20.11.04

PICKING WINNERS? Don Boudreaux sees too many incentives for gatekeepers to get it wrong.
First and most obviously: why would anyone seriously expect taxpayer-funded bureaucrats to promote the well-being of consumers? These bureaucrats have no motive of personal gain (profit) or loss to inspire them to be diligent and creative in anticipating and serving the desires of millions of strangers. Furthermore, the FDA faces no real competition. Combine these facts with the additional reality that the regulated too often enjoy undue, if sub rosa, influence with the regulators — thus “capturing” the regulatory process — and you have a stew that is a hearty meal for bureaucrats, politicians, and regulated firms but that is poisonous to consumers.

Second and, in my opinion, even more importantly: the entire notion of “safe” and “unsafe” drugs is wrong.

Popular discussion of the FDA’s role proceeds as if there is an objective level of safety for drugs. Each drug either reaches this level or it doesn’t. If it does, it is “safe”; if it doesn’t reach this level, it is “unsafe.”

This notion is preposterous. The safety of each and every drug is in a range. Drug A can be more safe or less safe than can drug B. Modifications can make drug A more safe today than it was yesterday.
His suggestion for the Federal Drug Administrators, high or low: turf 'em out.

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