Watching the rise of the Tea Party movement these last couple of years, the place where their argument against big government really falls apart comes over the need for regulations in a free-market capitalist system. A couple of things that week in particular drove home that idea. The first was watching Tea Party icon Sen. Rand Paul hawking his new book and stating his case with Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" earlier this week. Paul tried to make the argument that all regulation is bad regulation -- but he couldn't.
Now, the most important thing to keep in mind here is how Paul keeps repeating the refrain that "things are a lot better now" for the environment than they were in the 60s and before, but he fails to acknowledge that this is almost exclusively thanks to the implementation of a series of powerful environmental laws: The Clean Water Act, the creation of the EPA, and the Clean Air Act.
Holding corporations accountable to the standards they created has forced them to pollute less and run cleaner operations -- the American business community didn't just uniformly decide to clean up their ways for the betterment of the public (despite what they may want you to think). It was years of holding corporations' feet to the fire, the promise of expensive and irritating lawsuits, and the potential of punitive fines that got them to green up their acts -- not a change of heart.
So the amount of regulation we have now is just right...right? Not really. I literally had just finished watching the Stewart-Paul showdown when I got an email from a good friend who's a political and PR consultant doing some work with a Texas attorney named Ed Blizzard, a guy who's made a career filing lawsuits against Big Pharma because just like the polluters, the drug companies "didn't just uniformly decide to clean up their ways for the betterment of the public."
The latest outrage from this attorney's file: Thousands of patients who received toxic hip replacements -- infecting patients, incredibly, with toxins like chromium, the same cancer-caujsing substance at the heart of the movie "Erin Brockavich." They were manufactured by DePuy Orthopaedics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson a few miles up U.S. 1 from here in New Brunswick, N.J. DePuy has already recalled 93,000 of the devices and the president of the subsidiary has resigned -- but none of this had to happen:
The brief and troubled life of DePuy’s A.S.R. hip points to a medical implant system that is piecemeal and broken on many fronts, critics say. Unlike new drugs, many of which go through a series of clinical trials before receiving approval from the Food and Drug Administration, critical implants can be sold without such testing if a device, like an artificial hip, resembles an implant already approved and used on patients.
An internal agency review released several months ago found numerous flaws with the process, and the F.D.A. is proposing changes to it. To win agency permission to market the A.S.R. in the United States, DePuy never had to perform any patient testing of it. Agency officials said the company cited clinical data it had used five years earlier to win F.D.A. approval to sell another all-metal hip implant called the Ultima. The Ultima, however, used a cup that had a totally different design than the one used with the A.S.R.
Nevermind that in Rand Paul's tea-baked vision for the U.S. of A., the FDA is the vanguard of a freedom-squashing big government. Look, all regulations aren't created equally -- some of them (like making businesses file a 1099 for expenses over $600, for example) really are intrusive or just plain stupid, but in many areas adult supervision is needed to prevent the kind of abuses that can actually kill. In Rand Paul's America, we move toward the sunlight of freedom with a pronounced limp.