What Is A Life Worth?

TO COMPENSATE FAMILIES OF THE VICTIMS OF SEPT. 11, THE GOVERNMENT HAS INVENTED A WAY TO MEASURE BLOOD AND LOSS IN CASH. A LOOK AT THE WRENCHING CALCULUS

A train barreled over Joseph Hewins' body on a wintry evening in 1845 in the Massachusetts Berkshires. Hewins had spent the workday shoveling snow off the tracks, only to be killed on his trip back to town when a switchman got distracted. Hewins left behind a wife and three children, who were poor even before his death. His widow sued but lost at every level. Had the train merely chopped off Hewins' leg, the railroad would have paid. But in the perverse logic of that time, when a man died, he took his legal claims with him. And so the thinking...

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