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    Ron Paul: Defender Of BS
    By Josh Witten | September 8th 2009 02:00 PM | 9 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Welcome to the home of the rugbyologist. Come along as I wander far and wide (and near, too), stop to smell the roses of intellectual fancy, and...

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    Congress shall make no law. . .abridging the freedom of speech. . .
    -First Amendment of the United States Constitution
    It should come as no surprise that The Festival of Idiots strongly endorses the freedom of speech, especially the freedom to call idiots "idiots".  Did you know that the Federal government restricts the freedom of speech of the manufacturers of dietary supplements?    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) by Senators Hatch and Harkin
    a product sold as a dietary supplement and promoted on its label or in
    labeling* as a treatment, prevention or cure for a specific disease or
    condition would be considered an unapproved--and thus illegal--drug.     
    -FDA on dietary supplements
    Currently, earthworm producers cannot claim that eating earthworms will cure depression without evidence, but they can claim that they "boost your energy", "support the immune system", "improve outlook", and other such meaningless Newspeak

    Representative Ron Ernest Paul (RepREP) thinks it is un-American to prevent dietary supplement manufacturers from making whatever claims they want.  Lost amidst the furor over health care reform, Ron Paul (R-TX) has introduced three bills (HR3394, 3395,&3396) to rectify this grave injustice. 

    The new bills would require Congress to codify FDA and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) acts (such as chastizing Frosted Mini-Wheats) into law in order for them to be enforceable based on an unscholarly interpretation of the non-delegation principle (contained in the word "vested"):
    All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States
    - Article 1, Section 1 of the United States Constitution
    They would also require the FDA and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to have "clear and convincing evidence" that claims to treat specific diseases or disorders are false before they are restricted based on the Fifth Amendment:
    nor shall any person be. . .deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law
    -relevant portion of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution
    This proposed laws would accomplish several important goals in addition to job creation in the snake oil field.  Regulation would be crippled, and the FDA and FTC would become redundant.  It would also allow dietary supplement manufacturers to make any claims they wish as long as there is not "clear and convincing evidence" that the claims are false, discouraging research on the costs and efficacy of dietary supplements that would restrict the claims that can be made (note to free marketeers: reducing information available reduces the efficiency of markets).  The burden of research would fall on the government regulators.  Since RepREP zealously opposes "big government", we suspect the funding to support this research role would not materialize.

    Most theories of society are based on the assumption that certain restrictions must be placed on the freedom of the individual in order to guarantee that the freedoms of all. 
    The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins.
    -Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
    Truth in advertising implies a contractual obligation of the marketer to deliver on the claims being made on the packaging or in the advertising.  The restriction on the freedom of speech to make misleading claims, whether intentionally or not, in order to prevent one party from taking another's property (let alone their life) under false pretenses is not unreasonable.  The Festival staff apologizes for having a complex, yet logical and consistent theory of human society.

    If that was not stupid enough, RepREP is also a hypocrite.  His new bills only apply to dietary supplements.  Why is it ok to defend the freedom of speech of dietary supplement manufacturers, but not pharmaceutical manufacturers?  Does RepREP believe that one group deserves more rights than another?  The Festival has some pity for sanctimonious fools, but we have nothing but disgust for sanctimonious hypocrites.

    For defending the right to make shit up and, even more so, for being a first-rate hypocrite by failing to follow his bad ideas to their logical conclusion, we are happy to welcome Ron Paul to The Festival of Idiots.

    In a related note, The Festival staff eagerly await RepREP's legislative efforts to restore our freedom to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

    Comments

    Of course, this article does not mention that the regulations Dr. Paul is railing against are superfluous, due to anti-fraud regulations. But, of course, that wasn't mentioned in this article. How shocking.

    I also love this slippery slope scenario: "This proposed laws would accomplish several important goals in addition to job creation in the snake oil field. Regulation would be crippled, and the FDA and FTC would become redundant. It would also allow dietary supplement manufacturers to make any claims they wish as long as there is not "clear and convincing evidence" that the claims are false, discouraging research on the costs and efficacy of dietary supplements that would restrict the claims that can be made (note to free marketeers: reducing information available reduces the efficiency of markets)." Aparently, Scientific blogging does not include logic...

    jtwitten
    You don't think that requiring every regulatory action of the FDA or FTC to be codified into law by an act of Congress, as HR3396 suggests, would make regulation virtually impossible?  Why have regulatory bodies if they have no authority?

    Slippery slope is a logical fallacy, but reductio ad absurdum is a valid method in formal logic for demonstrating that someone else's argument is illogical,
    kerrjac
    Why is it ok to defend the freedom of speech of dietary supplement manufacturers, but not pharmaceutical manufacturers?
    For the same reason that it's OK for the FDA to place heavy restrictions on pharmaceutical drugs while letting dietary supplements go relatively unregulated. In other words, it's an arbitrary distinction, but it's clearly reflected in the structure of current policy.

    Current policy if anything discourages rigorous research into supplements by setting the bar way too high, treating supplements like vitamin c with as much skepticism as drugs like Ambien. Where a moderate sized study might do to back claim, companies are being treated as if they need to do a national epic study. So as a compromise, no research gets done at all, and any claim is qualified with "not FDA approved". This is why a lot of supplement research comes from overseas.

    To complain that supplement companies could make any claim about their product is like complaining that Lay-Z-Boy can make any claim about its product - in a sense, it can, but if the claim is outrageous, people won't go for it (we're not that dumb). Could you imagine if every company had to go through an NDA-like process to say anything about their patents?

    What's more important is ensuring that the product is safe. Hasbro can make any claim it wants about how much you child will love Gi-Joe, but the company (under fair pressure from government) has to be sure that when kids bite on the toy they won't get lead poisoning. With regard to safety supplements have gone a bit more under the regulatory radar.

    The distinction between what you can say about a drug&a supplement is likely due to feasibility - some line had to be drawn between drug and supplement, and where ever it was drawn was bound to be a little arbitrary. Nonetheless, that line was drawn, and the assumption for claims made about supplements - just like every other product in the country - should be innocent until proven guilty. Anything less impinges on free speech.

    What has to be realized is that a special case needs to be made for why - for some products - it should be harder to express claims than others. And just b/c those special cases exist with pharm drugs doesn't mean they should automatically be applied to every product meant to treat a medical ailment.
    Gerhard Adam
    Anything less impinges on free speech.
    Therein lies the problem.  Companies and corporations were not recognized as persons when the constitution was framed and I think it's a stretch that they are entitled to free speech, while they have perfect latitude to restrict it in their employees. 

    Mundus vult decipi
    In that case, don't you also find the FDA's very existence unconstitutional, Gerhard? The founders certainly didn't give Congress the authority to regulate drugs or supplements; nor did they authorized Congress to create an agency that does.

    Gerhard Adam
    How did you make the leap from recognizing corporations as individuals, to Congress' authority to create regulatory agencies?

    But I guess it depends on how you want to interpret "regulate" and "general welfare".

    The Constitution, Section 8:

    ...provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States
    To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
    Mundus vult decipi
    jtwitten
    Why should a supplement that is claiming to treat a specific condition not be held to the same standard as drugs?  What is the difference between the biochemical compounds in "drugs" and "supplements"?  There is no feasibility issues.  The law governing supplement regulation, which holds supplements to much lower standards than drugs, was created by true believers Hatch and Harkin.  It is an ideological distinction. 
    adaptivecomplexity
    Right. There is no real chemical distinction between supplements and drugs. The principle here is that if you're going to market your product by making certain specific claims about the effect of your product on health (be it Frosted Mini Wheats, a pharmaceutical, or a nutraceutical [that's the unfortunate jargon - I've worked in this industry]), you need evidence to back up those claims. It's fairly simple.
    Mike
    kerrjac
    The purpose of the FDA revolves around safety, not testing dubious medical claims. In analyzing drugs they take a benefit to risk approach, looking at both the probability that a drug's endpoint will be met along with the probability of side effects. This is more fact than opinion.

    Now you may argue that they need to expand their scope -&certainly the FDA will argue that their budget should be expanded with it - but historically (from the perspective of their 1 or 2 public "success" stories) they've been fueled by the drive to make drugs safer. Aferall drugs have high potential to be dangerous.

    Supplements like Vitamin C tend to relatively safe, along with that plastic orb that someone sells you to put over your bed to avoid getting sick. The orb would never reach its proper endpoint, but so what, it's pretty safe. And whoever is stupid enough to buy deserves to lose money - or at least to feel good thinking that they have plastic orb to protect their health.

    With regard to health outcomes from various products, it may be difficult to distinguish statins from Cheerios. That's why, I would think, if you're going to make any kind of distinction across products, it would be along the lines of safety. Again it's an arbitrary distinction, but one thing that natural supplements and food have going for them is that many of them have been around (and many in use, in one culture or another) for long enough for us to presume that they have a relatively healthy safety record.

    This is all just going by the logic that I presume that lead to the creation of the FDA in the first place. As it is, it often takes decades for drugs to get approved, and this is in the name of safety. Submitting healthy foods and natural supplements - the vast majority of which are perfectly safe - to the same of sort of process is just inefficient. The end result would be that no food products would make any claims about the health effects of their food, and this would just leave the consumer worse off.