Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dallas Buyer's Club

I just finished watching Dallas Buyer's Club, and I must say that I highly recommend it. The story is great and the characters are interesting and it's well acted and directed. All of those are excellent reasons to watch the film.

But the main reason people should watch the film are its moral lessons.

The big villain of the story is the FDA, whose agents are constantly trying to prevent dying people from trying not to die. Throughout the film they are constantly trying to prevent adults from engaging in mutual trade. Why? Mostly because the FDA hasn't approved of the drugs and methods in question. Dying people don't have the 8+ years to wait for FDA approval, but that doesn't matter to those in government -- what matters is that you are not obeying them, no matter how stupid, irrational, and indeed evil their decisions may be. You will obey, or else.

The "or else" came in what a judge termed "bullying." Bullying, indeed. Seizing medications people needed to survive -- thus condemning people to death. Sending the IRS to harass on their behalf. Bullying, indeed. But that is what you should expect from a government with that kind of power over fully capable adults.

The FDA only bent slightly -- when a large pharmaceutical company greased the right palms -- for AZT trials. Public choice demonstrated. Ron, the main character, did not have the money to pay off the right people, so he was shut down. Which, after all, is the real purpose of government regulations anyway -- to make sure that those with the money to pay off the right people are protected from the little guy's competition.

Thus, the regulatory evils of the FDA were demonstrated.

But there was another moral  demonstrated: which is how mutual trade makes people more tolerant and accepting of others. We see that in the transformation of Ron from a virulent homophobe to being a true friend of a transsexual man, Rayon. This happened when he became business partners with Rayon because Rayon was a major "in" for Ron to meet customers. Ron of course was doing what he was doing for purely selfish reasons. He needed the money, and he himself needed the drugs. But this business partnership turned into a friendship because, after all, the proximity demanded by a business partnership results in you learning who that person really is. Free trade breeds tolerance and even creates the foundations for friendships among people who may otherwise hate each other.

Properly understood, this film was  a celebration of free markets, and a condemnation of the kind of crony capitalism which necessarily emerges out of paternalistic regulations. Ron befriends Rayon because of mutual trade; government regulations then kill Rayon. Free trade makes Ron a better person, while government regulations kill people. This is the moral of the story.
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