Day by day, the COVID-19 pandemic is uncovering deep structural flaws in virtually every aspect of our political economic system. This includes our current approach to intellectual property (IP) and research and development (R&D), which prioritizes corporate profit over public good and public health. For instance, despite billions of dollars in public funding flowing to for-profit pharmaceutical corporations in recent months and years, this has not translated into increased access to the life-saving vaccines, treatments, and technology we desperately need. This new research module from The Democracy Collaborative and Common Wealth, part of our Ownership Futures series, puts forward a new paradigm for IP and R&D: one that recognizes how critical these interconnected and entwined systems are to building a more equitable, sustainable, and democratic 21st century economy. Read more below and from co-author and Research Director Thomas M. Hanna in The Independent and In These Times.
Over the past six months in the United States, a staggering 200,000 lives have been cut short due to COVID-19. These were our parents, our friends, our grandparents, our community members, and our children. The loss is both heartbreaking and infuriating because it did not have to be this way. Not only are we beset by an incompetent, negligent and mendacious White House (and its enablers in the Senate), but our economic system is quite literally killing us, and what is worse, it is operating as designed. The extreme and ever-growing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few puts the health, wellbeing, and lives of people in the United States, and around the world, at grave risk. As Executive Vice President Marjorie Kelly writes in an op-ed for The Hill, “the blunt truth is that the profit-maximizing, capital-controlled corporate model must become a thing of the past.”
Each passing day we are faced with further evidence of the scale of the crisis we are now facing. A potentially unprecedented wave of evictions as moratoriums come to an end; the threat of far-reaching utilities shutoffs as residents struggle to make ends meet; small businesses shuttering with little relief in sight. And all this on top of the heartbreaking and uneven landscape of preventable death, with Black, Indigenous and other people of color bearing the brunt of the pandemic and its fallout. The scale of the crisis necessitates immediate and decisive action. But these actions will be ineffective if we do not acknowledge a fundamental truth: we were already in crisis long before the COVID-19 pandemic. What we are observing now are the logical outcomes of a political-economic system that by design puts profit and “shareholder value” over peoples’ lives and the health of our planet.