mating. This sounds like a good idea, but it severely shortens the business cycle for the government-regulated dairy business and brings on over-supply conditions inside a year. Any economics majors reading this should know not to consider dairy farming as a career.

  4. Harry says:

    When you get a chance to spend somebody else’s money it is easy to be generous, especially when the question is justice.

  5. We honor the police independent of their actual death rates for reasons that are deeper than the measurable dangers they face. Perhaps the best investigation was Systems of Survival by Jane Jacobs. The “Guardian Ethic” is different from the “Trader Ethic” and even though we are a mercantile society, the code of the warrior runs deep: Highlander versus Wall Street. In fact until Atlas Shrugged there were few novels and perhaps no movies that truly honored what Deirdre McCloskey calls “Benjamin Franklin’s bourgeois virtues.”

    After the Dot.Com meltdown, I worked a variety of part-time jobs, including security guard. When I went back to university to complete the degree I never needed before, I chose criminology. Private security dominates public policing 3-1 or 4-1, depending on the survey, and despite the spike in public funding after 9/11. Like any business private security is future-oriented: we prevent problems. Like any government agency, policing attempts the metaphysically impossible chore of changing the past by acting after the event. The futility of their “impossible dream” notwithstanding, unlike those other dangerous occupations, the police (and the military) display their uniforms expressly to convey the message that they will die for you. Until the broader culture stops asking for those sacrifices, we can only pay up with only currency that counts on their books: respect.

    Be that as it may —
    “Estimates of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses covering nearly 19 million State and local government workers show that these public sector employees experienced a significantly higher incidence of work-related injuries and illnesses in 2008 than did private industry employees.
    […]
    “However, local government workers as a whole experienced injuries and illnesses at a much higher rate than their State government counterparts—7.0 cases per 100 full-time workers compared with 4.7 cases.”

    Full report here: http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2011/02/art3full.pdf

  6. wintercow20 says:

    “Be that as it may —
    “Estimates of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses covering nearly 19 million State and local government workers show that these public sector employees experienced a significantly higher incidence of work-related injuries and illnesses in 2008 than did private industry employees.
    […]
    “However, local government workers as a whole experienced injuries and illnesses at a much higher rate than their State government counterparts—7.0 cases per 100 full-time workers compared with 4.7 cases.”
    Full report here: http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2011/02/art3full.pdf

    That’s fine. But police and firemen have an incredible tendency to become “disabled” during their final year of work. For example, the California Highway Patrol had EIGHTY TWO percent of its officers claiming disability retirements in 2002. And this scam is perpetuated throughout the public safety ranks.

    I’d also note that increasingly “public” police run around my town in undercover cars and undercover outfits and employ the use of surveillance technology – none of that is telling me, “I will die for you.”

    Police are also able to enjoy the doctrine of sovereign immunity and agencies have gone to court to uphold the idea that no officer is responsible for protecting any citizen. That is what the doctrine requires, precisely the opposite of the “I will die for you” reason above. Here is more: http://www.isil.org/resources/lit/license-to-kill.html

    And finally, the police are already compensated via job security, pay and lifetime benefits for these risks, as we see in any other occupation. I just don’t see what makes anyone like this any more deserving of respect and parades than say, a bull semen collector.

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