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Bullies Rule

We’re told government protects us, but protectors quickly become bullies.

Take the Food and Drug Administration. It seems like the most helpful part of government: It supervises testing to make sure greedy drug companies don’t sell us dangerous stuff.

The FDA’s first big success was stopping thalidomide, a drug that prevented the nausea of morning sickness. It was approved first in Europe, where some mothers who took it proceeded to give birth to children with no arms and legs.

The FDA didn’t discover the problems with thalidomide. It was just slow. The drug application was stuck in the FDA’s bureaucracy. But being slow prevented birth defects in America.

It taught politicians and bureaucracy that slower is better.

Then the FDA grew, like a tumor.

Today, it takes up to 15 years to get a new drug approved. Though most devices and drugs never are.

What do Americans lose when regulators say “no”?

Usually, we never find out. We don’t know what vaccines or painkillers are never developed because regulation discouraged companies from trying something new.

But here’s one example where we do know what we lost:

Uterine prolapse is a common and nasty complication of childbearing. It causes urinary incontinence and terminates most couples’ sex lives. Complicated surgery and clumsy devices didn’t offer much help until device companies developed implants that often did.

However, since biology is unpredictable, some implants fail. In 2011, the FDA abruptly demanded “more studies.”

The bullies’ mandate unleashed a hornets’ nest of tort lawyers. They advertised, “Did your device fail? Call, and we will get you money!” They soon piled up so many suits that device manufacturers’ insurers canceled liability coverage. Device companies then withdrew devices from the market.

So now women suffering from uterine prolapse have fewer options. This is a price of bureaucratic “caution.”

Reasonable people can debate whether the FDA assures product efficacy and safety. But the regulatory boot always presses toward delay.

Innovators don’t dare make a move without saying, “Regulator, may I please?”

In rare cases, when new devices are approved, there is a new obstacle: complex marketing restrictions. Say something about your product that the government doesn’t like, and you may be fined. The Office of the Inspector General and federal and state prosecutors troll for rule violations, then sue and fine.

This harms patients. Most never know they were harmed, because we never know what we might have had.

There are only two ways to do things in life: voluntarily or by force. Government is force. Government bureaucrats, who spend their whole lives pushing the rest of us around, easily become bullies.

We need some government force. The worst places in the world are countries that don’t have rule of law. Then people are afraid to build factories because mobs may steal what they make, or a dictator may take the whole factory. No one builds, so everyone stays poor.

It’s good America has rule of law. It’s good we have a military to defend us from foreign attacks, police that keep the peace, courts that ensure contracts are honored, environmental rules that punish polluters.

But now our government goes way beyond that. It employs 22 million people. Not all have the power to impose force on the rest of us, but millions do.  Some use it to bully us in big and petty ways.

Twenty-two million government workers delay the Keystone XL oil pipeline, raid poker games, force us to put ethanol in cars, prohibit drugs and medical devices that might make our lives better, take about half our money, and jail more citizens than even China and Russia do.

Like frightened kids in elementary school, we learn to accept this, to think it’s natural. But it’s not right that government forbids people in pain to make their own choices about what might help them.

Voluntary is better than force. Free is better than coerced. We’re better off when government is small and people are left to do as they please, unbullied.

  • writeby

    “It seems like the most helpful part of government: It supervises testing to make sure greedy drug companies don’t sell us dangerous stuff.”

    And there goes your argument. Why does a government bureaucracy, without any sort of check or balance, “seem … most helpful”? If one wants protection against “greedy” drug companies, their greed is one’s best agent. No company profits for long producing substandard or dangerous products (unless there’s a bureaucrat to bail him out). And without profits, the company dies.

    (And if there’s proof of negligence or fraud, those responsible are either sued in civil court or arrested and tried in a criminal court–much more effective agencies than a bunch of pencil pushing suits in cubicles.)

    What sort of same absolute check/balance, though, restricts government agents from producing substandard or deadly regulations? The innate selflessness of a government agent, one would be told. There is no self-interest, then, in “protecting the public,” which includes the agent and his family and friends?

    And therein lies the truth–or, rather, the contradiction–contained in the flawed logic of relying on so called “disinterested” parties to control those who are driven by self-interest. The bureaucrat is only disinterested in the effects of his rulings; his self-interest, in the expansion of his power.

    By turns, the drug tycoon’s “disinterest” (objectivity) and self-interest are one: he seeks an objectively proven effective drug, because his self-interest lies in making a profit–over and over and over again. And he can’t make a profit over and over and over again by producing an ineffective or deadly drug.

    The logical outcome is an FDA that ever expands its power, bans effective pharmaceuticals and offers those less scrupulous in the market (by means of bribes, quid pro quo deals, etc.) the means and opportunity to throttle their betters.

    All of it consistent with the (subjective) self-interest and the (irrational) disinterest of the government agent.

    So much for any government regulatory agency ever being “helpful.”

    And this isn’t a provincial & trivial issue of ‘bullies'; it’s a universal and very significant matter of totalitarianism.

  • Sharpshooter

    When bully’s are finally taken down, it’s brutal and ugly.

  • William Yavelak

    I agree. That said, to be politically viable, this position requires an explanation of how self interest will yield equal or better safety to all individuals as does the current bureaucracy. The drug developer, for example, who is willing to make a short term gain before fully studying his product, is the entity that causes the most problems. Relying on the courts for damages resulting form a bad product, and hoping that this possible punishment sufficiently deters short term gainers from harming people may not appear as sufficient protection for enough voters. Making sure force is not used to provide limited liability for these companies and esp. their investors would go a long way to insuring funding is not available for short term gamblers. That should be assured and stressed. More clarity is needed in explaining how self interest, without the fda, is likely to protect people from the person willing to make a quick killing (pun intended), then fleeing before the poo hits the fan. If your wife is dead or maimed or sterile due to a poorly tested medical product, the monetary recompense from the perpetrator is of the wrong kind, and utterly insufficient. The idea is the reputation (rather than govt stamp of approval) would become a much larger criteria in individual decision to try a product. Possibly there would arise private testing agencies, also with reputation of being immune to conniving influence. These are the mechanisms of self interest in a free market under objective law that NEED clarification. These ideas have long been lost for the vast majority of the voting public.

  • mkkevitt

    They’re not just bullies. They’re not government. They’re not enforcing laws. They’re not protecting anybody. They’re criminals, of crime organizations, acting by criminal plan, taking away and denying life and denying the protection afforded by law and government. We are to think they’re protecting our health and general economic welfare. But they’re threatening all of it by doing the opposite of law and government: by initiating force. They’re the same as any street gang offering ‘protection’ which you better ‘accept’, or else.

    Government, meaning law and government, is NOT force. It’s an association of parties, all of them by mutual free choice, to use effective responsive (retaliatory) force against initiatory force, and against only those who actually initiate force, including fraud, all of this done by law. And this is all that law authorizes. Any other rules backed by force are criminal plans, no matter how those rules were established.

    Crime under cover of the guise of law and government is destroying the rule of law, of law and government, in the U.S. What do we do about criminals? We have laws to deal with them, especially with the ones we’re referring to here. We better hurry up, before we lose those laws and end up having to do it ‘free form’. Mike Kevitt

  • writeby

    The nuts & bolts of the proper objective mechanism–nicely laid out.

  • mkkevitt

    All true, but this is for a free field, clear of all ‘government’ intervention, where philosophy of law seeks the best means of protecting individual rights in the ongoing conduct of human relations in all fields. I’m not sure Ayn Rand, or Leonard Peikoff today, would 2nd. me here, but: the findings of philosophy of law, checked by nothing but reality, RULES. Law & gvt. turns to, if it’s going to remain law & gvt. Mike Kevitt

  • writeby

    “…but this is for a free field, clear of all ‘government’ intervention…”

    Well, yeah; that was implied.