The Value of Human Life Just Ain’t What it Used to Be
At a time when the cost of everything is going up, from the gasoline we put in our cars to the food we feed to our families, isn’t it refreshing when the price of something significant is actually going down? Well, actually not always, especially when it involves the value of your life.
In an interesting development as reported by the AP , the government, or more specifically the EPA, has determined that the value of human life simply isn’t worth what it used to be five years ago, dropping 11% to a paltry 6.9 million dollars.
The value is the amount of money a person is willing to spend in order to reduce the risk to their lives, as well as how much more an employer needs to pay in order for a worker to assume greater risk. The number was achieved through a complex series of calculations, which are well beyond the scope of this blog, that drew upon payroll statistics as well as surveys.
However, unlike statistics calculated from insurance claims or wrongful death lawsuits, the value is not based on earnings or potential contributions to society, or for that matter such intangible things as the amount a person is loved or depended upon by his or he family. In fact, the chairman of the EPA’s scientific advisory board referred to the calculations as “basically numerology” and was “not a scientific issue.”
After all, is it really reasonable to put a value on a person’s life? Furthermore, like most issues that can adversely affect our health and well being, doesn’t it stand to reason that less is better, and none is best, not unlike arsenic in our water or mercury in our fish?
So it may make us scratch our heads in curiosity as to why they even had to determine this value, and for that matter, why it dropped.
And of course, the issue boils down to one of policy. The government uses this value when weighing the consequences of a policy versus the value of human life that may suffer or be lost as a result of it. With this in mind, the less value for a life, the less there may be a need for regulation, such as oversight on pollution or safety, ultimately making it easier to avoid environmental regulations.
In all fairness, the EPA does put the highest value on human life compared with other government agencies, in spite of the administration’s repeated efforts to align their numbers with other departments.
And the current decrease is not without precedent. According to the AP report, the EPA for years kept the value of human life stable at around 7.8 million (between1996 to 2003), but in 2004 lowered the amount to 7.1 million when drafting a new pollution rule.
While the administration defends their practices of modifying the numbers, it is interesting to note that in 2002 EPA actually determined that the people over the age of 70 were 38% less valuable than their younger counterparts. When news of change became public, the administration quickly reversed their decision.
Which just goes to show you that these issues are problematic when you mess with the wrong people.
The question is, what do you and I have to do to become those wrong people? Then again, I think by now the answer should be clear.