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As U.S. Agencies Put More Value on a Life, Businesses Fret

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Hence the appalling recklessness with which men propose, discuss and

accept “humanitarian” projects which are to be imposed by political means,

that is, by force, on an unlimited number of human beings. If, according to

collectivist caricatures, the greedy rich indulged in profligate material

luxury, on the premise of “price no object”—then the social progress

brought by today’s collectivized mentalities consists of indulging in

altruistic political planning, on the premise of “human lives no object.”

Ayn Rand wrote that as a part of her refutation of "Collectivized Ethics" (The Virtue of Selfishness, Chapter 10), which reminded me of an article in the economy section of Wednesday's NYT.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/business/economy/17regulation.html?_r=2&hp

WASHINGTON — As the players here remake the nation’s vast regulatory system, they have been grappling with a subject that is more the province of poets and philosophers than bureaucrats: what is the value of a human life?

The answer determines how much spending the government should require to prevent a single death.

That is the premise of the article, which takes altruism to more of an extreme than usual, but all very logically consistent. It automatically presuming the issue of death is a collective problem of "society as a whole," that men are the means to the ends of others, and that end is to prevent the deaths of anyone, anywhere, for any reason, and at any cost.

Businesses would prefer to discuss the consequences of the increases — new regulations and higher costs, which they say are hampering economic growth — rather than suggest that the government has overstated the value of life.

But some industry representatives said assigning a value to life was inherently subjective, and that the recent changes were driven by the administration’s pursuit of its regulatory agenda rather than scientific considerations.

But ah, here we have the selfish businessmen keeping the means of society to themselves. But not to worry. We have Obama:

At the time, Transportation officials figured that the cost of the roofs would exceed the value of lives saved by almost $800 million. So the agency proposed a smaller increase in roof strength that might save 44 lives a year.

Last year, the Obama administration imposed the stricter and more expensive roof-strength standard, and it published a new set of calculations showing that the benefits outstripped the costs.

Most of the difference came from the increased value of human life. By raising that number to $6.1 million from a figure of $3.5 million in the original study, the Obama administration rendered those 135 lives — and hundreds of averted injuries — more valuable than the roofs.

The article goes on with more of the same along those lines. Regulations and control of society's resources are good if we do a cost-benefit analysis with how many lives we can save with all of society's resources. Since no superlative can be ascribed to anything's value outside of its effects on actual human lives, how would you agree or disagree with this type of interventionist model, and what is its logical endpoint?

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"Businesses would prefer to discuss the consequences of the increases — new regulations and higher costs, which they say are hampering economic growth — rather than suggest that the government has overstated the value of life."

Gotta love how they ignore the fact that freedom and prosperity add to the value of life. And that their "value of life" is value to the government, not value to the person himself.

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