Eugene Volokh has a nice post criticizing San Jose State University’s policy of suspending campus blood drives, because they oppose the FDA’s ban on donation by men who have had sex with men since 1977.

I don’t know enough about the economics of blood screening to judge whether the policy makes sense with respect to reasonable tradeoffs of cost, safety, inclusiveness, etc. It’s possible that it makes sense, but it’s quite likely that it doesn’t.

But, either way, I agree with Eugene that this type of protest shows a tremendous lack of perspective. In order to express their displeasure, they are quite likely causing much more harm than good. I think it’s worth something to express your displeasure at what you think is an unfair or immoral practice, but the costs (to everyone) shouldn’t be completely out of proportion to the expected benefits.

I see the same problem with many environmentalists who insist on practices that impose more costs than expected benefits (most kinds of recycling, for example), but leave the practitioner feeling more virtuous. They value that feeling, and the opportunity to signal commitment, more than they seem to actually care about the likely effects of their actions.

I also find it somewhat ironic that many of the same people who would support this protest actually endorse the type of hyper-cautious  precautionary principle-inspired sorts of policies, like this one by the FDA,  when it comes to things that may impinge on the environment.

Make up your mind!


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