Laws Of Fear : Beyond The Precautionary Principle Essay example

Laws Of Fear : Beyond The Precautionary Principle Essay example

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In Cass Sunsten’s book entitled, Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle, Sunstein discusses the shortcomings of the Precautionary Principle. Sunstein expresses that the Precautionary Principle does not just lead to bad outcomes, but that it can be paralyzing. He articulates how governments or regulatory groups must protect against potential harmful things even if it is unknown that these harms will actually come to be. He sees that risk exist in all social situations, but precautionary steps also can create their own dangers. Depending on culture, different types of risk are focused upon. Things like peer pressure can emphasize some fears and yet reduce others. Sunstein thinks that rather than adopting what is known a the Precautionary Principle, feels we should follow three steps. The first is Anti-Catastrophe Principle. This is for very serious risks. Secondly, he advocates for paying attention to the costs and benefits assessment. And thirdly, he advocates for an approach the is called “libertarian paternalism”. Libertarian paternalism respects that people should have the freedom of choice in order to improve their lives.

In the world we live in, we want to minimize any risk. Until we feel safe, we are very cautious. Most people live by the motto, “better safe than sorry”. For example, we buy insurance even thought the likelihood of needing it is slim. A lot of people feel the same way about how regulations and laws should be approached.

Different places and different people will choose which risks need precautions. Sunstein points out that psychology can explain this. He focuses on five factors – the availability heuristic, probability neglect, loss aversion, a belief in benevolence of nature and system neglect.


... middle of paper ... followed in order to negate the concerns of arguments such as the “slippery slope”.

An alternative to the Precautionary Principle is cost-benefit analysis. Using cost-benefit analysis one compares the cost with the benefits. This is usually based on a common measure such as money. Sunstein introduces the concept of “cognitive cost-benefit analysis p. 129. This type of analysis does not depend on an economic analysis, but instead shows what may be at stake by making some regulatory decisions. Sunstein is not overly fond of this method either.

Sunstein writes a chapter called “Libertarian Paternalism. He explains how opposing sides of a regulation can be settled. He explains that Libertarians believe in freedom of choice and paternalists believe that a state/nation should ensure their people get the most beneficial results. Maybe some can put an example with this?

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