June 04, 2017

What causes more inequality, or feelings of poverty, some CEOs’ obscene high salaries, or some prices, like those of Viagra?

Sir, I refer to David Crow’s “Cost of Viagra increases 27% as Pfizer raises US drug prices” June 3.

I have no idea why but my doctor has ordered me a different brand, so I am not a user of Viagra. That said it was astonishing to read that one single Viagra pill is now $73.85. That price must surely only be possible because of the official protection of intellectual property rights.

There should be a difference between the protections of a pharmaceutical industry, so that it can afford develop new medicines, and the protection of an extortion racket. As is, 10 Viagra pills would, at this price, represent a fairly decent monthly Universal Basic Income.

In a world in which so many prices are going down-down-down, among others because of automation and robots, can we afford to impact this way those who have to earn less and less and less income, or stay more at home, only because of automation and robots?

Perhaps Trump, instead of thinking of building up Mexican walls, should be thinking about tearing down some intellectual property protection walls. Open ended ones, like those that allowed “Martin Shkreli to raise the price of an Aids medicine from $13.50 to $750 a pill, reflects very badly on the state and governance of our society.

About a decade ago I wrote an Op-Ed in which I held that it was not logical that profits earned by means of protected intellectual property, were taxed at the same rate than those profits obtained from competing naked in the market. That argument is still valid, especially if those extra tax revenues become tax neutral, by feeding monthly UBIs.

PS. In the same vein, now we perhaps have to add a proposal on that profits generated with the use of robots, should be taxed higher than profits generated with the help of humans.

PS. Some years ago a friend, wanting to launch little-known-me as a candidate for the presidency of Venezuela, what a "friend", suggested a populist campaign based mostly on “Free Viagra for everyone”. He argued that would have more impact that my promises of sharing out all net oil revenues directly to all Venezuelans. He might have a point.