The Value of a Human Life

"I think it's important to promote a culture of life. I think a hospitable society is a society where every being counts and every person matters." George W. Bush, October 13, 2004
Throughout his Presidency, Bush has promoted what he likes to call a "culture of life," by which he means a culture in which abortion is illegal. The phrase "culture of life" comes from Pope John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium Vitae (1995). But the Pope included in that phrase a much more generous idea of reverence for life, including opposition to the death penalty and care for the natural environment which supports life on this planet. American evangelicals and “pro-life” political conservatives take a much more narrow view, and focus on the single hot-button issue of abortion. But even in the womb, children are exposed to increasing levels of toxins that put their health and development at risk. They are born into a world in which the diversity of life is rapidly diminishing and global climate change is endangering the long-term prospects for all life on the planet.

Of course, since Bush took office, between 85,000 and 100,000 civilian lives have been lost in Iraq. If anything, Bush has created a culture of death. And here's the latest irony. Under President Bush, the Environmental Protection Agency has lowered the value of a "statistical life." The value of a statistical life is used by the agency to run cost-benefit analyses on proposed environmental regulations. While Bush has promoted a "culture of life," his administration has actually lowered—by close to $1 million in the past five years—the official value of an individual American life.


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