The quote below is from The Deadly Efficiency of Health and Safety Regulation by Timothy D. Terrell
If we look at the cost per premature death averted (from Office of Management and Budget data), we can see the enormous imbalance in costs, under regulation:
- Aircraft cabin fire protection – $100,000
- Auto fuel-system integrity standard – $400,000
- Trenching and excavating standard – $1,500,000
- Asbestos ban – $110,700,000
- Hazardous waste disposal ban – $4,190,400,000
- Formaldehyde occupational exposure limit – $86,201,800,000
- Atrazine drinking water standard – $92,069,700,000
(The maximum allowable amount of atrazine in drinking water is 3 parts per billion-equivalent to half an aspirin dissolved in a 16,000-gallon railroad tank car.)2
- Hazardous waste listing for wood-preserving chemicals – $5,700,000,000,000
The extremely high figures for the atrazine and wood-preservative standards mean that probably no one’s life will ever be saved by the presence of these regulations. Of course, there could be other benefits apart from averting death, but with health and safety regulation this is a reasonable summary statistic.
Also, to the extent that regulation reduces disposable income, it damages health. Disposable income is used partially to increase personal health and safety. In developing nations, higher incomes may be used to purchase adequate food and clean water, obtain medical care, and perhaps provide for an education that allows the individual to avoid dangerous employment. In industrialized nations, higher incomes mean that people can buy safer cars, choose more healthful foods, move away from crime-ridden neighborhoods, and install smoke detectors in their homes. Taxing $7.6 million (on average) away from citizens so an EPA regulation can extend one human life by one year means there is less money available for individuals to take any one of thousands of steps to extend and better their lives.
Stupidity or Intelligence in Political Decisions
Why are regulators willing to go to such expense, particularly when using those dollars in some other way would save far more lives? Are these regulators simply ignorant? If so, then education alone should bring a reversal of the trend toward more regulation. On the other hand, perhaps we have missed something that might explain their behavior.
We should recognize that many of these regulations were never intended to save lives. Many economists believe that firms which press legislators for more restrictive rules are often seeking an advantage over their competition. Thus, an air quality rule severely limiting new coke oven emissions but “grandfathering” in, or exempting existing ovens, effectively shuts out would-be rivals in that industry.
My favorite example involves two competing methods of toxic waste disposal. In the early 1980s, a law was passed that required certain toxic waste to be disposed of by burning. In a few years, a whole industry emerged to incinerate toxic waste. Then the cement industry, which uses kilns that operate at a very high temperature, realized that they could burn liquid toxic waste in their kilns. They would save money on fuel and earn revenues by disposing of the toxic waste. It was really a better way to get rid of some toxic waste, and was not proven to be less safe than incinerators. Soon the cement kiln industry had captured much of the hazardous waste disposal business. So the incinerator industry, facing failure, got together and formed a pressure group to lobby Washington, DC to apply regulations to keep the cement kilns from burning toxic waste. Of course they didn’t say, “We are getting outperformed by our competition — please stop them”; they said, “Burning hazardous waste in cement kilns is dangerous to public health — please stop them.” This group was called the Association for Responsible Thermal Treatment. The American Lung Association and other, smaller groups of environmentalists were eager to help put a public-interest covering on the incinerator industry’s arguments by complaining loudly about how unsafe the cement kilns were. So far they have not entirely succeeded, but it is easy to see how “health concerns” might mask an effort by a wasteful firm to use the government to attain an advantage over another, more efficient firm.
These people are loathsome.
But if you don’t pay attention to what’s going on, you will continue to get reamed, and your enemies will continue to prosper.
I am glad, though, that Chalcedon is paying attention, even if just once in a whole (they do have other things on their plate!) If the churches gave the same level of attention over the last fifty years, there would at least be a basic suspicion and skepticism regarding the Progressive quest to control and censor everything. With such a fundamental suspicion being widespread among American Christians, it would be easier to get across the need to breakdown the power structure Our Betters have built to shelter themselves from reality, the free market, financial loss, etc… and to shift the loses from their back onto ours.
It’s time to change this injustice: not merely in the name of the free market, prosperity, and liberty (and I value all three, by the way!) but in the name of Christ and the will of God and His Law.