Could co-pilot’s murder-suicide be tragic consequence of affirmative government action?

It’s just a theory, which may never be proven, but it seems plausible. From what’s been reported by the media about Andreas Lubitz’s background, it seems possible that he may have been defined as ‘disabled’, according to disability law in Germany.

If he was, then the airline would have had to seek permission from a government committee to dismiss him on the grounds of any danger they felt his health posed. Indeed, according to a paper by Martin Kock for, to dismiss someone on grounds of their disability “higher standards are required for an approval by the Integrationsamt” – which I suggest may be interpreted as government-speak for: virtually impossible.

If Andreas Lubitz was benefiting from the legal privileges granted by German disability law, and if the airline ever did attempt to dismiss him from its employ, then this murder-suicide could be one of the most horrifically tragic unforeseen consequences of affirmative government action we’ve seen.

Affirmative action is a government action or policy favouring those who tend to suffer from discrimination (of the kind claimed to be unjust), especially in relation to employment or education. It is otherwise known as ‘positive discrimination’. In Germany, for example, all employers (public and private) with a workforce of 20 or more are required to fill 5 % of their jobs with severely disabled employees. If an employer does not comply with the quota, then it has to pay a monthly compensation penalty for each unfilled compulsory place.

Affirmative government or ‘positive discrimination’ leads to all manner of unintended and unforeseen economic and social consequences, which only come to light over time, but the golden rule with the use of coercion (government or otherwise) is that it almost always leads to the opposite of its intended goal.

Naturally, the public and the authorities are now asking why the airline continued to employ a man whose mental health seemed to make him unsuitable for such a responsible role. If my theory is correct, then we have our answer: affirmative government action in the form of German disability law made it virtually impossible for the airline to dismiss the man on the basis of his ‘disability’.

If the law wasn’t preventing or at least greatly disincentivising the airline from dismissing Andreas Lubitz, or decision-makers at the airline at no time considered his mental health was posing an unacceptable risk, then this tragedy is instead a stark reminder that depression/mental illness can be deliberately concealed from the world by a sufficiently determined sufferer, thus making it impossible to detect. The world may only become aware of the depth of the blackness in a person’s mind by the time it is too late to save the sufferer, or indeed, in this case, anyone else.

This incident re-emphasizes the fact that depression, a certain state of mind, cannot be diagnosed or detected like a bodily illness can. The presence of malaria, for example, in a body can be objectively determined by a physical test, but a depressed mind can only be diagnosed by the subjective evaluation of that mind by another.

It would be interesting to know what kind of childhood Andreas Lubitz had at the hands of his parents, whether he suffered any particularly adverse experiences in his most formative years, and whether he was on antidepressants at the time he crashed the aeroplane. Some studies have shown that the use of some antidepressants is correlated with an increased risk of suicide, but in general the relationship between antidepressant use and suicide is not yet clear. Still, it may be a causal factor if indeed he was taking them, which seems likely at least given his recent history of treatment for what was described as “severe depression and anxiety” in his employer’s medical files.

If my theory is right, then my god how we owe it to those 149 innocent people to stop believing in affirmative action right now; we need to stop believing in the use of affirmative government action in the form of positive laws as a force for social good because it isn’t – and it’s illiberal.

If I’m wrong, (and even if I’m right) then we owe it to the victims and to each other to continue to talk about depression more openly, to think more deeply about why so many of us are suffering from it to varying degrees, and to remain sceptical about government-funded scientific wisdom on how best to treat it.

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