Human Life and Risk

Hattip to Big Hollywood.  The rumor going around the internet is that the young skull full of mush humiliating himself in his joust with Professor Friedman is a svelte Michael Moore.  Even if this is not the case, the debate is still of interest for a few reasons:

1.  A prime example of sloppy thinking on the young man’s part.

2.  The heroic efforts on the part of Professor Friedman to get the young man to think.

3.  The absolutely hilarious, and completely predictable, revelation by the young man concerned about placing a monetary value on life in a risk benefit calculation that he is a pro-abort.

4.  Professor Friedman’s contention that  risk-benefit analyses are inescapable and that the consumer should be informed of them.

5.  Seeing Professor Friedman in action reminds us of how noble a profession teaching can be when engaged in with passion, knowledge and a determination to have students use the brains that God gave them.

7 Responses to Human Life and Risk

  • I remember watching “Free to Choose” on PBS in 1979 with my wife. Great television, and my first introduction to a still rather young-ish Tom Sowell.

  • Interesting video. The kids screws up the facts of the Ford Pinto case, which is hardly surprising. It’s true that Ford did a cost/benefit analysis of how much it would take to fix each car vs. the number of lives lost. What’s not as widely known is that they did this for the government. At that time the NHTSA had an informal rule that they would only adopt regulation that passed a certain cost/benefit formula, and the cost/benefit analysis was part of a letter sent to NHTSA opposing a particular regulation.

    Friedman’s point is valid either way, but it’s still worth noting.

  • I struggle with this. One the one hand I understand the need for a value b/c otherwise everything would grind to a halt as being to risky. On the other hand, I don’t know how you square this with the Church’s teachings of the sanctity of human life or even the fact that most people would value their own lives at infinite value (whether they have the resources to spend the utmost on protecting their lives is another question). It makes me think the calculus Friedman is presenting has only limited utility but I waffle on that.

  • Obviously, the value of a statistical life should never be used to justify immoral activity. I can’t justify murder by claiming that the victim was committing economic waste in excess of the value of a statistical life. But it has to be used to assess amoral more even morally good activities that carry risks.

  • most people would value their own lives at infinite value

    Most people do not value their own lives at infinite value. If they did, then no one would smoke or drink or eat fatty foods, or go swimming or drive in a car unless they absolutely had to. For that matter, if people placed an infinite value on their lives then no one would ever fight in a war, or work in a hospital, or have a child. You get the idea.

  • Good point BA and I think we can express it in another way. I wouldn’t necessarily argue with Michael’s words (“value their own lives at infinite value”) if term life wasn’t merely refering to the condition of being alive. If we were to use the term in the sense of the course of existance (to love, to work, take pleasure, experience activities, etc.) I would agree that people value their lives infinitely. So much so that they would (and do!) risk their corporal existence every day to live.

  • Ba:

    I’m not persuaded by that argument. It assumes that people are rationally understanding the risks of their activities and their own mortality. Most people don’t. I don’t eat McDonald’s thinking that I’ve taken a step closer to dying, nor do I consider the risks when I buckle up in the morning.

    I concede that people have sacrificed their lives, but when they do it is usually for the good of other human lives or if less noble for less tangible things (fame, glory, honor, etc.).

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