07
Jul
10

Mission Unpossible

Everyone knows that drug prices in the United States are far, far higher than they are in any other civilized nation, and that this is a major driver of the nation’s high health-care costs.  Some people know that this is true because drug companies are run by nasty money-grubbing fat-cat profit-mongers with long thin handlebar mustaches and tall top hats whose boundless avarice is only given full rein in a laughably misguided ideologically-driven free-market economy.  Other people know that this is true because the selfless innovators who’re just trying to cure cancer and give people more time with their grandparents are being taken to the cleaners by monopsonistic socialist governments in Pinko Fucking Everywhere Else and are forced to fund their life-giving research by raising prices in the US.

So this is of course utterly unpossible:

There’s a new study coming out from the London School of Economics, comparing prices of 68 drugs between the two regions. And what they find is that US prices are about 25% higher than Europe – but no more than that:

[…]

The Financial Times article mentions that this is embarrassing for the drug companies, who have maintained that the high US prices are needed to make up for lower prices elsewhere. But if the industry could have argued all along that prices aren’t so high, why wouldn’t it have done so to try to defuse the issue? […]But it also seems embarrassing for people who’ve loudly been arguing the other side of the issue as well. What if the drug companies aren’t as greedy as they look? And what if the European pricing regime, whose virtues have been pitched to me many times, wouldn’t save much more money?

(You’ll have to follow that link and read Dr. Lowe’s post for their methodology; I won’t spoil the surprise, but it looks like both sides of the argument are going to get to trot out “well just because it’s peer-reviewed doesn’t mean it’s true” on this one.)

Huh.  I guess we’ll have to find a new narrative.

Well, if there’s one thing you can count on large corporations — like drug companies — to do, it’s to spend lots of money influencing the course of politics.  After all, advertising is nothing more than mind control writ large, and since the Citizens United ruling opened the floodgates to unrestricted corporate electioneering, we’re going to be drowning in company-sponsored campaign ads for the November elections starting about a month and a half ago.  Right?

When the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling provided corporations with more opportunity to contribute to political campaigns, the anti-business crowd was quite angry. As far as they were concerned, the purity of American democracy had been compromised. It seems, however, that may have been a bit of an overreaction. So far, corporations aren’t leading the way in campaign contributions. In fact, their spending isn’t even close to that of the unions.

[…]

Corporations certainly have political interests, but they aren’t overtly political organizations like unions. Unions collect dues for the expressed purpose of pushing the legal discourse towards workers’ interests. Corporations may have deeper pockets on a whole, but they generally care a lot more about using their money to please shareholders than politicians.

Or perhaps, as I suggested at the time, it’s actually more cost-effective for corporations with large political budgets to keep using the behind-the-scenes network of lobbyists they’ve already developed despite McCain-Feingold than it is for them to switch that budget over to a very public ad campaign.

Next we’ll find out that innovative car safety features actually prompt people to engage in more risky behaviour… oh wait!

After she praised the ability of the car to self-correct when she drifted from her lane, she noted that she would love to have this feature in her own car. Then, after a night of drinking in the city, she would not have to sleep at a friend’s house before returning to her rural home.

[…]

This is not to say that all safety regulations are useless–the number of tired or drunk drivers (and their victims) saved by lane drift alerts seems likely to exceed the victims of the extra idiots lured onto the road by the technology.    But as Tom Vanderbilt chronicled in his book, Traffic, (and at shorter length on his blog) you can sometimes actually reduce traffic accidents by making driving harder; people who feel uneasy are less likely to make inattentive mistakes.

Following the latter point, I propose that the NHTSA mandate all new cars sold in the United States to feature rear-wheel drive (for a bit of extra “oh shit” anticipation of losing control) and H-gate manual transmissions.  Not just H-gates, but dog-ring transmissions without synchromeshes — that clutch pedal won’t save you now, Mabel: you’ve got to match revs just like Gilles and Ayrton used to!  The benefits are obvious: driving becomes harder and more engaging, promoting driver attention and thus saving lives; dog-ring ‘boxes don’t suffer from the same synchro wear as other transmissions and require less maintenance; and the absence of synchros reduces rotating driveline mass to improve upon the manual transmission’s already-excellent fuel economy.  This has nothing to do with what I like to drive; it’s just an objectively unimpeachable public policy option.

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