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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Washington and the Parasitic Economy

Following in the distinguished footsteps of Microsoft and Google, Apple is the latest innovative company to be targeted by politicians and regulators for being too successful. Will it be sucked into Washington's "parasite economy"?  Has medicine become a part of the government's parasitic economy?

David Boaz of the CATO Institute explores the history of success in America.

For more than a decade, Microsoft went about its business, developing software, selling it to customers, and — happily, legally — making money. Then in 1995, after repeated assaults by the Justice Department's antitrust division, Microsoft broke down and started playing the Beltway game — defensively at first.

Washington politicians and journalists sneered at Microsoft's initial political innocence. A congressional aide said, "They don't want to play the D.C. game, that's clear, and they've gotten away with it so far. The problem is, in the long run they won't be able to."

And Microsoft got the message: If you want to produce something in America, you'd better play the game. Contribute to politicians' campaigns, hire their friends, go hat in hand to a congressional hearing, and apologize for your success.

A decade later, it was Google. After a humble start in a Stanford dorm room, Google delivered a cheap and indispensable product and became the biggest success story of the early 21st century.

Politicians, seeing an opportunity to extend their power and rake in some campaign cash, are circling like sharks. When both Apple and Google declined to attend a Senate show trial on Internet privacy, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.) growled, "When people don't show up when we ask them to . . . all it does is increases our interest in what they're doing and why they didn't show up. It was a stupid mistake for them not to show up."

And that's what politicians and regulators are costing America: The brilliant minds of Silicon Valley and Redmond, Wash., are going to waste time and energy on protecting their companies instead of thinking up new products and new ways to deliver them to consumer


Does any of this sound familiar? For the past fifty years our patients enjoyed the best of healthcare and incredible advances in science and health. The miracles of antibiotics, vaccines and advanced cardiac treatments have  extended life to the point where degenerative diseases have replaced infectious disease as the major end of life events leading to death (in an extended manner)

This measure of success is discounted and totally ignored as the source of increased expenses for health care in America.

In the past physicians have largely ignored this parallel in general business and health finances. However the interest in pandering to political expediency peaked during the past debate on health reform.  Medicine showed up at the hearings and for several decades have attempted to 'lease' representatives interest with PACs and lobbying efforts.

Well, medicine is now wasting it's time and energy protecting itself and patients. Brilliant minds are also leaving patient care and clinical research to pursue other less stressful and more innovative methods to treat  patients. 

This sounds very familiar with Dave Boaz's analysis of the " Beltway Game."

It would be interesting to find out how you think about this analogy??

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