Wednesday, December 21, 2005

There is kosher and then there is Kosher

Behold, here lies yet another recount of a roundtable conversation where I've often find myself present. The participants of this verbal joust is my father-in-law, a pharmacist by trade, and I, a decrier of an innocent world spoiled. Manifest: One printed copy of Alex Tabarrok's "Assessing the FDA via the Anomaly of Off-Label Drug Prescribing".

Being that my dad-in-law tends to be a more cynical fellow, I try to win him with facts, not logic. Confronted with logical arguments, he alleges that without the FDA, pharmaceutical companies would lie, cheat and kill millions of unsuspecting customers with impure, unsafe products. So I showed him the study. Countless thousands have already died because of the FDA, and manifold more injured or prolonged in unnecessary, treatable pain due to their feet-dragging, the "not-invented-here" willful blindness, and agenda-driven policy.

But after all it's hopeless, because the duty to prevent the alleged death of millions outweighs the present harm of hundred-fold thousands.

What I learned from our conversational banter was that once the state trundles into a field, be it medicine, protection services, judicial system, security trading, etc; it automatically adjusts the plebeians attitudes regarding the trustworthiness of individuals who would offer the same services sans the governments oversight. To the plebian, there can no longer be "regulation" without "Regulation" for that industry.

My parting shot, which I do not think ultimately made it home, was to give an example of an industry that is familiar to the both of us, is strictly regulated, trusted by its consumers, but yet is not intrusively Regulated. Here the hope is that the light of reason might finally shine through; that spontaneous market regulation is preferable to the inferior variant dressed in bureaucrats raiment, and is the only "regulation" truly deserving of the name.

This subject to which I am referring to is the kosher industry. There is a very good reason why I picked this industry, and not say, the computer industry; in the Jewish orthodox consumers' mind, a government stamp certifying kosher is worthless; the mark of a kosher certifying agency such as the OU is worth its kosher weight in gefilte fish or challah, depending on what item you are holding at the time.

This example should befuddle the Jewish orthodox plebeian when pointed out- "Why do I implicitly trust the OU to certify kosher, when I wouldn't trust the same person to sell me medicine?"

Hopefully, this sets their mind in motion, questioning why are they prejudiced to either trust or distrust others based on the given industry. But there are pitfalls to this logical approach- witness this dimwit on Slashdot - "The reason most industries that are regulated are regulated is precisely because the market doesn't work for that industry!"

This demonstrates how the mere existence of the state into the regulation business is a recursive nightmare executed upon the unthinking plebeian. The twisted logic goes as follows: Because the state regulates it, the market participants are presumed dishonest, thus justifying the states intervention to regulate it. And to think that this Kafkaesque miasma is the everyday reality of the plebeian, how I pity them.

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