NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Precautionary Policies Based on Political Grounds

November 18, 2011

Advocates of regulation to advance green chemistry suggest it serves the objective of forcing companies to prove their products are safe before they are allowed on the market.  This may sound reasonable, but since no one can prove safety absolutely, precautionary policies grant government agencies the power to regulate arbitrarily, targeting products for elimination based largely on political, rather than scientific, grounds, say Angela Logomasini and Daniel J. Murphy of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Repeatedly, activists have spread fanciful rumors about major American products, citing negative health effects.  They make charges against chemicals and basic technologies with little empirical backing, yet it would seem that state governments are increasingly willing to give them an ear.

  • In the last eight years, both the number of state chemical laws and the number of states passing toxic chemical reforms have tripled.
  • The end result of this political action, applied to grassroots rumors, is that perfectly viable and safe products are legislated out of the market, to be replaced by sub-par and inefficient knock-offs.

This chain of events precludes the fact that the private sector far better produces safe and green technologies than government-sponsored market interventions.  After all, businesses succeed by providing high-quality, safe products their customers want.  This end goal is furthered by private-sector forces by the creation of non-governmental independent associations of private companies.  Such associations self-regulate their members and establish standards of performance by which they must abide.

The fact that such associations are born naturally of the market further proves their usefulness in ensuring the sale of safe products.  Yet constant government intervention in the markets for chemicals and other technologies can prevent their creation and can damage the natural flow of progress.

Source: Angela Logomasini and Daniel J. Murphy, "Green Chemistry's March of the Ostriches," Competitive Enterprise Institute, November 15, 2011.

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