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Saturday, February 28, 2015  |   Madison, WI: 3.0° F  
CITIZEN DAVE: Thoughts and ideas about city building from Madison's former mayor
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Citizen Dave: Who knew? The government sank the Titanic!

Every morning I intend to read the Wall Street Journal, but I never get around to it. By the time I'm done with the State Journal and the New York Times, there's just never time to go find out what's going on with the capitalists.

But we're visiting some family this weekend, and this family subscribes to that paper, so I picked it up to see how the world is viewed from the point of view of rich people.

I turned to the opinion page and found a piece on the Titanic, which, I have to admit, I was totally sucked in by. (I just finished reading Walter Lord's A Night to Remember, a 1955 book that is widely regarded as the most accurate portrayal of what happened because he interviewed over 60 survivors.)

The op-ed explained how the usual narrative about the sinking made Bruce Ismay, CEO of the White Star Line, out to be a bad guy simply because he didn't plan for enough life boats, and then found a way into one to save his own skin while a thousand or so women and children died of exposure in 28F water.

But according to this piece in the Wall Street Journal, it was the government that did it. (Well, at least it was the British government, not ours, so that's a relief.) How is that, you might ask?

Well, follow me closely on this one. It goes like this. The Titanic actually had slightly more life boats than were actually required by British maritime rules of the time. Now, it's true that Ismay and his minions did the numbers and knew that the rules were insufficient to provide enough places for all of the passengers. But they didn't exceed the rules to do what made sense because they had so much confidence in British maritime authorities. So, and here's the big payoff, confidence in government led to the decisions that resulted in 1,500 deaths at sea.

Wow. Who would have thunk it? When government regulates and appears competent, people die!

I have to read the Wall Street Journal more often. It gives you a whole alternative-universe perspective on reality.

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