There is a fascinating article on the National Public Radio’s site this month, ‘We’re Fighting For Our Lives’: Patients Protest Sky-High Insulin Prices by Bram Sable-Smith. In it, Sable-Smith looks at how diabetics are risking serious injury…even death!…because Big Pharma has elected to push the price of their life-saving insulin to sky-high prices. As a result, they are organizing and attempting to fight back.
Thus, notes the article, “The cost of insulin nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013 and has doubled again since then. The list price is over $300 for a single vial of medicine, and most people with Type 1 diabetes need multiple vials every month to live. That cost is typically lower with insurance or with discount programs. Still, for some people the price is unmanageable.” Just to survive, diabetics have had to become politically active.
The NPR story reveals a fundamental failing of corporate capitalism. Private enterprises are not in the business of social welfare. They are in the business of making as much money as possible. And if they fail to do that, then they might be actually guilty of not serving the best interest of their owners — i.e., shareholders.
But if that mission — i.e., to be as profitable as possible — actually threatens our lives and well-being, well, how does the larger society deal with it?
Of course, a Liberal would argue for the regulation of enterprise, and, if possible, the break up large corporations which have become either monopolies or near monopolies so that competition might drive prices down. But both these solutions are anathema in a world dominated by Trumpians and Ayn Rand-style Libertarians.
Which suggests, then, that eventually we will have to make a choice. Either we are faithful to Libertarianism and “Economic Liberty”… and die…
Or we rediscover the concept of the common good, and of community, and survive.
The NPR program can be heard below: