The Price of Precaution and the Ethics of Risk

The International Library of Ethics, Law and Technology

Book 6
Springer Science & Business Media
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Christian Munthe undertakes an innovative, in-depth philosophical analysis of what the idea of a precautionary principle is and should be about. A novel theory of the ethics of imposing risks is developed and used as a foundation for defending the idea of precaution in environmental and technological policy making against its critics, while at the same time avoiding a number of identified flaws. The theory is shown to have far-reaching practical conclusions for areas such as bio-, information- and nuclear technology, and global environmental policy in areas such as climate change. The author argues that, while the price we pay for precaution must not be too high, we have to be prepared to pay it in order to act ethically defensible. A number of practical suggestions for precautionary regulation and policy making are made on the basis of this, and some challenges to basic ethical theory as well as consumerist societies, the global political order and liberal democracy are identified.

Munthe’s book is a well-argued contribution to the PP debate, putting neglected justificatory and methodological questions at the forefront. His many discussions of alternative accounts as well as his drawing out the consequences of his own suggestion in practical cases give the reader a thorough, holistic sense of what justification of PP amounts to. /..../ Munthe’s main case, his argumentation for the requirement of precaution as a moral norm, is convincing and puts a strong pressure on too narrow alternative suggestions on how it should be perceived and justified, and he launches a plausible defence of its practical usability.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Springer Science & Business Media
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Published on
May 19, 2011
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Pages
192
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ISBN
9789400713307
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / Environmental
Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
Philosophy / General
Philosophy / Reference
Political Science / General
Political Science / History & Theory
Science / Environmental Science
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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While we cannot hope to provide definitive answers to these questions, as political scientists we proceed from the assumption that much can be learned through the application of the existing tools of comparative political analysis. Two of the incidents occurred in developing countries (one a parliamentary democracy, the other a democratizing presidential system), and one occurred in a highly developed presidential democracy. All three countries are federal systems, with multiple layers of environmental regulation, although sub-national government seems to be better institutionalized and more effective in the United States. Only one of the incidents occurred within the sovereign territory of a country with an effective federal environmental protection agency and highly transparent policy and judicial processes. None of the three nation-states involved has a strong “green” political party. And the affected communities in all three cases remain dissatisfied with the outcomes to varying degrees. What can we make of these observations? Is there a systematic relationship between them (or any other political, social, cultural or economic factors) and the responses to environmental crises by nation-states? To answer these questions a more systematic analysis of the attendant political processes is needed. Only then can we suggest whether hope or despair is a more appropriate reaction. 1. 2 Global Environmental Issues Since the 1960s, environmental issues have entered the agendas of most nation-states. Pollution of land, air, and water have endangered ecosystems and public health, and called for a governmental response.
Environmental policy in its broadest context has been significantly revitalized and renewed during the last two decades. That observation is nothing new, attested to by the number of publications, conferences and both private and public projects that have been initiated. However, our understanding of the dynamics of this renewal has generally been informed by studies on single policies and projects, leaving us with a limited understanding of what the ‘newness’ consists of in terms of an integrated perspective.

This book presents fresh analyses of a number of well-known cases, but does so from one comprehensive view, the so-called policy arrangement approach. Cases discussed range over organic farming, integrated water management, nature policy, cultural heritage policy, integrated region-oriented policy, corporate environmental management and target group policy, always in search of the commonality of experience and conclusions to be drawn in understanding the past and in formulating future perspectives.

A major conclusion can be summarised as ‘lots of dynamics, not much change’. The observed dynamics mainly result from discursive innovations and from the entrance of new actors and stakeholders. Stability of new undertakings is provided by established power relations and other pre-existing institutional structures. In this interplay of dynamics and stability, ‘deep’ policy change has rarely been found. Government still remains more important than governance. At the same time, though, societal developments such as Europeanisation, globalisation and individualisation, are tending to both reveal the need for, and induce steps toward, more fundamental changes. Traces of such movement are indeed observable, if less dramatic than expected.

Medical or health-oriented screening programs are amongst the most debated aspects of health care and public health practices in health care and public health ethics, as well as health policy discussions. In spite of this, most treatments of screening in the research literature restrict themselves to isolated scientific aspects, sometimes complemented by economic analyses or loose speculations regarding policy aspects. At the same time, recent advances in medical genetics and technology, as well as a rapidly growing societal focus on public health concerns, inspires an increase in suggested or recently started screening programs.

This book involves an in-depth analysis of the ethical, political and philosophical issues related to health-oriented screening programs. It explores the considerations that arise when heath care interacts with other societal institutions on a large scale, as is the case with screening: What values may be promoted or compromised by screening programs? What conflicts of values do typically arise – both internally and in relation to the goals of health care, on the one hand, and the goals of public health and the general society, on the other? What aspects of screening are relevant for determining whether it should be undertaken or not and how it should be organised in order to remain defensible? What implications does the ethics of screening have for health care ethics as a whole?

These questions are addressed by applying philosophical methods of conceptual analysis, as well as models and theories from moral and political philosophy, medical ethics, and public health ethics, to a large number of ongoing and proposed screening programs which makes this book the first comprehensive work on the ethics of screening. Analyses and suggestions are made that are of potential interest to health care staff, medical researchers, policy makers and the general public.

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