Thursday, November 30, 2006

Quick Thought Experiment : Consumption of a Regulated Product

Suppose there's a farmer, producing a product. This product appeals to a segment of the population, and the users of the product, contend there is no harm in its use.

Now, suppose there's a government, and currently that government regulates that product - it could be the product is illegal or heavily regulated. They contend that the product causes harm when used.

The farmer argues that the product is safe for general consumption. The population who obtains the product also argue that it is safe for general consumption. This population can cite studies and reports showing the product is safe.

The government argues the product is not safe for general consumption. The population who do not use the product also argue that it is not safe for general consumption. This population can cite studies and reports showing the product is not safe.

Who is right?

Does it depend on the product? Does it depend on who you trust more?

Does it more or less depend upon which "population" you are a member of?

Is it possible, to support the heavy regulation of one product and not another?

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3 comments:

Dan said...

Jim,

Interesting questions you have there. I think it really depends on the product. It depends on the types of risks associated with the product. Many risks are not limited to the purchaser (think secondhand smoke, or how someone is a projectile if they don't wear a seatbelt, or anything that's a fire risk in a townhouse or an apartment). Other risks, such as BSE, are not immediately apparent. I want beef regulated because I can't check for BSE on my own. I want steak, but not if it'll kill me.

Jim said...

It depends on the types of risks associated with the product.

If you felt that "un-inspected" meat was better for you, should you be able to consume it?

For example, if you go hunting, and shoot a deer, should you be required to have the deer meat inspected for disease? I don't know if deer can have BSE, but presumably they could have other nasties.

Dan said...

Hmmm, while I've never tried deer, I think the fact that it is hunted on a smaller scale than we, uh, process cattle adds some inherent safeguards. I imagine that a hunter may be able to tell if the animal was sick, if the herds in a given area had been ill as whole. I imagine that I'd either be the hunter or know the hunter personally if I was eating wild deer. Now even if this one hunter completely messes up, really, he's only affecting a couple families at most.

Cattle on the other hand are in a gigantic factory system now. There are those huge farms and slaughter houses involved. Remember the guys in Alymer, ON slaughtering deadstock? The anonymity of a huge industry like that probably heightens the need for safeguards. Since the meat is shipped all over, the impact of shoddy practices is more widespread.