Monday, October 17, 2005

The worst crime of the 20th century. Whodunnit?

In my Libertarianism in One Lesson, I point out the libertarian principle that "All food, drugs, and medical treatments should be entirely unregulated: every industry should be able to kill 300,000 per year in the US like the tobacco industry."

Reality dwarfs my cynicism. Tim Lambert, in
The worst crime of the 20th century. Whodunnit? points out that the pesticide industry is attempting to blame Rachel Carson and her green followers for malarial deaths. But in reality, that industry is responsible for the deaths because they have fostered pesticide resistance in mosquitos through indiscriminant sales of their pesticides. Their accusations range from 50 to 90 million.



I don't think you can pin that one on the pesticide industry Mike.

DDT *reduces* malaria deaths (that is - without the effect of DDT the total number of deaths would have been even higher)

The graph showing an increase in deaths was only the number of deaths returning to what


The graph showing an increase in deaths was only the number of deaths returning to what it 'naturally' would have been without DDT (As mosquitos developed resistence, DDT no longer had a protective effect).

Mark Plus said...

I've wondered about libertarians who buy organic produce. Why would they do that when their own belief system explicitly advocates unregulated pesticide use?

Mike Huben said...

The reason that it no longer has a protective effect IN SOME COUNTRIES is the indiscriminant use encouraged by the chemical industry. If the DDT use had been constrained to household protection, the resistance would not have developed because of the overwhelming numbers of outdoors mosquitos. This has been demonstrated in numerous other countries.

The idea is that malaria is primarily transmitted by bites that occur at night, in homes. Those are the mosquitos that need to be controlled, not all mosquitos.

Mark Plus, while I wouldn't hesitate to point out libertarian inconsistancies, all that indicates is a preference. They'd allow unrestricted use, but prefer to buy untreated, and rely on the market to persuade growers to apply or not apply pesticides.

The difference is that liberals would like to forbid use when there are significant public health issues involved, and especially when the public health issues involve economic externalities.