Why Socialism Doesn’t Work (Part 2– The Precautionary Principle)
Serious, and not funny.
So one of the major justifications given for government regulation is the Precautionary Principle. What’s the Precautionary Principle you ask? Well the Precautionary Principle is the idea that, “… if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action.” So basically, the government should restrict what people are allowed to do when there’s a suspicion that what they are doing might harm others. Now know that this isn’t on the books in the United States, however it is in the European Union, which is (generally) much farther down the road to socialism than the U.S.
The application of the Precautionary Principle is that the government should make decisions about what is and is not dangerous based on the most current scientific evidence in order to protect its citizens. However, like most of socialist ideology, this is one of those ideas that sounds good at first, but when you think about what it really means is scary. So here are the big problems with the Precautionary Principle:
1) Media sensationalism makes people freak out about things that aren’t really dangerous. Imagine if every time a study came out saying that so-and-so might be linked to cancer, so-and-so was banned. Or what if a more efficient (but much more expensive) light bulb came out that was better for the environment and then the government banned regular light bulbs in order to force you to buy these newer bulbs? Think I’m joking?
The truth is, these laws can’t help but be intrusive and catering to special interest groups and unfounded fear mongering. Think of all the stuff that people claim is bad for you that really isn’t (like the anti-vaccination crowd for example.) Think of how New York City has banned trans-fats to protect people from food that nobody was forcing them to buy, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
2) It’s so vague that it invites corruption and selective use (for largely political reasons.) I think I’ll let this issue speak for itself with a few examples:
3) Science reporting is bias (not science, but science reporting.) Any real scientist will tell you that science is not a community, it is not a set of facts or texts, it is a process. However, very few science outlets actively promote their finding to the public. They depend on media outlets to get the story out. In case you haven’t realized it, many (see almost all) media outlets have a view or agenda that they’re trying to push. Also, there’s often a lot of disagreement between scientists in some areas. This is research. That means that as things are getting fleshed out different scientists can believe different things about issues that we haven’t yet figured out yet. They will have different working theories that they’ll be researching. I know this may seem a bit hypocritical (After all, why should you trust me?) but if you’re looking for some real science news and topic discussions then I recommend the following outlets (I’m not saying that I agree with all the opinions presented by these outlets, but their science is at least spot on):
4) It assumes that people are idiots (and that politicians aren’t.) The government pays for the science (well really you the taxpayer does) and then the government makes the decisions based on that science because people need to be protected by people who are informed about the facts and how the world works. There’s a distinct problem here. This assumes that politicians are scientifically astute and well informed people ruling over a nation of people who are not as bright. Do you believe that the politicians that are elected are our best and brightest? And of course this lead into:
5) It ‘protects’ people from themselves. I know that the Precautionary Principle doesn’t have any clause stating that it’s there to protect individuals from their own choices (only the public as a whole) but that’s the way it’s being used because voluntary sales are being treated as crimes. I refer again to the New York City trans-fat ban. Here’s an idea. Maybe when I go to buy a cheese burger, I’m not buying it to be healthy. Maybe I want greasy food sometimes. Sure, it’s not good for me, but since when don’t I have the right to choose what I eat? The way that the Precautionary Principle is used to justify this is that companies are doing the public harm by selling things to them. Not forcing things on them, not lying to them about their products (We do have laws against false advertising) but merely making a service or good available for sale.
And there you have it. That’s why the Precautionary Principle is a bad idea, and by extension, another reason that Socialism doesn’t work. I’m by no means done with this series, and I’ll be sure to link to each segment that I do from each other one.
Entry filed under: Evil.