November 30, 2015

Congress and the FDA Are Blocking Medical Innovation

Richard Williams

Senior Affiliated Scholar
Summary

Where does innovation come from? The new devices for sale on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? It's certainly not driven by the government. Rather, it's all about tinkerers who ultimately drive scientific discoveries. No matter how smart our leaders are, they are never going to outperform the vast power of the millions of dabblers and dreamers in each of their individual pursuits. Tinkerers often don't start with dreams of riches; they just see a better way. They are, as my Mercatus Center colleague Bob Graboyes describes it, on the frontier, not in the fortress.

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Where does innovation come from? The new devices for sale on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? It's certainly not driven by the government. Rather, it's all about tinkerers who ultimately drive scientific discoveries. No matter how smart our leaders are, they are never going to outperform the vast power of the millions of dabblers and dreamers in each of their individual pursuits. Tinkerers often don't start with dreams of riches; they just see a better way. They are, as my Mercatus Center colleague Bob Graboyes describes it, on the frontier, not in the fortress.

But lately, these tinkerers face too many obstacles to truly generate economic growth. Want to invent a medical device? The time, money and complexity of going through the Food and Drug Administration's process is bound to discourage most. That's why it's so depressing to read about attempts to improve innovation with more central funding, guidance and big meetings. Is that really what we need to take advantage of the fantastic new sciences of robotics, nanotechnology, genetic manipulation and more to enhance our health? Certainly from Washington's limited vision, all solutions must start and end within the 61 square miles of the District of Columbia.

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