Policy watchers have seen use of the Precautionary Principle explode over past decades. It is most commonly used for environmental threats that have little or no evidence of real harm. It’s so common that it has seeped into general conversation.
Political types wanting to simulate policy competence frequently trot it out in print or speech to prove how serious they are.
Because activists and bureaucrats use the process underlying the Precautionary Principle so much, it’s important to pull apart exactly how it is propaganda verging on fraud. Both Covid and Climate Change are perfect examples.
The General Precautionary Principle
Something may create such a big risk that we need to act now even if we have no evidence that it really causes any problem at all.
Once you find some related risk – any risk, even a false one – you can use the precautionary principle to get your own way. For the unprincipled, it is a gift.
Anatomy of the Precautionary Principle
When activists refer publicly to the Precautionary Principle for a particular issue, the process has already been underway for some time. People have been working and preparing within both institutions and media. It follows a simple sequence:
- Identify a policy area or institution you want to influence
- Identify a plausible scientific or technical risk in that area that requires investigation to refute
- Fake a Catastrophic Risk
- Shamelessly exaggerate the slightly-plausible technical risk, even to the extent of lying outright
- Coordinate activist, NGO and academic activity to build a mass of claims and “evidence” of extreme risks
- Present “evidence” to the media
- Magnify media response and stress catastrophic risk
- Use the media response you created as corroborating evidence of catastrophic risk
- Drive Policy Action to Avoid Catastrophe
- Run campaigns claiming even if it isn’t certain, the risk is so huge that policy must change even if there is little evidence and the cost is enormous
- Squeeze ignorant politicians into signalling they take the “risk” seriously
- Astroturf organisations focused on the catastrophe
- Support emerging, independent useful-idiot organisations
- Demand extreme policy to address extreme risk
- Attack the Rational Critic
- Attack as ignorant those who point out the risk isn’t catastrophic
- Quote the Precautionary Principle as though it is an irrefutable, intellectually-valid concept
- Use media and useful-idiot politicians to marginalise rational debate
- Claim the risk is so great that debate is simply evil and cannot be tolerated
Covid Precautionary Nonsense
The Covid problem may not match the deliberate, targeted fraud that is Climate Change, but it follows everything from Step 2 – Fake a Catastrophic Risk.
What this reveals is simple, and scary. The Precautionary Principle is just fear-driven propaganda given a pretentious academic name.
And our politicians all embrace it.