Friday, January 06, 2006

Risk and Regulation

Robert Higgs makes this acute observation:
Risk is an inescapable condition. However much people may prefer to live in a world of complete certainty, they simply cannot do so. Just banishing risk, whether by regulation or otherwise, is not a feasible option.
Higgs goes on to argue against the irrationality of drug-safety regulation; for example:
Whether the condition to be treated is life-threatening or simply unpleasant, the [Food and Drug Administration] requires the same rigid, elaborate, and time-consuming testing. Once again, the regulators frustrate the desires of consumers by insisting that one size (testing procedure) fits all (drugs and patients), regardless of the urgency with which consumers desire access to certain drugs. In some cases this regulatory intransigence creates the absurd situation in which the FDA denies dying patients access to a new drug because the manufacturer has not yet established beyond a reasonable doubt that the drug will not harm the users.
Rationality will get you nowhere in the face of massive ignorance. The ability of government bureaucracies to write regulations leads most Americans to believe that those regulations will "solve problems." When a "problem" is not solved because actually solving it would be prohibitively expensive (as in reducing traffic fatalities to zero), Americans assume that "they" (corporations, for example) have simply found a "loophole" or "bought" someone. That kind of thinking leads, inexorably, to more regulation. It is beyond the ken of most Americans that regulation creates problems rather than solving them. Those unseen problems are the loss of freedom and fortune.

Other related posts:

Fear of the Free Market -- Part I
Fear of the Free Market -- Part II
Fear of the Free Market -- Part III