The decline in new business formation in this country shouldn't be a surprise -- in industry after industry, numerous bits of government permission are needed to proceed with a new idea into a new market. If, like Uber, you plow ahead ignoring these roadblocks, you will likely spend the rest of your life in court (as does Uber).
I thought about all this when reading this article on awesome portable automated systems that can maintain a person's insulin level. What an amazing advance in safety and life quality for people! The part that struck me was this line from a woman when she first saw one:
Sarah Howard became interested after she met Ms. Lewis last year. “My first question was: Was it legal?” said the 49-year-old, who has Type 1 diabetes, as does one of her two sons. “I didn’t want to do anything illegal.”
It is pathetic that this is the first reaction of Americans when they see an awesome new innovation. And it turns out that she is right to worry. Because if one avails oneself of the normal division of labor, in other words if one lets someone more expert to build the device or program it, then it is illegal. Only if one downloads all the specs from the Internet and builds and programs it oneself is this fabulous device legal.
The only restriction of the project is users have to put the system together on their own. Ms. Lewis and other users offer advice, but it is each one’s responsibility to know how to troubleshoot. A Bay Area cardiologist is teaching himself software programming to build one for his 1-year-old daughter who was diagnosed in March.
This is roughly the equivalent of having to go fell a tree and mine graphite in order to makes one's own pencils. It is simply stupid. All because the government will not let us make our own decisions about the risks we want to take with medical products. So if you don't have the skills or the time to put one together, you can wait 5 or 10 years for the FDA to get around to approving a professionally-made version.
Hat tip to Tyler Cowen, who by the title of his post obviously also saw the I, Pencil analogy.
Update: I give it 12 months before someone at the FDA demands that these home-made devices be regulated, and at least registered with the government. I wonder if in 10 years the government will be demanding registration of 3D printers? After all, they potentially incredibly empowering to individuals and can let folks work around various product bans like this. Exactly the kind of empowerment that government hates.