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Five Phony Public Health Scares

In "Five Phony Public Health Scares" (November), Ronald Bailey mentions the campaign against fluoridation of water. Fluoridation, arguably one of the great successes of public health policy, shines a light on the progressive mindset.

Here we have a policy opposed by persons concerned about effects of a chemical accumulating in human bodies over decades, persons who would apply the precautionary principle to fluoridation in exactly the way progressives have used it to forestall every other technological advance in memory. Yet our news media have taken those progressives seriously, while scoffing the fluoridation skeptics off the stage of public opinion as a bunch of ignorant rednecks.

I can't see that the progressives are any more enlightened than the fluoridation skeptics.

Joel A. Eaton

Waverly, TN

Ronald Bailey responds: I agree with Mr. Eaton. Under the precautionary principle, proponents of change must prove that new technologies will never cause harm. The ironic upshot is that modern progressives have in effect adopted William Buckley's famous conservative position of standing "athwart history, yelling Stop." One way to summarize the precautionary principle is, "Never do anything for the first time."

Not changing is often riskier than changing. For example, refusing vaccination involves risks to personal health, rejecting nuclear power increases the risk of climate change, and banning biotech crops increases the risk of soil erosion and famine.

Correction: As a result of an editing error, Veronique de Rugy's column "The Kids Aren't All Right" (November) incorrectly stated that young people who must pay Obamacare's penalty will "be $2,000 poorer." The 2014 penalty for individuals is actually $95 or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater.

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