Annals of Health Law
public welfare. For example, Professor Frank Cross has argued that public
perceptions of societal risks are “centrally tainted by cognitive limitations
and biased or incomplete information,”58 and that over-reliance on such
public perceptions in government risk control policy could result in
diversion of finite governmental resources away from “more authentic and
significant” risks, higher private economic costs, and increased risks of
dangerous or fatal errors.59 Cross also argues that a number of justifications
for limiting public participation in public policy-making exist:
1. That members of the public might not want government policy to
closely reflect their risk perceptions;60
2. That members of the public “might recognize the shortcomings
of their own perceptions and choose to defer to scientific
expertise in government policy”;61
3. That the United States (under its current Constitution) is built
upon a representative democracy rather than a direct
4. That public participation does not necessarily further true
majoritarian democracy because “participation often degrades
into a battle of unrepresentative private interest groups” and may
have “a built-in bias which favors the affluent and reduces the
democratic influence of ordinary citizens, especially the
58. Frank B. Cross, The Public Role in Risk Control, 24 ENVTL. L. 887, 968 (1994).
59. Id. at 929-55. In conclusion, Professor Cross remarks:
Few individuals would support such institutionalization of ignorance. Yet when it
comes to matters of risk and regulation, the public ignorance wears a cloak of
value judgment that tries to legitimize its role. However, much of the public
perception is ascribable to simple ignorance, and when value judgments are
involved, they are not always noble ones worthy of government cognizance.
Id. at 968.
60. See id. at 951.
61. Id. at 951-52.
62. Id. at 951 (“We have a representative democracy, in which the people delegate
decision[-]making authority to [elected] representatives. Thus, United States democracy does
not imply the automatic transfer of public predilections into government policy.”); and id. at
953 (“It must not be forgotten that, even in the total absence of direct public participation,
government decisions are ultimately made by the elected representatives of the people.”).
63. Id. at 954; see also Widman, supra note 53, at 176 (asserting that
“[d]emographically homogenous groups may organize more easily and thus have more time
to devote to political lobbying” and that “the community with more effective organization
and leadership could be perceived by city agencies as more likely to take issues to the ballot
box, thus subtly (and perhaps wrongly) convincing political representatives that the goals of
the politically savvy group reflect those of the community as a whole.”).