Robert Morrison

We all recall how Newsweek editor Evan Thomas last year gushed that President Obama hovered over the nations “like a sort of god.” That was then. The only thing gushing lately has been the BP oil spill, now mercifully capped.

My wife and I had an experience recently that suggests Mr. Obama can still the waters—of the Chesapeake Bay. We were invited by friends to take a boat ride from Annapolis to St. Michael’s, Maryland.

We headed out on a beautifully clear Sunday afternoon. Our friends Tom and Ann own a 37-foot motor boat. Tom is a successful entrepreneur.

Riding over smooth waters at 30 knots, Tom explained how the businesses he has started functioned. He’s in pharmaceuticals. His companies—he’s started up several innovative ones—are not giants, but they are all competitive. In order to develop and bring to market new drugs, entrepreneurs have to make many false starts. Like those prospecting for new sources of oil, there are many “dry holes.” But the successes more than make up for their failures. And Americans and people throughout the world are the beneficiaries.

Tom pointed to drugs that treat acid reflux. Decades ago, this condition called for surgery, which is especially hazardous for the elderly. The cost of the drugs has to be weighed against the lost time and productivity for recovering surgery patients, not to mention the lost lives.

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Tom explained how Canada works to undercut the free market. Because the Canadian government has a huge, controlled market, they can buy drugs in vast quantities. They can guarantee a U.S. developer of a new drug, say, 20 million doses. They can make it profitable for the American and re-sell the drug for less than U.S. retailers can afford to sell it. That’s why so many Americans—especially seniors on fixed incomes—like to get their medications in Canada.

So what’s the downside? Tom explains it: Canada is using the free market against itself. The number of new drugs Canada has brought to market in the last decade? Zero.

Half-way across Chesapeake Bay, Tom looked around and asked: “Notice anything different on the bay today?”

I was so enjoying the wind in my hair that I had not noticed anything unusual. (Alright, I’ll admit it—the wind was blowing in my ears. It’s been a long time since I could let it tousle my hair.)

“Notice how few boats there are on the water today,” Tom said. He was right. I’ve always enjoyed the water. I haven’t been out in awhile, but it was eerily quiet on Chesapeake Bay on this beautiful summer’s day.

Robert Morrison

Robert Morrison is a senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council.