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Reblogged:Walter Block on the FDA

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Walter Block has written a piece calling for the abolition of the FDA and its replacement "with a free enterprise certification industry."

I would criticize the piece as being far from strongly-worded enough: the agency blatantly violates our rights to our own bodies, particularly the freedom to decide which medicines or foods to consume; its dithering -- most notably on rapid antigen tests -- during this pandemic arguably led to hundreds of thousands dying; and its stifling of medical innovation is a big part of why medical science produces innovation at a far slower and less earth-shattering rate than Silicon Valley does for communications technology.

That said, the piece contains a hit and a miss I wish to comment on here. First, the hit:
Image by Volodymyr Hryshchenko, via Unsplash, license.
If there are five [certification] private agencies, and one of them errs, it will tend to lose customers, followers, and go bankrupt. This would leave room for the expansion of the other four in this industry and for the entry of newcomers. Another advantage is that five heads are better than one. Then there is the fact that when the FDA fails there is no automatic mechanism that replaces error-prone scientists with better ones.
This is true: We would not only be free to judge and try medicines and treatments for ourselves, we would have better guidance when deciding whether to do so.

And the miss?
There is of course one objection to free enterprise in this regard: a private certification agency might be paid off by unscrupulous business interests in order to buy a good report. Yes, of course, this is a danger. But the government, too, it not totally immune from such corruption. Also, any private firm caught putting its thumb on one side of the balance would immediately go bankrupt. Not so for the FDA, if ever its paw was caught in the cookie jar.
I looks like the FDA's paw might have just been there, as I noted recently, and not only won't the FDA go down (unless we abolish it), it may well drag the whole idea of standards down the toilet.

Until and unless our society outgrows its childish suspicion of selfish interest -- in the forms of (a) a lack of confidence in our own minds to choose wisely and (2) the assumption that others will stoop to the level of criminals if given half a chance -- we will never rid ourselves of the FDA or any other agency that exists for the alleged purpose of protecting us from ourselves or the businessmen we trade with (and yet so many lazily assume are predatory).

-- CAV

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