Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Playing at Empiricism

 

With the Ebola virus making its first appearance on America’s shores in an effort to aid two American doctors who have become infected with the disease, frightened citizens have begun scouring the internet for any information they can gather. Unsure what the virus wants, or whether it will beat them up before taking their lunch money, some desperate souls have turned to Vox, the world’s foremost explainer of things that require little explanation.

To no one’s surprise, greedy corporations are the root of all evil.

Here’s what’s surprising and interesting about this state of affairs: it is not caused by a lack of human ingenuity or scientific capacity to come up with Ebola remedies. It’s because this is an African disease, and our global innovation system largely ignores the health problems of the poor.

Better strap in. We’ve haven’t nearly reached peak cringe worthiness yet.

This shouldn’t be news. Most all of the money for research and development in health comes from the private sector. They naturally have a singular focus — making money — and they do that by selling patent-protected products to many people who can and are willing to pay very high monopoly prices. Not by developing medicines and vaccines for the world’s poorest people, like those suffering with Ebola.

How do the authors reach the conclusion that Ebola research is getting the shaft because of greedy capitalists? Remember that the left is not a movement of ideology, but of empiricism. They go only where the evidence takes them, even if that means chasing their own tails.

The left’s aversion to holistic understanding leaves them forever prone to seeing statistics in a vacuum, and drawing over broad conclusions from them. Though they comprehend only small facets of the whole, they move forward with supreme confidence. After all, they have a chart.

neglected_diseases

The data the author’s rely on primarily deal with “neglected” diseases. Per the NIH, neglected literally means that these are diseases which primarily affect the poor. Much like Vox, the NIH explains that one of the reasons these diseases do not receive much in the way of R&D funding is that private pharmaceutical companies cannot recover the cost of developing and producing treatments for them. Then they drop this doozy which the wonks neglected to mention in their piece.

“Neglected diseases also lack visibility because they usually do not cause dramatic outbreaks that kill large numbers of people.”

Ebola is the example par excellence. Prior to this year there had been 1,310 deaths from Ebola since the virus was first discovered in humans in 1976. How does that compare to other medical problems which were competing for R&D dollars?

There are between 250,000 and 500,000 flu deaths worldwide each year. Since 1976, more people have died of influenza than Ebola by an order of magnitude.

Cancer killed 8.2 million people worldwide in 2012. Heart disease killed 17.3 Million in 2008. The list of diseases more deadly than Ebola includes nearly every disease now discovered, including the common cold.

Data which breaks down research dollars per disease are a wonderful tool for analysis; until you pretend that is all you need to know before demanding the entire system of medical funding be overhauled.

Step one in such an analysis would be comparing those dollars to the actual deadliness of any given condition, in order to see if it is at all proportional. That not even this first step was taken before publishing such tripe is clear evidence of the left’s impulse to play at empiricism, rather than engage in it.

But perhaps I am being unfair. After all, I haven’t included the money quote of the piece yet.

Right now, more money goes into fighting baldness and erectile dysfunction than hemorrhagic fevers like dengue or Ebola.

A point as frivolous as it is misleading, this sentence betrays the utter lack of holistic understanding that I’m talking about. In Vox’s kindergarten version of the world, if Propecia and Viagra didn’t exist, that money would be going to more noble causes such as Ebola.

It does not enter their thinking that if the profitable venture of giving old men hope that they might get laid via hair and erections were to vanish, that these investment dollars would simply go elsewhere in the economy: such as making sports cars to give old men hope of getting laid.

Young liberals cannot help but engage in the same mistakes as their intellectual forebearers in the Soviet Union; mistakes which Hayek identified long before these wonks were born. No bureaucracy can as efficiently distribute resources as the market. Their meddling will primarily cause price distortions and shortages.

Government can effectively achieve any one goal which it sets for itself, as success can easily come at the expense of other goals. What government is bad at is balancing competing priorities.

Unfortunately for the pseudo-empirical left, humans have many priorities aside from protection from diseases: food, water, shelter, knowledge, family, comfort, leisure, getting laid after the age of 40, and so on. These priorities cannot be ranked empirically, as their value is largely subjective. Even when approached from a stand point of the hierarchy of needs, one cannot make very much progress.

Do we have to eradicate all diseases before any of us gets an iPad? After all, much research has been dedicated to the common cold, with virtually no effective drugs to show for it. Can we have steak in this Maslowian world, or are we all going to have to eat nuts and berries? If the latter, may I requisition the supplies to end my own life?

Even within a single priority, there are competing priorities. The FDA is the gatekeeper when it comes to new drug treatments, and they demand exhaustive proof of not only efficacy, but safety in all new drugs. But it’s not like there is an Ebola vaccine stuck in bureaucratic hell right now though. I mean, that would be beyond parody when the left is demanding more government control over R&D.

This lack of faith in the market cannot stem from any holistic look at the empirical evidence. The correlation between capitalism and prosperity is too strong. Instead, it is driven by these micro-aggressions; Deep dives into very narrow aspects of the economy, where a supposed injustice can be seen. In this way, the faithful on the left hope to inflict a death of a thousand cuts on the most effective tool for improving the quality of life for human beings.

The wunderkind anxiously await their turn at the helm of America’s resource allocation in place of the market, like newly licensed teens trying steal the keys to their dad’s sports car. Sadly, we all end up wrapped around a tree when they get their wish.

There are 27 comments.

  1. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Imagine the squirming and stammering elicited by asking if the ridiculously lucrative cosmetic and sex-change surgery fields should be denuded of funds rather than ED and MPB.

    • #1
    • August 6, 2014, at 3:14 PM PDT
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  2. John Walker Contributor

    Frank Soto: Ebola is the example par excellence. Prior to this year there had been 1,310 deaths from Ebola since the virus was first discovered in humans in 1976. How does that compare to other medical problems which were competing for R&D dollars?

    Or consider measles, which accounted for 122,000 deaths in 2012, and for which a safe and effective vaccination has been available since the 1960s. The death toll from measles is not due to lack of effective prevention or corporate greed, but dysfunctional societies, ignorance, and conspiracy theories.

    • #2
    • August 6, 2014, at 3:21 PM PDT
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  3. thelonious Member

    Hasn’t AZT developed by greedy and heartless pharmaceutical companies save the lives of millions? Many happen to be poor Africans.

    • #3
    • August 6, 2014, at 3:47 PM PDT
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  4. Hammer, The Member

    Hah – nice post, Frank.

    My wife read me something that a friend of hers had posted on facebook, wondering about the breakdown on a ven diagram that compares people who are afraid of ebola coming to the US with people who refuse to vaccinate their children.

    • #4
    • August 6, 2014, at 3:56 PM PDT
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  5. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Coolidge

    Some more reading. And if Rico 2.0 functioned better, I could make these links look prettier.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/384757/when-regulation-kills-kevin-d-williamson

    http://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/2014/08/05/i-aim-to-misbehave/

    Both well worth your time reading.

    • #5
    • August 6, 2014, at 4:21 PM PDT
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  6. TG Thatcher
    TG

    Thank you, Frank.

    • #6
    • August 6, 2014, at 5:00 PM PDT
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  7. PsychLynne Inactive

    Frank Soto: This shouldn’t be news. Most all of the money for research and development in health comes from the private sector. 

    If most of the money for research comes from the private sector, why is it such a tragedy when NIH’s budget doesn’t grow every year? After all, it’s just a drop in the bucket.

    We also need to remember that sometimes the reasons drugs and devices don’t go overseas isn’t the greedy capitalists, but rather the crazy regulatory environment. See NRO article cited by DrewInWisconsin above.

    • #7
    • August 6, 2014, at 5:37 PM PDT
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  8. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    DrewInWisconsin: And if Rico 2.0 functioned better, I could make these links look prettier.

     Drew, I’ve found that any formatting that gets lost in the initial post will stick if you edit it and put it back in.

    • #8
    • August 6, 2014, at 5:52 PM PDT
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  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Frank Soto: Right now, more money goes into fighting baldness and erectile dysfunction than hemorrhagic fevers like dengue or Ebola.

     Want to fight dengue fever? There is something that can be done – a treatment that has been around for decades. Just spritz a little DDT inside (inside) of peoples’ homes. Dengue is mosquito-borne. The treatment would cut way down on the incidence of malaria too. Two big killers for one little two-bit squirt ought to protect a single home for a year.

    But DDT is bad, so people die.

    • #9
    • August 6, 2014, at 6:21 PM PDT
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  10. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    You do have a way with words, Frank. Excellent.

    I’ve run into the same problem recently with pseudo-empiricism by liberals on the topic of infant mortality in developed countries. According to liberals, the US is ranked (they love the “rankings” gambit) near the bottom of developed nations on saving babies. Does anyone here believe that? Or is it more likely that, you know, the US counts all its live-births as “live-births,” where other developed nations only count “live-births” after the babies survive some arbitrary time-period, which, coincidentally makes their infant mortality numbers look better?

    These same people are unconcerned that over half of black babies are aborted in NYC every year.

    I find their concerns on behalf of the poor and minorities… unpersuasive.

    • #10
    • August 6, 2014, at 6:22 PM PDT
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  11. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Like.

    • #11
    • August 6, 2014, at 7:01 PM PDT
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  12. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Western Chauvinist:

    You do have a way with words, Frank. Excellent.

    I’ve run into the same problem recently with pseudo-empiricism by liberals on the topic of infant mortality in developed countries. According to liberals, the US is ranked (they love the “rankings” gambit) near the bottom of developed nations on saving babies. Does anyone here believe that? Or is it more likely that, you know, the US counts all its live-births as “live-births,” where other developed nations only count “live-births” after the babies survive some arbitrary time-period, which, coincidentally makes their infant mortality numbers look better?

    These same people are unconcerned that over half of black babies are aborted in NYC every year.

    I find their concerns on behalf of the poor and minorities… unpersuasive.

     90-year-old cancer patients in the US die of cancer. 90-year-old cancer patients in other countries tend to die of “old age.” As a result, our cancer death rates are higher too.

    • #12
    • August 6, 2014, at 7:17 PM PDT
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  13. Eeyore Member
    Eeyore Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Frank Soto: humans have many priorities aside from protection from diseases:…getting laid after the age of 40,

     This is possible?!?!?
    _____________________
    Tomorrow’s headline:
    “Ebola Hits US Shores – Women, Minorities Hardest Hit”

    • #13
    • August 6, 2014, at 7:42 PM PDT
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  14. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Coolidge

    Fredösphere:

    DrewInWisconsin: And if Rico 2.0 functioned better, I could make these links look prettier.

    Drew, I’ve found that any formatting that gets lost in the initial post will stick if you edit it and put it back in.

     Yeah, but I can’t even make links anymore. The pop-up box pops up, but then just hangs there. Basically the “link” function is non-functional.

    • #14
    • August 6, 2014, at 7:56 PM PDT
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  15. Eeyore Member
    Eeyore Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    DrewInWisconsin: The pop-up box pops up, but then just hangs there

     That happened to me today, but it’s just that it took 10-15 seconds to appear. “Patience, grasshopper…”

    • #15
    • August 6, 2014, at 8:10 PM PDT
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  16. 1967mustangman Inactive

    Thanks for the post Frank. The only thing worse then the whingers are those in the “scientific community ” that are currently claiming giving the vaccine like they did to Brantly and Writebol is a bad idea because it doesn’t allow for proper scientific tests. Oh and they drugs haven’t been “proved safe” Safer then what? Dying of Ebola?

    • #16
    • August 6, 2014, at 8:41 PM PDT
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  17. Yeah...ok. Inactive

    Once we go to single payer, will there be any countries remaining that allow drug companies to recover R&D costs?

    The rich will always pay for better sex but who wants to develop a drug for diabetes or hepatitis if its price is controlled for the poor?

    • #17
    • August 6, 2014, at 9:22 PM PDT
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  18. Arahant Member

    Great post, Frank.

    • #18
    • August 6, 2014, at 10:45 PM PDT
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  19. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Frank,

    The ideological politicization of medicine is one of the most disgusting and disastrous phenomena that has become common since the seventies. When funds and even mind sets are misallocated in this sector of the economy, the resultant isn’t just inefficiency but death. That this group of ideologues might gain further command control over the entire sector through the ACA is the most frightening aspect of this giant disaster.

    Very Good Post Frank.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #19
    • August 6, 2014, at 11:31 PM PDT
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  20. Arahant Member

    James Gawron: The ideological politicization of medicine is one of the most disgusting and disastrous phenomena that has become common since the seventies. When funds and even mind sets are misallocated in this sector of the economy, the resultant isn’t just inefficiency but death. That this group of ideologues might gain further command control over the entire sector through the ACA is the most frightening aspect of this giant disaster.

    Do you mean since the 1770’s? Science and medicine have never been anything other than a very human endeavor, with all that entails, including choosing sides.

    • #20
    • August 6, 2014, at 11:40 PM PDT
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  21. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    OK, so the reason that American/Canadian/French/German/etc pharmaceutical companies haven’t cured Ebola and other diseases is being of the dastardly capitalist system. I guess we can expect the cure any day now from Cuba, Vietnam, or North Korea.

    • #21
    • August 7, 2014, at 6:45 AM PDT
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  22. Guruforhire Member

    We could be funding this via the government, if we weren’t spending so much money on entitlements.

    How many american’s need to go without social security so that we can treat 1500 Ebola patients over 30 years?

    • #22
    • August 7, 2014, at 7:31 AM PDT
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  23. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Randy Weivoda:

    OK, so the reason that American/Canadian/French/German/etc pharmaceutical companies haven’t cured Ebola and other diseases is being of the dastardly capitalist system. I guess we can expect the cure any day now from Cuba, Vietnam, or North Korea.

     The NORKS have had the cure for years: Death By Mortar Rounds. Quick and has the virtue of burying you at the same time.

    • #23
    • August 7, 2014, at 7:48 AM PDT
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  24. Richard Finlay Member

    Since 1976, more people have died of influenza than Ebola by an order of magnitude.

    By your numbers, you understate severely. At even 300,000 per year something like 10 million flu deaths would have occurred since 1976. Compared to 1300 ebola deaths, that is 4 orders of magnitude difference.

    • #24
    • August 7, 2014, at 8:23 AM PDT
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  25. Done Contributor
    Done

    Richard Finlay:

    Since 1976, more people have died of influenza than Ebola by an order of magnitude.

    By your numbers, you understate severely. At even 300,000 per year something like 10 million flu deaths would have occurred since 1976. Compared to 1300 ebola deaths, that is 4 orders of magnitude difference.

    Yeah, my mistake. I’ve generally taken orders of magnitude to mean x 1000, so the Millions, billions, trillions and so on.

    • #25
    • August 7, 2014, at 8:32 AM PDT
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  26. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant:

    James Gawron: The ideological politicization of medicine is one of the most disgusting and disastrous phenomena that has become common since the seventies. When funds and even mind sets are misallocated in this sector of the economy, the resultant isn’t just inefficiency but death. That this group of ideologues might gain further command control over the entire sector through the ACA is the most frightening aspect of this giant disaster.

    Do you mean since the 1770′s? Science and medicine have never been anything other than a very human endeavor, with all that entails, including choosing sides.

     Arahant,

    During my father’s heyday of the 1950’s and 1960’s, he had NSF grants and NIH grants running concurrently. Believe me there was a sea change in the general attitude of peer review from the late seventies on. The left is ideological and doesn’t realize just how obsessive they can be.

    However, something that my father once said to me suggests more of what you are looking for. I was very young and it was the late 50s (1950s). I asked him what the difference was between NSF and NIH. He said, “NIH has a tendency to get ’emotional’. Every so often the NSF must go in and ‘straighten them out’. You see Jim, at the NIH they think that they are saving lives.”

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #26
    • August 7, 2014, at 8:39 AM PDT
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  27. MBF Member
    MBF Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    So the cure for Ebola is socialism? Who knew? It also happens to be the cure for poverty, global warming, etc., etc..

    • #27
    • August 7, 2014, at 9:00 AM PDT
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