This is an article about the disease economy. That’s a term I coined because I could find no economy because such a huge percentage of the economic activity and economic growth I see in the US is based on the manufacturing, marketing and selling of products and services based on disease. That is, products and services that either cause diseases or “treat” those diseases.
How do I know we’re in a disease economy today? You can see it for yourself. Just drive around any city or town in the United States and you can see what’s happening. Take a look at the new construction. What’s going to be there? If it’s an office complex, chances are it’s going to be a medical office building. If it’s on a street corner, it’s probably going to be a pharmacy — maybe a new Walgreens or CVS Pharmacy or a new drive-through Wal-Mart pharmacy. You even see pharmacies in grocery stores now, because they are so profitable. When you go into grocery stores and look at what’s being sold there, you’re getting a good look at the economic activity in this country. You mostly see products that promote disease, thanks to their disease-causing ingredients.
photo courtesy of google
Of course, the disease economy promotes Big Pharma companies. These are the pharmaceutical manufacturers in this country, and they are huge global corporations. The selling of pharmaceuticals is a $1 trillion industry. It’s an amazing statistic. Here in the United States, some of our largest corporations are drug companies. In fact, as I’ve stated before, the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in the United States earn more money than the remaining 490 Fortune 500 companies. Just recently, I heard the Bush administration was very excited about the news that we are experiencing economic growth in this country. The economy is up, more money is changing hands, and that’s all that economists really look at when calculating gross domestic product or gross national product. They’re just looking at the total number of dollars that changed hands.
An economy based on paying for disease treatment
However, if you look at the quality of the products and services that are being exchanged for these dollars, you’ll realize something is amiss here, because what we’re doing is basing our economic growth on the growth of chronic and degenerative disease. We’re basing our economy on the idea that we can treat more and more people with drugs and medical services and keep selling them soft drinks and fast food while calling it economic growth.
This leads me to the most important point of this article, which is that we cannot create abundance in the United States or in any country by selling each other increasingly expensive products and services that promote disease. In other words, we cannot create abundance by poisoning ourselves. The very idea is absurd. The whole point of economic growth is to create economic abundance, and if you look at the classic definitions of economic growth, they are about providing more goods and services to people in a more efficient manner. Those goods and services are supposed to improve the quality of life for those people.
In the old days, the arguments for the invisible hand in the economy were that if you let entrepreneurs compete in a free market, they would devise clever and efficient ways to create, produce and deliver goods and services to consumers that would ultimately enhance their quality of life. That part is absolutely true, and the United States has done that very successfully. The free market does work in accomplishing that, but what we’re seeing now is something beyond what those old-school economists could have ever conceived. We’re seeing an economy that is increasingly based on goods and services that do not add to the quality of consumers’ lives but rather take away from it. We’re seeing entrepreneurs and creative, clever people finding new ways to market products that harm people and calling that profitability or economic growth.
We see this quite blatantly in the drug industry, where creative marketers keep coming up with new, absurd ways to sell drugs to people through direct-to-consumer advertising on television. Some of these ads are absolutely idiotic in what they are promising. Yet, they are effective in creating demand. They sell products, but these products do not help consumers.
We also see a lot of products being marketed and sold to consumers that may give them very short-term benefits — such as the taste of a hamburger or the taste of french fries, which lasts about 10 seconds — but has long-term detrimental consequences, like obesity, heart disease, brain disorders, cancer and diabetes. These diseases largely come about as a result of long-term consumption of nutritionally depleted foods.