37 votes

Do Libertarians want to eliminate the FDA?

A friend asked me how I felt about the government's role in controlling trans fats, arsenic, and other types of addictive drugs in foods. I try my best to represent the liberty movement well, so when he was asking me about who would then regulate poisons in our food, I told him that we should all have the liberty to ingest and do whatever we want with our bodies, such as smoking marijuana. And that companies would go bankrupt and lose millions of customers if they intentionally put poison in their drinks, just as people would start drifting away from Toyota if they kept intentionally cutting the brakes off of their fresh cars.

Even I'm not sure where I stand on this issue after I said that, and I think my position is kind of weak. Don't we kind of need some food regulation bureaucracy to check out the foods and drugs before it goes on the market? Because in real life, Americans do not have any time to research about everything they're eating, so they assume everything at the grocery store is safe. So it would take years for people to realize that a given product is extremely toxic and detrimental to the health. Thanks!

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The FDA never had, has none now, and, until its bitter end, will never attain it. Why? So many deaths attributable to its "seal of approval."

There are plenty of

There are plenty of independent agencies who make money doing detailed safety reviews or chemical analysis. We also live in the age of individual consumer reviews that are easy to find and post (amazon, trip advisor, yelp). When the govt regulates, the big businesses win. If one values freedom, democracy, or diversity, and actually, safety, one should reject regulatory agencies such as the FDA, EPA, TSA, etc...

The FDA is used by big pharma to kill competition.

The FDA forced processors of red yeast rice to remove the natural statin to help big pharma. I used red yeast rice for years to lower my cholesterol as did many others WITHOUT A SINGLE REPORT OF DANGEROUS SIDE EFFECTS. Yet people die of liver damage every year from synthetic statin drugs.

The FDA is more trouble than it is worth. Look at some of the reports of how the FDA covered up contaminated food over the years; yet "food contamination" was the original justification for the FDA.

The easy response to this tactic is "regulatory capture."

This is the phenomenon whereby a business sector, realizing it is going to be regulated, or already being regulated, makes sure that the laws regulating it are written by themselves, (as a show of taking responsibility) and invariably, Congress and the President appoint industry executives to these very boards.

Thus, former executives from Monsanto and Archer-Daniels-Midland - the worst offenders for crap in our food and crappy food itself, sit on the USDA, while former executives from Phizer and Merck sit on the FDA, and so on and so on.

All the while, the laws that they enforce, the regulations they craft to "interpret" the laws, are all written and controlled by the very corporations they are regulating.

These laws and regulations, end up marginally "keeping us safe" but usually giving leeway and latitude to pollute and alduterate, and worst of all, are designed to be so expensive to comply with, that small businesses and upstarts in the industry can't gain a foot hold to challenge the dominate market share of these mega corps that sit on these boards.

Thus, effectively, we have fascism - where corporations control government and small business and consumers are given the big hard shaft with no lube.

The best way to "protect" consumers is with independent agencies and consumer advocacy and testing groups that spread critical information about products so consumers can make up their own minds. As well, if real competition is possible, someone will offer the better and safer products and people will vote with their wallets and put the "bad guys" out of business.

But if competition is stifled through nanny-state regulation - you end up protecting and entrenching exactly what the regulation is supposed to protect you from, and you are left with NO OTHER OPTION but their bad or dangerous products.

Kosher labeling

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but it's my understanding that kosher labeling, such as the U-in-a-circle symbol you see on some foods (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_of_Orthodox_Congregations) is an example of entirely non-government labeling. It's significant too that it's a kind of labeling that couldn't be achieved by an independent Consumer Reports kind of organization, because you can't tell whether the ingredients and preparation meet kosher requirements by analyzing the final product. It requires the cooperation of the manufacturer in allowing inspection and verification throughout the manufacturing process. Companies do it because there's sufficient consumer demand to justify it.

If there were sufficient consumer demand, there's no reason a private organization couldn't do similar things to label food regarding nutrition, safe handling, non-GMO ingredients, whatever consumers care about enough to demand. Some things such as nutritional analysis could be done by random purchases and lab analysis, other things would require inspection and verification of the sourcing and handling of ingredients, much like kosher labeling. But there's no reason at all that it couldn't be done without government intervention (except for protection of the trademarks) the way kosher labeling is done.

Not only does the FDA not do a great job, it creates the expectation that food safety issues will be taken care of without consumers needing to demand anything. It also makes decisions about what needs to be labeled in one way, rather than allowing consumers to have different preferences and concerns, and worse, some of the decisions are politically tainted. So yeah, the transition might be difficult but in the long run we'd be better off without the FDA.

Yes, the several kosher

Yes, the several kosher labelings are certified by private organizations. The government only intervenes to prohibit false labeling - essentially protecting a trademark, though the law involved is separate. I understand similar protection has recently been added for the equivalent Islamic certification "Hilal".

When the Pure Food and Drugs act was being debated I understand that the consensus of Congress was that if the resulting bureaucracy delayed useful new drugs by more than six months it would be counterproductive. Unfortunately the incentive structure is to continually raise the bar: The damage from a Thalidomide is very visible (and career killing), while the suffering and deaths from a delayed approval are not.

Or at least they're not visible until you see things like Wall Street Journal headlines saying "100,000 Dead". This was on an article on the toll from the approval delay of ONE additional use of ONE already approved drug: Using beta blockers to prevent secondary heart attacks. The research showing it was safe and effective was performed in Europe and the use approved there. The FDA would not accept the foreign research and approval was held up for about a decade while the work was repeated in the US. The number in the headline was actually understated: If you read the article you see that the number of excess dead was more like 400,000.

IMHO the right thing is for FDA approval to be voluntary and advisory. Medical insurance companies might, for instance, chose to only pay for drugs with FDA approval (and risk loss of customers to other carriers who are less restrictive). At that point you'd expect to get organizations like Underwriters' Laboratories doing their own drug approvals - along with a number of other, more specialized organizations with different axes to grind. Of course people could chose to go with unapproved drugs, and those with rare diseasess, diseases difficult to treat with approved medications, or syndromes treatable with out-of-patent drugs (like DMSO) might do so as a matter of course.

Tying this in with legalization of all drugs, including recreational, performance-enhancing, and experimental life-extending drugs, would be synergistic.

Note that continuing the current regulatory regime while instituting a government single-payer system such as Obamacare produces an incentive structure that will essentially halt all work on life extending drugs and treatments. Bureaucrats would expect any treatment that extends life to worsen the financial burden on the already groaning system, so the obvious decision would be to withhold research funds for such drugs and treatments, approval for their use, and payment for their delivery. (Once the two-legged cattle are beyond the age where they can be milked, it's time for them to die off peacefully to make room for a fresher herd.)

= = = =
"Obama’s Economists: ‘Stimulus’ Has Cost $278,000 per Job."

That means: For each job "created or saved" about five were destroyed.


The problem I see with regulation is that as soon as you do it it lets cronies dictate what is edible (when it may be harmful to your health) preventing the courts from suing if harm is done or is likely to because the government says it is safe "enough".

It doesn't prevent anyone from using harmful products as they can still get through so there isn't much of a point to having the FDA.

If you we're open to sue then companies would think twice about a lot of the things they currently use because they wouldn't have the governments "protection".

Wait that sounds like a mob protection racket now lol

It also gives consumers a false sense of security when they feel protected by "government" and they let things slide. They think if gov approves "it then must be safe" when going by history isn't always the case.

VERY good question Phaminem

I would consider the FDA necessary to enforce proper labeling of products, so that consumers may make an informed choice, based on ALL the available data at hand.

Standardized across-the-board labeling of food and beverage products makes an equal playing field for companies, and encourages healthy competition. Ingredients lists should be in larger type, easy to read and easy to find on all products.

The drug industry is a complex marketplace, and is one of the few areas of commercial production which I believe requires regulation.

I think there are core aspects of the FDA which would have to remain in place. Unlike the department of education, there are vital components of the FDA which can't be put to the individual state, as it would create a regulatory nightmare for companies and I don't think anyone would want to see that.

"it would create a regulatory nightmare for companies"

...a good way to avoid the problem of a "regulatory nightmare" is to get rid of all the regulations. ; )

"Alas! I believe in the virtue of birds. And it only takes a feather for me to die laughing."

Cyril's picture

The Optimum Set of Regulations

The Optimum Set of "Regulations" is well known already :


... as it even fits on a single sheet of paper and can be understood by anybody, any time, anywhere, including by teenagers AND EVEN... by lawmen, lawyers and judges.

The rest is only a question of good will and honesty to remember about it and of staying faithful to it, really.


"Cyril" pronounced "see real". I code stuff.


"To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." -- Confucius

I meant rather

That individual states each having a different regulation regarding labeling would be difficult for companies to follow.

A federal level, clearly stated regulation on clear labeling for the consumer is not an onerous or 'red tape' regulation, just a clear path for on-the-level healthy competition, which is what we all want.

I am a libertarian, not an anarchist. Small government does not mean no government.

Your reasoning is what the

Your reasoning is what the big food companies say.

Small farmers and food companies don't distribute to 50 states. We are much better off with local foods for a number of reasons, not the least of which is safety. Massive ecoli contamination for a government-favored big food company? Affects just about everyone. Small farm in Wisconsin has a problem, affects a very small portion of the populace.

Monocultures are dangerous -- biologically, economically, educationally, etc...

I understand your position...

...and I disagree. A labeling regulation is not necessary to protect consumers, if consumers demand labeling companies will label, or if consumers demand that information otherwise, it will be provided by third parties ala Consumer Reports. That goes for State and federal regulation.

Moreover, the argument that federal regulation is necessary to prevent conflicting State regulations could be used to justify federal intervention in anything. As I say, I don't want any food and drug regulation at all, but if we must have some, I prefer it at the State level. I'll take a little regulatory confusion over more power for the federal government any day of the week.

"Alas! I believe in the virtue of birds. And it only takes a feather for me to die laughing."

Unintended Consequences

You talking about the broken window fallacy that businesses will get rich by making bad products so you'll spend money and thus buy more from them; helping the economy. what you are focusing on is what is seen, but not what is unseen.

Minimum Wages are a perfect example of this. Without government wouldn't workers get a bad salary from businesses making it cost of living harder on people? what is Unseen is the damage it does to BOTH businesses AND workers. http://youtu.be/Ct1Moeaa-W8

In any case I used to work at a pharmacy, and let me tell you they are no different than legal drug dealers. They want you to stop taking YOUR drugs, and start taking THEIR drugs. #1 drug prescription on the market nationally are Narcotics and Painkillers.

His name is Edward Snowden

What is Capitalism?

I have the perfect answer for any statist

Never tell a statist that you want to abolish a government agency... It scares them to death.

Ask a statist if they agree that monopolies are bad... The statist will always say "YES". So why is it good in government?

The best solution is to promote competition in all walks of life and the only way to do it is to remove monopoly powers.

Ok, so all us freedom lovers are advocating is for freedom of choice. Period. Who could be against that?!?

Take away the FDA's monopoly power over our food and drugs and allow people to choose whether they want to ingest food and drugs that are FDA approved, approved by a wide variety of private organizations or not approved at all.

The consumers will decide and the marketplace will provide.

But when you think of all the poisons the FDA approves that are in our food and drugs, it's obvious that if they lost their monopoly power and there was competition in the food and drug testing sector, the FDA would fade away really fast.

In time, the marketplace will give us the best service at the lowest price...Not to mention that people would become much healthier and more conscious about what they eat. It's a win-win.

Bottom line: We don't need to abolish any government agency (including the Federal Reserve)... Just remove it's monopoly power, allow open competition and watch the government agency become completely unneeded and disappear.

Not if they did their job,

but they are so corrupt, they are a danger to human health.


Yup they are the puppets of big pharma. I am a vaper which means I use an ecig, the FDA is doing everything they can to snuff us out, we have fought any gotten lucky so far but they are still fighting to force us to use a nic patch instead of an ecig. Some guy on the ecig forum is telling everyone that we must vote Romney if we want to save the industry and it makes me sick. I think he actually believes that Romney is a small government guy lol.

Correction - they aren't puppets of Big Pharma


Look at the resumés of those on the FDA.

Then tell me who is pulling who's strings.

They wont give up even under the milk toast Romney.


Even without federal

Even without federal regulatory agencies, that doesn't protect a business or person from prosecution or civil suits. For example, there is no specific regulation saying I'm not allowed to open a lemonade stand and use arsenic for one of the ingredients, but that doesn't necessarily mean I wouldn't be prosecuted and spend the rest of my life in prison if I did sell lemonade containing arsenic.

Its probably 50-50

which begs the question "Are most libertarians fake?"

This video post sums it up.


Protect your assets and profit from the greatest wealth transfer in history.

Actually a market would spring up of organizations

that would put their stamp on products saying they are safe. Unlike the FDA who is owned by Big Pharma and Food Inc, they wouldn't have a monopoly on saying what's safe and what's not, so they would have to compete with other organizations that are also in the business of protecting consumers. In this set up the incentives would be to actually say whats safe instead of tricking people into thinking certain things are safe, like pink slime and vicodin, while others aren't, like raw milk and natural supplements... see what the fda is giving us...

It would actually work very well, since all our bodies are different and react differently to different chemicals, you would be able to find the organization that works best for you.

Get rid of it.

When the billionaires, multimillionaires, and corporate executives become anarchists and the well informed libertarian become statists I will believe that the FDA or any other of the alphabet soup agencies help the average person.

tasmlab's picture

Yes, here's a couple of arguments

Not comprehensive, but here's a couple nuggets:

- The FDA is one of the most visible crony organizations available, and even lefty supporters will still find great ire with the name 'Monsanto' and confess that, even if the intent of the organization is good, it has been horribly corrupted.

- Point to (as one poster did) that people DO have time to research their foods, so much so that there are entire movements around food freedom, ending GMOs, obsessing over labels, reputations.

- People LOVE non-FDA food, seek it out, and pay more for it. In my neck of the woods people delight in buying an entire or half a butchered cow from a local farm they know about. They love farm stands and crop share programs. They love it when their neighbors give them extra tomatoes and squash from their gardens. Or eggs from their chickens. Some people find great joy in gardening themselves and see no reason for a government body to check out their practices!!


Currently consuming: Gatto: "Underground history of education..", FDR; Wii U; NEP Football

Yes, move beyond government.


never heard gary johnson talk about it

so much as a fart, oh right, you will hate this when i say it--"in great contrast to RP who says it in presidential debates in front of tens of millions--in multiple debates"

so i'm not sure, ask the LP. chances are 40% of them would think you're nuts for even asking this question.

i am sure the person downvoted me went busy searching for reference to refute me afterwards, but the fact there is no response being left should say as much.

business vs bureaucracy

Consumer Reports and United Laboratories (UL) are both private sector (non-government) businesses whose reputation depends on them providing the public with reliable information regarding the performance, value, and safety of consumer goods and services. Accountable protection of consumers earns money and provides jobs in this manner, whereas government agencies spend money to police consumer safety often with little or no accountability for errors, thus errors become repeated and routine.

If you really want to sharpen your understanding of the subject, I would recommend checking out some of Dr. Mary Ruwart's interviews and writings concerning the FDA, pharmacuetical industry, 1962 Kefauver Harris Amendment, etc. Take notes and do background research on the things she talks about and I think you'll come to the same conclusion that most libertarians have on this issue - the FDA kills.

As for "years to discover poison products", consider it takes 10 years for the FDA to get products that cure onto the market. So if you think about it the dilemma is "years to discover a killer" vs "years to discover a life saver".

To get to your point

It comes down to states’ rights. You see, there are a lot of "libertarians" that arrived to their conclusions emotionally, which is why we hate the fed res. and the EPA and the FDA, but in their righteous blasting of these organizations most miss the fact that regulations are needed, and are relevant, just not at the federal level. Libertarians would advocate for a county or state version of the FDA, EPA and such. I hope that helps.

You just got PAULED!

Technically, they wouldn't.

You're confusing libertarians with constitutionalists. Often there's overlap, but libertarians oppose coercive behavior at all tiers of government.

Are you kidding?

Oh ok, so Thomas Jefferson would be against having counties or states compete to provide the most efficient productive and pro liberty form of the EPA? You guys need to look into this stuff a little further, the idea that a man could put a product in a store, which is not verified to be safe for consumption is pretty ridiculous and silly. Buying from a private individual, that is different than placing products for babies to eat in a store. You could do this or use civilian regulation such as law suits, but at that point your baby is already sick. Please, anybody, give me ONE reason why the "county EPA" would be a "corrosive" form of government. The EPA sucks because it is run like a monopoly, if the free market was incorporated the “county EPA” would most likely hear no cries of foul play by libertarians.

You just got PAULED!