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Old 07-12-2004, 09:53 AM   #1 (permalink)
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What's Thai for "killing the goose that laid the golden eggs"?

An interesting piece on the current AIDs summit in Thailand. I haven't seen this mentioned in any other media - one of the platforms of this summit is to try to "open source" drugs to treat AIDs. The consequences of eliminating intellectual property protection would be quite devastating.

Lords of Poverty

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I don't question the seriousness of the AIDS crisis. I do, however, question the seriousness of the AIDS response. And an un-serious response -- in which posturing for the media displaces saving people's lives -- could prove to be catastrophic. Not only will millions more die of AIDS as a consequence of such planetary showboating, but the basic system for developing cures to new maladies could be annihilated in a spasm of plundering political correctness.

Exhibit A in the unseriousness-can-have-serious-consequences argument is the so-called "World AIDS Summit." It kicked off Sunday night as UN Secretary General Kofi Annan gave the usual speech that worldocrats love to listen to -- an oration that combines a pat on the back with a call for a bigger budget. "Thank you, Thailand," he began. But then came the real meat of Annan's message: "We are not doing nearly well enough." Of course, in using the plural first person pronoun, he meant no real criticism of his audience; in the favored rhetoric of the careerist compassionate class, it's always a certainty that those in the audience are doing their utmost -- they came all the way to Thailand, didn't they? Instead, the "we" refers to the world, particularly "stingy" governments, corporations, and foundations. It is they that can always do better, serious-money-wise.

The official title of this conference is "The XV International AIDS Conference"; looking at those Roman numerals, I couldn't help but think of another megamedia event that attracts millions of people, and their billions of dollars, from around the world -- the Super Bowl. Indeed, while "XV" doesn't have a huge television audience, it's got everything else: crowds of well-heeled -- or at least well expense-accounted -- visitors, celebrities (reportedly including Oprah Winfrey, Richard Gere, and Ashley Judd), even an elephant parade straight out of "The King and I."

But picturesque as it is, Thailand is no sleepy, Third World country. It has an AIDS problem, to be sure, but the 65 million Thais all seem to know English or want to learn the door-opening language of globalization; they are focused on gadgets, technology, and generally getting ahead. Bangkok reminds me of Tokyo 30 years ago -- nowhere to go but up. And part of that upward mobility means improving its balance of payments by taking as much money from tourists -- oops, I mean anti-AIDS activists -- as possible.

My first clue that Thais saw "XV" as a cash cow came when I visited the convention center here. They call it the Impact Center -- the Thais were obviously thinking "media event" when they named it -- and it could just as easily be in Las Vegas. The big difference is that the security guards are more polite and spiffier; many of them clicked their heels and saluted when I passed by. Inside, in the middle of the registration area, is a big booth from the government's tourism office. Yes, yes, fighting AIDS is important, the Thais seem to say. But all AIDS-fighting all the time makes Johannes and Johanna -- as usual, Nordics are enormously over-represented here -- into dull boys and girls. So why not take time off from thinking about non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors and think instead about the Temple of the Emerald Buddha?

But before the Northern NGO people even leave the convention center, why not stop and shop? For the sandals crowd, there's a Starbucks. As for suited gentlemen and ladies, why not enjoy a fine dining experience at the The Fisherman? The sign in front of the restaurant promises "Five Star Dining at Your Preferable Price."

Yup. If you took the trouble to tear yourself away from your cubicle or fellowship or Stiftung to come all the way to Thailand to fight suffering, why suffer yourself? Why not fight suffering the five-star way?

Some spoilsports might assert that spending money on luxe living is the wrong way to fight AIDS. The disease is, without a doubt, a world health emergency; it has killed 20 million people in the last quarter-century -- and 2.5 to 3.5 million people in 2003 alone, according to the World Health Organization. That same year, another five million more people were infected with HIV, bringing the worldwide total of infections up to 40 million. Of these, more than 90 percent receive no treatment whatsoever.

If the situation is this dire, shouldn't every penny be used to help the dying and the at-risk-of-dying? Well, that's one way of looking at the AIDS crisis.

But another way of looking at AIDS is to say, in effect, that yes, people are dying, but yes also, that's a great way to make a living -- indeed, to live rather well. Am I being too cynical? Maybe, but first let's consider the evidence, starting with Graham Hancock's 1989 book, Lords of Poverty: The Power, Prestige, and Corruption of the International Aid Business, in which the author estimates that half of the funds allocated to humanitarian relief and development aid never leave the sticky fingers of the "humanitarians." Hancock's book has been controversial, but one need only walk around Washington DC, or New York City, or Geneva -- the three capitals of international do-goodery -- to see that lots of folks are doing well by doing good.

Now that AIDS is a big part of the world's overall foreign-aid expenditures, it's only realistic to expect that that much of the compassion-action is siphoned away from the desperate and ladled toward programs that mostly benefit the Annanite New Class globetrotters. So indeed, if there's going to be a wide wedge between what's spent on suffering and what the sufferers actually receive in help -- with the difference going to "suffer-crats" -- then one might as well admire Thailand for figuring out how to throw a really good anti-AIDS party. After all, I've never seen an elephant parade at a mere Super Bowl.

In defense of the current free-spending approach, some might argue that all the junk and junketing are worth the cost, because Kofi and Oprah and the five-star restaurants are all helping to leverage media attention, which in turn generates more money than the worthy cause of AIDS-relief would otherwise attract.

That might be a good argument, except for one thing. When these activists arrive here from all over the world, they aren't just here to swap information, plus maybe tourism tips. What's really happening here is far worse -- and vastly under-reported, even mis-reported.

Here's the real story of this conference: the emerging anti-AIDS agenda is about the whittling away -- even the wiping out entirely -- of all patents on all AIDS drugs. That is, making free drugs for all poor people, starting with AIDS. And then, activists hope, the progressive march will trample over patents covering tuberculosis and malaria drugs. And after that, in this bright new world, maybe all drugs should "open-sourced."

From the point of view of those who come here, it fits into their lifelong worldview. After all, those who work for government agencies and NGOs and other activist outfits generally come out of an anti-profit, anti-corporate background. Back home, they grew up saying things like, "Health Care is a Right, not a Business"; so naturally, they apply their pro-public sector/anti-private sector bias to new problems, too. And if agitating for socialization of goods and services is cool for New Jersey or Germany, why not make that same redistributionist mission into an international crusade?

A July 8 press release from the AIDS Therapeutic Treatment Now sums up this latest anti-corporate clarion call, focusing as it does on abolishing the most valuable asset many corporations possess: intellectual property. Here's the key text from the "Bangkok Treatment Action Pledge," circulating widely here:

* All rich nations should pledge to use generics in HIV/AIDS treatment scale-up plans in aid to poor countries;
* All drug manufacturers should pledge to 'stand down' in defense of AIDS patents in the developing world;

Look for this view to gain momentum here in the Bangkok media hothouse over the next few days, as the activists gather around this new political mission. After all, if the conventioneers didn't "do" something, folks back home might start to wonder why they had to spend so much money to send them here.

This new activism spasm is already rippling the political economics of AIDS -- and the prospects for companies that make cures. Sunday's Bangkok Post included this headline: "Government plans to copy AIDS drugs." The piece was clear: Bangkok is planning to exercise "compulsory licensing to produce copies of drugs now under patent protection to help HIV/AIDS patients." This proposal, according to Tongchai Tavichachart, head of the Government Pharmaceutical Organization, could cut the cost of such drugs by 80 percent. Well, of course it could. "Compulsory licensing" is a synonym for "confiscation," and confiscating property always cuts down the cost of acquisition.

But there is a catch -- a big one. Confiscation is usually a one-shot deal, because those who get confiscated tend to wise up after that; if the lunch must be free, the baker and the butcher stop offering it.

That's what could happen if "compulsory licensing" becomes cemented into the planetary policy agenda. On Sunday night, I watched as a credulous CNN reporter, Aneesh Raman, praised the Thai government's announcement; he declared that henceforth Thailand would be providing "cost-effective and needed treatment for developing countries." Did I hear that right -- not just country, but countries, plural? What's Thai for "killing the goose that laid the golden eggs"? And by eggs, I'm referring not only to corporate profits, shareholder value, and jobs. I'm thinking also of the medicines that could save our lives.

Am I being alarmist? I don't think so. Steve Hansch had warned me about this looming property-pelfing before I left the US. I first met Hansch almost three decades ago, when we were both undergraduates at Stanford University. He was an activist even then, one of the first in the country to be arrested for non-violently protesting Stanford's investments in apartheid South Africa. Since then, he has devoted his life to humanitarian causes, traveling to such distinctly non-garden spots as Sudan, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kosovo, and Azerbaijan. He now teaches at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service and is a scholar at the school's Institute for the Study of Internal Migration; he is also the editor/publisher of Humanitarian Times.

In other words, he knows his stuff. And so what does he think about the snowballing effort to wipe out pharma patents? Although he is hardly a conservative, he looks ahead with a hard-earned sense of realism. And he raises a rare contrarian voice to the congealing anti-corporate consensus. "I worry about dumbing down our patent laws and constraining our basic research," he told me. He added, "I want to see the pharmaceutical companies putting in more money into tropical diseases, not less."

So what to do about AIDS? "If the governments of the world want HIV drugs at reduced cost, then they should pay for them," comes Hansch's answer. "If they want to force companies to do research, give them money." For his part, he would dig deep into the world's collective pocket to pay for additional health care for the poor and the imperiled.

But Hansch warns that simple compulsory licensing/confiscation is short-sighted in the extreme -- not only for AIDS, but for anything this side of the Andromeda Strain. "The ecosystem is always evolving new diseases to throw at us," he argues, pointing to the continuing evolution of AIDS and the emergence of new killers, such as SARS. In fact, resistance to first-line drugs in some areas is running as high as 37 percent in some areas. Charles Darwin was right; Mother Nature is still nurturing and naturally selecting.

Revealingly, Hansch is not here in Bangkok. I guess he wouldn't fit in with all the fun. But his voice needs to be heard -- before it's too late, before the research is curtailed or kiboshed, before new and fitter pathogens take hold without the curb of pharmacological countermeasures.
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Old 07-12-2004, 10:48 AM   #2 (permalink)
 
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so let me see if i get this straight:
1. ngos that work on the question of aids are suspect because the international conferences/summits they attend happen in posh spaces.
have you ever been to a conference that did not happen in relatively posh spaces? ever?

2. because ngos employ staffs, who draw salaries, and because some of the aid money that gets channelled through these and other organizations involve people who draw salaries, the whole system is corrupt.

therefore it is better to not have any organizations that try to fight aids--or to have only organizations staffed by wealthy philanthropists, whose dilletante-ish relationship to the complexities of international relief work/health care administration is obviously superior to that of professionals in the area. fine idea.

that james pinkerton draws his salary as a fellow at the new america foundation means that he gets paid through alternative channles and is obviously in a superior position to speak about this matter, because he is not involved with the problem. maybe it is better to only go through people who are not involved to channel aid money.

3. drug company property claims should override any efforts to bring down the costs of the drugs produced because drugs are like any other commodity and property is property damn it.
so if there are people in a situation of epidemic, screw them.
the drug companies should be paid.
the rules of ownership on commodities override all other concerns.

great argument.

and if you use humanitarian reasons to undercut the claims to onwership on the commodity "drugs" then pharmaceutical corporations will stop making drugs. because market logic as understood by ideologues of the position, who work for places like the new america foundation are quite sure of that as an outcome. because they really believe that pharmaceutical corporations view what they make as commodities and do it for profit and no other reason.

gee, i wonder what the researchers in these companies would make of that claim. they few that i know see it otherwise. but maybe that is just anecdotal.

4. you even get a nice darwinian reference at the end, even though the more proper reference would be to spencer and the notions of social darwinism. which would be consistent with the line of this article. the poor are poor---they always die in great number--fuck em--why worry about it? what matters is that corporations get paid.

profit uber alles.

great article.

where do you find this stuff?
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Old 07-12-2004, 10:57 AM   #3 (permalink)
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If one really cares about finding cures and treatments for AIDs, one should not try to eliminate the incentives for research.

Funny thing about human beings. When something is not in our self-interest, we generally stop doing it (unless we are masochists). When one's work is stolen, that is a good reason to stop doing it.

I find this stuff by reading.
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Old 07-12-2004, 11:18 AM   #4 (permalink)
 
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and profit is the only motive that prompts human beings to do anything?
how do you know that?
is personal profit the only motive that moves you?
somehow, i doubt it....

reading what? it certainly does not appear like it is just rawling about.
the political filter on your reading is pretty hardcore, it seems.
i use e-lists of various types to link to stuff--there is no problem with that--but do you entertain any political opinions that are not already consonant with your a priori assumptions? just wondering....
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Old 07-12-2004, 11:23 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Do you work for a living RB? How would you feel if the UN decided that you should work for free?

It is quite easy to sit back and decide that other people's productivity should be seized for the "common good". It is much more difficult to acquire the knowledge and skills to actually produce the benefits. I just don't think it makes sense to advocate positions which stifle creativity and productivity.

I entertain political opinions that make sense. Doing something which logically results in the opposite of the stated objective does not make sense.
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Old 07-12-2004, 11:28 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Science is science and believe me, though money speaks, people often do things out of curiosity as well and for trying to make an advancement

And let's be honest, many of our greatest technological advancements in a short period of time (take WW2 for example) came hardly from private enterprise but from the government gathering those people up to do a job

Nuclear weapons aren't exactly private enterprise but the a-bomb was made by collecting those individuals to work together to make a technological / social/ historical breakthrough

Was money what kept those people working in the desert in insane temperatures with dangerous stuff? For some, maybe. But the lure of solving the unknown and having your name remembered is a big one as well.

I don't like them making things public adventures and putting open source things together honestly but if there was a chance to put someting out faster by getting people to work together, why the hell not?

And honestly I find it funny that there is a political talk over something like this when most people don't care and I'm sure the people suggesting such a thing was out of an attempt to get someting going, not "oh lets make this a socialist endeavor!"

P.S. This is a general response to a general topic. Will address actual article soon when I get a chance.

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Old 07-12-2004, 11:31 AM   #7 (permalink)
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the thing about AIDS is the incentives aren't in curing it, but treating it. The drug companies aren't interested so much in eliminating disease as they are in suppressing it enough to extract maximum profits from their patients.

If companies are so interested in incentives, why isn't there an international AIDS X-Prize? A huge lump sum where each country contributes to the pot. Whoever CURES AIDS gets the lump sum paid in supplements to simulate profits, and everyone gets the licensing to make a generic drug to cure the afflicted. I think the reason is that the potential profits of an AIDS cure is beyond anything an X-Prize style lump sum can pay off. In the end it's all about money.

People are dying. It's a crisis and a tragedy, but to expect all other industries (including tourism) to somber up and ignore THEIR profits is naive. To spend only the absolute spartan necessities to hold the summit so all the money can go towards research removes the incentives of going to such a summit other than philanthropy, which is clearly (as illustrated by the article) not the reason most of these companies are in the race for the cure.

Also, throwing an endless amount of money on a problem isn't going to solve everything. The only thing it does is give researchers incentives to prolong their research rather than quickly come up with something that'll save lives.

I agree that removing the incentives of researching AIDS will prove counterproductive when the next epidemic rolls around and no one wants to foot the bill so the world can be saved... but this article was bitching about so much more than stealing licenses. The (supposed) intended message was lost in a sea of self righteousness.
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Old 07-12-2004, 11:37 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I think that the scientists who might develop the basic building blocks of advanced pharaceuticals and delivery devices may be enticed to work on the projects regardless of the profit. These people are motivated by curiousity and the desire to publish such work in Nature or Science. It will make their career.

However, the money problem is in distribution. If you remove the profit margin, then you remove the impetus for large corporations to develop the drug so they can distribute it, etc. Fine.

To use the A-bomb analogy, notice it wasn't private corporations that developed the bomb nor "distributed" it.

Quote:
So what to do about AIDS? "If the governments of the world want HIV drugs at reduced cost, then they should pay for them," comes Hansch's answer. "If they want to force companies to do research, give them money." For his part, he would dig deep into the world's collective pocket to pay for additional health care for the poor and the imperiled.


Whether right or wrong, the AIDS problem isn't perceived to be a great enough threat at present for the need for the cure to outweigh fiscal obligations. When you consider that we (the US) are essentially sending an "abstinence only" delegation to the conference, you can guess that the furtherance of science and its distribution isn't really too high on our agenda.

At least that my opinion.
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Old 07-12-2004, 12:18 PM   #9 (permalink)
 
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sorry, wonder, but to my mind your arguments hold no water whatsoever. in fact, you even went so far as to recapitulate one of my arguments against the article you posted--maybe read through the post again and you will find it.

i know a couple of researchers who work on cancer treatment drugs for a major pharmaceutical corporations. i also know academic researchers. there is a considerable amount of information sharing, such that it becomes really quite difficult to say where the particular logics that researchers pursue come from--private? public? both at once?....private firms are more likely to consider important research proprietary and therefore do not share the information...which would seem a problem in the arena of socientific research, wouldnt it? particularly given that the private-firm research leans on academic research, track of which is given in publications--and behind that lay state funding, the whole tangle of grants, university funding, etc etc etc,

the illusion of the private sector having a monopoly on creativity is simply wrong the other posts before this one have also made that argument.

the absurd reduction of motive to self-interest is patronizing in fact and completely indefensible in principle.

the researcher i know work from any number of motives--some of them in private firms actually think that it would be beneficial to human beings in general if cancer could be cured, would be beneficial to humanity in general if aids could be treated or cured effectively and cheaply, and actually work with this kind of motivation in mind. they made choices about where to work based on considerations involving the exact kind of work they decided would help bring about the desired ends--knowing full well that this calculation rested on top of a much more diffuse body of information from a wide range of institutional sources.

gee think of that---people actually diverting their lives in a particular direction because they imagine that a greater social good could be achieved through their efforts--in tandem with those of others. my acquaintances in this area are deeply ambivalent about the relation of their own work to the profit machinery of the corporations they work for, and talk quite openly about arguments that run entirely counter to everything in the idiotic article that opened the thread--they argue for humanitarian concerns putting a brake on corporate profits, limitations on property claims for drugs, and expanded notion of public domain, etc. they also talk about these being drugs in a particular sector that could be considered as seperate legal entities, and that the companies would not suddenly stop producing drugs if these were put into the public domain--it might even be good advertising for the corporations to do things like that because it would increase their symbolic capital.

of course, not a bit of this could possibly figure into the one-dimensional analysis in the article, nor in the conceptual position that subtends it.
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Old 07-12-2004, 12:25 PM   #10 (permalink)
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The consequences of eliminating intellectual property protection would be quite devastating.
as devastating as the global AIDS epidemic? i doubt it ... anyway, Thailand won't be the first country to bypass the patents, will it?
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Old 07-12-2004, 12:30 PM   #11 (permalink)
 
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who is talking about "eliminating i.p." in general? anyone?
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Old 07-12-2004, 12:32 PM   #12 (permalink)
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The germaine point does not concern Thailand violating the patents; but rather the U.N.'s short-sighted advocacy of global negation of intellectual property.

RB - I never claimed that profits were the sole motive of any or all human endeavors. I do assume, however, that your academic research acquaintances receive compensation for their work.
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Old 07-12-2004, 12:40 PM   #13 (permalink)
 
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as for the first point--what is shortsighted about it? that there might be extensions of public domain such that drugs that could save thousands and thousands of lives are made available in a situation of epidemic?
geez...trying to prevent even more deaths sure sounds like a shortsighted idea to me.

as for the second, given that you persist in trying to argue this point---read the bloody post, wonder. the first one. i already talked about this.
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Old 07-12-2004, 12:45 PM   #14 (permalink)
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just one negative - if you prolong the lives of people with AIDS couldn't that lead to a greater spread of the virus? you'll have more carriers left alive than if there was no intervention

just looking on the cheerful side you understand
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Old 07-12-2004, 12:46 PM   #15 (permalink)
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RB - you are not going to convince me that "internationalizing" intellectual property is going to benefit the world more than allowing companies and researchers to "own" their creations. The history of ingenuity and innovation supports that private incentives do far more good than state control.
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Old 07-12-2004, 01:58 PM   #16 (permalink)
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And yet the history of ingenuity and innovation is also slow when there is little immediate incentive or reason. History is littered with *gradual* achivements. Major breakthroughs and drastic changes often accompany major events. (a-bomb, space race, war, social needs, etc.)

Again I bring up the a-bomb example just as pigglet did - did not the world's most brilliant minds combine in the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos and all around the country during World War II to work under a non-private project?

I fully advocate and support private incentives and innovation but I think the issue here at hand is a matter of time.

If they are looking for an AIDS cure in a span of a few years, then you really cannot count on private to put it out. In that same way, it is true for the a-bomb. There was a war to win, and the brightest minds all worked togther not in so much as to earn money, but not only out of curiosity and a will to learn more about the world, but to win a war, they achieved something people thought impossible.

Personally anyways I think separating current 'research' and 'care' facilities would help. Going to UCLA, for example, they have one of the world's best AIDS care and research facility.

Unfortunately, with such a large group of people with AIDS, much of the money and effort is diverted away form research and is spent on care.

I would not mind if they were more separate to be more efficient and direct in their goals. Heck I think it would help in such a an endeavour if the brightest minds in the world worked together and not against each other to solve the problem, rather than take the same route twice.

Quote:
RB - you are not going to convince me that "internationalizing" intellectual property is going to benefit the world more than allowing companies and researchers to "own" their creations.
But then I ask, if no one is going to convince you otherwise, why bother debating if your mind is set up? I mean if you believe in it so much, fine, but if your mind is already set, what is the point?

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Old 07-12-2004, 02:04 PM   #17 (permalink)
 
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----the present situation, the one we are talking about as a function of the article you posted---is dominated by private firms and the existing notion of ip---this is the origin of the conflict over who controls drugs that can, for example, treat (or eventually, one hopes, cure) aids.
the present situation is obviously not equitable if you actually think about, say, africa as populated with human beings worthy of being treated with respect even if they are not bourgeois as you are.
the present situation is obviously not right.
unless your concern for human suffering extends no further than thinking about potential losses endured by stockholders.
if that is the case, then we have nothing to talk about, and might as well stop now.
but i do not believe you actually think that way. what i am puzzled by is the disconnect that operates when you talk about politics or economics.
but this is a seperate matter.


second, my understanding of the specific situation with aids drugs is that internationalization as you call it amounts to an attempt to impose humanitarian considerations on capitalist logic by developing a legal mechanism for creating exceptions to the blanket use of ip law. if that is the case, then i cannot se what possible objection you would have in principle---in fact, the problem may well be in the way these exceptions are formulated--but i imagine that you would also object the the idea of international law and mechanisms to adjudicate on hypernationalist grounds in any event--if this is the case, you might as well be straight about what your objection really is.

third, capitalism always has been and always will be subject to external constraints. unless you can eliminate society in the interest of the pure functioning of (wholly fictional) "free markets"---but it would not be wise for you to go down this path here rhetorically. this is just a more recent manifestation of this general situation. owners of capital have never given anything out of benevolence--almost always, social forces have brought pressure to bear on them across the medium of law (in the cases that work within the existing order) and force---and i mean force--changes in the frame of reference.

there have always been people who argue for profit uber alles and screw the consequences, like you are. it seems to be the case also that they start to squirm if anyone tries to make them actually spell out the consequences of their own position.

so answer the question, please: would you rather see thousands and thousands of people in poorer countries, where aids is epidemic, die and continue to die from it simply because existing treatments are too expensive than see the abstract claims to property made by corporate interests (across the new legal toy that is i.p. law) be changed?

i dont care about generalities about a rightwing hallucination that explains progress or motive, or any of that.
just answer the question, please.
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Old 07-12-2004, 06:55 PM   #18 (permalink)
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"i know a couple of researchers who work on cancer treatment drugs for a major pharmaceutical corporations. i also know academic researchers.
I think you need to ask your academic researcher friends about this. I'm certain they will explain to that there is a much more aggressive attitide in the field toward privately funded studies.

Quote:
there is a considerable amount of information sharing, such that it becomes really quite difficult to say where the particular logics that researchers pursue come from--private? public? both at once?....private firms are more likely to consider important research proprietary and therefore do not share the information...which would seem a problem in the arena of socientific research, wouldnt it?
Private firms are testing THIER drug; therefore, there isn't any reason to share the information - noone else will be testing it, because noone else knows the formula. If it dies in the first phase of it's trials, then it goes no further. Nobody recreates the problem at the molecular level (the pharmacokinetics of any drug are well documented in any protocol written to test that drug, and to get this past investigator's whove worked run countless drug company studies, an internal review board, the drug companies own review process - is next to impossible). side note - look at all the MAJOR mistakes that have resulted in the death of a research subject - you'd be hard pressed to find one that occured on an industry sponsored trial - they're almost exclusively internal federally funded studies (or cases where the site running the trial didn't follow the protocol as written).

In the event that it becomes approved by the FDA, and an academic investigator would like to try it on another indication, they are required to publish the results, negative or positive - because at this point, it is a drug available to the public, who's side effects are well known, and the results are scientifically valid negative or positive.

Quote:
particularly given that the private-firm research leans on academic research, track of which is given in publications--and behind that lay state funding, the whole tangle of grants, university funding, etc etc etc,[/
There is next to no state funding (in fact i've never heard of it), same for universities - acedemic hospitals rely almost solely on federal funding and (don't say it) pharmaceutical trials.

I work in radiation oncology at one of the largest academic cancer research institutions in the country (rated #1 for however many years - thanks to yours truly). In a nutshell, from first hand experience, among academic investigators, there is much more excitement in privately sponsored trials. In fact, until we found a director who realized that - NCI sponsored cooperative group trials almost shut us down.

I'm dying to hear anything the goverment has done better than private industry, but cancer research just isn't it.

....time to go smoke another cigarette and drink another beer.

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Old 07-12-2004, 07:33 PM   #19 (permalink)
 
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sorry--i realized that i goofed up an edit---both academic reasearchers AND some who work for private firms. not the same people in both places.

i dont think i was making a point about cancer research per se, but about motivations for being in the field at all. the debate referred back on the thread.

maybe you wrote that, but am passing through on while i am doing something else, so i'll maybe post something tomorrow if i have anything of interest to say in response.

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Old 07-12-2004, 07:45 PM   #20 (permalink)
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"both academic reasearchers AND some who work for private firms. not the same people in both places"

I got that. Being in an academic setting does not exclude you from participating in industry trials. I work at an academic institution (worked in medical oncology, gene therapy, and radiation oncology), depending on the field it varies just how much of a roll they play, but industry sponsored trials drive the field in all divisions.

edit - sorry roach, i'm doing the same thing. I've gotten in the bad habit of only skimming through politics and replying to something that strikes a chord. (...i didn't even read the original article, damnit)

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Old 07-12-2004, 09:51 PM   #21 (permalink)
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"The drug companies aren't interested so much in eliminating disease as they are in suppressing it enough to extract maximum profits from their patients"

this is a ridiculous statement perpetrated and never questioned by the left.

Bermuda, there's an incredible amout of money in the business. For every drug that is approved that has saved countless lives, consider for one second that that one drug costs MILLIONS of dollars to get make it that far. Now consider - for every drug that is approved, which makes your Mom's, your sisters, your brothers life better, if not saving it all together, is a needle in a haystack. Hundreds upon hundreds of drugs costing as much each, have only gone through a portion of the approval process only to find out "the shit just ain't happenin."

Meanwhile, the same people who scream about getting these drugs for free once their approved, are the same people who stifle the process with frivolous lawsuits the entire way through crying about how evil the big drug companies are.

This liberal mentality of "if your a successfull company your evil, whatever you make i have a god-given right too" is getting old and wonder is absolutely right - it is this mentality that stifles progress and in the long run ends up hurting only yourselves.
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Old 07-12-2004, 11:31 PM   #22 (permalink)
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I just heard a story about the situation in Thailand, Burma and Myanmar. It was about a single woman who was forced to work as a sex slave for about a year in bangkok. She got out of the business and got married, but didn't know she had AIDS until her husband and son died from it. Yesterday she had to quit her job in a restaurant because she was too exhausted to continue working there. She has just been approved to be given AIDS medicine by the Thai government.

The medicine from America costs over five thousand dollars a month. From the Thais, it costs a little less than a dollar a day.

As an incentive to keep researching, it's important for companies to profit from their research. But PLEASE tell me how it benefits the people afflicted with the disease when they can't afford the treatment.
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Old 07-13-2004, 05:14 AM   #23 (permalink)
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I happen to love this argument because it eventually leads to socialized medicine and that argument, like this can be won very easily.

Which is more important: the cost in human lives or the financial cost?

Human lives = pretty much all of Africa at the rate it is going and a nice chunk of the rest of the world. Plus what and how we treat AIDS will set precedent over how we treat the next big epidemic.

Everyone gets treated equally and cures will come. Set prices on meds and healthcare. Financially, money to be made but not as much, which if money truly is the reward for these people they will find new ventures to make as high a profit. But people will be healthier and lead more productive lives. Helping economies by buying more and being able to work harder.

Financial = Yes the drug companies, health care companies, make millions even billions on disease. they are going to get paid as much as they want and as often, because unfortunately we need them.

But if you choose financial the bad thing is the poor still get sick, even moreso because they don't have the money for preventive medicines or say an anti-biotic to help keep that bronchitis from turning into pneumonia.

So then you have the option: let the poor be sick and die needlessly because we don't want them to afford medications, OR pay higher taxes so that the government can pay for the medicines needed (which we do now, but the poor have to be really deathly ill, pregnant or used as guinea pigs before we help them).

Healthcare already costs us billions in taxes (and in insurance) because of lost time for workers, as shown, government help of the poor who had to let something minor turn into something serious and expensive.

Only 2 ways I know to look at any argument on healthcare. And the financial never wins except in real life where greed suppresses any compassion and wanting to help for profit.

It's easy to say "no socialized medicine." "No drugs to help 3rd world AIDS victims." because those saying it haven't been affected, haven't had a loved one lose everything and then be treated as filth because they lost their insurance (because they got sick and couldn't work anymore) as they die from AIDS related pneumonia or an infection from a wound that never healed properly. Then after these poor people die the government goes after anything they do own to pay for the medical bills, the government paid for.

The Financiers say, "well let family help you" but that is money out of their pocket, plus then the government won't cover anything, because you are recieving financial aid elsewhere.
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Old 07-13-2004, 05:57 AM   #24 (permalink)
 
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matthew--ok so now i am paying attention....its good that you weighed in here. the main argument concerns i.p. law as it pertains to pharmaceuticals--not so much in general, but with reference to the treatments for aids. the article that starts the thread is really quite odd---worht checking out in a way.
the questions that were going back and forth had to do with whether there should be exceptions made to corporate property rights (and profits) for drugs that might treat aids---particularly in africa---on humanitarian grounds so that poor folk can get access. pan sums up the positions.

the cancer research bit was something that for better or worse i brought up to demonstrate a complexity of motive for the researchers that i know--that some who work in the private sector do so out of a desire to help people, and their sense of what they are doing and what should happen with the results runs counter to the for-profit nature of the corporations for which they work.

the question of the "public sphere" relative to research has to do with the curious relation between bodies of research from a variety of institutional sources that form the general base for current research into particular areas and corporate property claims to particular results--there seems to me a disconnect--but my familiarity with the matter is not an every day thing, so i did not think of the question of drug trials. so thanks.
stand corrected in that.

i confess that as an academic cultural worker myself, i have a kind of working suspicion of corporate property claims relative to the accumulation of "knowledge" in the academic public sphere....but i am not naieve about tha public sphere---a different question, different thread.....
=======

what i think is that "big pharma" can afford exceptions written into i.p. claims to treat epidemic in places like africa.

i see this as an example of capitalist forms being forced to alter their behaviour as a function of political pressure brought to bear on them from outside the arena of profit/loss, property relations, etc. it happens all the time, in almost any corporate sector, this dynamic.

i do not think that the pharma corporations will stop doing research if this happens because first all are diversitified and because second they walk the line between profit and humanitarian motives all the time anyway, and i imagine that they understand the possibility that on occaision they will get shoved from one pole to the other, and that it is to a significant extent the cost of doing business.

so i do not see a problem with altering corporate property claims in a situation like the treatment of aids in africa. the question of how that exception might be written and by which institution is seperate--another set of arguments might be possible about both--as the cliche goes the devil is in the details.

the article tries basically to chicken little the whole matter. i think the article is bullshit (but i said as much earlier)

i could imagine the same argument being repeated with reference to a potential cure for cancer, but that is not the question right now....i would prefer to wait until there is a cure, finish with smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer in celebration, watch the dust settle and then have a version of this debate again, should it come up. and i have to say that it would be a nice debate to be able to have.

i dont see the matter of altering ip law in the case of aids treatments for the poor, for africans, in a situation of epidemic, leading to universal health care in any direct way.

i support univeral health care, btw---but i just dont see the connection here.
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Old 07-13-2004, 06:22 AM   #25 (permalink)
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I really think they are trying to solve this problem the wrong way. Current drugs can't cure AIDS only extend the life of the infected person. As this is nearly a 100% preventable disease it seems they are trying every effort not to deal with the social issues that cause the spread of AIDS. Bilking drug companies out of R&D will only have them stop investing in any new cures, as it won't be profitable for them. Those countries may benefit in the short run but unless they deal with the problem socially they are dooming their populations.
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Old 07-13-2004, 06:38 AM   #26 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by pan6467
Only 2 ways I know to look at any argument on healthcare. And the financial never wins except in real life where greed suppresses any compassion and wanting to help for profit.

The reason the financial considerations "win" is because of economic reality. To say that the human side should "win" ignores the facts that: research costs money; manufacturing costs money; distribution costs money; medical education costs money, and on and on. BTW, in the cost equation for each of these are many middle class people who make their livings and support their families via these activities (or is that just greed as well?)

As nice as it sounds to say that all humans on the planet should have equivalent access to modern medical care, the cost is prohibitive; and as it has already been pointed out, when the cost is zero for something, demand is 100%.

I also dispute the notion that compassion and profits are mutually exclusive. One of the most "compassionate" actions one can perform is to enable someone else to earn a living. This is far better than charity. Perhaps in your condemnations you should include the totalitarian regimes which oppress their subjects, have destroyed their economies and divert foreign aid to their cronies. In such countries, no amount of donations are going to solve the problem. The aid doesn't reach the victims.
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Old 07-13-2004, 06:42 AM   #27 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by cosmoknight
I really think they are trying to solve this problem the wrong way. Current drugs can't cure AIDS only extend the life of the infected person. As this is nearly a 100% preventable disease it seems they are trying every effort not to deal with the social issues that cause the spread of AIDS. Bilking drug companies out of R&D will only have them stop investing in any new cures, as it won't be profitable for them. Those countries may benefit in the short run but unless they deal with the problem socially they are dooming their populations.

Interestingly, there was a bit of controversy at the summit regarding prevention vs. treatment. Uganda has implemented a program to promote abstinence before monogamous marriage, which is having some success. The Ugandan representative criticized the U.S.'s promotion of condoms as a solution instead of abstinence.
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Old 07-13-2004, 07:35 AM   #28 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by wonderwench
The reason the financial considerations "win" is because of economic reality. To say that the human side should "win" ignores the facts that: research costs money; manufacturing costs money; distribution costs money; medical education costs money, and on and on. BTW, in the cost equation for each of these are many middle class people who make their livings and support their families via these activities (or is that just greed as well?)

As nice as it sounds to say that all humans on the planet should have equivalent access to modern medical care, the cost is prohibitive; and as it has already been pointed out, when the cost is zero for something, demand is 100%.

I also dispute the notion that compassion and profits are mutually exclusive. One of the most "compassionate" actions one can perform is to enable someone else to earn a living. This is far better than charity. Perhaps in your condemnations you should include the totalitarian regimes which oppress their subjects, have destroyed their economies and divert foreign aid to their cronies. In such countries, no amount of donations are going to solve the problem. The aid doesn't reach the victims.
Do health care companies deserve compensation? Yes

Do they need to charge unbelievable markups for these? No, in many cases they take volunteers or pay very little compensation for research candidates. This is fact. So the argument that R&D is outrageous for them is a pointless point. The only reason it is high is because they make R&D high on themselves, for profit.

As for drug companies quitting research if the money isn't there. Some will yes, but others won't. There will always be money in that field, but there is no reason to bankrupt people for needed medications.

Plus, if you can fix problems earlier then cost is cheaper, productivity increases (as workers are healthier), people can work harder and have more to spend so the money gets back into the economy it just gets spread out to other places.

To allow healthcare in the US to keep skyrocketing and growing exponentially over inflation, you saddle everyone with excessive bills and take money out of the system for 1 industry (which is economic suicide). With a government subsidized medical industry, insurance is less, companies are free to offer better benefits, people aren't scared of getting sick and having a catastrophic disease so they spend more on other things.

Just because one industry lowers prices and becomes less profitable does not mean the money is no longer in the system. It can mean the money is being distributed a little more equitably in other areas.

Right now, money is not being spread equitably among industries, and again that becomes economic suicide. One can argue it is equitable to have a major percentage of the GDP going to 1 industry and it doesn't affect other industries, however that is because of the debt people have or the uninsured not caring.

I cannot see how anyone can argue it is better for the Healthcare Industry to charge exuberant prices and hurt an economy more than help it, when the truth is the healthier the nation the more effective the true economy becomes.

Most countries with a form of socialized medicine prove that keeping workers healthy have better economies and standards of living than we do. If anything as healthcare has gone up, our standard of living has gone down. Yes we may have more luxuries than some, but we are farther in debt and have a far greater trade deficit, which someday soon will have to be paid, then we will show we don't have that standard of living we thought.
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Old 07-13-2004, 07:58 AM   #29 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by wonderwench
Interestingly, there was a bit of controversy at the summit regarding prevention vs. treatment. Uganda has implemented a program to promote abstinence before monogamous marriage, which is having some success. The Ugandan representative criticized the U.S.'s promotion of condoms as a solution instead of abstinence.

wench, maybe I'm misunderstanding positions here, but isn't the abstinence-based abc plan originating with the U.S. delegation?

Quote:
BANGKOK, Thailand - President Bush's policy of fighting AIDS by promoting abstinence ran into strong opposition Monday from scientists, activists and policy-makers who touted condoms as a trusted weapon in the fight against AIDS.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was the only big-name speaker at the International AIDS Conference to support Washington's ABC policy: Abstinence, Being faithful and Condoms, in that order.


As for the question of i.p. law, I'm mulling over the arguments for a while.
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Old 07-13-2004, 10:57 AM   #30 (permalink)
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Thank you for reminding me that it's past time to re-read "Atlas Shrugged".


Human beings will not gladly have the sweat of their brows and minds stolen for "the greater good", nor should they.
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Old 07-13-2004, 11:05 AM   #31 (permalink)
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Yes I thought the U.S. delegation was supporting abstinence?

Quote:
Originally posted by Lebell
Human beings will not gladly have the sweat of their brows and minds stolen for "the greater good", nor should they.
I think that is where the sides are going to differ in thought. One side is taking it as a difference between private and public in the issue of money. Other sides may view it in a different light.

My view on this? As I stated above in other posts, i'd support it if it were in the form similar to what the Manhattan Project were. The most brilliant scientists and researchers together with one goal only.

Problem is, in this day and age, that won't happen without a sense of urgency.

TBH that is partially a result of having competing companies - good for making money and all that, but again, its competition, and it might be 5 companies at the same stage in research, but they're not going to help each other.

So in my view, it boils down to between whether there is a sense or urgency. Not socialism vs. capitalism or anything like that.

It would be like the a-bomb - work together to make a breakthrough if one senses urgency, or don't work together and carry on if there isn't a sense of urgency around.
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Old 07-13-2004, 12:15 PM   #32 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Lebell
Thank you for reminding me that it's past time to re-read "Atlas Shrugged".


Human beings will not gladly have the sweat of their brows and minds stolen for "the greater good", nor should they.
Ayn Rand aside, most people don't see all charity as harmful and will happily submit some of their effort to a greater good. The definition of "some" varies from person to person, but it is hardly accurate to say that no one is willing to sacrifice for their society.
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Old 07-13-2004, 12:21 PM   #33 (permalink)
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Government funding is not charity. Charity is voluntary. Having a gun put against one's head to force compliance is hardly voluntary.

I also question the use of the word sacrifice. What does it really mean? A sacrifice is the giving up of something of value for something of lesser value. If what one gives is of lesser value to support a greater value, that is not a sacrifice - one is rationally supporting one's values. It is only common sense to act according to a hierarchy of values. The problem with government entitlements is that, for most people, they are forced to support strangers a priori their higher priorities: themselves and their families.
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Old 07-13-2004, 12:32 PM   #34 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by wonderwench
Government funding is not charity. Charity is voluntary. Having a gun put against one's head to force compliance is hardly voluntary.
No hyperbole there, huh?

Quote:

I also question the use of the word sacrifice. What does it really mean? A sacrifice is the giving up of something of value for something of lesser value. If what one gives is of lesser value to support a greater value, that is not a sacrifice - one is rationally supporting one's values. It is only common sense to act according to a hierarchy of values. The problem with government entitlements is that, for most people, they are forced to support strangers a priori their higher priorities: themselves and their families.
You are operating under the assumption that supporting ones family is exclusive of supporting some sort of entitlement program. Although I pay for government programs via taxes, I still support my family. Extreme, on/off thinking may clear the issue for you, but it doesn't reflect the real world.
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Old 07-13-2004, 12:33 PM   #35 (permalink)
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Take a look at the impact of SS and Medicare taxes on the bottom 50% of income earners.
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Old 07-13-2004, 12:35 PM   #36 (permalink)
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Take a look at the impact of SS and Medicare taxes on the bottom 50% of income earners.

Government power is the power of the gun. Just try not paying your taxes and see what happens. If taxes were truly charity, they would be voluntary, not coerced.
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Old 07-13-2004, 12:41 PM   #37 (permalink)
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I was repsonding to this quote:

Quote:

Human beings will not gladly have the sweat of their brows and minds stolen for "the greater good", nor should they.
which is not accurate, IMO.

Anyway, this is getting off-topic. We've done the SS argument before, and I'm not biting this time. I can only repeat the same arguments a finite number of times.
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Old 07-13-2004, 12:44 PM   #38 (permalink)
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I have never met anyone who was willing to have the sweat stolen from their brow for "the greater good."
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Old 07-13-2004, 01:09 PM   #39 (permalink)
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Don't take the phrase literally. Plenty of people give for the common good. That's the root of all human charity.
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Old 07-13-2004, 01:17 PM   #40 (permalink)
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Funny because its often the same people who say "support charities" that end up saying no one wants to give to the "greater good."

Pretty hypocritical, no? Yeah, support charities, but at the same time say nothing should be for the greater good. Charities *are* for the greater good. The only difference is, they're private, and not government.

Please, its so contradictory. If you don't want to give to the greater good, then don't give to charities.

I give to charities often - old clothes I can't wear anymore, old cars, heck just earlier today I donted $20 to the firefighter's on the street for a fundraising charity event.

I just hate contradictions and hypocrisy.
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