"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Governments and Vaccines

Reform Clubber Dr. Ben Zycher has an excellent column in today's Los Angeles Times, in which he analyzes why, in the light of "a possible—but unlikely—flu pandemic caused by a potential breakout of avian flu among human populations," the "greedy pharmaceutical producers" of the United States have not been "moving mountains in anticipation of this huge potential need, with all of the dollars that would follow."

Zycher's answer: previous federal government behavior toward makers of vaccines and pharmaceuticals—"orchestrated by those pro-business, pro-free enterprise, pro-capitalism Republicans," he correctly notes—has decimated the U.S. vaccine industry: "No business will make large investments that are likely to be confiscated by government, because investors will not allow it."

Zycher points out that although it is perfectly legitimate to say that people should contribute to the betterment of their fellow human beings, is is quite another thing for the government simply to take things from private individuals, without proper compensation, in order to keep their budget numbers looking good, as has been the case in the federal vaccine and pharma takings. Such policies discourage the production of things that benefit mankind and are therefore shortsighted and foolish:

The larger question is whether vaccine producers have a moral responsibility to accept large losses in order to save lives in the here and now. Those who respond with an unqualified "yes" commit two errors: They argue in the name of compassion that government ought to confiscate unlimited amounts of other people's money (products), and they ignore the future lives that will not be saved because of an artificial decrease in incentives to develop new and improved medicines. Yes, pharmaceutical producers have a moral responsibility to those in need. All of us who are more fortunate have that same responsibility, which therefore should be fulfilled through the public budget without confiscation of private property. After all, the 5th and 13th Amendments to the Constitution prohibit takings and involuntary servitude precisely so that political majorities may not impose losses upon unpopular groups.

If the government deems it a public good that people be given free access to a vaccine, the treatments should be paid for out of tax dollars.

Robbing Peter to vaccinate Paul will eventually kill both Peter and Paul.

1 comment:

connie deady said...

I thought that the government paid the companies to make flu vaccines.

I agree that if you believe something is a public good that the marketplace will not pay for, as it may be economically feasible, then the government should provide fiscal incentives to do so. I thought that is what they did.(though I admit complete ignorance on this subject).

To me that is one of the good parts of government, to encourage private spending in ways that benefit society, when it might not otherwise be done.