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we must stop hailing successful capitalists as the standard-bearers of human advancement. There are the Henry Fords and the Bill Gateses, but there are also the Philip Morrises and the P.T. Barnums. More importantly there are the pioneers whose lives paid little or no heed to capitalizing and it is their names that have contributed to the history of health care in such a way that we now consider it reasonable to contemplate a society where patient X doesn’t necessarily deserve to be treated for his sickness. After all, it isn’t Polio, or Smallpox or Typhoid they can’t afford to treat, is it?

It is inevitable that 20% of American opinion is anathema to universal health care. Acrobatic reasoning will be employed at every turn. For example, a national database is not a logical improvement that will aid doctors and prevent dangerous and redundant treatment, but instead it is a big brother mechanism by which politicians will choose treatment in lieu of health care workers. That there is little motive to achieve such a system is irrelevant, the visceral reaction is intransigent.
Equally intransigent is the 20% who cannot believe that there is even a debate in civilized society. To this group there is no fear of socialism. Socialized health care is merely one of many societal dilemmas that can be resolved by an effective and active government. Government is, after all, just the actionable arm of the people in a society. To fear government as a matter of course is to fear the society and the self. In rejecting government to prevent corruption we, proverbially, throw out the baby with the bathwater.
The debate then, proceeds not among these groups but without them. In this light with the extremities removed, it becomes clearer that the debate is more about health care’s relationship to capitalism than about society’s relationship to socialism. Is health care driven by market forces to build a better mousetrap?
Consider Alexander Fleming and his discovery of perhaps the world’s most important medical advancement: Penicillin. By all accounts, Fleming was a slob. He discovered Penicillin because he was so slovenly that some of his Petri dishes had developed a fungus - like so many leftovers in a bachelor’s refrigerator – and thanks to the idleness afforded him by researching grants he was able to discern value in this. Of course he couldn’t even manufacture a stable and useful strain of the bacteria. Instead it was the U.S. and British governments that realized this advancement. As a capitalist, Fleming was a failure.
Jonas Salk, another of the faces on the Mount Rushmore of medicine, was an academic working at a university with government research money readily available as a result of mass polio terror. He successfully found a vaccine and promptly proceeded to refuse to patent his discovery so that it would benefit society as thoroughly and widely as possible. As a capitalist, he was no Andrew Carnegie.
Louis Pasteur, whose contributions to society’s health were as fearless as they were extensive, might well have made a great capitalist. He was bold, and precise. Had he chosen to make mousetraps I am quite sure it would have brought mice to the brink of extinction. I would posit that his choice not to put his formidable intellect to work amassing wealth for himself speaks volumes about an intellectual’s relationship to riches. It is not in society’s interest to compel every man to run the rat race. To casually accept that only supply and demand – only greed – can motivate the great evolutions in our history is to call Pasteur a fool and a fraud.
Briefly, consider what market driven medicine has brought mankind: Snake oil, heroin and The Purple Pill (ask your doctor about The Purple Pill). Oh, and of course Ritalin and Xanax. Where would society be without the off label uses of these capitalist ventures?
Ultimately, we must stop hailing successful capitalists as the standard-bearers of human advancement. There are the Henry Fords and the Bill Gateses, but there are also the Philip Morrises and the P.T. Barnums. More importantly there are the pioneers whose lives paid little or no heed to capitalizing and it is their names that have contributed to the history of health care in such a way that we now consider it reasonable to contemplate a society where patient X doesn’t necessarily deserve to be treated for his sickness. After all, it isn’t Polio, or Smallpox or Typhoid they can’t afford to treat, is it?

Originally posted to jack23 on Wed May 13, 2009 at 08:31 AM PDT.

Poll

To what degree is competition important to the advancement of health care?

25%9 votes
33%12 votes
25%9 votes
8%3 votes
8%3 votes

| 36 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  In France, Pasteur is a hero of industry, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joy221, pixxer

    specifically the wine industry.

    As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

    by ticket punch on Wed May 13, 2009 at 08:35:19 AM PDT

    •  But not b/c he profited from his (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      oldjohnbrown

      work, correct? He didn't seem to be in it for the money...

      Our system of law is premised on the idea that an unfettered government - rather than criminals - is the greatest danger to our lives and liberty.
      NCrissieB

      by pixxer on Wed May 13, 2009 at 09:00:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Its not in the best interest of (5+ / 0-)

    pharmaceutical companies to actually "cure" or prevent disease. Its in their interest to treat symptoms of disease. That way, patients need to continue taking their drugs indefinately, keeping drug companies in business.

    And they don't just lobby politicians, they lobby doctors as well....camping out on their doorsteps with free samples and percs of all kinds.

    Western medicine has become about popping a pill for every ailment. Its inconvenient to make the dietary and lifesyle changes that really promote good health. Everybody wants an instant "fix".

    So long as drug companies profit, and politicians get their campaigns funded, not much will change.

    •  I Wonder How Many People Know Ulcers r Infections (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      oldjohnbrown

      Nobody I meet ever knows it. I was cured of a closely related condition by the ulcer cocktail 15 years ago.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Wed May 13, 2009 at 08:59:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ulcers are not infections (0+ / 0-)

        Some ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection, but ulcer is a degradation of the tissue.  

      •  It's not always (0+ / 0-)

        there are other causes of ulcers. But you can test for the infection and treat it if the tests are positive, you are right.

        Thing is, not everyone knows if their belly discomfort is an ulcer; they often get treated empirically, usually with a PPI these days. That might, unfortunately, render the same drug useless if they do actually have infection with H. pylori.

        Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without - W S Coffin

        by stitchmd on Wed May 13, 2009 at 09:20:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  silly arguement, sounds like undergraduate social (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      milkbone

      ism.
      The people who work in big Pharma, and I am one of them, have the same interests and motivations everyone does, and for the most part, they are dedicated to curing diseases that they and their families have. They care about their salaries, their careers and the stock price, because they own stock. It is not a perfect mechanism, but it is part of the best system, together with gov't and academic research.
      Fleming, btw, was married, and he was mostly interested in human lysozyme. He had a cold one time and a little snot dripped from his nose onto a plate of L. mesenteroides; which left a large plaque of lysis. Later, when he walked past a contaminated plate, he realized that the lysis was caused by an antibiotic.
      To be clear, the British and American gov'ts developed Penicillin to treat wartime injuries, so don't take the other schoolboy response and say that war is good for us.
      And if you don't like our system, you should have visited Soviet hospitals like I have. Name a Soviet drug. I can't.

      "In England, any man who wears a wig and a sword is ashamed to be illiterate. I believe it is not so in France." Samuel Johnson, per Boswell

      by Mark B on Wed May 13, 2009 at 09:57:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Let's Not Forget the Internet (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    oldjohnbrown

    Invented by nothing remotely resembling market activity.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed May 13, 2009 at 08:57:08 AM PDT

  •  I agree (0+ / 0-)

    I do not, for one moment, believe that competition is necessary for healthcare to advance. I've always thought that was why we invented Quality Control, Standards of Practice, and so forth. Assuming that competition is necessary for the advancement of mankind is to assume that no human, ever, acted out of anything more than personal self-interest. You know, like Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Diogenes, Hector Beloiz, etc. But then, the act of doing without the desire for gain may be anathema to those who measure their worth not in personal accomplishment but by the suffering of others.

    •  Not at all (0+ / 0-)

      All you need to assume is that vast majority act out of self-interest.  Just because there is a Mother Teresa here and there, does not follow that the world can survive on Mother Teresa's.

      (As an aside, in the cosmic scheme of things, she too acted out of self-interest.  Her interest was getting into heaven.  In order to do that, she needed to do certain things here on earth).

      •  I apologize but that's not the ideal (0+ / 0-)

        The argument is that medicine will not advance without competition. Will not advance at all. Your arguing that 'the vast majority' act purely out of self-interest. That's perfectly fine. Even if a few small portion of humanity cares to attempt to cure a disease or simplify a treatment for any reason other than pure selfish desire, then medicine will advance. Of course, this assumes that public health care would somehow mean there's absolutely no profit to be had in any medical endeavor at all. In fact, it would add between 40 and 60 million new customers. I don't see how that would weaken competition.
        As for Mother Teresa, I could point out humanitarians who didn't believe in heaven, but that would obviously take too long and be wide of the point. You are making the point that Mother Teresa thought she could fool God. I'm an atheist. I don't really care one way or another about poorly translated bronze age myths and legends. I am not, however, as callous as this statement appears to be. This statement would assume that she never once did anything out of kindness but acted, always, in an effort to prove to an omniscient being that she was truly kind and gentle and pure of heart. It would seem to say that she was duplicitous, calculating, callous, and cold. I may not be a christian, but even I'm not that harsh.

  •  I must take exception to a bit of this... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bustacap, kalmoth, Drgrishka1

    By all accounts, Fleming was a slob. He discovered Penicillin because he was so slovenly that some of his Petri dishes had developed a fungus - like so many leftovers in a bachelor’s refrigerator – and thanks to the idleness afforded him by researching grants he was able to discern value in this. Of course he couldn’t even manufacture a stable and useful strain of the bacteria. Instead it was the U.S. and British governments that realized this advancement. As a capitalist, Fleming was a failure.

    First: I challenge you to find any lab in which hand-poured growth plates NEVER grow random fungi on them. This is not "slovenly" it's "normal". It's possible that this happened more often in Fleming's lab, but I have not heard this.

    More importantly: he would not have been trying to grow a "useful strain of bacteria" since Penicillium is, as you previously noted, a fungus. The difference between bacteria and fungi, in an evolutionary sense, is as great as the difference between bacteria and us.

    Also, I believe the govt's intervention had to do with scaling up production so as to mass-produce penicillin for the troops, didn't it?

    Our system of law is premised on the idea that an unfettered government - rather than criminals - is the greatest danger to our lives and liberty.
    NCrissieB

    by pixxer on Wed May 13, 2009 at 09:06:41 AM PDT

    •  Plus... (6+ / 0-)

      The reason Fleming found penicillin was that he was observant enough to see that the bacteria on his plate (what was supposed to be there) were dying in the area around the fungus. Following up this oddity instead of just trashing the plates is the difference between Fleming and a hack.

      The fungus is producing something that kills bacteria. What is it?

      Our system of law is premised on the idea that an unfettered government - rather than criminals - is the greatest danger to our lives and liberty.
      NCrissieB

      by pixxer on Wed May 13, 2009 at 09:26:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  as noted see mine above nt (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pixxer

      "In England, any man who wears a wig and a sword is ashamed to be illiterate. I believe it is not so in France." Samuel Johnson, per Boswell

      by Mark B on Wed May 13, 2009 at 09:58:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Without patents and attendant (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dennisl

    exclusive property rights, no one would invest in drug or medical device development.  People invest in pharmaceutical companies because they expect profit.  No profit = no product.

    •  thank you Ayn Rand n/t (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bustacap, kalmoth

      Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without - W S Coffin

      by stitchmd on Wed May 13, 2009 at 09:19:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Show me any activity in which (0+ / 0-)

        people would be willing to invest their hard-earned money when no returns would be forthcoming.  Anything?

        •  That would be what the diary is about n/t (0+ / 0-)

          Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without - W S Coffin

          by stitchmd on Wed May 13, 2009 at 09:24:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That is not at all what the diary shows (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dennisl

            The diary merely shows that in human history there were a few brilliant men who made brilliant discoveries without being motivated by profit.  So what?  There are people who spend their entire lives writes dissertations or Shakespeare or studying the colossosal squid, even though that is not a profitable enterprise.

            That's not the point though.  The question is, who in their right mind would invest money in a pharmaceutical company if they knew a priori that no returns are forthcoming.  That is not the question of people working in a lab.  It is a question of completely different set of people giving money so that the first set could work in the lab.  And I submit that no one would do that if they could get a better return on their investment elsewhere.

            •  but you said any activity (0+ / 0-)

              so that is what the diary is about. It shows people who invested time, money and effort without the potential for future profit being the driver.

              There are people who do invest in things for the common good.

              Read the diary. The diarist doesn't say all capitalism is bad. The diarist says there are people who did great things for our healthcare system and general benefit without focus on the payback to themselves.

              And that's why governmental funding of research is important.

              Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without - W S Coffin

              by stitchmd on Wed May 13, 2009 at 09:54:49 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  And there are people (0+ / 0-)

                who do incredible feats and risk their lives, etc.  But they are an exception to the rule.  To build a policy based on exceptions is ludicrious.  

                And no one suggests that government funding of research is not important.  But that is irrelevant to the question of profit motive in pharmaceutical industries.

                •  again, that's just what the diary is about (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  jack23

                  the exceptions to the rule.

                  The point, at least as I read the diary, is that we should be championing people who have been the exceptions, not just the "successful capitalists." There are other ways to go.

                  Just goes back to that ongoing tension between the needs of the society and the wants of the individual. Sometimes you're going to be more successful if you focus on the former and less on the latter.

                  Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without - W S Coffin

                  by stitchmd on Wed May 13, 2009 at 10:00:58 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  The way I read the diary (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    milkbone

                    is that these exceptions are what we should focus on in building our policy.  

                    Briefly, consider what market driven medicine has brought mankind: Snake oil, heroin and The Purple Pill (ask your doctor about The Purple Pill). Oh, and of course Ritalin and Xanax. Where would society be without the off label uses of these capitalist ventures?

                    I mean, really?  How about, the AIDS cocktail, the new antibacterials, the immunosuppressants taht allow for transplants, the heart-lung machine, etc.?

        •  Wall Street? (0+ / 0-)

          How about Madoff funds??

          •  Did people give them money (0+ / 0-)

            expecting returns or knowing that they were throwing money away?

            •  DUEDILIGENCE (0+ / 0-)

              NPRs Frontline pointed out there were warnings. And putting all your eggs in one basket is tantamount to expecting big and certain returns.

              However not everyone knew where their money went. The average investor had as much understanding about Wall Street as they have about pharmaceuticals for instance. Do I know where all my 401k and my CDs are? That is why you spread it around.

              Or Passengers have about airlines, yet they trust us collectively.

              Either too much or not enough cafe,

              Essentially are we discussing investors, speculators(gamblers), or participants in "schemes"?

              •  That again, is not the point (0+ / 0-)

                Some people were stupid, but they gave money to Madoff expecting huge returns.  They didn't invest with him knowing that they will get nothing back.

                With respect to pharma, if there is not patent protection, there is no profit.  And if do, no one, (eitehr small or large) investors, whether individual or institutional or mutual fund, would invest.

        •  Donating to SarahPAC? (0+ / 0-)

          Sorry, couldn't resist.

          There is no goal in the "War on Drugs" that couldn't be more effectively met by legalization & regulation.

          by EthrDemon on Wed May 13, 2009 at 11:02:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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