The Precautionary Principle Erodes Our Liberties

Blair’s nanny state is evolving into totalitarianism, and the culprit is the Precautionary Principle meme.

A meme is a
mental virus:

…one can roughly define ‘meme’ as any piece of information transferable from one mind to another. Examples might include thoughts, ideas, theories, practices, habits, songs, dances and moods.

Memes can be good or bad – an example of a bad meme was the belief during the 1980s that groups of adults were committing “satanic abuse” of kids, which led to terrible injustices.

The Precautionary Principle (PP) is a bad meme:

The precautionary principle, a phrase first used in English circa 1988, is the idea that if the consequences of an action are unknown, but are judged to have some potential for major or irreversible negative consequences, then it is better to avoid that action. The principle can alternately be applied in an active sense, through the concept of “preventative anticipation”, or a willingness to take action in advance of scientific proof of evidence of the need for the proposed action on the grounds that further delay will prove ultimately most costly to society and nature, and, in the longer term, selfish and unfair to future generations.

Examples of the PP range from the the Kyoto treaty to the the mass administration of the drug Ritalin to control the (normal) behavior of small boys.

The problem with the PP is that it doesn’t balance costs and benefits. So unlike Bayesian decision making, the mere existence of a risk justifies any cost. Here are three current Brit examples:

First, the Brit MSM is howling for the blood of alleged pedophiles, and the Blair government is bending (my emphasis):

Ministers are to be stripped of their power to decide whether people charged with sex offences should be cleared to teach in schools.

Note “charged with”, rather than “convicted”! Google does not reveal any actual instances of pedophile acts by schoolteachers in the UK, although there have been cases of romantic entanglement between teachers and older kids – regrettable but not pedophilia. But now people suspected by the cops of pedophilia will deprived of their livelihood, without trial.

The next application of the PP addresses the risks that criminals might be wrongly acquitted:

Tony Blair is planning a revolution in the legal system that would mean up to a million petty criminals a year being dealt with by prosecutors and the police without ever going to court.

Defendants who plead guilty to offences such as shoplifting, theft and criminal damage would have their punishment decided by the prosecutor, in consultation with the police, instead of going to court.

The plan would represent a revolution in the criminal justice system which has always been based on the principle that sentencing should be weighed in court, with the defence entering a plea in mitigation in response to the prosecution’s case.

Every accused person is innocent until proven guilty – regardless of any confession, which may have been coerced, and justice should fit the circumstances of the crime. So alleged pretty criminals join alleged pedophiles in being excluded from the legal process the Brits gave to the civilized world.

A final example will amuse US readers bored with the lefty whines about NSA tapping Al Queda’s phone calls:

Blair may drop 40-year bar on tapping MPs’ telephones
The Prime Minister is understood to favour an end to the ban but faces opposition from colleagues…An announcement on the issue, which comes under an expansion of MI5 powers since the London bombings, is expected within weeks.

Blair gave IRA terrorists seats in Parliament, but rather than fix that problem, he’s adopted the PP and all MPs phones will be tappable. Just in case.


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