Animal Rights Awareness Week and Attitudes Toward Animal Experiments

In Defense of Animals has declared
June 21-26 Animal Rights Awareness Week, urging activists to “educat[e]
… the public about the way in which businesses that sell animals, particularly
‘pet stores,’ perpetuate a vicious cycle of cruelty, suffering and death.”

An Animal Rights Awareness Week
is a great idea — the more accurate information people have about the
animal rights movement and about the use of animals, the better. This
point was highlighted in a recent survey commissioned by the New Scientist
to gauge people’s attitudes toward animal experimentation.

The poll of British citizens
found 64 percent of respondents disagreed with the view that scientists
should be allowed to conduct any experiment on animals, while only 24 percent
agreed. When told that such experiments might lead to the development
of important medical treatments, however, 45 percent of respondents agreed
that scientists could perform any experiment in animals, while only 41
percent were opposed.

The most amazing result of the
study, however, was the widespread ignorance of the role of animal testing
in drug development. Of those people who themselves had taken or had a
close family member who had taken a prescription drug for a serious illness
in the previous two years, only 1 in 6 realized such drugs had been tested
on animals.

Although surveys of Americans
generally find a lot more support for animal research than in Great Britain
(where animal rights activists have much more support), I wouldn’t be
surprised if the general level of ignorance about animal testing wasn’t
similar in the United States.

The clear message of the survey
is that government, industry and others need to do more to educate the
public about the continuing need for animal experimentation to further
development of important medical technologies. Animal rights activists
have become rather adept at exploiting people’s general ignorance of science
and their specific ignorance of the role animals play in medical research.
Educating the public and correcting the myths and lies spread by animal
rights activists should be a top priority.

Sources:

Explanations shift attitudes to animal experiments. Richard Woodman, British Medical Journal 1999;381:1438 (29 May).

Animal Rights Awareness Week June 21-26, 1999. In Defense of Animals press release, May 19, 1999.

The Power to Regulate Is the Power to Destroy

For decades free market
advocates argued that the runaway regulatory state threatened people’s
freedom by excessively regulating almost every aspect of life. And for
years liberals and those on the Left generally dismissed such concerns
as mere pro-business propaganda. Now, though, conservative pro-life legislators
are turning the tables and it is the liberals turn to preach against noxious
regulations.

So far this year more than
a dozen bills have been introduced in state legislatures seeking to apply
the sort of excessively detailed, hard-to-comply-with regulations that
apply to most businesses to abortion clinics . According to the Center
for Reproductive Law and Policy, laws creating new regulations and reporting
requirements for abortion clinics were introduced in Arizona, Arkansas,
California, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska,
Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia. What sort of regulations would these bills
create?

In February, Louisiana Gov.
Mike Foster called for unannounced inspections of abortion clinics following
a television report on unsanitary conditions at a Baton Rouge abortion
clinic. Some of the bills attempt to specify rules for lawn care the abortion
clinics must follow while others dictate the widths of doors or set minimum
staffing requirements that would be very expensive for most clinics to
meet. Additionally almost all of the bills add numerous additional reporting
procedures.

The Family Research Council,
a pro-life group, acted as if it was under the influence of Ralph Nader
earlier in the year when it called for Congress to hold public hearings
on the safety of abortions. The Family Research Council also wants abortion
clinics to keep better post-operation track of women who have abortions.
This despite the fact that only 0.3 women die per 100,000 abortion procedures
and the risk of major complications for abortion procedures is less than
one percent according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. How long will it
be until the conservative FRC demands a national registry of women receiving
abortion services?

As CPRLP staff attorney Bonnie
Scott Jones summed up the real purpose of the regulations: “This is clearly
a way to very seriously hinder women’s access to abortion by imposing
laws that on the surface seem innocuous.” Those last two words “seems
innocuous” highlights the problem that liberals will face defending clinics
from onerous regulation. For decades consumer advocates have essentially
told the American people that all regulation is “innocuous” and those
who oppose such regulations are motivated by greed and a coarse attitude
toward the safety, health or happiness of others. Now conservative pro-life
groups have come up with a method to use that weapon against abortion
clinics.

And the pro-life groups using
this tact should be ashamed. The FRC joins a long list of groups such
as Common Cause that, when it was unable to convince people based on the
merits of the argument, turned to the heavy hand of government regulation
to enforce its will and restrict choice for others.

Hounding to death a legitimate
business through execessive regulation is never admirable whether done
for a liberal or conservative cause.

The Libertarian Case Against the Death Penalty

It happened again. Last
week another prisoner on Illinois’ death row was exonerated after new
evidence (DNA tests in this case) proved someone else committed the crime.
This is getting to be a habit in Illinois. Since 1987, an average of one
death row inmate every year has been cleared of the crime for which they
were sentenced to die in Illinois.

In the current case Ronald
Jones, 49, had been sentenced to death for the brutal rape and murder
of Debra Smith, 28, in March of 1985. Blood tests introduced during Jones’
trial demonstrated he might have been the killer, but what really cooked
Jones’ goose was a confession he gave police admitting he raped and murdered
Smith.

During his trial and numerous
times during his 12 years of incarceration, Jones maintained he signed
the confession only to stop the beating he received from the police assigned
to interrogate him. Of course now that this “confession” has been proved
to be false, Illinois prosecutors quickly announced they weren’t going
to bother to investigate Jones’ charges that he was assaulted by police
officers.

In fact, even though Cook County
prosecutors announced on May 18, 1999 that they wold drop all charges
against Jones and not retry him, the test results on sperm taken from
Smith that proved someone other than Jones raped her was completed in
1997. Prosecutors kept Jones sitting in an Illinois jail for two years
while “investigating” whether or not they wanted to retry Jones for Smith’s
murder after the Illinois Supreme Court threw out the conviction in July
1997.

There’s nothing like speedy
justice.

Jones is certainly no choir
boy. Rather than being released from prison, he will be extradited to
Tennessee where in 1980 he walked off a prison work release program while
serving a sentence for armed robbery. But at the same time neither was
he a murderer, and without innovations in DNA testing and the numerous
delays in carrying out capital sentences that law and order types despise
so much, he almost certainly would have died for a crime he didn’t commit.

This outcome should be no
surprise to libertarians — the state is just as inefficient at ensuring
the people it sends to their deaths are truly guilty as it is in delivering
any other good or service. In other words, barely one step above what
well trained chimpanzees could do. Should it really come as any surprise
that the same government that can’t provide decent schools for children
or properly maintain roads can’t be bothered to make sure people on death
row are really guilty?

Certainly most people who
consider themselves libertarians wouldn’t hesitate to point out the abuses
of the police power that the modern Leviathan state makes all but inevitable.
The drug war tends to create and reinforce racial stereotypes among police
as well as alienate officers from the people they are supposed to protect,
creating a strong us vs. them culture in many jurisdictions. Police officers
and chiefs often turn around and become the primary advocates for banning
all sorts of consensual activities from pushing for stronger drug legislation
and more resources to go after drug users to strong opposition to citizens
arming themselves with concealed weapons. It is no secret that significant
numbers of police officers see themselves as above the very law they enforce.

But would simply eliminating
the corrupt laws, police officers, prosecutors and judges be enough to
prevent miscarriages of justice as almost happened with Robert Jones?
Perhaps if we lived in a libertarian paradise where government was minimal,
billions of dollars wasn’t wasted on the drug war, and the state respected
people’s Constitutional rights, the justice system would get it right
and the odds of an innocent person going to jail would be almost nil.

Perhaps. And perhaps in this
world of minimal government things would also be so wonderful that nobody
would really need to own a handgun for personal protection, thereby making
gun control a viable proposition (since the state is minimal, after all,
what harm can it do to the gun owner or innocent man?)

Just as most libertarians
would object to the claim that a truly just government would obviate the
need for gun ownership, so they should reject the notion that the state
should have the right to kill its citizens as an officially sanctioned
penalty for crimes such as murder.

This should not be taken to
mean that the right of individuals or agents of individuals, including
the state, lack a right to defend themselves against an imminent danger.
People certainly have the right to kill other people who pose a direct
and immediate threat to their own safety, but once a criminal, even a
murderer, is in custody and placed on trial he or she rarely poses such
a direct and immediate threat. Killing him or there, therefore, is more
akin to cold blooded murder than an act of self-defense.

Similarly, this should not
be taken as a call for the sort of coddling of serious criminals advocated
by some misguided activists (usually of Leftist persuasions). A prison
system that wasn’t bogged down with the overwhelming number of drug and
other consensual crimes could easily handle the permanent, lifetime incarceration
of those who intentionally commit murder. Those falsely accused of such
crimes could be released and compensated by the state when the error is
brought to light — an option unavailable to those killed by the state.

The historical record of the
20th century is quite clear that giving any group of people
the power to kill those who don’t pose an immediate and direct threat
inevitably leads that group to apply its power against the innocent, whether
intentionally or not. The power to kill those who don’t pose a direct
and immediate threat should be one firmly opposed by libertarians.

Federal Commission: Stop Gambling By Gutting Americans’ Freedoms

       For the last two years the
National Gambling Impact Study Commission has been studying gambling and
recently began approving recommendations to send to Congress to increase
the regulation of gambling, all of which boil down to one simple proposition
— the only way to reduce gambling is to reduce people’s freedom.

       Among the recommendations
the commission will make include:

  • Establishing a minimum gambling age of 21 for all gambling, including
    state lotteries (the current minimum age in most states is 18)

  • Create a general ban on so-called “cruises to nowhere,” in which people
    board a cruise ship which leaves U.S. territorial waters long enough
    for gambling and then returns to port, unless specifically authorized
    by the state the cruise departs from.

  • Require governments to create “gambling impact statements” before
    approving any new casinos, lotteries, betting establishments, etc.

  • Ban donations from the gambling industry to political campaigns –
    this is modeled on a New Jersey law which bans donations from the gambling
    industry to state campaigns

  • Ban all gambling on collegiate sports

       The bottom line, of course,
is that a lot of people like to gamble — even my 80-year old grandmother
plays the state lottery (which in Michigan and other states funds public
schools) — and the only way to stop gambling is to impose draconian restrictions
on individuals’ ability to choose to gamble.

       Some of these restrictions
would place severe limits on people’s liberty. Consider the recommendation
to ban contributions from the gambling industry. The New Jersey ban that
the Commission wants emulated bans political contributions not only from
casino companies but from their employees and “agents” as well. This simply
cuts people out of an important part of the political process simply because
they work at a casino rather than an engineering firm or a restaurant
or other business; firms which often also try to influence the political
process with campaign donations.

       Similarly the ban on “cruises
to nowhere” would represent a serious limit on Americans’ ability to freely
travel wherever they wish. This is the sort of restriction one would expect
from a two-bit Third World dictatorship rather than a nation founded on
the principle of individual liberty.

       Moreover, rather than reducing
gambling activity, the proposed laws would simply drive more gambling
to the illegitimate criminal enterprises responsible from much of the
corruption and crime the Commission nominally wants to prevent.

       Rather than create more regulatory
barriers to legitimate gambling establishments, the best outcome would
be to remove the mass of counter-productive regulations and bans on the
activities of the gambling industry. Eliminating existing regulations
on gambling would bring even more gambling activity to legitimate businesses
thereby reducing its attendant corruption and crime.

Attack of the NBC Luddites

Future histories
of the 20th century will have to devote significant space to
explaining one overwhelming influence of the last 100 years — the use
of technology to increasingly raise the living standards of human beings.
The application of reason and science to human problems produced marvels
undreamed of in prior centuries. Thanks to advances in medicine, the annual
death rate declined enormously, leading to a population explosion unprecedented
in human history. Improvements in transportation, communication and other
technologies increased wealth and income to incredible levels and gave
people in many parts of the world more options than kings and queens of
prior eras enjoyed.

And what happened
in the 20th century is just the tip of the iceberg compared
to what’s likely to happen in the 21st century. A study by
the McKinsey Global Institute recently estimated that coming improvements
in information technology could increase productivity a whopping 27 percent.
After stagnating in the 1970s, the rate of productivity has been accelerating
from an average gain of 1 percent a year in the 1980s to 2 percent a year
in the 1990s.

Already technologies
that were once science fiction such as genetically engineering animals
to produce drugs and even replacement organs and tissues are now a reality
and will likely be common place by the middle of the next century. We
are riding the crest of one of the most amazing revolutions in human history.

Not everyone
shares this enthusiasm, however, and NBC talking head Tom Brokaw recently
joined that group of semi-intellectuals who regularly blame technology
for robbing people of their souls as well as causing practically every
bad thing that happened over the last 100 years. Speaking at the commencent
proceedings at the College of Santa Fe, Brokaw told the assembled students
that technology left an “ugly scar on the face of history.” Brokaw went
on to explain that “an ideology designed to empower the masses became
one of the most ruthless instruments of oppression. It is not enough to
wire the world if you short-circuit the soul. Technology without heart
is not enough.”

Is this in fact
true? Was technology really the primary tool of oppression in the 20th
century? On the one hand, of course, this is trivially true since everything
from knives to guns to books are all technologies that were utilized in
various means by oppressive governments. But Brokaw seems to be arguing
that 20th century technological improvements have been at the
root of oppression and this is a patently absurd idea. In fact one of
the many things that stands out about the various repressive regimes around
the world, whether they be Nazi Germany or Communist Cuba, is the extent
to which such governments did all they could to keep technological innovations
out of the hands of their citizens. North Korea, China, Vietnam
and other oppressive countries understand what Brokaw and others choose
to ignore — the main affect of technology in the 20th century
has been to liberate the masses and expand freedom.

Consider communication
technologies such as radio and television, which Western intellectuals
tend to deride and dismiss. Oppressive regimes of both the Left and the
Right have routinely nationalized radio and television stations and heavily
censored the information transmitted by such technologies. When they have
loosened those controls, such regimes often feel their full potential.
As Scott Shane notes in Dismantling Utopia: How Information Ended the
Soviet Union
, when Mikhail Gorbachev loosened controls on Soviet television
the result was an upsurge of thinly veiled anti-Soviet programs that eventually
led the Communists to attempt to reimpose censorship. But it was too late
— technology had already worked its subversive magic.

In fact the Soviet
Union is a paradigm of the liberating value of technology. As Shane points
out, the USSR actually required photocopiers and paper to be registered
with the state in an attempt to prevent the illicit copying of books banned
by the Soviet state. Nonetheless a thriving black-market in photocopied
manuscripts survived and numerous dissident commentaries were reproduced
and covertly distributed thanks to a technology most of us in the United
States take for granted.

That is
the real story — it is not the embracing of technology in the 20th
century but authoritarian governments often successful attempts keeping
technology out of the hands of their citizens that has been partially
responsible for the great tragedies of the 20th century. If
the technology available in the West had been in the hands of those living
under dictatorial regimes, the history of the 20th century
would have been vastly different.

More disturbing
than Brokaw’s misrepresentation of the role of technology is the vision
that Brokaw would like the United States (and presumably the world) to
emulate — the era of the Great Depression and World War II.

       Now the people
who fought and defeated the Fascists during World War II certainly deserve
the respect and gratitude of people around the globe, but Brokaw’s vision
is more than just an acknowledgement of the debt we owe that generation.
Rather, it is part of an ongoing glamorization and glorification of the
hard, often desperate times that war and economic crises bring contrasted
with the supposed laziness and lack of unity that emerge during times
of peace and prosperity.

In Brokaw’s version
of history, the generation that came of age in the 1930s and the 1940s
was the greatest generation because America was united to fight the Great
Depression and World War II. Brokaw contrasts this with today’s social
climate in which “we have political leaders to eager to divide [people]
for their selfish ?? rather than unify [people]. We have a mass media
much too inclined to exploit these interests.”

In this very
New Age interpretation of the era, Americans came together as part of
some grand collective experience, thinking and acting as One rather than
as selfish private individuals. To Brokaw and others this was the height
of human history that was unfairly destroyed with the end of the war and
the post-war return to private (and hence) selfish concerns. Other intellectuals
have made similar arguments for the 1960s, missing the collective experience
they felt opposing the Vietnam War and fighting for civil rights. The
mass media, in Brokaw’s world, was largely responsible for this by appealing
to our crass interest to improve our own lives and the lives of our immediate
families and circle of friends rather than continuing with the ethic of
constantly sacrificing ourselves and engaging in personal denial to serve
some greater cause.

For Brokaw and
others the privation felt during World War II such as rationing of food
or energy was not a temporary hardship to be endured while facing a global
crisis but a mystical experience that united a nation.

Want Some Cream and Sugar with that Coffee? Pay through the nose, thanks to the government

Legislators are currently trying
to overhaul two of the most bizarre and costly regulatory regimes in the
United States — the price support systems for milk and sugar. Unfortunately
a true free market in milk and sugar is unlikely anytime soon.

Milk prices are set by a complex
set of regional bureaucracies that regulate the price suppliers can pay
to farmers and that suppliers can charge the public. Since Wisconsin was
the center of the dairy industry when the current regulatory regimen was
enacted, the system is designed so the price of milk increases the further
away dairy producers are from Eau Claire, Wisconsin (imagine a regulatory
scheme for computers that cost PC prices to increase the further away
one went from Silicone Valley!)

Even with this system, however,
milk prices have been falling dramatically over the past few years, so
some politicians are finally talking about overhauling the system, albeit
at an extremely slow pace. Agricultural Secretary Dan Glickman earned
the wrath of Midwestern politicians when he suggested slightly lowering
the disparity of milk prices between the Midwest and the rest of the country.

Similarly, states outside
the Midwest are encountering opposition in their attempts to expand the
compact system which, convoluted as it is, would allow states outside
the Midwest to lower milk prices significantly.

What is not likely to go away
is the government price support programs that purchase excess milk and
dairy products from farmers. Although the program expires on December
31 it will almost certainly be reauthorized and perhaps find its funding
increased to compensate for the recent decline in milk prices.

Breaking the power of the
sugar lobby is even less likely but Rep. Dan Miller (R-Florida) and Sen.
Charles Schumer (D-New York) introduced bill in the House and Senate respectively
to phase out the federal price support program for sugar.

While sugar sells for about
5 cents a pound on the world market, in the United States sugar costs
22 cents a pound thanks to the government-imposed price floor. The total
cost to American consumers from the higher sugar prices is about $1.2
billion each year according to Tom Schatz of the Council for Citizens
Against Government Waste.

Jack Ramey of the American
Sugar Alliance had a different take on the proposed phase out, arguing
that “what they’re doing is kicking American farmers when they’re down”
— as opposed to the sugar industry which kicks the American consumer
in both good times and bad.

The sugar price support system
should be phased out and the sooner the better.