« on: February 05, 2011, 10:04 AM »
I've got nothing against "capitalism" or growing wealth, but at some point, capitalism starts running amok in ways that are not beneficial.-Renegade (February 04, 2011, 07:54 PM)
Going back to the core of your argument, Renegade, I don't think many would disagree with this statement. On the other hand, there seems to be little appetite among voters (particularly American voters) for state intervention in the economic process. And it's still America's view on this issue that matters most. America is still (just) the economic engine of the world.
Sometimes it's difficult to have these conversations across national boundaries because our own histories and teachings mean we have very different working definitions of capitalism or socialism, right-wing or left-wing.
For example, viewed from the comfort of my armchair here in the UK, American politics seems a very frightening beast. You have a right-wing party (the Democrats), an extreme right-wing party (Republicans) and another large political organisation (the Tea Party), for people for whom even the Republicans don't seem right-wing enough. Terrifying.
This is using the modern, narrow definition of right-wing to mean the extent to which you accept state intervention in everyday life (through taxation, or regulation).
The most right-wing party in the UK (the Conservatives) has as its leader a man who is a great champion of our national health care system (the state-funded NHS, free to everyone at the point of delivery), the same NHS that was vilified in TV ads by American Republican politicians during the "Obamacare" debate. Republican ads described the "nightmare" of being treated in the UK's "socialist" medical system. In the hands of American right-wing politicians, the word socialist has no definition. It simply means "a bad thing". To many people in the UK (including the Conservative Prime Minister) the NHS is one of the greatest achievements in Britain's history.
But of course the NHS is not immune from the capitalist model, indeed it interacts with it every day. Drug companies sell drugs at a price, and the state either pays up, or patients don't get the drugs (see Nudone's earlier post).
This has been concentrating my mind over the last year. I was diagnosed with cancer at a time when I had no employment and little savings. Without the NHS, I would have been in big(ger) trouble.
Ultimately, the length of time I will survive depends on whether I get access to new and expensive drugs. By a curious coincidence, shortly before I was diagnosed, a British television programme showed the curious process through which drugs are approved for use -- using as an example the very drug I am likely to need soon.
It's called Revlimid. The NHS will pay a maximum of £30,000 per patient (about $48,000) "per year of good life" for a single drug. The drug company wanted £45,000 a year per patient for Revlimid. The NHS refused use of the drug. So the drug company came back a few months later and said "okay, £42,000". The NHS has some discretion in paying more for what are seen as "end-of-life" drugs. They actually showed the committee's voting session on TV. The eighteen-member vote on whether they should pay £42,000 per year per patient for Revlimid tied at 9-9. The chairman's casting vote was yes. So I should get the drug. Which means that other patients with other conditions will be denied drugs, because the budget is always finite.
Allegedly, Revlimid was a "relatively inexpensive" drug to develop. It is an extremely profitable drug for the company. I try to be realistic about these things, but it is difficult not to conclude that drug companies hold health services to ransom.