Friday, October 13, 2006


Capitalism Kills #4:Case Studies in an Immoral system- Household Pollutants,Cancer Drugs, Mudslides
By Thomas Riggins [PA Archives]

The free enterprise system, AKA the free market, AKA capitalism, is an economic system, as we all know, that is dedicated to maximizing profits at any cost. Neither ethics, morality, honor, environmental concerns, nor human life itself will be spared by this system and its quest to put profits before people (and everything else). Here are some case studies of the system at work. The previous seven case studies are archived on our website.

CASE 8 Here is a fine example of how the capitalist system uses our own government to kill us to make a buck. The New York Times 2-15-06: “State Sues E.P.A. for Files On Household Pollutants: Seeking Data Guarded as Trade Secrets” by Danny Hakim. The Clean Air Act requires NY and other states to make our air more breathable. Common products such as varnishes and paints have pollution causing compounds in them. The companies that make these products don’t want you to know how much. The Environmental Protection Agency, run by the Bushites is siding with the corporations. The pollution causing compounds foul our air and contribute to disease and death. What is more important-- people or profits? You guessed it: profits. One of the biggest polluters is Sherwin-Williams. The people of Ohio, especially Cleveland, can thank their very own Republican Senator George V. Voinovich for using his pull to get the E.P.A. to to aid Sherwin-Williams. This company and others “have been battling in court to prevent state attempts to regulate their products.” The Free (to kill you) Enterprise System objects to rules requiring clean air if it will lower profits. Where does Voinovich get his air from anyway? Thanks to Congress if the polluters put more gunk in the air than the law allows they can just pay a fine. Sherwin-Williams paid $5,045,784 in fees for this in 2003. We have to breath this stuff! Who does Congress represent? Other polluters: Valspar, Lenmar, Dayton Superior, Tenmec, United Gilsonite Labs, Hillyard Industries, Zea, Sierra and G.E. Plastics (these are just the top ten).

Sherwin-Williams says that we the people really want to be polluted in the first place. “Our customer base {that's us} indicates they would prefer the performance of these noncomplying products” the company said. A spokesman for state and local regulators said “What E.P.A. is doing is allowing the industry to buy their way out of federal regulations.” So what else is new?

CASE 9 The same issue of the Times has this great story as well: “A Cancer Drug Shows Promise, At a Price That Many Can’t Pay” by Alex Berenson. A colon cancer drug Avastin, made by Genentech (majority owner, Roche), can also be used for lung and breast cancer. Genentech has decided to charge about $100,000 a year for it- Yikes! This despite the fact that “the actual cost of producing Avastin is a fraction of what Genentech charges for it.” So how is the price set? A new factor (subjective) is being used in addition to cost of production plus reasonable rate of profit. It is “the inherent value of life sustaining therapies.” That means since you want to live pay through the nose. It doesn’t matter what this pill really costs, what its economic value is let us say, what matters is without it you die, so that will be $100,000 per year thank you. Don’t have it-- too bad. And don’t get any ideas about government price controls either-- socialism is dead remember.

CASE 10 Capitalism and the Philippine Mudslides. On Friday 2-17-06 the Capitalist System claimed a thousand lives in the Philippine village of Guinsaugon. The evidence is contained in the following article by Carlos H. Conde: “Danger of Philippine Landslides Often Ignored, Critics Say”- New York Times 2-21-06.

The bottom line is that this horrific event was not a natural disaster. Illegal logging, spurred on by our old friend the profit motive, had denuded the hills around this village of their natural forest cover thus allowing the mudslide that killed so many. What is more the government and capitalists were well aware of the likely consequences of the illegal logging but did it anyway because the so-called Free Enterprise System (AKA Capitalism) by it very nature values making a buck above anything so worthless (to it) as mere human life. Conde reports that official records reveal that as long as nine months ago Philippine authorities knew the village “was in grave danger.” We should also note that hundreds of thousands of other people are living in similar circumstances. How many will have to die before the Philippine state cracks down on the capitalists who are illegally deforesting the country and who by corruption and the failure of law enforcement are able to act with impunity? After interviewing a Greenpeace spokesman Conde wrote, “And politically. whoever sits in the presidential palace must reckon with the nation’s political dynasties, several of which earned their wealth and power through logging” according to the spokesman. The hypocrisy of the Philippine government is outrageous. Here is the politically correct statement of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, made after the mudslide: “We should all join hands in the preservation of our environment and protect what is left behind for the sake of generations to come.” And here is the political reality as reported in the Times: “In late 2005...the environment department allowed the resumption of logging by a company owned by a senator who is an ally of the president, over the objections of residents and religious leaders. The logging concession was within a national forest reserve.” So much for preserving the environment! It seems to me that as long as the capitalist system rules in the Philippines we are going to continue to periodically read about these sorts of disasters.

--Thomas Riggins is the book review editor of Political Affairs and can be reached at

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