The Zika virus provides us a striking lesson of liberty, government failure, and human ingenuity that has largely gone unnoticed.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals vs. the Government

Late last June as the media were spreading fear about the Zika virus, a quiet story barely went noticed. Inovio Pharmaceuticals announced it was taking a new vaccine to human trials. It’s an amazing story of human ingenuity.

Traditional vaccines take the original virus and “weaken” it so that it cannot reproduce, then inject you with that. Inovio developed a way to make an artificial vaccine. Using the genetic database of the Zika virus, they designed a man-made genetic sequence on a computer that would trigger the same immune reaction as Zika. Then they manufactured blobs of this DNA synthetically. Thus they can develop a vaccine without ever touching the actual virus and without the risks associated with injecting people with dormant forms of the actual disease. It is truly a marvel of what the liberated human mind can do, an inspiring hope for the future of what man can accomplish.

With a cure right around the corner [edit: the FDA has now threatened to keep this vaccine off the shelves for two years or more], naturally the story making headlines was instead about how if Congress doesn’t act to expropriate more of your money for Zika prevention then Zika will soon become a national epidemic. Dr. Fauci, chief bureaucrat of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that without taking your money they “won’t be able to do things at a pace that is necessary and appropriate to the urgency of this threat.” This isn’t entirely false! His bureaucracy had been working on three Zika vaccines without much to show for it. Although the private firm Inovio was doing things at a pace that was “necessary and appropriate,” Dr. Fauci’s bureaucracy clearly was not. Hopefully this comes as no surprise to my readers.

As private industry moved its ground-breaking vaccine technology into human trials, DC bureaucrats showed us their innovation by awarding Emergent BioSolutions $21,900,000 of your money to begin(!) the process of developing a Zika vaccine. This was, of course, in addition to the aforementioned three failed attempts by Dr. Fauci’s crack-shot team of bureaucrats.

Congress Tries to Step In

A Zika bill moved from the House to the Senate, threatening to expropriate $1,100,000,000 of your savings. Fortunately, the gods of fortune smiled upon our nation and blessed us with the gift of political dysfunction.

The Republicans put a bunch of poison pills in the bill to make Democrats vote against it, and it went down in flames. The media called it an “epic failure” for Congress. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate were both outraged that their own Senate was incapable of doing something both parties claimed to support and was urgently needed. It was an amazing demonstration of how absurd Congress really is: even when they agree with each other they can’t agree!

The rhetoric was very revealing of the statist mindset. “The first TV picture of an American woman bearing a child with a birth defect caused by this virus will be on (Democrats),” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). In other words, politicians who did not attempt to expropriate your money to fund research into a new vaccine that the private sector had already developed months prior bear the direct moral blame for birth defects in families they never met.

Government Steals the Credit

As I write this a couple months after above events, Congress has thankfully still done nothing and it has become reported that a South Korean firm, GeneOne Life Science, announced its vaccine is going into human trials at the same time as Inovio.

Naturally, the media, serving as our de facto Ministry of Information, dutifully reports these successes of private industry over government dysfunction as though government is somehow responsible for these great innovations and is leading the charge.

We got headlines like “U.S. Government Starts Test of Zika Vaccine in Humans.” They wrote, “With their vaccine, however, federal scientists are a demonstrating the power of biotechnology to whip up countermeasures to new threats.” What they are referring to are human tests of GeneOne and Inovio’s invention that government scientists administer for them. I’m not well versed in the FDA’s tome of regulations (what human could be?), but I assume there is some regulation mandating that government scientists do this stage of vaccine testing. In other words, when government scientists spend a little time doing tests of other people’s inventions then clearly the state deserves all the credit for that innovation. After all, if the state’s scientists didn’t approve it then the state would prevent us from using it! Clearly these scientists served a very vital role in the delivery of health care innovation. Such is the mindset of the media.

Zika’s Lessons

Zika teaches an important lesson. The state is failing to protect us from Zika as it fails at most everything else it does because that’s the best the state can do. Entrepreneurship is advancing our human condition despite the best efforts of the state. The outdated news media still desperately cling to the failed idea of the past: the idea that an enlightened bureaucracy is the solution to society’s problems. As alternative media on the Internet make more and more stories like this visible to the public eye, such outmoded ideas will fall away to the ash heap of history where they belong.