Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Opponents of free trade and a world of free markets have a new ally today: Pharmeceutical companies are siding with them. Many foolish world socialists had viewed these companies as a part of the problem world trade, keeping the world's poor vulnerable to disease by charging extortionate prices for medicines. Never mind that these companies sell patented products, and therefore command monopolies granted them by state intervention, and produce them with funding from states in the form of research and development subisidies; the world-socialist movement liked to regard these institutions as creations of free market capitalism, and as some of the worst aspects of globalisation.

But socialists now have them as allies in the fight against free trade.

American pharmaceutical companies are currently funding a scare campaign to frighten US consumers away from supporting free trade in drugs. They claim imported drugs are unsafe even though free trade has been a resounding success in Europe for over two decades.

One drug company funded website, buysafedrugs.info, claims that free trade "is an open door for cheap, unsafe, foreign medications that will flood America, especially poor minorities." Yet these are the same "cheap, unsafe, foreign medications" that Pfizer et al are selling to Americans. If tampering is the issue, the European ones are safer because they are placed in tamper-proof bottles before they leave the factory. As Dr Peter Rost, a Pfizer Vice-President, has pointed out, US drugs are "shipped in big vats to wholesalers, and then poured into smaller, bulk-size containers, from which tablets are dispensed manually to the patient," which means there are lots of entry points for a terrorist.

Opponents of globalisation can include the drug companies along with their other allies, like Pat Buchanon or George Bush.

But the world-socialist movement is oblivious to these things. It has always thought that the ruling elite gained its power because the state did to little, i.e. to intervene in markets. The reverse is the actual truth, as the Globalization Institute say, "Vested interests always like to be protected so that they can rig markets. In DC, drug companies reportedly employ two lobbyists for every member of Congress." And as The Economist wrote when George Bush removed the Steel tariffs that he himself imposed: "In the 20 months since the tariffs were imposed, the steel industry has consolidated. Some ailing steel firms, such as National Steel and Bethlehem Steel, have been gobbled up by larger competitors."

Capitalists hate capitalism, but the left don't recognise this fact. Why would a business man want people to be free to compete with his firm, free to use better techniques, produce better goods, and charge lower prices than him? No business man likes to lose his share of the market. So businessmen are always going to favour intervention to restrict new competitors, to reign in existing ones, and to win himself subsidies at others' expense. The left fail to observe that intervention in the economy is what the ruling classes like and by advocating it, the left not only aids the consolidation and strengthening of the ruling classes, but also aiuds in impoverishing the poor. As George Will writes

Once upon a time, Democrats understood that when Republicans protected, as they did for decades, American industry from the inconvenience of price competition from abroad, the result was higher prices -- a hidden tax -- paid by consumers. Today Democrats advocate protectionism, which they call ``fair trade,'' in the name of protecting what tariffs actually destroy: American jobs. The steel tariffs are, for example, a $100 tax on every new American car, and on the creation of jobs for autoworkers.

Bush imposed the tariffs to court steelworkers. There are 124,000 of them nationwide. But they are most important in Pennsylvania, which had 23 (it now has 21) electoral votes that Bush in 2000 lost by 204,840 votes; Ohio, which had 21 (now 20) electoral votes that he won by 165,019; and West Virginia, which has five electoral votes that he won by 40,978 votes. The steelworkers union has endorsed Dick Gephardt for president.

It is intervention for the benefit of special interests, and at the expense of everybody else - and big business loves it. The trouble is that in supporting state socialism, the left become shills for the ruling classes.


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