Thursday, September 14, 2006

How to gut your own economy

"Evil, evil, evil!" So says Europe.

Think a bit on how you would go about hamstringing your own economy... Saddle it with a large layer of bureaucracy, check; Foster mistrust of anything necessary for modern life, check; try to sell it as "health savings" to the populace; check.

Can Europe pull this off? Certainly they are making a REACH for it...


Anonymous JPS said...

Major John,

I yield to no one in my contempt for overregulation, or for silly scaremongering about chemicals. I think the EU generally has a tendency toward bureaucratic overreach, which will generally tend to drag on their economy.

Having said that, I'm not sure I see what's so bad here, and on a quick skim of the link I don't see REACH denoting chemicals as "Evil!" for being, you know, icky chemicals. I do think the picture is funny--I'd bet a lot that those solutions are just water with food coloring--but the description of the program doesn't shock me.

Can I ask you to be more specific as to your objection, sir?

7:02 PM  
Blogger Major John said...

Certainly JPS,

The program looks swell. Lets tell everyone about chemicals!

However, the costs of complaince, even by the EUs own admission will run in the billions of Euros. To what end? To sustain a large group of taxpayer funded industrial hygienests, epidemiologists, support staff, chemists, biochemists, Public Health officials (not MDs, mind you, but MPH types) and a vast bureauocracy to maintain....MSDS sheets?
The whole explanation for why they are doing this is that chemicals=illness. OK, but do you need to "register" helium? Liquid Nitrogen? Oxygen?
Overbearing in scope, profoundly expensive, as I am sure you know any EU project will be.
Where these "savings" come in is a mystery too. So you "register" benzene - if you determine, yes, there are health effects of benzene, do you ban it? Regulate it even more than it is now?
This strikes me as a program that is being put forth to answer questions that haven't been determined. It will grow and grow and grow - all sold by fear. These are the same folks walking in protest with giant paper mache puppets of "Frankenfood"...

8:24 PM  
Anonymous JPS said...

Thanks for the response, Major John. I see a little more clearly why you were so critical.

What I'd been wondering about was to what extent there could be less to this than meets the eye, in that their chemical industries already operate under a pretty heavy regulatory burden; to what extent is this an opportunity to streamline procedures and regulations? (Probably I need to read more closely!)

Also, I notice the part about giving industry more responsibility to find out health effects of the chemicals they use. Sounds to me like a huge unfunded mandate. OTOH, might industry not be able to do this more cheaply than the EC bureaucracy?

Mind you I'm not arguing with you, just curious. I completely agree with you on the climate of fear where activists carry puppets of "Frankenfood" and aren't even joking, and I well accept that a government bureaucracy could seek to capitalize on or even inflame that fear, to keep themselves necessary.

And I'm skeptical about that 50-billion-Euro savings in health costs: It's hard for me to believe there are actually health costs of that magnitude (or, OK, a couple billion per year) due to sloppy chemical handling that could be readily avoided through better regulation. As George Will has written, it is claimed of most government programs that they will actually pay for themselves.

As for benzene, I'm awfully glad I'm still allowed to use it. (Usually you can use toluene instead, but sometimes there's just no substitute.) I'm also glad the regulations on its use and disposal have become so much more burdensome than in the 50s, when, I've read, some in industry pretty much washed their hands in the stuff.

"Frankenfood" made me laugh. Ah well; we have similar loons here. Did you ever see the ad taken out by some activist group in the late '90s against food irradiation? Shows a mushroom cloud over a sumptuous plate of spaghetti, with the caption in scare font: "The Department of Energy has a new solution to the problem of nuclear waste. THEY WANT TO PUT IT IN YOUR FOOD!"

Normally this kind of thing makes me crazy, but the unintentional parody was so over-the-top, I just smile every time I remember it.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Major John said...


I think you are reacting with a little better sense of calm than I am, heh heh. I fled the asbestos litigation world and landed in insurance... the alarms are already ringing about what this is going to do to the businesses we insure in Europe. Let us just say there sure aren't many rosy predictions being made.
Your points were well made - and I think, perhaps a more humorous approach would have worked better - ie. the Lost in Space Robot saying, "Danger Will Robinseau! Chemie!" under that phot...hmmm. Maybe I will update that later.

11:02 PM  
Blogger Citizen Deux said...

Let's see, modern chemical manufacturing. One of the last bastions of European leadership. Stand by for a scuttling to make the events at Scapa Flow in 1919 look like a tea party.

2:41 PM  

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