Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 at 02:21:16 PM EST
This story gets to the heart of the economic basis of our society - that we are all "rational" consumers:
An Update on Gardasil: Marketing Trumps Science - Billions Spent; Risks Remain Unknown
Just a short summary, if you don't want to read the link. Gardasil is a vaccine that protects against some kinds of cervical cancer. It is being widely promoted in countries that can afford to pay for the treatment, but not in poor countries. The facts should be of interest to all women (and those who have women in their lives). The evidence about its long-term benefits aren't known and its value from a cost-benefit perspective is open to question as well.
The "rational consumer" belief is that we will all make the best choices in our purchases and the aggregate of this demand in a "free market" will lead to optimal results.
However, in the real world we find that misinformation, unknown and unknowable facts, monopoly, corruption and propaganda can make it difficult, if not impossible, to decide what the best course of action should be. With such a lack of clear information how is one to be a "rational" consumer?
Things get especially bad when government becomes part of the corrupt enterprise by allowing the regulatory agencies and scientific studies to be influenced by the business interests they are supposed to monitor. This has gotten especially out of hand in the US, but this vaccine is being promoted in other developed countries as well. I don't know if EU authorities are any better are resisting corporate pressure.
Reagan got it almost right:
It's not that "government is the problem", it's that "corrupt government is the problem".
How to fix it is the big question.