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Maybe what we really need is a vaccine against rent-seeking

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09/18/2006

A fascinating, and very depressing, story from the NYTimes. Convinced that markets, supply and demand, and voluntary production would be insufficient to protect us from a bioterror attack, the government took on the job, and project BioShield was born.

Assuming that markets could never fill the need, the project was originally intended to ensure the production of vaccines and drugs by granting exclusive government contracts to produce these goods. It has since degenerated into political infighting and rent-seeking by companies that might otherwise occupy themselves in filling an actual market demand for treatment and prevention should there be a bioterror attack. Five years after the anthrax attacks, the government has made us no safer and no better prepared. Neither have the drug and vaccine companies. As is obvious from the article, they've found better, and more profitable, things to do with their time. Time, talent, money, knowledge, and resources that could be used to protect people and cure deadly diseases are instead being wasted, siphoned off by rent-seeking because the government needs to...protect us.

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