May 16, 2003

This is Capitalism?

Bill Gates is a bright guy but apparently no better at speaking in clear terms then most others when trying to describe the dominant socio-economic structure of the last century plus:

MOYERS: What does it say to you that half of all 15 year olds in South Africa and Zimbabwe could lose their lives to AIDS? What does it say to you that 11 million children, roughly, die every year from preventable diseases? What does it say to you that of the 4 million babies who die within their first month, 98 percent are from poor countries? What do those statistics tell you about the world?

GATES: It really is a failure of capitalism. You know capitalism is this wonderful thing that motivates people, it causes wonderful inventions to be done. But in this area of diseases of the world at large, it's really let us down.

MOYERS: But markets are supposed to deliver goods and services to people.

GATES: And when people have money it does.

Gates and Moyer are both on the right track pointing out to us the seriousness of this problem and asking why in this world some of these situations aren't improving. They are wrong in ascribing this failure to capitalism...or even anything close to it. For lack of a better term what Gates is describing is a failure of statist cronyism.

our foundation is not involved in the diseases of the rich world. Not, you know, those are very important, but the market is working there. Between the basic research that the government funds, through NIH. The bio-tech companies. The pharmaceutical companies. You know incredible things will happen with cancer and heart disease over these next 20 or 30 years. Because that's a case where capitalism is at work.
The pharms are one of the best examples of state corporatism: highly regulated and highly protected (could we extend our patent one more time, please). In spite of the statist environment the pharms exist in I am hopeful that Gates is right that incredible things will happen and I hope that it won't take a nest egg of Gatesian proportions to get access.

Gates transcript link via Charles Dodsen who adds some commentary to the lengthy debate on Gates started by Jeanne D'arc.

Posted by Steve on May 16, 2003
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