Dr. Richard Burkhart
, March 09, 2017
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Dean Baker is a progressive economist, and a smart one too. Regrettably, thinking like an economist is both his strength and his weakness. It’s great that he can tell us exactly how to restructure the way we do drug R & D, to save many billions and get better results. But he fails to tell us that we’ll likely need Bernie’s “political revolution” to do it. Nor does Baker seem to realize that in a world facing limits-to-growth, a capitalist economy may become impossible to sustain. That is, capitalism is designed to concentrate wealth and power, unless severely constrained. When the growth imperative falters, as it must, the capitalists are quick to blame the constraints, hence the escalating inequality since Reagan and Thatcher. Finally, the dynamic of the “rich get richer, while the poor get poorer” itself reaches a breaking point, as it must, hence Trump. Though missing this big picture, Baker has some wonderful ideas for slashing the horrendous waste that plagues US capitalism. For example, he’d take most medical R & D into the public domain, more like the US military, where the big companies work under contract. Except, full public disclosure would be required instead of patents, resulting in drug prices that would fall by 99% for today’s most expensive drugs. He’d take on the monopoly power that produces extravagant doctors’ salaries, bypassing their political power by promoting medical tourism, even to India. Then Wall Street, corporations, taxes, trade, even textbooks.