It would be nice to have the Republican Party envisioned by the Niskanen Center, a party more focused on affordability of a decent life than optional vaccination, and I wish them good luck in their efforts to make it white. For now, however, it’s the Democrats who are starting to take supply-side concerns seriously.
But before I get to that, I want to broaden the definition of “sourcing,” a boring word that looms over exciting possibilities. Supply-side progressiveness should not only solve the problems of the present, it should accelerate the progress of the future. A problem of our time is that there is too little utopian thought, but a worthy exception is Aaron Bastani’s “fully automated luxury communism”, a left-wing leaflet that puts technologies in development right now – intelligence artificial, renewable energy, asteroid extraction, plant and cell – meat-based meats and genetic editing – at the center of a post-work, post-scarcity vision.
“What if everything could change?” ” he asks. “What if, more than just tackling the great challenges of our time – from climate change to inequalities and aging – we go far beyond, putting today’s problems behind us as we did before with the big boys. predators and, for the most part, disease. What if, rather than having no idea of a different future, we decided that the story hadn’t really started? “
Bastani’s vision is invigorating as it insists that those of us who believe in a radically fairer, gentler, and more sustainable world have an interest in delivering the technologies that will make this world possible. It is a political question as much as a technological one: these same technologies could become accelerators of inequalities and desires if they are not integrated into well-thought-out policies and institutions. But what Bastani clearly sees is that the world we should want requires more than redistribution. It requires inventions and advancements that make old problems obsolete and new possibilities multiple.
Climate change is the most pressing example. If the Biden administration gave every American a check to switch to renewables, the policy would fail because we haven’t built as much renewable capacity, let alone the supply chain needed to deploy and maintain it. In a world where two-thirds of emissions now come from middle-income countries like China and India, the only way for humanity to tackle both climate change and poverty is to invent our own way. ” get clean, abundant, cheap energy and then spend enough to deploy it quickly.
Or take health care. Democrats in the House and Senate are fighting over dueling policies to let Medicare set the prices it pays for drugs. Europeans and Canadians pay much less for the same prescription drugs we buy, so House Democrats want to let Medicare price at least some drugs at 120% of what our peer countries pay. According to STAT, Senate Democrats appear to be moving towards requiring Medicare to set prices based on what the Veterans Health Administration pays, which is lower than before but still higher than overseas . (It is darkly comical that neither House has simply taken the position that Americans should not pay more than Canadians for prescription drugs.)
The counter-argument here is frustrating, but important. Yes, Americans are paying too much compared to peer countries for drugs. But to truly cure, manage or prevent disease is of extraordinary value to humanity. Pfizer and Moderna will make billions from their coronavirus vaccines, but they have created billions of dollars in economic value by thawing savings, not to mention lives saved. It is true that European countries benefit from the high price we pay for drugs, because it is the American market that drives innovation. But that doesn’t mean we’d better pay their prices, if it meant that new drug development was slowing down. We don’t just want everyone to have health insurance in the future. We want them to be healthier; free from ailments and pains that even the best health insurance today can neither cure nor alleviate.