How do we measure the value of a human life?

How do we measure the value of a human life?

Originally published in the Big Lake Times, April 22, 2020.
The  idea that there was actually a value placed on human life really hit  the mainstream in the early 70s with the emergence of a Mother Jones  article on the exploding Ford Pinto fuel tank. For the first time,  Americans became aware that a company (Ford) placed a value on human  life… and if that value, times “x” number of deaths, was less than the  cost of fixing the exploding tank, then Ford would not fix the fuel  tank

To  you and I, the value of our life is limitless. And the American Justice  System generally considers a human life priceless in the sight of the  law. This is what theoretically prevents human trafficking and slavery.  In statistical economics theory, however, the value of a life is used to  quantify the benefit of avoiding or preventing a fatality. In the  social and political science disciplines it is the marginal cost of  preventing death in varying situations and circumstances. This “value”  could include the leftover life expectancy as well as the earning  potential of the affected group, etc.

The  cost of reducing the average number of deaths by one, which is known as  the marginal cost, is (or should be) an important statistic in any  discussion on COV-19.  Currently, it does not appear this type of  discussion is all that important to anyone. We have spent trillions,  tanked our economy, and our leaders are blindly driving us into another  depression, which could affect many millions more people, and in worse  ways, than the virus.

We  need to recognize that there are limited resources such as health care,  medicine, food, and even money. And we need to understand that it is  impossible to save every life no matter how hard we try; no matter how  much, or how many, of those resources we expend or lose, or how much of  our liberty we give up….


No, Ethan… It’s Our Money

No, Ethan… It’s Our Money

Originally published in Make A Scene Magazine, Jan 21, 2020.

There is a misunderstanding among some of our legislators regarding the definition and purpose of a “dividend.” It’s apparent that many lawmakers, and some Alaskans, have either forgotten why we have a Permanent Fund Dividend, or forgotten why it was instituted in the first place. There’s a further disconnect in the basic understanding how a dividend encourages the permanence of the Permanent Fund.

Merriam-Webster defines dividend as “an individual share of something distributed such as a share in a pro-rata distribution (as for profits) to stockholders. Profits are distributed to shareholders as dividends.”

The Dividend from the Permanent Fund (the PFD) was never intended to be welfare, which is apparently where it currently resides as a line-item in the state budget. In addition to providing a bit of money back for our co-ownership of the states mineral wealth, just like any dividend, it was also a means for the shareholders – the residents of Alaska in this case – to monitor the management, or mismanagement, of our Permanent Fund.

Senator Giessel is correct when she says that a dividend was not the original intent of the Permanent Fund. The Permanent Fund itself was set up to pay for State government when oil ran out. It is a mistake, however, to say there is no constitutional right to the PFD.

The Permanent Fund by design is itself constitutional. The Dividend is a voter-approved byproduct of that constitutional legislation – one that ties Alaskan’s to THEIR Permanent Fund. Because we voted to create the PFD, a vote is required to amend the formula, to terminate it completely, or even to send some of it to communities for their use. Currently the formula, as applied, and the “appropriation,” is in violation of the Constitution of the State of Alaska as well as the will of the people. Since it was such a huge material change to the PFD, the people should have been allowed to vote on SB26 which changed the formula as well as changing the Dividend from a mere budgetary “transfer” to an appropriation…Read More…