Thursday, February 5, 2015

The end of public health?

This is Joseph.

In a sense, this one is just too easy to parody:
There’s a certain sort of Republican who likes to talk about the problems of big government.  The basic problem with these guys is that when you ask them for examples of how we could reduce the size of government, the best they can think of is hand-washing.  Not the drug war, not mass surveillance, not the prison system, not police abusing suspects, not the bloated defense budget, but hand-washing.

The worst thing you can say about mandating those “Employees must wash hands” signs is that anyone sensible would post those signs anyway.  That’s the absolute worst thing you can say about that rule.
There are a lot of things that infringe upon a person's liberty.  It is a precondition of living in a society that you need to be able to make trade-offs between absolute freedom and the benefit of numbers.  Even very libertarian societies (think of Vikings, with the personal enforcement of legal judgments and interesting ideas like "outlaw" status) had a framework to handle disputes and to enforce the acceptable code of conduct between people. 

But these sorts of rules (that reduce the risk of infection via a passive reminder system) really do seem to be a low priority.  There are some regulations that really harm small businesses, and they are worth talking about.  But this sort of reform seems to be a very low priority area, even if you did think that the signs were a bad idea. 

[and this is a non-partisan comment on my part, it is easy for any group to set poor priorities and focus on the small and inconsequential]

1 comment:

  1. In this context, it is probably worth mentioning that most of the regulations that truly hamper small business, such as licensing requirements, are the province of state and local government. Yet when Republicans talk about shrinking government, they almost always mean the Federal government. In fact, they usually want to give more power to state and local government.

    While I don't want to argue that all Federal rules are well crafted and important, I think it is true that most Federal regulations serve important public health and safety purposes that easily justify their impact on business.