(Chuck Muth) – OK, so I was sipping a Bloody Mary after a long night in the piano bar as our cruise ship sailed into Cabo San Lucas this morning when a press release from the American Optometrist Association (AOA) popped up on my news feed.
The release was so ridiculous that a certain Latin phrase immediately came to mind. However, since the only Latin I studied in high school (misogynist alert!) was a certain young Brazilian lass who moved into the neighborhood up the street, I had to consult with Google to make sure I spelled it correctly…
Reductio ad absurdum.
According to Wikipedia, the phrase refers to a form of argument that “inevitably leads to a ridiculous, absurd or impractical conclusion.” Here, let me give you an example…
Let’s say someone grabs a banana from the buffet here on the Carnival Splendor. And let’s say that person walks to the back of the ship, peels it and throws the banana peel on the deck.
Then let’s say someone walks to the back of the ship and isn’t looking where he’s going because he’s watching a cat video on his iPhone. And let’s say the guy slips on the banana peel and falls overboard to his death.
As such, the producer of the cat video calls for bananas to be banned from cruise ships to protect the public health.
Reductio ad absurdum.
OK, now get this…
According to the AOA, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) should investigate the 1-800 Contacts website because it could “potentially” confuse people and give someone the “wrong impression” about online eye tests that could “potentially threaten” public health if an “incorrect perception” leads someone to not pay for an expensive eye exam from, you know, an optometrist.
Now, the alleged source of this “potential” confusion is that the 1-800 Contacts website includes an ad for a quick, convenient and comparatively inexpensive online eye test called “ExpressExam.”
And according to the AOA, an “online health care terminology survey” in February determined that 56% of people are so stupid that they thought an online eye test called ExpressExam “was the same exam/test that an optometrist would provide during an in-person office visit.”
As such, the AOA claims the ad should be banned.
Reductio ad absurdum.
No, wait. Here’s the kicker…
That survey supposedly showing that people are dumb as bricks when it comes to “possible” confusion between an online eye “test” and an in-person doctor’s “exam” was commissioned by…wait for it…the AOA!
Oh, yeah. THAT’S a credible survey.
But that didn’t stop the AOA spokes flack, Sam Pierce, from hopping up on his high horse and declaring with the level of moral indignation and certitude normally reserved for a papal decree…
“Now, more than ever, there is a risk that certain practices associated with online services can undermine the foundations of quality care and the doctor-patient relationship, and AOA will expose and seek to have these practices held accountable at every turn.”
Naming an online eye test service “ExpressExam” undermines the foundations of “quality care and the doctor-patient relationship”?
Well, thank GOODNESS you people have exposed this medical terminology crisis and ran to the government for help.
“We believe that the use of the term ‘exam’ by 1-800 Contacts is a material misrepresentation that could affect a consumer’s choice to obtain an in-person, comprehensive eye examination,” Pierce wrote in a sniveling letter to the FTC.
OK, here’s what this reductio ad absurdum is really all about…
Optometrists are the only medical professionals who are allowed to both write and fill their own prescriptions. And for decades they’ve enjoyed a captive audience.
You go to the optometrist office; he administers an eye test, and then prescribes the appropriate eye-glasses or contact lenses.
He then sells them to you right out of the display case conveniently located in his lobby for a healthy markup. It’s a significant profit center that no other medical practitioner enjoys.
Now along comes modern technology and online eye exams…er, tests…which not only save consumers time but “potentially” a boatload of money if they make their purchase from an online competitor.
Unwilling to compete in the new marketplace, the AOA has resorted to the time-tested tactic of bellowing out sky-is-falling safety hysteria hoping to get the government to hog-tie competitors rather than beat them in the marketplace.
The only thing more absurd than this latest AOA Chicken Little act would be if the FTC actually fell for it.
OK, that’s it. Back to my vacation and off in search of the perfect margarita at the Cabo Wabo Cantina.
Hope I don’t slip on a banana peel while getting off the ship!
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a free-market 501(c)(4) grassroots advocacy organization