Monday, March 31, 2014

Walter Block on Refereeing in Mainstream Journals

Prof. Block writes:

From time to time, I am asked to referee papers by editors of mainstream journals. Perhaps many people who read this blog are in a similar position. I thought I would share with you, on an anonymous basis of course, a referee’s report I recently wrote. Perhaps some of you might consider adopting this sort of reaction. Please give me feedback on this (, both as regards this general type of response, and, also, specifically, if you can add to my bibliography of anti FDA publications. Here goes:
This is just another socialist pro market failure paper extolling the virtues of government intervention into the free enterprise system. I am tempted to say, reject this piece on that ground alone, since this is a very bad philosophy from my point of view, since I favor free enterprise. However, I do not take this viewpoint in this case. For two reasons. One, this is a pretty good attack on the system of laissez faire capitalism insofar as these things go, and two, I don’t think it proper for a referee to impose his political philosophy on an author. So, I advise you, accept this paper, with some major revisions. What major revisions? This author should at least confront the alternative viewpoint, the one that says the FDA for example, is a horror, a disgrace, a great inefficiency, etc. See below for a bibliography making this point. I don’t say the author should turn around 180 degrees and recant his socialistic position. I only say he should quote from this literature, and say why he thinks it is wrong. In that way, he will have a far more powerful paper than he has at present. Specifically, he should confront this magnificent quote from Tom Sowell:
“It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”
Here is the bibliography:
Becker, 2002; Goodman, 2011; Gottlieb, 2010; Henninger, 1990; Higgs, 1994; Hoppe, 1993; Kaitlin, et. al., 1987; Kazman, 1990; Klein and Tabarrok, Undated;  Peltzman, 1973, 1974; 1987A, 1987B, 2005; Sardi, 2007; Steinreich, 2005.
Becker, Gary. 2002. “Get the FDA out of the way and drug prices will drop.” September 16;
Goodman, John C. 2011. “How Many Melanoma Patients Did the FDA Kill?” March 30;
Gottlieb, Scott. 2010. “The FDA Is Evading the Law.” The Wall Street Journal. December 23;
Henninger, Daniel. 1990. “Will the FDA Revert to Type?” The Wall Street Journal, December 12, A16.
Higgs, Robert. 1994. “Banning a Risky Product Cannot Improve Any Consumer’s Welfare (Properly Understood), with  Applications to FDA Testing Requirements ” The Review of Austrian Economics, Vo1.7, No. 2, pp. 3-20;
Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. 1993. “A Four-Step Heath-Care Solution,” The Mises Institute Monthly, vol. 11, no. 4 (April),
Kaitin, K. I., B. W. Richard, and Louis Lasagna. 1987. “Trends in Drug Development: The 1985-86 New Drug Approvals.” Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 27, August, 542-48.
Kazman, Sam. 1990. “Deadly Overcaution: FDA’s Drug Approval Process.” Journal of Regulation and Social Costs 1, no. 1, September: 35-54.
Klein, Daniel B. and Alexander Tabarrok. Undated. “Is the FDA Safe and Effective?
Peltzman, Sam. 1973. “An Evaluation of Consumer Protection Legislation: The 1962 Drug Amendments.” The Journal of Political Economy. Vol. 81, No. 5, Sept-Oct, pp. 1049-1091
Peltzman, Sam. 1974. Regulation of Pharmaceutical Innovation: The 1962 Amendments. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.
Peltzman, Sam. 1987a. Regulation and Health: The Case of Mandatory Prescriptions and an Extension.Managerial and Decision Economics 8(1): 41–6.
Peltzman, Sam. 1987b. The Health Effects of Mandatory Prescriptions. Journal of Law and Economics 30(2): 207–38.
Peltzman, Sam. 2005. Regulation and the Natural Progress of Opulence. Washington: AEI-Brookings Joint Center on Regulatory Studies, pp. 15–6.
Sardi, Bill. 2007. “The FDA has blood on its hands.” May 16;
Spiro, Andreas. 2012. “What Do Ron Paul, Northwest Biotherapeutics, And Novartis Have In Common?” September 12;
Steinreich, Dale. 2005. “Playing God at the FDA.” May 2;
The above originally appeared at

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