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Colbert's The Wørd: Priceless

[media id=5801] [media id=5802] (h/t Heather) Oh happy day! Colbert is back with another classic Priceless: Folks, everybody knows I’m a huge fa

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Oh happy day! Colbert is back with another classic

Priceless: Folks, everybody knows I’m a huge fan of market forces. It’s always bugged me when people say you can’t put a monetary value on human life. Of course you can!

That’s why I demand ransom for the release of my summer interns. Pay up, mom and dad!

Well, it turns out there is an exact monetary value of human life. It is a number calculated by government actuaries based on risk assessment and payroll figures that is used to decide whether life saving regulations are worth paying for. For example, let’s say there’s proposed legislation that will require inspecting possibly tainted Chinese shrimp. And, let’s further say that regulation would cost $100 million, and if you don’t inspect the shrimp, 100 people could die at a seafood restaurant.

Now, if you value…if you value those 100 people at a million dollars each, the benefit is equal to the cost, so the regulation’s worth it. But, if you value them at less than a million dollars each, well, the cost outweighs the benefit. Now, I happen to think—and this is just me—I happen to think tainted shrimp adds an element of danger to the appetizer course. It’s like skydiving with cocktail sauce.

Now, the Environmental Protection Agency uses numbers like this to decide whether to regulate things like pollution. And five years ago, they estimated that a human life was worth $7.8 million, but recently they lowered that to $6.9 million dollars. That’s right, under the Bush administration, human life has become a million dollars cheaper. This…this is great news. Because the lower the value of human life, the less it pays to protect it with regulations. That might be why last week the EPA chose not to regulate greenhouse gases. It’s just not worth it with human life at such bargain basement prices.

But we can get those prices lower. By devaluing life, they’ve made it less likely to regulate water and air quality. And the worse the water and air quality get, the less life is worth living, which further devalues life, which makes it even less likely to regulate water and air quality. It’s like the circle of life. And that’s great, that’s great. You see, while they may have lowered the value of a person, the EPA has given us something worth a lot more. Because a human life: $6.9 million; gaming the system to protect industry from safety regulations: Priceless.

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