The editorial team at The Des Moines Register, (as well as many liberals), seem to think that anyone who does not follow the recommendations of our government’s scientists is a “science denier.” That’s not true. People can believe the science but disagree about how to respond politically. Science can give us a pretty good idea of what will happen when we take certain actions, but science does not tell us what risks are acceptable or what trade-offs we are willing to make to achieve any specific level of safety. Those are either individual or political decisions. We could stop COVID-19 completely if everyone was required to stay in their home for the next 30 days. But even then, some would die in their homes. There is no perfect answer. It is a proper role of government to use its force to stop or slow the spread of a communicable disease. But as we can clearly see there are wide differences of opinion regarding what trade-offs we are willing to make and what level of safety should be our goal. To the extent that those who are not willing to take a risk can protect themselves, others should be free to take risks.
I just started listening to the audio podcast of the Soho Forum debate: “There is overwhelming evidence that our criminal justice system is racist.” The debaters are Radley Balko (for), and Rafael Mangual (against).
The opening statement by Radley Balko is full of evidence of systemic racism in the administration of our criminal justice system. If you want specifics, the video and audio links are below.
Link to YouTube video of the debate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbWZM94nwD8
Link to Reason.com Soho Debates podcast: https://reason.com/podcast/radley-balko-and-rafael-mangual-debate-systemic-racism/
I agree with John Stanford’s essay in the Wall Street Journal today that controlling drug prices would slow biomedical innovation and and research. (WSJ 7/2/2020 – see link below.) When you spend less money on anything you will get less of it. But that’s okay. Today, we get more drug research and innovation than we want to pay for.Most drugs approved by the FDA are required by law to be covered and paid for by Medicare and Medicaid regardless of price! Many are required by law to be covered and paid for by private insurance companies regardless of the price! This is true even when the drug provides little or no improvement over other existing approved drugs! Under such a situation we, of course, get maximum research and development.If we did the same for space exploration, we would probably already have colonies on Mars. If we did the same for climate change, we would probably already have that problem solved. The point is that development of new prescription drugs is not our only priority, and our ability to pay is not unlimited.We don’t have anything close to free market capitalism in the prescription drug market in the U.S. Government is already very involved, mostly providing subsidies, protection from competition, and other benefits to drug manufacturers. It is not unreasonable to set a drug price ceiling that is 20% higher than what is being paid by Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Japan. We can always make special exceptions for something like a vaccine against the Covid-19 virus.
Link to John Stanford essay in WSJ:
Bob Vander Platas’ essay in the Register supporting the State ordered prohibition of abortion was a poor attempt to rationalize his religious beliefs. (See link below.) Most would agree that if an abortion is to be done, it is best done at the earliest stage possible, ideally during the first trimester. Iowa should not be prohibiting abortions or other “elective” surgeries that increase a person’s health risk if they are delayed. Currently, hospitals in Iowa are not that close to capacity, and surgical masks are different than the N95 masks. This is one area where restrictions should be eased now.
Stay-at-home and shelter-in place orders appear to be no different than what I see happening in Iowa, regardless of what you call it. In all cases, people are still free to walk, shop for groceries, get medicine, access medical care, all while social distancing. Iowans are doing their part to bend the curve to help not overload our healthcare system. Those who want further protection can quarantine themselves as much as they want. Those who criticize Governor Reynolds for not using different terminology are just playing politics.
I don’t doubt the good intentions of our government leaders, including elected officials and public health regulators, as they tighten restrictions on our freedom of movement.. We are “bending the curve” and easing the pressure on our health care system. But unless an effective anti-virus drug is found and administered to everyone very quickly, bending the curve will only delay the time before most of us will become infected, and will lengthen the time that we all suffer emotionally and economically.Why is our response to this situation so dramatically different than our response to the flu or automobile accidents? Both the flu and auto accidents kill tens of thousands of Americans each year and are preventable. We could dramatically reduce those deaths if we used the same extreme measures that we are using against COVID-19. But what is the point of living if we have to stay away from our family and friends? For a few weeks, fine. For several months or more, not acceptable. Life has risks. We need to balance the costs and the benefits of our efforts. Soon, we need to once again let people decide for themselves how much risk they are willing to take.
The tendency of capitalism to lead to crony capitalism is perpetual and pervasive. Over time, it seems that the cronies are winning. Our governments subsidize most of farming, all energy production, all mineral extraction industries, big exporters, hedge fund managers, most research, and on and on. It depresses me. I think the general answer to the problem is to reduce the size and scope of government. We DO need government for many things, as established in our Constitution, including public health and response to pandemics such as we are experiencing now. But right now, politicians appear to not be doing any balancing of costs versus benefits. We accept that tens of thousands of people die from the flu every year, we accept tens of thousands of people dying in auto accidents every year. In both cases many of the deaths are preventable, but at what cost? A cost that most of us don’t want to pay. We want to live our lives in some normal kind of way. I think it is almost impossible for politicians in the current situation to vote against anything that is proposed, including crony special interest spending. So, I say put some pressure on politicians to limit current bailout spending to really necessary spending that is directly related to the pandemic, and that is temporary.
I disagree with Paul Michel and Matthew Dowd, (Wall Street Journal, 1/24/2020, link below), that our patent laws do not give adequate and clear protection to inventions. Conversely, we have become too liberal in both what is allowed to be patented and the length of time that patents are granted.
They urge the reversal by Congress of the Supreme Court of rulings that prohibit the granting of patents for “abstract ideas” and “natural phenomena”. Abstract ideas, like mathematical formulas, computer code, or simple ideas drawn on paper, and natural phenomena, like the discovery of particular DNA or naturally occurring chemical compounds, should not be patentable.
Originally, U.S. patents had a maximum life of 14 years, then 17 years, and then 20 years. Companies that earn billions of dollars in profits every year on their patents are very willing to spend many millions of dollars to lobby congress to extend their monopolies. Who spends money lobbying to reduce the term of patents? Shouldn’t the term of monopoly protection granted depend in part on how much it costs to meet government regulations related to the invention? For example, prescription drugs may deserve a long patent term because of the cost to meet government regulations. But there is no logical reason why all patents should be granted for the same length of time. (Design patents are granted for shorter periods, but why should they be granted at all?)
The concept of “intellectual property” is man-made. Since time immemorial, humans have copied one another. For millennia legally protected private property was limited to physical property which could only be possessed by one person at a time. Ideas can be possessed by many people at the same time without infringing on the physical property of others and without the use of force. Monopolies, including the exclusive use of inventions, were originally granted by Kings to favored subjects through the use of force. Our government protects patents through the use of force. Contrary to the Founder’s intent, some patents appear to slow innovation rather than encourage it. The case can be made that no patents should be granted. In this case, Congress should expand patent protection.
Link to Wall Street Journal opinion:
Medicare for all will not save money. If you think health care costs are high now, just wait until it is free! There will be massive over-utilization until rationing kicks in – then there will be long waits, denial of care, and denied services. Everyone should not be forced into a single government-run plan. The U.S. is should be proud of not following the forced socialist plans of other countries. We absolutely do have problems with our health care system – but much of that is due to bad government policies and lack of real free-market competition. Government granted monopolies, in the form of patents, have been abused.
Link to Tim DeLong’s letter to the Des Moines Register: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/readers/2020/03/02/letters-informed-writers-ordinary-citizens-provide-more-than-debates/4925438002/