Combining Equity and the Precautionary Principle: Examples Drawn from Hog Production in Poland

By Hayden, F. Gregory | Journal of Economic Issues, June 2005 | Go to article overview

Combining Equity and the Precautionary Principle: Examples Drawn from Hog Production in Poland


Hayden, F. Gregory, Journal of Economic Issues


Equity criteria are one set of efficiency criteria crucial for evaluating and judging production institutions and processes. Efficiency means the ability to produce a desired effect. Before efficiency can be determined, criteria must be established with regard to what is desirable. Equity--that is, fairness and justice--is one of the effects desired from production processes. (1) Thus, (1) by definition, equity and efficiency cannot be separated. (2) Neither can they be separated in real-world production processes. If, for example, the loss of workers' respiratory health due to work in a hog production facility is considered unfair and unjust treatment of workers, the technological process is inefficient. (3) Nor can the two be separated for modeling and evaluation and be consistent with instrumentalism, which emphasizes that means and ends should not be separated in analysis because means and ends are a continuum. Likewise, to separate process from result and attempt to judge either one as the exclusive equity concern is an instrumental mistake. Consequently, attempts to separate equity from efficiency are not supported by definition, reality, or instrumental methodology. (2)

The purpose here is to use the author's methodological advice regarding the modeling of criteria, rules, regulations, and requirements (Hayden 1998) and to build on Steven Bolduc's application of that methodology (2004) in order to explain how to approach policy regarding equity issues. "Policy design and assessment should be guided by the recognition of social, ecological, and technological interdependence and by the discovery of evaluative criteria consistent with this interdependence" (Bolduc 2004, 181). There is no global set of equity criteria or global metric for a particular criteria set. The criteria set and metric depend on the problem chosen to study and the institutional situation studied. Experience drawn from hog production in Poland is utilized here to demonstrate real-world situations and decisions regarding equity concerns.

Poland has recently experienced the entry of large hog-producing corporations from higher-income countries; these corporations have rapidly established large confinement facilities for swine. Smithfield Foods, Inc., the largest hog producer (with about one-third of total hog production in the United States) and largest pork processor in the United States, has been the most notable and powerful of these corporations and is responsible for establishing processes that exemplify inequity and lack of precaution. (3) Media reports explain that the odor emanating from Smithfield hog facilities in Poland is horrible. At one facility, the Washington Post Weekly reported: "What it smells like is manure, with the most odor coming from a steaming mountain of pig waste and straw located at the edge of the property in an empty, frost covered field" (February 9-15, 2004). Such pollution treatment is inconsistent with socially accepted normative criteria. The migration of hog production to Poland is, in part, a case of environmental inequity, which is defined as the disproportionate location of dirty industries and waste sites for hazardous and toxic waste in low-income communities, thereby delivering elevated health risks to those with less income.

Normative Criteria Combined for Equity

Three sets of normative social criteria, to include equity criteria, are involved in the functioning of institutions. They are belief ([N.sub.B]), ecological ([N.sub.E]), and technological ([N.sub.T]). These norms are the standards for judging whether institutional patterns are appropriate. Belief norms are criteria that are enforced by the social process. Normalized beliefs are the societal criteria used to determine what institutional activity is acceptable and unacceptable. Ecological norms result from institutions delivering to and receiving from the ecological system. The interconnection between the two requires that ecological criteria be established and that rules, regulations, and requirements be established for institutional operations consistent with [N.

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Combining Equity and the Precautionary Principle: Examples Drawn from Hog Production in Poland
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