Bypass Entrepreneurship

FOX News writes about the recent accident at Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas, NV. A male guest to the restaurant, who had ordered a “triple bypass burger,” suffered cardiac arrest while attempting to beat the burger. An ambulance was called to transport the man to a nearby hospital.

This is of course a tragedy for the man (whom we’re told survived and is in relatively good health considering the circumstances). But it is nevertheless an event that raises a number of questions about the responsibility of entrepreneurs. These questions were immediately bypassed (pun intended) and an “obvious” answer assumed as politicians, government agencies, and lobbying groups supposedly looking after our health call out for regulation. But for the not-so-quick-to-jump-the-gun when something happens, the questions still need answering. Regulation of what?

In this particular case, the guest to the restaurant ordered the “heart stopper” despite its name (“triple-bypass burger” – and the fries are called “flatline fries”) as well as signs on the door saying the food is hazardous to your health. Does the entrepreneur’s responsibility go further than declaring what he’s selling (and selling what he’s declaring)? And if it does, how far does this responsibility go? And what is the responsibility of the authorities?

But these questions lead back to the implied yet fundamental question that must first be answered: what is the responsibility of the consumer? If, as in this case, the consumer is fully informed (as in economic models) yet suffers adverse effects from his choice. Do we have a right to take this freedom and responsibility away from him (whether for his own good or not)?

From a scientific point of view, the important question is what are the effects on the functioning of the market. If we transfer responsibility for actions to someone who is not the actor – what are some far-reaching economic consequences? And this raises the question: how is entrepreneurship (using whatever definition) affected? Regulating “bypass” burgers could very well bypass entrepreneurship, and the consequences in terms of economic growth may be devastating. This means: devastating to people’s health, since without innovation, invention, and new approaches – that is, entrepreneurship – we may not make the advances in health or health care that we otherwise would.

The problem, of course, that we cannot see these effects. We cannot even imagine them, since what the future brings is what entrepreneurs themselves imagine. So how can we tell? Do we dare to regulate?

via Russ Coff’s Facebook post


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