Wednesday, October 3, 2007


News Flash: Bush vetoes SCHIP legislation.

Socialists have apparently penetrated much deeper into America’s health care establishment than I would have thought possible. In my post of 9/8/07 I reported that the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics where supporting a huge expansion of the State Childrens’ Health Insurance Program, which would greatly advance the cause of socialized medicine in this country. Now comes this report by the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner that “[t]he American Cancer Society announced recently that it will spend its entire advertising budget next year… campaigning for a government takeover of the U.S. health-care system.”

This development is particularly shocking because the Cancer Society’s primary function is to foster cutting edge scientific research on cancer. Nothing could do more to cripple that research than to shackle the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, university research departments, and other private scientific cancer research efforts than to put them under the thumb of a government-run health care dictatorship, where state health bureaucrats would have sole decision-making authority over the medications, surgical techniques, and procedures for treating cancer.

Scientific advances are driven by one, and only one, process…the thinking of individual minds. And there is but one requirement for the thinking mind…freedom.

Yet freedom is precisely what the American Cancer Society proposes to banish from American Health Care. Thus the life’s work of cancer (and other medical) researchers and their investors will be subject, not to their own judgements and market risk assessments, but to the arbitrary whims of government bureaucrats. This would have a crippling effect on medical innovation. Ayn Rand explains:

“The progress of theoretical science and technology…is moved by such a complex and interconnected sum of the work of individual minds that no computer or committee [or bureaucrat] could predict and prescribe its course. The discoveries in one branch of knowledge lead to unexpected discoveries in another: the achievements in one field open countless roads in all the others…Who can predict when, where or how a given bit of information will strike an active mind and what it will produce?
[But] the mind is an attribute of the individual and it does not work under orders, controls and compulsion, as centuries of stagnation [prior to the industrial revolution] have demonstrated. Progress cannot be planned by government, and it cannot be restricted or retarded: it can only be stopped, as every statist government [and system of socialized medicine] has demonstrated.” (Return of the Primitive, pages 285-86, 281)

In the mid 1980s, Dr Napoleone Ferrara began research on finding a way to stop a process which he believed existed and needed to be discovered. The process, called angeogenesis, is the ability of cancer cells to grow their own blood vessels and thus feed their own growth. Financed by his far-sighted employer, Genentech Corporation, Dr. Ferrara worked through years marked by hints of success followed by devastating failures and dead ends. Driven by his vision, neither he nor Genentech gave up. Once having discovered and proved his original hypothesis, Dr. Ferrara and his team commenced work on a bio-engineered drug to stop angeogenesis and thus kill the cancer cells. The result was Avastin.

Avastin was approved first for treating colon cancer (2004), then lung cancer (2006). Today Avastin is in clinical trials for treatment of at least 20 other types of cancer. All of this progress was made possible by the vision and determination of Dr. Ferrara, his team of researchers, and a patient, far-sighted company willing to risk huge amounts of capital.

Indeed, today over 80% of all new drugs originate in the United States. And America remains a magnet for people the world over seeking cutting edge medical treatment. It is products like Avastin, which require a commitment of decades and untold millions of dollars, that would be impossible under the sufficating bureaucracy and tyranny of socialized medicine. Researchers and investors must be free to follow their visions, take their risks, offer their products for sale on the free market, and make their fortunes if we are to expect future Avastins to emerge.

My Son-in-law is a cancer survivor, and I can't help but wonder how many future sons and daughters-in-law won't beat their cancers once the entrepreneurial endeavers such as the one sighted above are replaced by research-by-political-pull/favoritism/connections which is a necessary result of state-run medicine. I wonder how many of today's children will one day suffer and die prematurely because of visionary research not pursued, risky investments not made, and fortunes not earned.

The support of the AMA and the AAP for the SCHIP legislation can, perhaps, be rationalized (though not justified) as an attempt by those two organizations to head off more draconian legislation by making a deal with the devil. But one can give no such leeway to the Cancer Society. As an organization geared specifically to advancing scientific knowledge in the cancer arena, the American Cancer Society cannot possibly fail to understand the social, economic, and political conditions necessary to the success of its cause. Therefore, one can only conclude that the leadership of this venerable American institution has been hijacked by people with a socialist political agenda. But whether by design or by some misplaced belief that they are somehow advancing the cause of fighting cancer, this is, I submit, a betrayal of the scientists, the charitable donors, the future cancer victims, and of any American who values his freedom.

Health care promises to be the domestic issue of the 2008 election campaign. The advocates of socialized medicine are energized, organized and ready for battle, with their representatives planted among some of America’s premier and influential institutions and corporations. They are announcing openly and boldly their plans. Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, for example, announced his scheme for national health care which forces everyone to abide by the state’s “healthy living” mandates or be denied care, despite being forced into the government’s plan. (see Be Healthy or Else).

The opponents of government-run health care are by-and-large disorganized, demoralized, and missing the real issue here. People such as Tanner and Dr. David Gratzer (and many others) have done an invaluable job of demonstrating the failures and impracticality of socialized medicine. While this is an important starting point, it is not and never has been enough. Some new socialist gang will always come along and say “Yes, but my gang can make it work, this time.” And that is exactly what is happening today.

The defenders of health care freedom must recognize, and soon, that the socialists can only be stopped by a principled campaign based on the supremacy of individual rights. What all Objectivists know, and others must learn, is that this is a moral battle that can only be fought on the philosophical battlefield. Compromises and me-too-ism won’t do. They never have.

In the age-old battle of the individual against the state, the Democrats have come down squarely on the side of the state. If the Republicans are going to have any chance to prevail next year, they will have to put forth a bold and comprehensive health care proposal that would include massive deregulation that puts the individual American firmly in control of his own health care, free from governmental coercion. The Democrats have left no doubt about their collectivist intentions and thus have opened the door wide to a radically different counter proposal. Sadly, however, most of the Republican leadership is moving in the opposite direction, competing with the Democrats on how, not whether, to expand government’s control of health care. In the end, a grassroots movement may be our only chance to stop the socialist juggernaut.

And our time is running out!

See Post Reference 10

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