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Take an Aspirin

Here’s a letter to the Boston Globe:

John Hill asserts that “The free market has many virtues, but by its nature it must remain callous to human suffering caused by illness” (Letters, Oct. 18).

Really?  Take a walk down the pharmaceutical aisle in a typical modern supermarket.  You’ll find shelves stuffed with analgesics, antihistamines, antiseptics, antifungal medicines, bandages, and nutritional supplements – all supplied by private, profit-seeking companies.  Keep walking and you come to the store’s pharmacy, where you can buy yet other medicines – such as those that address serious illnesses like depression, hypertension, and high cholesterol – created and produced by private, profit-seeking firms.

It’s no wonder that my GMU colleague Peter Leeson found that, in countries that became more capitalist since 1980, average life-expectancy at birth has risen from less than 63 years to 67.5 years (by 2005).  In countries that became less capitalist since 1980, life-expectancy at birth fell from 59 to 57 years.*

Thank goodness for “callous” capitalism.

Donald J. Boudreaux

* Peter T. Leeson, “Two Cheers for Capitalism?” (Working paper, 2009).


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