Monday, March 28, 2011

REVIEW: ‘HEALTH CHOICES AND RESPONSIBILITIES’



Oplas, Bienvenido ‘Nonoy,’ Jr. Health choices and responsibilities. Central Book Supply, Inc., Quezon City, Philippines. 2011.



I generally don’t like writing about health care. It often involves funky-smelling bodies, secretion of fluids, and all that gross stuff. So I’m glad that someone bothers to write about that crap instead of me.

Nonoy Oplas, who heads Minimal Government Thinkers, and is the country’s staunchest opponent of the anthroposociocalicegenic global warming scam, recently compiled his 2009-2010 writings with regards to health care and drugs, based largely on his experiences as a member of the Department of Health’s Advisory Council on Price Regulation.

Oplas sets his sights on the bureaucracy and is relentless in his attack. Even though it has only been three years since the passage of Republic Act 9502 or the Cheaper Medicines Act, it is not too premature to say that when it comes to the provisions on price control and compulsory licensing, the law is a failure.



ARE WE ANY CLOSER TO CHEAPER MEDICINES?

The effects of price control after a year of implementation surprised me. Although one would expect a simple case of a supply shortage due to price ceilings, the statistics show that with regards to drugs covered by the government measure, there was a decrease in quantities sold. Oplas explains this by saying that the poor who needed such drugs were already buying these drugs, or already had much lower priced generic drugs as an option even prior to price control. It seems to me that retailers also shifted their purchases to non-covered drugs, and manufacturers cut down on their production of those covered by price control, hence the lower quantities. Who suffers because of this?

The selection of the drugs to be covered, is itself abhorrent, in that politicians chose the most popular brands. That means that drug companies were penalized for providing the drugs most desired, and presumably the ones most needed, by the public. Because of state meddling, medicines are unable to naturally go down in price, as they would have if a competitive environment was permitted. The price control program is a powerful example of how government makes things worse.


PROFITABILITY IS A NECESSITY

It is expected that a new drug would be costly when first entering the market. But it is precisely this high profitability that attracts investors to produce more of this type of drug. In this way does the price of the drug go down, while becoming more available to the populace. Due to interference of those geniuses in political positions, however, prices go down abruptly ― but without the corresponding increase in available supply. What’s a low price, if no supply exists?

Oplas also points out the political motivations behind the passage of particular provisions, as well as how the acronyms that were used are pathetically cheap stunts (GMA, MRP).


SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS

Oplas tells some depressing stuff about the present health care situation, such as of retailers getting hammered by the new rules, to the point of having to lay off workers. From one of his stories, it is shown that the government doesn’t really want free health care or free education ― what it wants is the control over these sectors, the people be damned. State monopolies and regulation are big money, and the only beneficiaries in such a system are the politicians and their cronies.

Oplas himself says that his book can be summed up in the idea that “health care is a personal and parental responsibility.” The state has to step aside for people to be empowered.


QUIBBLES

The drawback to compiling blog entries and presentations for a book, is that while there is a continuity to ideas expressed, part of the informal style of the blog or presentation is retained, which may be disorienting, especially when there are references made on events of the time, of which the present reader would not remember specifically. But this concerns merely the style of Oplas’ book, and not its substance, the latter being founded on good economics.

I feel however that Oplas does not go far enough with his thesis statement. Just as the great economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek did, Oplas concedes to the government the responsibility to handle health epidemics and other emergencies. I am of the opinion that people have the ability to organize and coordinate just as well, or even better, than any coercive institution, hence my disagreement on this matter.

Although I agree fully with Oplas in being against price control and compulsory licensing, I could no longer believe in the justness of the intellectual property system, or even the notion of intellectual property. It’s a difficult debate, and much of what I have to say on the matter has been said in my 2009 book. I have also had several exchanges with Oplas about it, and I believe we’re in an “agree to disagree” mode when it comes to IP.


CONCLUSION

I hope to see more freedom-oriented books in the country in the rather near future. At the moment, I’m content to wait for Oplas’ book on global warming. It’s going to be brutal, I think.

Freedom is ultimately not about doing anything you want, but about responsibility and discipline. A social system can be sustainable only when the members of a community direct their energies towards things beyond the short term. With regards to health, this attitude manifests in good living. I’m not the best spokesperson when it comes to having the right diet and regular exercise, so I’ll stop here. Suffice to say that material dependence on others is base and immature, while individual well-being is self-determined.

1 comment:

Nonoy Oplas said...

Thanks a lot Paul, for plugging it. You forced me to write and introduce that book in my blog :-). Here it is, I mentioned you there and your book review, http://funwithgovernment.blogspot.com/2011/03/my-first-book-health-choices-and.html