Not super important to the overall discussion but since it is mentioned a few times, corn syrup is a variety of glucose syrup so would be allowed in EU formula.


Expand full comment

Excellent write up. Trying to explain the economics of these policies and the entirely predictable outcomes to being buried under 10^24 tiny regulatory pebbles is exhausting. "But, removing pebbles 1-34 won't do anything!" Yes, but they are part of the problem. "Let's just remove pebbles 5 and 6, then add pebble 1,349,359,767,031. That one is hardly a big deal, and it shows how much we care." You are still going to have the problem. "See, this is what free markets do!" YOU ARE THE ONES WHO PUT ALL THE GODDAMNED PEBBLES THERE! HOW THE HELL IS IT FREE WHILE BURIED UNDER AN AVALANCH?!

I don't know how Don Boudreaux does it. I mean, I do know how he does it, but I am amazed at how he can write cogently considering how much wine he has to consume to maintain sanity and a friendly disposition.

Expand full comment

Charitably, so many people don't trust markets because they've been told basically their entire lives that markets are (almost) always the thing that causes all of the problems everywhere and for everything.

And then, at every chance to update those 'beliefs', new evidence is taken as further confirmation.

I'm not sure that there's a way to persuade people to reconsider what feels like an axiom.

Expand full comment

I can't help but notice that the FAA has done a better job killing general aviation, the DOE has done a better job of killing nuclear power, etc. than the ATF has done of killing civilian firearms ownership. Seems like the rest of society would do well to take a note from the firearms community's playbook and adopting a "not one more inch" adversarial stance to any administrative regulation at all. Sorry if this was too off-topic, just thought it worth pointing out that the industry with the most adversarial relationship with its regulatory agency is also the most healthy.

Expand full comment

> rule sand incentives

You break the rule, I throw sand in your face.

Expand full comment

"Mexico, you see, does not restrict imports of baby formula, so they are fully stocked and could easily handle our orders, and their babies seem to do fine."

Was unclear what this sentence means?

Is it that, up until now, Mexico freely imported baby formula from the US and/or other countries? And that, as a result, they might have excess stock they could consider selling back to us – in sufficient quantities to make a difference during the current US shortages?

Expand full comment

I just picked up a six-month supply from Walmart in Canada. It's 37% cheaper than the almost-identical version sold in US Walmarts (which are all out of stock).

Get this: IT IS MADE IN THE U.S.A.!!! But the label is a little different - the nutrients are listed per 100g instead of per 100 calories. Both are manufactured by Perrigo, ingredients are virtually identical.

Hopefully the border guards won't confiscate it on my drive home.


For those who are curious:

Walmart US, $19.98 for 1020 grams. Out of stock everywhere. https://www.walmart.com/ip/22862021

Walmart Canada: $14.22 CAD ($11.09 USD) for 900 grams. In stock everywhere. https://www.walmart.ca/en/ip/parents-choice-iron-fortified-milk-based-infant-formula/6000069712248

Expand full comment

If you’re in Colorado please see milkbankcolorado.org - Mom’s are sharing milk for people who need it.

Expand full comment

Wow. That’s long.

The poor European babies, dying from non-FDA compliant labeling.

Expand full comment

Intercepting European formula reminds me of US Customs intercepting shipments if foreign Ivermectin. We are literally being protected to death.

Expand full comment

Its been years since we used it but all the time I was reading this post I could smell baby formula

Expand full comment

Been around formula production since the late 90s, including novel ingredients being included in infant formula. One of the most politicized and mine field laden spaces in industrialized food production, and with good reason. Your article is insightful and makes some big points but a better grasp of some of the history both related to formula but also food regulation in particular will bring a better picture of how what seems crazy today maybe isn’t as avoidable as it seems. I share the extreme of melamine in China. But as well the holy Europeans aren’t the quite as clean hands as they seem. We are good at finding fault, which is important but sometimes have blinders to some other structural drivers, like the way you picked up the dairy market shenanigans, and there is more to unravel.

Expand full comment

> Then they celebrate, in ways that sound a lot like drug busts.

I mean, it's the same category of things, pretty much. Government decides, disregarding evidence, that something is Dangerous, and so you can't purchase it. Decides based on pure ideology.

Sacking David Nutt was one of the most beautiful examples. Quoting from the Wikipedia

> The UK government was accused by its most senior expert drugs adviser Professor David Nutt of making political decisions with regard to drug classification, for example in rejecting the scientific advice to downgrade ecstasy from a class A drug. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs report on ecstasy, based on a 12-month study of 4,000 academic papers, concluded that it is nowhere near as dangerous as other class A drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine, and should be downgraded to class B. The advice was not followed.

> Professor Nutt was later sacked by Home Secretary Alan Johnson; Johnson saying "It is important that the government's messages on drugs are clear and as an advisor you do nothing to undermine public understanding of them. I cannot have public confusion between scientific advice and policy and have therefore lost confidence in your ability to advise me as Chair of the ACMD."

That last quote reminds me of what (in Poland) PiS party spokesperson said in an interview: "We faced a similar problem when we were in power in the years 2005-2007. Then we moved in the direction of very expert, open competitions as far as supervisory boards are concerned. There were experts from the market, people with degrees, from the Warsaw School of Economics, from other universities. The problem was that their way of thinking about the economy and management was completely contradictory to what Law and Justice had in its program.". Through this was about blatant nepotism.

Anyway. Could anything be done? Somehow promote the idea that these nonsensical regulations are an issue\*, after you convince the population (make it bipartisan thing) (is it even possible?), poll them proving they overwhelmingly disapprove and shove the results in the official's faces demanding they do what the population wants?

How could it possibly be this broken?

\* _somehow_ avoiding association with past right-wing complaining about nebulous _unspecified_ regulations-in-general, which they did nothing about whenever they were in power. Yeah, might be a problem.

Expand full comment
May 20, 2022·edited May 23, 2022

"If the regulations were of good form there wouldn’t need to be a ‘negotiation’ because there’d be very clear rules and nothing left to negotiate. If there is a negotiation, either the FDA is claiming the right to make arbitrary demands, there is no way to know when you’ve done what the FDA requires without getting them to say so, or Abbott actually can’t satisfy the requirements of a safe plant and the FDA is finding a way to let them operate anyway."

Its not with the FDA, but I have profesional insight into this. Yes, this is *exactly* how every single interaction with a regulator works. They make a list of demands on my client. The client gives the list to us. We pull out the big book of regulations that regulate how the regulator must regulate out client, and then we send a document to the regulator outlining how the regulator is not following the regulation regulations. The regulator then provides this letter to the person who decides if the regulator regulated us according to the big book of regulations. This person is the regulator who made the illegal regulations in the first place. The regulator will comply with our demands just enough to make "bring in the lawyers and sue the agency" a negative EV proposition. We bluff and say "we are bringing in the lawyers" and the regulator says "well, what if instead of this one illegal demand, I illegally require this other illegal demand." Then we figure out how expensive that will be and either take him up on the offer or appeal to the person who decides if his new illegal demand is illegal. This is also the same person. Then we help our client do whatever illegal demands are placed on them. Sometimes we help them do the legal demands from the regulator, but usually the regulators don't care about that. They want to 1) minimize their work and 2) not get red flagged on the automated quality control check after they give us a little slip of paper stating that, while we aren't in full compliance, we aren't going to be shut down today.

Sadly, this isn't nearly enough information for me to dox myself because there are so many industries regulated like this you'll never know which one I am talking about.

Expand full comment
Jun 3, 2022·edited Jun 3, 2022

I'm reminded of healthcare.gov back around 2013. Everyone involved in building it did what they were supposed to; all the rules and weird procurement regulations were observed to the letter, and the result was a mess that didn't work, because the goal was not, in the end, to make it work. The goal was to fulfill a byzantine contract according to byzantine rules, and this, they did. When engineers parachuted in from institutions that had a tradition of making things work, they were utterly baffled, and had to teach the locals things like "you should have monitoring".

Similarly, the affordable-housing industrial complex (as primarily seen in the Bay Area) does not have as its goal to make housing affordable. The goal is to block and outlaw non-affordable housing, which ironically has the opposite effect.

The disaster here looks like the goal of the FDA is to avoid risk, and it's doing a fabulous job. The mistake is thinking that the job was to ensure the availability of effective drugs and good food.

We suck at risk. I hope that's a solvable problem. Maybe the nascent Abundance Caucus can help with that, if it ever comes together.

Expand full comment