Monday, September 19, 2005


In the edenic "realm of Freedom, Equality, Property, and Bentham", people choose freely whether to work and at what wage. Apparently, they also choose whether they want to die in the line of duty working, at least according to this new ILO report (careful, big PDF).

According to the latest ILO estimates for accidents and diseases, there are globally about 2.2 million work-related deaths annually, which represents about a 10% increase on the estimate given in the Introductory Report to the XVIth World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Vienna, 2002.

China alone accounted for 477,000 of those while India chalked up 302,000. That's a lot of deaths. But even more striking perhaps is the fact that the advanced economy countries actually had more deaths than China or India as a share of the economically active population. Yes, the deadliest regions of the world to work in are the Middle East, the former Soviet countries, and Sub-Saharan Africa--which only barely beat out the advanced economy countries by one one-hundreth of a percentage point in their fatality rates.

Of course it would be convenient to blame the employers for all these deaths. But as the Oracle of neoclassical economic theory clearly instructs us, these workers freely chose these jobs with full information about the risk of death and injury and according to their risk preference (or perhaps discounting the prevailing wage rate by their disutility of dying). The beauty of ou free society is that individuals get to choose their own fates. If people chose to work in risky jobs, it must reflect their preference for these jobs and their willinginess to sacrifice themselves on the altar of Capital. Because they chose freely, it would be wrong--nay, immoral--to blame employers or to--GASP!--request compensation from them for the fate of workers choosing to seek their own destiny.


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