Government and Markets (Again)

Black Unicorn unicorn at
Wed Oct 5 16:00:59 PDT 1994

>From: nobody at (Anonymous)

>> unicorn at
>> Unsafe medical devices?  I would say this is a problem with testing
>> technology, not a lack of limitation on technological advance.

>If medical devices are sold without ANY limitation, e.g. the requirement
>that they be safe and effective, the result is unsafe equipment.
>Improved testing technology isn't useful if there's no requirement to
>use it.  And "the market" is composed of people who have neither the
>expertise to test the equipment before they consent to its use, nor (in
>the case of someone's who's bleeding or in labor) the time.

The market adjusts to these problems through the civil litigation system.  
A product is identified as potentially defective/dangerous and a law suit 
arises.  Either the product appears to be responsible or not.  The 
hospital is either responsible for not insuring that the emergency 
equipment is safe, or it isn't.  The costs are ALREADY allocated in this 
example.  Hospitals begin to look into their products with more care 
instead of relying on some FDA regulation that took 5 years to instate 
and is probably out of date.

Do you think that FDA regulations are any less lagged?  How many people 
have to die before the FDA passes a ban, or a regulation?  And worse, how 
many people die because new products are kept in the wings for years?

>> Genetically tampered food?  Why is this dangerous?  Have any evidence?
>> Most of the livestock/crops you eat today have been altered in one way
>> or another, be it selective breeding, low tech botanical splicing, or
>> genetic/hormonal therapy.  You see this as a regression?

>In some cases, yes, I see problems in biotech.  For example, hormones
>used in cattle in high doses are known to cause tumors in women in low

If the market is so faulty, how is it you have this information?  In fact 
it was easy to get wasn't it?  So you probably will watch out for hormone 
treated meat.

Poetry in motion the market can be.

Look, you did it without any regulation, and without paying 2000 federal 
employees between 25 and 90 thousand dollars a year.

>Whether people would choose to eat hormone-treated meat is
>debatable; I had thought that the right to make the choice was taken by
>cypherpunks as an article of faith.

Exactly.  You have information, you are free to make your choice.  If 
you're not a woman, you can eat all the meat you like and not fret over 
the study.  Why?  Because the federal government hasn't taken the meat 
away, or banned the use of hormones which increase the output of meat in 
certain cattle.

>Without regulation on the
>technology, even an innocuous labeling requirement, the right to choose
>is taken away because consumers can't detect the difference between
>hormone-treated beef and organic beef.

I think Tim May put this best:

T>Underwriters Laboratories, Good Housekeeping ("Seal of Appproval"),
T>and Consumer Reports are better testers than any bureacrats in
T>Washington, and they are private. Insurance companies have a strong
T>interest in safe equipment, as do hospitals, doctors, and even

Indeed.  Listen to yourself:  "the right to choose is taken away because 
[Insert reason of the week here]"  In your case it's because "consumers 
can't detect the difference between hormone-treated beef and organic 
beef."  But you never explain how this is a function that is impossible 
to accomplish without federal government.  Even worse, how do you 
reconcile this with your previous assertion that :"I had thought that the 
right to make the choice was taken by cypherpunks as an article of 

Who is the blasphemer?

In fact there is reason to believe the regulation you propose is more 
harmful than good.  Institutions have a lifetime, a staying power if you 
will.  This is why they are no good at setting technological regulation.  
FDA is a wonderful example of lag, lunacy and backwardness in standards 

Tim May comments:

T>What often happens with government-imposed standards is that some
T>lobbying group decides that "cheese is good for you" and so gets
T>cheese installed as one of the government-mandated "basic food
T>groups."  [...]

>> You never make the distinction between regulation designed to promote
>> and regulation designed to deter technological advance.

>Technological advance is a means to an end.  Regulations should properly
>be about insuring the public welfare.  While we might reasonably
>disagree about what that welfare is, clearly technological anarchy
>doesn't promote it.

Not for all of us.  Some of us believe the advance of technology is an 
end unto itself.  So many things follow from the advance of technology, 
sometimes it's all you have to look at to make progress.  The shortest 
distance between two points....

Often this argument reminds me of those who whine about free trade.  They 
want protectionist tariffs.  They point out that their backward business 
is going to be destroyed because some automaker elsewhere in the world is 
doing a better job, for less.  So in the interest of making this special 
interest group happy, the market is disrupted and all cars are more 
expensive.  The cheap manufacturer has trouble advancing to even greater 
heights and consumers get the short end of the stick to preserve.... 
what?  Jobs.

It's the same thing for technology.  Why are the rest of us being held 
back from eating tomatoes twice the size at half the cost?  Because:

1>  Real tomato growers are powerful in politics
2>  The FDA is a morass of paper and policy
3>  The government has anything to do with the tomato market.

Where did we lose the concept that you make money when you sell a good 
product for a good price?  When did sympathy for special interest groups 
come into the picture?  I'll tell you when, the 1930's.

The result?  Today the average citizen depends on government for over 
half his assets.  HALF HIS ASSETS are government entitlements.  Think 
about that very carefully.  Soon they are going to be taking away your 
drivers license for all sorts of reasons.  Do you think driving is a 
government entitlement?  Well it is.  Why?  Because the government got 
the foot in the door.  Today your car keys, tomorrow your crypto keys.

>> Market forces are lathargic, sometimes they need a boost.  I propose
>> this boost be accomplished with motivators like tax breaks, market
>> assisters and privatization.

>Either the market works or it doesn't.  You can't decry all government
>regulation and then call for handouts to businessmen.

I just can't agree.  There are very few black and whites here.  Stewart, 
Krier and Manell point out what are (IMHO) quite legitimate market 
failures and where intervention is warranted.

1> There has been a fairly liquid exchange and availability to consumers 
of information in the marketplace.
2> There are no restricted commodities 
3> There are large numbers of buyers and sellers in the market.
4> There are no localized externalities.

Even in these circumstances, there are many options for intervention, 
collectivization and regulation being THE LAST ONE ON THE LIST.

Tim May:

T>Government standards are a two-edged sword. Many of us would prefer to
T>"opt out" of their idea of what's healthy and safe and what's not.

And that's what real choice is all about.

-uni- (Dark)

073BB885A786F666 nemo repente fuit turpissimus - potestas scientiae in usu est
6E6D4506F6EDBC17 quaere verum ad infinitum, loquitur sub rosa    -    wichtig!

More information about the cypherpunks-legacy mailing list