Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bird flu and limited government

I have yet to see a single article, post, or statement as to how, in a minimalist-government country, the people are to be protected from major disease outbreaks, which in the financially dichotomous and overpopulated world we live in are a given. The Turkish government is currently straining to keep bird flu from spreading, and indeed, at first glance, it would seem that if even entities as large as governments can barely keep up, people in minimally governed areas would be screwed. But that's not necessarily the case. Like computer viruses, you're less likely to contract a communicable disease if fewer people around you have it. (Thus, when companies such as Grisoft distribute excellent free antivirus software, they're benefiting themselves and the rest of the world.) In an environment where a certain disease outbreak seems imminent, companies, unhindered by years' worth of FDA regulations or the equivalent, could make vaccines or treatments quickly and sell them. Organizations would vaccinate those who they have a vested interest in (which in a modern society includes everyone) - private schools children, companies workers, etc. Since the treatment/vaccine would be so much cheaper (as a function of not having to pay for FDA crap), it would be available to far more people as well.

Undoubtedly some unethical (and stupid) folks would try to sell fake medicines. But it is also certain that companies or groups such as Underwriters Laboraties will test purported treatments; such testing would be beneficial to both customers and honest sellers.

Of course, such a system could not work for diseases without treatments, which though less and less likely to cause a major outbreak today (due to our increasing knowledge of disease) is still a frightening possibility. But in a nation where just about everything is privately owned, landowners would not allow potentially infected people to flee through their land and airlines would not take potentially infected passengers, creating effective quarantine zones.


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