Nial Ferguson on Who Regulates the Regulators

…as Andrew Haldane of the Bank of England has argued, Wall Street and the City of London are parts of one of the most complex systems that human beings have ever made. And the combination of concentration inter-bank lending, financial innovation and technological acceleration makes it a system especially prone to crash.Once again, however, the difference between the natural world and the financial world is the role of regulation. Regulation is supposed to reduce the number and size of financial forest fires. And yet…it can quite easily have the opposite effect. This is because the political process is itself somewhat complex.

Regulatory bodies can be captured by those whom they are supposed to be regulating, not least by the prospect of well-paid jobs should the gamekeeper turn poacher. They can also be captured in other ways – for example, by their reliance on the entities they regulate for the very data they need to do their work.

Nial Ferguson, The Great Generation, pp. 67-69


Aspartame was approved for dry goods in 1981 and for carbonated beverages in 1983. It was originally approved for dry goods on July 26, 1974, but objections filed by neuroscience researcher Dr. John W. Olney and consumer attorney James Turner in August 1974, as well as investigations of G.D. Searle’s research practices caused the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to put approval of aspartame on hold (December 5, 1974). In 1985, Monsanto purchased G.D. Searle and made Searle Pharmaceuticals and The NutraSweet Company separate subsidiaries.

Due to the lack of a couple of key enzymes, humans are many times more sensitive to the toxic effects of methanol than animals. Therefore, tests of aspartame or methanol on animals do not accurately reflect the danger for humans. As pointed out by Dr. Woodrow C. Monte, director of the food science and nutrition laboratory at Arizona State University: “There are no human or mammalian studies to evaluate the possible mutagenic, teratogenic or carcinogenic effects of chronic administration of methyl alcohol.”

He was so concerned about the unresolved safety issues that he filed suit with the FDA requesting a hearing to address these issues. He asked the FDA to:

“...[S]low down on this soft drink issue long enough to answer some of the important questions. It’s not fair that you are leaving the full burden of proof on the few of us who are concerned and have such limited resources. You must remember that you are the American public’s last defense. Once you allow usage (of aspartame) there is literally nothing I or my colleagues can do to reverse the course. Aspartame will then join saccharin, the sulfiting agents, and God knows how many other questionable compounds enjoined to insult the human constitution with governmental approval.”

Shortly thereafter, the Commissioner of the FDA, Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr., approved the use of aspartame in carbonated beverage. He then left for a position with G.D. Searle’s public relations firm.

Dr. Joseph Mercola on the FDA approval of Aspartame

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