Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Friday, April 29, 2011 :::

Megan McArdle looks at why we don't have better birth control pills. Some of the reasons are technical, some are economic, and some are regulatory (and, of course, all are interrelated).

She notes that
[w]hen I was younger, I thought of the pill as something nearly perfect--almost no side effects, almost 100% effective. I think a lot of young women view it the same way.
Arthur C. Clarke once noted that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I think the biggest difference - especially in medicine - is that magic is simpler. Magic (at least what I've read about) generally does exactly what is expected, which is generally something easily explained. At worst, the spell simply fails. If it has unexpected side effects, they are usually unexpected consequences of the expected consequences (e.g., the monkey's paw).

Medical technology is wonderful, but it isn't magic. If an FDA-approved pill exists that is supposed to alleviate or cure a problem you have, it likely will, but it won't leave you otherwise unchanged as a magic pill would, and most of the unintended consequences will generally be unwelcome (though not necessarily all of them).

As a (mostly) conservative, I assume that if the obvious effects of a major piece of legislation are, on net, roughly neutral, the actual effects will be, in the aggregate, negative. Not all change should be rejected, but unless a proposal has enough to recommend it to offset the risks that major change automatically entails, it's better to leave the old laws in place along with the schemes that people will have devised out to deal with their deficiencies. I operate under a similar rubric as a drug consumer.


::: posted by Steven at 8:15 PM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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