BETTER THAN WELL
Virginia Postrel has some thoughts about the ethical and regulatory issues connected with new memory-enhancing drugs, and, by extension, with other drugs that might improve on normal performance rather than treating deficiency. I think the problem is somewhat more complicated than her argument makes it out to be. The potential problem isn’t just inequality, but the potential competitive pressure to use such drugs, which are certain to have unwanted side-effects. It’s quite possible that all athletes are made better off by a well-enforced ban on using anabolic steroids; by the same token, all junior professors and law-firm associates might be made better off by a well-enforced ban on a cognitive enhancer that (just to make up an example) had a 20% chance of producing early Alzheimer’s. You can believe in drugs capable of altering cognitive function that don’t have big, hairy side-effects if used on a daily basis for years, but you can believe in the Tooth Fairy, too. TANSTAAFL.