Politicians and bureaucrats have to face trade-offs while deciding on policies affecting health and longevity. Is it worth it to spend X amount of money on this new drug, a new medical device, safety improvements on a dangerous stretch of road and so on. This all boils down to quantifying the numeric value of a human life in monetary terms. While it is natural to decry this practice on the face of it, what realistic alternative approach is available? The obvious answer coming from my inner libertarian is to transfer the responsibility for the healthcare system, infrastructure and so on to the private sphere. Then people can decide for themselves the amount of risk they are willing to bear compared to cost.
One of the truly great things about our civilization is the amount of effort we are willing to spend in order to save human life. It is concrete evidence of how much we appreciate the inherent value of life. If someone goes missing during a hike, helicopters and throngs of volunteers will scour a search area in defense of that person’s life. Even if it is only one life at stake, this response is automatic. Another example in a similar vein is the Chilean mine rescue. Hundreds of people and a tremendous amount of money was spent in order to effectuate the salvation of the trapped miners. Even though they were trapped tremendously far underground and rescue would entail months of hard work, it was still done.
People from all around the globe followed the story and sent their best wishes. Companies, foreign governments and private actors all contributed to making the rescue attempt possible and also to speed it along. Three different drill teams worked simultaneously in order to make the ordeal of the miners as short as possible. It says a lot that we went the extra mile, we didn’t settle on a single drilling operation being mindful of the costs involved. Saving human life took priority. People rarely spend the time, money and effort to repair their devices and possessions in the present age. We prefer the convenience of buying new replacements. I find it heart-warming that we take the completely opposite approach when it comes to human life.
Think about the Maersk Alabama hijacking and the Navy SEAL operation that ensued. By the time the US Navy arrived the pirates has left the vessel with “only” one hostage. Several Navy ships were involved in the rescue operation, Navy SEAL operators were flown across the planet, airdropped in together with their equipment, all to protect a single human life from harm. One could of course claim that it was about more than the liberation of the hostage. The principle of swift retaliation for attacking a US flagged vessel could also be invoked as justification for the operation. But still, by the point the military arrived the pirates has left the hijacked vessel and were on their merry way home.
I’m not going to delve into the abortion debate here, even though it raises important questions related to the topic at hand. We will save it for another time. I’ll leave you with a thought, take pride in and rejoice over the celebration of life that is at the root of our culture. It is definitely something to take pride in and propagate further.