No, this is not an endorsement by any stretch of the imagination. Bernie Sanders would destroy this country as President. However, his perspectives on pharmaceuticals are close to being correct and are so far to the left that they nearly swing back around to the right.
When Obamacare was first announced, there was something in it that actually made sense to me from a conservative perspective. As a country, we’ve allowed pharmaceutical companies to hold hostage the life-changing (and often life-saving) drugs that power the health care industry by giving them protections that pretty much eliminate innovation.
Many Republicans would counter this argument and say that the protections they are given are due to the need to keep them competitive and give them incentives to continue to innovate. More on that in a moment, but first it’s important to clarify the “conservative” classification.
What most people don’t realize is that the far, far left and the far, far right are often closer to each other than they are to the middle. The scale is viewed as a straight line when in reality it’s a nearly complete circle with a gap between the far right and far left. There are times when the very liberal and the very conservative are inches away from having the same basic ideas.
Bernie Sanders is as far to the left as any of the candidates get. His ideas on pharmaceutical companies are so liberal that they’re almost truly conservative. From his perspective, people should be allowed to buy drugs from Canada, Germany, and other places where the costs are considerably less for the same pills.
Again, the defense for this has always come in the form of promoting scientific creativity and innovation. This “conservative” principle states that in capitalism, innovations can be made because the companies are incentivized to make them. They advance the science of pharmaceuticals with the hope of generating profits. On the surface, this makes sense. Digging a little deeper and we can see that real innovation can only happen when there’s a truly open market. Only with true capitalism can the real innovations happen.
Here’s why this is the case. Today, the protections given to pharmaceutical companies allows them to charge much more than a real market value would dictate. In an open market, the companies would be competing against foreign drug suppliers and their profits would decrease. Before anyone points to profits decreasing as being a bad thing, it’s important to note two important facts:
- Drug companies aren’t making a little money. They making tons of it to the tune of $45 billion last year for five companies alone.
- The “innovation” investments are minimal compared to the sales and marketing investments. In other words, more money is spent selling old drugs than discovering new ones.
One the surface, any conservative would balk at the idea of lifting the legislation that protects these companies from outside competition because they would lose profits. In reality, a truly conservative mindset would demand that they have minimal government interaction other than oversight for safety.
We have to make the pharmaceutical industry a truly open market that competes on the world level. This will make it a numbers game for bulk rather than profitability quality. In other words, they would be forced to innovate and discover new treatments in order to keep their profit levels high when the costs of individual drugs drop.
A perfect example of this is malaria. There have been cures available for decades, but it has never been as profitable to protect millions of people in Africa when there can be much higher profit margins made helping wealthier Americans quit smoking or fight depression. I’m not trying to downplay any health-oriented needs nor am I suggesting that the United States has to innovate to save the world. I’m suggesting that in an open market, treating millions in need of life-threatening ailments can be a focus that still generates profits while allowing everyone, Americans included, to receive the benefits of such an open market.
In this scenario, it would mean that the pharmaceutical companies would still be able to make huge profits. Instead of investing into sales and marketing to cater to an American market, they would have to focus on drugs that helped the world market. This would lower drug costs for Americans, increase the need and the resources for innovations at the pharmaceutical companies, and expand our technological and scientific reach to other countries.
Right now, the industry is focused on high-dollar drugs rather than high-importance drugs. They are playing on the needs of Americans who have to pay for the drugs rather than expanding their operations and improving their own sciences. In an open market, as both true conservatives and hardcore liberals like Bernie Sanders push for in this arena, literally everyone wins other than the pharmaceutical companies and they don’t necessarily lose. It just means they’ll have to work harder to keep their profit numbers so high.
He might not want his supporters to know it, but Sanders is pretty close to be a capitalist conservative when it comes to pharmaceutical companies.