My wife and I watched Dallas Buyers Club last night. It’s a good movie, an inspiring movie. And infuriating. It concerns Ron Woodroof, a Texas bull rider sick with AIDS, his efforts to find drugs that will keep him alive, and his efforts to provide such drugs to others with HIV, against the forcible resistance of the FDA.
My main reaction is a familiar indignation that some adults should ever have the legal authority to tell other adults what they may and may not peacefully do, as the FDA has the legal authority to tell Americans what drugs they may buy, sell, and consume. Especially in such a case as this, in which the people are trying to save their own lives, how could anyone presume to prevent them?
On this topic a famous passage from John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty deserves rereading:
The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.
The FDA’s power to forbid people from buying and selling drugs without FDA approval is not rightful. It should be terminated.
So would I leave drugs entirely unregulated then? Certainly not; I would have them regulated by market forces, as I lay out in Part II of my book, especially Chapter 6, “Market Forces Regulate.” There I discuss the harm caused by the FDA—the kind of harm illustrated painfully in Dallas Buyers Club. A recent five minute LearnLiberty video by Thomas Kaye and me presents the free-market alternative.
Courtesy of a blog post on the movie by David Boaz, “here’s a Cato study on AIDS and the FDA from 1986. Here’s the original 1992 magazine story about the Dallas Buyers Club, published just before Ron Woodroof died.”