One of my most faithful pen-pals (if such a term can be applied to people who send me e-mails) shipped over this link:
Briefly, this blog post recounts the history of an exchange between Dr. Ben Goldacre, a British physician/journalist and author of a new book called Bad Pharma, and a dissident economist, Harry Shutt. Goldacre's book appears based on what I've heard so far to be same ol', same ol' for readers of this blog--he nails the drug industry and its medical hangers-on for their addiction to profits over science and health. Shutt's criticism was that all Goldacre calls for is improved regulation of the industry. How, he asked, can you assume that's any sort of adequate measure, when you've just compiled this huge body of evidence that the industry snaps its fingers at all the regulation previously put in place? Goldacre first sent a wimpy reply back, then ceased to respond at all as Shutt pressed him further.
This exchange points out a basic feature of my book HOOKED as well as of this blog. I'm guilty as Goldacre is charged. I have clung to the position that I accept that we live in a capitalist society and that the drug industry is going to continue to be run as a for-profit endeavor. I have called for a lot of changes in how the industry, medicine, and government all do business, but have not called for nationalization of the industry or making it a public utility.
I may be accused of similar wimpiness in my recent book, The Golden Calf (see http://brodyhooked.blogspot.com/2011/11/shameless-commerce-division-new-book.html). I there attack economism, the belief in an unregulated free market as the solution to all human social problems. But to the extent that I offer a vision for an improved future, it's largely a return to the capitalism of the 1950s where the power of government and organized labor helped balance out the excesses of big business, and not the overthrow of capitalism.
I cannot honestly report that I have a deep philosophical commitment to capitalism, though I am persuaded by authors such as economist-philosopher Amartya Sen that basic respect for human rights and human liberty has to include respect for rights to participate in fair markets. My overall goal has been strategic rather than philosophical. I am trying to get the attention of readers, most especially my fellow physicians and health professionals. If the position from which I started is anti-capitalist, I could expect that hardly any of them would read beyond the first sentence. If I stay under the capitalist big tent and specifically detail the problems with medicine and Pharma, maybe at least a few more of them will pay attention.
Is that a coherent and responsible position to take? The beauty of a blog is that y'all get to decide.