FDA Issues First Mandatory Recall for Contaminated Food


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently issued a mandatory recall for Triangle Pharmanaturals, a Las Vegas-based herbal supplements company. The company’s products were linked to a shipment of kratom which tested positive for salmonella. In most cases, companies comply when the FDA recommends a product recall. Triangle Pharmanaturals, however, was not cooperative with the agency’s request, failing to return phone calls and respond to an email.

This is the first time the FDA has issued a mandatory recall for a contaminated food item. While the FDA has long had the authority to order mandatory recalls for drugs, it was granted the power to issue mandatory recalls for food products under the Food, Safety, and Modernization Act of 2011. It is also the first time the FDA has exercised this power.

What Gun Control Advocates Can Learn from London’s Knife Attacks


The powers in London are grappling with a rash of stabbings and wondering what to do. The statist instinct is to take knives from the people. That’s the American response to gun violence and the British response to knife attacks. Yesterday The Express ran a headline: “London bloodbath: 60th violent murder in London just yards from Corbyn’s home.” Reuters reports that “London police investigated more murders than their New York counterparts did over the last two months, statistics show, as the British capital’s mayor vowed to fight a ‘violent scourge’ on the streets.”

But shouldn’t London be one of the safest cities in the west? According to the BBC: “The UK has some of the toughest gun control laws in the world. If you want to own a gun, it is very difficult to do so. In short, it has been designed to put as many barriers in the way as possible and to assume the worst, rather than hope for the best.” Such laws are being demanded by school children and leftists as the answer to school shootings and violence in America. What gives? What is the real problem?

California Threatens Free Speech with AB-2943


Proposed legislation, AB-2943, making its way through the California legislature, is the latest example of why east coast folks see California as the land of fruit and nuts. Humor aside, it is also why diverse groups such as Orthodox Christians, libertarians, and conservatives fear the radicalism of the Left and are concerned about fundamental values of speech and expression. Trends often start in California and this threat to free speech is most disturbing.

The proposed legislation seeks to modify the state’s law related to unlawful business practices. The current version of the statute is not that much different from most states’ Unlawful Trade Practice Acts. It prohibits a seller from making misrepresentations about goods offered for sale. For example, a seller could not claim that a certain toothbrush is endorsed by the American Dental Association when that is not the case.

FDA Restricts Sale of Contraceptive Device


Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released an order indicating its intent to restrict the sale of the contraceptive device Essure, the only FDA-approved nonsurgical permanent birth control method.

Essure is extremely effective, over 99 percent successful, and popular. As of July 2017, over 750,000 devices have been sold worldwide.

The use of Essure requires the insertion of a small coil device into the patient’s fallopian tube, preventing sperm from reaching the egg. Because it doesn’t require surgery, the procedure avoids the risks associated with tubal litigation (commonly referred to as “getting your tubes tied”) and other surgical methods to avoid pregnancy.

The primary motive behind the FDA’s involvement is concern that patients using Essure are not sufficiently informed about its risks. In the words of FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, “We’ve been closely evaluating new information on the use of Essure, and based on our review of a growing body of evidence, we believe this product requires additional, meaningful safeguards to ensure women are able to make informed decisions about risk when considering this option.”

The Other Money Heist


Sometimes fiction offers better lessons in political economy than reality. “Money Heist,” the Spanish TV series that is having a big global impact thanks to Netflix, gives us a very important one (no, I won’t spoil it).

The Premise: “The Professor” directs a gang of robbers who assault the Royal Mint of Spain in order to print 2.4 billion euros and hopefully take off with the money. His argument: we are not stealing from anyone because we are printing new notes, just as the central bank does today by creating euros out of thin air. The European Central Bank (just like the U.S. Federal Reserve) channels the newly created money to the banks. The only difference is that the robbers, all of whom have mountains of problems, want it for themselves.

All the monetary analysts of the world would not be able to instill in people such a powerful idea about what central banks have done since the beginning of the financial crisis. Although the Professor uses a cynical argument to justify the gang’s actions, there is a tacit lesson here: governments have indirectly been robbing people for years by creating money artificially under the cover of political sophisms that make it hard for folks to understand that they are the victims.

U.S. War Making: What’s in It for You?


If you are an American, have you asked yourself these questions?

  1. What purpose of mine is served by the U.S. government’s making war in Iraq?
  2. What purpose of mine is served by the U.S. government’s making war in Afghanistan?
  3. What purpose of mine is served by the U.S. government’s making war in Syria?
  4. What purpose of mine is served by the U.S. government’s making war in Yemen?
  5. What purpose of mine is served by the U.S. government’s making war in Africa?
  6. What purpose of mine would be served by the U.S. government’s making war in Iran?

Unless you are an unusual American, and if you are honest, your answer in each case would be, No purpose of mine is served by such war making.

Think Twice about Bringing Back U.S. Manufacturing Jobs


We hear a lot of lamentations about the loss of American jobs in manufacturing (notwithstanding that U.S. manufacturing output has never been greater). People purport to want to bring back jobs in factories. I’m not sure a lot of thought goes into these views.

I have some personal experience in factory employment, although it was long ago—in the golden age of such employment, some might say. For five summers while I was going to high school and college during the academic years of the late 1950s and early 1960s, I worked in a factory—four summers in a box factory and one summer in an ice plant. The work was physically hard and highly repetitive under unpleasant physical conditions of high heat (at the box factory) or extreme cold (at the ice plant).

I was glad to have these jobs, however, because the wage rates were the highest of any to be had in my godforsaken little town. But at the time I was 15-20 years old and as strong as a young bull. I longed for the overtime hours, which paid a 50 percent wage premium. My record for weekly hours worked was 92 at the ice plant one midsummer week during a frenzy in the cantaloupe packing season. (In those days the melons were packed in wooden crates—remember the box factory—and loaded into railroad boxcars that were then sprayed with crushed ice to keep the contents cold during their transport to markets all around the USA.) I wanted to earn as much as possible to help me get through the school years without continuing to work full-time. For a stretch of three months I could take the punishment.

But would I have wanted to continue doing this work indefinitely? Not on your life. Indeed, it was no coincidence that nearly all the workers in these factories were young men like me, few of them more than 30 years old. It’s definitely not an old man’s game; it’s not even a middle-aged man’s game. Those who long to bring back factory employment, I strongly suspect, have not given much thought to the nature of such work. It wears men and women down, making them old before their time. One of the great benefits of economic development is that such employment becomes a steadily less prominent part of total employment.

(For a priceless account, funny yet sad at the same time, of work in the Michigan auto plants, read Ben Hamper’s Rivethead.)

 

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Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute and Editor at Large of The Independent Review. His latest book is Taking A Stand: Reflections on Life, Liberty, and the Economy.

Review: Ready Player One Entertains Using Fear of Tech Oligarchy


Ready Player One seems destined to become another Steven Spielberg classic, serving up a movie that appeals to a wide range of audiences with a solid story, well-crafted characters and engaging adventure from beginning to end. Along the way, viewers also get a good dose of ethics, with an emphasis on empowering the individual over a centralized authority.

Based on co-screenwriter Ernest Cline’s original novel of the same name, Ready Player One takes place in Columbus, Ohio in a dystopian near future (2045). (Columbus seems to be getting a lot of play in dystopia these days; see Tracy Lawson’s very libertarian sci-fi Counteract action series of young adult novels.) The world is ravaged by overpopulation. Unemployment and underemployment are widespread. Mobile homes are built on top of each other, creating vertical slums called “stacks.” The imagery is striking, creating desolate landscape that anyone would want to escape. Audiences are immediately drawn into a video gaming aesthetic that complements the plot.

In order to escape their bleak existence, most citizens living in the stacks spend their days and evenings in a virtual reality world called OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation) where they can play out their personal fantasies.

Statism’s First Casualty Is the Truthful Use of Language


Senator Hiram Johnson is credited with having said during World War I, “The first casualty, when war comes, is truth,” and this observation has been made in more or less the same words many times, both before and since Johnson made his statement. No doubt the declaration is true, but it is true in a much broader context as well. States engage not only in conquest, plunder, and oppression, but also—in order to create conditions in which the populace is rendered less likely to resist a state’s abuses or rebel against it—in pervasive bamboozlement. Those who support the state ideologically tend to engage in chronic misrepresentation of what the state does and how it does it. So, not only war—the characteristic state action—but statism in general makes truth the first casualty of its claims, proposals, programs, and projects.

Consider some common examples. Foreign sellers don’t “dump” goods in U.S. markets; they sell them at prices American buyers find attractive. Immigrants and refugees don’t “invade” the USA; they cross the border and, unless obstructed by state agents, proceed into the country peacefully. After a hurricane or other natural emergency, local sellers don’t “price gouge”; they sell, as usual, at prices that reflect the currently prevailing conditions of demand and supply. Government make-work programs don’t “create jobs”; they hire people for politically determined activities while, owing to the programs’ financing by taxation, reducing the number of people hired for activities valued directly or indirectly by consumers. The Transportation Security Agency does not provide “security” for airline passengers; it provides security theater while greatly diminishing the passengers’ convenience and ease of travel—and probably their true security as well.

In sum, behind virtually every government claim, proposal, program, or project, we find a misuse of language. Government goes hand in hand with calling actions what they are not, often the opposite of what they really are. We would do well to bear in mind Nietzsche’s sweeping declaration: “Whatever the State saith is a lie.” Often it is not a plain and simple lie, but one that springs from twisting language into a grotesque misrepresentation of reality.

 

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Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute and Editor at Large of The Independent Review. His latest book is Taking A Stand: Reflections on Life, Liberty, and the Economy.

FDA Cracks Down on Online Eye-Exam Company


This past October, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to Opternative, a company specializing in providing online eye-exams. The FDA has now made its letter public and set up a meeting with Opternative in July to make sure the company is in regulatory compliance.

The crux of the letter is that the FDA considers theses eye exams to be a Class 2 device, which requires premarket approval. Because the agency considers any device “intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or to affect the structure or any function of the body” to be approved as a Class 2 device, it considers Opernative to be shirting around the required approval process.

Opternative, whose product is currently approved as a Class 1 device, argued that because it provides only refracted eye exams, which lack the comprehensiveness of an eye exam performed by an optometrist, additional regulatory approval was unnecessary.

The FDA’s action is likely in response to an open letter filed by the American Optometrist Association last April. Unsurprisingly, the trade group is in strong support of the regulator’s crackdown. AOA President Christopher Quinn recently wrote in a statement, “The FDA’s enforcement action against Opternative is major victory for public health and for the tens of millions of Americans who need and deserve access to quality care to safeguard their health and vision.” He continues, “It is our hope that we are a step closer to holding all companies that would place profits ahead of patient care fully accountable for their actions.”

  • MyGovCost.org
  • FDAReview.org
  • OnPower.org
  • elindependent.org