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The Battle Against Coronavirus Will be Won by Private Sector Innovation – Not Big Government

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Barack “if you like your plan you can keep it” Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel famously advised never to let a good crisis go to waste – and ideologues on the left are assiduously heeding his words today as the world confronts the coronavirus. Left-wing politicians and pundits are exploiting fear in order to push extreme policies like Medicare-for-All, its slower-marching but equally dangerous cousin known as the public option, price controls, and other socialized health care schemes, contending that socialized health care would answer humanity’s common need for treatments and a vaccine. Nothing could be further from the truth – our hope for a cure rests upon the very innovation that such policies would quickly destroy. 


As the world races to develop a vaccine and new treatments, systems that encourage – not punish – investment and innovation provide the best chance for success.  The U.S, for example, is responsible for more than half (58 percent) of the world’s R&D expenditures, with Japan a distant second (13 percent), and in both countries, the engine of innovation is on overdrive in search of a cure. When push has come to shove, the world is looking to the very innovators vilified by the likes of Bernie Sanders and his far-left comrades as “crooks” for deliverance. 

What’s conveniently forgotten is how difficult and resource-intensive finding a cure for the coronavirus–or any virus – really is and the roadblocks that price controls and other socialized medicine regimes would erect. A recent Wall Street Journal editorial comparing our country’s success against cancer—a 30 percent decline since its peak in 1991—versus foreign socialized-medicine systems — a 20 percent increase in the U.K and a 10 percent increase in Canada and France — puts this in stark relief. The private sector system of risk and reward has driven the incredible innovation that has fought back cancer, produced breakthrough treatments against HIV and AIDS – and which will ultimately beat the coronavirus. At such a critical time, we need to empower these innovators, not threaten their research and development with the price controls which have impeded investment and driven innovation away  from every country that has implemented them.


In the United States, many have criticized our response to the coronavirus as too slow. Americans are still contending with the disastrous impacts of clunky, inefficient government bureaucracies in their bungled and slow reaction to the outbreak, which resulted in a lack of reliable tests and precious time lost just as the virus was gaining steam. And their criticism is well-founded. Yet proponents of socialized medicine would handall health careto government bureaucrats. As Kim Strassel notes in the Wall Street Journal,“The feds maintained exclusive control over early test development—and blew it…[A]nd the private sector is now riding to the rescue.”

And riding to the rescue it is. Roche and other biopharmaceutical companies quickly developed their own testing systems. Moderna, another health care company, turned around a vaccine batch in just 42 days for clinical trials. Manufacturers from unrelated industries have stepped up to build ventilators, clothing designers are making protective masks, and pharmaceutical companies are working at lightning speed to develop treatments, and ultimately a vaccine. Each new day brings another example of how our private sector, powered by capitalism, is stepping in to battle the virus.

In these unprecedented and challenging times, I find relief in the fact that my wife, a nurse, my daughter, a cancer survivor, and I live in a country with a health care system that fuels and rewards innovation when the world needs it most. As the left attempts to leverage this crisis to advance its longstanding political agenda of big government control of health care and socialist-style price setting, it’s crucial to remember that when a cure comes – and one will – it will emerge from the private sector, driven by the fire of innovation that the policies of the left would quickly extinguish, and which, fortunately for the world, burns on despite their best efforts.  


Marc Palazzo is the Executive Director of the Coalition Against Socialized Medicine.

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