Capitalism Makes Fighting Ebola Hard

Published at 10:23 on 29 October 2014

The reason is, there’s no easy profits to be made in doing what needs to be done.

Take fighting the disease in Africa. Those who are getting it are primarily poor. They can’t afford to pay for the necessary health care. It must be simply given away to them. There’s obviously no money in doing that. So not enough care is being provided, and the disease is exploding into an uncontrollable epidemic.

Take reasonable travel restrictions. Right now, health workers are getting there primarily via commercial air flights. The same flights that will carry anyone with money to buy a ticket, with only minimal screening. The airlines have no incentive to adopt aggressive screening, because it would make it harder for paying customers to buy tickets. Moreover, restricting flights would restrict commerce, meaning that the countries affected would become even more dependent on the First World just giving them necessary aid, at lest in the short term (the epidemic won’t last forever, after all). So there’s two more ways in which capitalist greed is interfering with the fight against Ebola.

Take a both prudent and humane quarantine policy. Right now, we can’t have both, thanks again to capitalism. We can either be prudent but inhumane, confining returning volunteers in unacceptable conditions, or we can be humane but incautious and subject them to ineffectual measures that are less immediately punishing. What should be done is to be both cautious and humane: treat them as returning heroes and give them luxurious quarantine facilities (devoting a rural luxury resort to such purposes would be a good way to do this). But there’s no profit in that, so capitalism won’t do it, either.

And neither the liberal or the conservative faction of Establishment politics is advocating what needs to be done. The former promotes a recklessly incautious policy, and the latter the stigmatizing of both its victims and those who are fighting the disease.

So instead we live in a world which has been pushed needlessly to the brink of a catastrophic global pandemic, thanks mostly to the capitalist profit motive.

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