Focus Point - Unintended Consequences

Commentary by

I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. Today, a lesson in unintended consequences. In the 1970s, anti-corporate activists organized a worldwide boycott of the Nestle Corporation to stop them from distributing free samples of infant formula in developing nations. They claimed women in third world countries were being pressured by advertising not to breast feed.

UNICEF, the U.N. agency charged with protecting children, caved in and sided with the protesters against the evil multi-nationals. For years it's battled with manufacturers over compliance with a voluntary marketing code. But now AIDS ravages Africa, and up to 1.7 million infants have become infected through their mothers' milk -- so much for the virtues of breastfeeding.

That's bad enough. But now Nestle and another manufacturer are willing to donate tons of free formula for HIV-infected women. UNICEF, however, refuses to let them, and the companies won't tempt another boycott by going over UNICEF's head. According to UNICEF's director, the companies must comply with the code.

Anti-capitalist fervor is one thing. Arrogance that costs lives is worse.

Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont, and I'll see you next time.