Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Democracy is No Substitute for Individualism

In his most recent article for the Pittsburgh Tribune, economist Don Boudreaux discusses the myth that democratic decision-making is preferable to individual-level decision-making.  Here's an instructive excerpt from his article where he uses the FDA as an example:
Consider pharmaceutical options. The Food and Drug Administration must approve a drug before Americans can legally use it. FDA bureaucrats, who are appointed by elected officials, determine whether the risk of each drug is low enough to justify its benefits.
But such a decision about appropriate risk is best left to each individual. I might have a greater tolerance for risk than you have. So even if you and I are diagnosed with the same disease, you might refuse to take a medication that I choose to take. Yet if the FDA decides that the drug is too risky, then I am denied the opportunity to potentially be cured using my treatment of choice.
Decisions on the use of different drugs are best left to each person. My choosing to use a drug does not oblige you to use it. But “The People's” decision — through a government bureaucracy — to prohibit the use of drugs that the majority of voters believe are too risky prevents those people who have greater tolerances for risk from using such drugs. Such an outcome is unjust. Why should I — with an unusually strong tolerance for risk — be denied the freedom to act on my preferences?
This unjust outcome, like many others, would be avoided if fewer decisions were made democratically and more were made individually.