Removing Large and Unnecessary Costs Imposed Upon Medicine

Insofar as politics goes, I'm against it. Both in the sense of a support for market anarchism as a desirable form of society and in the sense that what we see in the political sphere of our increasingly centralized societies today is reprehensible and destructive. There is control for the sake of control, ever-greater burdens imposed on builders of new technology, and progress in medicine is slowed for the personal aggrandizement of bureaucrats and those who line their pockets. When power accumulates to any group in society, and that group stands unopposed by peers, then it inevitably becomes corrupt.

The cartel of modern politics as practiced in countries like the US is the source of large and unnecessary costs put upon progress in medical technology - and this is a big problem for those of us who want to live longer, healthier lives. We stand at the dawn of an age in which aging might be treated as a medical condition, in which therapies could be designed to slow or reverse aging. But medicine and medical research labor beneath heavy regulation: the modern guilds like the AMA that seek to reduce supply; the agencies like the FDA that have few incentives to approve new medicines, yet seek ever-greater authority over all forms of treatment; the regulation and nationalization of medical services and insurance that severs customers from prices, and replaces markets with central planning after the Soviet model.

From a practical standpoint people of my views, being a minority, can do little but think of the vast benefits that might be realized should the present political costs imposed on progress in medicine suddenly evaporate. There are few opportunities to do more than that - we paw at the glass and stare longingly at the products on the other side, as it were. Human societies follow certain paths, and most lead away from individual freedoms of the sort needed for rapid progress in technology. Sad but true.

On this theme, here is an essay that enumerates some of the politically-imposed burdens that greatly slow progress in modern medicine and other applications of life science research, written from a far more forgiving libertarian standpoint than my own:

Political Priorities for Achieving Indefinite Life Extension: A Libertarian Approach

While the achievement of radical human life extension is primarily a scientific and technical challenge, the political environment in which research takes place is extremely influential as to the rate of progress, as well as whether the research could even occur in the first place, and whether consumers could benefit from the fruits of such research in a sufficiently short timeframe. I, as a libertarian, do not see massive government funding of indefinite life extension as the solution - because of the numerous strings attached and the possibility of such funding distorting and even stalling the course of life-extension research by rendering it subject to pressures by anti-longevity special-interest constituencies.

Rather, my proposed solutions focus on liberating the market, competition, and consumer choice to achieve an unprecedented rapidity of progress in life-extension treatments. This is the fastest and most reliable way to ensure that people living today will benefit from these treatments and will not be among the last generations to perish. Here, I describe six major types of libertarian reforms that could greatly accelerate progress toward indefinite human life extension.

We can see a modest fraction of what might be achieved by stripping away regulation, guilds, and central planning by comparing progress in medicine over the past twenty years with progress in computing and software. Consider what computers and their role in everyday life would look like if it had always been the case that introducing a new machine or new software package meant spending years and $100 million to pass a bureaucratic one-size-fits-all process - and where radical new designs required a decade of expensive lobbying to be added to the list of what is permitted.

Yet this is exactly where things stand with medicine, at a time in which it is more important than it has ever been for progress to occur as rapidly as possible. A hundred thousand lives are lost every day to degenerative aging, and we might do something about that in the years ahead - but the therapies will emerge far more slowly than they would in a society that was more free and open than ours.


It's an unfortunate chicken-and-egg situation, because life-extension itself would probably improve the quality of people's political choices greatly. Instead we're stuck with the intellectually immature who are too heavily influenced by peer groups, popular opinion and upbringing on the one hand and a calcified elderly population that lacks mental adaptability and for whom a change of heart amounts to admitting having spent their lives in error on the other.

Posted by: José at November 23rd, 2012 7:31 PM

I absolutely agree. The engineering problems inherent in life extension are hard, the fundamental science problems harder still, but both of those problem sets pale in comparison to the regulatory hurdles that any life extension regimen will have to pass in order to be legally available in the Western World.

I'm personally hoping that other areas of the planet, like the Pearl River Delta or some of the African megapolises will step in to fill the need for safe, effective treatments when those become available.

Posted by: AMB at November 26th, 2012 11:52 AM

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