It seems that whenever someone attacks the core principles of free-market capitalism, they do so with a self-righteous attitude of moral supremacy.
After all, the push for redistributing wealth, regulating businesses and expanding government always seems to be “for the greater good,” so it’s easy to see why big government advocates are so smitten with themselves.
As such, these same activists continually portray free-market capitalism as inherently immoral.
Unfortunately, this false narrative has yielded significant dividends for advocates of big government.
The last several years have seen an unrelenting push for more and more government control over the growing sectors of our economy. Both nationally and locally, every year seems to bring more regulations, higher taxes and intensified government oversight.
According to the big-government talking heads, all this marketplace intervention is necessary because the free-market system, if left to its own devices, is patently “unfair.” Politicians clamoring for more tax dollars, and bureaucrats grasping for more control, argue that the economy is unruly, vicious and in desperate need of government’s heavy-handed guidance.
This argument seemed to gain even more credibility over the summer when it was revealed that a pharmaceutical company was gouging customers for a lifesaving product.
When it came to light that the pharmaceutical company Mylan was charging a whopping $600 for an EpiPen that delivered a mere $10 worth of life-saving epinephrine, there was natural outrage from the public — outrage that was quickly utilized by those who wish to discredit free-market systems.
Claiming “corporate greed” had driven the cost of the EpiPen to such heights, politicians and “social justice” advocates insisted government had a moral imperative to begin placing price caps, regulations and restrictions on the industry.
After all, for many Americans $600 is simply too expensive — even for something as precious as a life-saving medical device.
But, before taking up torches and pitchforks, perhaps it would be good to consider what caused the conditions that allowed Mylan’s absurd price hike.
After all, as the Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman once said, “many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.”
The truth is, it’s hard to blame free-market capitalism for Mylan’s price gouging, when there really isn’t a whole lot of free-market capitalism left in the healthcare industry to begin with. Far from being a case of free-markets-run-wild, the EpiPen scandal was a direct result of the kind of “benevolent” government regulations that are ostensibly designed to protect the public from corporate greed.
What has gone largely underreported is that many low-cost competitors to Mylan’s Epipens have been blocked from entering the market by the bureaucratic red tape of the Food and Drug Administration.
In short, all that self-righteous regulation designed to protect consumers from evil corporate interests actually served to enable a government-protected monopolist prey upon some of the most vulnerable consumers in America.
Not exactly a job well done by the federal government. Moreover, the EpiPen scandal is not exactly an isolated incident:
The Federal Reserve, Congress’s Smoot-Hawley Tariff, and the New Deal’s attacks on private industry all contributed significantly to the start, intensity and duration of the Great Depression.
The Federal Reserve, Congress and federal housing finance agencies played major roles in causing the housing crash of 2008.
The Affordable Care Act has produced extensive consolidation and rising prices within the healthcare industry.
The list could go on for pages, but one thing is clear: Increasingly, government “solutions” tend to compound preexisting problems.
Far from serving the “greater good,” these regulations serve only government-protected monopolies, crony-political relationships and barriers to market entry. When discussing issues as important as life-saving medical equipment or entry-level job creation, this obsessive crusade to empower government hardly deserves any sort of praise.
At the heart of the argument against free-market capitalism there is a suspicion of businesses and individuals. Every business owner, large and small, is seen by critics of free-market systems as a potential Mylan executive — ready to plunder their way to higher profits.
So where then is this same level of skepticism for government?
Empowering naturally corruptible politicians and bureaucrats with control over the lives of so many individuals is hardly moral or righteous. In fact, as the EpiPen scandal demonstrates, for far too many Americans it is downright dangerous.
The self-praising defenders of big government are so busy patting themselves on the back for their intentions, they seem to have forgotten that, in the real world, results are what actually matter.
Michael Schaus is communications director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute.