Prohibition doesn’t work (health care edition)

Normally when I say prohibition doesn’t work, I’m referring to current drug and alcohol laws which punish people who use responsibly and do nothing to stop the people who abuse or put others at risk. This time, however, I refer to a Missouri law (courtesy of the Baltimore Sun) that makes it illegal for a certified midwife to deliver babies. According to the article:

“A state lawmaker whose wife was aided by a midwife pushed through legislation this year that would allow midwives to practice freely in the state”

In round 1 of midwives vs. the medical establishment, the midwives won – the new law was passed and subsequently signed by current MO Governor Matt Blunt. But the medical establishment, who “argue that home births without physicians are perilous ventures”, couldn’t let it rest and fought to overturn the law. In round 2, the medical establishment won, and the law is currently awaiting its turn in front of the Missouri Supreme Court.

Do you really think the medical establishment (of which I will soon be a member) are arguing against this law because they believe home birth is “perilous”? No – they argue against it (or rather, a lobbying group that claims to represent their views argues against it) because it hurts their pocket books. Every woman who gives birth at home is a woman not paying for a hospital bed, nurse, obstetrician, anesthesiologist, laboratory technician, etc. And, surprise – most of them do just fine giving birth at home. It’s not like women have been giving birth without doctors for 200,000 years…oh wait…they have. I’m not saying there aren’t risks involved when giving birth at home – things can and will go wrong from time to time during labor and delivery. Mom can be hypertensive, baby can be breech or have the umbilical cord wrapped around, blood is lost – these may range from minor to very serious. They occur in the hospital setting as well, though in that setting there is a team in place to respond immediately (something which cannot be said about a home birth). Of course I would also argue that a lot of the procedures done in a hospital setting may put the mother at more risk than a natural birth (anesthesia always carries a risk, and cesarean sections are invasive and thus probably increase the risk of infection or serious bleeding).

Still, pregnant women are adults who can decide risks for themselves. It’s obviously very important to many of these women to give birth at home – not only are they choosing a midwife over a hospital physician, but they are willing to break the law and risk arrest in order to get what they want, and in the process are effectively creating a home-delivery black market. If these “medical establishment” groups really cared about the safety of the women, they would listen to their reasons for choosing a midwife or home-delivery, and they would try and compete:

“Kerr of suburban St. Louis said she had an easy time finding a midwife through friends. She said many women choose home births with midwives to limit hospital pressure to use drugs for pain or to have a Caesarean; to have a more intimate, controlled and personal birth; or because of religious beliefs that keep them away from hospitals. “

Hospitals are noisy and offer little privacy, and there probably is pressure from certain doctors to use drugs for pain even after the woman has made it clear she intends to go without. Bottom line – let the woman decide who she wants to deliver her baby, and in what manner she wants it done. The only time the law should intervene is if someone is masquerading as a health care provider – i.e. a person pretending to be a certified midwife or physician. These women are adults capable of making adult decisions, including evaluating the risks and benefits of each alternative. We should not force our values onto them, even if we strongly believe we are correct; we should not use the force of law to get these women back into hospitals (it hasn’t worked yet, and in fact only succeeded in creating an illegal market for midwives) – instead we should try and create alternatives within the hospital or physician setting in order win back their trust and create an environment where they would enjoy giving birth.

~ Lily


Santa God is Coming to Town

This is not the first time I’ve seen an article addressing the practice of some potential home sellers of calling upon god to help them sell their homes, but it is the first time I’ve read one all the way through.  My impression is that the Baltimore Sun does an excellent job of showcasing the absurdity of religious belief.  It could have been more explicit in condemning religion as a mechanism for allowing adults to indulge in childish behavior when confronted with serious choices, and it would have if H.L. Mencken were still around to write it, but it wasn’t an opinion piece, and honestly, the simple presentation of facts was enough to expose the actions for what they are: silly superstition.

If you’ve ever engaged in a serious debate with someone who claims to actually believe in god, you’ve probably encountered a whole slew of inane, but seemingly sophisticated arguments.  Committed religious people are uncommonly adept at dressing up ignorance in colorful language in the attempt to divert attention from the simple fact that they lack evidence to support their positions.  Talk of ontology, duality, and morality too often obscures the reality that for most people most of the time the belief in god is usually manifested as an unqualified extension of their childhood attachment to fantasy figures like Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.

Prayers are wish lists even more ineffectual than the ones we stuck in our stockings when we were five.  At least then you could count on your parents fishing them out and making an effort to if at all possible fulfill some of your desires.  As a grown up, if you want something, you have to work for it.  There is no other way of satisfying your wants, and to all those that say that burying St. Joseph statues and organizing furniture to channel energy is harmless, I respond that this is a world of scarce resources, with time and talent the scarcest among them and that this is a waste of both.

Finally, to Mrs. Statham, the real estate agent quoted in the piece as having “done everything possible within [her] realm of expertise to sell the house,” before going the route of the St. Joseph figurine, here’s a tip: lower the price.  There really are some invisible forces that act in our world, one of them, described by Adam Smith in 1776 as an “invisible hand” is supply and demand.  You may not be able to touch or taste it, but it’s not mysterious.  If you can’t find a buyer at the price your asking.  Lower the price until someone shows up.  I guarantee it will work.


Who would the world elect for US President?

Check out this link to find out (and vote for your favorite candidate). Once you cast your vote, it gives you a breakdown of votes by country – pretty cool.

Regarding “LEGOS and cyanide” (or if you prefer, “Aqua Dots and GHB”)

My response to Jamelle from the blog “The United States of Jamerica” (which, btw, I enjoy) regarding my own “cavalier” attitude toward government regulation:

First, let’s not pretend that the government doesn’t already regulate much of what goes into our bodies – they do regulate things such as the consumption of water (bottled water products, tap water) and the consumption of hamburger (ground beef) – in fact, they regulate almost everything that is sold on our shelves in one form or another. Some may find these regulations make them feel safer, but I don’t think most actually protect us from anything. In fact, I would argue that all they do is coax us into a false sense of security (as we can see by the mass panic that is induced everytime another “lead in toys” case is discovered).

I stand by my statement that every consumable good is potentially dangerous – anything ingested in a large enough dose is toxic, whether food or medicine. I don’t say this to downplay the dangers and rally for some regulatory “free-for-all”, but to point out that a universally “safe” level of regulation can never be achieved. It’s impossible – you cannot protect people from themselves in every possible situation. Sure, you can protect some, but every time our government expands in the name of “protection,” it always seems to restrict our personal liberty at the same time. That, is what I am opposed to.

Just because people aren’t capable of assessing the risk for themselves doesn’t mean the government has to be the one to step up and take care of it. I’m certainly not for keeping people in the dark, I just think that independent agencies tend to do a better job than government agencies. The government only has one guy looking at these toys coming into the US – hardly enough manpower to certify everything as “safe.” Instead of putting pressure on the government to fix our problems, we should put pressure on the companies that sell these products – they should be the ones making sure their products are safe, and if they aren’t you vote with your pocketbook (or sue if your child got really sick or died).

I would hazard to guess that the reason these companies aren’t more careful is because they don’t have to be – every time a kid gets sick we don’t point the finger at the company, but instead at our federal government who once again failed to save us. Obviously these companies are responding by pulling the toys off the shelves (or recalling Salmonella-tainted food, for example…contrary to popular belief they don’t actually enjoy injuring their customers) – if you want them to do more, then you need to put the pressure on them (and be willing to pay a little extra for a product). Or, you can continue to believe that our government is capable of providing a cost-effective means of analyzing and certifying everything that crosses our borders…a dangerous delusion far too many already accept.

Also, not to downplay the drug-laced “bindeez” aka “aqua dots,” but only a few kids have died, and only a handful more have gotten sick. Far more kids get sick every year from the lead paint in their homes, and far more kids around the world get sick and die from unsafe drinking water…but instead our country panics about this (it seems nothing more than a distraction from that which poses much greater risks).


Just what we need, more FDA regulations

Via the NY Times comes word that Senator Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) and Representatives Henry A. Waxman (California) and Tom Allen (Maine) have introduced a proposal that “would give the Food and Drug Administration power to quickly ban marketing of over-the-counter products linked to potential safety risks.” I tried to do a bill search to find more details (the article is very brief) but had no luck.

Sometimes I feel that if the FDA (or perhaps the lawmakers that keep pushing to expand its power) had their way, you would have to get their permission before putting anything into your body (although that’s basically the point we’re at today). The lawmakers don’t want to quickly ban marketing for OTC products that are dangerous, but rather those that are potentially dangerous. Everything is potentially dangerous (seriously…everything) – you can drink too much water and die. Consider the woman who died earlier this year while participating in the radio contest “Hold your wee for a Wii.” Why should some panel of officials get to decide what is potentially dangerous or not? Sure, many of them are doctors, but that doesn’t make them experts in everything – the risk vs. benefit of any drug or product is going to vary by individual. This is not a “one size fits all” situation, and it shouldn’t be legislated that way. Perhaps one day we will have FDA officials on every corner to hold our hand as we cross the street…it is potentially dangerous, after all.

On a complete tangent, while searching through bills relating to the FDA I came across this gem – “The Domestic Pet Turtle Market Access Act of 2007” (S.540.IS). The bill is attempting to give a little power back to citizens who wish to purchase pet turtles less than 10.2cm in diameter. Glad to see our Congressman are working hard for the things that really matter in life.

Source – NY Times “Proposal Gives More Power to FDA


Ideas are Bulletproof

For those that don’t know that’s one of the tag lines from Alan Moore’s graphic novel V for Vendetta. An exciting corollary evinced by such organizations as Microsoft, Apple, Google, and now the presidential campaign of Ron Paul is that ideas can also be very lucrative. The New York Times is reporting that Paul supporters raised over $4 million yesterday by employing the message of limited government and extensive personal liberty contained in Moore’s work. Go Ron Paul.

Anti-Choice School Club Demonstrates Need for School Choice

The Washington Post reports on a Virginia teen’s recent court victory allowing her to establish an anti-abortion club at her local public high school.  Rather than focus on the abortion rights aspect of the case (I believe abortion should be legal), I would instead call attention to the absurdity of this lawsuit’s existence.  I completely support Stephanie Hoffmeier’s rights to say whatever she likes and to form a group to help disseminate her views.  I do, however, object to being forced to help fund a message I disagree with, which as long as the club utilizes school facilities, I am being forced to do.  Private initiative is fully capable of supporting and sustaining a diverse culture with a multitude of contrasting and conflicting opinions.  In fact, homogeneity in public opinion usually requires government coercion to be achieved.  Lawsuits like this, while justified under the current system, are expensive and would be completely unnecessary under a system of private education.  It is my belief that society would be much better off with more freedom and more money.  Call me crazy.

Nurses Also Apparently in Short Supply

How do you solve problems caused by state intervention?  Well, if you ask the Baltimore Sun, the answer is more intervention: “Without intervention, Maryland would be short 10,000 nurses in 10 years, just as the population of aging baby boomers requires more medical care, according to the Maryland Hospital Association.”  There are plans in the works to increase the number of available spaces at Maryland nursing schools in the coming years to help fill the gaps.  Of course, those plans will cost money, money that the schools would like the taxpayers to provide to the tune of almost $40 million.  Lily has already done an excellent job of detailing how shortages in the health care professions are created by state licensing requirements and scope of practice restrictions, so if you’re interested, you should definitely check out her post below.  This is yet another example of an artificial crisis being used to justify expanded state interference.  If the concern is really to supply the necessary number of nurses, the answer is to eliminate governmentally sanctioned obstacles to the operation of the free market.