Saturday, February 25, 2006


More on the corporate axis of evil

In comments to my rant against credit card companies, economist-blogger Tom Bozzo writes:
Shouldn't Big Tobacco be on the list? Pushing a product that shortens one's life when used as intended must displace Big Pharma, which mostly does the opposite ...

I don't think that the banking industry as a whole merits inclusion, though 'subprime' lenders (payday advance shops, etc.) would rank high for me. The value judgments are complicated, but I don't think I'm worse off for not having to, say, come up with the entire purchase price of my house in cash in order not to be a (total) renter.
I am second to no one in my disapproval of the tobacco industry, and by not putting them in a "big three" of corporate evil, I was not in any way suggesting approval. Let's call them "honorable mention" to the Axis of Corporate Evil, with Microsoft in the Top Ten.

I think pharmaceuticals are worse than tobacco, for the very reason why they seem to have caused Tom to let down his guard. We know tobacco companies push a product that causes harm when used as intended; the evil of pharmaceutical corporations is more insidious and wide ranging, and largely off the radar screen. Let's start with their live human subject testing on unsuspecting people in Africa -- see The Constant Gardner. And their aggressive use of patents, the effects of which will not fully reveal themselves for years to come. Let's talk about their manipulation of consumer consciousness promoting widespread experimentation with drugs by millions of people in our society, their brainwashing of the medical profession, their hostile takeover of objective scientific research, and their dominance of health care policy. I'm certainly speculating here, but in 50 years, they're going to make the tobacco companies look puny.

As for the banking industry, Tom's comment confuses me. Mortgages were available during the heyday of banking regulation, and don't necessarily involve subprime loans. More people qualify for mortgages now, as banks make riskier loans to home-buyers. And it turns out that that practice is a major contributor to the rise in consumer bankruptcies, as people get in over their heads in home buying.

But the bigger point is that big banks are totally into subprime lending -- that's how they're making most of their money these days -- and they do a lot of it through credit cards. And who owns the payday loan places, anyhow?

Some strong points here, Oscar. I will gather my thoughts and respond later.
I rarely have anything useful to add to these types of discourses. But I enjoy the way you engage in a real debate with your readers, with point/counterpoint that doesn't usually lend itself to hostility. I like it.

zpahgq (zuh-'pahk): an expletive used when you've fallen down, as the initial syllable, zuh, comes as the air leaves you with the thud, and is quickly followed by pahk! as the pain fills your bottom.
Oscar: My reply is here. Short version: I blame the Republicans.

SG: Oscar and I have the advantage of being friends, not to mention agreeing in many respects, but it's certainly true that the broader blogiverse could use a lot more constructive debate.
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