Timothy Lee


Voters will be pardoned for speculating whether aliens have somehow captured Senator John McCain, nominally a Republican candidate for President, and replaced his mind with that of Democratic class-warrior candidate John Edwards.  

The latest evidence came during the January 5, 2008 Republican candidates’ debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, when Senator McCain slurred the pharmaceutical industry as “the big bad guys.”  Thus, in addition to his dubious positions on tax cuts, waterboarding of terrorists and McCain/Feingold’s free speech restrictions, he has now gone on record attacking America’s pharmaceutical companies, which constitute one of this country’s most innovative and valuable industries. 

In doing so, Senator McCain also joined the chorus demanding importation of medicines from foreign countries, which is one of the most deceptive and dangerous policy ideas in our present political climate.  Consider the following exchange between himself and Mitt Romney, in which McCain descends into his best conspiracy theorist impression: 

McCain:  Why shouldn’t we be able to reimport drugs from Canada?  It’s because of the power of pharmaceutical companies… 

Romney:  Don’t turn the pharmaceutical companies into the big bad guys. 

McCain:  Well, they are. 

Romney:  No, actually, they’re trying to create products to make us well and make us better, and they’re doing the work of the free market.  And are there excesses?  I’m sure there are, and we should go after excesses.  But they’re an important industry to this country.  But let me note something else, and that is the market will work.  And the reason healthcare isn’t working like a market right now is you have 47 million people that are saying, “I’m not going to play.  I’m just going to get free care paid for by everybody else.”  That doesn’t work.  Number two, the buyer doesn’t have information about what the cost or quality is of different choices they could have.  If you take the government out of it to a much greater extent, you’d get it to work like a market and we’ll rein in costs. 

No, Senator McCain, pharmaceutical innovators are not “the big bad guys,” and importation of foreign drugs is a terrible idea. 

Timothy Lee

Timothy Lee is the director of legal and public affairs at the Center for Individual Freedom, a free-market and constitutional advocacy organization based in Alexandria, Virginia.

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