How Neoliberalism Really Works: A Small Anecdote

27 Feb

 

Along with several million, I suffer from the eye disease known as glaucoma. It can be managed, rather than cured, by taking eye drops several times a day. Based on the advice of my doctor, I rely on Azopt and Lumigen, two drugs produced by leading pharmaceutical companies.

 

A week ago, prior to an international trip, I stopped at a local pharmacy to renew my prescription of Azopt (produced by a Texas company Alcon that manufactures 86 drugs) because I feared that my supply would be exhausted during the trip. A day later the pharmacist called me back to say that my insurance would only cover the refill in mid-March when according to their records I should have finished the supply I had, and would be entitled to

more. She added that the for 15 ml. of Azopt without insurance I would have to pay $445, which is double what it would cost after the insurance kicked in. I thanked her for letting me know this bad news, saying that I would wait until next month.

 

Of course, I was upset as I really depend on the medicine. My eye doctor reminds me on each visit that if I am not diligent about the daily dosage of drops, I risk blindness, but to pay such an amount seemed exorbitant, and besides, I was heading for countries where such drugs could be obtained more cheaply without even requiring a prescription. The U.S. puts no limits on drug prices, and unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies charge whatever they believe the market will bear.

 

But I was in for a surprise. In the small Italian village of Bellagio I stopped at the first pharmacy I could find, asking nervously whether they had Azopt in stock. Sure enough a 10 ml. bottle was produced, and I asked for a second one.

The combined price for 20 ml. was 21 Euros, or about 35 times cheaper than what I was told I had to pay in California! It was not even a generic version, but came in the same bottle.

 

I do not have a precise explanation of this extraordinary price differential. It seems to reflect the machinations of the free market as operative in the United States, combined with the inelastic nature of demand, possibly due to absence of alternatives in the American market.

 

For me this experience was disturbing but never disastrous. I could travel to where the drugs were more cheaply available, or if necessary, pay the ransom prices being exacted on the American market. What distressed me was all those in need of such medication who were not engaged in international travel and lacked the funds to cover payment were being put in an intolerable position.

 

I am not sure what the explanation is for such gigantic price gaps, but it seems like a metaphor for all that is wrong with a world economy that lacks mechanisms of societal conscience to protect the vulnerable.

 

There are, of course, two kinds of related problems. The first is the gap between drug prices on the American market and prices elsewhere, and the second is the seemingly outrageously high drug prices on the American market where Azopt, even if covered by insurance, would still be $223 for

a 15 ml bottle, sufficient for a couple of months.

 

What should be done? Make Bernie Sanders electable? Seek a social revolution? Does this require a global remedy, replacing neoliberalism with ‘social democracy’?

 

Surely something should be done!

26 Responses to “How Neoliberalism Really Works: A Small Anecdote”

  1. Gene Schulman February 27, 2016 at 12:29 am #

    Too bad, Richard. It’s time to boycott the USA and immigrate to a democratic country. Obama care is not what it purports to be, Bernie is not electable. Even if he were electable, he wouldn’t help you.

  2. Mike 71 February 27, 2016 at 7:19 am #

    Professor, it is a myth that there is any “free market” in the pharmaceutical industry. The collusion among various manufactures to restrict drug availability, thus elevating prices enormously is well documented. Google indicted venture capitalist Martin Shkrelli to learn more.

    Have you considered medical marijuana, which has been proven to reduce ocular pressure, providing relief? As a California resident, this option is available to you. It only requires a doctor’s recommendation, then you can visit a local dispensary where someone can advise you which marijuana variant is right for your condition. Marijuana, which was embraced by students in the 1960’s/1970’s, has since been proven to have useful properties for medical conditions, including glaucoma.

  3. Harvey Epstein February 27, 2016 at 7:37 am #

    Richard,

    My heart goes out to you. I have similar issues. I blush to tell you that I do not recall the name of the drug, but it seems to cure hepatitis C. I understand that the “brand name only” is available in the U.S. A very recent article stated that the 84 day regimen costs $1,000.00 per pill. Apparently, the company controlling the drug has licensed 11 drug manufacturers in India which produce generics. Seems that they are not available here. The competition there has reportedly driven down the cost of the generic to $4.29 per pill. Apparently some folks who can afford the trip and stay in India can now go there for treatment. I am not certain that this drug is the one currently being advertised on TV.

    Then there is that wonderful hedge fund titian who purchased a company which manufactures an HIV treatment drug and he increased the price about 1,500%.

    Wish I recalled the details on both of the above. I am sure that if you went on line, those details will be found.

    I assume that both articles are factually correct.

    What can we do about this situation? Perhaps we give too much protection to certain companies and need more oversight via government intervention. Especially where we speak of life threatening illnesses. That is a ball only a government can balance. It will require a totally new social contract which our “free society” may not be willing to accept – unless it hits each individual in his pocket book.

    Regards

  4. rehmat1 February 27, 2016 at 9:05 am #

    Dr. Falk – I was diagnosed with glaucoma 20 years ago. My eye specialist, Dr. Markowitz, an Israeli educated, prescribed Cosopt, Alphagan and Travatan eye-drops, 5-times daily. In Canada the three cost $200 – 50% of which is paid by my wife’s insurance.

    As far as Bernie Sanders is concerned, he is as much “socialist” and pro-Israel as Donal Trump or Hillary Clinton. In fact, Sanders is a Con Zionist Jew who works for the Wall Street.

    https://rehmat1.com/2015/09/01/bernie-sanders-a-con-zionist-jew/

  5. Jeremy R. Hammond February 27, 2016 at 9:11 am #

    Mike is right. The medical/pharmaceutical/insurance industry pretty much represents the antithesis of a free market.

    For example, Richard, you mention the unavailability of generic brands in the US. That’s not because there’s a free market; on the contrary, it’s because of US intervention in the market via the FDA to restrict generic drugs. Patents themselves essentially result in a government-granted monopoly that wouldn’t exist if we had a free market!

    Ever-rising costs of health care in general are a result of the massive government intervention. Wherever we see such massive intervention in the economy, we see rising prices, such as in health care and housing (i.e., the government-created housing bubble).

    Look elsewhere in the economy where markets are freer, and what do we see? Ever-better goods and services sold for ever-lower prices. Look at computers and cell phones, for example. Ever rising prices simply are not a consequence of markets being free.

    The suggestion of price-fixing as a solution would only make matters worse. What would happen if the government legislated a price ceiling for wheat below the market clearing price? Well, for starters, it would probably drive many farmers out of business, thus eliminating competition for the bigger players. And it would create an artificial increase in demand, leading to shortages.

    As a simple logical truism, government bureaucrats making decisions at best arbitrarily (assuming only good intentions) do not know better than the pricing system of a free market how to efficiently direct scarce resources towards productive ends as determined by the will of consumers. There’s no greater democratic system than a free market in which consumers vote with their dollars how resources ought to be allocated.

    Government intervention, such as the massive intervention into health care, creates waste and inefficiency that results in ever rising costs. The solution, therefore, is less intervention, not more; a freer market, not an even more restricted one.

  6. Kata Fisher February 27, 2016 at 9:36 am #

    Professor Falk,

    Neoliberalism is a cult.
    Catholicism will not be a cult.

    Italy is predominantly Roman Catholic – that is the only reason that you paid fair market price for your medication and were not cheated.

    In general, here in the US, you will not pay fair market costs on things that are imminent to human / Family needs.

    So, you will be cheated at free market just as same as you are attending a congregation that is pastored / led by a psychopath – who will require and claim someone else life-resources for himself just because he can, and tell them how God Himself will provide for them. Its all in one cult basket!

    So medication / medical care is a just small fraction to the all of the free market abuses concerning human condition.

    It is all connected to the cultic population control. It has nothing do with citizenship. I feel sorry for Americans that they actually go along with all of that. It’s awful under cults.

    By the way – my Father had the same medical condition, and he was doing well just with the eye drops for many years. However, few years before he died, he started losing sight and lost sight to his left eye. He was Charismatic Church.

  7. The Polemicist February 27, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    Make Bernie Sanders electable?
    Seek a social revolution?
    Does this require a global remedy, replacing neoliberalism with ‘social democracy’?

    A) Bernie’s “electability”: The biggest obstacle to Bernie’s electability is the Democratic Party and his allegiance thereto. The Democratic Party has defined itself, according to a strategic paradigm promoted and practiced by Bill and Hillary Clinton and honed by the Obama administration, as a strategic partner of capital/the ruling class/the 1%/[substitute whatever less radical term makes you comfortable] for at least twenty-five years. A principal political institution of capitalist/neo-liberal/libservative/[again, whatever] counter-revolution is going to do anything it can to stop even a mild social democrat like Bernie from getting the nomination. And I think it’s beyond Bernie’s ability—or, probably, his intent—to transform that institution into its political opposite.

    Regarding his “electability” in the general election: Yes, he will face the full force of the establishment media, but he does not have any of the negatives of Hillary. In short, he’s not a liar and an opportunist. It is amazing how many people are saying: “I like Trump, and I like Bernie.” My wife’s from western PA (otherwise known as northern Appalachia) and we hear it from many of the local country boys. I also hear it from esteemed doctors in New York City, so nothing to feel superior about. Yup, comment in today’s New York Times: “Only Sanders and Trump look like they are in it passionately, that they are in love with the nation, and that’s not only seductive but irresistible. Trump would clobber Clinton, but not Sanders. As an independent, I would choose Trump over Clinton any day.”

    People of all stripes are rightfully pissed off, and know they’re being ripped off, and are fed up with opportunists and liars. Sanders is the Democratic candidate that can appeal to this. So in the general, I think (and there is no data to contradict this), Bernie would have a very good chance–better than Hillary!–of defeating any of the Republicans, if he would run fiercely on a thoroughgoing social democratic (he’s not a socialist) program and against the horrible-in-their-own-right Clintonian socio-economic policies of Billary and Barack as well as the well-deserved explicitly “Republican” targets (which he wouldn’t).

    B) Replace neo-liberalism with “social democracy”? Except, hasn’t neo-liberalism been precisely a global war on social democracy (or in the US, the “welfare state), carried out under the auspices of the social democratic parties themselves—Pasok in Greece, the Socialist Party in France, the Democratic Party in the US? Haven’t those “social democratic” parties been the midwives of neo-liberalism, whose tasks were determined once they (Mitterand, Blair, Clinton, et. al.) accepted the There Is No Alternative to capitalism paradigm? Wasn’t’ it the inability/unwillingness of “social democratic” political forces to contest the economic and political hegemony of capitalist industrial and financial classes in the “social democratic” polity that laid them open to the renewed strategic offensive of capital we call “neo-liberalism”? The problem with campaign finance isn’t a court decision; it’s the socio-economic fact that a tiny percentage of the population controls all the capital wealth of society, and therefore its political institutions.

    Who, of the neo-liberal executioners who are still in control of the economy and the polity is about to let any of the hated “social democracy” back from the grave they put it in? The only thing that will incline them to that, in fact, is some more radical threat. It’s not: “If you want a just society, fight for a reformed capitalism today and wait for a better chance sometime in the next 50 election cycles,” but: If you want some kind of revived social democracy, fight for a more radical socialist alternative. Get some traction on that, and you’ll see Congress, the courts, and the media playing nice-nice with social democratic programs. (Which are entirely non-threatening to capitalism as a whole. I maintain, for example, that single-payer healthcare, well- and forcefully-argued, can be a program that wins an election. And I predict that some right-wing populist—wouldn’t be surprised it it’s the Donald–is going to realize that, while respectable establishment liberals are pontificating about how impossible it is.)

    C) So the answer is Door #2: Seek a social revolution. Globally, and here. Shut TINA up, or she’ll kill you. “Cause we are in the Twilight Zone.

    • Kata Fisher February 27, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

      You can’t censor Tina Turner in US!

      You can’t shut up mama TINA – she is the spiritual mother of girls of America – no one ever was able to tell American story trough music in prophetic mock – as Tina Turner. Although, she was a just bit a man-hater over the time – I think. But, she really and diligently smears the condition of consciences of manhood worldwide (not just in America).

      The girls would die, absolutely without the spiritual council of Tina Turner – you just do not understand her style.

      But you can look at that in another way:

      Another day I was listening to some spiritual music, and every time I was listening to the music I started feeling nauseousness – so I thought

      … “I really, really love this song – but this girl singing it sounds like a sexually immoral slut – just a witchy spirit in all of that! Ewwww”

      But then I saw something that a priest wrote, and I did not think that I was wrong at all.

      “Sobre musica evangélica

      Con respecto a la pregunta sobre si esta mal que un católico escuche musica evangelica.
      No está mal. Todas las manifestaciones artisticas deberian ser para que el hombre eleve su mente y busque los bienes espirituales, ya sean naturales o sobrenaturales, de modo que el arte contribuya a ennoblecer al hombre. Por lo cual, si la musica evangelica ayuda a que uno se eleve a Dios, es buena, salvo que contenga algo que vaya contra la fe, lo cual no suele pasar porque la actual musica cristiana es muy pobre en cuanto al contenido teologico.
      Por otro lado, la musica debe guardar cierta proporción con la idea que quiere comunicar. Lasrealidades divinas son las mas nobles que existen. Por lo cual, la musica debe estar a la altura, en cuanto a su belleza y e cuanto a su estructura rítmica y armónica de mido de que guarde cierta proporción con la nobleza de aquello que quiere transmitir. La musica cristiana moderna y popular es mas bien sensible a causa de la ritmica y las armonias estandarizadas, por lo cual es facil reducir la experiencia religiosa al ámbito de la afectividad y de lo psíquico, a lo cual aveces tendemos demasido y tenemos la tentación de reducirnos al aspecto psiquico,esto agravado por la influencia de lacultura moderna, la cual es esceptica y emotivista. Esto no es un argumento para no escuchar musica cristiana, al contrario, puede ayudarnos mucho, pero hay que reconocer sus limites.”

      “With regard to the question about whether this evil that a catholic listen to gospel music.
      It’s not bad. All the artistic demonstrations should be for the man to raise his mind and look for the spiritual things, whether natural or supernatural, so that the art will contribute to ennoble the man. Which is why, if the gospel music helps one to God, it’s good, except that it contains something that goes against the faith, which doesn’t happen that often because the current Christian music is very poor in terms of content theological.
      On the other hand, the music must be in proportion with the idea that wants to communicate. Divine Realities are the most noble that exist. Which is why, the music must be at the height, in terms of its beauty and its harmonious and rhythmic structure of mido that some proportion with the nobility of that wants to transmit. The Modern Christian music and popular is rather sensitive because of the rhythmic standardized and harmonies, which is why it’s easy to reduce the religious experience to the area of emotional and psychic, which sometimes we tend too and we have the temptation To Reduce this psychic, aggravated by the influence of modern culture, which is skeptical and emotivista. This is not an argument for not listening to Christian music, on the contrary, he can help us a lot, but we have to recognize its limits.”

  8. Clif Brown February 28, 2016 at 8:51 pm #

    I take three prescription drugs, all of them generics. In 2015 I paid a total of $35 for all three for a 90 day supply. Recently, I was notified of the price I would be required to pay in 2016 (same insurance company) and it was up 900%. Is there something fishy going in in pharmaceutical pricing? Yes, and everyone knows it but nothing is done. Thus it is in a democracy of lobbies.

    • Kata Fisher February 28, 2016 at 9:44 pm #

      A Note:

      It seems to me that they are it may not be so much about profit-gain (directly). What is taking place looks more as attempts to paralyze / annul healthcare law/s little by little. However, I am not sure. In fact, I will say that I have absolutely no idea what may be going on. Still 700- 900% price jump it totally destructive. Even 100% would be alarming enough.

  9. Artie Alfreds February 29, 2016 at 2:03 am #

    Richard, I didn’t know about your medical issue, & really sympathize. I am just a few years younger. Still getting my Rxs with insurance related to my work as a retiree, but I know that’s a slippery slope. As far as Bernie, I wouldn’t look to that Zionist (same as all other US mainstream pols, also a supporter of Obama’s drone wars, & generally of the US Empire/War Machine. It would be interesting to see if what would happen if he attacked Big Pharma.

  10. FN February 29, 2016 at 6:38 am #

    The threshold for reform in the USA is what happened to the USSR. We’re encouragingly far along the same path. The Warsaw Pact disintegrated from the outside in. The NATO Pact is going the same way. As with the Warsaw Pact, tensions in the US bloc are not primarily between the hegemon and the satellites but between hard-line and soft-line satellites. Running cracks have opened between European states that favor US-style immiserizing growth and ‘peripheral’ states like Greece that assert their economic and social rights. Analogous tensions are evident between states like Britain, which suppress popular revulsion with increased repression, and states with independent judiciaries and more robust civic rights and rule of law (Italy, Spain.) As in the Warsaw Pact, the weakest cleavage planes are ethnic – you see that in Catalunia, Scotland, and now Saxony.

    The Western bloc is dying from two economic cancers, catabolic enterprises sapping productive capacity: fractional-reserve banking and an arms trade increasingly geared for domestic repression. Systemically, institutionalized graft in Washington is turning all concentrated industries malignant.

    Politically, the public has lost interest in its fake democracy. The population has come to understand that the constitution’s gone for good. The mythical America of civics class ended in 1949 with the Central Intelligence Agency Act and its statutory impunity for ‘sources and methods’ crime. Now that regime has given way to a new one: emergency rule by secret decree under post-9/11 COG/COOP procedures developed for ‘national survival’ after nuclear war.

    The US regime has no legitimacy and no responsible sovereignty. Nothing holds this state together but repression. The time will come when you can knock it over with a feather. In the USSR all it took was a well-contained civil war that claimed a few thousand lives. With luck we can exterminate our state without much more violence than that.

    • Kata Fisher February 29, 2016 at 9:20 pm #

      FN: I do not think that you are accurate in your last paragraph. This is why: here in the US “Freedom to Assembly” (According to Martin Luther King, Jr.) makes the crucial difference between here in the US and else where.

      While it is true that US Church has completely lost its lamp – this does not mean that at least one lamp is not burning – The light of Church in Rome-Charismatic to other Churches – Charismatic-Ecunimical & in Prophetic anoiting.

      I would say that if we asked Russia to give civil rights to homosexual couples and Families based on solid understanding of the Church toward humanity – what would be?

      However, Church in Russia is the way to political and is even not human enough? – so it is rejecting legitimate civil rights to homosexual citizens and self-identified gender individuals. Only God can change human condition – Church and governments can’t do that.

      The only responsibility that Church has toward civil (outside of the Church) society, in fact, will be Baptism in God’s Spirit trough the Free Fall of the Spirit upon congregation members. When comes to the rejecting legitimate civil rights of citizens – Church can’t do that, legitimately, based on a human condition. Look and see that governments are best to allow for Legal Freedom of Faith.

      However, Church-Charismatic will expose every human condition, even sin itself when it must be – this is an absolute to happen.

      So, I do not know how Russia will be justified with their Church in a relationship with civil rights and accountability of the Church to geather congregations as “Freedom to Assembly” and bring folks to Baptism in Spirit.

      I would say, here in the US gay-rights are trending as a good example of tolerant society, and Baptism in Spirit by Free Fall of Presence will be trending as well soon after that – just because Freedom of the Church can do what ever it wants.

      FN So, go and tell Russia good news about all that!

  11. Beau Oolayforos February 29, 2016 at 9:35 am #

    Dear Professor Falk,

    Others have commented, appropriately, about the true cartels: pharmaceuticals, health insurance, the AMA – between which the patient is mercilessly squeezed, bilked, fleeced. I assume you have seen Michael Moore’s “Sicko”. I recommend CanDrug, one of several online Canadian companies, but maybe better hurry – Congress (at whose behest? let’s guess…) is fixing to shut that door too.

    • Kata Fisher February 29, 2016 at 11:43 am #

      A Note: What is Congress? What was / ware its functioning purposes? When was established? By who?

      Also, they may think closing doors on free allowances to profanity freedoms. I think this may be the strongest statement in the message: “don’t let women fuck freely” – have I confused it? Perhaps, I did confuse it. Very profane what he has said (in this video-link) – and yet absolute truth about profanity.

      And when parents want to restrict protein ideas and-and profanity toward adolescent kids – the state laws are being smeared into one’s face and are ordered to be dismissed by stupid lay-people / medical staff – thinking that they are doing their job legally.

      Why are the things so messed up?

      Welcome to the collapse of freedoms to shop medical drugs @ competitive pice – while “pussy politics” just rock!

      Excuse the profanity – but someone said that, and seriously are those things so – just as described in this mock-video link?

      Perhaps women should be better educated on womanhood and motherhood, instead on whore-hood!

      Perhaps, they (as women of concance) can even choose between Church welfare and government welfare while raising their illegitimate children with/ without their sexually immoral men.

      • Kata Fisher February 29, 2016 at 2:10 pm #

        Note:

        It is exactly what they train for. That is why it is illegal to give funds and give weaponry to hate/s of illegal religion / illegal religion – its fruit is terrorist in action. It is not about legal self-determination and self-defense of Palestinian people. Its about evil governing, all together.

        It would be more then legitimate and legal to cut off all funds given and all fundings to PA and Gaza militarism. It is without purpose. It’s as same as providing weaponry and illegal funds to civil radicalism.

        What PA and Gaza needs is internationally controlled humanitarian funds – independent in oversight for a rebuilding of depopulated areas – for Arabs.

        Also, what they need is sincere look at that what exactly are they indoctrinating their children with, all together. Perhaps, there is enormous child-human-right/s violation just because they take advantage of hate-religion upon their children, and they violate the conscience of their children with the guilt of blood.

        Now, I am very sincere about this, and really rational that these things are just so.

    • Richard Falk February 29, 2016 at 6:37 pm #

      Thanks for this helpful suggestion!

      • Gene Schulman March 1, 2016 at 2:34 am #

        Given the realities of the situation, Kata’s suggestion is not helpful at all……

        The indicative proof that, not just morally, but in fact, we’re all Palestinians now.

        http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article44335.htm

      • Fred Skolnik March 1, 2016 at 5:54 am #

        I’m sure Prof. Falk was not referring to Kata’s suggestion. Why should he? It’s obviously more beneficial to spend 40% of your annual budget building attack tunnels to kill a few dozen Israeli women and children than to build schools and hospitals. Isn’t it, my Palestimian friend?

      • Gene Schulman March 1, 2016 at 6:30 am #

        Right on, Fred. My own eye troubles – macular degeneration – prevented me from noticing that Richard was referring the the previous comment by Beau O.

        Nevertheless, I feel more like a Palestinian than like Charlie Hebdo.

      • Kata Fisher March 1, 2016 at 11:34 am #

        Lol, Gene – here you are enjoying whatever! But it is I that have Good News for you all:

        I certainly do not even think that I can be helpful. Firstly, I am Church-Charismatic-Catholic and secondly – I had pleasure watching my mother’s side of Family of cousins while growing up – and it was the just hilarious environment like this one.

        You could not figure out what was going on – everything was mixed up and messed up! It was a drama that can be likened to Palestinian-Jewish conflict! I guess – all taught that were Christians and never were converted from whatever!

        I do recall that my Grandmothers Grandmother (but not the mother) was a in a kosher girl family line.

        It happens so that Grandmothers mother died just shortly after her husband died – leaving a small toddler and a newborn. My Grandmother was born in 1912. Things after that took place.

        So the Grandmothers Grandmother (in the council of her mother) did this: Took entire cow by foot-walk to the city judge to take my Grandmother and her little sister out of an entire inheritance that they had and did not want to pass on to girls. They all involved crafted a scam!

        But there was more to that.

        My Grandmothers mother (that died) was actually from God Fearing Christian home.

        So when my Grandmoter married, and her Father in Law (who was Arabic, but Christian) wanted to help her to retain her inheritance could not – the Lawer told him that he may well just give up on it because on the paper it was written down that those girls do not even exist – or ever have had. It was written down that decided son had absolutely no children!

        But lo and behold, after that all man-natural lines were hit by sexual immortality and all kind of evil. In those days, they had illegitimate sexing in cornfields, and no one knew really whose kid was which. Lol, there were illegitimate kids all over – outside my Grandmothers and her sister’s line.

        So, I understood spiritual hate of Jews toward Church even just while growing up!

        But look and see that I have nothing bias when comes to the right of the Jews to Holy Land. Why should I?

        By the way – one can wonder why always Jews are in all the troubles that they are and nothing changes, until they acknowledge their guilt to God.

        I have no grudges, Just a story that you may or may not consider a myth

        By the way, this is becoming just boring to me…

  12. Sunny February 29, 2016 at 10:42 am #

    Hello, Professor Falk,
    Thank you for sharing this. Very insightful. I am not the least surprised. It seem that medication/drug costs in the U.S. are grossly inflated and controlled by people that maximize profit over patient welfare.
    I am so glad you got your eye drops.
    I cannot for the life of me, understand why, the U.S. government the allows corporations to exploit and gouge patients and sick people.
    I know a young person, who is laid off, and trying to get medical coverage, and it seems to be difficult and tricky.
    There is ‘short term’ insurance, for example.. the fine print and details can be misleading.
    And the costs are high, as well. I wish I could help. But I am not in this predicament.
    Apparently, one can be fined, if one does not get insurance, within a certain amount of time. I think it is 60 days.

    As for me, vision, is not covered, under my health plan. This is something, I regard as unfortunate. Vision care is as important as any other medical condition. Everything is out of pocket, unless it can be billed under ‘medical’.

    I want to take this opportunity to wish you good health and express my thanks for your essays, time and effort. I am glad you got your drops! Vision is precious, essential in every way.
    Best wishes.

    • Alessandro March 1, 2016 at 9:45 pm #

      Hi professor Falk, I just wanted to check in! I’m very Sorry to hear about this ridiculous situation, and I hope you also are enjoying Italy…

      You know my vote is for social revolution, and I think you know which general strategy I favor! This is one of thousands of reasons why capitalism can’t be reformed, and needs to be abandoned and defeated.

      Until we meet again!

  13. Björn Lindgren March 7, 2016 at 11:00 am #

    Dear Richard,

    Thanks for your small and telling anectote. I’m sorry about your glaucoma, and also glad that you still can keep it under control.

    As Noam Chomsky have said many times: basic research is most often done at universities, and payed by the taxpayers, but the results are applied and utilized by corporations, in this case, big pharma.

    I’ve been disabled all my life. In the late 40s, one month after I was born, my left hip was destroyd in an infection . But up till the early 70s I was very well cared for, and annually I was furnished with the (expensive) prothesis I needed. It was payed for by the Swedish state.

    Since the mid 70s, I can’t use a prothesis any longer, but walk by means of (old discarded) crutches, which happen to have a good function, But soon my stock of crutches is finished. At special occations I use a wheelchair.

    During the past, say, 30 years I am seen as a “customer” on a “market”.

    But I don’t have any choice, and I am no customer.

    And there is not market. “Market” exists only as a model or an ideal within political economy. In reality, we are facing monopoly, cartels, market partitioning, and, of course, corruption.

    In effect, the Swedish state and Swereco Rehab AB, in this case the producer of crutches (which have a kind of monopoly) have two criteria for crutches: large volumes and low price. Forget quality, function, and design.

    I have written to the Swedish government, and the county where I live, about aids and that the rights of disabled people should be secured as law.

    The response has been off the wall.

    The government will give more money to rise the “competence” of the bureaucracy. But higher bureacratic competence is no help.

    The county has sent me the rules regulating aids, but these rules are optional, and the county itself does not produce any aids. It just furnishes the few, low quality, and often dysfunctional aids that are produced by companies.. And, of course, companies have their rationale: “aids doesn’t pay”.

    What I and other disabled, sick, and old people face, is neither political or corporate accountability.

    Neoliberalism – politics, media, and economics – have marginalized peoples.

    Chris Hedges is right when he says that we have to block the machinery physically to stop it run amok. No one else will do it for us.

    We need to build and realize the society that we would like to live in. I think it should be small, local, selfproviding with energy and food, goverened through participatory democracy, participatory production.

    Take care!

    Warm regards, Björn Lindgren.

    • Richard Falk March 9, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

      Dear Björn Lindgren:

      I was deeply moved by your message, and the story it shares. I am so impressed by your
      spiritual resilience in the face of such institutional insensitivity and abusiveness.
      I spent a year in Sweden and experienced some disillusionment by receiving a taste on
      a very small scale of the governmental attitudes you critique so vividly. Chris Hedges
      is attuned to the specific maladies afflicting the U.S., and hence the world!

      Wishing you the best, Richard

      • Björn Lindgren March 10, 2016 at 10:52 am #

        Dear Richard,

        Thanks for your kind response.

        As a true pilgrim of global justice, you are a source of inspiration and deep knowledge.

        In the end of last year, you wrote that we can learn from the Buddhadharma (Buddhism). In this case, we can understand that all compound things rise, reach their maximum, decline, and fall apart. This is what now happens to one of the great social inventions of the 20th century: the Scandinavia welfare society.

        Even the conditions supporting the industrial civilization are now fastly emptied. But the problems we are facing have been created by human beings, and can therefore be solved by human beings.

        During the 40s, up till the late 70s, the Swedes had good reason to trust the Social Democratic Party, which had 40-50 %, or more, of the votes in parliament elections, and could easily govern with or without the support of other, small parties.

        Sweden was late industrialized and urbanized, but the trade unions still became very strong. Until 1938, and the Saltsjöbaden collective bargaining agreement, it was a country filled with poverty, strikes, protests, and violence. 1931 an army unit shot and killed workers when they protested against black-legs.

        However, the welfare state was built, not on fair distribution of wealth, but on increased productivity, enhanced by an industry untoched by WWII.

        In the beginning of the 80s, neoliberalism also hit Sweden, and the Social Democrats had long forgotten their vision of equality and welfare. The party and its twin, the trade unions, identified themselves, not with working people, but with the state itself.

        About 10 years ago, Kurt Junesjö, retired legal expert at the Confederation of Trade Unions(LO) and Central Organisation of Salaried (TCO), remarked correctly, “The unions forgot the question of power!”

        So, absorbing neoliberalism was easy; the soil was well prepared. Now, people are fearful, isolated, and marginalized. In Scandinavia and continental Europe, extreme right-wing and populist parties rise quickly and have polls about 15-20 %.

        Since past summer, about 100 000 refugees from the Middle East have come to Sweden. This has also activated the best in people. For good and bad, Sweden is polarized.

        Never before in history have we been so well educated and well informed. But we need to talk with each other, and trust the perfectly legitimate norms, values, perspectives, and goals that we already harbor.

        After all, culturally and historically Scandinavia is a deeply egalitarian region.

        Even though we never met, I see you as my global village neighbour.

        Thank you for your persistant work and inspiring ideas.

        Cheers, Björn

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: