Government and Regulations as an advocate for the ‘little guy’

The following is my comment I posted in response to this this article

 

by Glen Wallace

The ‘protected class’ referred to in your article is referring to protection by way of the circumstance of relative wealth. But, what I see as a fundamental oversight by those freemarket advocates in the ‘protected class’ is that some level of protection can be afforded to lower and middle classes by way of the government in the form of rules and regulations. As an example of that oversight by freemarket advocates, I need only present an email from this site (mauldineconomics.com) I received back on May 25, titled ‘Inside: Highlights from Day 3 of the SIC 2017’ that included a brief summary of the Strategic Investors Conference including one short paragraph that stated:

“Regulation was also discussed, with Faber receiving a round of applause for a passionate soliloquy deriding laws and regulations. “It is your duty to fight the government every day,” he said.”

Given the high entry fee to that SIC conference I think it is safe to say that most likely every member of that audience giving Faber a round of applause is a member of the ‘protected class’ protected by the circumstance of wealth. For Faber and his audience there at the conference, I don’t think they understand from a personal experience level, having to rely on the government and regulations to protect them from exploitation and harm by some ruthless capitalist member of the ‘protected class’.

The wealthy typically can afford to live far away from a factory or plant, so no need is seen to have any regulations in place restricting pollution and toxic discharge from those sites — the affluent can avoid the effluent. It is typically the poorer communities that live near those plants and factories and have to breath the air and drink the water that might be contaminated by the sites pollutants. But wealthy freemarket, anti-regulation advocates seem to think — ‘why is there any need for regulations restricting pollution when I get to live so far away from the polluters?’

If Faber, or any of his wealthy audience, wants to buy a bottle of 200 dollar scotch from a storied distillery, I’m sure he has no worry that bottle of scotch might contain toxic levels of wood alcohol even if there were no proper government distillery regulations. But the working class guy who just wants a cheap drink, might have to rely on government oversight and regulations to insure that cheap bottle of whisky he bought is safe to drink — in moderation of course. But it is rich people that can afford the best of everything where a competitive marketplace can often, but not always, substitute for government regulations given the huge importance on a reputation for quality in such a market. But for the rest of us coupon clipping bargain shoppers, who are not protected by the circumstance of wealth, we are often dependent on the power of government to act as a measure against the power of business, to help ensure the products we buy are safe.

While as a leftie progressive I am willing to admit that some regulations are onerous and unnecessary, I have yet to hear a right winger freemarketeer admit that at least some regulations are very valuable in protecting the worker, the environment and the consumer from harm and exploitation by business. I usually hear arguments against regulations along the lines of letting the market decide and just file a lawsuit if harmed by a business instead of imposing regulations.

I then would counter that letting the ordinary market and judicial system be the de facto regulator is horribly flawed insofar as it is reactive, at best, where regulations are proactive. I say ‘at best’ because a business can go on harming the consumer, the worker or the environment for years before enough people notices to file a lawsuit or stop buying their products. And even if they are caught by the marketplace or are sued, the most that often happens is the business just declares bankruptcy and the executives and owners leave with all the millions they gained from all those years of exploitative business practices. And the most that could be hoped for is criminal prosecution in the most egregious cases of harm by a business. But even if there is a conviction in such cases, I am sure it is small solace to the victims. Wouldn’t it be so much better if there were some good regulations in place to proactively protect the worker, the consumer or the environment from harm in the first place?

 

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Open letter to Senator Klobuchar regarding price spikes in insulin and other pharmaceuticals and medical devices

by Glen Wallace

Hi Senator Klobuchar, I just saw a feature on the KSTP news featuring some comments by you about the recent run-up in the price of insulin recently. I believe an ideal solution is one you and your colleagues on capitol hill have not even considered legislatively. The solution to spikes in the price of pharmaceuticals and medical devices would be for the government to take over the production and distribution of those pharmaceuticals and medical devices at cost. Currently there seems to be a habit of thinking among healthcare policy makers that traps them into assuming that the only option to getting a needed healthcare product to the patient is by way of the commercial markets.

But there shouldn’t be any barriers to the federal government taking on the role of the production and distribution of at least the medicines and devices that are outside of patent protection. And keep in mind many of the most notorious recent cases of price spikes occurred with products that were already outside of patent protection — including, but not limited to insulin and the epipen.

Also, there is a long standing precedent of the federal government owning and operating the means of production and distribution of a product — the Government Publishing Office, formerly known as the Government Printing Office, has been around for many decades manufacturing, printing, publishing and selling to individuals and institutions everything from books to pamphlets to posters and just about everything printable in between.

Therefore, there should be nothing stopping the Senate and House from mandating the opening of a Government Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices Office to bypass the market and get the needed healthcare products directly to the patients at the mere cost of production.

For years now I have been seeing hearings and statements from representatives such as yourself ranging from scolding to pleading of manufacturers to try and keep their prices down. I ask you; who’s in charge here? When I hear only talk from you in the form of scolding and pleading to some Big Pharma executive, it sure looks like it is the Big Pharma companies that are the ones in charge. I thought we were a country of, by and for the people. If they will not bring the prices down, then we the people should engage that American can-do spirit, and make those products ourselves.

And this could be just the beginning — we could start building a medical system that is entirely patient driven instead of where it is now in being market driven. I think people that go into the medical profession do it first and foremost because they care about people. With a patient driven, patient based system we can have as the primary decision makers, about what medical drug or device goes into production and their prices, be those medical professionals that care about the patients and not some bean counting CEO with only a legal fiduciary responsibility to some distant shareholders.

Referenced news story about insulin prices featuring Klobuchar comments