Saturday, July 12, 2008

Living Is Expensive, But Life Is Cheap

From yesterdays Chronicle:

A government agency has decided that an American life isn't worth what it used to be.

The "value of a statistical life" is $6.9 million in today's dollars, the Environmental Protection Agency reckoned in May - a drop of nearly $1 million from just five years ago....
When drawing up regulations, government agencies put a value on human life and then weigh the costs against the lifesaving benefits of a proposed rule. The less a life is worth to the government, the less the need for a regulation, such as tighter restrictions on pollution.

Consider, for example, a hypothetical regulation that costs $18 billion to enforce but will prevent 2,500 deaths. At $7.8 million per person (the old figure), the lifesaving benefits outweigh the costs. But at $6.9 million per person, the rule costs more than the lives it saves, so it may not be adopted....

The EPA made the changes in two steps. First, in 2004, the agency cut the estimated value of a life by 8 percent. Then, in a rule governing train and boat air pollution in May, the agency took away the normal adjustment for one year's inflation. Between the two changes, the value of a life fell 11 percent, based on today's dollar.
The Bush administration's contempt for environmental and safety regulation (figuratively) cheapens human life. It makes perfect sense that they would also be making human life literally cheaper, in order to make it easier to gut the life-saving regulations without which human life is (figuratively) cheaper.

Look! Over there! Somebody's killing a fetus! CULTURE OF LIFE!

Update: Jody explained to me how it works: the aggregate value of all (American) human life is a constant, so the EPA is just reducing the value of each human life to account for all the hypothetical fetuses saved by the administration's anti-choice policies. Makes as much sense as any other 'Culture of Life' rationale.