nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
See here for more discussion.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Your Government At Work. I Could Have Been Killed

We're weathered in, pretty much, but I had to run to the store.  It's heartwarming to know the government is there to protect me from respiratory and carcinogenic hazards.

This is the first time I've seen this warning on a product.

If you can't read the picture this is what it says: 
"CALIFORNIA PROPOSITION 65 WARNING:  Combustion of this manufactured product results in the emissions of carbon monoxide, soot and other combustion by-products which are known by the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm."
I'm eternally grateful for the huge mistake I could have made.  Those "emissions" sound horrible, and it gives me shivers to think how close I came to cancer...or reproductive harm (at my age).

Take a look at this dastardly hazard:

But it's cold, and I needed to light the fireplace.  So, to heck with it.

Now that I've had my little joke...the story's true...consider for a moment:

1.  California proposed a law or regulation that covered this product.  They probably spent several million dollars putting together the list of hazardous items.
2.  They hired people to write the regulation, which probably took a couple of years.  Let's say 10 people at $50,000 a year.
3.  The policy document went through an extensive review up and down, through the state agencies and political organizations, was revised several times, and eventually approved.
4.  A contract was let to produce the sticker for this product, containing all the correct words:  "warning," "emissions," "known," "cause."  (Imagine the fiery committee meetings where bureaucrats violently disagreed over whether it should say "causes" or "is associated with".  This is the stuff of legend)
5.  The industry, anticipating that if they didn't get the sticker on each box prior to the point when fines would begin--and force them to pull all their product off the shelves--rushed to get ahead of the state.

So, what did this cost the bankrupt state of California to let me know that matches catch fire and give off smoke...and that I shouldn't breathe it instead of atmospheric air?

For those that say, "OK, this was overkill, but we need to be safe,"  here's a quotation from The Bed of Procrustes, a recently published book of aphorisms:
"Don't talk about "progress" in terms of longevity, safety, or comfort before comparing zoo animals to those in the wilderness."
--Nassim Nicholas Taleb

For those that say it is a moral imperative that we protect our fellow man, here's one from T. S. Eliot:
"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important.  They don't mean to do harm--but the harm does not interest them.  Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."
 If this sounds too libertarian, fine.  But there needs to be a balance between care for our fellow man (which doesn't include using public funds to tell me about matches), and responsible self management.

Rant over.

Doc D

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