The Value of a Person's Life in Government's Eyes

Article excerpt

Back in the American Wild West, federal and state governments often put a price on the heads of infamous outlaws like Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Sam Bass, Belle Star and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Today, our government is not so selective. It's seeking to put a price on the head ofeveryAmerican. Not because they've robbed a train, but for a different reason that could lead to a very bad end.

A recent New York Times story summarizes how various government agencies have come up with formulas for determining how much we are worth. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Times notes, has set the value of a human life at $9.1 million, reaching this determination while proposing tighter restrictions on air pollution. During the Bush administration, EPA calculated our value at $6.8 million. Was the difference in price caused by inflation? The EPA didn't say.

The Food and Drug Administration arrived at its own figure for the value of an American life. The FDA, writes the Times, "declared that life was worth $7.9 million last year, up from $5 million in 2008, in proposing warning labels on cigarette packages featuring images of cancer victims."

The Transportation Department -- yes, Transportation -- put our worth at $6 million "to justify recent decisions to impose regulations that the Bush administration had rejected as too expensive, like requiring stronger roofs on cars," according to the Times.

It's nice to know that our government values its citizens beyond what it can extract in taxes. But given the Obama administration's likely pursuit of health care rationing (Dr. Donald Berwick, a wealth redistributionist who heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is a proponent of rationed care) it is easy to forecast where this could lead should human life be regarded as having only that value placed upon it by government, or an agent of the state. …