Covid-19 and the Global Medical-Industrial-Complex
Those lucky enough to have read Bertram Gross’s Friendly Fascism (1980) hot from the presses have long been equipped with a conceptual tool helpful in grasping a key component of modern society. The book explicates the “complex” as in: military-industrial-complex. Gross’s main insight:
…the military-industrial-complex does not walk alone.
The so called “military-industrial-complex” is no unique institutional form; the “complex” has become the standard mode of structuring the planning and control activities of corporate banking, agribusiness and mass communications.
Complexes are sprawling Big Government/Big Business alliances wherein cross-penetration blurs public-private lines. Complexes are broader, deeper and more flexible than cartels. They decentralise to the point of being leaderless:
“The web is spidery but there is no single spider.”
Corporations and Ministries comingle with industry associations and university departments to form juggernauts that game regulations and drain treasuries.
Gross’s exemplar is the auto-highway-construction-complex. America’s automobilization arose not merely as a function of consumer choice but proceeded on the basis of immense government investments in interstate highways and urban expressways. Gross also isolates a banking-housing-construction-complex. Others espy a prison-industrial-complex. I’ve written of a climate-industrial-complex.
The medical-industrial-complex includes: pharmaceutical companies, hospital administrators, equipment manufacturers, nurses’ unions, medical schools, epidemiology agencies, and public health bureaucracies etc. These leviathans dominate every polity and transcend boundaries.
Covid-19 is to the global medical-industrial-complex what the Iraq War was to the US military-industrial-complex.
From liberal peaceniks to small-government conservatives, Americans knew the Iraq War was unnecessary. Iraq never had a serious weapons of mass production program; never harboured Islamic terrorists; never threatened the US. Nevertheless, the military-industrial-complex barrelled ahead. Result: trillions of dollars wasted; millions of lives destroyed.
Similarly, across the political spectrum many know Sars-CoV-2 presents no greater health risk than a “nasty flu bug” the likes of which we’ve encountered countless times. Nevertheless, spearheaded by agencies like Fauci’s 2,000-employee National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Disease (NIAID) medical-industrial-complexes compelled governments to hype Sars-CoV-2 into the harbinger of the next Black Death. Result: trillions of dollars of unnecessary medical expense and sweeping economic disruption causing catastrophic levels of business failure, unemployment, substance abuse and suicide.
The Iraq War was not a lose-lose situation. Arms manufacturers thrived. The war shunted billions toward high-tech research and development (R&D).
Similarly, Covid-19 is a bonanza for many, especially Big Pharma.
In true “complex” fashion, the US Government’s Operation Warp Speed allocated $10 billion to vaccine R&D. Pfizer received $2.5 billion for R&D and was further aided by National Institute of Health technology transfers and clinical trials. Pfizer’s partner, BioNtech, developed its mRNA vaccine with $440 million from the German Government. Pfizer received another $2 billion from Uncle Sam to retrofit factories.
Moderna’s mRNA vaccine was developed by NIAID and the Biomedical Advanced R&D Authority. According to the New York Times:
The mRNA vaccines in which we are now staking so much hope wouldn’t exist without public support through every step of the development.
(Oxford professors developed AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine.)
Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines require patients to receive two shots. Mandated pricing agreements limit these companies to charging US customers no more than $19.50 per dose. Customers outside the US pay $25 to $37. At $19.50 Pfizer turns a 70% profit. One billion First World denizens will get vaccinated as will another billion in the developing world (at First World taxpayer expense). That’s two billion customers; two shots each. Do the math.
Finally, no complex walks alone. Behind every complex’s mega-grift lurk politicians who daren’t let good crises go to waste. Ushering in our complex world order stride mandarins eager to nudge along state-building, democracy-winnowing processes.
Gross, Bertram. Friendly Fascism; M. Evans and Co., New York, 1980.