IN SEPTEMBER 2010, a neurologist named Julius Bazan was invited to testify in front of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection in the U.S. House of Representatives. Dr. Bazan wasn’t there to speak about the inner workings of the brain or the susceptibility of the neocortex to judgment errors. He was there to tell the committee about his own experience as a consumer, and about what he called “legalized robbery.”

A sixty-year-old man with a noticeable accent, Dr. Bazan was visibly upset as he told his story. He’s originally from the former Czechoslovakia, he told members of the subcommittee, and he had been in the United States for thirty-one years. He said he had lost a big ...

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