FDA recently issued a warning letter to 23andMe, ordering the company to stop offering its gene testing service pending further evaluations of the tests. Then a petition popped up at the website for the White House to require FDA to back off. The petitioners argue the agency “grossly overstates the risks” associated with the test, adding that consumers understand those risks.
I won’t pretend to know what specifically FDA objects to regarding validation of 23andMe’s tests, so I can’t say whether the agency is overreacting. Still, it’s not first time FDA has been accused of overreach, and won’t be the last.
One of FDA’s biggest PR problems has nothing to do with the agency’s past. The biggest problem might be all the things the federal government has done over the past couple of years that have provoked the American public. One of these is the shutdown showdown between the GOP-led House and the Obama administration, but perhaps more damaging is the NSA surveillance disclosures.
But let’s not forget the spying on journalists by the Department of Justice, the very selective review of conservative 501(c)(3) organizations by the IRS, and the Obama administration’s interpretation and re-interpretation of events in Benghazi. The coup de grace is President Obama’s promise that “you can keep your insurance” despite clear indications he knew better.
All this has fed an appetite for libertarianism like nothing any of us has ever seen, which might not be a bad thing. For instance, libertarian candidates are making a run at the city council for the District of Columbia of all places, and a range of publications are taking notice of a surge in voter identification with libertarian political viewpoints.
All this comes at a time when the usual foreign policy and security challenges are surfacing with regularity, including that mainland China is itching for a fight over the South China Sea. Those in government who feel they know better than the rest of us what’s good for us are not only guilty of supreme hubris, they’re also eroding confidence in government at a time when our security and foreign policy challenges still demand our government’s undistracted attention.
Otherwise, people will die needlessly again.
I recently had an online conversation with a relative who said most Americans are too stupid to know what they need and that hence the balance of power between the public and private sectors must shift toward the public sector to ensure our well-being. That’s precisely the paternalistic attitude behind government overreach. If the citizens who work in government don’t get over their you’re-stupid-I’m-smart approach to their jobs, they are going to destroy what little faith we as a people have left in government, as a recent poll demonstrated.
These self-appointed geniuses have the same DNA as everyone else and hence are prone to the same kinds of delusional thinking that plagues the rest of us. It’s just that these technocrats are in a position to bully the rest of us while hiding behind a wall of anonymity. And that’s the very thing that makes acronyms like NSA, IRS and FDA quite dangerous in the wrong hands.
And thus we have two times 23 more reasons we should be very careful about FDA, and indeed of all of government. I wonder if 23andMe can test for a gene for towering arrogance.