Friday, March 5, 2010

Coming soon: Prohibition

(video torrent)
The Stossel Show on FBN tonight was his best so far, especially "the button" he put on the end of it. There was so much ground covered, I found myself wanting to react in writing every few minutes. So, expect in coming days a post or series of posts exploring this show and the concepts and practices associated with prohibition.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Reaction to STOSSEL, "Hands Off My Meds!" or "Government in My Medicine Cabinet"

Reaction to the STOSSEL program, on the Fox Business Network, of 2010, February 25. (video torrent)

In the show open, we hear John's opening thrust, then from dissenters who argue they want protective government intervention to assure safety. You know, I'm not opposed to their idea necessarily. But, why not make the FDA an advisory body in that case. Concerned folks like they can choose to rely upon an advisory-only FDA to determine whether they'd consider a given drug option.

These folks get the government's blessing of safety inspection, and their assurance. The rest of us get the right to choose any alternative, regardless of FDA stance.

The little girl in the opening vignette broke me apart. I think about what her life could have been, what she might have imagined for herself, the forever lost opportunity that, if you were going to lose your struggle to live, that you let go knowing you tried everything you were willing to try.

Stories like hers, what a shame crime! The mandatory nature of FDA regulation tortured that girl to death. Her disease may ultimately have killed her, but our government, in striving to provide guaranteed safety to all, sacrified her and bloodied its hands in the process. And her case is not rare, nor unique. She died laboring for freedom from our government's oppression, and in the video you see how that oppression tortured her sense of well being. How despicable! That makes me feel ashamed for the sort of America we've allowed ourselves to be steered to.

Especially (but certainly not limiting) in cases where the alternative is certain death, there cannot be any harm in the freedom to choose a thing, eyes open. If the choice kills you, well, you were dead anyway, and you made the choice of your own volition, and knowing the risks (including the risk of unknown/unlimited risk). If you die this way, from an experimental treatment that went wrong, the government remains clean, and can operate with clear conscience. That cannot be said of the present state of things.

The story of the FDA vs. Thalidomide was a fluke of timing. How about Vioxx? Remember that one? The FDA didn't kill Vioxx, market pressure and lawsuits from harmed users did that. The FDA had approved Vioxx; only after an irreparably tarnished reputation, and a commercial decision by Merck to remove it to salvage some credibility with consumers, did the FDA belatedly steal credit for getting it removed from the market.

John Stossel pointed out in his blog that Mediaite criticized his libertarian viewpoint on the basis that only a government body like the FDA has enough impartial authority to coerce honesty from drug makers.

Well, the Vioxx fracas proves that exactly the opposite is true, and that's just one example that came to my mind. I'm sure there are plenty more. In a vacuum without an FDA, a free and unfettered marketplace would have done at least as well as the FDA did on the Vioxx matter. Probably much better, and much faster. In fact, our non-free and much-encumbered market of government restricted choice was already way ahead of the FDA, and the FDA merely played cheerleader, and bad cop to the market's good cop routine.

I know a few folks who would've taken Vioxx anyway, even knowing about an increased risk of heart attack or stroke...the Vioxx contribution to which is still being researched and it's still controversial.

The truth is that once you damage the trust of your customer base, they are likely to reward you by voting with their wallets, and going toward a provider who has proven more trustworthy. What better coercion can you get? Serve the customer or die. If you're a smarmy operator, your career will be short. In our internet-connected age, word of mouth is now everything. People will learn, if they need to, to be wary.

I also know a few folks who are in the aftermath more wary of the fancy new drug treatments they see marketed on TV (like myself). These folks have become more reluctant to try something new if an older treatment exists which gives good enough results (in their judgement) and has more experience and data behind it.

An advisory FDA would allow those who for any reason prefer to have the government as their expert vetting agent, use it in that way. The rest of us who might feel inclined to become more informed than we believe the government could be, or who feel have special circumstances the government's accounting cannot factor, or who plainly would rather put our trust into some other party or parties, can still choose to do so.

In the current climate of aggressive agitation for socialized medicine, it seems obvious that optional or advisory regulation couldn't be allowed to exist. If the government is going to pay for your health care (whether you want it that way or would rather keep your tax dollars and pay for yourself), it must be allowed to dictate what the approved treatment is to be. It (quite rationally) cannot be expected to pay for your holistic, pseudo-scientific, homeopathic, faith-based cancer treatment, because it cannot prove the efficacy of such crackpot treatments.

To me, this would be a loud argument against such socializing efforts.

However, with advisory bodies making recommendations, and free people paying out of their own pockets for their own care, they would have the freedom to choose what works best for them...even if, rationally and scientifically, the treatment they decide upon cannot possibly work at all. We would still have the precious freedom to choose to be irrational.

Markets clear. Let them. It is the only truly humane option.