Tom Elia links to an utterly fatuous statement from a 25 year old Obama supporter (who nevertheless gets a bully pulpit in a WaPo blog), saying that killing the profit motive will have no effect whatsoever on pharmaceutical innovation. In the face of such stupidity, I have to drag out my family history once again.
My aunt was such an ardent Communist that, after WWII, she returned to Berlin. When shocked friends in Israel asked, “How can you go back to the land of the Nazis?” she replied, “The Communists have cleansed that stain.” She lived in Berlin until the day she died, sometime in the late 1980s.
In the early 1980s, my father had the opportunity to visit her. Although she had retired by then, her status as a very high level party apparatchik meant that she had a “nice” apartment, which included having her own bathroom. That bathroom proved to be very useful, because her kitchen sink didn’t work. She had to do all of her kitchen washing up (preparing foods and cleaning up afterward) in the bathroom sink.
My father asked her why she didn’t get the sink repaired. Her answer: “I’m on the list for getting a repair.” He asked, “How long have you been on the list?” Her reply: “Nine years.”
That is what happens when there is no profit motive. If plumbers will get paid the same whether or not the rush out and repair your plumbing or sit back in the office, they will sit back in the office.
Humans have very few motivations: passion (both physical and intellectual), hunger, fear, and a sort of overarching greed. Unless the plumber is starving, being imminently threatened, or having sex with his/her customers, the only motivator left for him to get out and do the job is greed. Harnessed through capitalism, you have a splendidly operating system; limited by communism, you have nothing but immobility and graft.