Monday, August 13, 2012

Why We Don’t Have Flying Cars or a Cure for the Common Cold

The blog post is now a chapter in my book Golden Rule Libertarianism
In the early 20th Century, some 70 or 80 years ago, people believed that in "the future" we would have flying cars, a cure for all diseases, and other technological marvels like robot butlers and maids. So why don't we?

Not surprisingly, the libertarian answer to this question is: government regulation.

Regulation kills innovation because the businesses must invest so much in regulatory compliance for what they already have that they can’t afford to innovate and then spend the money which would be required for the newly developed innovation to comply with all the regulations. Regulatory compliance in today's world costs millions of dollars. This is why the carmakers don’t try to create flying cars, because of EPA car emissions regulations.Can you imagine what a regulatory nightmare it would be for a car manufacturer to invent a flying car and then try to clear the EPA's emissions review, to say nothing of the liability nightmare of tort lawsuits they could face for any minor defect, or the host of other safety regulations from myriad other bureaucratic regulatory agencies who could put an end to the flying car design if they feel it is unsafe? No carmaker will spend a billion dollars to design a flying car that really could work, only to have regulators kill it off in the name of safety and then take a total lost on their research and development investment.

And the same thing is true of medications, perhaps even more so. The FDA requires a complicated clinical trial to prove both safety and effectiveness before any new medicine can be put on the market. The clinical trial required by the FDA is both time consuming and extremely expensive. This makes regulatory approval of new drugs so expensive that the drug makers can only afford medical research for drugs which are certain to clear the clinical trials and be big sellers so that they can be sure to recover their high up front cost of regulatory compliance. They don’t find it economical to experiment freely with possible medicines such as might lead to a cure for the common cold. A cure for the common cold might sell well, but the culture of free experimentation in medical research has been gutted by the fact that significant sums of money can only be invested in research that is sure to clear the FDA's clinical trial requirements. Otherwise, the FDA would force the drug makers to take a total loss on the research which fails the FDA's clinical trials, so drug makers cannot fund innovative creative experiments which think outside the box for fear of not passing the FDA's clinical trials. So in the name of safety the FDA has destroyed the sort of scientific innovation and experimentation which might actually achieve progress in medical science and cure a lot of sicknesses, including the common cold.

Regulation destroys innovation and kills the ability to be experimental and creative. The regulators say they are protecting us and creating safety. They probably have the best of intentions. But as a result of the structure and nature of government regulation, the EPA and FDA only do harm. And it is the people of the USA and the rest of the world, who would enjoy the use of flying cars and an end to the common cold, who suffer because of our lack of political wisdom.

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