The Market, Not Government, Is Best Equipped to Defeat Coronavirus

Posted: Apr 11, 2020 12:01 AM
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The Market, Not Government, Is Best Equipped to Defeat Coronavirus

Source: AP Photo/John Locher

We have a problem in this country right now with regard to producing and distributing the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin that, according to studies­­, have shown promising results when used to combat COVID-19.

As a business owner, I have been blessed to receive everything I have today because I lived in a time and place where free markets are the primary organizing force of economic activity. Free markets are also credited with being the best way to create a better quality of life for the greatest number of people.

They also perform more mechanical functions. Free markets allocate scarce resources to their highest and best use. They get things produced quickly in order to satisfy market demand.

Why is it then that the system that has done so much for me, and hundreds of millions, and even billions, all around the globe for the past two centuries, isn’t being turned loose to solve the distribution problem of potentially lifesaving drugs?  Why is it that we have instead turned to government and collective decision making to decide how much supply gets produced and allocated, or who gets treated and when?

We are allowing fear to overcome reason. 

People who would normally tell you that the government can’t do anything right and that private business is the best way to get things done, are now so fearful they are turning toward government like a frightened child turns to a parent and says, “help me.”

In a widely shared article from London’s Daily Mail, a recent survey of 6,200 doctors worldwide indicates that the use of hydroxychloroquine has proven to be the best treatment for COVID-19 patients. What is much less reported is that the study also revealed  the United States is lagging well behind some other nations in utilizing the drug. 

At the same time as we are learning of the drug’s efficacy, we consistently hear at daily White House press briefings that the U.S. has a stockpile of 29-30 million doses of the drug on hand. 

Here is a question from a humble business person: Why do we have any of the drugs on hand?  These drugs should be off the shelves as quickly as they hit them.  There should not be a stockpile in the warehouse. There should be tire track marks left on the warehouse floor from delivery vehicles peeling out to get them into the patients’ hands. 

From a business perspective, we want to know four things:

-      How many do we have now?

-      How many do we need to get every person treated who has early signs of the disease?

-      What is our throughput (usage rate)?

-      How quickly can we produce?

wrote earlier this week that we need to take a business approach to get out in front of the three key areas of this disease: testing, treatment, and containment.  My point was that business people know how to take bold, decisive action to head off a problem. They know how to take measured risks to get desired returns. Our businessman president knows this too.

Unfortunately, the supply chain is being managed by bureaucrats, not the free market.

Said differently, welcome to Venezuela-lite. To borrow a phrase from the late Lloyd Bridges in Airplane,“I guess we picked a bad time to stop trusting capitalism.” 

There is not a single person, or group of people, who are capable of deciding how best to allocate resources. It is too complex. Andrew Cuomo can’t do it.  Gretchen Whitmer can't do it. Only the market is equipped to allocate scarce resources and to produce more of those resources to make them less scarce. 

To that end, it is now time to let the market get this drug into the hands of doctors and patients.  Dr. Fauci needs to step aside, take his clinical trial bias with him, and let doctors prescribe away. Doctors need Congress to step up and give them protection against potential lawsuits that a crafty attorney might want to file after this is over if a particular patient’s treatment doesn’t go well.

I am pleading with every American citizen, and with our business leader president, trust the market over the bureaucracy. 

Most of you know this and promote the idea in normal times. The problem is that because we are in extreme times your fear may have caused you to either lose your faith or forget what you know. Principles are principles for a reason; they remain true regardless of circumstance. While there is no perfect way to get this drug into rapid circulation, the market approach will do undeniably better than the government approach.  Generally speaking, who do you trust more:  FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service?

As was the case during WWII, America needs every critical sector of our economy to perform. We have more than 200 years of history that proves this.  It's true we are in a crisis, but we know markets work and we know government too often doesn't.

It's time we put the market to work on behalf of the American people.  It's the medicine America needs.