Sunday, April 15, 2018

Tying A Few Things Together

I have written a few posts recently which criticize quite strongly the recent spate of conservative "we must cut everything" hysteria over Alberta's budget:


All of these posts revolve around the basic theme of how ridiculous a narrow focus on money really is when we are talking about government. Fundamentally, these arguments all boil down to money - how we're spending too much, the cost of repaying the debt, and so on. This is "banker speak".  Bankers think in these terms, because that is their framework of understanding. A banker doesn't bother to look at how the monies are being used, the policies that they are supporting, how the public benefits from it. No, they only look at the money and their ability to make further profits from it.

Then, as if to underscore my point, we get this "study" out of Goldman Sachs which basically says "curing disease is bad business".
"The potential to deliver 'one shot cures' is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy, genetically-engineered cell therapy and gene editing. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies," analyst Salveen Richter wrote in the note to clients Tuesday. "While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow."
 I have long believed that the corporate business mentality which places profits ahead of "doing the right thing".  Medicine has never been about making huge piles of money - it has been about helping people. Talk to anyone going into medicine, and you will rapidly find that money isn't the top of their list of motivations (yes, doctors are well paid, but few who go into the field do so primarily for the money they can make).  Doctors like Jonas Salk created vitally important cures for diseases like Polio  - and gave them away because they understood that the benefit to the world vastly exceeded any short term pecuniary interest.

There's an old saw about conservatives:  "Conservatives know the cost of everything, and the value of nothing".  Bankers are in so many ways the "original conservatives" - the only thing they have ever paid attention to is money, and making money using money. Borrow to buy a house? Cool. But never make the mistake of thinking that the bank will be there to help you out if you fall on hard times.

The analysis of the investment bankers at Goldman Sachs echoes criticisms made about Alberta's 2018 budget.  The 2018 budget has been criticized for not laying out a clear plan to achieve a balanced budget, how it's "racking up the debt" and so on.  Like the Goldman Sachs commentary on gene therapies, this is a very narrow focus. We should also be asking where the money is going, what are the benefits to society, and so on.  Just as good medicine isn't necessarily "good business", good government isn't good investment.  We should never lose track of that reality. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tory times are tough times.

Anonymous-A