How Liberty Saves the Environment (Part 3: Restitution Is the Pollution Solution)

The last two blog posts explained how libertarians would eliminate sovereign immunity so that victims of the country’s greatest polluter—government—would have recourse. Secondly, libertarians would privatize land and beast to save endangered species, preserve our parks, and protect our forests. In addition, libertarians would couple these powerful reforms with restitution, to prevent pollution before it starts.

Restitution focuses on restoring the victim to the fullest extent possible. Restitution is “punishment” that fits the crime and is the most effective deterrent known.

For example, if I dumped garbage on your lawn, you would expect me to clean it up. Obviously, the expense and hassle of cleaning up your lawn far outweighs any benefit I’d get for dumping garbage on your lawn in the first place. Having to restore what I “polluted” would deter me from doing it.

Environmental restoration is costly and difficult. Restitution therefore becomes an incredibly onerous punishment and the most effective deterrent known. Let’s examine a real-life example of how restitution, coupled with privatization, can protect our waterways.

In Britain, individuals have property rights in the rivers that run through their land. If someone upstream pollutes the water and harms the fish, the downstream owners don’t have to wait for a bureaucratic commission to study the issue. Instead, they immediately sue the polluters to protect their valuable property and claim restitution for damages. As a result, would-be polluters are effectively deterred from damaging the environment.

Waterways that don’t have a private protector fare much worse. When I lived in northern Kentucky, a citizen’s action group contacted me because they were concerned about businesses dumping toxic chemicals into the neighboring Ohio River. Because the government claims stewardship of this waterway, individuals have no ownership rights on which to base a suit. They must wait until bureaucrats decide to take action. If the businesses contribute to the campaign chests of powerful politicians, nothing may ever happen.

Even when the government does decide to move against a corporate polluter, restitution is seldom required. Instead, the business usually pays a fine. Sometimes the fine is small enough that the business finds it cheaper to pollute and pay. Private owners would seldom be willing to let their property polluted for a small sum, because the decrease in property value would be a devastating financial blow.

Our air can be protected from pollution with restitution, private ownership and environmental restoration. For example, in a libertarian society, the roadways would be privately owned. If neighbors complained of pollution, the road company might offer monetary compensation. Most likely, however, the neighbors would want the pollution to stop. Since 80% of emissions’ pollution is caused by 20% of the cars, the road company might deny access or charge much higher user fees to polluting vehicles. Given these alternatives, most of the owners would probably buy a newer car or get their emission system upgraded. Such measures would reduce pollution until the neighbors were no longer bothered by it.

Similarly, if a product polluted the air, victims could sue the product maker, who in turn would pass the costs of restitution onto the consumer. Higher prices would discourage use and decrease pollution.

Instead of using environmental restoration or restitution to alter the usage of potentially damaging products, government today simply bans them. For example, the insecticide DDT eradicated insects that carried malaria, yellow fever, sleeping sickness, typhus, and encephalitis, especially in Third World countries. Pressured by the ban placed on this chemical by the U.S. government, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) abandoned spraying DDT in 1964. Malaria rose from less than two dozen cases per year to over 2 million. The victims had no recourse because governments have sovereign immunity.

Without sovereign immunity, victims of bans or harmful laws could sue for restitution. The threat of such suit would encourage lawmakers to consider the adverse effects of their actions. Today, because of sovereign immunity, our politicians literally get away with murder.

In today’s society, polluters might simply declare bankruptcy and walk away. However, in a libertarian society, a victim could not be forced by government to give up their claims for damages. Polluters who couldn’t pay immediately would most likely have to make monthly payments until their debt and the interest on that debt was paid in full.

No system is perfect, of course.  Restitution can’t bring back victims who are killed by pollution, for example. However, because of its deterrent effects, it protects the environment better than bureaucrats who aren’t held accountable for their actions.

How Liberty Saves the Environment (Part 2: Privatizing Land and Beast)

Governments, both federal and local, own over 40% of the U.S. land mass. Unfortunately, government’s stewardship over our land is gradually destroying it.

For example, the Bureau of Land Management controls an area almost twice the size of Texas, including nearly all of Alaska and Nevada. Much of this land is rented to ranchers for grazing cattle. Because ranchers are only renting the land, they have no incentive to take care of it. Not surprisingly, studies as early as 1925 indicated that cattle were twice as likely to die on public ranges and had half as many calves as animals grazing on private lands.

Obviously, owners make better environmental guardians than renters. If the government sold its acreage to private ranchers, the new owners would make sure that they grazed the land sustainably to maximize profit and yield.

Indeed, ownership of wildlife can literally save endangered species from extinction. Between 1979 and 1989, Kenya banned elephant hunting, yet the numbers of these noble beasts dropped from 65,000 to 19,000. In Zimbabwe, however, locals had property rights in the elephants in their area; parts could be legally “owned” and sold. Between 1979 and 1989, the number of elephants there increased from 30,000 to 43,000. By 2006, Zimbabwe had 84,000 elephants and their numbers are still increasing. Once they could make a profit from the elephants, the locals became fiercely protective of their “property.” Poachers didn’t have a chance!

Similarly, commercialization of the buffalo saved it from extinction. We never worry about cattle becoming extinct, because their status as valuable “property” encourages their propagation. The second step libertarians would take to protect the environment and save endangered species would be to encourage private ownership of both land and beast.

Environmentalists were once wary of private ownership, but now recognize that establishing the property rights of native people has become an effective strategy to save the rainforests. Do you remember the movie, Medicine Man, in which the scientist played by Sean Connery discovers a miracle drug in the rainforest ecology? Unfortunately, this life-saving compound is literally bulldozed under when the government turns the rainforest over to corporate interests. The natives that Connery lives with are driven from their forest home. Their homesteading rights are simply ignored by their own government!

Our own Native Americans were driven from their rightful lands as well. Similarly, our national forests are turned over to logging companies, just as the rainforests are. By 1985, the U.S. Forest Service had built 350,000 miles of logging roads with our tax dollars, outstripping our interstate highway system by a factor of 8! In the meantime, hiking trails declined by 30%. Clearly, our government serves special interest groups instead of protecting our environmental heritage.

Even our national parks are not immune from abuse. Yellowstone’s Park Service once encouraged employees to trap predators (e.g., wolves, fox, etc.) so that the hoofed mammals favored by visitors would flourish. Not surprisingly, the ecological balance was upset. The larger elk drove out the deer and sheep, trampled the riverbanks, and destroyed beaver habitat. Without the beavers, the water fowl, mink, otter, and trout were threatened. Without the trout or the shrubs and berries that once lined the riverbanks, grizzlies began to endanger park visitors in their search for food. As a result, park officials had to remove the bears and have started bringing back the wolves.

Wouldn’t we be better served if naturalist organizations, such as the Audubon Society or Nature Conservancy, took over the management of our precious parks? The Audubon Society’s Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary, partially supports itself with natural gas wells operated in an ecologically- sound manner. In addition to preserving the sensitive habitat, the Society shows how technology and ecology can co-exist peacefully and profitably.

Our environment is too precious to be a political football. We can best protect it and the environment by privatizing land, taking it away from the Bureau of Land Management and giving private rangers a financial incentive to take care of their property. Bureaucrats’, on the other hand, can only profit by turning it over to special interests who exploit it.

How Liberty Saves the Environment (Part 1: Ending Sovereign Immunity)

Who’s the greatest polluter of all? The oil companies? The chemical companies? The nuclear power plants?

If you guessed “none of the above” you’d be correct. Our government, at the federal, state, and local levels, is the single greatest polluter in the land. In addition, our government doesn’t even clean up its own garbage!

In 1988, for example, the EPA demanded that the Departments of Energy and Defense clean up 17 of their weapons plants which were leaking radioactive and toxic chemicals-enough contamination to cost $100 billion dollars in clean-up costs over 50 years! The EPA was simply ignored. No bureaucrats went to jail or were sued for damages. Government departments have sovereign immunity.

The U.S. military has become the greatest toxic threat to all of us. Thousands of sites at home and abroad are now highly contaminated by the heavy metals used in bombs and bullets, jet fuel, toxic chemicals, and radioactive waste. Groundwater at military bases and surrounding metropolitan areas (e.g., Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Denver, and Sacramento) are so contaminated that perchlorate, a toxin used to make the military’s solid rocket fuel, is now found in high concentrations in over 90% of the country’s lettuce and human breast milk.

The U.S.military is the largest single owner/renter/leaser of land in the world. The contamination on military bases has caused popular resistance to U.S. troops. The aquifer in Germany supplying Frankfurt’s water has been contaminated by 300,000 gallons of toxic jetfuel leakage. Poisoning the wells of our allies won’t win us many friends. In 2001, the people on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques voted to evict the U.S. military. The Navy left behind thousands of barrels and compressed gas cylinders, which were sunk close to the island’s coral reefs. The toxins are now leaking into the North Atlantic and have been found in the marine life there.

In 1984, a Utah court ruled that the U.S. military was negligent in its nuclear testing, causing serious health problems (e.g. death) for the people exposed to radioactive fallout. The Court of Appeals dismissed the claims of the victims, because government employees have sovereign immunity. By 1997, more than 250,000 Americans had been exposed to dangerous levels of nuclear fallout, and up to 75,000 may face an early death from thyroid cancer as a result.

Hooker Chemical begged the Niagara Falls School Board not to excavate the land where Hooker had safely stored toxic chemical waste. Hooker had sold the land to the School Board for $1 when it threatened to condemn the property. The school board ignored Hooker’s warnings. Consequently, taxpayers had to foot a $30 million relocation bill when health problems arose. The EPA filed suit, not against the reckless school board, but against Hooker Chemical! Government officials have sovereign immunity.

Government, both federal and local, is the greatest single polluter in the U.S. This polluter literally gets away with murder because of sovereign immunity. Libertarians would make government as responsible for its actions as everyone else is expected to be. Part of the libertarians plan to protect the environment is to abolish sovereign immunity.

What’s Next After “Right to Try”?


The Right to Try bill, which gives terminally ill patients quicker access to new medicines, passed Congress earlier this year.  The Goldwater Institute initially promoted the passage of this bill state-by-state. Over 40 states passed Right to Try before it before it was signed into federal law by President Trump, who championed the bill himself.

Right to Try got its start after cancer patients sued the FDA for the right to try drugs that were not yet FDA approved.  Te court initially ruled in their favor until the FDA asked them to reconsider.  In 2007, the federal court reversed its initial ruling and told cancer patients that they had no constitutional right to save their lives with drugs that had not been FDA-approved.  Right to Try was fashioned after  the requests made by the cancer patients, which would have allowed the terminally ill to negotiate directly with the manufacturer once a drug had gone through Phase 1 safety testing, but before its effectiveness had been demonstrated.

In many cases, patients will continue to be disappointed. Most pharmaceutical companies aren’t able to ramp up manufacturing until after FDA approval, so the supply of drug might not be enough to give or even sell to patients while continuing the FDA-mandated testing. Without such testing, the drug might never become available to all of the patients who need it; in addition, drugs have to continue in their development in order to qualify for Right to Try.

No one still employed or involved in the industry is likely to admit publicly their concern that the FDA will punish them if they negotiate directly with patients and go around the agency.  The FDA has a history of  dragging its feet at crucial decision points in the regulatory process, saddling companies it dislikes with additional studies, or refusing an approval altogether.

Right to Try has brought national attention to the 10-14 years that it now takes for a drug to go from the lab bench to the pharmacy.  From the late 1940s to 1962, it took about 4 years, but the Amendments to the Food & Drug Act incentivized the FDA to increase the number and complexity of studies. Even so, safety hasn’t increased: the pre-Amendment withdrawal rate was about 2.5%; post-Amendment withdrawals have held steady at 3.3% and properly prescribed prescriptions are now the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Meanwhile, about 15 million people—10 times as many who have died in all wars since our countries founding—have died waiting for drugs that might have saved them.

Perhaps this is why a new initiative from the Heartland Institute called “Free to Choose Medicine” is in the works. Unlike Right to Try drugs, those entering the Free to Choose Medicine tract don’t need to continue in the FDA approval program. Consequently, drug companies won’t have fewer disincentives o entering the program.

Free to Choose Medicine does require a more comprehensive data sharing program, which could concern drug companies (learn more at However, the ability to leave the FDA regulatory requirements after the requisite first Phase 2 study might be enough to offset this concern.  Having a two track development system, FDA approval vs. Free to Choose Medicine, will tell us if the current lengthy regulatory requirements can be safely scraped. Given that these requirements haven’t improved safety discernibly, it’s highly likely.

What about effectiveness?  After all, most of the late phase studies are highly focused on efficacy.  Once again, the data suggests that the extra regulatory studies put into place after 1962 have saved the consumer—at most—about 10% from ineffective drugs.  On the other hand, post-Amendment studies probably increased development costs—and drug prices—20-40 fold.  Being able to remove even part of these costs would not only lower the prices we pay at the pharmacy, but would stimulate innovation.  Innovation is vital, since none of us can buy cures that have not yet been discovered. Taking medicine, even medicine as expensive as it is today, is almost always less costly than surgery or hospitalization.

Free to Choose Medicine may give us better drugs, faster, and at lower cost. Because of its data sharing, we will learn how these benefits compare to the regulatory system we have today.  Shouldn’t the FDA’s requirements be tested to be sure that they are as safe and effective as the new drugs they regulate?

Rising Development Costs Are Causing Drug Companies to Abandon Antibiotic Research

This week, Novartis announced that it would be ending its research program designed to discover new antibiotics. The announcement was greeted with great concern, as “superbugs” resistant to our current arsenal of antibiotics, are a growing threat.

In the early 1900s, infection was the primary cause of death. After improvements in sanitation, nutrition, and the introduction of antibiotics, fatalities plummeted. Cardiovascular disease, cancer, and stroke became the top three killers and remain so today. Without new antibiotics in the pipeline, “superbugs” may become difficult to stop and infection may become as deadly as it once was.

What is driving companies to abandon research in these much needed drugs? The answer is simple: as the FDA demands more involved regulatory studies, pharmaceuticals meant to treat disease for a short period of time can’t recover their out-of-pocket development costs, as shown in the Figure below. If a company can’t recover its development costs, and continues to lose money by developing a certain class of drugs, it will go out of business.  Antibiotics are especially vulnerable because new ones are used sparingly and usually only in desperate cases in order to prevent further resistance in the “superbugs.”

The data points shown in the Figure above come from several studies by Tufts University. They indicate that increased complexity of clinical trials designed to show effectiveness, as well as the number of patients needed to complete them, are at fault. If these increased costs gave us safer and more effective drugs, we might be willing to pay these extra costs, but studies show no improvements in either of these measures. For example, about 3.3% of FDA-approved drugs are withdrawn after serious side effects are seen; this rate of withdrawal has been constant since the 1970s. The best way to stimulate research in antibiotics and other life-saving drugs is to lower the development costs by getting rid of the excess regulation that drives up development cost without compensating benefits.

Figure and statistics taken from my new book, Death by Regulation: How We Were Robbed of a Golden Age of Health and How We Can Reclaim It.

Mr. President, You Can Slash Drug Prices Virtually Overnight Without Destroying Life-Saving Innovation

On July 9, President Trump lashed out at Pfizer for increasing prices of 41 drugs and lowering prices for 5. According to a Trump tweet, “Pfizer and others should be ashamed that they have raised drugs prices for no reason. They are merely taking advantage of the poor… We will respond!”

Just a day later, Pfizer agreed to defer these prices hikes that went into effect last week after meeting with Trump, who had talked to Pfizer chief executive Ian Read and Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, after a discussion of how to deal with rising drug prices.

Ian Read could have told the president that there is a very good reason for ever-increasing prices. He could have told Trump that the soaring regulatory demands of the FDA makes these price hikes inevitable, but probably didn’t dare. Drug companies are well aware that the FDA can “punish” those who speak out against the agency by dragging their feet on upcoming approvals or any steps along the way. Consequently, you’ll rarely hear a complaint about the FDA from drug company executives. The FDA has kept life-saving drugs off the U.S. market to teach companies that criticize it a devastating lesson.

Lowering drug prices by fiat will destroy pharmaceutical innovation by decreasing the amount of money available for research and development. No matter how much money someone has, they can’t buy a cure that hasn’t been invented. People who might have been saved by that cure will die without knowing that their premature death was totally avoidable. However, there is a way to slash drug prices, virtually overnight, by removing the waste from the regulatory red tape.

As you can see from the following figure, prescription drug prices rise as the cost of regulatory-driven research and development do. According to studies done by Tufts University, the increasing costs are due to the FDA’s demands for more elaborate clinical studies. Without these studies, the agency will not approve new drugs for marketing in the United States.
We might be willing to pay the higher costs of regulation and the soaring pharmaceutical prices that they engender if drugs were safer and more effective. By any measure that we use, however, this doesn’t appear to be the case.


The rate at which newly approved drugs are withdrawn from the market when side effects occur hasn’t changed much in the last several decades, but is steady at about 3.3%. Indeed, the biggest drug disaster in U.S. history was FDA-approved Vioxx. By the agency’s own estimates, Vioxx was responsible for at least 140,000 heart attacks and 60,000 deaths. Properly prescribed drugs are now the 5th leading cause of death in the United States.

In many ways, the finding that all of these extra studies don’t improve drug safety is not surprising. Most “bad” drugs get to market because our science isn’t good enough to detect side effects that affect a subset of the population.

Effectiveness hasn’t gotten better either. Most drugs only work in some, but not all, patients. If we aren’t improving safety and effectiveness with regulations that increase every year, we could slash pharmaceutical prices virtually overnight by getting rid of this waste. The data suggests that drug prices would be about 5-10% of what they are now if we rolled back regulations that don’t give us more safety and effectiveness. Innovation would soar!

Don’t expect drug companies to tell President Trump how to slash drug prices, while stimulating innovation, though. They can’t afford to anger the FDA. Maybe someone should educate our president and Alex Azar before they destroy life-saving pharmaceutical innovation in a vain attempt to control drug prices.

Figure and statistics taken from my new book, Death by Regulation: How We Were Robbed of a Golden Age of Health and How We Can Reclaim It.

Dr. Norman Horn Reviews “Death by Regulation”

Longtime Libertarian writer and activist Dr Mary Ruwart has a must-read book: Death by Regulation: How We Were Robbed of a Golden Age of Health and How We Can Reclaim It.

This book draws on her years as a medical researcher for Upjohn Pharmaceuticals, her knowledge of libertarian philosophy, and her passion for liberty to explain how the 1962 Amendments to the Food and Drug Act, which gave the FDA the power to keep a drug off the market if it didn’t meet the FDA’s idea of effectiveness and safety. It not only stripped individuals of the ability to make their own health care decisions, but enriched big pharmaceutical companies. The FDA has literally killed people.

For example, the FDA prevented Americans from learning of how aspirin can help those with heart problems for a couple decades. This knowledge could have saved about 1.7 million lives. The FDA continues to delay and deny Americans from reviving life-saving cures and knowledge about how minor adjustments to their diets can help avoid certain illnesses.

Campaign for Liberty Chairman Ron Paul, who wrote the foreword for the book says, “While I was serving in Congress, Dr. Ruwart was working at Upjohn, a drug company known for its ground-breaking research. Step-by-step, she shows how the Amendments, even today, are re-shaping the FDA, the drug industry, and the field of medical practice, while shifting us away from a prevention paradigm to a treatment-based one.” You’ll want to read this book carefully: your life may depend on it.

It’s time we were all learned the truth!

Corruption, Power and Dirty Politics

Power corrupts. When we give someone authority over us, it will likely become abuse. For example, when we gave the government power of eminent domain to construct roads, it began using it to condemn private homes so that corporate developers could build malls. When we gave the government the power of civil forfeiture (taking property and money without trial) from known criminals, it began to take cash from innocent people.

When we gave the government the power to regulate industries, presumably for consumer protection, it drove the mom-and-pop shops out of business and became a way for Big Business to destroy its smaller competitors Thankfully, the libertarian Institute for Justice is fighting against these abuses pro bono. Ultimately, however, only lessening the authority of government can stop the abuse.

Remember: less authority to abuse means less abuse of authority.

We usually think that making a law makes it so, but just the opposite is usually true. When we try to legislate virtue, we end up harming the very people we intended to help. That’s why prohibition, whether of drugs or alcohol, does more harm than good. That’s why outlawing prostitution or gambling only drives it underground. That’s why regulations intended to protect the consumer usually harm them instead. Using government to force peaceful people to act as we think that they should backfires. Bad means result in bad ends, not good ones.

Most people feel politics is dirty, even if they can’t tell you why. The “why” is that government is allowed to do things that the rest of us would be thrown in jail for. Politicians and regulators often enjoy sovereign immunity for actions that would land us in prison for decades. Government officials have become a privileged class, just like the monarchs of old. Isn’t it time that they have to obey the same laws that we do?

We defer to these authority figures because they are supposed to know more than we do. If a mistake is made, it’s easy to lay the blame at their feet. Ultimately, however, we are responsible for choosing the authority figure we defer to.

Power, as in political power, is used to bend others to our will. No one who seeks to take away the liberty of others can legitimately claim to love their neighbors. Liberty, on the other hand, is consistent both with self-love and love of others, since we must be willing to grant liberty to others to have it for ourselves.

Discover the ONLY way to fix Big Pharma—it’s NOT what you think!

Ever-increasing prices, serious side effects, unscrupulous practices—and more—are hallmarks of today’s drugs and their manufacturers. Pharmaceutical industry critics blame corporate greed, but that can’t be the whole story because ALL company managers must cater to the bottom line.

In my new book, Death by Regulation, I show that the 1962 Amendments to the Food & Drug Act have reshaped the drug industry, creating almost all of the practices that its critics rail against. Unfortunately, the critics are mostly unaware of these regulations and propose “solutions” that will just make matters worse.

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Death by Regulation demonstrates tht bad law can be just as deadly as bad drugs—and tells us what we need to know to reclaim our Golden Age of Health. Foreword by Ron Paul, MD; preface by Jonathan Wright, MD; afterword by Foster Gamble.

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Death by Regulation: How We Were Robbed of a Golden Age of Health and How We Can Reclaim It 

(Click here to buy!)

In 1962, Congress passed possibly the deadliest regulations of all time: the 1962 Amendments to the Food & Drug Act. This “living law” continues to metastasize to this day, reshaping the pharmaceutical cartel, the supplement industry, the practice of medicine and transforming our health care paradigm from prevention to treatment.  Research shows at least half of Americans who have died since 1962 lost about 10 years of their lives to the Amendments; in all likelihood, each of us has been affected.

What exactly did the Amendments do to destroy what would have been a Golden Age of Health for us? The Amendments added about 10 years to the time it takes for new drugs to get from the lab bench to the marketplace. They destroyed over 50% of our innovations and censored the dissemination of life-saving information.

Not only have the Amendments cost us our lives, we paid for the “privilege” of dying prematurely. The Amendments have increased the cost of new drug development each year. What we pay for new drugs at the pharmacy is directly related to what manufacturers pay to jump through the Amendments’ regulatory hoops.

So why did Congress pass the Amendments in the first place?  The idea was to make drugs safer and more effective, but that didn’t happen. Indeed, drugs may actually be less safe and no more effective than they were before Amendment passage.

Death by Regulation demonstrates the bad law can be just as deadly as bad drugs—and tells us what we need to know to reclaim our Golden Age of Health.  Foreword by Ron Paul, MD; preface by Jonathan Wright, MD; afterword by Foster Gamble.

Check it out today and help put Death by Regulation on the Amazon best-seller list by ordering books for yourself, family, friends and colleagues.  You’ll receive up to $60 in FREE bonuses just for pre-ordering my new book. This offer won’t be available after April 10, so order today. The life you save may be your own!