A good read on Spectator Health this week, highlighting the mindset of health regulators – and how they collude with establishment interests to sabotage digital developments in their field. They may claim to be protecting the public, says the writer, but in fact they are ideologically opposed to free-market interventions into their cozy little cabal – despite Silicon Valley’s achievements in other sectors, and despite the potential benefits to us all.
The article concentrates on the wearable self-monitoring industry, which has rapidly advanced since the days of Fitbits. Now there’s a virtual physician called the ‘Lab-on-a-Chip’, with which you can be permanently ‘tagged’; it can warn you about symptoms of a host of serious conditions; and yet it’s facing stubborn resistance on its path to market from the US Food and Drug Administration.
It’s not a problem unique to Washington, though. In Australia, the authorities refuse to make a distinction between vaping and smoking because they want a war on nicotine rather than tobacco-burning. And around the world, a revolutionary new gizmo called the IQOS is being subjected to the same, controversial plain-packaging regulations as cigarettes despite being 60 times safer than burned tobacco.
This is opposition for its own sake. And in the end, it will no more halt the march of progress than Ned Ludd and the spinning-jenny-smashers did 200 years ago. State bodies may wish they controlled all human life; but as Jeremy Clarkson said the other day, if it had been left to the state to develop mobiles, we’d probably be at iPhone 3 by now.
One wonders if these bodies – from the World Health Organisation to Public Health England and beyond – get so busy because they know that much of their ‘work’ is redundant. They try and regulate a market such as tobacco – plain-packing everything, interfering in commerce – and what happens? Smoking rates decline slower than before and smuggling increases. They try to make rules about the sweetness of chocolate – just as Nestle discovers a way to achieve the same result with half the sugar…
Faced with the prospect of their P45s, it is obviously in the health lobbyists’ interests to obstruct innovation, and to demand ever more rules that they must charged with enforcing. As regards our own interests, we’d like a second opinion.