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The Power of Positive Drinking:

Wine makers are pleased that evidence demonstrating the health benefits of moderate wine consumption continues to mount. Yet, as the New York Times reports, wine makers can't tell you about it.

The industry has long been handcuffed by state and federal laws that discourage promoting the benefits of wine, with some of those restrictions dating back to the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. . .

"Yes, we'd all like to make hay of this, and we'll do what we can, but we are very constrained," said Michael Mondavi, founder and president of Folio Fine Wine Partners, a producer and importer of wines here.

As an industry that is closely regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Mr. Mondavi said, "it is blatantly against the law for any alcoholic beverage producers to make any health claim regardless of the facts or the accuracy."

"Until that regulation is changed or modified in some way so that we can talk about the positive health aspects that are proven," said Mr. Mondavi, the older son of famed winemaker Robert Mondavi, "we have to sit on our hands and wait for others to pick up the story."

Ann Althouse notes that winemakers have been reluctant to litigate in defense of positive wine labels or advertising.

Others have not been so passive. Several years ago, the Competitive Enterprise Institute sued the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms for its de facto ban on positive health claims about alcoholic beverages, arguing that consumers would benefit from learning more about the helath benefits of moderate consumption.. (See the details of their case here and here.) The case was dismissed as unripe, but I would not be surprised if CEI took another shot.

FantasiaWHT:
And it's sad that the makers of herbal supplements can claim whatever benefits for their product that they want.
11.26.2006 11:07am
Adam K:
The U.S. Government: forcing you to lie to and withhold facts from the public since...
11.26.2006 11:10am
Brett Bellmore:
What's sad about that? At least they had the guts to litigate to reclaim their first amendment rights... Establishing precidents that ought to make it a slam dunk for the alcohol industry, should they ever find the nerve to do the same.
11.26.2006 11:15am
whit:
fantasia, you are wrong. try reading DSHEA. they most definitely CANNOT make any claims they want.

DSHEA is one of the rare positive libertarian pieces of legislation (if libertarian legislation is not an oxymoron in the first piece) to come out of the federal govt.

and of course our nannystate govt. is going to put speech restrictions on alcohol producers, etc. the AMA, and MD's in general,have also conducted a campaign of lies (or at a minimum witholding the truth) wherein they have willingly withheld the positive benefits of alcohol (in moderation) to people because of the fear that people would use this as an excuse to overindulge.

iow, it is better to lie and/or withold the truth, than to tell the truth, because then SOME people might be more prone to abuse alcohol.

generally speaking, whenever the govt. does something to protect us from ourselves, it involves lying, and quite often a restriction of liberty. in this case, just a campaign of lies/witholding information.
11.26.2006 12:06pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
DSHEA is one of the rare positive libertarian pieces of legislation (if libertarian legislation is not an oxymoron in the first piece) to come out of the federal govt.

If "libertarian" means you can make all kinds of unsubstantiated and bogus claims and sell all kinds of unproven and even dangerous products just because they are "all-natural" (to which I say, "so is rattlesnake venom") to a bunch of rubes, then we are better off without libertarian legislation.

Do we really need to go over the list of "supplements" that have killed or caused serious health problems or just proved to be entirely worthless (St. John's Wort or any homeopathic remedy anyone) since DSHEA was passed.

Government license to dupe people is not something libertarians should be proud of.
11.26.2006 12:24pm
Brett Bellmore:
Establishing that a government agency not wanting you to say something doesn't make it "fraudulent" IS something we should be proud of, however.
11.26.2006 12:36pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Establishing that a government agency not wanting you to say something doesn't make it "fraudulent" IS something we should be proud of, however.

I have no idea what this sentence means. Regardless, "dietary supplement" manufacturers and their purveyors make all kinds of bogus, fraudulent, and unsubstantiated claims about their products. If you don't believe me, I've got a whole Junk email folder full of just such claims I can send you.

The biggest single one, of course, is the presumption the law gives them that just because they are "natural", they are not dangerous. That is the great con that somehow the industry managed to pull on the Congress.
11.26.2006 12:48pm
Brett Bellmore:
It means exactly what it says: The FDA's official position was that if a supplement manufacturer made a claim about a product that the FDA didn't authorize, it was fraud regardless of whether or not it happened to be true. Supplement manufacturers went to court, and in a landmark case established that the 1st amendment actually applied to regulatory agencies.

The fact that some people marketing supplements make fraudulent or ungrounded claims does not make establishing that suppliment manufacturers have a right to make non-fraudulent claims even if a government agency doesn't like them any less a victory.
11.26.2006 1:00pm
whit:
"If "libertarian" means you can make all kinds of unsubstantiated and bogus claims and "

again, you are just proving that you don't understand DSHEA.

ill repeat this one more time for you.

DSHEA places serious restrictions on the claims that can be made vis a vis dietary supplements.

DSHEA *is* a great piece of libertarian legislation.

nannystaters don't like it, nor do pharma companies.

congress also violated it (and was later overturned) and then did it again in regards to ephedrine.

generally speaking, libertarians believe that consumers should have greater choices and less govt. restrictions.

so, yes DSHEA is libertarian legislation
11.26.2006 1:03pm
whit:
"just proved to be entirely worthless "

oh, and it is also a libertarian concept that people should be allowed to choose (so called) worthless supplements.

it's called the BUYER's choice.

so what if a supp is (allegedly) worthless?

and again, *if* they make claims in regards to the supp's efficacy, that most definitely IS actionable under DSHEA, if their claims are false.
11.26.2006 1:06pm
Beerslurpy (mail) (www):
Wow, who'd have thought the ATF was capable of such injustice? I'm certainly glad the NY Times brought this to everyone's attention.
11.26.2006 1:08pm
Tom952 (mail):
Alcohol use costs society dearly in DUI automobile crashes, lost productivity, and illness caused by excessive alcohol consumption. It is prudent to restrain the industry from touting health benefits to encourage people to use alcohol.

A better target of criticism might me the AMA and the AHA. The leadership of these organizations knows and understands the potential health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, yet they maintain their official stance that physicians in the United States should never advocate it to patients. The physician could evaluate the risk to each patient before she decides to suggest medicinal alcohol, and provide some ongoing supervision and counseling.

But if a patient who starts drinking on the advice of a physician who is following the new liberal AMA/AHA guidelines causes a terrible automobile accident while drunk and kills people, then the physician, the AMA and the AHA might be sued...
11.26.2006 1:11pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
The fact that some people marketing supplements make fraudulent or ungrounded claims does not make establishing that suppliment manufacturers have a right to make non-fraudulent claims even if a government agency doesn't like them any less a victory.

No, but it does demonstrate why government regulation of commercial speech is necessary. Especially when it comes to medicine, it is almost impossible for the layman to separate the valid claims from the snake oil salesmen.

For example, you may not consider it "fraudulent" for a dietary supplement manufacturer to say that "clinical studies have shown such and such a product shortens the duration of colds". But my definition of "clinical study" is probably a lot stricter than yours and certainly a lot stricter than the manufacturer's. In my book, that ad is clearly fraudulent, as there is nothing on the face of the earth that is going to shorten the duration of a cold and there certainly ain't no valid "clinical studies", in the ordinary accepted medical usage of the phrase, to prove it. Yet such nonsense bombards the airwaves, print ads, and labels of all kinds of "dietary supplements".
11.26.2006 1:15pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
so what if a supp is (allegedly) worthless?

So what if the supp is dangerous and kills people. The buyer should beware. So what if the grocery store sells tainted meat. Each consumer should test their meat for bacteria. So what if my bank steals all my money from me. I should have been more careful picking a banker.
11.26.2006 1:19pm
whit:
"Alcohol use costs society dearly in DUI automobile crashes, lost productivity, and illness caused by excessive alcohol consumption. It is prudent to restrain the industry from touting health benefits to encourage people to use alcohol. "

false. alcohol ABUSE costs society dearly. lots of people use alcohol responsibly and have no cost whatsoever to society.

it is not prudent to "restrain an industry" from stating MEDICAL FACT because some people might use that medical fact as an excuse to abuse alcohol.

it's called personal responsibility.

so, what u are saying is that govt. has the authority to restrict industry from stating the TRUTH about the healthful benefits of moderate alcohol use in order to (as usual) protect us from ourselves. WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?

this is just as fascist (and wrong) as the govt. stating false information about drugs in order to deter use.

knowingly stating falsehoods for a "good cause" is still wrong/

prohibiting the dissemination of FACTS for a "good cause" (because some people might misuse those facts) is equally wrong.

again, more support for nannystatism, and especially in regards to free (and true speech) it never ceases to amaze me.
11.26.2006 1:21pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
oh, and it is also a libertarian concept that people should be allowed to choose (so called) worthless supplements.

This of course assumes the buyer knows the supplement is worthless. Otherwise you are not a libertarian, just a con man.
11.26.2006 1:21pm
whit:
worthless and dangerous are completly different things, so don't answer one question with another.

i notice the evasion

if you want to discuss the AER's in detail for allegedly dangerous supps authorized by DSHEA, then feel free.

but rhetoric and scare tactics don't serve your cause. you sound like a big pharma shill with their "ephedrine is evul (tm)" tagline, when in fact ephedrine is incredibly safe, effective, cheap and better than 99% of pharmaceutical Rx alternatives, which is why big pharma had such a rager to get it banned, with congress' help of course... "for the children"
11.26.2006 1:36pm
whit:
**oh, and it is also a libertarian concept that people should be allowed to choose (so called) worthless supplements.

*This of course assumes the buyer knows the supplement is worthless. Otherwise you are not a libertarian, just a con man.

no, it doesn't assume that at all. it's called personal liberty, and personal responsibility, which are inseperable. *i* am not selling this rubbish, but the idea that GOVERNMENT should be the arbiter of what is and isn't worthless, whether that be supplements, speech, or clothes is absurd.

the concept of liberty means people should be free to make bad decisions (and suffer the consequences) and if that means wasting money on worthless stuff than so be it.

there is still redress for fraud, and NOTHING in DSHEA prevents same.


but it most definitely does not ASSUME THE BUYER KNOWS THE SUPP IS WORTHLESS.

it leaves the locus of control in the BUYER's hands to determine what he thinks is or isn't worthless

as one example, the conventional medical establishment claimed

1) multivitamins and vitamin supps in general were worthless
2) that AAS did not cause muscle growth. it's all placebo
3) that nobody needs more than the RDA
4) that linus pauling is wrong, and vitamin c in megadoses has no benefit
5) completly ignored the benefits of omega fatty acids to a large extent

etc. etc. etc.

but consumers could and did decide otherwise that so called "worthless' supps were anything but

but i'm glad to know that there are plenty of nannystaters like you willing to believe that whatever the AMA and the govt. tells you is the gospel truth, and that the consumer can't ever make any decisions on his own
11.26.2006 1:41pm
whit:
"No, but it does demonstrate why government regulation of commercial speech is necessary. Especially when it comes to medicine"

AGAIN you prove your ignorance of DSHEA. dietary supps are not medicines. DSHEA draws a clear distinction between the two, one that you fail to grasp.

i could go into details, but you have already proven that you would rather spout rhetoric than actually research what DSHEA does and doesn't say, what it covers, etc.
11.26.2006 1:44pm
dearieme:
Would they be allowed to tell women that MODERATE wine drinking makes them more attractive to men?
11.26.2006 1:45pm
liberty (mail) (www):
"Would they be allowed to tell women that MODERATE wine drinking makes them more attractive to men?"

I think you mean:

"Would they be allowed to tell women that MODERATE wine drinking makes men more attractive?"

The person drinking isn't the one that becomes more attractive!
11.26.2006 2:00pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
AGAIN you prove your ignorance of DSHEA. dietary supps are not medicines. DSHEA draws a clear distinction between the two, one that you fail to grasp.

Oh I grasp the difference. Drugs have to be proven to be safe and effective and are strictly regulated for purity and assay. Dietary supplements can make claims based on shoddy research and studies and don't have to be proven safe or effective to make claims as long as they are made from natural ingredients. Nor are they regulated as to purity or assay. Most people who see a Zicam ad don't realize that it is a homeopathic (aka worthless) remedy and not a "drug" as defined by the FDA or that its claims are patently false and not clinically verifiable.
11.26.2006 2:11pm
Speaking The Obvious:
Potential Consumer: "I'm thinking of taking some herbal remedies I've heard might help my cold."

JFThomas: "Are you crazy? That hasn't been sanctioned by the FDA. So it might kill you. As opposed to drugs sanctioned by the FDA, which can never cause you any harm."

Potential Consumer: "Good point. But several friends have all tried this stuff and they personally tell me it helped them."

JFT: "That's just anecdotal evidence. Your friends really are no more experts in this field than you are. You simply can't trust them. Better to suffer those colds for another decade or two in the hopes some company is willing to spend millions of dollars to perform the tests necessary to get FDA approval, than to trust in the judgment of people you know whom you've found have a reputation of thoughtfulness and probity."

PC: "But my physician said it couldn't hurt..."

JFT: "He must be a quack if he thinks he knows more than the FDA."

PC: "How about if I just buy a small amount once and try it"

JFT: "Don't you understand? It could be poison!! Anything not approved by the government is potentially quite dangerous. Frankly I'm amazed the human race survived prior to 1906."

PC: "But if a product doesn't work to a customer's satisfaction, won't the company go out of business?"

JFT: "Nonsense. That's a libertarian myth. People keep buying things even when the products are no good. For example, fool that I am, I'm typing this on a QWERTY keyboard even though I *know* a Dvorak keyboard is better. Now please excuse me, as I have to get into my Edsel and go to the Blockbuster to pick up some Beta VCR tapes."

PC: "Well, thanks for setting me straight. From now on I'll remember that when it comes to issues of truth, there's no better source than the government."
11.26.2006 2:11pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
For example, fool that I am, I'm typing this on a QWERTY keyboard even though I *know* a Dvorak keyboard is better. Now please excuse me, as I have to get into my Edsel and go to the Blockbuster to pick up some Beta VCR tapes."

It's odd that you would use an example of two superior technologies that lost out, one because of a boneheaded marketing decision by Sony (Beta was undoubtedly a superior format to VHS) and the other because of the simple inertia of the market (people learned how to type on current keyboards and aren't about to learn a new layout even if it is better).
11.26.2006 2:17pm
whit:
speaking the truth, i gotta give u a hearty golf clap

i really can't compete with that sort of brilliance.
11.26.2006 2:18pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
"I'm thinking of taking some herbal remedies I've heard might help my cold."

Let's flash back to the mid-fifties.

Pregnant libertarian woman: "Doctor, I've got terrible morning sickness what can I do?"

Libertarian Doctor: "Well, there is this wonderful drug called thalidomide, but that damn interfering FDA won't approve it for use in the U.S. I have several friends in Europe who have used it and they swear by it. But that is just anecdotal (sneers and makes quote signs with his hands) evidence. That's not good enough for the FDA. We should just let people try it and let them decide whether it is a good drug."

LPW: "Yeah, let the market decide, that's what I say" (pukes on doctor's shoes).
11.26.2006 2:25pm
liberty (mail) (www):
"It's odd that you would use an example of two superior technologies"...

Would you prefer I take my Horse and Buggy to go get some laser disks from the 5 and dime?
11.26.2006 2:45pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
there is still redress for fraud, and NOTHING in DSHEA prevents same.

But considering what you apparently believe and your definition of what constitutes proof enough to make a claim of effectiveness, fraud would appear almost impossible to prove under your standard of proof (since you apparently believe that megadoses of Vitamin C do actually do you some good).
11.26.2006 2:58pm
Fub:
J. F. Thomas wrote:
Do we really need to go over the list of "supplements" that have killed or caused serious health problems or just proved to be entirely worthless (St. John's Wort or any homeopathic remedy anyone) since DSHEA was passed.
NIH says:
There is some scientific evidence that St. John's wort is useful for treating mild to moderate depression. However, two large studies, one sponsored by NCCAM, showed that the herb was no more effective than placebo in treating major depression of moderate severity.
That isn't "entirely worthless".

J. F. Thomas wrote:
Pregnant libertarian woman: "Doctor, I've got terrible morning sickness what can I do?"

Libertarian Doctor: "Well, there is this wonderful drug called thalidomide, but that damn interfering FDA won't approve it for use in the U.S. I have several friends in Europe who have used it and they swear by it. But that is just anecdotal (sneers and makes quote signs with his hands) evidence. That's not good enough for the FDA. We should just let people try it and let them decide whether it is a good drug."
Thalidomide's teratogenic effects make it properly contraindicated for pregnant women. But it is in fact useful in cancer therapy according to the National Cancer Institute.
11.26.2006 3:15pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
It's odd that you would use an example of two superior technologies that lost out, one because of a boneheaded marketing decision by Sony (Beta was undoubtedly a superior format to VHS) and the other because of the simple inertia of the market (people learned how to type on current keyboards and aren't about to learn a new layout even if it is better).
You're wrong on both counts. Dvorak isn't better, and neither was Beta. Beta was better quality, but at the expense of capacity. Consumers decided they cared more about the latter, regardless of what "experts" told them. It's an important lesson you should learn. "Better" is defined by the users of the product, who decide if they're getting what they want -- not by elites.

And supplement manufacturers aren't allowed to sell dangerous supplements under the DSHEA. The law simply puts the burden of proof where it properly belongs -- on the government.
11.26.2006 3:20pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Thalidomide's teratogenic effects make it properly contraindicated for pregnant women.

The point is that thalidomide was specifically prescribed in the fifties as a remedy for morning sickness. The evil FDA refused to approve it in the U.S., saving many women and children a lot of grief.

And supplement manufacturers aren't allowed to sell dangerous supplements under the DSHEA. The law simply puts the burden of proof where it properly belongs -- on the government.

So it is the government's duty to prove a product is dangerous? I thought you believed in personal responsibility. Shouldn't it be the responsibility of the person who wants to introduce something into the stream of commerce to ensure that it is safe before he offers it to the public. Or should he just make a cost-benefit analysis, "I can do this much testing, if problems show up later, it will cost me this much in lawsuits and liability", lets go for it".
11.26.2006 3:35pm
whit:
the fact is that thalidomide is not a DSHEA compliant dietary supplement, so the argument is absurd and non-factual. nobody is claiming FDA regulation and oversight is not a good thing. DSHEA is also a good thing. that you continually IGNORE the difference between dietary supplements and DRUGS is disingenuous or dishonest.

as for vitamin C, the point is (and this also holds for multivitamins IN general, essential fatty acid supplementation, AAS effectiveness, etc. etc. ) that the AMA , the FDA etc. was wrong on several counts, and it is the responsibility of the consumer to determine what he thinks is useful or isn't.

fwiw, there is extensive evidence NOW as to the effectiveness of doses MUCH higher than the RDA of Vitamin C for its potent anti-oxidant properties. feel free to do a pubmed search.

this is especially true for athletes and others who expose their bodies to higher oxidative stress.

the ORIGINAL point here is that people are defending the authority of the govt. to tell alcohol merchandisers that is ILLEGAL for them to relate FACTS about the benefits of alcohol to people, based on the nannystate principal that if people are told the truth (lord forbid) about the health effects of moderate alcohol use, that this might inspire some idjots to abuse alcohol.

iow, let's squelch free dissemination of scientific data out of the intent to protect idjots from possibly abusing alcohol.

that is so frigging fascist it is amazing.

that's like banning tasty fattening food because SOME people might abuse it.
oh wait. i remember. lots of people are all over that one too (rolls eyes)
11.26.2006 4:29pm
wow (mail) (www):
"The case was dismissed as unripe, but I would not be surprised if CEI took another shot." "unripe". "shot". You are one funny cracker, Mr. Adler. Unripe. Shot. I love it. LOVE it--it's a pun on wine. Ripe. Shot (well, shot is, like, hard liquor, but it's still, like, related, sort of). OK, this deserves a "You MY cracker! High five!"
11.26.2006 4:31pm
Fub:
J. F. Thomas wrote:
The point is that thalidomide was specifically prescribed in the fifties as a remedy for morning sickness. The evil FDA refused to approve it in the U.S., saving many women and children a lot of grief.
I think the point is that the FDA overreached by prohibiting it entirely, making American research to find its present use in cancer therapy more difficult. Merely prohibiting it for pregnant women, which was the only observed danger issue at the time, would have been sufficient.

So, yes, someone whose cancer might have been cured had thalidomide been legal (with big contraindication warnings for pregnant women) might appropriately think the FDA evil for its irrational and baseless overreaching.
11.26.2006 4:42pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Pretty much every positive experience in my life has happened drunk, including my conception, if I know my parents.
11.26.2006 4:47pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
that you continually IGNORE the difference between dietary supplements and DRUGS is disingenuous or dishonest.

I ignore the difference between "dietary supplements" and "drugs" not because it is disingenuous and dishonest but because it is disingenuous and dishonest to claim that just because something is "natural" or a "dietary supplement" it is presumptively safer than a "drug" (see my snark about rattlesnake venom). Yet the "dietary supplement" and homeopathic quakery industry somehow convinced Congress that this was indeed the case and the industry should not be regulated even though it was making medical claims and selling herbs that were every bit as powerful and capable as causing interactions and side effects as FDA regulated drugs.

As for vitamin C. It is a long way from saying the RDA is probably lower than it should be and saying that Linus Pauling (who was a brilliant chemist and humanitarian in his younger days, but something snapped in his brain and he turned into a crackpot and charlatan in his old age) was right. About the only benefit you gain from the Vitamin C levels Pauling advocated is Vitamin C enriched urine. Fortunately, unlike megadoses of some vitamins, taking too much vitamin C apparently only harms your pocketbook.
11.26.2006 4:53pm
John T. (mail):
I ignore the difference between "dietary supplements" and "drugs" not because it is disingenuous and dishonest but because it is disingenuous and dishonest to claim that just because something is "natural" or a "dietary supplement" it is presumptively safer than a "drug" (see my snark about rattlesnake venom).

This point is well-taken. However, I go from this that pharmaceutical manufacturers and wine producers should have the same freedom of speech as the "natural" snakeoil salesmen.

I don't take it as a refutation that you can point to possible problems of less regulation. Surely anyone can concede the regulation (or it lack) can have both positive and negative effects. It happens that most reputable scholars who have studied the FDA have conclude that it overregulates, that on net it costs lives and money by regulating too much. (This would be predicted by the idea that FDA mistakes from not enough regulation become incredibly famous, whereas the deaths from too much regulation are much less noticeable. Hence, a bias towards too much regulation.)
11.26.2006 5:38pm
Brett Bellmore:
I'm totally stonkered by the fact that the question of whether the government is entitled to prohibit people from making truthful statements isn't definatively settled by the following five words: "Congress shall make no law...". Which I note are NOT closely followed by, "unless money changes hands."
11.26.2006 6:42pm
Paul Allen:

It's odd that you would use an example of two superior technologies that lost out, one because of a boneheaded marketing decision by Sony (Beta was undoubtedly a superior format to VHS) and the other because of the simple inertia of the market (people learned how to type on current keyboards and aren't about to learn a new layout even if it is better).

It's funny that you insist on labeling those as superior. Yes they were superior against some standard, but bother were inferior relative to cost. The difference here is that the general publics definition of superior doesn't match your own. But this is precisely the problem with central-planning. The planner, planning committee, etc enforce a unitary definition of superior to which by compulsion of law we must all accept.

This is precisely what the FDA does. By requiring that all "drugs" meet the FDA's definition of superior--one optimization function is imposed upon all of us.

It is in that manner that "dietary supplements" are thankfully different. We can apply our own standards/optimization functions to determine whether the product is worthwhile to buy+use. And more importantly we can do so all the while ignoring your attempts to impose your standards on us.

Central planning is based on the arrogant assumption that there is a unitary right answer that an elite few should determine and impress upon the rest of us.

No thanks. I'll stick to evaluating things on my own terms. And while I might decide to ignore most herbal remedies, I'll keep taking my vitamins and eating ginger and wasabi with my sushi.
11.26.2006 8:15pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
whit said:


nobody is claiming FDA regulation and oversight is not a good thing.


I claim FDA regulation and oversight is not a good thing.
11.26.2006 10:36pm
professays (mail):
I reckon all these so called scientific researches discovering health benefits of moderate wine consumption are made to order the only side that benifits from wine or other alcoholic drinks consumption is manufactures.
11.27.2006 2:50am
Speaking the Obvious:
JFThomas satire: "For example, fool that I am, I'm typing this on a QWERTY keyboard even though I *know* a Dvorak keyboard is better. Now please excuse me, as I have to get into my Edsel and go to the Blockbuster to pick up some Beta VCR tapes."

JFThomas for real: "It's odd that you would use an example of two superior technologies that lost out, one because of a boneheaded marketing decision by Sony (Beta was undoubtedly a superior format to VHS) and the other because of the simple inertia of the market (people learned how to type on current keyboards and aren't about to learn a new layout even if it is better)."

----

JFThomas: The market is stupid. We can't trust market decisions to be rational. For example, I know Dvorak keyboards are better, but everyone uses QWERTY. Because of the sunk costs, and that's irrational.

Do YOU use QWERTY?

JFThomas: "Yes. I'm irrational too."

Do you teach your children to use a Dvoark keyboard before they've sunk those large costs into QWERTY?

JFThomas: "Uh, no. I, uh..., I just admitted to being irrational, you know."

If virtually everyone you know is using QWERTY and virtually no one you know is learning how to use Dvorak, despite the fact that learning to use a new keyboard is something you can do in a few months and a cost that can be amortized over your lifespan, and despite the fact you can order a Dvorak keyboard cheaply and in just a few minutes on the Internet, in what sense do you know that Dvorak keyboards are better?

JFThomas: "Well, I understand Dvorak did a lot of studies showing his keyboard, which he has patented and profits from promoting, is better."

Go over the part about how we can't trust studies on herbal supplements again...

It never ceases to amaze me the things some people insist on believing...
11.27.2006 4:04am
Speaking the Obvious:
By the way, and my apologies to Prof. Adler, but I'm going off on a slight tangent here with Mr. Thomas because the original point of Prof. Adler's blog--that businesses should have recognized first amendment rights to make true statements--seems so glaringly obvious as to not itself require much additional comment.
11.27.2006 4:07am
David M. Nieporent (www):
So it is the government's duty to prove a product is dangerous? I thought you believed in personal responsibility.
I do. In an ideal world, there wouldn't be an FDA at all. But the DSHEA regulatory scheme is a second best alternative. At least it doesn't involve people having to ask permission from the government before they live their lives. As the saying goes, the difference between a free society and an unfree one is that in the former, everything which isn't explicitly forbidden is allowed, while in the latter, everything which isn't explicitly allowed is forbidden. The FDA is based upon the latter philosophy, while the DSHEA is based upon the former.
Shouldn't it be the responsibility of the person who wants to introduce something into the stream of commerce to ensure that it is safe before he offers it to the public. Or should he just make a cost-benefit analysis, "I can do this much testing, if problems show up later, it will cost me this much in lawsuits and liability", lets go for it".
Of course people should do a cost-benefit analysis. No, it shouldn't be the responsibility of the person who wants to "introduce something into the stream of commerce" to ensure that it is safe. ("Safe" is not a scientific term, of course; each person has the right to decide for himself his personal safety threshold.) Moreover, you use a metaphor that obscures more than it reveals. When we introduce something into an actual stream -- say, we dump oil into a river -- it naturally is carried along by the current and affects everyone who uses the river downstream. But there is no "stream of commerce." When we introduce a product to the marketplace, nothing happens at all. It doesn't float into people's shopping carts or suddenly appear on their front lawns. People choose whether to buy it. You want to deny them that choice.
11.27.2006 4:46am
comatus (mail):
Know what else has a host of undocumented health benefits? Tobacco. When you are really ready to think about government-sponsored censorship of first-amendment ("commercial") speech, some time after you have cashed your last settlement share, just give that one a quick thalidomide think.

I recently got a cardiologist to admit (privately and off the record) that, all other things being equal in the professions, within ten years he would probably be prescribing cigarettes. Had tobacco growers not backed the Dixiecrats, Califano and his heirs would be milling around the Mall wearing sandwich-board signs.
11.27.2006 1:15pm