This first part we cannot blame Young Owen for as it’s the headline writer at The Guardian:
The Covid vaccine will benefit humanity – we should all own the patent
Given that it’s we humans who gain the benefit then we do own it, don’t we?
But Jones is indeed more stupid than we would normally give credence to.
Pfizer and its German biotech partner, BioNTech, stand to make an astonishing £9.8bn next year from a coronavirus vaccine.
Maybe. And we might note that this is cheaper than the track and trace system in just the one country, England. You know, the government track and trace system that doesn’t work at £12 billion? Which would be one notch on the private sector’s bedpost, no?
Rather than being a PR triumph for big pharma, coronavirus should serve as a reminder of the disastrous consequences of leaving a life-saving industry in the hands of a profiteering monopoly. Britain has it better than most countries: the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has considerable leverage over pharmaceutical companies by being able to judge whether their drugs are value for money for the NHS. But, while the US pays on average nearly four times more for drugs than other countries, everybody is being ripped off.
With a successful vaccine, herd immunity could be possible without resulting in millions more dead. This is a global catastrophe, after all: up to 150 million more people will be driven into extreme poverty by next year as a consequence of the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands have died, from New Delhi to Rio de Janeiro, while entire economies have been ravaged. But a pharmaceutical industry that has long made exorbitant profits by free-riding on public-sector research has been granted its most lucrative money-spinner yet. So yes, rejoice that a vaccine may well be coming, but don’t give kudos to a pharmaceutical industry that is as dysfunctional as it is morally bankrupt.
Pull the rhetorical tricks from that and here’s the argument.
We’ve just had an empirical test of the contention that government does it better than the private sector. All of the governments of the world have piled cash into some 200 different programmes to try and find a Covid vaccine. The first up to the plate is the one from Pfizer. It may well not be perfect but at 90% effectiveness it’s good enough to do the job. The CEO of that company deliberately and with malice aforethought refused to take any government money from these special, emergency and let’s speed it up, funds. On the grounds that having the bureaucracy around would slow matters down.
The private sector does things faster than the government sector. That’s simply observable fact here.
At which point Owen Jones declares that we mustn’t use the private sector. Because profit. Despite the value of even a day faster being lives saved and billions upon billions in economic activity. At 30% of global GDP – a reasonable guess – each day is worth £82 billion. Some folks might make a bit of cash out of one of the finest deals ever on offer to humanity. We all gain £80 billion a day, they get some profit share of £10 billion the once.
Yes, Owen Jones really is even more stupid than we thought.