Thursday, July 04, 2002

Vaara, dealing with the same Den Beste argument that Africans are unchanging and doomed, came up with some useful proof that safe sex programs can and do work in Africa. This, in combination with the dubious applicability of the "triage" example in the first place and his extremely dubious notions of how human behavior works, pretty much ends that argument.

In other words, it would appear that Den Beste didn't do his homework, and he has had his ass thoroughly fact-checked.

This got me thinking, though... what other reason would someone have to argue that sending free anti-retrovirals to Africa is a bad thing? Certainly it isn't a humanitarian argument, especially considering that vaara pointed out that "anti-retrovirals reduce a person's ability to transmit AIDS/HIV". It isn't really a political argument, because what possible reason would even the most hardened realist have for letting most of a continent die? It doesn't promote stability, and you don't get much power out of it. It isn't even much of an economic argument, because trade with Africa and African productivity is going to be severely impacted by this.

Then again, maybe it's a different kind of economic argument. While I wouldn't expect Steven Den Beste to make this (rather loathesome) libertarian/objectivist argument, I think he was basically taking the position that free anti-retrovirals are wrong because "the pharmaceutical companies gots to gets paid". I've heard this argument before, and I've also heard it thoroughly debunked (or at least challenged) and I personally don't buy it, because I don't consider someone's portfolio more valuable than somebody else's life, and it's extremely unlikely that Africans would be able to buy those drugs anyway. Besides, it is the sort of argument that puts the sanctity of property over the sactitity of life, and I have great suspicion of such arguments unless I hear a damned good reason for them. A strong stock price is not worth cheap life.

Still, I have heard this sort of argument made on the extreme fringe of the "Intellectual Property uber alles" types, and wouldn't put it past Steven, although I rather hope I'm wrong and that he doesn't hold what I consider a monstrously unethical position. If he does, though, why didn't he just state "we shouldn't send free drugs to Africa because it would hurt the profitability of phamaceutical companies" and be done with it? Why cover it up with all this "triage" nonsense?

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