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The ethical implications of a subjective model of risk asssessment in product safety cases MacDonald, Christopher John 1994

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THE ETHICAL  IMPLICATIONS OF  A SUBJECTIVE MODEL OF RISK ASSESSMENT IN PRODUCT SAFETY CASES by CHRISTOPHER JOHN MACDONALD B.A.(Hons.) T r e n t U n i v e r s i t y ,  1992  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department o f Philosophy)  We accept t h i s t h e s i s as conforming t o t h e r e q u i r e d standard  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA October,  1994  ©Christopher John MacDonald, 1994  In  presenting this  degree  at the  thesis  in  partial  University of  fulfilment  of  of  department  this thesis for or  by  publication of this  his  or  her  Philosophy  October 11, 1994  DE-6 (2/88)  It  thesis for financial gain shall not  The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada  Date  representatives.  for  an advanced  Library shall make  it  agree that permission for extensive  scholarly purposes may be  permission.  Department of  requirennents  British Columbia, I agree that the  freely available for reference and study. I further copying  the  is  granted  by the  understood  that  head of copying  my or  be allowed without my written  ABSTRACT  A number of authors from d i v e r s e f i e l d s have c r i t i c i z e d , i n r e c e n t y e a r s , the e p i s t e m i c assumption t h a t r i s k can be o b j e c t i v e l y determined.  The  impossibility  of  objectively  identifying  and  q u a n t i f y i n g r i s k s poses obvious d i f f i c u l t i e s f o r those seeking t o make r e a s o n a b l e d e c i s i o n s r e g a r d i n g r i s k . the  point  difficult  of  view  of  t o determine  unreasonable  levels  moral  philosophy,  whether our of  More i n t e r e s t i n g l y from  risk.  however,  activities Product  i t becomes  s u b j e c t others  safety  provides  to an  i n t e r e s t i n g c o n t e x t w i t h i n which t o examine the i m p l i c a t i o n s of a s u b j e c t i v e t h e o r y of r i s k assessment.  I t i s a f i e l d which i n v o l v e s  m u l t i p l e s t a k e h o l d e r groups w i t h a wide v a r i e t y of i n t e r e s t s  and  obligations. In t h i s t h e s i s , I f i r s t d i s c u s s c r i t i c i s m s which authors from s e v e r a l f i e l d s have l e v e l l e d a g a i n s t the c l a i m t h a t r i s k  assessment  can be done o b j e c t i v e l y .  I then examine the i m p l i c a t i o n s which a  s u b j e c t i v e model of r i s k  assessment  among  stakeholders  accepting  such  a  i n product model  has  might  safety a  wide  have f o r i n t e r a c t i o n s  cases. variety  I of  suggest  that  implications,  i n c l u d i n g among o t h e r s d i s c r e d i t i n g models of h y p o t h e t i c a l consent, l i m i t i n g the v a l u e of c e r t a i n c r i t e r i a suggested by economists f o r d e c i s i o n making under u n c e r t a i n t y , and s u g g e s t i n g new standards f o r honesty i n p r o d u c t  labelling.  Ill  TABLE OP CONTENTS  Abstract  i i  T a b l e of Contents  i i i  Acknowledgment  iv  Chapter 1:  Introduction  1  Chapter 2:  The S u b j e c t i v i t y of R i s k Assessment  4  Chapter 3:  Consumers, Choice, and t h e S u b j e c t i v i t y of R i s k  22  Chapter 4:  R i s k s t o Others: Responsibility  45  Chapter 5:  E n g i n e e r s and 'Safe' Products  57  Chapter 6:  R e g u l a t o r s and the R e c o n c i l i a t i o n of Diverse Objectives  67  Chapter 7:  Conclusions  82  Bibliography  S u b j e c t i v i t y and Corporate  85  ACKNOWLEDGEMENT The completion o f t h i s t h e s i s would not have been p o s s i b l e without t h e h e l p and encouragement o f s e v e r a l people. F i r s t and foremost, I wish t o thank my s u p e r v i s o r , P r o f e s s o r M i c h a e l McDonald, f o r h i s encouragement and enthusiasm f o r t h i s p r o j e c t from i t s e a r l i e s t stages. H i s comments on d r a f t v e r s i o n s have been i n s i g h t f u l and h e l p f u l , and h i s guidance i s much appreciated. Thanks a l s o t o my reader. P r o f e s s o r P e t e r D a n i e l s o n , f o r s u g g e s t i n g important l i t e r a t u r e and f o r e x c e l l e n t comments on the final draft. Thanks a r e a l s o due t o P r o f e s s o r s James Gaa and C o l i n Boyd. P r o f e s s o r s Gaa and Boyd, both v i s i t i n g s c h o l a r s a t t h e Centre f o r A p p l i e d E t h i c s d u r i n g t h e 1993-4 academic year, p r o v i d e d important i n s i g h t s i n t o product s a f e t y and business e t h i c s , as w e l l as suggesting e x c e l l e n t b i b l i o g r a p h i c a l information. Thanks a l s o t o Shannon Shea f o r h e l p i n p r o o f - r e a d i n g . Her comments r e g a r d i n g both grammatical and c o n c e p t u a l c l a r i t y were invaluable. During t h e completion o f t h i s t h e s i s , I r e c e i v e d e s s e n t i a l f u n d i n g from t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h Columbia i n t h e form o f a University Graduate F e l l o w s h i p , a Teaching Assistantship at U.B.C.'s Department o f P h i l o s o p h y d u r i n g t h e S p r i n g o f 1994, and a Research A s s i s t a n t s h i p a t U.B.C.'s Centre f o r A p p l i e d E t h i c s d u r i n g the F a l l o f 1993 and t h e Summer o f 1994. I thank a l l t h r e e bodies f o r t h e i r generous support. F i n a l l y , thanks t o Kimberly P r o u l x , without whose moral support and encouragement t h i s p r o j e c t might never have been completed. T h i s t h e s i s i s d e d i c a t e d t o my p a r e n t s , A l e x and Linda MacDonald, whose c o n t i n u i n g support f o r my p u r s u i t o f an academic c a r e e r r e v e a l s v e r y c l e a r l y t h e f a i t h they have i n me.  Chapter 1:  Introduction  A number of authors from d i v e r s e f i e l d s have c r i t i c i z e d ,  in  r e c e n t y e a r s , the e p i s t e m i c assumption t h a t r i s k can be o b j e c t i v e l y determined.  Conrad Brunk and h i s c o l l e a g u e s  supposedly  scientific  s u b j e c t i v e and evaluator's have  argued  process  value-laden,  'value  framework.'^  that  organizational  d e t e r m i n i n g which r i s k s we has  and  summarized  the  work  of  risk  that  have argued t h a t  assessment  fact the  Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky culture  numerous  i n d i c a t i n g that r i s k evaluation  in  i t depends c r u c i a l l y on  i s the  s e l e c t for attention.^ of  is  the  main  factor  in  And  Robyn Dawes  psychological  researchers  i s heavily prejudiced  by r e a d i l y  i d e n t i f i a b l e human c o g n i t i v e l i m i t a t i o n s . ^ The risks  i m p o s s i b i l i t y of o b j e c t i v e l y i d e n t i f y i n g and  poses  obvious  difficulties  reasonable decisions regarding r i s k . t h o s e persons — wish t o be  for  those  quantifying  seeking  to  make  Indeed, i t poses problems f o r  and I take t h i s t o i n c l u d e n e a r l y a l l of us —  aware of  important r i s k s a t a l l .  who  Most o b v i o u s l y ,  it  becomes d i f f i c u l t , a t l e a s t t h e o r e t i c a l l y , f o r i n d i v i d u a l s t o make good d e c i s i o n s r e g a r d i n g which a c t i v i t i e s t o p a r t i c i p a t e i n .  More  ^ Conrad G. Brunk, Lawrence Haworth, and Brenda Lee, Value Assumptions i n R i s k Assessment: A Case Study of the A l a c h l o r Controversv. (Waterloo: W i l f r e d L a u r i e r UP, 1991). ^ Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky, R i s k and C u l t u r e : An Essay on the S e l e c t i o n of Technolocfical and Environmental Dangers. (Berkeley: U of C a l i f o r n i a P, 1982). ^ Robyn M. Dawes, R a t i o n a l Choice i n an U n c e r t a i n World. Diego: H a r c o u r t Brace Jovanovich, 1988).  (San  i n t e r e s t i n g l y from t h e p o i n t o f view o f moral p h i l o s o p h y , however, it  becomes d i f f i c u l t  others  t o determine  t o unreasonable  whether our a c t i v i t i e s s u b j e c t  levels of r i s k .  Product s a f e t y p r o v i d e s an  i n t e r e s t i n g c o n t e x t w i t h i n which t o examine t h e i m p l i c a t i o n s of a s u b j e c t i v e t h e o r y o f r i s k assessment.  I t i s a f i e l d which i n v o l v e s  m u l t i p l e s t a k e h o l d e r groups w i t h a wide v a r i e t y o f i n t e r e s t s and obligations.  Product  safety  i s of s p e c i a l  interest  o f course  w i t h i n t h e f i e l d o f b u s i n e s s and p r o f e s s i o n a l e t h i c s , but i t a l s o involves  many  issues of i n t e r e s t  within  political  and  social  philosophy i n general. In t h i s t h e s i s , I propose t o proceed as f o l l o w s .  In chapter  2, I s h a l l d i s c u s s some o f t h e l i t e r a t u r e on t h e s u b j e c t i v i t y of risk  evaluation.  Subjectivity discuss  I  of Risk  briefly  will  present  Assessment  what  Hypothesis.  I  refer  to  as the  In Chapter 3, I s h a l l  t h e i m p l i c a t i o n s which t h e s u b j e c t i v i t y  of r i s k  assessment has f o r consumer d e c i s i o n making w i t h r e g a r d t o product safety. has,  Next, I s h a l l e v a l u a t e t h e impact which t h i s s u b j e c t i v i t y  o r ought  t o have,  'safe' products. as  i t applies  respectively.  on t h e t a s k o f p r o d u c i n g  and marketing  In Chapters 4 and 5, I w i l l examine t h i s  t o c o r p o r a t i o n s and t h e e n g i n e e r s  they  problem employ,  I n Chapter 6, I w i l l examine t h e d i f f i c u l t i e s  posed  by t h e s u b j e c t i v i t y o f r i s k assessment f o r t h e t a s k which productsafety wide  r e g u l a t o r y b u r e a u c r a c i e s f a c e i n attempting t o balance a  range  arguments  of interests. presented  In Chapter  i n the previous  7,  I will  chapters,  summarize the and o f f e r  some  c o n c l u d i n g thoughts on g e n e r a l i m p l i c a t i o n s o f a s u b j e c t i v e model  of r i s k assessment. I favour  turn  now  to a discussion  o f a s u b j e c t i v e theory  of three  distinct  of r i s k assessment.  arguments  Chapter  2;  The S u b j e c t i v i t y of R i s k Assessment  Traditional  risk  components t o r i s k : and  the u t i l i t y  evaluation  assumed  that  there  were  two  t h e p r o b a b i l i t y o f a g i v e n outcome o c c u r r i n g ,  of  that  outcome.  This  b a s i c model  has  been  expanded t o acknowledge the importance of v a l u e s t o t h e d e c i s i o n making p r o c e s s . assessment  According  process,  t o one common c o n c e p t i o n  f o r example,  o f the r i s k  e v a l u a t i o n of r i s k  has  three  elements :  1) What i s the l i k e l i h o o d o f t h e n e g a t i v e 2) How  severe i s t h e n e g a t i v e  outcome?  outcome?  3) What e v a l u a t i o n (importance)  i s p l a c e d on t h i s outcome?**  Step 1) i n v o l v e s determining t h e p r o b a b i l i t y t h a t a g i v e n negative outcome w i l l occur, e i t h e r as a percentage  or as a d e c i m a l .  Step  2) i n v o l v e s d e t e r m i n i n g the s e v e r i t y or magnitude o f t h a t negative outcome.  For example, i s what i s being r i s k e d s l i g h t d i s c o m f o r t ,  permanent d i s a b i l i t y , i n t o the p i c t u r e ,  or death?  and a s k i n g what  p l a c e s on t h e n e g a t i v e outcome. fact  that  Step 3) i n v o l v e s b r i n g i n g v a l u e s  i t i s not enough  importance the d e c i s i o n maker  T h i s s t e p i s a r e c o g n i t i o n of the  t o have  a bare  description  of the  '* T h i s model i s based p r i m a r i l y on t h e d i s c u s s i o n o f r i s k assessment found i n N i c h o l a s Rescher's R i s k : A Philosophical I n t r o d u c t i o n t o t h e Theory of R i s k E v a l u a t i o n and Management. (Washington, D.C.: U n i v e r s i t y Press o f America, 1983).  outcome: the  we must know i t s v a l u e , as w e l l .  Under t h i s model, then,  l i k e l i h o o d o f danger i s o b j e c t i v e l y determined  scientific objectively  o r s t a t i s t i c a l means), t h e magnitude o f t h a t danger i s determined, and then a s u b j e c t i v e  evaluation  r i s k i s made based on t h e decision-maker's v a l u e s . a c t i o n i s based on t h i s s u b j e c t i v e e v a l u a t i o n . note  that  steps  one and two have  o b j e c t i v e , and as a p p r o p r i a t e William  I t i s important t o seen  as  that  "[m]easuring r i s k  —  i s an e m p i r i c a l ,  activity....  Recent  c r i t i c i s m s of t h i s that  steps  objective, value-neutral and  been  subjects of discussion f o r science.  measuring t h e p r o b a b i l i t y and s e v e r i t y o f harm —  presumption  of the  A decision for  traditionally  Lowrance, f o r example, w r i t e s  scientific  (by whatever  model  call  into  one and two can be way.  question  completed  the  i n some  Conrad G. Brunk, Lawrence Haworth  Brenda Lee, i n t h e i r study o f t h e c o n t r o v e r s y  surrounding de-  r e g i s t r a t i o n o f t h e chemical h e r b i c i d e a l a c h l o r f o r use i n Canada, found t h a t t h e degree o f r i s k a t t r i b u t e d t o a l a c h l o r by d i f f e r e n t groups and i n d i v i d u a l s depended c r u c i a l l y on t h e 'value framework' o f t h e person o r persons Brunk,  Haworth  probabilities estimators  involved.  and  Lee  are uncertain,  suggest  that,  the values  held  where by  specific individual  o f r i s k can be t h e d e c i d i n g f a c t o r i n t h e r i s k estimate  ^ W i l l i a m Lowrance, Of A c c e p t a b l e R i s k : Science and t h e Determination of Safety. (Los A l t o s , CA: W i l l i a m Kaufman Inc, 1976) 75. I t should be noted t h a t Lowrance, among o t h e r s , deserves c r e d i t f o r g o i n g t o g r e a t p a i n s t o emphasize t h e f a c t t h a t , c o n t r a r y t o what some b e l i e v e , a t l e a s t some stage o f r i s k evaluation i s necessarily subjective.  arrived at.  They note, f o r example, t h a t  [o]ne who has a b i a s i n f a v o u r of t a k i n g r i s k s , a b i a s r e i n f o r c e d by the pro-technology and l i b e r a l assumptions, needs a c o m p e l l i n g reason f o r not t a k i n g r i s k s , and the c o m p e l l i n g reason can o n l y c o n s i s t i n objectively r e l i a b l e data demonstrating t h a t the r i s k i s so s e r i o u s as t o be unacceptable.* One  of the main c o n c l u s i o n s reached by t h e s e authors i s t h a t  the i d e a l of o b j e c t i v e r i s k assessment  may  be one which cannot  be  met: I f the promise of a p u r e l y s c i e n t i f i c r i s k assessment i s t h a t i t can r e p l a c e completely the imputed emotionalism and ' s u b j e c t i v i t y ' t h a t u n d e r l i e s p u b l i c p e r c e p t i o n of r i s k by something more s u b s t a n t i a l and r e l i a b l e , i t simply i s unable t o d e l i v e r on t h a t promise.^  Brunk e t al. evidence."*  suggest t h a t t h e r e i s "a need t o go beyond the  The need which these authors mention  'beyond t h e e v i d e n c e ' — estimating  product  r e f e r s t o the f a c t t h a t those i n v o l v e d i n  safety the  t h a t of going  literally  absence  what  arrive  seems  at  like  such  an  even  evidence.  The a l t e r n a t i v e s p r e s e n t e d by u n c e r t a i n t y are e i t h e r t o  sufficient  (an o p t i o n o f t e n u n a v a i l a b l e i n r e a l - l i f e s i t u a t i o n s ) , or  t o make a judgement which may risk.^  of  must  estimate,  g i v e up  in  —  These authors note,  regulatory  s c i e n c e , (and,  t u r n out t o under- or over-estimate however, t h a t  I would add,  decision-makers  scientists  and  doing  engineers  employed by producers i n product s a f e t y r e s e a r c h ) , do not have "the *  Brunk e t a l . ,  144.  ^  Brunk e t al.,  105.  *  Brunk et al.,  75.  ^  Brunk e t al.,  75.  l u x u r y sometimes enjoyed by l a b o r a t o r y s c i e n t i s t s o f responding t o the  uncertainties  by r e f u s i n g  t o reach  a decision...."^"  The  former must r e a c h a d e c i s i o n r e g a r d i n g product s a f e t y , and thus a r e "charged  with  consumers,  responsibility for giving  f o r that  matter,  have  decisions u n t i l perfect information  luxury  an answer.""  Nor do  of r e f u s i n g  t o make  i s available.  Those i n v o l v e d  i n e s t i m a t i n g product s a f e t y must t h e r e f o r e go beyond t h e evidence, and  base d e c i s i o n s  a t l e a s t p a r t l y on v a l u e s .  strategy f o r dealing with uncertainty  The c h o i c e  of a  i s a normative one.  These authors suggest t h a t "[w]hat i s a t s t a k e . . . i n a l l r i s k debates, a r e c o n f l i c t s among fundamental s o c i a l and moral values, which cannot be r e s o l v e d by s c i e n t i f i c they  suggest,  avoided:  "[W]e  ought  to  be  faced,  ought  not be  misled  i n q u i r y alone. "^^ since into  Values,  they  cannot  thinking  that  be our  i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f t h e data w i l l not r e f l e c t a v a l u e framework, o r , even worse, t h a t i t can s u b s t i t u t e f o r such a framework. "^^ suggest  that  t o make t r a d i t i o n a l  risk  assessment, w i t h  They  all  its  t r a d i t i o n a l assumptions and i t s p a r t i c u l a r view o f r a t i o n a l i t y , t h e s o l e a r b i t e r i n r i s k debates, i s " . . . i n e f f e c t t o a l l o w one value framework. . .to s e t t l e t h e i s s u e i n i t s favour."^'' A second c r i t i q u e o f t h e i d e a o f o b j e c t i v e r i s k - a n a l y s i s Brunk e t a l . , 89. "  Brunk e t a l . , 89.  12  Brunk e t al., 110.  1^  Brunk e t a l . , 152.  "  Brunk e t a l . , 7.  —  one  with a very d i f f e r e n t  similar  to  analysis  those  approach,  reached  approach  by  et  al.,  taken by Mary Douglas  t h e i r book. R i s k and C u l t u r e . t h e c u l t u r e we  Brunk  but w i t h c o n c l u s i o n s q u i t e —  and  i s the  Aaron  cultural  Wildavsky i n  Douglas and Wildavsky suggest t h a t  f i n d o u r s e l v e s i n i s a c r i t i c a l determinant of the  r i s k s we see as important.  They suggest t h a t t h i s i s p a r t i c u l a r l y  t r u e o f o r g a n i z a t i o n s and the c u l t u r e s engendered by o r g a n i z a t i o n a l structure. Douglas trichotomy  and  Wildavsky  present  of o r g a n i z a t i o n a l  an  structures  admittedly  simplified  (market-individualistic,  h i e r a r c h i c a l / b u r e a u c r a t i c , and s e c t a r i a n ) , and i l l u s t r a t e the s o r t s of r i s k s which each type tends t o see as important, and those t o which each tends t o be b l i n d .  They suggest t h a t the group c h o i c e  r e g a r d i n g which r i s k s t o see as most worrisome "... i s never made directly social  but  i s settled  i n s t i t u t i o n s . "1^  by  a p r e f e r e n c e among k i n d s o f favored  Attitudes  toward  d e f i n i n g f e a t u r e s of any o r g a n i z a t i o n . organization  or  group,  certain  is,  certain  "...the most r e l e v a n t  social  will  be  For i n d i v i d u a l s w i t h i n an  outcomes have been a n t i c i p a t e d . , . i n a p r i o r That  risks  commitments  of  improbable  bad  s o c i a l commitment. "^^  resulting  from  group  a f f i l i a t i o n p r e d i s p o s e i n d i v i d u a l s t o see s p e c i f i c s o r t s r i s k s as particularly perception  1^  threatening. of  risk  and  For  Douglas  i t s acceptable  Douglas and Wildavsky,  187.  Douglas and Wildavsky,  187.  and  Wildavsky,  levels  are  "public  collective  constructs... The  example  which  serves  as  the  focus  for  Douglas  and  Wildavsky's i n v e s t i g a t i o n i s t h e b a t t l e fought among c o r p o r a t i o n s , r e g u l a t o r s , and environmental groups over environmental p o l l u t i o n . A c c o r d i n g t o these authors, each of these t h r e e groups average  t o have a s p e c i f i c  embodies s o c i a l  culture.  commitments and  group's views on environmental According  to  Douglas  The  culture  tends  of each  on  group  core b e l i e f s which determine  the  risks. and  Wildavsky,  corporations  are  e s s e n t i a l l y ' m a r k e t - i n d i v i d u a l i s t ' o r g a n i z a t i o n s (though of course parts  of the  case,  a  corporation w i l l  c o r p o r a t i o n ' s deepest  exchange system."^*  be  hierarchies) .  fear  i s of  "any  Such being the threat  to  the  On q u e s t i o n s of environmental r e g u l a t i o n then,  c o r p o r a t i o n s a r e l i k e l y t o see f a r g r e a t e r danger i n what they see as e x c e s s i v e government i n t e r f e r e n c e than they do s m a l l q u a n t i t i e s of t o x i c p o l l u t a n t s .  in relatively  The atmosphere i n which such  o r g a n i z a t i o n s operate, these authors suggest, does not them t o p l a n f a r a h e a d . A s  a result,  encourage  c o r p o r a t i o n s are bound t o  pay more a t t e n t i o n t o s h o r t - t e r m economic t h r e a t s than t o u n c e r t a i n r i s k s lodged i n the d i s t a n t f u t u r e . makers w i t h i n  c o r p o r a t i o n s pay  The r i s k s t o which d e c i s i o n -  heed, then, w i l l  often  be  those  which i n v o l v e t h r e a t s t o the v a l u e s of market i n d i v i d u a l i s m . Next, "  l e t us  look a t r e g u l a t o r s .  Douglas  and Wildavsky,  186.  Douglas  and Wildavsky,  96.  Douglas and Wildavsky,  96.  R e g u l a t o r s are  typically  bureaucrats, Douglas  and  members  of  Wildavsky,  regulatory  hierarchies.  According  o r g a n i z a t i o n s which are h i e r a r c h i c a l  to are  t h a t way  as a s o l u t i o n t o the problems of v o l u n t a r y organization.^°  Douglas  and  throughout  Wildavsky history  f e a s i b l e way primary  benefits lost.  place  that  i s that  t o be  "...the  result  h i e r a r c h y has  of  a l l individuals their  the  fact  most  within  h i e r a r c h y may  gained by  Thus t h e i r  s t a t u s quo.  a  that  been  that  with  "... i t  efficient  immediate  Hierarchies,  hierarchies  concern  effort  may  i s with  a c c o r d i n g t o t h e s e authors,  maintenance  of the whole  system  thereby  risks  The  share,  c o l l a p s e , a n d that  group  us  is a  f o r a l a r g e number of people t o collaborate."^^  fear  therefore,  as  note  to  the be the  typically  above  individual  The s t r u c t u r e and purpose which h i e r a r c h i e s share  determines  s u r v i v a l . . . . "^^  which s p e c i f i c r i s k s are f o r e s e e n by them, a c c o r d i n g t o Douglas and Wildavsky: U n l e s s t h i n g s are v i s i b l y bad, standard o p e r a t i n g procedures may be used f o r most matters. The s e l e c t i o n of r i s k s worth t a k i n g and a v o i d i n g i s made by a p r o c e s s , not by a person. Problems are s o l v e d i n sequence. The need t h a t seems most urgent i n these c o n d i t i o n s i s the one whose s o l u t i o n i s r e a l i s t i c a l l y f e a s i b l e . ^ R i s k s , then, w i l l be s e l e c t e d on the b a s i s of convenience, and the  20  Douglas  and Wildavsky,  103.  21  Douglas  and Wildavsky,  95.  22  Douglas and Wildavsky,  95.  23  Douglas and Wildavsky,  101.  24  Douglas  93.  and Wildavsky,  problems chosen f o r a t t e n t i o n w i l l most o f t e n be those the  least  complicated p r o t o c o l  a p p l i e s . . . . "^^  ..to which  R i s k s which seem  o u t s i d e the c a p a c i t i e s which the h i e r a r c h y has f o r a c t i o n w i l l tend to  be  ignored.  This  suggests  that  in  order  to  capture  the  a t t e n t i o n of h i e r a r c h i c a l bureaucracy, environmental r i s k s must be both obvious and s u b j e c t t o c l e a r remedies  —  two q u a l i t i e s which  environmental r i s k s seldom possess. C a p i t a l i s t s and b u r e a u c r a t s may be b l i n k e r e d t o environmental r i s k s , but Douglas and Wildavsky argue t h a t environmental r i s k s are exactly  the  sort  of  issue  to  which  sects  (such  as  leaderless  d i r e c t - a c t i o n environmental groups) are a t t u n e d . T h e y  argue t h a t  s e c t s r e j e c t h i e r a r c h y and o t h e r s t r i c t forms of o r g a n i z a t i o n , and that  instead  they  appeal t o such  must  broad  keep  their  v a l u e s as  membership  "...man's n a t u r a l  c o r r u p t i o n by b i g h i e r a r c h i c a l o r g a n i z a t i o n s , through  a  return  to  the  cohesive  natural,  through  goodness, h i s  and h i s  undifferentiated  redemption order  of  things. Douglas and Wildavsky argue t h a t s e c t s are c h a r a c t e r i z e d most s i g n i f i c a n t l y by t h e ease w i t h which the i n d i v i d u a l may from  2*  the group.  Such b e i n g the case,  Douglas and Wildavsky,  withdraw  i n order to maintain i t s  97.  2* Douglas and Wildavsky d i s c u s s r e l i g i o u s s e c t s — the Old Order Amish and t h e H u t t e r i t e s — i n o r d e r t o i l l u s t r a t e t h e i r use of t h e term ' s e c t , ' and i n order t o draw i n t e r e s t i n g p a r a l l e l s w i t h the d i r e c t - a c t i o n environmental groups such as F r i e n d s of the E a r t h , t o which they a l s o a p p l y t h a t term. See Douglas and Wildavsky, 104-114. Douglas and Wildavsky,  169.  membership, a s e c t must o f f e r a c o l l e c t i v e s p i r i t u a l good, which will  be enhanced t o t h e degree t h a t t h e s e c t d i s v a l u e s the world  outside.^*  Douglas and Wildavsky argue t h a t s e c t s "...choose t o be  p a n i c s t r u c k about dangers from technology...." because t h i s serves t h e i r moral purposes by " f o c u s i n g on t h e dangers emanating from large  organizations...."^'  cohesiveness,  sects  focus  world i s s u r e t o b r i n g . wrath  o f God.  In  order  to  on t h e doom which  maintain  t h e impure  their outside  For r e l i g i o u s s e c t s , t h e r i s k i s o f the  For environmental s e c t s ,  i t i s o f chemical or  n u c l e a r armageddon. The c r i t i q u e o f o b j e c t i v e r i s k assessment, here, i s c l e a r l y q u i t e c o m p a t i b l e w i t h t h a t o f f e r e d by Brunk, Haworth and Lee.  Like  the  the  latter  authors,  assessment crucially  of upon  difference  lies  risk  Douglas offered  her p r i o r  and by  a  beliefs  Wildavsky given  suggest  assessor  that  will  and commitments.  depend  The  main  i n t h e f a c t t h a t f o r t h e most p a r t Brunk et al.  f i n d c e r t a i n a t t i t u d e s i n h e r i n g i n persons p l a y i n g c e r t a i n r o l e s as a  matter  of empirical  overarching culture.  theory  fact,  relating  and do value  not t r y t o formulate an  frameworks  to organizational  Douglas and Wildavsky, on t h e o t h e r hand, focus upon the  t h e o r e t i c a l reasons f o r t h e s p e c i f i c v a l u e commitments which come as a r e s u l t o f group membership. Given groups  this  difference,  o f a u t h o r s complement  the analyses each  Douglas and Wildavsky, 121. Douglas and Wildavsky, 169.  other  provided  by these two  nicely.  Brunk  et a l .  provide  Douglas  and  Wildavsky  with  empirical  observations  v a l i d a t i n g a t l e a s t some o f t h e l a t t e r ' s t h e o r e t i c a l c o n c l u s i o n s . And  Douglas and Wildavsky p r o v i d e a t h e o r e t i c a l  helps p a r t i a l l y Brunk  to explain the d i f f e r i n g  e t a i . observed among d i f f e r e n t  debate.  F o r example,  value  parties  framework  which  frameworks  which  to the alachlor  t h e a t t i t u d e s which Brunk e t a l . observed  b e i n g d i s p l a y e d by Monsanto, t h e manufacturer o f a l a c h l o r , conform n i c e l y t o t h e c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s which Douglas and Wildavsky t e l l us to  expect  of  'market t o be  individualist'  emphasis  seemed  national  competitiveness,^°  groups:  on t h e t h r e a t o r what  Monsanto's  to f a i r  Douglas  competition  and Wildavsky  main and call  " t h r e a t [ s ] t o t h e exchange system. "^^ Importantly  f o r my purposes here, i t should  be noted t h a t  Brunk e t a l . have i n common w i t h Douglas and Wildavsky t h a t they down-play existence  t h e extent t o which p e r c e p t i o n o f r i s k s depends on t h e of  objectively  identifiable  circumstances  and  probabilities. The t h i r d c r i t i q u e o f t h e b e l i e f i n o b j e c t i v e r i s k assessment to  be d i s c u s s e d  here i s v e r y d i f f e r e n t  from t h e f i r s t  two.  It  points not t o the t h e o r e t i c a l i m p o s s i b i l i t y but t o the p r a c t i c a l u n l i k e l i h o o d o f o b j e c t i v e r i s k assessment, and i s t o be found i n the  psychology l i t e r a t u r e .  U n c e r t a i n Worlds psychological  I n h i s book.  Robyn M. Dawes summarizes  researchers,  suggesting  Brunk et al., 17. ^1  Rational  Douglas and Wildavsky, 96.  that  Choice i n an  t h e work o f numerous risk  evaluation i s  heavily  prejudiced  by  readily  identifiable  human  cognitive  l i m i t a t i o n s and d i s p o s i t i o n s . Dawes d e f i n e s a r a t i o n a l c h o i c e as being one which meets these three  criteria: 1. I t i s based on t h e d e c i s i o n maker's current assets (financial, physiological, psychological, social, emotional). 2. I t i s based choice.  on t h e p o s s i b l e  consequences  of the  3. When these consequences a r e u n c e r t a i n , their l i k e l i h o o d i s e v a l u a t e d without v i o l a t i n g the b a s i c r u l e s of p r o b a b i l i t y theory. Clearly Other  this  model  writers  Neither  of r a t i o n a l choice  define  i s Dawes'  rationality  i s not uncontroversial.  by means  characterization  o f other  peculiar,  criteria.  however,  d e t a i l e d c r i t i q u e i s w e l l o u t s i d e t h e scope o f t h i s work. here  i s not t o d i s s e c t  respectable  one which  Dawes' view,  has s t r o n g  but t o d i s c u s s  negative  and a My goal  i t as a  implications  f o r an  o b j e c t i v e model o f r i s k assessment. Dawes d e t a i l s a wide v a r i e t y o f h a b i t u a l f a l l a c i e s and modes of thought which p r e j u d i c e our judgments and make us r u n a f o u l of the  above-stated  cases.  Of  criteria  the various  for rationality types  of  i n a wide v a r i e t y of  irrationality  which  Dawes  d i s c u s s e s , I w i l l o u t l i n e here t h r e e which seem t o me t o be perhaps the most c l e a r l y r e l e v a n t t o t h e t a s k o f product s a f e t y e v a l u a t i o n . One type o f e r r o r d i s c u s s e d probability  by Dawes i s t h e 'anchoring' o f  e s t i m a t e s on i r r e l e v a n t i n f o r m a t i o n .  Dawes  writes:  "In ambiguous s i t u a t i o n s , a seemingly more t r i v i a l f a c t o r may have a profound e f f e c t :  an 'anchor' t h a t serves  as an o r i e n t i n g p o i n t  for  estimating p r o b a b i l i t i e s  estimates instance  of a v a r i e t y —  tend  or outcomes."^^  of unknown numbers  t o be i n f l u e n c e d by  —  (that  That  i s , people's  probabilities, for i s , they tend t o be  c l o s e to) whatever i r r e l e v a n t numbers happen t o be a t hand. One example which Dawes c i t e s i n v o l v e s a study i n which s u b j e c t s were asked t o g i v e a rough e s t i m a t e of t h e magnitude of "8!"  ("8  factorial",  researchers  found  or 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 ) .  that  the order  i n which  factor  numbers  The were  p r e s e n t e d a f f e c t e d d r a m a t i c a l l y the estimate a t which t h e r e s e a r c h subjects arrived.  Those who were asked t o estimate t h e v a l u e of 8  X 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x l  gave a median answer of 2,250, while  those asked t o e s t i m a t e t h e v a l u e of (the  same s e t o f numbers,  answer o f 512.'^ acted  as  an  1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 x 6 x 7 x 8  but i n r e v e r s e order)  In o t h e r words, t h e f i r s t  anchor.  The  implications  gave a median  number i n the s e r i e s  f o r estimating r i s k  s i t u a t i o n s of g r e a t u n c e r t a i n t y seem c l e a r .  in  Where p r o b a b i l i t i e s  are t o be e s t i m a t e d i n s i t u a t i o n s o f u n c e r t a i n t y , these estimates may  t e n d t o be i n f l u e n c e d by t h e order o f p r e s e n t a t i o n of those  numbers which are known. Another s o r t o f e r r o r c i t e d by Dawes i n v o l v e s what he c a l l s 'framing  effects.'  different, question  That  i s , d e c i s i o n makers tend t o g i v e q u i t e  and even c o n t r a d i c t o r y , d e c i s i o n s depending on how is  worded  or  'framed.'  In  general,  for  a  example,  " . . . d e c i s i o n makers are r i s k - a v e r s e when q u e s t i o n s a r e framed i n ^2  Dawes, 121. C i t e d i n Dawes, pp. 121-122.  terms o f s a v i n g l i v e s and r i s k - s e e k i n g when t h e i d e n t i c a l are  framed i n terms o f l o s i n g l i v e s . D a w e s  of l i t e r a t u r e  questions  c i t e s a l a r g e body  i n support both o f t h i s c l a i m s p e c i f i c a l l y ,  and o f  the s t r e n g t h o f framing e f f e c t s i n g e n e r a l . Dawes r e j e c t s t h e i d e a t h a t framing i s j u s t ' v e r b a l t r i c k e r y . ' He c i t e s  a 1985 study  i n which s u b j e c t s  were asked a s e r i e s of  questions  known t o be s u s c e p t i b l e t o framing e f f e c t s .  Individual  s u b j e c t s d i d indeed tend t o g i v e i n c o n s i s t e n t answers t o i d e n t i c a l questions  framed i n two d i f f e r e n t ways.  these i n c o n s i s t e n c i e s were p o i n t e d had  the opportunity  consistency,  Not o n l y t h a t , but when  out t o t h e s u b j e c t s ,  who then  t o change t h e i r responses i n order t o achieve  "...almost a l l o f them r e c o g n i z e d  t h a t they had i n  f a c t been i n c o n s i s t e n t . . . . , " but they o n l y chose t o change t h e i r responses  about  "[wjhereas v e r b a l understood, product  of  tricks  the  time.^^  lose their  Dawes  are  clear,  given  concludes  that  e f f e c t i v e n e s s once they a r e  framing e f f e c t s a r e stable."^*  safety  communicated  half  that  The i m p l i c a t i o n s f o r these  risks  must  be  from those who have knowledge t o those who do not.  Paul S l o v i c and Baruch F i s c h h o f f note t h a t "...people attempting t o communicate i n f o r m a t i o n manipulate  ^  about r i s k s have c o n s i d e r a b l e  perceptions  without  making  ability to  any  overt  Dawes, 35. Dawes, 37.  Dawes, 37. Dawes does not d e t a i l t h e type o f c h o i c e s p r e s e n t e d t o t h e experimental s u b j e c t s , except t o say t h a t they i n v o l v e d a c h o i c e between r i s k s i t u a t i o n s .  m i s r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s . "^^ A t h i r d common mode of r e a s o n i n g  c r i t i c i s e d by Dawes as  o p t i m a l i s the making of g l o b a l i n t u i t i v e judgments ( a l s o or  'clinical'  judgments).  Such  judgments  are  sub-  'expert'  essentially  e v a l u a t i o n s of a s i t u a t i o n or of the s t a t u s of a s u b j e c t based on an o v e r a l l impression, sort  of  evaluation  o f t e n based on e x p e r t i s e .  include  a  physician's  Examples of t h i s  global  r a t i n g of  the  ' o v e r a l l s e v e r i t y ' of the c o n d i t i o n of a p a t i e n t , and a u n i v e r s i t y admissions o f f i c e r ' s o v e r a l l impression unstructured interview. is  to  use  relevant  of a candidate based on an  One a l t e r n a t i v e t o t h i s s o r t of e v a l u a t i o n  "... s t a t i s t i c a l l y  predictors."^^  This  derived latter  weighted  averages  procedure e s s e n t i a l l y  down t o adding up the p l u s e s and the minuses i n order t o the o v e r a l l q u a l i t y of an o p t i o n or i n d i v i d u a l . is  that,  as  Dawes p o i n t s  out,  there  is a  considerable  schemes consistently  the boils  estimate  The c r i t i c a l p o i n t  r e s e a r c h which i n d i c a t e s t h a t where e x t e r n a l standards of are a v a i l a b l e , "...weighting  of  body  of  accuracy  are found t o  be  s u p e r i o r t o i n t u i t i v e g l o b a l judgment, and judges c o n s i s t e n t l y are found t o be o v e r c o n f i d e n t original.)  i n t h e i r g l o b a l judgments."'^  (Emphasis  Dawes suggests t h a t the r e l a t i v e i n e f f i c i e n c y of g l o b a l  judgments i s p a r t i c u l a r l y alarming  i n l i g h t of the modern r e l i a n c e  upon e x p e r t w i t n e s s e s t o g i v e assessments "... of the form ' I t i s my  P a u l S l o v i c and Baruch F i s c h h o f f . "How Safe i s Safe Enough?" i n Jack Dowie and P a u l L e f r e r e , eds.. R i s k and Chance: S e l e c t e d Readings ( M i l t o n Keynes: The Open UP, 1980) 134. Dawes, 2 05. Dawes,  203.  opinion that  '"'*°  The i m p l i c a t i o n s which t h e endemic nature o f these (and other) forms o f i r r a t i o n a l i t y  d e t a i l e d by Dawes h o l d s  o b j e c t i v e r i s k assessment a r e c l e a r .  f o r attempts a t  We have a tendency not t o  make d e c i s i o n s based s o l e l y on t h e t h r e e  c r i t e r i a of r a t i o n a l i t y  d e s c r i b e d by Dawes. The numerous p s y c h o l o g i c a l s t u d i e s which Dawes c i t e s i n d i c a t e t h a t a l a r g e number o f f a c t o r s which determine our choices  a r e both  decision  irrational  i s made.  This  and unknown t o us a t t h e time t h e fact,  coupled  with  psychological  i n d i v i d u a l i t y , means t h a t two d i f f e r e n t decision-makers a r e l i a b l e to  arrive at radically  different 'objective' decisions  based on  e x a c t l y t h e same d a t a . Clearly,  there  may be times a t which i t i s r a t i o n a l (or a t  l e a s t d e s i r a b l e ) t o be l e s s than f u l l y r a t i o n a l .  But t h e evidence  c i t e d by Dawes suggests t h a t we a r e seldom f u l l y r a t i o n a l i n t h e c h o i c e s we make, even when we h o n e s t l y b e l i e v e t h a t we a r e and want t o be. I t should be p o i n t e d out t h a t u n l i k e t h e analyses presented by the f i r s t two s e t s o f authors d i s c u s s e d ,  Dawes' a n a l y s i s may leave  open t h e t h e o r e t i c a l p o s s i b i l i t y o f o b j e c t i v e r i s k assessment. The l i t e r a t u r e c i t e d by Dawes appears merely t o p o i n t t o t h e p r a c t i c a l unlikelihood humans tend cannot  of objective t o estimate  i n principle  implications  which  Dawes, 208.  risk risks  estimate  this  assessment. poorly them  evidence  The bare  fact  that  does n o t imply  that  they  But t h e  full  correctly.  has  f o r the p o s s i b i l i t y  of  o b j e c t i v e r i s k assessment may  hinge upon the r e s u l t of an ongoing  debate over whether the experimental data p o i n t t o a b a s i c l a c k of capacity  or  to  example,  argues  mere poor that  performance.  the  types  of  L.  Jonathan  reasoning  Cohen,  illustrated  for  above  i n v o l v e temporary c o g n i t i v e i l l u s i o n s q u i t e e x p l a i n a b l e i n terms of the  u n f a m i l i a r i t y of the  training  on  the  part  Diaconis  and  David  test  of  questions  the  and  the  experimental  l a c k of s p e c i a l  subjects.^^  Freedman, however, p o i n t  out  that  Persi  many such  ' i l l u s i o n s ' seem t o be "deeply r o o t e d i n the human mind," and they  often  reflection,' Diaconis  and  "cannot or  be  several  Freedman  dispelled  by  months of  college  and  many  others  a  'few  moments  prompted  t e a c h i n g . "'^^  believe,  such  If,  make-up,  then each of us i s l i k e l y unique i n the extent t o which we If this  i s the  case, then our  as  cognitive  i l l u s i o n s are a fundamental p a r t of our p s y c h o - c o g n i t i v e  each such i l l u s i o n .  that  display  judgments of  r i s k w i l l be c o l o u r e d by i n d i v i d u a l i z e d s e t s of i l l u s i o n s , and  may  f a i r l y be termed s u b j e c t i v e . I  will  discussed  take  i t as  above, t h a t  evident, there  then,  based on  i s considerable  t h a t r i s k assessment i s , i n one  way  the  evidence  three  works  suggesting  or another, s u b j e c t i v e .  For  ease of f u t u r e r e f e r e n c e , I s h a l l designate the g e n e r a l t h e s i s t h a t risk  assessment  "1 L. Experimentally (1981): 324.  is  inherently  Jonathan Cohen, Demonstrated?" The  subjective  as  'SRAH:'  "Can Human Irrationality be B e h a v i o r a l and B r a i n Sciences 4  P e r s i D i a c o n i s and David Freedman, "The P e r s i s t e n c e of C o g n i t i v e I l l u s i o n s , " The B e h a v i o r a l and B r a i n Sciences 4 (1981): 333.  The  Subjectivity  of Risk Assessment  Hypothesis.  I t should be noted t h a t i n s u g g e s t i n g a s u b j e c t i v e process,  t h a t r i s k assessment i s  t h e authors d i s c u s s e d  above do not r e f e r t o  the s o r t o f s u b j e c t i v e p r o b a b i l i t i e s u t i l i z e d i n Bayesian Under B a y e s i a n theory, are subjective  "the p r o b a b i l i t y v a l u e s  theory.  [for various states]  p r o b a b i l i t i e s i n t h a t they d e r i v e t o t a l l y from the  d e c i s i o n maker's p e r s o n a l  i n f o r m a t i o n about t h e states"**^ (emphasis  original). It  may  information  be p o s s i b l e ,  o f course,  from  experience  'subjective' cases,  consumer  as p r o d u c i n g s u b j e c t i v e p r o b a b i l i t i e s i n t h i s  Then, under t h e Bayesian theory obtained  t o see imperfect  probability  sense.  o f l e a r n i n g , "...new i n f o r m a t i o n ,  o r by  other  means,  distribution."'*^  will  But  adjust  product  the  safety  o r a t l e a s t t h e most d i f f i c u l t ones, seldom l e n d themselves  t o l e a r n i n g by e x p e r i e n c e . problematic.  Indeed, t h a t i s p r e c i s e l y why they a r e  I n many product s a f e t y cases, i n d i v i d u a l l e a r n i n g , i n  so f a r as l e a r n i n g r e q u i r e s e r r o r , i s f a t a l .  Any comment beyond  t h i s l i e s w e l l beyond t h e scope o f my p r o j e c t :  my main p o i n t here  is  to point  out that  subjective  risk  assessment does not imply  s u b j e c t i v e p r o b a b i l i t i e s i n t h e Bayesian sense. I model  now t u r n of r i s k  t o examine t h e i m p l i c a t i o n s which a assessment  might  have  subjective  f o r decision-making  among  P e t e r Gardenfors and N i l s - E r i c S a h l i n , "Introduction: Bayesian D e c i s i o n Theory — Foundations and ProlDlems," i n Peter Gardenfors and N i l s - E r i c Sahlin, Decision. P r o b a b i l i t y . and Utility: S e l e c t e d Readings. (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987) 4. Gardenfors and S a h l i n , 4.  consumers.  Chapter  3;  Consumers. Choice, and t h e S u b j e c t i v i t y o f R i s k  What impact might a s u b j e c t i v e t h e o r y o f r i s k assessment have f o r t h e o p t i o n s open t o consumers? that  consumers who purchase  I t has g e n e r a l l y been assumed  products  accept  the r i s k s  which go  a l o n g w i t h t h e p o s s e s s i o n and use o f those p r o d u c t s t o t h e extent t h a t they understand risks involved.  —  o r can be expected  t o understand  —  the  These r i s k s a r e not accepted f o r t h e i r own sake:  they a r e among t h e c o s t s t r a d e d f o r t h e b e n e f i t s o f consumer goods. The most i n t e r e s t i n g q u e s t i o n s t o be asked  i n l i g h t o f SRAH (the  S u b j e c t i v i t y o f R i s k Assessment Hypothesis) i n v o l v e : basis  1)  f o r d e c i s i o n making c o n c e r n i n g such t r a d e - o f f s ;  the best 2)  what  consumers can r e a s o n a b l y demand o f both producers and r e g u l a t o r s i n terms o f h e l p  i n making such d e c i s i o n s ;  and 3)  the epistemic  r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s which consumers themselves might be c o n s i d e r e d t o have.  In the f i r s t  sections of t h i s  Chapter,  I d i s c u s s the  i m p l i c a t i o n s which a s u b j e c t i v e model o f r i s k assessment has f o r these three questions.  I then d i s c u s s t h e e x t e n t t o which t h e r o l e  p l a y e d by consumer a s s o c i a t i o n s and p u b l i c i n t e r e s t groups might be a f f e c t e d by such a model.  What impact might a s u b j e c t i v e model o f r i s k assessment have upon t h e bases  a v a i l a b l e t o consumers f o r making sound d e c i s i o n s  c o n c e r n i n g product r i s k s ?  As Harvey M. Sapolsky  notes,  product  s a f e t y p r e s e n t s unique c h a l l e n g e s t o consumers: Personal experience i s u s u a l l y s u f f i c i e n t t o allow consumers t o cope w i t h t h e hazards o f t h e marketplace.  [...] But product h e a l t h r i s k s a r e a d i f f e r e n t s o r t o f market hazard. Few consumers f e e l c o m f o r t a b l e w i t h t h e measure o f p a r t s p e r m i l l i o n , l e t alone p a r t s p e r billion. As  Elaine  Vaughan  technological individuals  systems  having  notes,  "The  growth  has  resulted  in  t h e necessary  and  complexity  [proportionally]  training  of fewer  t o understand  on a  t e c h n i c a l l e v e l t h e p o s s i b l e consequences o f new technologies."'** Indeed,  as Sapolsky reminds us, consumers p l a y a r e l a t i v e l y minor  r o l e i n even identifying  r i s k s from consumer p r o d u c t s :  " I t i s not  the consumer who i d e n t i f i e s t h e e x i s t e n c e o f r i s k , but r a t h e r the news media,  public  interest  o r g a n i z a t i o n s . ... "•*' information,  groups,  businesses,  and  scientific  Forced t o r e l y on o t h e r s f o r product  the thinking  consumer w i l l  q u e s t i o n even t h e e x p e r t s .  safety  e v e n t u a l l y see cause t o  As W i l l i a m Lowrance suggests,  "[t]he  q u e s t i o n becomes, how do we know t h e e x p e r t s a r e 'right'T"*** Given t h a t t h e primary impact safety  o f r i s k assessment i n product  i s on t h e consuming p u b l i c ,  i t i s surprising  how  a t t e n t i o n t h e e p i s t e m i c needs o f consumers have a t t r a c t e d risk  assessment  literature  literature.  dissecting  There  and attempting  i s , o f course, to explain  a  little i n the  body o f  the apparently  '*^ Harvey M. Sapolsky, "The Politics of Product C o n t r o v e r s i e s , " i n Harvey M. Sapolsky, ed.. Consuming F e a r s : t h e P o l i t i c s o f Product R i s k s . (New York: B a s i c Books, 1986) 182. "** E l a i n e Vaughan, Some F a c t o r s I n f l u e n c i n g t h e Nonexpert's P e r c e p t i o n and E v a l u a t i o n o f Environmental R i s k s . (New York: Garland, 1990) 3. "*' Sapolsky, 5. •**  Lowrance, 106.  irrational  risk  explanations political  perceptions  of  non-experts.  are advanced, p r i m a r i l y w i t h  problems which other  perceptions.  For  example,  an  A eye  groups f a c e as  anticipating  variety  of  to solving  the  a result  of  p u b l i c response  such  to  new  r i s k s i s a h i g h l y v a l u e d g o a l from the p o i n t of view of r e g u l a t o r y bodies. to  As E l a i n e Vaughan notes, ". . . u n a n t i c i p a t e d p u b l i c r e a c t i o n  regulatory  implementation  decisions  has  been  known  to  complicate  the  of a d e c i s i o n and sometimes n e c e s s i t a t e a d e l a y or  m o d i f i c a t i o n of the  intended course  of action."'*'  Other w r i t e r s  have f o c u s e d on the problem which o r g a n i z a t i o n s f a c e i n attempting t o convey c r u c i a l r i s k i n f o r m a t i o n i n o r d e r t o a l l o w members of the public  to  make informed  consumers has consumers The  decisions.^"  But  the  confusion  facing  seldom been d i s c u s s e d , i t seems, as a problem f o r  themselves. initial  question  was  what  t r a d e - o f f s are  between the r i s k s and b e n e f i t s of consumer p r o d u c t s . presented  by  SRAH:  what ought the prudent  reasonable The q u e s t i o n  consumer t o do when  o f f e r e d a product which o f f e r s known b e n e f i t s but unknown r i s k s ? Per  hypothesis,  a l l products  strictly  speaking  fall  into  this  c a t e g o r y , s i n c e no e x p e r t can a u t h o r i t a t i v e l y t e l l consumers what the r i s k s of a g i v e n product There strategies, '^^  seem by  Vaughan,  to no  be  are.  three  main  means mutually  strategies  or  e x c l u s i v e , which  groups might  of  offer  6.  ^° See, f o r example, F. Reed Johnson, Ann F i s h e r , V. K e r r y Smith, and W i l l i a m H. Desvousges, "Informed Choice or Regulated Risk?" Environment. 30.4 (1988): 12-15 and 30-35.  guidance t o consumers seeking t o make such d i f f i c u l t c h o i c e s . first  such group  developed  by  uncertainty.  i s t h e well-known  decision  theorists  The second o p t i o n  group  of general  f o r decision  The  strategies  making  under  i n v o l v e s s t r a t e g i e s developed by  r e g u l a t o r s f o r d e a l i n g s p e c i f i c a l l y w i t h unknown r i s k s .  The t h i r d  s t r a t e g y i n v o l v e s a r e c o g n i t i o n of t h e n e c e s s i t y o f what might be c a l l e d an e x i s t e n t i a l c h o i c e .  That i s , sometimes  v a l u e s must be  enough t o inform one's d e c i s i o n , even i n t h e absence o f what might seem t o be adequate First,  information.  l e t us look a t g e n e r a l s t r a t e g i e s f o r d e c i s i o n making  under u n c e r t a i n t y .  Luce and R a i f f a d i s t i n g u i s h d e c i s i o n making  under u n c e r t a i n t y from both d e c i s i o n making under r i s k and d e c i s i o n making  within  t h e context  of g a m e s . B r i e f l y ,  a d e c i s i o n made  under u n c e r t a i n t y i s one i n which t h e decision-maker does not know the r e l a t i v e p r o b a b i l i t i e s o f v a r i o u s course,  salient eventualities.  d e c i s i o n s o f whether o r not t o t r u s t a g i v e n product might  i n f a c t be u s e f u l l y analyzed as a problem f o r game t h e o r y to  Of  a c t , t h e consumer  must  guess,  f o r example,  what  ( i n order  a c t i o n the  producer has o r has not taken) , but t h e main i m p l i c a t i o n o f SRAH i s that  decisions  about whether  or not t o t r u s t  l a r g e degree d e c i s i o n s made under u n c e r t a i n t y . c h a r a c t e r i z e d e c i s i o n s under u n c e r t a i n t y  products are t o a Luce and R a i f f a  thus:  ^1 R. Duncan Luce and Howard R a i f f a , " I n d i v i d u a l D e c i s i o n Making Under U n c e r t a i n t y , " i n D e c i s i o n . P r o b a b i l i t y and U t i l i t y ; S e l e c t e d Readincfs. Peter Gardenfors and N i l s - E r i c S a h l i n eds. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988. R e p r i n t e d from Luce and R a i f f a ' s Games and D e c i s i o n s . John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1957. 48.  A c h o i c e must be made among a s e t o f a c t s A^, Aj, . . ., A„, but t h e r e l a t i v e d e s i r a b i l i t y o f each a c t depends upon which ' s t a t e o f n a t u r e ' p r e v a i l s , e i t h e r s^, S2, •••/ s„. [...] As t h e d e c i s i o n maker, we a r e aware t h a t one o f several possible things i s true; which one i t i s i s r e l e v a n t t o our c h o i c e , but we do not even know t h e r e l a t i v e p r o b a b i l i t i e s o f t h e i r t r u t h . . . l e t alone which one o b t a i n s . For t h e consumer d e c i d i n g whether o r n o t t o t r u s t a g i v e n product, the  relevant  s e t of acts  includes  buying  and n o t buying the  p r o d u c t . T h e r e l e v a n t p o s s i b l e states of nature include a t l e a s t one  i n which t h e product produces f o r h e r a n e g a t i v e  balance o f  u t i l i t i e s and one i n which t h e product produces a n e t b e n e f i t . I f the r e l a t i v e p r o b a b i l i t i e s o f these two s t a t e s o f nature were known —  t h a t i s , i f t h e consumer a c t u a l l y knew t h e p r e c i s e r i s k i n v o l v e d  —  she c o u l d  under r i s k  s t r u c t u r e t h e problem "...as one o f d e c i s i o n making  —  as a c h o i c e  which had t h e maximum  among l o t t e r i e s " * * and choose t h a t a c t  expected v a l u e .  But p e r hypothesis,  the  consumer cannot know t h e r e l a t i v e p r o b a b i l i t i e s o f e i t h e r o f these s t a t e s coming t o be. the t h o u g h t f u l The  What c r i t e r i a does d e c i s i o n theory  offer to  consumer, then?  f o l l o w i n g p r i n c i p l e s a r e o f f e r e d by Luce and R a i f f a as  p o s s i b l e p r i n c i p l e s f o r d e c i s i o n s under uncertainty.^^  Luce and R a i f f a , 48-49. Even i f t h e product i s purchased, t h e r e may be a subsequent q u e s t i o n r e g a r d i n g how much t o t r u s t i t . T h i s w e l l may i n f l u e n c e the way i n which t h e product i s used. ^  Luce and R a i f f a , 50.  A l l of the following discussion of strategies for decisionmaking under u n c e r t a i n t y i s summarized from Luce and R a i f f a , 51-59. Only s p e c i f i c statements o f o p i n i o n on t h e p a r t o f those authors  1) the  The maximin c r i t e r i o n :  minimum p a y o f f .  action  which  choose t h a t a c t which maximizes  F o r t h e consumer, t h i s means choosing  involves  the  least  dire  that  worst-case-scenario.  Presumably, t h i s c r i t e r i a would most o f t e n d i c t a t e doing without non-essential  consumer  goods.  As Luce  and R a i f f a  note,  this  extremely c o n s e r v a t i v e c r i t e r i o n has been c r i t i c i z e d f o r p r e c l u d i n g the p o s s i b i l i t y o f r i s k i n g a m a r g i n a l l y  lower p a y o f f  i n t h e hopes  of a c h i e v i n g a much h i g h e r one.*^ 2)  The minimax  risk  minimizes t h e maximum r i s k  criterion:  choose  index f o r each a c t .  that  a c t which  That  i s , choose  t h a t a c t which allows f o r t h e s m a l l e s t q u a n t i t y o f p o s s i b l e r e g r e t f o r missed o p p o r t u n i t i e s .  I n terms o f our consumer, t h i s c r i t e r i o n  suggests t h a t i f n o t p u r c h a s i n g a g i v e n product i n v o l v e s p o s s i b l y missing  out on r e a l l y  terrific  benefits  avoidance o f f a i r l y minor detriments,  but o n l y  assures the  then t h e product ought t o be  purchased.  Luce and R a i f f a note t h a t t h e r e a r e some r a t h e r complex  objections  to this  likelihood  criteria,  that u t i l i t i e s  uncertainty  t o do  are non-linear  where more than two c h o i c e s under  having  generally  w i t h the  and w i t h t h e f a c t  that,  a r e p o s s i b l e , some d e c i s i o n problems  involve  intransitivities  which  hinder  optimization. 3)  The pessimism-optimism index c r i t e r i o n :  indicative and  use a f i x e d index  o f one's own degree o f pessimism (some number between 0  1, say) and t h e i n v e r s e o f t h a t index t o weight t h e v a l u e one  w i l l be f o o t n o t e d  further.  Luce and R a i f f a ,  52-53.  a t t r i b u t e s t o maximum and minimum p a y - o f f s r e s p e c t i v e l y . point  o f view  o f SRAH,  this  criterion  From t h e  has t h e advantage of  r e l a t i v i z i n g t h e c h o i c e t o t h e consumer's own v a l u e s .  But from t h e  p o i n t o f view o f SRAH, t h e r e a r e d i f f i c u l t i e s w i t h t h i s c r i t e r i o n ' s suggested  way o f determining  one's own pessimism-optimism  index  (the number between 0 and 1) . The c r i t e r i o n suggests t h a t one look at  how  one  evaluates  other  simpler  decision  problems  under  u n c e r t a i n t y t o determine what index number r e s u l t s i n i n d i f f e r e n c e between o p t i o n s . pay-offs  I t suggests t h a t i f one tends t o weight maximum  optimistically  i n one case,  then  one ought  maximum p a y o f f s e q u a l l y o p t i m i s t i c a l l y i n o t h e r cases. t h e main  implications  o f SRAH i s t h a t r i s k  uniform across various r i s k s i t u a t i o n s .  t o weight But one of  p r e f e r e n c e s a r e not  As a r e s u l t , i t looks as  i f one's p r e f e r e n c e s i n one d e c i s i o n s i t u a t i o n a r e a poor r e f e r e n c e p o i n t f o r e v a l u a t i n g other, d i f f e r e n t , c h o i c e s . 4)  C r i t e r i o n based on t h e ' p r i n c i p l e o f i n s u f f i c i e n t reason':  i n t h e absence o f any good reason t o assume otherwise, assume a l l p o s s i b i l i t i e s t o be e q u a l l y probable, and s e l e c t t h a t o p t i o n with the  highest  expected  value  calculated  on  the basis  of t h a t  assumption.  Luce and R a i f f a note a number o f c r i t i c i s m s o f t h i s  procedure.  From  salient  point  t h e p o i n t o f view  i s that is  o f t h e consumer,  while  she  i s indeed  likely  not  operating  t h e most  operating under  under  uncertainty,  she  complete  uncertainty.  She w i l l most l i k e l y know, f o r i n s t a n c e , t h a t harm  ( t h a t i s , t h e s t a t e o f nature which i m p l i e s t h a t she s u f f e r s harm) from  a product  holds a p r o b a b i l i t y  c o n s i d e r a b l y lower  than 1/2.  E q u i p r o b a b i l i t y w i l l o f t e n t u r n out t o be a poor assumption. L e t us now risk  look a t the s o l u t i o n s o f f e r e d by the d i s c i p l i n e of  assessment  for decision  c r i t e r i a are d e r i v e d while  they  were  regulators,  they  from the  originally may  under u n c e r t a i n t y .  following  l i t e r a t u r e on r i s k assessment, intended  also  The  serve  as  principles for  i n d i v i d u a l consumers  and  use to  by some  extent. 1)  The Delaney P r i n c i p l e :  any  s c i e n t i f i c evidence.  the  U.S.  Food  and  accept no r i s k f o r which t h e r e i s  T h i s p r i n c i p l e , p a r t of an amendment t o  Drug A c t  and  named f o r congressman James J .  Delaney, s t a t e s t h a t no food a d d i t i v e should be c o n s i d e r e d  safe i f  t h e r e i s any evidence a t a l l of c a r c i n o g e n i c i t y i n e i t h e r humans or animals.  As  a  possible  d e c i s i o n making, t h i s o f f e r s any  principle  p r i n c i p l e suggests t h a t  r i s k should  more r e a s o n a b l e —  generalized  be  avoided.  any  for  consumer  product which  T h i s p r i n c i p l e might be made  or a t l e a s t more p r a c t i c a l —  by m o d i f y i n g i t t o  r e q u i r e t h a t any product about which t h e r e i s ' s u f f i c i e n t ' s u s p i c i o n be given  avoided.  The  consumer's p e r s o n a l  injuries  or  specific  p r i n c i p l e might a l s o be f e a r s by  diseases  mentioning  t o be  avoided.  expert  t a i l o r e d to a  specific  types  Some people  p a r t i c u l a r d i s v a l u e on n e u r o l o g i c a l damage, f o r example, and might f o l l o w a r u l e of s t r i c t l y a v o i d i n g any  substance  of  place thus  implicated  i n n e u r o l o g i c a l syndromes. 2)  Custom of usage:  i n the  hands of r i s k  assessors,  this  p r i n c i p l e has g e n e r a l l y meant the d e s i g n a t i o n of c e r t a i n substances Lowrance,  82.  as  'generally  regarded  as  recognized  a  as  designation  safe'  ('GRAS').^^  which reduces the  about which one need a c t i v e l y worry.  It  is  generally  number of  products  For i n d i v i d u a l consumers, the  r u l e might be t o accept any product which i s a t r a d i t i o n a l p a r t of one's l i f e s t y l e ,  and  which  'common knowledge' says i s s a f e .  course, t h i s c r i t e r i o n o n l y makes sense i n the absence of  Of  strong  s c i e n t i f i c evidence of danger. I t i s c l e a r from the two one  from d e c i s i o n theory  and  s e t s of s t r a t e g i e s j u s t reviewed one  from r i s k assessment —  that  — no  a v a i l a b l e s t r a t e g y can t e l l the consumer i n u n e q u i v o c a l terms what c h o i c e s t o make.  Yet d e c i s i o n s must s t i l l be made.  F i s c h h o f f note, " [ t ] h e o p t i o n of dropping out  As S l o v i c and  [of the marketplace]  g i v e s us some c o n t r o l over the l e v e l of t e c h n o l o g i c a l r i s k t o which we  are exposed."  risk  typically  However, these authors continue,  e n t a i l s reduction  of  benefit."^'  world, d r o p p i n g out i s simply not an o p t i o n — without  the  decisions  benefits  cannot be  offered  by  made a c c o r d i n g  consumer to  the  based s o l e l y on L e t us  unavailable  or u n h e l p f u l ,  products.  d e s i r e of producers and  S l o v i c and  modern  So  when  rational criteria  of  I suggest t h a t  d e c i s i o n s must be made  imagine t h a t we wish t o make a p e r s o n a l  Lowrance,  the  values.  the r i s k s i n v o l v e d i n a g i v e n product. we  In  of  most of us cannot do  d e c i s i o n t h e o r y and r i s k assessment, what i s l e f t ? when f a c t s are  "reduction  regulators?  80. Fischhoff,  122.  evaluation  of  What s o r t of i n f o r m a t i o n  do  The  most obvious s o r t of  information  with  which  statistical  measurement  an expert  might  provide  of the p r o b a b i l i t y  us would  o f harm.  be a  But SRAH  i m p l i e s t h a t such measurements a r e i m p o s s i b l e t o make o b j e c t i v e l y . They  depend  t o too large  a degree  on c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s  i n d i v i d u a l o r group making t h e e s t i m a t e .  We do not commonly know  the v a l u e assumptions which inform a g i v e n r i s k hypothesis  of the  estimate —  t h e e s t i m a t o r h e r s e l f may be unaware o f them.  Perhaps,  then, t h e e x p e r t s c o u l d p r o v i d e a s o r t o f analogy,  c i t i n g another r i s k t o which t h e c u r r e n t r i s k can be compared? risk  per  c u r r e n t l y under examination,  t h e e x p e r t s might t e l l  The  us, i s  approximately as l a r g e as t h e r i s k a s s o c i a t e d w i t h well-understood product strategy public.*" then  or a c t i v i t y  'x. '  among e x p e r t s  This,  trying  i n fact,  i s not an uncommon  t o convey a r i s k  estimate  t o the  But i f we m i s t r u s t p r o b a b i l i t y estimates t o b e g i n with,  comparing two such  estimates o n l y i n c r e a s e s t h e margins of  e r r o r . *^ We  have  already  noted  t h e degree  t o which  consumers must  depend on e x p e r t s f o r i n f o r m a t i o n r e g a r d i n g product  safety.  We  *° W i l l i a m Lowrance, i n Of A c c e p t a b l e Risk^ 73, quotes t h e U.S. Atomic Energy Commission WASH-1400 (August 1974) as d e s c r i b i n g the r i s k o f a c c i d e n t a t n u c l e a r p l a n t s thus: "For a c c i d e n t s c a u s i n g 1000 o r more f a t a l i t i e s t h e [chance o f an a c c i d e n t a t one of 100 n u c l e a r p l a n t s ] i s 1 i n 1,000,000 o r once i n a m i l l i o n years. I n t e r e s t i n g l y , t h i s i s j u s t t h e p r o b a b i l i t y t h a t a meteor would s t r i k e a U.S. p o p u l a t i o n c e n t r e and cause 1000 f a t a l i t i e s . " *^ I f each estimate i s a t t r i b u t e d a one order o f magnitude margin o f e r r o r (such margins o f e r r o r a r e not uncommon i n r i s k e s t i m a t e s ) , then t h e comparison o f t h e two e s t i m a t e s c a r r i e s a margin o f e r r o r o f two o r d e r s o f magnitude. One o f t h e two p r o b a b i l i t i e s b e i n g g i v e n as r o u g h l y e q u a l may a c t u a l l y be 100 times as l a r g e as t h e o t h e r .  have a l s o noted t h a t t h e guidance which such experts often severely limited.  can g i v e i s  I submit t h a t when t h i s i s t h e s i t u a t i o n ,  the agent i s l e f t w i t h making a s o r t o f e x i s t e n t i a l c h o i c e . Hampshire  makes a s i m i l a r p o i n t  with  regard  t o moral  Stuart choices.  Hampshire suggests t h a t t h e agent must simply choose, and t h a t she w i l l l i k e l y make t h e c h o i c e based on which course o f a c t i o n i s most nearly  i n accord  Hampshire  acknowledges  based on reason. lack  with  ways  that,  of l i f e  she wishes  where p o s s i b l e ,  choices  to  live.  should  be  But he a l s o suggests t h a t t h e r e i s a " . . . r a d i c a l  of s u f f i c i e n t  different  the sort  reason  of  life  i n cases  arises  where...a  and where  conflict  there  between  i s no way of  a c h i e v i n g a r e a s o n a b l e and coherent compromise between them."*^ What form w i l l such an e x i s t e n t i a l c h o i c e take i n t h e realm o f product  safety?  description  I  suggest  that  this  f o r a v a r i e t y of choices  indeed, taken f o r g r a n t e d —  i s i n fact  already  concerning  t h e proper  made every day  —  a v a s t a r r a y o f products.  Consumer A does not know t h e exact r i s k s i m p l i c i t i n t h e c h o i c e of a  convertible  convertible  over  suits  a  hard-top  her self-image.  sedan,  but  Consumer  she knows B knows  that  a  t h a t the  evidence l i n k i n g animal f a t s t o a range o f cancers i s i n c o n c l u s i v e , but he a l s o knows t h a t t h e p l e a s u r e s which he might d e r i v e from the consumption  o f such p r o d u c t s do not rank h i g h l y  personal p r i o r i t i e s . inherent  i n various  on h i s l i s t of  Consumer C has doubts about t h e r e a l dangers food  dyes, but she a l s o knows t h a t  her own  *2 S t u a r t Hampshire, " P u b l i c and P r i v a t e M o r a l i t y . " i n S t u a r t Hampshire, ed. P u b l i c and P r i v a t e M o r a l i t y . (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1978) 45.  image o f h e r s e l f as a c a r i n g mother i s i n c o m p a t i b l e w i t h a l l o w i n g her c h i l d r e n u n r e s t r i c t e d access t o products c o n t a i n i n g h i g h l e v e l s of such dubious Jeffrey  substances.  Harris,  a widely  respected  public  health  expert,  suggests t h a t a s i m i l a r c h o i c e i s made d a i l y by people who ignore the  absolute proscriptions  about t h e r i s k o f A.I.D.S.  t h a t c o n s t i t u t e most p u b l i c  warnings  Harris writes,  . . . a l l over America, n i g h t a f t e r n i g h t , o r d i n a r y , w e l l meaning h e t e r o s e x u a l men and women a r e v i o l a t i n g t h e s h a r p - l i n e p r e s c r i p t i o n s . ... These men and women a r e n ' t misinformed. They're n o t o u t o f t h e loop. They hear t h e message. They understand t h e message. They i g n o r e t h e message.*^ What H a r r i s i s s u g g e s t i n g i s t h a t c h o i c e s a r e i n e v i t a b l e , and t h a t many c r u c i a l c h o i c e s a r e made on bases other than r a t i o n a l  concern  f o r one's own h e a l t h . I suggest  t h a t i t ought t o be more w i d e l y acknowledged t h a t  product s a f e t y c h o i c e s can r e a s o n a b l y be grounded i n a wide v a r i e t y of  values.  Perhaps  consumers  should  actively  acknowledge t h e  p o s s i b i l i t y t h a t someone who e a t s h i g h - f a t foods w i t h abandon might be n e i t h e r i g n o r a n t o f r e l e v a n t s c i e n t i f i c data nor i r r a t i o n a l l y reckless,  but may  values.  Likewise,  i n s t e a d be e x p r e s s i n g t h e consumer  who,  a divergent despite  system of  hearing  expert  testimony t o t h e e f f e c t t h a t n u c l e a r power p l a n t s o n l y pose t h r e a t s comparable  t o those  posed  by w i d e l y  accepted  chemical  plants,  opposes c o n s t r u c t i o n o f new r e a c t o r s , may not be s u f f e r i n g from a l a c k o f understanding  of p r o b a b i l i t y  theory, but may i n s t e a d be  J e f f r e y E. H a r r i s , Deadly Choices; Coping w i t h H e a l t h R i s k s i n Everyday L i f e . (New York: B a s i c Books, 1993) 18.  making an i m p l i c i t statement about h e r c o r e b e l i e f s c o n c e r n i n g the r i s k s o f new t e c h n o l o g i e s . L e s t we s h o u l d t h i n k t h a t , r a t h e r than make poor c h o i c e s , we ought  t o devolve  even g r e a t e r decision-making r e s p o n s i b i l i t y t o  v a r i o u s groups o f e x p e r t s , Harvey Sapolsky reminds us t h a t t h e a c t of making such c h o i c e s i s i t s e l f g r e a t l y v a l u e d . we  cherish,  the  opportunity  politicians,  our  causes,  to  our  select  our  entertainment,  "Choice i s what companions, our  our  products."^  Sapolsky suggests t h a t t h e q u a l i t y o f such c h o i c e s may not be as important as t h e making o f them.  He w r i t e s :  "That we p e r s i s t i n  i g n o r i n g s a f e p l e a s u r e s or i n r e a c h i n g f o r dangerous ones i s t o be expected, f o r we c h e r i s h t h e i n s t i t u t i o n s t h a t always permit and, a t times, even encourage  such errors.""*  Next, I t u r n t o examine b r i e f l y t h e q u e s t i o n o f what consumers can r e a s o n a b l y demand o f both producers and r e g u l a t o r s i n terms o f h e l p i n making product s a f e t y d e c i s i o n s . will  receive  further  attention  The i d e a s presented here  i n Chapters  4 and 6, r e g a r d i n g  c o r p o r a t i o n s and r e g u l a t o r s r e s p e c t i v e l y . First,  l e t us examine  what  consumers  ought  t o expect o f  producer c o r p o r a t i o n s . As w i l l be d i s c u s s e d i n d e t a i l i n Chapter 4,  I  suggest  producers  that  consumers  t o make c l e a r  might  any v a l u e  reasonably assumptions  producer's a t t r i b u t i o n o f s a f e t y t o t h e p r o d u c t .  come  t o expect  inherent i n the Briefly  I suggest t h a t i t i s not unreasonable t o expect t h a t t r u l y  ^  Sapolsky, 2 01. Sapolsky, 201.  stated, adequate  product  l a b e l l i n g might i n c l u d e r e f e r e n c e s t o broad v a l u e systems  c o n t r i b u t i n g t o the c o r p o r a t i o n ' s c l a i m of s a f e t y .  One  way  might be done would be t o l i s t on l a b e l s the governmental (such  as  product any,  the as  who  National  'reasonably  Research  Council)  s a f e , ' and  the  who  this  agencies  have c e r t i f i e d  the  consumer o r g a n i z a t i o n s , i f  have been c o n s u l t e d as p a r t of the  safety-determination  process.**  To the extent t h a t consumers know or can f i n d out  the  values  said  the  of  organizations,  they  will  a l s o know some of  v a l u e s which one must h o l d i n order t o see a g i v e n product enough.  Another way  including  on  as s a f e  v a l u e i n f o r m a t i o n might be t r a n s m i t t e d i s by  labels  clearly  worded  statements  of  the  broad  assumptions t h a t went i n t o the c o r p o r a t i o n ' s own d e t e r m i n a t i o n t h a t the product's r i s k s are reasonable. Chapter  4,  practicable.  it  is  by  But  I  no  means  suggest  As I d i s c u s s i n more d e t a i l i n clear  that  that  the  such  idea  a  has  system  is  sufficient  t h e o r e t i c a l v a l u e t o m e r i t f u r t h e r d i s c u s s i o n and perhaps e m p i r i c a l testing. Next,  l e t us  examine  what  government r e g u l a t o r y b o d i e s . that  consumers  ought  to  expect  I w i l l b r i e f l y mention two  consumers ought t o expect of r e g u l a t o r s  (these  two  of  things involve  p o i n t s d i s c u s s e d i n d e t a i l i n Chapter 6) as w e l l as d i s c u s s i n g one  ^ One example of such approval i s the Good Housekeeping S e a l of Approval programme. See Lowrance, 132. Whether more widespread consumer-group p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n the s a f e t y - d e t e r m i n a t i o n process i s p r a c t i c a l or d e s i r a b l e i s a l a r g e enough t o p i c t o m e r i t separate c o n s i d e r a t i o n elsewhere. Not a l l groups which sound l i k e consumer groups a r e t r u l y a t arms l e n g t h from i n d u s t r y . Any but the most vague s o r t of endorsement might a l s o c a r r y i m p l i c a t i o n s f o r liability.  sort  of information  which  consumers  ought  not t o expect  from  regulators. F i r s t , I suggest t h a t consumers ought t o expect r e g u l a t o r s not to  use  'regulatory  decisions.  Deciding  science'  to  on a p p r o p r i a t e  depoliticize  product  safety  l e v e l s o f r i s k i s a matter of  c h o o s i n g among v a l u e s , and as such i s an i n h e r e n t l y p o l i t i c a l task. For  regulatory  bodies  to  allow  determine whether or n o t a g i v e n  scientists risk  and  engineers  to  i s reasonable i s t o shirk  r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r normative decision-making.  Consumers should, i n  l i g h t o f SRAH, demand t h a t v a l u e assumptions be made openly and i n a way t h a t i s open t o s c r u t i n y and debate, and t h a t such d e c i s i o n s be  made by those e l e c t e d  o r appointed  S l o v i c and F i s c h h o f f w r i t e : of p u b l i c funds. solicit  public  t o make v a l u e  " A n a l y s t s and r e g u l a t o r s a r e p a i d out  They should make t h e i r analyses input,  and  decisions.  reflect  public  comprehensible,  desires  in  their  c o n c l u s i o n s . ""' Second, consumers ought t o demand t h a t r e g u l a t o r s not p l a c e undue emphasis on models o f ' h y p o t h e t i c a l consent,' and ought t o demand t h a t such models o n l y be used w i t h a g r e a t d e a l o f c a u t i o n . Granted, consumers w i l l g e n e r a l l y n o t make demands i n terms o f the use  o f t h e o r e t i c a l models.  The p o i n t  i s , r a t h e r , t h a t consumers  need t o make c l e a r t o r e g u l a t o r s t h a t t h e i r c h o i c e s  o f r i s k s are  d e f i n e d by v a l u e s i n a manner which, w h i l e o c c a s i o n a l l y prima inconsistent, should  i s i n d i c a t i v e of r e a l values.  That  facie  i s , consumers  r e a s o n a b l y expect o f r e g u l a t o r s t h a t t h e l a t t e r n o t assume  S l o v i c and F i s c h h o f f , 143.  t h a t consumer consent t o a g i v e n necessarily  implies  consent  l e v e l of r i s k  to  a  similar  i n one  level  of  situation risk  in  a  different situation. Finally,  consumers  ought  not  to  d e s c r i p t i o n s of r i s k than are p o s s i b l e . attempt t o t r a n s m i t  accurate  are hampered by a t l e a s t two by now what  expect  more  detailed  Public o f f i c i a l s , i n their  i n f o r m a t i o n t o the consuming p u b l i c , crucial constraints.  The f i r s t i s the  f a m i l i a r sense i n which t h e r e are v e r y r e a l l i m i t a t i o n s on can  objectively  be  said  about  risk.  If  there  is  no  o b j e c t i v e l y determinable f a c t of the matter about s a f e t y , then the i n f o r m a t i o n which government r e g u l a t o r s can t r a n s m i t is  somewhat l i m i t e d .  t o consumers  I f consumers demand more than  science  is  capable of p r o v i d i n g , they w i l l be encouraging r e g u l a t o r s t o make the  sort  of  o v e r l y - s p e c i f i c statement  s i g n i f i c a n t value The  second  typically  hides  assumptions. limitation  on  information  t o consumers l i e s  available.  As  information  which  J e f f r e y E.  the  transmission  i n the main means of  Harris  notes,  the  of  good  risk  communication  l i m i t a t i o n s on  the  t r a n s m i s s i b l e i n b r i e f p u b l i c announcements mean t h a t  s h o r t messages are l i k e l y t o be the r u l e .  Such l i m i t a t i o n s on  the  q u a n t i t y of i n f o r m a t i o n mean t h a t p u b l i c s a f e t y messages are l i k e l y to  cast  safety  issues  i n rather  stark,  black  and  white  terms.  An e x c e l l e n t r e c e n t example i s the statement made by a U.S. safety o f f i c i a l regarding a type of skirt believed to be dangerously flammable. Ann Brown, c h a i r of the U.S. Consumer Product S a f e t y Commission, s t a t e d c a t e g o r i c a l l y t h a t "Consumers must stop wearing these s k i r t s , " d e s p i t e the f a c t t h a t t h e r e had been no reported deaths or i n j u r i e s . No Author, "'Highly Flammable' s k i r t s b e l i e v e d t o have been s o l d i n Vancouver,"  Harris  suggests  absolutes  that  i f a public  safety  message  not of  but o f degrees o f s a f e t y , " [ t ] h e r e would be an i m p l i c i t  message t h a t  some degree o f r i s k  i s acceptable,  i t s e l f wouldn't g i v e a formula f o r e v a l u a t i n g health  spoke  officials  must o f n e c e s s i t y  Consumers ought not t o expect  but t h e message  the risk."*'  work i n broad  public  officials  Public  brush-strokes.  t o p r o v i d e more  d e t a i l s about r i s k r e d u c t i o n than i s p o s s i b l e g i v e n l i m i t a t i o n s on the t a i l o r i n g o f r i s k a d v i c e communications.  t o personal  needs v i a p u b l i c - s a f e t y  However, as H a r r i s suggests, t h e l a c k o f t a i l o r i n g  does n o t mean t h a t such messages a r e without  value:  We cannot f o l l o w a l l t h e r u l e s and recommendations e x a c t l y , because we each have our s p e c i a l c i r c u m s t a n c e s . The m e d i c a l messages have n o t been i n d i v i d u a l l y t a i l o r made f o r us, but t h a t doesn't make them useless.'° Next, what responsibilities  implications  SRAH have  o f i n d i v i d u a l consumers?  expected t o know? safety.  might  f o r the  What should consumers be  I n d i v i d u a l consumers p l a y two r o l e s i n consumer  The f i r s t i s t h a t o f t h e consumer as such.  the r o l e o f t h e c i t i z e n i n v o l v e d i n p u b l i c debate. involve d i f f e r e n t epistemic First,  epistemic  The second i s These two r o l e s  responsibilities.  what i m p l i c a t i o n s might SRAH have f o r t h e epistemic  r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s o f t h e i n d i v i d u a l qua consumer? consumers do n o t know i s , o f course, enormous.  The amount which  Even i f t h e amount  which consumers know i s growing i n a b s o l u t e terms, t h e amount which  Vancouver Sun. 13 August 1994: A l . *'  H a r r i s , 49.  ™  H a r r i s , 206.  could  conceivably  Morris daily  Kaplan  be  known  suggests  in spite  i s growing  that  at  a  f a r greater  rate.  "[c]onsumers become more uninformed  of geometric  i n c r e a s e s i n consumer education,  in  coverage of consumer problems by the media, i n consumer l i t e r a t u r e , and  i n consumer  Harvey M.  Sapolsky  notes, s c i e n t i s t s themselves f a c e e p i s t e m i c shortcomings:  "Despite  extensive  l e g i s l a t i o n . I n d e e d , as  effort,  scientists  a c h i e v e by r e d u c i n g and  drinking  d r i n k s . "'^  as  could  not know how  opposed  to  labels.  artificially  been  instructions  avoided  had  f o r appropriate  can  salt,  sweetened  of consumers i s  T h i s i n f o r m a t i o n i s made r e a d i l y  I f a consumer misuses a product,  have  much one  l i g h t on the  commonly mentioned e p i s t e m i c duty  t h a t of r e a d i n g product available.  do  i n t a k e of r e d meat, going  sugared  One  still  the  use  on  and  consumer the  i f t h a t misuse  simply  product  read  label,  the  then i t  seems t h a t t h e consumer has v o l u n t a r i l y assumed a r i s k t h a t c o u l d have been avoided.  A duty t o warn on the p a r t of producers  implies  a duty t o l i s t e n on the p a r t of consumers. Just  how  far a  consumer  should  be  expected  to  go  in  her  attempts t o i n f o r m h e r s e l f about product r i s k s i s a complex i s s u e . My  interest  here i s s p e c i f i c a l l y  might have i n t h i s r e g a r d . the  lengths  to  which  attempt t o become an  a  i n the  i m p l i c a t i o n s which SRAH  SRAH seems t o imply  consumer  'informed'  can  be  consumer.  little  expected  to  regarding go  There i s a  in  her  sense i n  ^1 M o r r i s Kaplan, "Does the 'Informed Consumer' E x i s t ? W i l l He Ever?" i n Product Q u a l i t y . Performance, and Cost. National Academy of E n g i n e e r i n g . (Washington, D.C., 1972) 49. Sapolsky,  199.  which SRAH i m p l i e s a reduced duty t o know:  i f ought i m p l i e s can,  then one cannot have a duty t o know t h e unknowable.  There i s a l s o  a sense i n which SRAH i m p l i e s a g r e a t e r duty t o know: risk  i f objective  i s unknowable, t h e consumer may have an i n c r e a s e d  duty t o  compensate f o r t h i s by f i n d i n g out more about e a s i l y q u a n t i f i a b l e aspects  o f a product.  SRAH may a l s o  imply,  however, t h a t t h e  consumer has an enhanced duty t o know more about h e r s e l f . determination risk  o f whether o r not a g i v e n product poses a reasonable  i s truly  expected  I f the  to  s u b j e c t i v e , then t h e consumer might reasonably be be  sufficiently  introspective  to  have  a  clear  u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f what h e r own v a l u e s a r e . Next, what  i m p l i c a t i o n s might  SRAH have  f o r the epistemic  r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s o f t h e i n d i v i d u a l qua c i t i z e n ?  Qua c i t i z e n , t h e  i n d i v i d u a l may have o p p o r t u n i t i e s t o engage i n p u b l i c debate over various  products  members  of the public  acceptable-risk understand  along  that  have  One  i f they  " i s t o make  r e s p o n s i b i l i t y which are to p a r t i c i p a t e i n  the e f f o r t  needed  to  recurrently arise i n acceptable-risk  I n order t o p a r t i c i p a t e i n a c c e p t a b l e - r i s k debates i n  responsible  understanding  may  decisions  the issues  problems."^^ a  and t e c h n o l o g i e s .  manner,  citizens  might  o f "the p r o b a b i l i s t i c  be expected nature  t o have some  of r i s k  w i t h a b a s i c understanding o f t h e t e c h n o l o g i e s  phenomena," involved.  Baruch F i s c h h o f f , Sarah L i c h t e n s t e i n , P a u l S l o v i c , Stephen L. Derby, and Ralph L. Keeney, A c c e p t a b l e R i s k . (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1981) 150. Fischhoff, Lichtenstein, A c c e p t a b l e R i s k . 150.  Slovic,  Derby,  and  Keeney,  To t h e e x t e n t t h a t r i s k assessment i s s u b j e c t i v e , however, the most important one's  r e s p o n s i b i l i t y may again  own v a l u e s .  The most  be a r e s p o n s i b i l i t y t o know  important  contribution  which most  c i t i z e n s can make t o p u b l i c debate i s t h a t o f e x p r e s s i n g values. values  This  will  only  be v a l u a b l e  t o t h e extent  t h e i r own  t o which t h e  expressed a r e r e f l e c t i v e and s t a b l e .  Next, l e t us look a t what r e l e v a n c e r o l e o f consumer o r g a n i z a t i o n s . general  SRAH might have f o r t h e  S p e c i f i c a l l y , what e f f e c t might a  acceptance o f SRAH have on t h e r o l e p l a y e d  organizations  i n product  safety  debates?  To what  by consumer extent  would  t h e i r r o l e be e i t h e r strengthened o r compromised? In order key that  t o examine t h e r o l e o f consumer o r g a n i z a t i o n s , two  d i s t i n c t i o n s should between  what  representation. organization members.  I  shall  Literal  call  i s t h e case,  i s literally  The f i r s t literal  representation  has a d e f i n i t e body  When t h i s  organization  f i r s t be made.  acting  the executive on b e h a l f  membership  Consumer  Reports.  based  or  subscribing  o f t h e consumer  o f an  identifiable  An example o f such an  i n t h e U.S., which has an  on s u b s c r i p t i o n s  Hypothetical  hypothetical  when a consumer  of r e g i s t e r e d  i s t h e Consumer's Union  ongoing  and  occurs  group, a t t h a t group's c o l l e c t i v e request. organization  distinction i s  to i t s publication.  representation,  on t h e  other  hand, o c c u r s when a group o r i n d i v i d u a l a c t s i n t h e i n t e r e s t s o f a l a r g e r group —  u s u a l l y consumers i n g e n e r a l —  without a s p e c i f i c  Mark V. Nadel, The P o l i t i c s o f Consumer (Indianapolis: B o b b s - M e r r i l l , 1971) 159-60.  Protection.  mandate t o do so.  An example of t h i s s o r t of r e p r e s e n t a t i o n i s the  p u b l i c advocacy work of Ralph N a d e r . N a d e r him  seek  to  protect  the  public  s p e c i f i c democratic mandate t o do The which  interest,  and  advocates  without  having  like any  so.  second d i s t i n c t i o n which must be made i s between r o l e s  such  groups  can  play.  Mark V.  Nadel,  in his  book  The  P o l i t i c s of Consumer P r o t e c t i o n , i d e n t i f i e s two broad r o l e s played by  i n t e r e s t groups i n g e n e r a l .  agency r o l e .  One  r o l e i s what Nadel c a l l s  the  T h i s r o l e c o n s i s t s of " a c t i n g as agents on b e h a l f of  the p e r c e i v e d b e l i e f s or o b j e c t i v e i n t e r e s t s of a group or c l a s s of people."^ role.  The  o t h e r r o l e Nadel c a l l s the c o n s t i t u e n c y  expansion  T h i s r o l e " . . . c o n s i s t s of expanding the c o n s t i t u e n c y of an  i n t e r e s t by i n c r e a s i n g the awareness t h a t people have of t h e i r self-interest  or  to  increase  the  number of  people who  own  perceive  themselves as h o l d i n g c e r t a i n i n t e r e s t s . "^* Next, on t o the s u b s t a n t i v e q u e s t i o n .  To what extent i s the  r o l e of consumer o r g a n i z a t i o n s e i t h e r j e o p a r d i z e d or by  SRAH?  what  L e t us  impact  might  organizations?  look a t the two SRAH have  on  strengthened  r o l e s d e s c r i b e d above. the  'agency'  role  of  First, consumer  I suggest t h a t t o the extent t h a t r i s k assessments  i n v o l v e normative assumptions, the agency r o l e of membership-based  Accounts of Nader's work abound. An i n f o r m a l account i s g i v e n i n C h a r l e s McCarry, C i t i z e n Nader. New York: Saturday Review P r e s s , 1972. A more formal a n a l y s i s i s g i v e n i n Robert D. Hoisworth, P u b l i c I n t e r e s t L i b e r a l i s m and the C r i s i s of A f f l u e n c e . Boston: G.K. H a l l & Co., 1980.  '*  Nadel,  156.  Nadel,  156.  consumer  organizations  becomes  more  crucial.  Such  o r g a n i z a t i o n s a r e an important way o f aggregating consumer  values  —  although  degrees o f l e g i t i m a c y . organizations  becomes c r u c i a l  obviously  and r e p r e s e n t i n g  do so w i t h  The v a l u e aggregation  i s a crucial  organizations.  they  consumer  varying  f u n c t i o n o f consumer  element o f t h e i r  n a t u r e as p o l i t i c a l  When r i s k assessment i s seen t o be s u b j e c t i v e , i t f o r consumers t o have t h e i r  values  represented  directly. SRAH may suggest a l i m i t a t i o n , which can be p l a y e d relies  by t h e s o r t  on h y p o t h e t i c a l  however, on t h e agency  o f consumer o r g a n i z a t i o n  representation.  As w i l l  be seen  role which i n my  d i s c u s s i o n o f h y p o t h e t i c a l consent i n Chapter 6, t h e i d e a t h a t r i s k assessment i s s u b j e c t i v e poses problems f o r those who seek t o make assumptions about what consumers r e a l l y want o r v a l u e . some v a l u e assumptions a r e f a i r l y s a f e t o make.  Clearly,  There i s no doubt  a v e r y l e g i t i m a t e agency r o l e f o r groups l i k e Ralph Nader's Center for  Study  o f Responsive  democratic mandate. basic  sorts  grievous  that  when  despite  their  When such o r g a n i z a t i o n s  of corporate  sorts  misrepresent  Law,  o f product  responsibility, dangers,  lack fight  without  i t i s unlikely  mandate  direct  f o r t h e most  or against  t h e v a l u e s of any consumers a t a l l . organizations  of a  t h e most that  they  I merely suggest  seek  to  influence  r e g u l a t o r y d e c i s i o n s , i t ought t o be remembered t h a t t h e degree t o which they r e p r e s e n t  t h e wishes o f consumers may vary  with t h e  degree o f s p e c i f i c i t y o f t h e i r demands. Next,  what  impact  might  SRAH  have  f o r the  'constituency  expansion' education  role  of  consumer  organizations?  Clearly,  public  i s a major component o f t h e c o n s t i t u e n c y expansion r o l e .  Consumer o r g a n i z a t i o n s  increase t h e i r  constituency  —  either i n  terms o f e n r o l e d membership o r merely i n terms o f g e n e r a l p u b l i c support or  —  that  by c o n v i n c i n g o t h e r s t h a t a g i v e n product a  given  transmission  issue  i s important.  of information,  This  i s dangerous  i s done  by the  e i t h e r through standard a d v e r t i s i n g  channels o r through t h e news media.  But as mentioned above i n t h i s  chapter, SRAH i m p l i e s l i m i t a t i o n s on how much o b j e c t i v e i n f o r m a t i o n t h e r e a c t u a l l y i s t o be t r a n s m i t t e d .  Both t h e form and t h e content  of such campaigns should be such t h a t consumers a r e not pressured i n t o t h i n k i n g o f a g i v e n r i s k as o b j e c t i v e l y unacceptable.^' hypothesis, a personal,  Per  t h e d e t e r m i n a t i o n t h a t a g i v e n r i s k i s unacceptable i s s u b j e c t i v e one.  I f consumer o r g a n i z a t i o n s  represent  r i s k s as o b j e c t i v e l y unacceptable,  they w i l l be s e r v i n g o n l y t h e i r  own  doing  interest  i n expansion,  and  so  a t t h e expense  of  responsible representation. Next, I t u r n t o an examination o f t h e i m p l i c a t i o n s which a subjective  model  of  c o r p o r a t i o n s i n product  risk  assessment  has  f o r the  role  safety.  '' See f o o t n o t e 63 above f o r an example o f a c a t e g o r i c a l statement by a s a f e t y bureaucrat s u g g e s t i n g t h a t a product i s o b j e c t i v e l y unacceptable.  of  Chapter 4 : Risks Responsibility  What  to  Others :  responsibilities  Subjectivity  can  fairly  fall  corporations/° i n l i g h t of the  l i t e r a t u r e on the  risk?  that  It  seems  unlikely  and  Corporate  upon  producer  s u b j e c t i v i t y of  corporations  can  displace  r e s p o n s i b i l i t y onto the p r o f e s s i o n a l judgment of the engineers they employ,  onto  consumers  the  who  assessment  bureaucrats  freely  is truly  purchase  be  expectations  of the consumer.  reasonably  value  them,  products.  or  onto  Yet  if  i t becomes u n c l e a r  in  make  good  assumptions  risk a  risk  I hope here t o o u t l i n e a theory  faith,'  decisions  the  j u s t how  sure i n advance t h a t h i s product meets the  on  under  behalf  absence of t r u l y informed consent. the  regulate  their  subjective,  producer can  'distribution  who  inherent  which  of  of  corporations  consumers  even  in  can the  I a l s o propose a system whereby  i n a producer's  evaluation  p r o d u c t ' s s a f e t y can be made c l e a r t o the consuming p u b l i c —  of  a  thus  enhancing, r a t h e r than r e s t r i c t i n g , the freedom of c h o i c e necessary to  liberal-democratic  appreciation that  we  of the  should  corporations, In the  capitalism.  s u b j e c t i v i t y of  necessarily  but t h a t we  expect  should  I wish t o risk  argue t h a t  assessment  either  more  or  a  implies less  full not from  expect something d i f f e r e n t .  absence of omniscient government r e g u l a t i o n , product  For the purposes of t h i s d i s c u s s i o n , i t w i l l s u f f i c e t o t h i n k of the c o r p o r a t i o n as a s i n g l e d e c i s i o n - m a k i n g u n i t , and t o assume t h a t the locus of moral r e s p o n s i b i l i t y within the c o r p o r a t i o n l i e s w i t h whomever makes the r e l e v a n t h i g h - l e v e l d e c i s i o n s . A more expansive d i s c u s s i o n would d i f f e r e n t i a t e among the r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s of v a r i o u s groups w i t h i n the c o r p o r a t i o n .  s a f e t y amounts t o producers d e c i d i n g on r e a s o n a b l e l e v e l s of r i s k to  impose*' upon consumers.  The  q u e s t i o n of the  of  c o r p o r a t i o n s w i t h r e g a r d t o s e l l i n g products the r i s k s of which  are s u b j e c t i v e breaks l o g i c a l l y i n t o two in  responsibilities  separate i s s u e s .  First,  l i g h t of t h i s s u b j e c t i v i t y , what r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s f a l l upon any  person  or  o r g a n i z a t i o n whose  actions create r i s k s  f o r others?  Second, what r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s f a l l upon the c o r p o r a t i o n as a r e s u l t of  i t s special status within society? We n o r m a l l y t h i n k t h a t , a l l o t h e r t h i n g s b e i n g e q u a l , we have  a duty not t o impose r i s k s on o t h e r s . all  t h i n g s are not  equal.  Many r i s k s  i m p l i c i t l y or e x p l i c i t l y , by those who The consists  most  common  sort  But, as i s u s u a l l y the case,  of  risk  are consented  which  simply by going about our d a i l y b u s i n e s s .  every time  either  on  others  bear them.  of those r i s k s which a l l of us  c e r t a i n degree of r i s k  to,  we  impose  impose upon each  other  For example, I impose a  ( h o p e f u l l y t r i v i a l ) on any number of people  I d e c i d e t o d r i v e somewhere.  I f I d i d not d r i v e , i t  would reduce the chance of my k i l l i n g some p e d e s t r i a n t o 0.  Each  p e d e s t r i a n out t h e r e would have her chance of b e i n g k i l l e d on t h a t day decreased by some s m a l l but s t a t i s t i c a l l y determinable amount. These are t y p i c a l l y r i s k s imposed on persons t o whom we have no r e l a t i o n s h i p beyond t h a t of f e l l o w - c i t i z e n s h i p .  Consent i n t h i s  *' I use t h e word "impose" here w i t h some c a u t i o n . I r e a l i z e t h a t i t sounds p e j o r a t i v e . C o r p o r a t i o n s do not g e n e r a l l y f o r c e consumers t o do a n y t h i n g , but i t i s nonetheless the case t h a t t h e i r p r o d u c t s do pose i n h e r e n t t h r e a t s , t h r e a t s which would not be p r e s e n t were those products not on the market. Given t h a t , per hypothesis, f u l l d i s c l o s u r e i s i m p o s s i b l e , "impose" seems f a i r , so l o n g as we remember the degree t o which i t i s a loaded term.  s o r t o f case seems unnecessary, p r o b a b l y because the r i s k s i n v o l v e d are  r e l a t i v e l y s m a l l , and because human l i f e  impossible  i f we  a l l w o r r i e d about  such  would simply become  things.  Keeton notes, " S i n c e the unintended consequences go  on  indefinitely,  necessity. "*2 consent  to  some l i m i t  As  Robert  E.  of one's conduct  of r e s p o n s i b i l i t y  is a  practical  Another t a c t might be t o suggest t h a t we a l l t a c i t l y these  risks  simply  a c t i v i t i e s of our community. unproblematic.  by  participating  E i t h e r way  normal  t h e s e r i s k s seem m o r a l l y  The well-known-but-minor  most consumer p r o d u c t s seem t o f a l l  i n the  into  risks  involved  this  category.  i n using No  one  suggests t h a t c o r p o r a t i o n s manufacturing r a z o r b l a d e s are i n any way r e s p o n s i b l e f o r the minor n i c k s and c u t s s u f f e r e d by consumers i n the a c t o f shaving. Other r i s k s are more s e r i o u s , and t h e i r consequences  are the  s o r t t h a t f a l l under the domain of the law o f t o r t s and n e g l i g e n c e . M i c h a e l B a y l e s , i n h i s P r i n c i p l e s o f Law, tort  law maxim i s volenti  voluntarily  i n j u r e d . "^^  can be no ' i n j u r y ' a l s o notes t h a t ,  non  f i t injuria  notes t h a t " [ a ] n a n c i e n t —  a person cannot  be  That i s , where consent i s p r e s e n t , t h e r e  i n the l e g a l sense of 'wrongful harm.' " [ i ] n n e g l i g e n c e law,  Bayles  consent has u s u a l l y gone  under the name o f assumption of r i s k . . . " * ^ , and t h a t " [ i ] n assuming ^2 Robert E. N e g l i g e n c e Cases", P h i l o s o p h y o f Law. 355. Analysis. ^  Keeton, "The B a s i c Rule of L e g a l Cause i n i n Joel F e i n b e r g and Hyman Gross, eds.. (Encino, CA: Dickenson P u b l i s h i n g Co., 1975)  M i c h a e l D. B a y l e s , P r i n c i p l e s of Law: A Normative (Dodrecht, H o l l a n d : D. R e i d e l P u b l i s h i n g , 1987) 245.  Bayles, P r i n c i p l e s  o f Law.  246.  r i s k . . . o n e waives the l e g a l duty t o compensate f o r any i n j u r y t h a t might ensue. In o r d e r t o be j u s t i f i e d i n imposing r i s k s on o t h e r s , then, we need  either  their  explicit  consent,  or  e x p e c t a t i o n t h a t they would consent.  at  least  Before we  a  reasonable  proceed  with  an  a c t i v i t y , we need t o e v a l u a t e the r i s k s which t h a t a c t i v i t y holds for  others.  Sometimes  this  will  involve  common  sometimes i t w i l l need t o be an e x p l i c i t p r o c e s s . ask t h e t h r e e q u e s t i o n s suggested by  sense,  We may  and  need t o  Rescher:  1) What i s the l i k e l i h o o d of the n e g a t i v e outcome? 2) How  severe i s the n e g a t i v e outcome?  3) What e v a l u a t i o n (importance)  i s p l a c e d on t h i s outcome?**  The c a t c h , of course, has always seemed t o l i e i n s t e p 3, f o r i t i s the importance which the outcome has for the person the p r e s e n t case, the consumer —  which matters.  an outcome i s not an o b j e c t i v e c h a r a c t e r i s t i c . what  importance  someone  else  will  place  on  affected  —  The importance  in of  In order t o know various  negative  outcomes, we must f i r s t have a c l e a r u n d e r s t a n d i n g of t h a t person's values. But  C l e a r l y t h i s i s no t r i v i a l the  literature  matters f u r t h e r . subjective.  cited  demand.  above  in  Chapter  2  complicates  I t suggests t h a t Steps 1) and 2) are a l s o q u i t e  P e r c e p t i o n s of both the l i k e l i h o o d and the s e v e r i t y of  a n e g a t i v e outcome seem t o be matters  h e a v i l y i n f l u e n c e d by  the  p r i o r s o c i a l commitments and p s y c h o l o g i c a l t e n d e n c i e s of the person *^  B a y l e s , P r i n c i p l e s of Law.  **  Summarized from Rescher,  246 1983.  d o i n g the e v a l u a t i n g . I t i s a l l too easy t o assume t h a t the r i s k s we become aware of and which we b e l i e v e t o be important  are the same ones which others  a r e aware o f and b e l i e v e t o be important.  Care should be taken t o  remember t h a t even w i t h i n our immediate c i r c l e of f r i e n d s , values are seldom i f ever homogenous.  A fortiori,  we  should not  expect  the v a l u e s h e l d by c o r p o r a t i o n s t o be the same as those h e l d by  any  given  the  customer.  Even  decision-makers  within  values,  typical  of  actions  taken  values.  The  mediated  by  by  i f we the  accept  corporation  society at  values  are of  role-responsibilities  dubious are,  l a r g e , we  corporations  personal  the  and  terms  of  their  must remember t h a t  seldom  even  in  assumption  top  based  on  individual  d e c i s i o n makers  corporate  the  are  decision-making  procedures. What s p e c i a l r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s might c o r p o r a t i o n s have towards consumers beyond those which p r i v a t e i n d i v i d u a l s have w i t h to  subjecting  others  to  risk?  Various  regard  characteristics  of  c o r p o r a t i o n s , such as the n e a r l y c o e r c i v e power of o l i g o p o l i e s and the  c o r p o r a t i o n ' s unique a b i l i t y  seen as imposing s p e c i a l d u t i e s . if  risk  determination  were  t o see  aggregate r i s k s ,  can  be  But t h a t much would be t r u e even  purely  objective.  What  special  o b l i g a t i o n s f a l l t o the c o r p o r a t i o n s p e c i f i c a l l y as a r e s u l t of the s u b j e c t i v i t y o f r i s k assessment? I t has product who  g e n e r a l l y been assumed t h a t the  amounts t o c o n s e n t i n g  purchase products  accept  a c t of purchasing  t o a t l e a s t some r i s k s . the  risks  which go  along  a  Consumers with  the  possession  and use o f those  products  t o the extent  that  they  understand,or can r e a s o n a b l y be expected t o understand, t h e r i s k s involved. fit  T h i s r e f l e c t s t h e p r i n c i p l e , c i t e d above, o f volenti non  injuria.  The g e n e r a l p r i n c i p l e  negligence  i s that  "...the  person  as i t a p p l i e s t o t h e law of who  knows  t h e nature  and  c h a r a c t e r o f t h e r i s k t h a t he runs cannot succeed i n a c l a i m f o r damages f o r i n j u r i e s risk."*'  suffered  The s t i p u l a t i o n  as a r e s u l t  o f h i s assumption of  t h a t t h e consumer know 'the nature and  c h a r a c t e r o f t h e r i s k ' suggests t h a t what i s r e q u i r e d i s not j u s t consent, but informed  consent.  However, many o f t h e r i s k s i n h e r e n t i n most modern products are  seldom  clear  and obvious.  r i s k s which a r e c l e a r , eyes.  The dangers  Granted,  there w i l l  a l s o be many  but o t h e r s w i l l be hidden from  o f butcher k n i v e s a r e obvious  non-expert  to a l l ;  the  dangers o f t h e h e r b i c i d e a l a c h l o r a r e n o t . How, faith?  then, can a manufacturer How  merchandise  can manufacturer  distribute  a product i n good  corporations j u s t i f y  distributing  t o a p u b l i c who w i l l be b l i n d t o a t l e a s t some o f t h e  r i s k s involved?  I n p a r t i c u l a r , how can they do so when then cannot  even i n t h e i r own minds a r r i v e a t an o b j e c t i v e e v a l u a t i o n of r i s k ? I would truly  like  informed  t o suggest t h a t t h i s  consent  i s mitigated  seeming i m p o s s i b i l i t y of by  three  factors.  The  c o r p o r a t i o n ' s duty t o warn may be seen as b e i n g bounded by consumer assumption  o f normal  risk,  by  the i n t e g r i t y  involved  i n the  *' O n t a r i o Law Reform Commission, Report on Products Liability. (Toronto: M i n i s t r y o f t h e A t t o r n e y General, 1979) 96.  professional  expertise  standards by r e g u l a t o r y  o f i t s engineers, bodies.  and by t h e s e t t i n g of  Each o f t h e s e i s d i s c u s s e d  ina  s e p a r a t e c h a p t e r (Chapters 3, 5, and 6 r e s p e c t i v e l y ) , but they w i l l be d i s c u s s e d b r i e f l y here i n order t o i l l u s t r a t e what they leave i n terms o f c o r p o r a t e r e s p o n s i b i l i t y . The  first  i s that  consent,  what  we  sometimes,  have  rather  i s conscious  acknowledged l a c k o f i n f o r m a t i o n .  than  truly  consent  'informed'  i n spite  o f an  The consumer i s informed  that  r i s k s e x i s t , but, due t o s c i e n t i f i c u n c e r t a i n t y o r a simple l a c k of s c i e n t i f i c knowledge, cannot be t o l d t h e exact extent o f t h e r i s k . In such a s i t u a t i o n , t h e consumer may f e e l e i t h e r t h a t t h e probable b e n e f i t s a r e so g r e a t , o r t h e p o s s i b l e r i s k s so s m a l l , t h a t he does not need t o know t h e exact d e t a i l s o f t h e r i s k An  example o f l a r g e p r o b a b l e b e n e f i t s i s found i n t h e use of  experimental diseases  involved.  drugs  f o r which  f o r t h e treatment no c e r t a i n cure  o f AIDS.  For  i s known, i t may  terminal be  quite  r a t i o n a l f o r a p a t i e n t t o d e s i r e an e x p e r i m e n t a l drug t h e r i s k s o f which a r e q u i t e u n c e r t a i n . in  a small  minority  C l e a r l y t h i s j u s t i f i c a t i o n a p p l i e s only  o f desperate cases q u i t e u n l i k e t h e average  purchase o f a consumer good. An  example  safety razors. risks  of small,  i f unquantified,  risk  i s t h e use of  I n t h i s case, t h e consumer i s w i l l i n g t o view t h e  t o which he i s s u b j e c t e d  normal a c t i v i t i e s o f l i f e .  by t h e producer  as p a r t  He does not know t h e exact r i s k , but he  i s f a i r l y sure t h a t t h e r i s k s a r e s m a l l enough t o ignored. as  B a y l e s notes,  "[pjeople  of the  Also,  do n o t n e c e s s a r i l y want o r expect a  c o m p l e t e l y s a f e product d e s i g n ; for  they w i l l r a t i o n a l l y t r a d e s a f e t y  e f f i c i e n c y and r e l i a b i l i t y . " * * The  second p o s s i b l e way 'around' informed consent i s based on  a model o f p r o f e s s i o n a l e n g i n e e r i n g  e x p e r t i s e s i m i l a r t o t h e model  of e x p e r t i s e which a p p l i e s t o d o c t o r s . d e t a i l i n Chapter 5. far a  I discuss t h i s proposal i n  The b a s i c a s s e r t i o n i s t h a t engineers,  i n so  as they a r e asked t o c e r t i f y t h e s a f e t y o f a product, perform task  that  expected  i s not merely  to  make  value  technically qualified.  technical.  decisions  Like  on  To some extent,  doctors,  behalf  of  they a r e  those  less  t h e consumer's consent i s  g i v e n i n t h e form of t r u s t i n t h e expert o p i n i o n s o f t h e engineers employed by t h e c o r p o r a t i o n .  We might e n v i s i o n t h e consumer as  r e l y i n g n o t so much on t h e i n t e g r i t y o f t h e c o r p o r a t i o n but on the expertise  o f t h e engineer.  Under  this  model,  the corporation  becomes something o f a go-between, p r o v i d i n g a product designed by e n g i n e e r s f o r t h e consuming p u b l i c . Finally, moral  I suggest t h a t t h e r e i s some l e g i t i m a t e t r a n s f e r o f  r e s p o n s i b i l i t y , on  regulatory  bodies  regulatory  bodies,  the part  and consumer  of  corporations,  associations.  i n so f a r as r e g u l a t i o n s  With  to regard  of a c e r t a i n  both to type  e x i s t , t h e s u b j e c t i v e nature o f r i s k assessment d i c t a t e s t h a t more moral emphasis r e s t on such r e g u l a t i o n s . i n d e t a i l i n Chapter 6.  This point i s discussed  B r i e f l y s t a t e d , I suggest t h i s t r a n s f e r of  moral r e s p o n s i b i l i t y r e s t s on t h e f a c t t h a t r e g u l a t o r y bodies a r e capable o f r e p r e s e n t i n g  **  Bayles,  —  not j u s t e s t i m a t i n g —  P r i n c i p l e s o f Law. 244.  t h e aggregate of  consumer i n t e r e s t s . value  That i s , i t i s t h e j o b o f r e g u l a t o r s t o make  judgments on b e h a l f  o f consumers.  Corporations  i n general  have n e i t h e r t h e a b i l i t y nor t h e p o l i t i c a l l e g i t i m a c y necessary t o perform t h i s f u n c t i o n . also  implies  a  Of course, as d i s c u s s e d  change  i n t h e grounds  d e c i s i o n s may be j u s t i f i e d . I  argued  i n Chapter  i n Chapter 6, t h i s  upon  which  With r e g a r d t o consumer a s s o c i a t i o n s ,  3 that  they  t o o a r e a way  o f aggregating  consumer v a l u e s , w i t h v a r y i n g degrees o f l e g i t i m a c y . that  such  regulatory  representation  and  aggregation  To t h e extent  is  legitimate,  corporations  which f o l l o w g u i d e l i n e s s e t o r r a t i f i e d  associations  a r g u a b l y a b s o l v e themselves o f a c e r t a i n  moral  by consumer degree of  responsibility. I f a t l e a s t some moral r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r p r o d u c t s a f e t y l i e s ,  as  just  suggested, w i t h consumers, engineers,  and r e g u l a t o r s , i s  any moral r e s p o n s i b i l i t y l e f t t o t h e c o r p o r a t i o n ?  I n f a c t , a good  deal of r e s p o n s i b i l i t y i s l e f t t o the corporation.  The main change  t h a t should r e s u l t from t h e r e a l i z a t i o n o f t h e s u b j e c t i v i t y of r i s k assessment  i s not t h a t  corporations,  we  should  but t h a t we should  expect  more  expect d i f f e r e n t .  where r e g u l a t i o n s e x i s t , meeting these should very  long  way  responsibility.*' corporations  toward This  or  fulfilling  the  less  from  F o r example,  be seen as going a  corporation's  i s not t o say t h a t we should  moral  not expect  t o go beyond minimal adherence t o r e g u l a t i o n s , o r t o  I l e a v e open here t h e p o s s i b i l i t y t h a t l e g a l r e s p o n s i b i l i t y c o u l d be a s s i g n e d f o r reasons other than moral r e s p o n s i b i l i t y , such as t h e s o c i a l expediency o f a s s i g n i n g r e s p o n s i b i l i t y t o those w i t h the deepest p o c k e t s .  be  proactive  i n their  search  f o r safety.  Reliance  on p u b l i c  r e g u l a t i o n s i s however a way o f d e f e r r i n g t o t h e r e g u l a t o r y body's l e g i t i m a t e r i g h t t o make v a l u e assumptions on b e h a l f o f consumers. On  t h e other  hand, we should  terms o f honest i n f o r m a t i o n  expect more than we c u r r e n t l y do i n from c o r p o r a t i o n s  regarding  t h e value  assumptions t h a t go i n t o p u t t i n g c e r t a i n p r o d u c t s on t h e market. I suggest t h a t consumers have t h e r i g h t t o expect producers t o make  clear  any v a l u e  assumptions  inherent  a t t r i b u t i o n o f s a f e t y t o t h e product. assumption i s g i v e n  by Brunk e t a l .  i n t h e producer's  An example o f such a value These authors note t h a t one  assumption made by Monsanto Canada Incorporated  as p a r t  of  its  a s s e r t i o n t h a t a l a c h l o r was 'safe enough' was t h e assumption t h a t the  economic b e n e f i t s t o be r e a l i z e d through t h e a v a i l a b i l i t y o f  a l a c h l o r were r e l e v a n t t o t h e decision.'"  The c o n t r a r y assumption,  made by t h e H e a l t h P r o t e c t i o n Branch o f H e a l t h and Welfare Canada, was  that  risks  ought  simply  t o be  minimized.'^  SRAH makes  necessary new means o f t r a n s m i t t i n g not t e c h n i c a l i n f o r m a t i o n , but value information.  I suggest t h a t i t i s not unreasonable t o expect  t h a t t r u l y adequate product l a b e l l i n g might i n c l u d e r e f e r e n c e s t o broad v a l u e  systems c o n t r i b u t i n g t o t h e c o r p o r a t i o n ' s  the product i s s a f e . on  claim  that  One way t h i s might be done would be t o l i s t  l a b e l s t h e governmental agencies and consumer groups who have  Brunk et al., 62. Brunk et al., 49.  ratified  t h e product  as 'reasonably  s a f e . ''^  consumers know o r can f i n d out t h e v a l u e s  To t h e extent  that  of s a i d organizations,  they w i l l a l s o know some o f t h e v a l u e s which one must need t o h o l d t o see a g i v e n product as s a f e enough. may  be  a  very  Organizational associations.  concise  way  reputations  of  L i s t i n g such o r g a n i z a t i o n s  communicating  are often  richly  general laden  To say, f o r example, t h a t a product  values.  with  value  i s endorsed by  the D a i r y Bureau o f Canada, f o r example, i m p l i e s a d i f f e r e n t s e t of criteria Health  than  would  be i m p l i e d  by an endorsement by t h e World  Organization.  Another including  on  way  value  labels  information clearly  might  worded  be t r a n s m i t t e d  statements  of  the  i s by broad  assumptions t h a t went i n t o t h e c o r p o r a t i o n ' s own d e t e r m i n a t i o n t h a t the  product's  risks  a r e reasonable.  This could  i n p r i n c i p l e be  done i n a way which r e p r e s e n t s t h e c o r p o r a t i o n ' s assumptions not as b i a s e s , but as v a l u e s . hypothetical committed  statements.  Consider  Statement One:  t o making good q u a l i t y  affordable to a l l . '  the values  products  Statement Two:  i m p l i e d by these two 'Alpha C o r p o r a t i o n i s available at a price  'We a t Beta C o r p o r a t i o n  feel  s t r o n g l y t h a t t h e h e a l t h and s a f e t y o f our customers should be our primary o b j e c t i v e . '  S i m i l a r statements a l r e a d y e x i s t i n t h e codes  of e t h i c s p u b l i s h e d by many major c o r p o r a t i o n s .  Take, f o r example,  the opening l i n e s o f t h e Credo o f T y l e n o l manufacturers Johnson & Johnson:  ^ R e s e r v a t i o n s r e g a r d i n g such endorsements by consumer groups are mentioned b r i e f l y i n f o o t n o t e 66 on page 35 above.  We b e l i e v e our f i r s t r e s p o n s i b i l i t y i s t o the d o c t o r s , nurses and p a t i e n t s , t o mothers and a l l o t h e r s who use our p r o d u c t s and s e r v i c e s . In meeting t h e i r needs e v e r y t h i n g we do must be of h i g h q u a l i t y . ' ^ Similar  statements,  transferred  to  product  labels,  could  consumers t o b e t t e r understand the standard of q u a l i t y and set  by  the  corporation,  above  and  beyond  minimal  help safety  government  regulations. It  i s of  labelling sufficient  course  by  no  i s practicable.  means c l e a r I merely  that  suggest  t h e o r e t i c a l value to merit further  possibly empirical Next, I t u r n  such  a  system  of  the  idea  has  investigation  and  that  testing. t o an examination  of the i m p l i c a t i o n s  which a  s u b j e c t i v e model of r i s k assessment might have f o r the p r o f e s s i o n a l r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s of engineers employed by producer  corporations.  Quoted i n R. E r i c Reidenbach and Donald P. Robin, "A Conceptual Model of Corporate Development," J o u r n a l of Business E t h i c s . 10 (1991): 181. R e p r i n t e d i n E t h i c s Readings Handbook. P r e - P u b l i c a t i o n E d i t i o n , M i c h a e l McDonald, ed. (Vancouver: CGA Canada, nd).  Chapter 5;  Engineers''* and  'Safe' Products  P r o f e s s i o n a l engineers employed by producer c o r p o r a t i o n s are regularly  asked  to  make  judgments  r e a s o n a b l e r i s k s on consumers.  r e g a r d i n g the  That  i m p o s i t i o n of  i s , they are expected t o be  a b l e t o t e l l whether a g i v e n product i s 'reasonably safe.''*  The  s i t u a t i o n i n which such engineers f i n d themselves i s d i s t i n g u i s h e d from t h e s i t u a t i o n of the p r i v a t e  individual  i n t h r e e key ways.  F i r s t , b e i n g a p r o f e s s i o n a l , the engineer has c e r t a i n d u t i e s beyond those of a p r i v a t e i n d i v i d u a l . clearly from  specifiable,  the  use  individuals,  of  a  Second, the r i s k s i n v o l v e d are more  a t l e a s t i n t h a t , per specific  professional  product.  hypothesis, Third,  engineers most  they stem  unlike  o f t e n do  not  private have  the  o p t i o n of s a y i n g 'I don't know.' The  problem, of course,  i s that  in light  of the  literature  reviewed above, i t seems d i f f i c u l t a t b e s t f o r e n g i n e e r s t o p r o v i d e consumers  with  objective  estimations  associated with t h e i r products.  of  the  levels  of  risk  As s a f e t y e x p e r t s , they are asked  t o d e c i d e whether the r i s k s i n h e r e n t i n a product a r e 'reasonable.' I d e a l l y , t h e q u e s t i o n should be whether the r i s k s would be seen as  ^ I assume t h a t most of what i s s a i d i n a p p l i e s t o o t h e r s o r t s of s c i e n t i s t s employed f o c u s on e n g i n e e r s due t o the f a c t t h a t they r e c o g n i z e d as a p r o f e s s i o n , and because as s i g n i f i c a n t body of l i t e r a t u r e r e g a r d i n g t h e i r  t h i s section also by p r o d u c e r s . I are most c l e a r l y such t h e r e i s a obligations.  '* I t a k e t h i s t o i n c l u d e a l l engineers employed by manufacturers — not j u s t those d i r e c t l y i n v o l v e d i n product s a f e t y testing. Even engineers who are not d i r e c t l y r e s p o n s i b l e f o r the s a f e t y of a f i n a l product can imply by t h e i r s i l e n c e t h a t the product i s s a f e .  r e a s o n a b l e by the average consumer.  But Douglas  and  Wildavsky's  a n a l y s i s i m p l i e s t h a t as members of o r g a n i z a t i o n s , engineers are subject  to  judgment Brunk  social  forces  i n ways they may  et  a l . suggests  disregard —  which not  that  or f a i l t o see —  may  colour  notice.'* an  their  The  individual  professional  analysis engineer  given may  by  also  c e r t a i n r i s k s because she p e r s o n a l l y  h o l d s a view of t e c h n o l o g y which i m p l i e s t h a t 1) a l l technology has r i s k s , and 2) these r i s k s are j u s t an a c c e p t a b l e p r i c e t o pay f o r progress. How  can  engineers  employed  j u s t i f y d i s t r i b u t i n g merchandise at do  by  manufacturer  t o a p u b l i c who  l e a s t some of the r i s k s i n v o l v e d ? so  when  objective  then  cannot  evaluation  possibilities.  even  of  The f i r s t  In  w i l l be b l i n d t o  In p a r t i c u l a r , how  in their  risk?  corporations  own  Chapter  can they  minds  arrive  4,  suggested  I  i s t h a t sometimes r a t h e r than  at  an two  literally  'informed' consent, what we have i s c o n s c i o u s consent i n s p i t e of an acknowledged reasons  to  lack  accept  of i n f o r m a t i o n .  risks  even  i n the  Sometimes, consumers have face  of  a  deficiency  of  o b j e c t i v e r i s k data. The seen  second  p o s s i b l e way  i n a wide v a r i e t y  'around'  informed consent  i s t o be  of m e d i c a l cases, i n which some of  this  s l a c k c r e a t e d by l i m i t a t i o n s on informed consent seems t o be taken up by t h e p h y s i c i a n ' s p r o f e s s i o n a l judgment based on e x p e r t i s e .  '* T h i s may be p a r t i c u l a r l y t r u e of e n g i n e e r s who a l s o h o l d management p o s i t i o n s . See Joseph R. H e r k e r t , "Management's Hat Trick: Misuse of ' E n g i n e e r i n g Judgment' i n the C h a l l e n g e r I n c i d e n t , " J o u r n a l of B u s i n e s s E t h i c s 10 (1991): 617-21.  It  has been suggested t h a t , i n much m e d i c a l r e s e a r c h , t r u l y  informed  consent "...on t h e p a r t o f t h e s u b j e c t i s impossible...because he o r she cannot ever r e a l l y understand t h e t e c h n i c a l substance and methodology o f a r e s e a r c h experiment."''  But i t seems t h a t ,  even  i n cases i n which a d o c t o r cannot p r o v i d e t h e p a t i e n t w i t h c l e a r s t a t i s t i c a l i n f o r m a t i o n , she can p r o v i d e p r o f e s s i o n a l judgment i n i t s place.  In f a c t ,  t h a t i s p a r t o f what she i s p a i d f o r .  The  p a t i e n t does n o t expect t o understand t h e f u l l c o m p l e x i t i e s o f h i s condition,  but he does expect t o be a b l e t o t r u s t  h i s doctor's  judgment.  T h i s , o f course, p r o v i d e s t h e p a t i e n t w i t h no i n c r e a s e  i n o b j e c t i v e i n f o r m a t i o n , but a t l e a s t i t becomes t r a n s p a r e n t where the judgments a r e b e i n g made. I would l i k e t o suggest t h a t t h e s i t u a t i o n f a c e d by engineers employed by manufacturers cases where p e r f e c t l y doctor,  t h e employed  i s s i m i l a r t o t h a t f a c e d by d o c t o r s i n  informed consent engineer  i s impossible.  L i k e the  i s a member o f a p r o f e s s i o n .  As  such, she i s r e l i e d upon t o g i v e e x p e r t a d v i c e t o those who l a c k their  expertise. The  e n g i n e e r ' s most obvious r e s p o n s i b i l i t y  responsibility book  t o h e r employer.  Professional  fiduciary  model  professionals  Ethics, of  notes  the  i s her f i d u c i a r y  However M i c h a e l B a y l e s , i n h i s that  on t h e commonly  professional-client  "are r e s p o n s i b l e f o r e f f e c t s  on t h i r d  accepted  relationship, p a r t i e s and  ^ T h i s p o s i t i o n i s summarized and c r i t i c i z e d by Bernard Barber i n Informed Consent i n M e d i c a l Therapy and Research. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1980). T h i s quote i s from p. 10.  s u b j e c t t o o b l i g a t i o n s t o them."'*  One might f u r t h e r say t h a t , as  a r e s u l t o f t h e p r o f e s s i o n a l engineer's r o l e s o c i e t y , t h e r e i s some sense those  who  use  products  participates i n —  (and p r i v i l e g e s ) i n  i n which a g r e a t many people — a l l  the design  or  testing  o f which  she  may be c o n s i d e r e d t o be h e r c l i e n t s .  The sense i n which a l l consumers may be c o n s i d e r e d t h e c l i e n t s of  employed engineers p r o v i d e s grounds f o r t h e p a r a l l e l which I  suggest  between  physician.  the duties  o f t h e engineer  and t h a t  o f the  I have i n mind here a model under which t h e consumer i s  seen as r e l y i n g n o t so much on t h e i n t e g r i t y o f t h e c o r p o r a t i o n but on  the  expertise  of  the  c o r p o r a t i o n becomes something designed  by engineers  engineer.  Under  this  model,  the  o f a go-between, p r o v i d i n g a product  f o r t h e consuming p u b l i c .  To extend the  p a r a l l e l w i t h m e d i c a l e x p e r t i s e , we might say t h a t i n some r e s p e c t s c o r p o r a t i o n s a r e t o engineers as h o s p i t a l s a r e t o p h y s i c i a n s . The e x t e n t t o which both c o r p o r a t i o n s and h o s p i t a l s can c l a i m t o serve as  a 'mere' go-between reaches  experts are negligent.  i t slimit  when a c t i o n s taken by  I n w r i t i n g about p r o f e s s i o n a l engineers i n  the Canadian manufacturing i n d u s t r y , Howard Bexon notes t h a t under the p r i n c i p l e of v i c a r i o u s l i a b i l i t y ,  "the employer i s l i a b l e f o r  t h e n e g l i g e n t a c t s o f employees...."''  CA:  '* M i c h a e l D. B a y l e s , P r o f e s s i o n a l E t h i c s , 2nd ed. (Belmont, Wadsworth P u b l i s h i n g , 1989) 112.  " Howard Bexon, " P r o f e s s i o n a l Engineers i n t h e Manufacturing I n d u s t r y , " i n Carson M o r r i s o n and P h i l i p Hughes, eds.. P r o f e s s i o n a l Engineering Practice: E t h i c a l Aspects. (Toronto: McGraw-Hill, 1988) 56.  The  problem of b a l a n c i n g  the d u t i e s which engineers have t o  t h e i r employers a g a i n s t those of the consuming p u b l i c i s one which has r e c e i v e d much a t t e n t i o n i n e n g i n e e r i n g the  codes  of  associations.  ethics One  various  professional  At what p o i n t does the e n g i n e e r ' s duty t o warn  non-obvious dangers o v e r r i d e  her  i n s t i t u t i o n a l a u t h o r i t y of her s u p e r v i s o r s ? the  engineering  example of a c o n f l i c t of d u t i e s i s seen i n cases  of w h i s t l e - b l o w i n g . consumers of  of  e t h i c s textbooks and i n  s a l i e n t question  balance of d u t i e s ?  i s , t o what extent SRAH i m p l i e s t h a t no  s a f e t y of a product can be  duty t o  obey  the  For my purposes here,  does SRAH i n f l u e n c e determination  completely o b j e c t i v e .  this  as t o  In some  the  cases,  i n c l u d i n g perhaps the famous Ford P i n t o case, the danger i s severe enough and clear  the  enough  corporation's  to  w i l l i n g n e s s t o obscure the  warrant w h i s t l e - b l o w i n g .  In  facts i s  borderline  however, SRAH w i l l g i v e the engineer reason t o pause and  cases, consider  whose s t a n d a r d s ought t o be a p p l i e d t o determine whether a product involves  'unreasonable' r i s k s .  This  implies  t h a t some normative a u t h o r i t y must be claimed overriding  i n s t i t u t i o n a l p r a c t i c e s i n order  i n order t o t o blow the  justify whistle.  I suggest t h a t the model of e n g i n e e r i n g  e x p e r t i s e o u t l i n e d above  provides  I f we  j u s t such normative a u t h o r i t y .  see the t a s k of the  engineer as i n c l u d i n g making c e r t a i n v a l u e d e c i s i o n s on b e h a l f their clients  (who,  per  hypothesis,  of  i n c l u d e a l l consumers), then  engineers can be seen as having a g r e a t e r c l a i m t o moral a u t h o r i t y than does the c o r p o r a t i o n when i t comes t o d e c i d i n g on b e h a l f consumers whether or not a product i s 'safe enough.'  of  The  primary  duty  which  employed  engineers  g e n e r a l p u b l i c i s a duty t o warn of r i s k s .  have toward  the  T h i s l e a v e s open the  q u e s t i o n "which r i s k s ? "  C e r t a i n l y not all r i s k s need be brought t o  the p u b l i c ' s a t t e n t i o n .  Some r i s k s w i l l be i n s i g n i f i c a n t  the r i s k  of paper c u t s from  (such as  c e r t a i n paper p r o d u c t s ) , and  others  w i l l be so obvious as t o o b v i a t e the need f o r warning (such as the dangers of sharp k n i v e s ) .  F u r t h e r , SRAH suggests t h a t the d e c i s i o n  as t o which r i s k s are s i g n i f i c a n t  i s not a p u r e l y t e c h n i c a l  one.  Perhaps a l l t h a t can be s a i d i s t h a t the p u b l i c needs t o be a b l e t o t r u s t p r o f e s s i o n a l engineers t o a c t i n good f a i t h . case, t h e most we  can expect  b e s t t o deserve t h a t t r u s t .  of engineers  How  Such being the  i s t h a t they do  can they do t h a t ?  I will  their  conclude  t h i s chapter w i t h f o u r c o n c r e t e s u g g e s t i o n s . The f i r s t s u g g e s t i o n i s t h a t engineers be w i l l i n g t o admit the l i m i t a t i o n s of t h e i r a b i l i t y t o determine  risk.  In w r i t i n g about  r e g u l a t o r y s c i e n c e , A l v i n M. Weinberg w r i t e s : I s h o u l d t h i n k t h a t a f a r more honest and s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d way of d e a l i n g w i t h the i n t r i n s i c i n a b i l i t y of s c i e n c e t o p r e d i c t t h e occurrence of r a r e events i s t o concede t h i s l i m i t a t i o n and not t o ask of s c i e n c e or s c i e n t i s t s more than they are capable of p r o v i d i n g . Mike W.  M a r t i n and Roland  S c h i n z i n g e r note t h a t p u b l i c  i n v o l v i n g numbers m e r i t s p e c i a l c a r e and a t t e n t i o n . "A  willingness to  methodology and  admit  sources  uncertainty  i s particularly  and  bias  important  and  statements They w r i t e : to  reveal  when numerical  A l v i n M. Weinberg, "Science and i t s Limits: R e g u l a t o r ' s Dilemma," Issues i n Science and Technology. 2.1 1985): 68.  The (Fall,  data and s t a t i s t i c s a r e presented."'"' Joshua Lederberg suggests t h a t , i n order t o a v o i d having t h e i r science  pushed  beyond  i t s capabilities,  advance o p i n i o n s on c e r t a i n  experts  must r e f u s e t o  questions:  A l t h o u g h v a l u a b l e as a t o o l f o r s o l v i n g the t e c h n o l o g i c a l problems, expertise has d i s t o r t i o n s . . . . B e s i d e s t h e i n h e r e n t problems o f c o n f l i c t s o f i n t e r e s t and d i f f e r i n g l e v e l s o f competence, experts may a l s o m a l f u n c t i o n when they a r e asked, and f a i l to reject, t h e wrong questions.(emphasis original) As  noted  earlier,  engineers  employed  seldom have t h e o p t i o n o f s a y i n g 'I determine t h e s a f e t y o f products. of two c o n c l u s i o n s : no, we  t h e product can expect  refusing  uncertain. levels  engineers  to give  a  Engineers  inherent  don't know.'  i s safe —  They a r e p a i d t o  distribute i t ;  go back t o t h e drawing board.  t o recognize  product  corporations  They a r e expected t o come t o one  y e s , t h e product  i s not s a f e —  by producer  the l i m i t s  t h e go-ahead  or But  o f s c i e n c e by  when  i t s safety i s  should remind themselves of t h e u n c e r t a i n t y  i n many  of t h e i r  estimates,  and  should  use  a p p r o p r i a t e margins o f s a f e t y . My  second  communicating  suggestion  safety  is  information  that  engineers  t o non-experts  involved recognize  importance o f t h e s c i e n t i f i c language which they use.  in the  Scientific  language d i f f e r s s i g n i f i c a n t l y from the language used by consumers. Rayna Rapp makes t h i s p o i n t r e g a r d i n g t h e importance o f language w i t h r e g a r d t o g e n e t i c c o u n s e l l o r s , but I b e l i e v e t h e p o i n t i s an Mike W. M a r t i n and Roland S c h i n z i n g e r , Ethics i n Encfineerinq. 2nd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1989) 135. Joshua Lederberg,  quoted i n Lowrance, 109.  important  one  experts  f o r r i s k e x p e r t s of a l l s o r t s .  are  "inherently  bilinguals,  Rapp p o i n t s out t h a t  raised  in  one  language  community, but having a c q u i r e d s c i e n c e as a second (or subsequent) language. "1"^  As  Rapp  g r e a t a u t h o r i t y and  points  respect.  out,  scientific  Thus engineers  not t o use  arcane modes of d i s c o u r s e i n a way  coercive.  Rapp f u r t h e r suggests  technical  language c l e a r l y  that  language  commands  ought t o be which may  although  careful verge  experts  i n communicating w i t h  may  of  developed  the and  counselling, scientific larger  purely to  which  Rapp  the  realm  i t i s suited.  writes:  knowledge  than  scientific  in With  "accommodation  i s always  b i o m e d i c a l . "i°*  which  to  was  genetic  resistance  interpreted i n social This  place  language  regard and  use  the p u b l i c , the  i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of t h a t i n f o r m a t i o n by the p u b l i c w i l l take outside  on  to  frameworks  i m p l i e s t h a t , even i f non-  e x p e r t s can be made t o understand t e c h n i c a l terminology, t e c h n i c a l concepts w i l l s t i l l have t o compete w i t h f o l k b e l i e f s f o r the r i g h t to  be  the  paradigm  under  which  risks  are  interpreted.  Wise  engineers w i l l keep t h i s i n mind, and w i l l seek t o communicate w i t h consumers i n ways t h a t are conducive t o mutual The  third  make a c o n s c i o u s values  and  suggestion  understanding.  i s t h a t p r o f e s s i o n a l engineers  should  e f f o r t t o examine from time t o time not o n l y the  i n t e l l e c t u a l commitments of t h e i r p r o f e s s i o n , but  the  Rayna Rapp, " H e r e d i t y , o r : R e v i s i n g the F a c t s of L i f e . " P l e n a r y L e c t u r e f o r the Canadian Anthropology S o c i e t y and the Canadian A s s o c i a t i o n f o r M e d i c a l Anthropology. Vancouver, B.C., May 1994. 7. I'^Rapp, 3.  v a l u e s and s o c i a l commitments o f t h e i r l a r g e r community. M a r t i n and Roland suggest  that  technology  public  S c h i n z i n g e r note t h a t some l e a d e r s o f i n d u s t r y  those are  motivated."'"*  who  emphasize  "emotional  and  t h e environmental irrational  M a r t i n and S c h i n z i n g e r suggest,  concerns  Mike W.  a r e f a r from  p r o f e s s i o n a l engineer:  irrelevant  " I t i s important  or  risks  of  politically  however, t h a t  t o the task  t h a t engineers  such  o f the  recognize  as p a r t o f t h e i r work r e a l i t y such w i d e l y h e l d p e r c e p t i o n s o f r i s k and  take  them  into  account  i n their  designs."'"*  Since t h e  p r o f e s s i o n a l engineer i s d e s i g n i n g products f o r use by t h e p u b l i c , it  i s t h e concerns  safety  and v a l u e s of t h e p u b l i c which should  inform  standards.  The  f o u r t h and r e l a t e d  suggestion  i s that  engineers  as a  p r o f e s s i o n must make an e f f o r t not t o l e t t h e i r p r o f e s s i o n a l values l a g behind  those o f s o c i e t y i n g e n e r a l .  Barber  notes t h a t t r u s t  "... i s l i k e l y t o d e c l i n e where shared v a l u e s a r e b r e a k i n g down or where t h e r e a r e emergent v a l u e s i n some members o f a s o c i a l system not  shared  by others."'"'  New  values  o f consumerism  have  been  emerging a t an a c c e l e r a t i n g r a t e over t h e p a s t t h r e e decades.  If  e n g i n e e r s a l l o w t h e i r judgment t o be dominated by t h e i n s t r u m e n t a l r a t i o n a l i t y which Brunk e t a i . suggest dominates t r a d i t i o n a l assessment,'"* they  may  find  themselves  '"*  M a r t i n and S c h i n z i n g e r , 115.  '"*  M a r t i n and S c h i n z i n g e r , 115.  '"^  Barber, 27.  '"*  Brunk e t a l . , 143.  out o f s t e p  with  risk their  s o c i e t y , and  i n the midst of a c r i s i s of t r u s t .  Next, I t u r n t o a d i s c u s s i o n of the might  have  f o r the  task  faced  r e s p o n s i b l e f o r product s a f e t y .  by  the  i m p l i c a t i o n s which SRAH regulatory  bureaucracies  Chapter 6;  R e g u l a t o r s and t h e R e c o n c i l i a t i o n o f D i v e r s e O b j e c t i v e s  Perhaps t h e most d i f f i c u l t subjectivity  of  risk  assessment,  product-safety bureaucracies. the  difficult  ensuring  twin  that  role,  tasks  producers  in light  i s that  of t h e  of the  apparent  governmental  Such b u r e a u c r a c i e s a r e charged  with  o f p r o t e c t i n g t h e p u b l i c s a f e t y and are  treated  fairly.  c o n f l i c t i n g and o v e r l a p p i n g v a l u e s must be balanced.  A  number  of  As we s h a l l  see, t h i s t a s k becomes even more complicated i f r i s k assessment i s taken t o be s u b j e c t i v e . I w i l l d e a l here  with  two key q u e s t i o n s  relevance of the s u b j e c t i v i t y product  safety bureaucracies.  safety c o n f l i c t s and  assessment t o t h e r o l e of  F i r s t , t o what degree can product  be d e - p o l i t i c i z e d  through  t o what e x t e n t i s such d e - p o l i t i c i z a t i o n  s h o u l d we see t h e s u b j e c t i v i t y any  of r i s k  degree  t h e models  of  'regulatory science,' desirable?  implicit  o r h y p o t h e t i c a l consent  so  I t u r n t o these two  now.  To what degree can product s a f e t y c o n f l i c t s be through  Second,  o f r i s k assessment as undermining t o  necessary t o t h e t a s k o f r e g u l a t o r y agencies? questions  p e r t a i n i n g t o the  'regulatory  science,'  and  t o what  extent  de-politicized i s such  de-  p o l i t i c i z a t i o n desirable? Brunk e t a l . d e f i n e r e g u l a t o r y s c i e n c e as "the e n l i s t m e n t of scientists  and t h e t r a p p i n g s of s c i e n t i f i c method i n t h e a i d of  government r e g u l a t i o n , " i * "  Brunk et al., 2.  As these  authors  note,  the idea that  the b a l a n c i n g carried  on  'science' assessment  act inherent  by has  the  i n the r o l e of the r e g u l a t o r "might be  terms  become a  i s taken by  of  an  objective  tantalizing  socially  prospect• "''"  i t s advocates t o be  s c i e n t i f i c procedure.  and  neutral  Standard  j u s t such a  risk  strictly  Brunk e t a l . note t h a t i n g e n e r a l ,  people  engaged i n t h e b u s i n e s s of r i s k a n a l y s i s "imagine t h a t they do  not  make [value assumptions] and t h a t the c r e d i b i l i t y of t h e i r manner and  p r o c e e d i n g depends on  that i t i s recognized assumptions, ideally  risk  sought by  can  Brunk  ought  lies to  in  his  et  a l . suggest  be  may  l i e behind  paper  Technological  liberal  "neutral  i n d i v i d u a l s and we  the  extent  that  minimized, the  or  strongest  ideal  vis-a-vis  the  d i s t i n g u i s h between two the  desire The  ""  Brunk et al. , 2.  '"  Brunk et al.,  137.  "2  Brunk et al.,  6.  "3  Brunk et al. , 6.  It  to  first  "Professionalism Society.""'*  that  government  d i f f e r e n t goods  groups w i t h i n s o c i e t y . " " ^  administrative neutrality. in  the  behind t h i s attempt t o minimize the v a l u e component of  Actually, which  To  i t i s assumed t h a t these ought t o be  assessment  regulation  doing so."'''  t h a t r i s k assessment r e q u i r e s c e r t a i n value  eliminated."^  motivation  t h e i r not  maintain  main the  motivations  appearance  of  i s examined by Conrad Brunk  and  involves  Responsibility the  idea  that  in  the  experts  "'* Conrad Brunk, " P r o f e s s i o n a l i s m and R e s p o n s i b i l i t y i n the T e c h n o l o g i c a l S o c i e t y , " i n Deborah C. P o f f and W i l f r e d J . Waluchow, eds. B u s i n e s s E t h i c s i n Canada. Scarborough, ON: Prentice-Hall,  s h o u l d perform t h e i r t a s k s i n a t e c h n i c a l l y competent but m o r a l l y n e u t r a l manner. may  believe  Engineers asked t o perform r i s k assessments, then,  that  since  they  themselves  have  expertise  only i n  t e c h n i c a l matters, moral aspects o f r i s k d e c i s i o n s ought t o be l e f t to others.  The second m o t i v a t i o n behind t h e wish t o m a i n t a i n the  appearance o f a d m i n i s t r a t i v e Kernaghan  and  Servant. "* service  to  write,  interest  political  W.  I t rests  ought  Langford public  John  n e u t r a l i t y i s discussed  Langford  upon  remain  "...the  in  the idea  that  politically ethic  Responsible those  neutral.  of n e u t r a l i t y  i s t h e business  Public  i n the  public  Kernaghan  suggests  that  of the democratically  a u t h o r i t i e s , not o f p u b l i c  Clearly,  The  by Kenneth  and the  elected  servants.""*  t h e r e i s much t o be s a i d f o r t h e i d e a o f a n e u t r a l  p u b l i c s e r v i c e t e n d i n g t o t h e p u b l i c s a f e t y i n an unbiased manner. The  problem,  of  course,  i s that  proponents  a n a l y s i s see t h e u t i l i t y - m a x i m i z a t i o n morally neutral.  inherent  of  standard  risk  i n t h a t process as  They f a i l t o see t h a t t h e v e r y c h o i c e o f u t i l i t y -  maximization as t h e standard i s an important moral d e c i s i o n . Annette B a i e r can  be  writes,  resolved  by  to think a  process  preference-satisfaction  i s only  that  c o n f l i c t among sacred  which  simply  possible  sacred value i s u t i l i t y - m a x i m i z a t i o n . "  maximizes  values  expected  f o r "...those whose own  Baier continues, "to r e s o r t  1987. "* Kenneth Kernaghan and John W. Langford, The R e s p o n s i b l e P u b l i c Servant. H a l i f a x , NS: The I n s t i t u t e f o r Research on P u b l i c P o l i c y , 1990. "*  Kernaghan and Langford, 46.  As  to  utility-maximization  v a l u e s , b u t merely ai.  concur.  i s not t o g e t beyond  clashing  t o r e v e a l one's own s a c r e d value."'"  They w r i t e :  "To make  sacred  Brunk e t  [ r e g u l a t o r y s c i e n c e s such as  r i s k assessment] t h e s o l e a r b i t e r s i s i n e f f e c t t o a l l o w one value framework w i t h i n t h e s o c i a l c o n f l i c t r e p r e s e n t e d i n t h e r i s k debate t o s e t t l e t h e i s s u e i n i t s favour.""* Can  conscientious r i s k  r e s t p u b l i c misconceptions that  careful  measurement  assessment a t l e a s t concerning r i s k ?  of q u a n t i f i a b l e  s e r v e t o put t o  I t might be thought  aspects  of r i s k  might  serve a t l e a s t t o d i s p e l t h e s o r t s o f s u p e r s t i t i o n s r e g a r d i n g r i s k which t u r n r e g u l a t o r y d e c i s i o n s i n t o p o l i t i c a l  firestorms.  regulatory  science d e p o l i t i c i z e  safety issues t o at least  extent?  Kip  that  "policymakers generated  Viscusi may  writes  have  to  overcome  as the  a  practical political  Can that  matter, pressures  by...." i r r a t i o n a l r i s k p e r c e p t i o n s among t h e p u b l i c . " '  C l e a r l y , i f t h e r i s k assessment p r o c e s s b r i n g s t o l i g h t some gross inaccuracy  i n the  public's  beliefs  concerning  the  relative  a c c e p t a b i l i t y o f two r i s k s i t u a t i o n s , then r e g u l a t o r s may seem t o have a prima  facie  justification misconceptions. thus  come  reason t o d i s c o u n t those o p i n i o n s , along with  for trying  to  educate  A group once seen  t o be seen  as merely  those  labouring  as a p o l i t i c a l misguided  with  under  f a c t i o n might regard  t o the  "' Annette B a i e r , " P o i s o n i n g t h e W e l l s " i n Douglas MacLean, ed., Values a t R i s k (Totowa, NJ: Rowman & A l l a n h e l d , 1986) 51. "*  Brunk et al., 7.  "'  V i s c u s i , 25.  r e l a t i v e dangers of v a r i o u s products.  For example, the p u b l i c  may  b e l i e v e , i n the wake of a dramatic a i r d i s a s t e r , t h a t more should be spent on a i r s a f e t y .  But i f s t a t i s t i c a l evidence suggests t h a t  a i r t r a v e l i s a c t u a l l y r e l a t i v e l y s a f e , and could  be  achieved  through i n c r e a s e d  spending on  then r e g u l a t o r s might s a f e l y conclude t h a t misinformed.So defused,  then  i f lobby groups can  i t seems t h a t  principle possible.  But  There seems t o be irrationalities indicators  of  the  benefits  highway  safety,  public i s  simply  i n some circumstances  form of  'depoliticization'  be  i s in  i s i t desirable?  some m e r i t  i n the what  a  that greater  public's  is  valued  i n the view t h a t such supposed risk by  preferences  the  are  public,  and  revealing that  such  i r r a t i o n a l i t i e s ought not t o be seen as mere o b s t a c l e s t o r a t i o n a l policy-making.  To  i n t e r p r e t opposition to a given  mere f a i l u r e t o understand t r u e l e v e l s of r i s k may misinterpret opposition health.  what the  may  reveal  public fears  is really beyond the  As Douglas MacLean w r i t e s ,  To  may  be  t o the  take a l l instances  way  fear  of  as  i n f a c t be  to  In  fact,  such  danger t o human  "[p]erhaps the source of f e a r  i n some cases i s about d i f f e r e n t k i n d s opposition  saying.  technology  of r i s k t o s o c i e t y , or  these d e c i s i o n s  being made."'^^  as reason f o r  discounting  p u b l i c o p i n i o n p l a c e s too much emphasis on c o n s i s t e n c y .  Members of  the p u b l i c may  of i n c o n s i s t e n c y  are  the  a c t u a l l y be demonstrating a s e n s i t i v i t y t o  context  The tendency t o o v e r - e s t i m a t e the frequency of events which are of a d r a m a t i c nature i s w e l l documented. See f o r example F i s c h h o f f e t a l . , 28-30. MacLean,  29.  which c o r p o r a t i o n s true  that  risks,  there  cases  and  are  regulators  genuine  lack.  cases  of  i n which p o i n t i n g out  Granted, i t i s no misunderstanding  relative  inconsistencies i s l i k e l y  r e s u l t i n a r e v i s i o n of r i s k p r e f e r e n c e s . prudentially  doubt  to  I t i s both e t h i c a l l y and  incumbent upon producer c o r p o r a t i o n s  and  regulatory  decision-makers t o make every e f f o r t t o educate the p u b l i c i n such cases.  But  when a f u l l y  informed p u b l i c remains  'unreasonably'  opposed t o a g i v e n risk,'^^ t h i s ought t o be taken t o be a not merely an Rather decisions, choices  signal,  obstacle.  than  seeking  to  depoliticize  such  risk  regulation  perhaps what i s needed i s a r e c o g n i t i o n t h a t c e r t a i n  are  redefinition  inherently p o l i t i c a l . of the  term  Alvin  'regulatory  M.  Weinberg suggests a  s c i e n c e ' t o t h i s end.'^^  He  suggests t h a t r e g u l a t o r y s c i e n c e ought t o use r e l a x e d standards of s c i e n t i f i c proof,  on the grounds t h a t t o demand c e r t a i n t y i n most  s a f e t y matters i s t o demand the i m p o s s i b l e .  Weinberg contends t h a t  such an u n d e r s t a n d i n g would amount t o r e f r a i n i n g  from "asking  of  s c i e n c e or s c i e n t i s t s more than they are capable of p r o v i d i n g . . . . " and  would t u r n what i s now  wrongly seen as a s c i e n t i f i c  i n t o a p o l i c y - m a k i n g problem.'^'*  I t seems t h a t an  problem  important  part  of d e a l i n g w i t h the i n h e r e n t shortcomings of s c i e n c e i n t h i s regard i s the r e a l i z a t i o n t h a t r i s k management i s an i n h e r e n t l y normative  C o n t i n u i n g p u b l i c o p p o s i t i o n t o n u c l e a r energy i s the most commonly c i t e d example of p u b l i c f e a r of a technology being a p p a r e n t l y out of p r o p o r t i o n t o the r i s k s i n v o l v e d .  '2'*  Weinberg,  68.  Weinberg,  68.  activity,  and t h a t  political  r e g u l a t i n g product s a f e t y . it  decisions  are a  key element of  The search f o r a v a l u e - n e u t r a l a r b i t e r ,  seems, must be g i v e n up as u n r e a l i s t i c . Next,  l e t us  turn  t o the question  o f t h e impact  of a  s u b j e c t i v e view o f r i s k assessment on v a r i o u s t h e o r i e s o f i n d i r e c t consent. In  a growing  bureaucracies  variety  o f cases,  t o make d e c i s i o n s  b e h a l f o f t h e consuming p u b l i c . of p u b l i c r i s k  i t falls  concerning  t o governmental  appropriate  r i s k s on  As Douglas MacLean notes, problems  can seldom be s o l v e d  by means o f s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d  market s o l u t i o n s , t h e s o r t o f s o l u t i o n s which a l l o w " i n d i v i d u a l s t o make t h e i r own c h o i c e s , t r a d i n g o f f v a l u e s , as they see them, f o r their  own  individual  advantage, " i ^ * action  Since,  i s either  cases,  i t most  often  behalf  o f consumers.  falls  for a  impossible  of  reasons,  or i n e f f e c t u a l  i n such  t o government  variety  t o make d e c i s i o n s on  F o r evidence o f t h e degree o f government  involvement i n making d e c i s i o n s f o r consumers, we need o n l y look a t the  number  o f agencies  involved  i n making  safety  d e c i s i o n s on  b e h a l f o f Canadian consumers j u s t i n t h e area o f c h e m i c a l s used i n agriculture.  These  agencies  include  Agriculture  Canada, t h e  p r o v i n c i a l m i n i s t r i e s o f a g r i c u l t u r e , v a r i o u s d i s t i n c t branches of H e a l t h and Welfare Canada, and a wide v a r i e t y o f ad hoc bodies such as t h e A l a c h l o r Review Board.  A l l o f these a r e i n v o l v e d i n making  d e c i s i o n s on b e h a l f o f consumers.  And, as MacLean notes,  "[s]ince  Douglas MacLean, "Risk and Consent: P h i l o s o p h i c a l Issues f o r C e n t r a l i z e d D e c i s i o n s " i n Douglas MacLean, ed., Values a t Risk (Totowa, NJ: Rowman & A l l a n h e l d , 1986) 19.  these  choices  are  between  competing  values,  they  require  j u s t i f i c a t i o n . "'2* As  noted  previously  i n Chapter  3,  a  key concept  i m p o s i t i o n o f r i s k s upon others i s t h a t o f consent.  I t may not be  immediately obvious i n what sense s a f e t y b u r e a u c r a c i e s concerned w i t h consent.  After a l l ,  p u b l i c , n o t t o impose r i s k s .  i n the  need t o be  they a r e t h e r e t o p r o t e c t the  But even i n cases where a r e g u l a t o r y  body's mandate i s t o be c a u t i o u s ,  t o e r r on t h e s i d e o f safety,'^'  some degree  permitted.  permitted sense  of r i s k  i s usually  If risk  i s t o be  by government r e g u l a t i o n s , t h a t r i s k i s thereby i n some  sanctioned  by t h e government.  I take  i t as g i v e n  that  s a n c t i o n i n g r i s k i m p o s i t i o n r e q u i r e s consent. With r e g a r d t o c e n t r a l i z e d d e c i s i o n making, obvious problems w i t h u n i v e r s a l c o n s u l t a t i o n mean t h a t consent must u s u a l l y come i n some  indirect  hypothetical consent  —  theory.  form  consent. revealed  Revealed  preferences  —  usually  either  implicit  There a r e two b a s i c t h e o r i e s preference  preference  theory theory  consent  of i m p l i c i t  and expressed supposes  that  or  preference "individual  f o r r i s k and s a f e t y t r a d e - o f f s a r e r e v e a l e d i n c e r t a i n  areas, where markets f u n c t i o n p r o p e r l y . . . . " and t h a t "...we can use data  from  these  areas  Empirical data regarding  to justify  decisions  consumer c h o i c e s  i n other  areas. "'^*  i n s i t u a t i o n s i n which  MacLean, 19. Brunk e t . a l . , f o r example, suggest t h a t t h i s i s t h e case w i t h H e a l t h and Welfare Canada's H e a l t h P r o t e c t i o n Branch. See t h e i r page 49. MacLean, 22.  action  i s fully  consensual,  such  as  t h e purchase  o f smoke  d e t e c t o r s , a r e taken as i n d i c a t i v e o f g e n e r a l p r e f e r e n c e s r e g a r d i n g risk.  E x p r e s s e d - p r e f e r e n c e t h e o r y "uses psychometric techniques t o  uncover c u r r e n t a t t i t u d e s and p r e f erences. . . . "^^^ r e g a r d i n g new and mysterious r i s k s .  H y p o t h e t i c a l consent models, on t h e o t h e r hand,  ask what s o r t s o f t h i n g s i d e a l persons i n i d e a l s i t u a t i o n s would consent t o , and take t h i s " t o support a c o n c l u s i o n about what we, i n our c u r r e n t c i r c u m s t a n c e s , ought  t o do.""°  The assumption i s  t h a t t h e r e s u l t o f such a d e c i s i o n i s p r o c e d u r a l l y  just.  The key q u e s t i o n f o r my purposes here i s , can e i t h e r or  hypothetical  assessment  consent  withstand  i s subjective?  That  the r e a l i z a t i o n  implicit  that  i s , i s objectivity  risk  i n risk  assessment a n e c e s s a r y c o n d i t i o n f o r v a l i d i m p l i c i t o r h y p o t h e t i c a l consent?  My g o a l here i s n o t t o pass f i n a l judgment on t h e o r i e s of  i n d i r e c t consent.  C l e a r l y , such t h e o r i e s do have t h e i r weaknesses.  J u s t as c l e a r l y , i n many cases a p p e a l i n g t o even i m p e r f e c t consent w i l l be b e t t e r than simply presuming t o know what i s b e s t . at  t h i s p o i n t i s simply t o ask whether SRAH  Assessment  My g o a l  (the S u b j e c t i v e R i s k  Hypothesis) makes t h e o r i e s o f i n d i r e c t consent any l e s s  plausible. Let  us l o o k f i r s t a t i m p l i c i t consent.  F i s c h h o f f note some o f t h e problems theory  of i m p l i c i t  consent.  P a u l S l o v i c and Baruch  with the revealed-preference  They note,  f o r example,  t h a t the  t h e o r y makes t h e r a t h e r dubious assumption t h a t " . . . p a s t behaviour  MacLean, 23. "°  MacLean, 25.  i s a v a l i d p r e d i c t o r of p r e s e n t p r e f e r e n c e s . . . . a s w e l l as making s t r o n g assumptions "...about the r a t i o n a l i t y of people's making i n t h e marketplace marketplace  provides."'^'  observation:  decision  and about the freedom of c h o i c e t h a t the Douglas MacLean makes another  crucial  people do not always compare r i s k s s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d l y  i n terms of expected  value.That  i s , some r i s k s have  symbolic  v a l u e , f o r example, which makes them e i t h e r more a c c e p t a b l e  (such  as s k i i n g ) or l e s s a c c e p t a b l e (such as food a d d i t i v e s ) than o t h e r s . W i l l i a m Lowrance, drawing on the work of s e v e r a l o t h e r  authors,  i d e n t i f i e s a number of c o n s i d e r a t i o n s , other than p r o b a b i l i t y  and  magnitude of harm, which a f f e c t the a v e r s i o n which people f e e l t o particular risks. the r i s k are  These i n c l u d e , among o t h e r s , the degree t o which  i s v o l u n t a r y , the degree t o which the p o t e n t i a l  immediate,  and  reversible.To  the  degree  contend  which  that  preference  theory.  assumption  that  SRAH poses  s e r i o u s problems  Revealed-preference  consumer p r e f e r e n c e s  will  theory be  f o r revealedrelies  on  An obvious upshot  denies of t h i s  t h a t i t becomes i m p o s s i b l e t o s t a t e w i t h c o n f i d e n c e t h a t  s i t u a t i o n s pose s i m i l a r r i s k s .  S l o v i c and F i s c h h o f f , "How MacLean,  23-4.  Lowrance, 86 f f .  the  c o n s i s t e n t across  But SRAH s p e c i f i c a l l y  t h a t r i s k s a r e o b j e c t i v e l y measurable.  "'  are  justifiable?  situations involving similar risks.  is  possible effects  what e x t e n t does SRAH make e x t r a p o l a t i o n from  'revealed' preferences less I  to  effects  two  L e t us look a t an imaginary example  Safe i s Safe Enough?"  136.  of u s i n g i m p l i c i t consent t o j u s t i f y a g i v e n l e v e l of r i s k .  L e t us  suppose t h a t we know from s t a t i s t i c s r e g a r d i n g consumer spending on optional  safety-enhancing  e x t r a s f o r automobiles  t h a t consumers  commonly a c c e p t a r i s k of n deaths per 100,000 d r i v e r s per year. We might conclude from t h i s t h a t i t i s r e a s o n a b l e , as r e g u l a t o r s , t o assume t h a t any consumer product which p r e s e n t s a s i m i l a r  level  of r i s k , measured a g a i n i n deaths per 100,000 u s e r s per year, w i l l be  a c c e p t a b l e t o consumers.  above i s b a s i c a l l y importance. i n our  criticism  a l l products  suggested are  by MacLean  of equal  symbolic  Cars, f o r example, have a s p e c i a l symbolic  culture,  and people may  because o f t h a t . options,  t h a t not  The  not  be w i l l i n g  t o accept e x t r a r i s k s  As Baruch F i s c h h o f f has noted,  risks."^^  Options  are  importance  " [ p ] e o p l e accept  c h a r a c t e r i z e d by  more  than  j u s t t h e i r l e v e l of r i s k . The r e s u l t of SRAH i s p o s s i b l y even more f a t a l t o the p r o j e c t of r e v e a l e d p r e f e r e n c e t h e o r y . know —  A c c o r d i n g t o SRAH, one  never  except perhaps i n r a r e cases where c o n s i d e r a b l e experience  w i t h p r o d u c t s r e s u l t s i n well-founded similar  can  r a t e s of  l e v e l s of r i s k .  injury  —  actuarial tables describing  t h a t products  A  and  B offer  similar  The comparison i s i n p r i n c i p l e i m p o s s i b l e t o make.  Granted, even p r o d u c i n g a c t u a r i a l t a b l e s i n v o l v e s making judgments, such  as  severity.  decisions to  focus  on  injuries  I simply o f f e r such ex post facto  of the most o b j e c t i v e s o r t  of  a  certain  type  or  s t u d i e s as an example  of knowledge one  c o u l d have about a  1^ Baruch F i s c h h o f f , "Psychology and P u b l i c P o l i c y : Toolmaker," American P s y c h o l o g i s t 45.5 (May 1990): 651.  T o o l or  product's safety. in  a new product  I n c o n t r a s t , any e s t i m a t e o f t h e r i s k s i n h e r e n t a r e going t o be s u b j e c t t o a l l t h e o b j e c t i o n s  advanced i n Chapter 1. Next,  l e t us look a t t h e other v a r i e t y  of i m p l i c i t  t h e o r y , namely expressed-preference t h e o r y . theory  uses  interviews,  consent  Expressed-preference  a variety  of d i r e c t  methods,  such  as surveys and  t o uncover  attitudes  and p r e f e r e n c e s .  Rather  than  g u e s s i n g what consumers' p r e f e r e n c e s a r e , o r e x t r a p o l a t i n g  from  t h e i r behaviour, why n o t j u s t ask them? values  on items  f o r which  developed  a  "a f a m i l y  valuation  methods."'^*  counter f a c t u a l l y  which  no market  o f survey  how much they  this  exists,  techniques  These techniques  outcome i f i t were o f f e r e d . problem  In order t o place d o l l a r -  would  researchers called  involve  be w i l l i n g  have  contingent  asking subjects t o pay f o r an  According t o Fischhoff, the p r i n c i p l e  methodology  faces  i s determining  "whether  respondents possess s u f f i c i e n t l y w e l l a r t i c u l a t e d v a l u e s t h a t they can  answer  cannot  t h e questions."'^*  answer  these  complex,  As  Fischhoff  novel  notes,  questions,  then  " i f people their  own  responses w i l l m i s r e p r e s e n t t h e i r values."'^' Does SRAH have any i m p l i c a t i o n s f o r such attempts t o determine consumer v a l u e s ? assessment  may  In f a c t , be  one  a belief  i n the s u b j e c t i v i t y  of the motivating  factors  of r i s k  behind  the  F i s c h h o f f , "Psychology and P u b l i c P o l i c y , " 651. Baruch F i s c h h o f f , r e v . o f Usiner Surveys t o Value P u b l i c Goods; The Contingent V a l u a t i o n Method, by Robert Cameron M i t c h e l l and R i c h a r d T. Carson, P u b l i c O p i n i o n Q u a r t e r l y 54 (1990); 287. '"  F i s c h h o f f , "Psychology and P u b l i c P o l i c y , " 651.  development of expressed-preference r e v e a l e d - p r e f erence t h e o r y .  theory  as  an  alternative  to  SRAH i m p l i e s t h a t people's p r e f e r e n c e s  cannot be assumed t o be c o n s i s t e n t a c r o s s r i s k s which seem, prima facie,  t o be s i m i l a r .  Such being the case, s p e c i f i c a c t i o n s seem  a poor i n d i c a t o r of g e n e r a l p r e f e r e n c e s .  A s k i n g consumers d i r e c t l y  what v a l u e s they p l a c e on v a r i o u s gambles or on v a r i o u s outcomes seems more r e a s o n a b l e .  SRAH may  pose a c h a l l e n g e , however,  to  assumptions r e g a r d i n g the degree t o which the views expressed by a few  ' r e p r e s e n t a t i v e ' consumers can be taken t o be an i n d i c a t o r of  consumer  values  in  general.  If  risk  assessment  truly  is  s u b j e c t i v e , then t h e r e i s l e s s reason t o b e l i e v e t h a t t h e views of the  few  general  represent problem  surveys, and An  the  views of the many.  f o r any  attempt  to  T h i s , however,  set policy  based  on  is a  opinion  i s not unique t o q u e s t i o n s of product s a f e t y .  improvement on t h i s s i t u a t i o n has been suggested  Stevenson of the U n i v e r s i t y of Toronto.  by John  Stevenson suggests  that  p o l l s be supplemented w i t h "focus groups, where i n i t i a l r e a c t i o n s are e x p l o r e d i n some depth, t h e r e i s some f r e e - f o r m d i s c u s s i o n , new i n f o r m a t i o n i s p r o v i d e d , and so on."i^*  The  is  and  "to  Granted,  get  some  even  reflective  improved  feedback  methods  of  i d e a , says Stevenson, informed  determining  the  i n d i v i d u a l consumers w i l l s t i l l be s u b j e c t t o concerns how  r e p r e s e n t a t i v e the o p i n i o n s of the few r e a l l y a r e .  seems t o be  "*  o p i n i o n . "^^^ values  of  about j u s t However, i t  i n the i n t e r e s t of p r o g r e s s i v e democracy t h a t p u b l i c  John Stevenson, p e r s o n a l communication, August 11, Stevenson, August  1994.  1994.  policy  must on o c c a s i o n be informed by o p i n i o n  surveys of some  sort.  Given t h i s assumption, i t i s b e t t e r t h a t p o l i c y be based on  the c o n s i d e r e d o p i n i o n s o f informed consumers, r a t h e r than on kneej e r k r e a c t i o n s t o pop-quiz s t y l e surveys. Finally, namely  l e t us look a t one l a s t  hypothetical  consent.  "Hypothetical-consent determining  models  an i n d i v i d u a l ' s  from them."'**"  type o f i n d i r e c t Douglas  attempt actual  t o evade  MacLean  consent, writes:  t h e problem  p r e f e r e n c e s and g e n e r a l i z i n g  T h e o r i e s of h y p o t h e t i c a l consent seek t o determine  what r i s k s f u l l y r a t i o n a l i n d i v i d u a l s would consent t o under conditions. hypothetical  of  The  primary  consent  criticism  i s this:  f o r c e t o assumptions  levelled  t o impute  such  at  ideal  theories  of  s t r o n g normative  about what i d e a l persons i n i d e a l  situations  would do r e q u i r e s s u b s t a n t i a l j u s t i f i c a t i o n and e x p l i c a t i o n .  The  l o g i c a l s t e p from h y p o t h e t i c a l consent t o j u s t i f i c a t i o n o f imposing risks  i s a l o n g s t e p indeed.  One might  r e a s o n a b l y ask, 'What  should I c a r e about what a p e r f e c t l y r a t i o n a l person i n an i d e a l world would consent t o ?  I am a r e a l  person, w i t h c o n s i d e r a b l e  emotional commitments t o c e r t a i n c o r e b e l i e f s which may o r may not be r a t i o n a l , and I do not l i v e i n an i d e a l w o r l d . ' Again, theories  I wish  i n general neither  of hypothetical  consent.  t o defend  nor c r i t i c i z e  For my purposes,  i t w i l l be  enough t o ask whether SRAH has any impact on t h e normative f o r c e of h y p o t h e t i c a l consent. I  wish  t o argue  MacLean, 24.  that  SRAH  does  indeed  present  a strong  challenge  to  counterfactual  theories  of  hypothetical  t o be c o n s i d e r e d  consent.  i s something  I f the  like,  'would an  i d e a l l y r a t i o n a l person accept t h i s r i s k ? ' , i t seems t h a t s a i d r i s k will  first  need  quantification possibility, asking  t o be q u a n t i f i e d .  of r i s k s  o f course,  i s impossible. of foregoing  'would an i d e a l l y  general  nature?'  SRAH i m p l i e s  r a t i o n a l person accept  make  open t h e  a risk  of t h i s  But t h e q u a l i t i e s a t t r i b u t e d t o such an i d e a l l y  predictable.  choice  possible  a r i c h enough p i c t u r e t o  By i d e a l i z i n g we take away e x a c t l y  the s o r t s o f c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s — that  leaves  accurate  q u a n t i f i c a t i o n , and simply  r a t i o n a l person a r e u n l i k e l y t o p r o v i d e make p r e f e r e n c e s  This  that  s o c i a l context despite  the  and core b e l i e f s  absence  of  a  —  firm  q u a n t i f i c a t i o n of r i s k . Next,  I summarize my  e f f o r t s and suggest  some  conclusions  r e g a r d i n g the i m p l i c a t i o n s o f a s u b j e c t i v e model o f r i s k assessment f o r product s a f e t y  discussions.  Chapter 7:  Conclusion  In t h i s t h e s i s , I have examined t h e l i t e r a t u r e which argues i n favour  o f a s u b j e c t i v e theory  explored  o f r i s k assessment.  t h e impacts which a s u b j e c t i v e theory  (which  I  term  'SRAH:'  the S u b j e c t i v i t y  I have a l s o  o f risk-assessment of Risk  Assessment  Hypothesis) might have f o r t h e r o l e s p l a y e d by v a r i o u s i n product safety discussions. grounds,  presented  accepting Conrad  Brunk  scientific  from  model  process of r i s k and 'value  that  three  distinct  of risk-assessment.  and h i s c o l l e a g u e s  value-laden, evaluator's  I n Chapters 1 and 2, I o u t l i n e d  by authors  a subjective  stakeholders  suggests  that  assessment i s i n f a c t  i t s results  framework.'  depend  fields, for The work o f  t h e supposedly s u b j e c t i v e and  crucially  on t h e  The s o c i o l o g i c a l p e r s p e c t i v e o f  Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky  illustrates  how  organizational  c u l t u r e can be c r u c i a l i n d e t e r m i n i n g which r i s k s which i n d i v i d u a l s select for attention. by  Robyn  M.  Dawes  And t h e p s y c h o l o g i c a l l i t e r a t u r e summarized implies  that  risk  evaluation  i s heavily  p r e j u d i c e d by r e a d i l y i d e n t i f i a b l e human c o g n i t i v e l i m i t a t i o n s . I suggested t h a t t o g e t h e r ,  these t h r e e analyses  imply t h a t i t i s a t  l e a s t p l a u s i b l e t h a t t r u l y o b j e c t i v e r i s k assessment i s i m p o s s i b l e . In subsequent chapters,  I have shown t h a t such a s u b j e c t i v e model  of r i s k assessment does indeed have s i g n i f i c a n t i m p l i c a t i o n s f o r product s a f e t y d i s c u s s i o n s . i n Chapter 3 t h a t decision-making  With r e g a r d t o consumers, I suggested  SRAH c a l l s procedures,  into question modifies  the value  of c e r t a i n  consumers'  epistemic  responsibilities,  and  makes  certain  roles  played  by  consumer  o r g a n i z a t i o n s more c r u c i a l w h i l e making o t h e r s seem dubious.  With  r e g a r d t o producer c o r p o r a t i o n s , I suggested i n Chapter 4 t h a t SRAH implies  changes i n what we  obtaining  informed  n e c e s s a r y new value  consent  information.  relates  to  I  suggested  and the  the  i n Chapter  that  SRAH makes  larger  p r o f e s s i o n a l engineers view t h e i r  task  way  community.  of  on t h e o r i e s of i n d i r e c t be  5 that  engineering With  regard  as  a  profession  to  governmental  I suggested i n Chapter 6 t h a t SRAH c a s t s doubt  possibility  can  but  SRAH  depoliticizing  i m p l i e s s t r o n g c a v e a t s f o r those who  What  and  acceptance of  changes i n the  r e g u l a t o r y bodies, upon  consumers,  With r e g a r d t o e n g i n e e r s employed by producer  i m p l i e s changes i n the way experts,  from  i n terms of  means of t r a n s m i t t i n g not t e c h n i c a l i n f o r m a t i o n ,  corporations,  as  expect from c o r p o r a t i o n s  debates  over  risk,  and  seek t o base p u b l i c d e c i s i o n s  consent.  said,  then,  by  way  of  summary  regarding  the  o v e r a l l impact of s e e i n g r i s k - a s s e s s m e n t as a s u b j e c t i v e a c t i v i t y ? One the  g e n e r a l c o n c l u s i o n which presents implications  suggested  in  i t s e l f upon c o n s i d e r a t i o n of  previous  chapters  assessment must i n c r e a s i n g l y be a p u b l i c a c t i v i t y .  is  that  Despite  risk ample  room f o r i n d i v i d u a l d e c i s i o n making, most s a f e t y d e c i s i o n s continue t o be made c e n t r a l l y , e i t h e r by c o r p o r a t i o n s , or by government agencies. assessment was  first  by consumer groups,  The i n e v i t a b l e p o l i t i c a l aspect of r i s k  mentioned  i n Chapter  r e c u r r i n g theme i n subsequent c h a p t e r s .  3 above, but  i t is a  Bureaucrats, corporations,  and consumer advocates must e v a l u a t e product s a f e t y i n l i g h t of the  r e f l e c t i v e v a l u e s expressed by r e a l consumers.  The s u b j e c t i v i t y of  r i s k assessment i m p l i e s t h a t t h e r e are no experts i n d e c i d i n g what r i s k s are r e a s o n a b l e . experts  i s what  consumers must activity. established  Perhaps the v e r y f a c t t h a t t h e r e are no such  makes product be  concerned.  Certainly, and  safety a  held.  Value  values The  can  values  privately  held  values  be  said  which  evolve  with  determination  c o n f l i c t w i t h those v a l u e s espoused by even  debate  to  which a l l  is a be  individuals  social  privately hold  s o c i e t y as a whole.  within  a  social  touches  us  activities  l i v e s depend on i t , because they do. all. —  W i l l i a m W. measuring  Lowrance w r i t e s :  risk  and  judging  79.  risks  Product s a f e t y "Between the  safety  d i s c o m f o r t i n g no-man's-land...or every-man's-land.""'  Lowrance,  But  context.  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