Dallas Buyer’s Club Illustrates How Regulations Kill

Back in March, Hollywood honored Matthew McConaughey with the Academy Award for Best Actor in the movie Dallas Buyer’s Club. Matthew plays Ron Woodroof, a real-life Texas electrician and rodeo rider, who discovers that he has contracted AIDS after sex with an infected drug user. The doctors tell him he has only 30 days to live. The year is 1985, and no treatment is available on the US market.

Woodroof quickly discovers in a very personal way just how deadly the FDA’s consumer protection regulation can be. His doctor offers him a place in a clinical trial, which was designed to test how effective AZT (zidovudine) is against HIV. AZT will eventually become the first drug available in the US for the treatment of AIDS.

However, going into the clinical trial doesn’t guarantee that Woodroof will get AZT. Until the trial is over—and his 30 days is already up—Woodroof won’t know if he is getting placebo (a sugar pill) or AZT. The FDA requires the drug maker to give placebo to half of the patients, so that AZT’s effectiveness can be “proven.” Woodruff is appalled that he and other desperately ill people are being used as guinea pigs in this way.

Rather than enter the clinical trial, Woodroof sets out to find himself a cure. First, he bribes an employee to raid the hospital’s supply of the AZT used in the trial. When that source dries up, Woodroof researches what’s available in other countries, starting with Mexico. He finds that other nations with less stringent regulations already have drugs in their pharmacies that might work against the AIDS virus. Woodroof finds a doctor who uses clean living and nutrition, along with some of these other options, to stabilize his condition.

Like several other HIV positive-individuals across the U.S. (see Jonathan Kwittney’s book, Acceptable Risks for some other stories), Woodroof sets up a Buyer’s Club to help other patients gain access to drugs available outside the country. The FDA goes after Woodroof, even though the agency has mostly ignored clubs in California and New York. The FDA confiscates his inventory without a trial, keeping potentially life-saving treatments from suffering AIDS patients. Woodroof fights back.

Back in the mid-1980s, AIDS patients lived less than two years after being diagnosed. Using drugs available overseas, some of which are still not marketed in the US, Woodroof beats the odds and lives three times longer.

While Woodroof was fighting the FDA, I was working at a major pharmaceutical firm (Upjohn) to research the next generation of anti-AIDS. By the time that the FDA gave us permission to test our drugs in people, every AIDS patient in the country who wanted them had already tried them. The Buyers Clubs either obtained them overseas or hired black market chemists to make them. Much valuable information about how these drugs worked—or didn’t work—could have been obtained from these Clubs if their operations hadn’t been in legal limbo.

Woodroof’s abhorrence to entering a clinical trial where he might get a placebo has been echoed by many ethicists since the FDA started to demand placebo-controlled trials in the early 1970s. Instead, concerned ethicists recommend using “historical controls” (untreated patients) instead of placebo-controlled trials with the terminally ill. The FDA’s insistence on giving placebos robs today’s terminally ill of their chance to live in the hopes that future patients will have a better chance of survival.

The FDA does not allow terminally ill to choose whether or not to make this sacrifice; it is forced upon them by making other options illegal. Consequently, cancer patients recently sued the FDA in order to gain access to drugs that had been tested for safety in humans, but not effectiveness. Had access been granted, cancer patients would have been able to try new drugs that wouldn’t be market for another 3-6 years. However, the courts ruled that the “right to life” guaranteed by the US Constitution does not include saving our lives with unapproved drugs.

Dallas Buyers Club illustrates how FDA regulators quite literally rip life-saving drugs out of the hands of the desperately ill, forcing them into the black market when they are at their most vulnerable. Death by regulation is the price we pay for the FDA.

First posted with the International Society for Individual Liberty (http://isil.org/dallas-buyers-club-illustrates-how-regulations-kill/).

My Gift to You…

Christmas is a great time to give the gift of liberty to those we love. If you know someone who just can’t seem to grasp how liberty helps the poor, saves the environment, creates abundance, and fosters world peace, think about giving them a copy of Healing Our World or Short Answers to the Tough Questions from www.ruwart.com.

 
Everyone who places an order for books from my website from now until Christmas will a complimentary copy of my DVD, “How Liberty Empowers Minorities and Women,” as my special gift to you!  

 

***Just let us know if you want the DVD to go to a different address than the books by sending us an e-mail at SunstarPress@gmail.com after you place your order. If you want the DVD to be sent to the same address as the book(s), you need do nothing further. ***

 
Whenever I go to a Libertarian Party event, someone comes up to me and proudly tells me that he or she gave Healing Our World or Short Answers to the Tough Questions to friends or family members.  They want me to know that these books changed the way that their loved ones viewed politics. Indeed, sometimes the person who received one of my books as a gift is right there smiling and telling me that they are proud to be libertarians!  THAT is your gift to me when you share my products with the people you love.

 

Thank you for doing so much to help make the world a better place! And thank you for all the support you’ve given me as a libertarian author, speaker, and activist.  I sincerely hope that your holidays will be filled with peace and love!

 

Happy, happy holidays to you and yours!

 

My Gift to You…

Christmas is a great time to give the gift of liberty to those we love. If you know someone who just can’t seem to grasp how liberty helps the poor, saves the environment, creates abundance, and fosters world peace, think about giving them a copy of Healing Our Worldor Short Answers to the Tough Questions from www.ruwart.com.

 
Everyone who places an order for books from my website from now until Christmas will a complimentary copy of my DVD, “How Liberty Empowers Minorities and Women,” as my special gift to you!  

 

***Just let us know if you want the DVD to go to a different address than the books by sending us an e-mail at SunstarPress@gmail.com after you place your order. If you want the DVD to be sent to the same address as the book(s), you need do nothing further. ***

 

Whenever I go to a Libertarian Party event, someone comes up to me and proudly tells me that he or she gave Healing Our World or Short Answers to the Tough Questions to friends or family members.  They want me to know that these books changed the way that their loved ones viewed politics. Indeed, sometimes the person who received one of my books as a gift is right there smiling and telling me that they are proud to be libertarians!  THAT is your gift to me when you share my products with the people you love.

 

Thank you for doing so much to help make the world a better place! And thank you for all the support you’ve given me as a libertarian author, speaker, and activist.  I sincerely hope that your holidays will be filled with peace and love!

 

Happy, happy holidays to you and yours!

 

Please join me Thanksgiving evening…

This Thanksgiving, I’ll be sharing my holiday gratitude on Pittsburgh radio with libertarian talk show host, Dimitri Vassilaros.  Please join us at http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/station/newsradio-1020-kdka/ or—if you are in the Pittsburgh area—turn your dial to KDKA at either 1020 AM or 93.7 FM. at 10 pm Eastern.  There won’t be an archived recording, so please join me live!

If you are busy that evening—and I know many of you will be—let me take this opportunity to tell you how thankful I am to have you in my life. Sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming to spend so much time writing, but your loyalty and appreciation make it all worthwhile.

Thank you so much for your past and future support!

Can We Keep Promises to Our Seniors Without Bankrupting Our Children and Grandchildren?

Baby-boomers are starting to retire.  They expect to receive Social Security since most of them have contributed to the program all of their lives.  They expect to receive Medicare benefits, because private insurers have been virtually driven from the retiree market.  These two programs alone constitute about a third of the current US budget.

However, Social Security is already running a deficit, creating more inflation as government spends money it does not have.  The check seniors receive buys less and less each month, essentially gutting the promised benefit.

As our population grays, we have fewer workers than we did in the past supporting each retiree.  In 1950, approximately 16 workers paid the Social Security checks of each retiree; today, fewer than 3 workers do so.  Social Security taxes must be raised dramatically to make the system solvent, making it harder for the younger generation to get ahead.

What of Medicare?  Obama has already slashed its budget and more cuts may be coming. Many doctors are deciding that the red tape, delayed payments, and slashed fees just aren’t worth it. My physician, along with many others, have already sent notices to those who are approaching senior status that they won’t be taking Medicare.   The “free” health care program that seniors have paid for all their working life might be theirs in theory, but in practice they are likely to die waiting in the same long lines that Canadians and Brits have to deal with. Raising taxes enough on workers to alleviate this wait will burden the retirees’ children and grandchildren further. Deficit spending creates more inflation, shrinking retirees’ Social Security checks and essentially having them pay for the “free” health care program that they’ve been taxed for throughout their working career.

Are these our onlychoices?  Should we deficit spend and create the subsequent inflation which shifts the burden to seniors who have paid into these programs all of their lives?  Should we raise taxes and make the next generation pay about 5 times more for retiree Social Security than their parents and grandparents did? Instead of choosing between these two heart-rending choices, libertarians have a win-win solution to offer that has been validated in the most stringent testing ground of all—the real world.

The problem with more taxes or deficit spending is that jobs are destroyed and their productivity is lost. The country, as a whole, has less wealth, not more.  Redistribution kills the goose that lays the golden egg.  Why not nurture the goose and enjoy a lot more golden eggs?

Nurturing the goose, or in this case the economy, means slashing the regulation that stifles it and using the savings to lower taxes.   Figure 4.3 from my book, Healing Our World, illustrates how each federal regulator kills about 150 private sector jobs a year and how these jobs were recreated in the 1980s when the number of regulators was slashed.

fed-regulators

More jobs—and less government spending on regulation—mean more wealth creation.   Countries that made these reforms, as illustrated in Figure 12.2 of Healing, enjoyed a dramatic and rapid increase in their Gross Domestic Product or GDP, a measure of wealth creation or “golden eggs.” When regulations stopped hampering productivity, private sector jobs skyrocketed.

wealth-creation

If you are new to my blog or libertarianism, you may be wondering “Won’t deregulating mean that consumers are harmed?”  The short answer is a resounding “No!” but you can get more detail by reading my posts on “Consumer Protection: The Compassion that Kills” or Chapters 4-10 in the 1993 version of Healing Our World in the Free Library.  You’ll discover that the jobs created by deregulation end up employing the disadvantaged who create and enjoy most of the new wealth.

The taxes that formerly supported the regulators can be shifted to Social Security.  With the creation of extra jobs by deregulation, more taxes will be collected without any increase in the tax rate because more people will be working.  If it is also shifted to Social Security, rather than to new spending projects that politicians are so fond of, seniors can get the Social Security they were promised without taxing the young further or inflating through deficit spending.

What about Medicare?  The health care industry is one of the most heavily regulated.  From my research with the pharmaceutical industry, about 80% of what we pay at the pharmacy is the overhead caused by regulations that harm instead of help us (see the links to Deadly Secrets Behind Soaring Pharmaceutical Prices in the Free Library Resources page).   Simply deregulating the drug industry would decrease health care costs by as much as 50%, since using a pill or nutrients to cure disease instead of surgery and hospitalization saves a great deal of money.  For example, Tagamet, the anti-ulcer first drug, saved its users a $25,000 surgery and the lost time that accompanied it.  At $1,000-$2,000, it was a health care bargain.  Deadly Secrets illustrates how today’s regulatory climate keeps many life- and cost-saving interventions from ever reaching the marketplace.

Deregulating health care would likely decrease costs sufficiently that current Medicare taxes would be sufficient. Seniors would get the care they need without a long wait or burdening their children and grandchildren with the bill.

Will these reforms allow Medicare and Social Security to remain solvent?  Possibly, but there will always be the temptation for politicians to re-regulate or spend the money collected for Social Security and Medicare on other things.  That’s essentially what they’ve done in the past. There is no money in the so-called “trust funds” for these programs; the money has been spent on other programs and the trust fund is full of IOUs that must be collected from taxpayers to keep the programs solvent.

No one will save as carefully for your financial and medical needs after retirement as you will.  Politicians have every incentive to use the money government collects to promise more give-aways to voters today instead of keeping it safe and sound for your retirement tomorrow. Unless you have direct control of your assets, your golden years may turn out to be a fiction. You may be forced to work just to insure that you can pay your bills, in spite of decades of paying into the Medicare and Social Security Ponzi-schemes.

Stimulating the economy via deregulation can help us keep our promises to seniors without bankrupting the next generation.  However, to put retirement savings and elderly medical care on a firm footing, we must phase out government-controlled Social Security and Medicare so that the money that our workers set aside for retirement is actually there when they need it.  Phasing these programs out and returning control of their hard-earned money to the workers is the only way to protect their savings from being used as a political football.  Privatizing Social Security has increased the income of seniors in a number of other countries. Don’t our retirees deserve more too?

 

 

 

 

Have a VERY Happy Holiday!

The holidays are a time when we take a break from life as usual and join with family and friends to celebrate. No matter what our religious beliefs may be, Christmas is a time that brings thoughts of peace on earth and good will to all.

Peace, good will, prosperity—these are the blessings of a free society. In the past year, you’ve contributed to creating such a world by all that you do. Sometimes what we do seems small, but it is never insignificant. The Invisible Hand, after all, moves in mysterious ways to make each contribution count.

Please enjoy the holiday celebrations and let them inspire you with hope for the coming year.  Refresh and rejuvenate!

I’ll “see” you in 2013!

Save the Children

My heart goes out to the families mourning the death of their loved ones in the wake of the Friday shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.   Twenty children and six adults were killed.  This tragedy is amplified by the possibility that it needn’t have happened in the first place.

Study after study has shown that criminals avoid places where their victims might be armed.[i]  Schools are a prime target for “rampage shootings,” because they rarely permit firearms.  When states change their laws to allow responsible adults to easily carry a concealed weapon, the number of people killed in such shootings drops by 90%![ii]  Since the ban on guns within 1000 feet of schools took place in 1996, school shootings have increased—and so have the number of innocent children slaughtered. Criminals don’t obey the law, so they aren’t deterred by “gun free zone” signs; indeed, they are encouraged.

When I talk with people who want more gun control and claim that they themselves would never own a firearm, I sometimes ask if they would be willing to put a sign in their front yard saying “This home is a gun-free zone.”  Generally, I get silence and a stunned look; occasionally, I get an outright refusal.  No one wants to put such a sign in front of their home; they know intuitively that such a sign marks them as an easy target for thieves, rapists, or murderers.

As long as we refuse to let our teachers and other responsible adults carry concealed weapons in our schools, as long as we advertise their defenselessness by posting “gun free zone” signs, we are painting a bull’s eye on the backs of our beloved children.  We send our troops overseas to “protect American interests,” but demand that the future of America—her youth—be undefended.  When we transport money, we do so in an armored vehicle with gun-toting guards to deter would be thieves.   Aren’t our children more precious than our money?  Shouldn’t we protect their lives even more zealously than we guard our property?

We would never demand that all men be castrated so that rape can never happen; we understand that rape is not a consequence of the male anatomy, but of the way it is used to either pleasure, procreate, or harm. Similarly, guns are tools: they can protect and defend or they can kill the innocent.  In both cases, we do more harm than good by holding the hardware responsible for how it is wielded.

Unfortunately, if we continue to advertise our schools as “gun-free zones,” we are inviting a repeat of what just happened in Newtown, Connecticut.  If we learn the lesson that these tragic deaths teach, and permit the responsible adults in our schools to defend our most precious blood, perhaps less of it will be spilled in the future.  The families in mourning will at least have the satisfaction of knowing that their loved ones, in dying Friday, may have protected others from sharing their fate.



 [i]See Chapter 16 of Healing Our World. The 1993 edition is available under the “Free Library Access” tab.

[ii] JR Lott, Jr. and WM Landes, “Multiple Victim Public Shootings,” John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper, #73 (Chicago: University of Chicago Law School, 2000), http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=161637, accessed December 16, 2012.

The Million Vote March Succeeds: “Washington: Take Heed!”

In late February of this year, Lee Wrights, Libertarian Party presidential hopeful, put up the Million Vote March website (http://millionvotemarch.com/).   The idea was simple: if voters didn’t like either of the “establishment” candidates, they were encouraged to cast a protest vote for the Libertarian Party nominee and push his vote count to a record-breaking 1,000,000 votes.

As it turned out, Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico, won the Libertarian Party presidential nomination in May.  By that time, the two contenders had developed a respectful camaraderie.   Both men told me that they became better candidates for having to “compete” with each other.

Consequently, when Mr. Johnson won the nomination, Lee Wrights began showcasing the former governor on the Million Vote March site.  Wrights’ piece “Why I’m Voting for Gary Johnson” spread across the Internet through his strong presence on Facebook and his blog, one of the oldest in the movement (http://www.libertyforall.net/?p=8283).  Johnson, for his part, came out strongly against the foreign wars, a position that Wrights had championed.

Rather than attack each other, these two presidential candidates kept their eye on the goal:  enhance the credibility of the Libertarian Party, get voters to pull the Libertarian lever, and break through the “wasted vote” barrier to reach new highs.  Instead of tearing each other down, they built each other up. The result was 1,139,562 votes (http://www.lp.org/blogs/staff/1139562-votes-for-gov-gary-johnson-record-setting-libertarian-party-presidential-vote ), more than double the 2008 vote count for the divisive Barr/Root ticket.  Teamwork pays!

Congratulations are in order−for the presidential ticket of Johnson/Gray, for the hundreds of Libertarian Party candidates, for their uncountable supporters, for their generous donors, for their tireless volunteers−and for the 1 million plus who marched to the polls and voted Libertarian.  Working together, we all sent a message to Washington.

Will Washington take heed−or will we have to send a stronger message next time?

Welcome to my new, updated website!

I hope you’ll like the new format and graphics, but I’m really excited about being able to easily post a lot of free material for your viewing pleasure. In this blog, I’ll give you a tour of the site so you will know where to look for on-line videos, audios, and issue papers. If you haven’t signed up on the e-mail list already, please do so. I can let you know when something new is posted.

To access the page with complimentary material, go the Store tab and the “Available for Free” section. You’ll be asked for your e-mail, but you can opt out of the newsletter if you wish. The first free item is the 1993 edition of Healing Our World, which is available, without charge, as a PDF. Kindle or Epub.

The 2003 edition recently won its third award, the 2012 Lysander Spooner Book of the Year. You can read all about it by clicking on the book’s tab and going to the section on “Awards, Reviews, and Press.” If you want to have your own copy of the expanded 2003 edition, you can purchase it under the Store tab (it’s also available at Amazon.com and through The Advocates for Self-Government). If you’ve already read Healing, you can post your comments on the order page.

The Free Resources page also features Deadly Secrets behind Soaring Pharmaceutical Prices, which once sold for $30. As an industry insider, I can testify to the fact that excess regulations, that harm instead of help us, are the cause, not only for rising drug prices, but also for health care in general. Finding the problem means finding the solution to slashing pharmaceutical prices and health care costs virtually overnight. You can download the Special Report as a PDF or enjoy a video version from a talk in New Hampshire on the subject.

Speaking of video, I’ve included videos of three of my other talks as well: How Liberty Can Save the Environment; How Liberty Defends Our Nation, Our Poor, and Our Minorities; and Liberty Works. I’ve also posted Industrial Hemp: The Hidden Agenda behind the War on Drugs by Ray Carr, R. Ph.

You’ll also see past issue papers on Consumer Protection, The Pollution Solution, Poverty and the Environment. Enjoy!

As you can see from the sidebars on my site, the new, expanded edition of Short Answers to the Tough Questions is now available! The last version was published in 1998, so it was definitely time for an upgrade. The expanded version has about 5 times as much the material as the first. The “Buy It Now” selection under the Short Answers tab has a place to post your comments or reviews.

If you aren’t familiar with Short Answers, you can view some excerpts from the restitution chapter and the chapter on the environment. You can find these under the navigation tab for Short Answers. If you enjoyed the first edition, you’ll love the expanded one! If you are a Libertarian Party candidate, Short Answers will help you please voters, reporters and skeptics. It will help you answer the queries of friends and family members as well.

Right now, most of my talks are available in hard media as CDs. I’ve added 4 new ones, with two talks per CD. In the coming weeks, we’ll have DVDs to offer you too. You can find them under the Store tab in the Audio section.

Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my new site. I’ll be in touch when I have more to share with you. In the meantime, thank you for all YOU do to make the world a better place!