Drug prices and the logic of collective action

by Maria on November 28, 2003

As it’s Medicare week, the NYT seems to be focusing on how US trade policies can hinder healthcare abroad. Earlier this week, Nicholas Kristof marked the FTAA discussions by reporting from Guatemala, where the government hopes to win US favour by buying brand name Aids drugs instead of generics, even though it costs three times as much and means the Guatemalans can only, presumably, treat a third as many people.

Yesterday’s front page story was about the US pharma industry’s drive, through the USTR, to stop other governments from imposing price controls on drugs bought to treat citizens. The Medicare bill was quite a victory for the drugs companies, as it prevents the US government from imposing price controls, and also mandates progress reports to Congress on efforts to open Australia’s drug pricing system.

On a first read of the story, I was transported back to my happy days in Public Policy and Public Choice I. I could almost hear the pharmas arguing; ‘In the US, we’ve just managed to ‘tie the king’s hands’, and stop the government from naming the price it pays for drugs (otherwise the government would pay such low prices that developing new drugs wouldn’t be worthwhile and soon we wouldn’t have any.). But abroad, we’re forced by governments to sell our drugs at lower prices. Which means the durn furners are free-riding on all that American R&D.’

[click to continue…]

There’s only one Karol Wojtyla…

by Chris Bertram on November 28, 2003

Whatever the drawbacks of the Pope’s views about contraception or human sexuality, I was heartened to learn that his judgement remains sound concerning “the things that really matter”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/funny_old_game/3242602.stm . Now if he could just lay on the odd miracle or two …

Observe the Sons of Ulster

by Henry Farrell on November 28, 2003

The results from Northern Ireland’s Assembly elections are filtering through, albeit slowly; it looks as if Sinn Fein has won a big increase in its share of the vote, and the SDLP, the moderate nationalist party, is going to suffer very serious losses. The Ulster Unionist Party, which represents the more accommodationist face of Unionism, has suffered a substantial loss of votes, and is likely to win less seats in the Assembly than the Democratic Unionist Party. The Alliance Party, which is neither nationalist or unionist, has done very badly. As usual, “Slugger O’Toole”:http://www.sluggerotoole.com/ is the best source of up-to-date information on what’s happening.

What does this mean for the peace process? Hard to say. The moderates on both the Nationalist and Unionist side have lost out to those on the extremes. This means that Northern Ireland is likely in for a bumpy ride for the next several months, and very possibly a crash landing. On the other hand, if the Democratic Unionist Party is able to hold its nose and negotiate with Sinn Fein, it may be able to pull off a Nixon in China deal, that will seem legitimate to the Unionist population. This “doesn’t look likely”:http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/front/2003/1128/1069978503414.html any time in the near future; we may have to wait for the Reverend Ian Kyle Paisley (doctor in theology, _honoris causa_, Bob Jones University) to be kicked upstairs before real progress is possible. Here’s to hoping that he gets “called home”:http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oral_Roberts soon …

Risus sardonicus

by Henry Farrell on November 28, 2003

By sheer coincidence, I read Kieran’s “post”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/000897.html a couple of hours after I picked _Quicksilver_ up again (I’ve been too busy this semester to read big fat books, however tempting), and came across this passage (p.200-201, US edition).

bq. There, mounted up high on a weatherbeaten stick, was a sort of irregular knot of stuff, barely visible as a gray speck in the moonlight: the head of Oliver Cromwell. When the King had come back, ten years ago, he’d ordered the corpse to be dug up from where Drake and the others had buried it, and the head cut off and mounted on a pike and never taken down. Ever since then Cromwell had been looking down helplessly on a (sic) scene of unbridled lewdness that was Whitehall palace.

Pepys figures prominently in the narrative a couple of pages before; I suspect that his diaries are Stephenson’s source. So far, I’m enjoying _Quicksilver_ a lot more than I expected, given some of the rude reviews (Kevin Drum describes it as a “core dump”:http://www.calpundit.com/archives/002526.html). But then, my tolerance for long, semi-relevant digressions on this or that subject is probably a lot higher than that of the average reader. Will blog more on this when I’ve finished the damn book …

Oliver Cromwell’s Head

by Kieran Healy on November 28, 2003

As I’ve said before, the Latham & Matthews transcription of the Diary of Samuel Pepys is a marvel of scholarship. I would be enjoying myself a good deal less if I didn’t have the footnotes to read. Take October 13 1664, for example, which I read last night. Pepys has just read a book containing the story “that Cromwell did in his life time transpose many of the bodies of the kings of England from one grave to another, and that by that means it is not known certainly whether the head that is now set up upon a post be that of Cromwell or one of the kings.” Then we get the editorial footnote:

The book is Samuel-Joseph Sorbiere’s Relation d’un Voyage en Agletterre … (Paris, 1664; not in the P[epys] L[ibrary]). The story (which struck Sorbiere as ‘un bruit ridicule’) is at pp.165-6 in the Cologne edition of 1667 … There seems no doubt that this was in fact Cromwell’s head: see K. Pearson and G.M. Morant, Portraiture of O. Cromwell, esp. pp.107+. For a contrary view, see F.J. Varley, Cromwell’s latter end. The head remained for display at Westminster Hall for about 25 years, when it was blown down in a storm. In 1710 it was said to be in London in a collection of curios: Von Uffenbach, London in 1710 (trans. and ed. Quarrell and Mare), p.82. In 1812 a head (allegedly the same one) found its way (via a pawnbroker’s shop) into the possession of a Suffolk family — the Wilkinsons of Woodbridge — whence it passed in 1960 to Cromwell’s college, Sidney Sussex, Cambridge, where it was given a decent burial in the ante-chapel. Journal R. Arch. Inst. 68/237+; N & Q., corr in vols for 1864 and 1926; The Times, 31st December 1874; ib., 15 April 1957; Sid Suss. Annual 1960, p.26.

Marvellous stuff.