Friday, December 31, 2004

Sowell on Safety

Thomas Sowell has written a valuable reminder that absolute safety is a chimera. His article points out that individuals, not third parties such as governments, should determine the tradeoffs when it comes to using phamaceutical drugs. Governments typically look only at the harm and ignore the benefits that many people seek. An unacceptable risk to one person may be perfectly reasonable to someone else. Moreover, the doubling of the risk of, say, heart disease, from using a drug (such as Vioxx or Celebrex) may still amount to a tiny risk. Multiplying a very small number by 2 yields a small number. If you have a penny and I give you another, your holdings have doubled, but you still have very little money. The point is that individuals should have the freedom and responsibility to decide. The doctrine that the government should maximize safety at any cost is not only impossible, it is something people would never accept if they thought through the implications. (Anyone for outlawing left turns on the roads?)

Unfortunately, Sowell accepts the requirement that people have prescriptions before obtaining certain drugs; i.e., he doesn't take his commitment to self-responsibility far enough. See more from Sowell here.