Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Conservatives? Part II

As a follow up to my last post, here was my comment to Stossel's article:

Missing the point
Many of the commentators here seem to be missing the point-

All drugs are potentially dangerous, and all drugs can have side effects. The real question is one of risk, and who should make these decisions about risk- The FDA? Juries? Or individuals?

Let's make this simple to understand. For example, let's say someone discovers a drug that cures AIDS. Let's say the drug is 80-90 % successful in curing AIDS over a several year period, however, in 4-8% of all cases, the drug causes death within a matter of weeks.

Are these acceptable risks? You may ask yourself, "how should I know?" which would be a reasonable response. The truth is, the acceptability of these risks depend on your personal feelings about risk. When the FDA decides on what drugs to approve, they are setting this risk threshold for us. When juries award these large verdicts they are setting a different risk threshold with every single verdict, which can make it quite difficult to do business- And this is exactly Stosell's point- because different juries do not apply the same standards of risk assessment, drug companies can become worried about releasing potentially life saving (or just plain helpful) drugs in the first place.

Obviously, the real world is not as straight forward as the example I laid out above, but the principles are the same-

Who should make these decisions about what we put into our bodies- The FDA, based on an arbitrary scale of risk- Juries utilizing ever changing scales of risk- Or ourselves, the individuals, making decisions about risk in regards to our own bodies

My point in commentating was to redirect the odd nature the comment thread had been taking. That didn't work as I was ignored. (Again, is it any wonder I'm so lonely?)

But to expand upon the question I posed below, is this the sort of theory (my theory above) that the rank-and-file of modern conservatives believe in? Do individual rights and individual freedom form the undercurrent of conservatism today, or has such a philosophical grounding been pushed aside by a Coulter-esque mix of a hawkish foreign policy and liberal bashing?

Obviously, one should be careful about painting any sort of movement with such a broad brush, but one would hope for a similar ideological base in any political movement.

On a purely personal note, the lonely libertarian has generally felt more at home with conservatives than liberals- that even when I disagreed with conservatives, we were both grounded in a similar ideological base. My real introduction to "all this political stuff" came courtesy of two vastly different political mouthpieces, the band Rage Against the Machine, and talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Given the differences there, the similarity of their messages can be surprising. (Both would argue for skepticism of government and both would argue strongly for individual rights.) Overtime, my infatuation with Rage lessened as I realized the false distinction between "personal" and "economic" freedom. I disagreed with Rush on any number of topics, but felt that such disagreements stemmed from a question of drawing the line between society and anarchy, and not over the nature of freedom in the first place.

I still listen to Rush, on and off, and I don't think my analysis is misplaced. The question is, do most conservatives fall into that mold, or not.


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