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Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei

News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Acceptable risk

Walter Williams nails it in his current column. In discussing the great strides mankind has made to improve our standard of living, he refers to Thomas Sowell's discussion on "doers" and "talkers." The "talkers" are busy attacking the progress that is the result of the doers.

His concluding paragraph:
If we developed the practice of removing products from the market because some people are harmed by them, we might starve to death. Anaphylaxis is a sudden, severe, potentially fatal reaction that some people have to foods such as milk, wheat, soy, peanuts, fish, shellfish and eggs. Each year, food-induced anaphylaxis sends about 30,000 people to hospital emergency rooms and about 200 of them die. Since many people are harmed by these food items, should they be removed from our supermarket shelves? If not, why not?

I'm often confused about the way some people focus on eliminating the smallest risk. Saccharin was banned in Canada for a cancer risk that was probably smaller than many natural carcinogens, including cooked bacon or the aflatoxin from peanut mold. These natural foods are risky too.

Part of the problem is the lack of cost/benefit analysis. Many of the people leading the fight for bans on carcinogenic compounds (or protecting wetlands, or saving endangered species) expect the allegedly limitless pocketbook of the government to cover it. If they approached a goal with a limited budget, then they could decide on how to get maximum benefit out of limited resources. I suggested earlier that spending an amount of money on free mammograms for the uninsured will probably save more lives from cancer than would pushing down the arsenic levels in New Mexico drinking water a few more parts per million.

We need a less litigious society and a more informed society. Let someone decide for themselves if the benefits of the antiinflammatory Vioxx outweigh the small risk.


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