CIVIL DEFENSE PERSPECTIVES

 

July 1996 (vol. 12, #5) 1601 N Tucson Blvd #9, Tucson AZ 85716 c 1996 Physicians for Civil Defense

 

DEATH BY BUREAUCRACY

 

``If the verdict comes back guilty, it will qualify as one of the most awful serial killings of modern times. It is a crime that epitomizes the darkest features of our bureaucratic age,'' wrote the Wall Street Journal on August 5, 1992.

The defendants in this crime were ``themselves...not the villains we are used to. They are not sadists or greedy; they are well-mannered successful people with good records.''

The problem: ``these mere men operated a system of great power and authority. None individually were responsible; the system was assigned responsibility.'' And the victims were dead because they were not seen.

The defendants were technocrats charged with serving an abstraction called ``the national interest.'' And the victims were like those truckdrivers that former French President Francois Mitterrand denigrated as ``the serfs of today.''

The actions of bureaucrats-and the actions they demand from mere citizens-are summarized simply: ``It's the law.'' That's just what a clerk at Tellson's bank said when Jerry Cruncher complained of the barbarity of quartering. (``It's hard enough to kill [a man], but it's wery hard to spile him.'') But in London at the time of the French Revolution, the precept at the Old Bailey was, in Charles Dickens's view, that ``whatever was, was right'' [cf. res judicata in American jurisprudence].

Death is Nature's remedy for all things, and why not Legislation's? Accordingly, the forger was put to Death; the utterer of a bad note was put to Death; the unlawful opener of a letter was put to Death; the purloiner of forty shillings and sixpence was put to Death; the holder of a horse at Tellson's door, who made off with it, was put to Death; the coiner of a bad shilling was put to Death;... (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities).

Government as a serial killer reached its epitome in the 20th century, with a toll of 170 million citizens killed, not counting the victims of war (Walter Williams, ``Mankind's most brutal institution,'' 1995), mostly in the name of some national interest, for pretexts less serious than coining a bad shilling.

The victims of murderous totalitarian regimes were mostly ignored. But at least we have not imitated that remedy; we have had no tumbrils rolling toward the guillotine.

However, the number of crimes proliferates, and their nature becomes ever more Dickensonian. The Kassebaum-Kennedy ``insurance reform'' bill (on the verge of becoming law), makes federal criminals of: the writer of a bad code on an insurance claim; the utterer of a misstatement to a health plan; the unlawful opener of a medical record or one who unlawfully refuses to disclose a medical record to a law-enforcer or data bank; and the purloiner of an ``unnecessary medical service.''

Under other laws or regulations, we already have criminals who unlawfully perform a laboratory test, or prescribe a nonapproved treatment, or use a nonapproved medical device, or throw a blood-soaked sponge into undocumented trash, or sell CFCs, or fill in a ditch that turns out to be a ``wetland.''

These criminals are not sentenced to death, although if imprisoned they could suffer death at the hands of violent inmates or catch a fatal disease. The sentence is more likely to be financial and professional ruin-even if the accused can never be shown to have harmed a single human being.

But death by bureaucracy is rampant, even if this remedy is consciously intended only by environmental extremists. The victims are those the rules are supposedly designed to protect, and the perpetrators are more likely to be rewarded with a larger fiefdom than to be punished or even scorned.

The anatomy of the crime was dissected brilliantly by the Wall Street Journal , although even their editorialist saw only a few thousand of the most obvious victims: 2,000 hemophiliacs who received blood contaminated with the human immunodeficiency virus. The bureaucrats, who pleaded ``responsible, but not guilty,'' had simply been protecting the interests of their new $5 million blood lab.

These victims, at least, were seen, though only after the fact. Many thousands of victims will never be identifiable, but some are at least trying to estimate their number.

When the law concerns itself with trivia, the result is death, even if no one is hanged for a bad shilling. One reason is simple misallocation of resources, say by trading fire trucks for lower dichloropropane concentrations in water, or new drug development for a lower occupational limit for formaldelyde. The count: 60,000 extra deaths per year (Shanahan and Thierer, How to Talk About Risk: How Well-Intentioned Regulations Can Kill, Heritage Foundation, 4/23/96).

Another method is by forcing people to take higher risks. For example, car fuel economy standards may be killing up to 3,900 people per year by mandating smaller cars (CEI). Even one of the most effective federal agencies, the Federal Aviation Administration, credited with costing only $23,000 per life saved, probably costs lives. Most notoriously, FAA Administrator David Hinson calmed tens of thousands of people into flying ValuJet-in planes he called too dangerous to fly only five weeks later. Less noticeably, the FAA obstructs the updating of the air traffic control system (Joan Beck, Arizona Daily Star 6/23/96).

Arguably the most harmful, and certainly one of the most powerful agencies, which regulates products comprising about 25% of all U.S. consumer goods by value, is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA causes deaths by diverting huge resources to things like orange-juice labeling; by doubling the cost of bringing a new drug to market; by delaying the release of life-saving products; and even directly by withdrawing devices needed to maintain the lives of individuals. (As many as several hundred premature infants died when the FDA outlawed the Life Pulse High Frequency Jet Ventilator -see Higgs, Hazardous to Our Health?, p. 2.)

Even before the costs of new international regulations (the Montreal Protocol or proposed ``carbon taxes'') are figured in, the regulatory burden on the economy is around $583 billion (Wall St J 4/13/93), or about 8% of a $7 trillion GDP. Some think the abstract dollar cost is not too high a price to pay for human safety and the welfare of the Planet.

The key issue is not dollars, but death. Indirect deaths (from economic loss, see p. 2), and direct deaths, inflicted by nameless bureaucrats on nameless human beings. For this, the lawmakers are both responsible and guilty.

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Health, Wealth, and Regulation

 

The cost of each $7.5 million increase in the regulatory burden on Americans is one human life, according to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Life expectancy in America is correlated with wealth, not with regulation, as is shown by these figures from the Heritage Foundation (op cit.):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Insights on the FDA

 

The history of the FDA's acquisition of powers, and the evidence that FDA regulation could actually be counterproductive, is recounted is a scholarly book edited by Robert Higgs (Hazardous to Our Health? FDA Regulation of Health Care Products, Independent Institute, 134 Ninety-Eighth Ave., Oakland, CA 94603, 1995).

Some highlights:

Ø ``Coupling science, police power, and a doctrine of infallibility is a fundamentally flawed national policy that is extremely dangerous.''

Ø ``The FDA makes the old Soviet Gosplan look like a dealer in nuance.''

Ø ''The FDA is a full-service government bureaucracy....[I]t is promulgator, police, judge, jury, and executioner, all rolled into one.''

 

[The DDP meeting in Salt Lake City features Henry I. Miller, who held various positions at the FDA from 1979 to 1993.]

 

Sustainable Freedom?

 

Maurice Strong, probably the most powerful man in the Green Crusade today, lamented: ``Isn't the ONLY hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn't it our responsibility to bring that about?'' (See ``Sustainable Freedoms,'' by Floy Lilley, ecologic, PO Box 191, Hollow Rock, TN 38342, March/April 1996. ``Unsustainable,'' in his view, are: air-conditioning, home appliances, fossil fuels-and the current population of the earth.

Notes from the Global Biodiversity Assessment, the basis for the Clinton Sustainable Development Program: ``A reasonable [population] estimate for an industrialized world society at the present North American material standard of living would be 1 billion people.'' OR ``an agricultural world, in which most human beings are peasants, should be able to support 5 to 7 billion people.''

The Wildlands Projects to which the GBA refers recommends that ``at least half the land area of the 48 coterminous states...be encompassed in core reserves and inner corridor zones...within the next few decades....During the initial stages..., there may be a transition period while local inhabitants are provided with options for relocation outside the area.''

[Source: Sustainable Freedom Coalition, Box 220, Lubec, ME 04652, quoted in the DeWeese Report, June 1996.]

 

A Government That Saves Lives

 

One government, located at the crossroads of European wars, has succeeded in avoiding war for the entire 20th century, and 85 years of the 19th century.

Switzerland lacks: purple hearts, military cemeteries, war widows and orphans, and battlefield cripples. Switzerland has: troops too tough to battle, tank traps too brutal on tanks, impregnable fortifications, deadly fields of fire, sky-high antiaircraft positions, booby traps par excellence, and protective shelters for its citizens (Journal of Civil Defense, summer 1996.)

The United States of America has what Switzerland lacks, and it lacks what Switzerland has.

The American set-up for megadeath-hundreds of billions for regulation but no civilian defense-will be the backdrop for the 14th annual DDP meeting (see enclosed flyer). Life-saving technology, from simple expedient survival tools to advanced missile defense, will be the focus. For further information, call DDP at (520)325-2680.

``It appears to your Majesty's slave that we are very deficient in means, and have not the shells and rockets used by the barbarians. We must, therefore, adopt other methods to stop them, which will be easy, as they have opened negotiations.''

Kee Shen, report to the Chinese Emperor, 1841