Once Again, Capitalism Saves Humanity – Really?

Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics – two capitalist companies – have collaborated to create a pill with the off-putting name of “molnupiravir” to effectively treat Covid infections, saving lives and reducing hospitalizations.

The biological impact of the pill is to degrade the ability of the Covid virus to replicate itself into more viruses inside its host, thus reducing the number of viruses blindly working away, turning our cells against us. The fewer viruses in us, the less harm done to us by the infection and the less dangerous the virus to humanity in general.

Molnupiravir and similar antiviral drugs yet to be developed, promise, first, stabilization of the impacts of Covid infections and then subjugation of the global pandemic.

Similarly, the novel vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna and others have done more to thwart the pandemic and reduce transmission of the virus than most every regulation and order issued and imposed by our governments.

Thus, inventions made by capitalist companies have once again thwarted nature and reduced its capacity to harm civilization.

Some 250 years ago, the industrial revolution brought about by capitalist modes of production and distribution similarly manipulated nature into providing resources for human wealth creation.

The industrial revolution, now in its 4th generation of technological inventiveness, saved humanity from poverty, existential stagnation, elitist autocracies and theocracies and much suffering and brought us into enjoyment of our current standards of living – with modern medicines, electricity, the internet, longer lives, more education and all the rest of what we consume, enjoy and abuse.

Now, it must be admitted that capitalism did not do this all on its own. Public goods – law, police, market and political freedoms, roads, bridges, sewers, risk mitigation subsidies, etc. – were necessary supports for private sector invention and production. But as wealth was created by capitalism, taxes collected by governments increased so that governments could buy more public goods.

A capitalist may have invented the flush toilet, which did so much to lower death rates and extend lives, but governments or public utilities put in the water mains to bring water to our homes and the sewers to carry away our effluent.

Thus, has modern civilization been created by a virtuous circle of first, capitalism, then wealth creation, then more effective, responsible, government, leading to more fruitful capitalism, then to more wealth creation and then to more sophisticated and responsible government, which then gave rise to more…

We should, however, never overlook, nor diminish with ingratitude, the role of capitalism in bringing to us so much of the lives we live and wish to live.