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Friedrich A. Hayek: Champion of

Individual Liberty, Limited Government, and Free Markets

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Milton Friedman

An extraordinary 1999 interview at the Hoover Institution webcast with transcript: "Take it to the Limits: Milton Friedman on Libertarianism" 

He essentially defines Libertarianism and the justification for limited government.

an excerpt:

ROBINSON The Food and Drug Administration which regulates everything from the drugs that pharmaceutical companies may put on the market to the ingredients in items we purchase off the grocery store shelves. Let me give you an example- Thalidomide [FRIEDMAN Everybody's favorite example...] Well I may be leading with my chin on this one but I'm going to lead with it anyway. 50's and 60's it is marketed in Europe as a drug to help women get through the nausea that they sometimes experience during pregnancy. The Food and Drug Administration said it had been inadequately tested in the United States and forbade it to be marketed in this country with the result that thousands of children were born with horrible birth defects in Europe to mothers who had used Thalidomide but that didn't happen to American children, because the FDA had intervened and kept that drug off the market. Thank god for the FDA, right?

FRIEDMAN Wrong [ROBINSON Alright, why?] this is a case in which they did save lives, this was a good case, but suppose they are equally slow in adopting a drug which turns out to be very good and beneficial. How would you ever see the lives that are lost because of that? You're an FDA official, you have a question of whether to approve or disapprove a new drug. If you approve it and it turns out to be a bad drug like Thalidomide, you're in the soup, your name is going to be on every front page [ROBINSON cost me my job, I get hauled up to Congress to testify..] right. On the other hand if you disapprove it, but it turns out to be good, well then later on you approve it four or five years later, nobody's going to complain about the fact that you didn't approve it earlier except those greedy pharmaceutical companies that want make profits at the expense of the public, as everybody will say. So the result is that the pressure on the FDA is always to be late in approving. And there's enormous evidence that they have caused more deaths by late approvals than they have saved by early approval.

ROBINSON So your view is abolish the FDA..

FRIEDMAN Absolutely [ROBINSON And what comes up in its place?] what comes up? It's in the self-interest of pharmaceutical companies not to have these bad things. Do you think the manufacturer of Thalidomide made a profit out of Thalidomide or lost? [ROBINSON I see, ok.] And you have to have..people should be responsible for harm that they do. It should've been possible...[ROBINSON So tort law takes care of a lot of this.] Absolutely, absolutely..

ROBINSON Alright, if Lilly or Merck comes up with a drug that does me harm, I go after them, I join a class action with everybody else who's taken that pill and we sue them for billions of dollars and wipe out their share holders equity. Seeing that, they have every interest to be extremely rigorous in testing that drug before they make it available.

...

FRIEDMAN Absolutely. The FDA initially had the requirement to assure the safety but not the efficacy of the drugs that they approved. With the so-called Keith Elver? amendments that came in as a result of Thalidomide which you brought up, the FDA was, expanded its mandate that it is required to assure both the safety and the efficacy of the drugs and that has enormously raised the cost of getting drugs approved. If you wanted to have a halfway house you could go back to the earlier standard where the FDA had to certify the safety but did not have to express a judgment on the efficacy.

 

All information on this and referred pages should be distributed widely (with appropriate references to sources) to spread Hayek's principles to as many people as possible and move our countries toward more ideal conditions for all people.

Feel free to contact me with questions and comments: longanimous@hotmail.com St. Augustine, Florida, USA - These pages last updated: July 17, 2003.

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