Mr. Contradictions 3: The Invocation
Most people reserve smirks and giggles to a nervous first date or tickling a puppy golden retriever. But the unthinking, emotion driven want-to-be capitalist Martin Shkreli before Congress showed such faces and exhibited such actions. While he is vilified for his “greed” and “selfishness” he possesses neither of these virtues. And being grilled by bureaucrats in Washington D.C. would have solidified his placement in business history if only he were a businessman. Martin Shkreli has been appeasing and acquiescing in favor of government involvement in the pharmaceutical industry. Anything but a capitalist, Mr. Shkreli remains a mixed bag and an embodiment of the current market of some freedoms at odds with regulations and controls. And in the presence of politicians, his behavior only encapsulated their ineptitude and inability to focus on the issue: should drug companies reap profits? Mr. Shkreli’s invocation of the Fifth Amendment battering down every question save for how to pronounce his last name and few others, is reminiscent of comedian Dave Chappelle’s sketch comedy show from the early 2000’s. In a scene where a drug dealer by the name of Tron Carter is called upon by politicians to address his involvement in the illicit trade of narcotics, all Carter offers is a continuous stream of references to the right not to incriminate oneself.
Even with Mr. Shkreli’s bizarre mannerisms, he cannot compete with the altruistic rhetoric of the United States Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and Trey Gowdy (R-SC). Their queries regarding the poor and sick in situations of distress and need intended to sway Mr. Shkreli into emotional compliance with their sinister lines of questioning. Ever the keen respondent, Mr. Shkreli continued to “follow the advice of [his] council” not the politicians inane queries. Had he have been a true industrialist who seeks to eradicate all government involvement in the market, Mr. Shkreli would be considered a hero. Alas, Mr. Shkreli doesn’t wish to rid the drug corporations or any other companies of Father Fed and Mother State. The underlying message for increasing drug prices is not, as he has said to fund research and development but to ensure that poor people have a means (through government subsidies) to acquire drugs. Faced with the ridiculous questions by the representatives, Mr. Shkreli’s grins and snickers brought about a sense of a circus being played out before the cameras. And that is what the politicians deserved. They expected a back and forth from Mr. Shkreli, addressing his opinions and assertions regarding the state of drug prices and the role of a chief executive officer (CEO) (or former one, truly) who "spiked" prices.
That's the Nickname
But if this were any other company in the private sector, would the questions even fly? Why is it that the need of a “single pregnant woman who might have acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)” as Mr. Chaffetz pointed out, is considered and not whether she is able to pay for the drug? Why do politicians not press Mark Parker for not providing to the people the “right” to cheaper Lebron James sneakers? Why don’t bureaucrats quiz Tim Cook on providing less expensive iPhones? Is it the matter of “life and death” that most people claim differs from products like smartphones and athletic shoes? In consideration of these products of the mind (drugs, sneakers, phones) one must recognize the sheer mental effort of inventing, creating, crafting, manufacturing, devising, planning, and finally selling them to individuals. The way of business is that any product or service worth one’s salt ought to provide for the betterment of life on this earth, even if the consumer hasn’t realized he or she needs or wants it.
The Real Question
Should pharmaceutical companies garner returns?
Visage of a Semi-Capitalist
So, whether an individual ingests it to treat AIDS, places them on his or her feet for comfort on the basketball court, or increases his or her productivity and entertainment engagement during a flight, all of them ought to have a price tag. And the people who run and own such companies ought to have a right to “hike” prices or “slash” them based on their own discretion. No politician should stick his or her nose in matters that are literally none of their business. And this is where Mr. Shkreli shines (for once). He denied these representatives the malicious joy in watching him grovel and kowtow, at least completely. He still has exhibited only claims to alter prices on the grounds of helping others before his own company. As the son of two janitors who worked his way through schools, gained knowledge on the market, founded companies and improved his own life, Mr. Shkreli should be praised. For his selflessness and rejection of egoism, he should be critiqued. He should follow the advice of a higher calling: reason. It’s up to him to resurrect his moral standing and advocate the spirit of capitalism. If only he would invoke that.