Garbage in, garbage out

Garbage in, garbage out (Photo credit: Hal Dick)

Garbage In, Garbage Out is a computer related phrase that can be applied elsewhere in life. Specifically, I am thinking about courts and juries and especially the recent Zimmerman decision. Courts and juries don’t make the law, they interpret the laws already on the books. Legislatures and especially Congress make the law. If you don’t like the way the current laws are interpreted, and I don’t in some cases, change the laws.

Corporate responsibility

Apple I at the Smithsonian Museum

Apple I at the Smithsonian Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Corporations are responsible to a variety of stakeholders: shareholders, employees and society in general. Recently the CEO of Apple Computer, Timothy Cook, was questioned by Congress about Apple’s tax avoidance. His response was typical; Apple’s responsibility to its shareholders requires that it maximize profits by any and all legal means. In essence, if we don’t like what Apple and others are doing, we should change the tax laws. I agree. Let’s do that so that corporations begin paying what was their fair share 50 years ago, one-third of Federal revenue, not today’s less than 10%.

In addition, it is now legal for corporations to buy elections, or at least try to. The Citizens United decision made that possible. If buying elections is legal and may increase corporate profits, is it not a CEO’s responsibility to purchase all the Representatives and Senators he/she can afford? Something is going to have to change if our democracy is to survive. And corporate responsibility to their employees and society in general must take a higher level of importance under the law than corporate responsiblity to their shareholders does now.

100 lawyers

Lawyer Bashing Is Fun

Lawyer Bashing Is Fun (Photo credit: rkrichardson)

There is an old joke that goes something like this: What do you call a hundred lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start. The US has a Senate composed of 100 Senators, most of whom are lawyers. Is it just a coincidence that it is the same number of lawyers in the joke or is it significant? Personally, I believe that laws are too important to the rest of us to leave their formulation in the hands of the legal profession.

Intellectual property

Intellectual Property symbol

Image via Wikipedia

Recently a physician friend and I were discussing intellectual property rights, patents specifically. The discussion quickly became somewhat heated as it turned to drug prices and pharmaceutical company profits. While expressing dismay at the cost of some drugs, he justified drug pricing with the cost of their development and the long lead times before FDA approval. One argument that was new to me was his contention that US consumers subsidize low drug prices in third world countries. Is this true and if it is true, is it right?

In general, I support intellectual property rights. The creator of intellectual property deserves reward for his/her labor. China copies everything. Production sharing agreements with Chinese firms are a license for them to steal Western ideas. Bill Gates and Microsoft became very wealthy because of the Windows operating system, a virtual monopoly on computer operating systems. Did Gates and Microsoft overcharge? Yes, I think so.

However, even today there are alternatives to Windows: Apple and Linux with Android making a fast start. It is still possible to avoid Windows by doing without a computer; some people do. Drugs are a different situation altogether. Your life and my life are not at stake with Windows. Our lives may be at stake if a pharmaceutical’s intellectual property rights allow the price of a drug to be set so high that our insurer will not cover its cost.

The cut-off point for healthcare insurance coverage is considered to be the cost of kidney dialysis, which is currently $60,000 per year. Recently in the news, a new drug was reported that does not cure a cancer, extends a good quality of life by 2-4 years, but at a present cost of $115,000 per year. Who can afford that and how many insurers will pay? Very few I am afraid.

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