I found this interesting post on Naked Capitalism. Given our ages here (60+) and the fact that one of us has medical conditions that require continuous medication, medical and pharmaceutical topics are frequent morning-coffee discussions. Besides one of us is a retired nurse and the other a former biologist. The notion that the pharmaceutical industry is actively engaged in the production and marketing of 'lemons' squares neatly with our thoughts on this subject. All too often we listen to the marketing spiels and find the long lists of possible adverse reactions far more frightening than the symptoms the drugs are supposed to alleviate. Or we wonder if the new drug is really any better than older drugs that have been on the market long enough to have a track record but are no longer protected by patents.
This op-ed piece in the New York Times got me thinking but not necessarily in the way the the author intended. David Brooks makes a number of interesting points but I think the problem really involves a fundamental human failing: we undervalue the most fundamental aspects of life while overvaluing the most ephemeral. What I mean is very well expressed by a character in a novel I really, really like--Island In The Sea Of Time. Faced with a situation that requires modern people to adopt premodern agricultural techniques, Chief Cofflin notes that fishing, though essential, was an occupation that in our modern times paid little for backbreaking work and offered neither advancement nor security. The most fundamental, most necessary, occupations like farming, fishing, machinist and others are paid the least and respected the least. But this is a failing that has persisted since the beginning of human society. It is all well and good to propose that people get back into work that actually produces something of value but it ignores the fact that we have always fled that work for 'easier' and more prestigious ways to make a living. And the cycle of rise and fall has been persistent throughout human history also. At the beginning of the 20th century the British had a saying that encapsulated it: 'shirt-sleaves to shirt-sleaves in three generations.' Or as the author of an article I read a couple of years ago quoted an unnamed Saudi man: 'My father rode a camel. I drive a BMW. My son flies a jet. His son will ride a camel.'