Tag: FDA

National Parks Are Kicking Out Libertarians… For Cleaning Them Up

By Mason Mohon | @mohonofficial

The government shutdown has turned into the longest one in United States history. The consequences have included our TSA not being paid (scary!) and the National Parks losing funding. In addition, the FDA is shut down. So amidst the constant slew of overdoses on cheap EpiPens and terrorist attacks, some kind-hearted libertarians decided to step up to the plate and do their part for nature.

Continue reading “National Parks Are Kicking Out Libertarians… For Cleaning Them Up”

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How the United States Can Increase Market Freedom

By Max Bibeau | United States

The American Dream, as outlined by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence, has long been the shining beacon of hope for citizens and foreigners alike, offering a chance to be successful on an even playing field. Unfortunately, that beacon has been dimming in recent decades, leading the World Economic Forum to bluntly mourn that the American Dream is broken.

As class mobility continues to fall and the economic gap between rich and poor only seems to expand, many Americans are starting to give up hope in American capitalism. This has led to mass calls for change among the general populace, with everyone desperately looking for solutions. Some, such as Vermont Senator and 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, propose that it is time to look towards “democratic socialism” in the United States. Others, such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, seem to be denying the problem completely, still claiming that “the circumstances of your birth do not determine the outcome of your life.”

As much as we might wish for Paul Ryan’s statement to be true, the facts stand against him. Since we are in grave need of a solution, and one does not appear to be coming anytime soon, we must ask how America can improve competition in modern capitalism. Luckily, it is not too late for capitalism to be saved and for America to recover, but the country needs to act fast. While there are many potential solutions, there are three primary ones which will specifically target major problems in the US economy. In order to address current problems in the economy, the United States should target inefficiencies in regulatory organizations like the FDA, foster blockchain development around the country, and crack down on state preference policies.

FDA Inefficiency

The problem of skyrocketing drug prices was first brought to the forefront of American politics in 2015 when the infamous Martin Shkreli increased prices on a lifesaving drug by over 4000%, from $18 a pill to $750 a pill, making the cost of treatment virtually impossible to cover. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case, as the Center for American Progress describes how American pharmaceutical prices have “continued to skyrocket” in recent years, with manufacturers of Medicare-covered drugs raising prices 12% per year on average. Another study shockingly found that over the past 14 months, 20 different prescription drugs had their prices increased by 200% or more.

Price increases, especially of these unprecedented proportions, are a clear indicator of a lack of competition within the pharmaceutical industry, as confirmed by a Government Accountability Office study. To counteract price increases, the United States must directly tackle the sources of the problem: inefficiency and over-regulation, which leads to monopolistic markets. All of the prescription drugs that saw drastic price increases have one thing in common: they have little to no competition making the same substances. This is because of how unreasonably difficult and expensive it is to get a new drug approved for manufacturing by the FDA.

The Journal of Health quantifies just how expensive the process can be, totaling it at over $1.395 billion in out-of-pocket costs. That number skyrockets up to $2.870 billion when post-approval research and development costs are factored in. These astronomically high development costs make it extremely difficult for anybody looking to create a new drug to even get their business off the ground. High startup costs are one of the top reasons that new companies and drugs never find success, as it’s virtually impossible for new companies, even with perfect scientific viability, to raise nearly $3 billion in investments just to allow their drug to be widely sold.

Because of complex regulations and red tape encircling the pharmaceutical industry, it’s no surprise that the market is nearly devoid of competition. By removing excessive regulation on the industry and streamlining the FDA, new drugs could be approved faster and cheaper. This would dramatically lower startup costs for new businesses trying to develop drugs and would promote increased competition throughout the entire industry, making life-saving substances much more affordable.

Blockchain Growth and Development

The blockchain, developed and made popular by cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, is currently a buzzword in American Congress. Politicians are scrambling to implement the budding technology into their cities and states, and have even formed the Congressional Blockchain Caucus to craft policy surrounding it. Luckily, the potential benefits of the blockchain, especially when it comes to increasing competition, cannot be overstated. To quickly summarize a complex technology, the blockchain is a completely digital, decentralized ledger of information, constantly being confirmed and updated by computers around the world. This has plenty of business applications.

Specifically, since the National Bureau of Economic Research contends that the blockchain removes almost all need for trust in a transaction, small businesses will no longer have to compete with larger businesses when it comes to reputability. Trust, especially when it comes to internet retail, is one of the largest problems that businesses face, preventing up to 30% of internet users from utilizing online retail at all.

However, as the blockchain expands and becomes more widely used, retailers, especially small, newer businesses, will be granted the same level of trust as established companies. The Pew Research Center has found that many consumers soon “expect to see improved technology emerge that will allow people to have confidence in the organizations and individuals with whom they interact online,” specifically through the blockchain. Once the blockchain and cryptocurrency have become mainstream, the issue of trust will be eliminated from the equation, promoting widespread competition in online retail by allowing small retailers with no reputation to provide legitimate competition to retail giants.

While many are afraid to buy from anywhere other than Amazon due to the threat of scams, the blockchain will almost completely mitigate that problem, giving startups a chance, and opening up the online retail industry to everyone. To promote this, the government should focus on effectively regulating and investing in blockchain companies. These regulations would allow them to thrive and innovate in the near future, while still protecting the safety of consumers.

Ending State Preference Policies

While it is commonly agreed upon by economists that international protectionism damages all parties involved, what is criminally under-discussed when it comes to increasing domestic competition is state-by-state protectionism, more commonly known as preference policies. These policies are outlined by the Mercatus Center, which describes that preference policies, often enacted by state or local governments, give a significant advantage to companies residing in-state when bidding on government projects.

When a state government wishes to have a project completed, whether it be building military bases or providing a government building with computers, they allow companies to bid on the project. In theory, this practice would reduce costs as much as possible, as competition drives prices lower. Unfortunately, as the Mercatus Center furthers, even if an out-of-state company bids with a significantly cheaper offer, the more expensive in-state company will still almost always get the job. Aside from drastically raising the costs of government projects on taxpayers, in-state preference policies are almost identical to international protectionist policies, and have almost identical impacts, especially when it comes to decreasing competition.

Essentially, these programs enable companies to raise their prices due to the lack of competition from other states. Similar to international protectionism, these policies are put in place with the goal of stimulating domestic growth. However, this growth often comes at the cost of cheap prices and quality services. While it may appear that this would only discourage competition when it comes to government services, that is not quite true. Because most of these state and local policies are very strict, they only give preference to companies that have a state/local business license, pay all state/local taxes, and hire only state/local employees.

Since these policies are so rigid, and only apply to exclusively state or local businesses, it often discourages companies, especially those which rely on government business to remain profitable, from expanding outside of state borders, given that they know this will likely cost them their government business. This has much more broad impacts, affecting competition around the entire nation.

An Increase in Market Freedom

The United States, viewed as a pioneer of capitalism around the world, has found itself entrapped by red tape and ineffective policies, all of which are hindering one of the key benefits of capitalism: competition. However, while the United States does have some dire problems, they can be addressed.

First, the country needs to crack down on inefficient and ineffective regulations, specifically in the pharmaceutical industry. Second, the US should encourage and foster blockchain development by establishing fair regulations that don’t stifle the technology. Finally, the unfair problem of in-state preference policies must be addressed. While hope may be in short supply for capitalists in the United States, some common sense changes to economic policy would allow the beacon of the American Dream to shine brightly once again. 


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Abolishing the DEA Would be Good for Your Health

By Francis Folz | United States

Like most presidents of the 20th century, Richard Nixon was a statist. His policies reflected this throughout his troubled presidency. This, of course, includes the elimination of the gold standard, the institution of wage and price controls, and the creation of unconstitutional federal programs. Most, notably, Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

A History of Harm

Since he created the agency, it has been the most prominent overlord of personal responsibility. America has a  long-held claim that it is the land of the free. However, the DEA has usurped every American’s sovereignty, spending millions of dollars on arresting and detaining Americans. What for? Nixon and the DEA claimed that “subversive substances” were a public enemy.

Another adverse quality of the Drug Enforcement Agency is their stifling of medical research on prohibited drugs. From cannabis to LSD, they restrict the ability to research clear health benefits. Here are a few examples of how the DEA restrains medical progress, despite the potential to assuage many Americans’ suffering.

Cannabis and the DEA

The United States has recognized cannabis as a medicine since 1996. Despite this, the DEA’s resistance to reefer and science has been robust. While numerous studies over the past few decades have proven the benefits of marijuana, there is still much more ground to cover. 

For example, it took until 1990 for scientists to discover cannabinoid receptors within the human brain. Cannabis’s designation as a schedule one substance since 1971 has been the most formidable obstacle to delving into marijuana’s myriad of health benefits. Interestingly, the state prohibited the drug far before they even knew of these receptors.

All schedule one illicit drugs, according to the DEA, are dangerous for consumption, highly addictive, and possess no medical value. First of all, it is unconstitutional for the federal government to even create a ranking such as this. But going beyond that, it is absurd for them to consider marijuana a schedule one narcotic.

More than half of all states have some form of medical marijuana, and even the federal government holds a patent for medical marijuana. Furthermore, 85% of Americans believe cannabis should be medically legal. Thus, many wonder why the state still refuses to recognize the drug’s health benefits.

Psilocybin Treatments

Though hard to believe, magic mushrooms, like cannabis, have possessed medicinal and cultural merit for quite a while. However, in the 1970’s, Timothy Leary, a prominent member of the 60’s counter-culture movement, conducted a study called the Concord Prison Experiment. In his study, he distributed psychedelic mushrooms coupled with assisted group therapy to prisoners. He then measured recidivism rates to test the effects of psilocybin-induced treatment. Initially, the results were fruitful, reducing the recidivism rate by 50 percent. 

Another trailblazing psilocybin study conducted in the 1960’s is the “Good Friday Experiment”. Led by doctorate student Walter Pahnke, two groups of theology students attended Good Friday service. Pahnke gave one group the mushrooms and left the other as a control. The objective was to assess whether or not psilocybin could deepen the religious experience. 

As theorized, all members of the psilocybin group reported a substantially more profound experience than the members of the control. These results, as well as others, further discredit the DEA’s claim that psilocybin is a dangerous, addictive substance with no health or therapeutic benefit.

LSD: Lost Past and Lost Potential

In 1938, Swiss scientist Albert Holfmann successfully separated the molecule lysergic acid diethylamide while studying ergot in his laboratory. Ever since his bicycle ride home transformed into a trip of a lifetime, scientists have experimented with LSD, eager to learn of its usefulness. Scientists aren’t the only ones intrigued by the compound. Some historians believe LSD may have been at the crux of the Salem Witch Trials. One plausible explanation is that the women may have ingested ergot, a fungus found on wheat, which contains the LSD.

Although the DEA continues to categorize acid as a perilous substance with no benefit, health or otherwise, to our well-being, the scientific community continues to prove otherwise. Acid is infamous for its ability to stimulate the imagination and to make users more creative and insightful. Other studies conclude that LSD alleviates anxiety, especially amongst the terminally ill. 

But perhaps the most appalling aspect of the DEA’s tyrannical stronghold over the substance is that bromine, a compound identical to acid without the psychedelic-induced trip, has repeatedly reduced cluster headaches, which are intensified migraines notorious for their painful nature. However, since bromine closely resembles LSD, researchers are often unable to further tests bromine’s inexplicable ability to relieve the agony of the horrendous headaches, leaving sufferers helpless and in excruciating misery. 

The DEA, through regulation, is a great threat to the well-being and freedom of Americans. Ending this agency, and Nixon’s failed drug war along with it, would bring a new age of research and medicinal gains. Only through abolishing the DEA can we reap these clear health benefits.


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Babies Across the Globe are Being Born with Three Parents

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

In 2016, a woman gave birth to the first ever baby with three parents. Yes, you read that correctly. After a Jordanian couple lost two children to the fatal Leigh Syndrome, a disease in the mitochondrial DNA, they sought out Professor John Zhang of the New Hope Fertility Center in New York, who worked on the case in Mexico due to legal complications in his home country.

The DNA of Three Parents

Soon after, the scientist set out to produce a healthy baby for the two. But interestingly, the solution actually came from the inclusion of a third. With a process called pronuclear transfer, Zhang injected healthy mitochondria from a female donor into the mother’s egg cell. Then, he fertilized the egg and sperm, creating a genetically unique human being from three parents and their DNA.

Two years later, that child is over a year old and living a healthy life. And the mother, who believed herself to be effectively infertile due to the fatal disease she carries, is raising her own, growing baby boy.

The genetic makeup of the boy is mostly that of the two parents. Of the over 20,000 genes found in the egg cell, only 37 of them are present in the mitochondria. Thus, replacing a damaged mitochondrion with a healthy one from another woman only inputs 37 of the donor’s genes into the baby.

Not long after the Mexican success story, a number of scientists from across the globe sought to reproduce the effects. By doing so, they believed they could help women with severe mitochondrial diseases be able to still have children.

Increased Awareness and Success

Most notably, efforts began in the United Kingdom and Ukraine. In fact, Doctor Valery Zukin, head of the Ukraine based Nadiya Clinic, boasts to have already helped create four babies in this method. He believes that his efforts are helpful to humanity, especially those who are not able to have their own children.

Speaking to NPR, Zukin pondered, “If you can help these families to achieve their own babies, why must it be forbidden? It is a dream to want to have a genetic connection with a baby.”

Zukin is likely talking about the countries, including the United States, that have banned the practice. In 2017, the FDA warned against the practice, stating they must run their own clinical trial before legalizing it. In a letter to Zhang, they declared that he may not continue his practices in the U.S.

Such actions have clearly not stopped Zhang, who now partners with Zukin in their joint company, DL-Nadiya. Zukin claims that through his institute, he now has three more pregnancies.

Across the continent, United Kingdom researchers today are in the process. This year, the U.K.’s Human Fertilisation and Embreology Authority (HFEA) approved two cases for Newcastle’s Fertility Center at Life to undertake.

This move marks the first time that a country officially sanctions this procedure. In the United States, the law forced the action south of the border. Zukin, on the other hand, has yet to face either approval or rejection from the Ukranian government.

These two British babies may be born to three parents as early as this year. Though they will not be the first to be born in this manner, it appears they also will be far from the last.


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Don’t Like High Drug Prices? Blame the FDA

By Indri Schaelicke | United States

A common talking point in many political debates is the extreme prices of many medical drugs. Left wingers like to blame “greedy capitalism” for the high prices, and advocate for some sort of government program that will increase the size of government in an attempt to cap drug prices. In reality, capitalism is the tool that must be used to bring medical drug prices back down to affordable levels.

The truth is, the US is not a true capitalist free market. Rather, it operates under a system of crony capitalism. Crony capitalism is a system in which representatives agree to give benefits to certain corporations in exchange for campaign contributions. These benefits may take the form of purchases by the government, limiting the corporation’s competition in the market through regulation, and creating loopholes in regulation or taxation. These benefits are paid for using taxpayer money, while the representatives receive financial backing for their campaigns or votes in their next election. Bureaucratic agencies like the FDA create regulations and policies which further cronyism.

A major source of cronyism exists in the FDA’s requirements of extensive research and testing to be done on products it approves to be sold. These studies cost thousands of dollars to companies, which must be covered by increasing the prices of the drugs sold. However, Congress has created “Priority Review Vouchers”, which reviews certain drugs at an expedited pace. These vouchers are incredibly valuable, because the development process for drugs takes many years.

The vouchers can be sold to corporations at a high prices due to their scarcity and the incredible benefit of having the review process sped up. If a company had their new drug approved before any others, they will have no competition in the marketplace for several years and are free to raise their price as high as they like. The FDA has the power to create monopolies, a power that no agency or branch of government should have.

So what’s the solution? Open up the markets. Competition is what drives prices down to affordable levels, and there is no competition in a crony capitalist system. Before the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, the U.S. federal government had control over airline fares, routes and market entry of new airlines. This severely limited the competition in the marketplace to just a few airlines, but soon after the Act was signed, several new ones entered the market. Without the Civil Aeronautics Board to protect them from competition, airlines were forced to set their prices through supply and demand, with competition lowering the equilibrium price of airfare. By deregulating the airfare markets and preventing special interests from lobbying an airline regulatory agency, airfare has become cheaper for consumers.

The same must happen with the way that the market for medical drugs is regulated. The FDA must be abolished, and competition in the market will flourish. Prices will drop due to the influx of competition and life saving drugs will become more affordable to consumers.

A concern of supporters of the FDA is that without it, unsafe and potentially dangerous drugs could slip into the market. However, this can be refuted on the basis that no business has an incentive to create a harmful drug. If harm is done to a consumer, they can sue the business and claim compensation for the damages.

The abolition of the FDA would unleash the power of markets to create and develop new, revolutionary drugs at affordable prices. An effect similar to those seen after the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 would be seen, and bring an end to the crony capitalism enabled by the FDA.


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