Agencies Ailing America

Column by Brian Anderson.

Exclusive to STR

[Author’s note: This column is the third segment in my healthcare-related series. The first segment—“Getting to Medical Freedom”—discusses the many negative effects of the American Medical Association’s government-granted monopoly over the licensure process. The second segment—“Public Confusion in Scientific Research”—explains how taxpayer-funded research distorts the market and deters private investments in medical technologies. Here I will make a quick case against the Food and Drug Administration.”]
The history of the Food and Drug Administration is one of the many corporatist climaxes in US history. I explain at the Ludwig von Mises Institute:
People praise Sinclair’s book [The Jungle] as the single work that catalyzed the Federal Meat Inspection Act’s quick movement through Congress. But to praise Sinclair’s text is to praise the author’s sensationalized fantasies of a capitalistic system in Chicago that he had never even seen. It’s reasonable to suggest that the intestine-covered floors and puddles of animal blood dreamed up by Sinclair were, in fact, unreal and not simply missed by hundreds of meat inspectors sanctioned by the US government throughout the decade preceding 1906. […]
Large meatpacking companies endorsed the new legislation as a way to cripple the impeding competition of smaller firms and to make sure that taxpayers were forced to pick up the tab for its costly enforcement. In an ironic twist of events, Sinclair openly rejected the legislation for its true, fascistic nature.
These relationships are certainly an important factor in any discussion, but it is essential to focus on the current mechanisms of the FDA when debating people who support the State. (For an expansion on the agency’s origins, I recommend Lawrence W. Reed’s “Of Meat and Myth” and Gabriel Kolko’s The Triumph of Conservatism.)
I’ve always described the FDA as the press secretary for Big Pharma. Blocking off nearly all competitors in the market for foods and medicines, the FDA is able to convince the population that it’s for our own good. Everything rejected, they say, was unhealthy and not fit to be judged by individuals; for accepted substances that are later found to be harmful, they say, let’s just be happy that we have the organization in the first place.
Like assumptions made about the AMA, it is expected that the FDA’s compass is absolutely accurate every single time and that each cure sold without its permission would undoubtedly have killed off patients. If the compass were perfect, individuals would voluntarily clarify that foods and medicines were approved by the organization. Product labeling is a commodity desired—some may even say demanded—by consumers since we personally end up dealing with the consequences of what enters our bodies.
Competition will level out firms that reject the notion of labeling, and mischievous label-makers will be held accountable under our already-established laws against fraud. Murray Rothbard writes in Power and Market:
…if A sells B breakfast food, and it turns out to be straw, A has committed an illegal act of fraud by telling B he is selling him food, while actually selling straw. This is punishable in the courts under “libertarian law,” i.e., the legal code of the free society that would prohibit all invasions of persons and property. The loss of the product and the price, plus suitable damages (paid to the victim, not to the State), would be included in the punishment of fraud. […] It must be emphasized that the crime is not lying per se, which is a moral problem not under the province of a free-market defense agency, but breaching a contract—taking someone else’s property under false pretenses and therefore being guilty of fraud.
What happens when the government breaks its “contract” with the American people, though? No restitution is given. For instance, we were warned in September 2011 that Colorado-based cantaloupe distributed to 17 states could be contaminated by bacteria that cause a very serious disease called Listeriosis.
According to a press release, the information was voluntarily provided by Jensen Farms, so the case isn’t that the FDA stopped this from happening in the first place; the organization simply reported the information, a function that can be carried out by news agencies without a dependence on billions of dollars in taxpayer money. Only one month later, there was a new E. coli outbreak, once again reported to me by an ordinary news agency. The source was eventually found, but 27 people were sickened.
Will the FDA and its officials be held accountable to these individuals?
At other times the FDA was simply too busy to follow up on cases. Worse than no voluntary accreditation system at all, this agency falsely leads consumers to believe that their food is checked and healthy as Americans continue to get sick. Its stably-funded failures have vacuumed away most traces of conscious capitalism in our country.
This explains what the agency doesn’t do. What it actually does may be even worse.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the government’s crimes is the unseen victim of prohibitory action. When people are dying, why shouldn’t they be able to choose a potentially dangerous cure if the second-best option is an unavoidable death? The FDA deters many entrepreneurs who want to advance the medical industry.
John Stossel reports:
If something goes wrong, the media make a huge fuss about it, and the class-action parasites pounce. But when the FDA delays a device for years and people die, we don’t report that. We don’t even know who the victims are.
Useful HIV drugs were available in Europe for years before the FDA approved them for use here.
A doctor at the Cleveland Clinic invented a medical app that helped physicians calibrate the amount of radiation to give to women with breast cancer. The FDA demanded so much extra and expensive proof of its safety that he abandoned it.
The FDA’s caution leads many companies to just give up on potentially lifesaving ideas.
And, even after businessmen are willing to proceed through the agency’s lengthy clinical trials, the medicines tend to be extremely high-priced due to intellectual monopoly and are subsequently unreachable by individuals who don’t have million-dollar backing.
We’re lucky to continue experiencing any entrepreneurial progress at all. Our liberty-based revitalization of medicine will only occur through radical independence.
Coercion is not charity, as we very well understand. But, beyond detailing these government-induced limits to healthcare availability, we must also remember to do so in a “sympathetic” manner (i.e., a focus on the high quality of free market charities), an attitude usually seen in the works of left-wing free market advocates like Gary Chartier.
Before government-run welfare was introduced to the country, we had mutual aid—a voluntary system through which charities were filled with compassion and fraternalism.
According to Joshua Fulton:
By the 1920s, at least one out of every three males was a member of a mutual-aid society. […]
Members typically paid $2, about a day’s wage, to have yearly access to a doctor’s care (minor surgery was frequently included in this fee). Non-lodge members typically paid about $2 every doctor’s visit during this time period.
Low prices for lodges did not, however, necessarily translate to low quality. The Independent Order of Foresters, one of the largest mutual-aid societies, frequently touted that the mortality rate of its members was 6.66 per thousand, much lower than the 9.3 per thousand for the general population.
From indirect resource misallocations to blatant corn subsidies worth billions of dollars annually, let us never mistakenly blame the poor for complaining about healthcare costs when the real culprit is so clearly the government. Recommend Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint diet to friends and family, purchase fruit and vegetables from local farmers whose salaries don’t consist of federal monies, and do anything else you can to opt-out.
Dissolution is how our world will evolve into a healthier sphere.

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BrianAnderson's picture
Columns on STR: 4

Opinion columnist in the United States.