The Battle Continues

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I am happy to be able to support, in part, one of the claims that Matt Welch makes in his response to me. He accuses Rothbardians of “rhetorical bomb-throwing.” I am afraid that I have another bomb to throw. In a post on the Reason blog, the well-known science writer Ronald Bailey presents sympathetically the case for requiring FDA warning labels on homeopathic medicines. The reason for doing so is not that these medicines are dangerous. To the contrary, Bailey thinks that they have no physical effects at all; and consumers might need to be apprised of this. His post may be found here.

The rhetorical bomb I wish to throw is that this cannot be regarded as a libertarian view at all. As Mises long ago pointed out, the arguments for drug regulation would also permit regulation of free speech. “Is not the harm a man can inflict on his mind and soul even more disastrous than any bodily evils? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music?” (Human Action [Mises Institute, 1998], p.729.)

Gillespie and Welch say that libertarians believe that the government is less efficient than the market. In my response to Welch, I said that someone who accepted this view of efficiency could consistently allow a role for government regulation of the economy. Justin  Raimondo has pointed out that Welch himself in 2002 allowed a substantial role for the government. Raimondo’s comments may be found at 8.30.2011@9:25 PM here. One wonders to what extent his views have since that time changed.

2:01 pm on August 31, 2011