reducing the cost of labor

On Wed, 12 Mar 2008 13:54:21 -0600, with neither quill nor qualm, F.


I was researching a book and came across Schumacher's _Small is Beautiful_. Ever heard of it/him? What's you guys' take on it?
-- Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear. -- Thomas Jefferson
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wrote:

He went the way of "appropriate technology." Kaput.
However, I saw his spectre raised recently in Bill McKibben's recent book, _Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future_. I was surprised anyone remembered him.
Here's an angular take on his ideas, which I've thought about in recent years because I'm interested in both subjects: "Small is beautiful" ran up against two things. The first was the New Trade Theory developed in the '70s, which is based on economies of scale. The second is that the Japanese proved New Trade Theory by flipping the idea that had been growing in the US in the early-to-mid '70s, that computers and NC were going to produce highly customized products and replace conventional mass production with "one-at-a-time" mass production. The Japanese, in other words, killed "small is beautiful." R.I.P.
It's still a valid idea. Along with appropriate technology, it could be revived in competition with the capitalization ideas pushed by the IMF and by theories of efficiency through globalization.
-- Ed Huntress
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wrote:

http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle27&chapter%554&layout=html&Itemid '
That's good, George, and it sounds right on many counts. So the next question is, why in the hell do trade theorists still talk about it? As far as I can see, it's a textbook thing that is, as an economist once said, the one idea in economics that is both simple and profound. But it's meaningless when they talk to us non-economists.
I think it clouds understanding of real trade issues. But then, I'm assuming someone could clear them up if it weren't for these clouds. That may be a delusion on my part.
-- Ed Huntress
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On Thu, 13 Mar 2008 03:05:44 -0400, "Ed Huntress"
<snip>

==============I think that on a conscious level #5 [propaganda] is a major contributing factor. Even more dangerous is the sub-conscious "cherry picking" of information to justify doing what you want to do and your acquisition/possession of enormous wealth.
This is by no means unique to "economics," but includes other areas such as sociology [e.g. The Bell Curve]
IMNSHO we have the flourishing of a secular religion, complete with prophets and scriptures, arcane theology, and promoters from the "pop" TV preachers [TV talk shows] to the pope [head of the Fed]. As in most [all?] religions, the assumptions, tenets, etc. *BY DEFINITION* are based on "matters of faith" and not "matters of fact," and to complete this analogy we have repeated examples of "human sacrifices" to "propitiate the gods of the market and avoid their wrath."
The problem on the macro basis seems to be that no one examines the data, and then comes to conclusions using accepted and proven techniques, such as multiple regression or canonical analysis, rather the opposite where the assumptions are made and the data sifted/pencil-whipped to provide support and "evidence."
This is greatly amplified by what appears to be the case that the increasingly complex macro economic structures/organizations are not determinant but rather are random, much like the weather. To be sure trends can be seen, such as it gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter. (Amazon.com product link shortened)
What is not at all clear to me is why the belief persists that it is somehow a "sin" against the "gods of the market," (and likely to bring down their wrath) to introduce and enforce prophylactic economic/financial measures such as "loan reserve requirements," FASB accounting standards, and the provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley, but it is now generally religiously acceptable to introduce and enforce public health measures such as the pure food and drug laws, and compulsory immunizations. Indeed, anesthesia during childbirth is now acceptable to most people.
On the micro level, the problem appears to be that people do not [always] act logically/rationally. For example, Governor Spitzer, proving once again that it is indeed possible to lose your head over a little piece of tail.
What is urgently required (but will never happen) in the current economic crunch is that a board of enquiry or inquest, with the power to compel document production and testimony under oath, be convened, and then the evidence to be sifted and evaluated on a "zero based" no-prior-assumptions basis. Too many people already "know" the answers, and even more are making money from the situation for this to occur.
Unka' George [George McDuffee] ------------------------------------------- He that will not apply new remedies, must expect new evils: for Time is the greatest innovator: and if Time, of course, alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end?
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English philosopher, essayist, statesman. Essays, "Of Innovations" (1597-1625).
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<snip>

Oh, it shouldn't be a surprise. As you say, economics and politics make a sort of religious mix. Healthcare, on the other hand, is one of the very few fields in which people have a gut recognition that markets don't always work:
Doctor: "We have a good chance to save your life if we act quickly. The operation will cost $20,000."
Patient: "Whoa, doc! That's 'way too pricey. I think I'll wait until prices come down."
This is the little voice that tells us market forces aren't always the answer.

I think you're putting a lot of faith in the "board's" ability to make an objective analysis. I have no such faith.
My son is in his sophomore year of acquiring a degree in economics. He's already knocking me off some of my perches with what he's learning. I'm just going to wait two more years and have him explain it all to me.
-- Ed Huntress
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On Thu, 13 Mar 2008 10:04:20 -0600, F. George McDuffee
<snip>

<snip> =============A follow-up to my follow-up.
The "masters of the universe," have just done it again, by assuming they could predict/control random events.
In spite of the best economics advice and political clout that money could by, Carlyle Capital Corporation, the hedge fund subsidiary of the Carlyle Group, is in default/bankruptcy, despite owning 16.6 [others articles indicate 21.7] billion $US of AAA rated GSE [US government sponsored enterprise] bonds.
http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/opening_bell_the_great_hedgefu_1.php The hedge fund Carlyle Capital all but collapsed last night, stunning investors with the speed of its fall from being one of the biggest-name investment vehicles spawned by the late credit bubble to its latest victim. Bloomberg reports the public company said late Wednesday it has defaulted on $16.6 billion in debt after its banks withdrew their money from the fund. Carlyles pleas to its lenders failed to prevent them from issuing margin calls (requirements to put up more collateral for investment loans) because of the plunging value of Carlyles investments, which spiraled uncontrollably until it wiped out all of the companys cash. <snip> As if to prove Bundy right, three more hedge funds shut down or blocked investors from withdrawing their money in the last twenty-four hours or so, the FT reports. Drake Management, which has $12 billion in assets, said it would allow investors to vote on liquidating three of its hedge funds after more than half tried to withdraw their money. A $900 million Amsterdam hedge fund called Global Opportunities Capital shut down investor withdrawals for a year, and Blue River Asset Management of Colorado also shut down. ==========http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080313/ap_on_bi_ge/carlyle_group_fund ;_ylt=AlCHTNje0P3dorZTuNZ3_W2yBhIF
The Japanese CDS [credit debt swap] derivative market is going bananas. http://www.reuters.com/article/bondsNews/idUST29439820080313
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/bcd05360-f077-11dc-ba7c-0000779fd2ac.html <snip> In a normal world or in a world where the derivative is closely tied to the underlying cash security, if the price of the derivative became utterly divorced, market operators would step in to trade away the difference, Mr Fisher adds.
But volumes in the credit derivatives market exploded precisely because most of the bonds hardly trade at all. At Goldman Sachs, for example, for every three dollars of trading in bonds, the firm trades $97 in credit default swaps. <snip> =========The dollar worth less than 100 yen, oil over 110$US/bbl and gold over 1,000$/ounce http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080313/ap_on_bi_st_ma_re/wall_street ;_ylt=AmEMQyrfsWTS1OCe1bhmI1iyBhIF
And these are the people that want to dictate how the US economy operates.....
Unka' George [George McDuffee] ------------------------------------------- He that will not apply new remedies, must expect new evils: for Time is the greatest innovator: and if Time, of course, alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end?
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English philosopher, essayist, statesman. Essays, "Of Innovations" (1597-1625).
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On Tue, 11 Mar 2008 13:06:03 -0400, "Ed Huntress"

And the consumers have the drugs at affordable prices...

Indeed we do, but the top paying jobs are for the book cooking, asset stripping CEOs and MBA types. The actual research and production are rapidly being offshored, mainly to China and India.
Unka' George [George McDuffee] ------------------------------------------- He that will not apply new remedies, must expect new evils: for Time is the greatest innovator: and if Time, of course, alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end?
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English philosopher, essayist, statesman. Essays, "Of Innovations" (1597-1625).
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wrote:

Production, but not much of the research. They can do the big-cohort studies cheaper there but not many of them. Most are done here in the US.
I've done work for Pfizer, sanofi-aventis, Bayer, Merck, and a half-dozen others. Since I was editing the research studies (and writing some of the conclusions and physician-education materials), I'm familiar with the research itself.
-- Ed Huntress
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On Tue, 11 Mar 2008 17:55:51 -0400, "Ed Huntress"

============If you have high speed internet watch http://media.goleft.tv/medias/rofpod/pap_attack_hogs_256_new.wmv
Unka' George [George McDuffee] ------------------------------------------- He that will not apply new remedies, must expect new evils: for Time is the greatest innovator: and if Time, of course, alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end?
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English philosopher, essayist, statesman. Essays, "Of Innovations" (1597-1625).
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wrote:

Ha-ha! It looks like the Pap Attack has taken a few pages from Coulter and Limbaugh. As I was listening to that I was thinking about a 74-year-old guy down in Atlanta, I think, who designed, built, and raced his own Formula Ford back when I was active in SCCA. I heard he wasn't bad, at that.
The age thing is mostly a bunch of hooey, as far as McCain's mental state is concerned. People as active and as challenged as he's been don't lose much, if any mental acuity until quite late in their lives.
If you sit around or just play golf, it's another story.
-- Ed Huntress
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On Tue, 11 Mar 2008 17:55:51 -0400, "Ed Huntress"

============More "stinky stuff" floats to the surface about our "ethical" drug companies.
In many ways this parallels the financial sector in that the many highly ethical and committed people involved in building the sector long-term are having their legs cut off by the crooks and incompetents at the top looking for short-term "results" and bonuses. It is called killing the goose that lays the golden eggs....
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080315/hl_nm/elililly_dc ;_ylt=AsHW769XrroT.prYaAYxfQHVJRIF http://www.nbc5.com/health/15506894/detail.html?rss=chi&psp=health http://news.yahoo.com/s/usnw/20080304/pl_usnw/thomas_farina__former_pharmaceutical_company_district_manager__charged_with_obstruction_of_justice http://www.businessinsurance.com/cgi-bin/news.pl?id 411 http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/mar/08/drug-maker-under-fire / These are only some of the latest articles identified in a very quick web search. There are thousands more.
More on research outsourcing [and those high paying jobs]. The reason these are mainly foreign or obscure US sources is that appears to be the main-stream US media is not carrying the story. Possibly advertising revenue is a consideration. Note that in several articles the new GM/bioengineering large molecule drugs are specifically covered. These are only the most recent articles I found in a very quick web search. http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080313/asia_adrs_in_focus.html?.v=1 http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2008/03/14/stories/2008031451700300.htm http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/03/07/pracs/?rsssource=1 http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/080312/20080312006023.html?.v=1 http://www.pharmabiz.com/article/detnews.asp?articleidC410 http://www.examiner.com/p-130721~inVentiv_Clinical_Expands_Operations_to_Emerging_Latin_American_Region.html http://biz.yahoo.com/iw/080310/0372746.html http://www.centredaily.com/business/technology/story/456932.html
Unka' George [George McDuffee] ------------------------------------------- He that will not apply new remedies, must expect new evils: for Time is the greatest innovator: and if Time, of course, alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end?
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English philosopher, essayist, statesman. Essays, "Of Innovations" (1597-1625).
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wrote:

<snip>
George, I'm a heavy reader, but that's too much for me. Is there a 25-word summary? <g>
Are they about individual crooks in the business, or about crooked corporations? Or is is something else?
-- Ed Huntress

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080315/hl_nm/elililly_dc ;_ylt=AsHW769XrroT.prYaAYxfQHVJRIF
I read the first one. This is a very, very gray area. In fact, a small part of what I was doing was supporting off-label uses of drugs. This may sound strange or unethical, but, like most things, it's not simple. Doctors use drugs off-label anyway, as that article says. A lot of what they do is based on nothing but unsupported speculation about the drugs' effects. There are several legal ways the drug companies can pass on peer-reviewed research about off-label uses, however, which the docs really eat up. There's a line that you don't cross; perhaps this Lilly exec crossed it, or perhaps the CT prosecutor is looking to create a new type of crime by prosecutorial fiat. I wouldn't judge it yet.
-- Ed Huntress
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On Tue, 11 Mar 2008 17:55:51 -0400, "Ed Huntress"

============see this one yet?
The European commission has mounted dawn raids on pharmaceutical companies across Europe as part of an investigation into possible anti-competitive behaviour that could be preventing new drugs and cheaper generic alternatives from entering the market.
The raids, staged on Tuesday at the offices of companies including GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-Aventis, Pfizer and Merck, as well as generic firms such as Teva, are part of increasing scrutiny of an industry worth 200bn (150bn) a year in the EU alone. They were dovetailed with, among others, the British, French and German competition authorities. The EU is also working with its US counterpart, the federal trade commission, and the Swiss. <snip> http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/jan/17/pharmaceuticals.glaxosmithklinebusiness Unka' George [George McDuffee] ------------------------------------------- He that will not apply new remedies, must expect new evils: for Time is the greatest innovator: and if Time, of course, alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end?
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English philosopher, essayist, statesman. Essays, "Of Innovations" (1597-1625).
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wrote:

It's not that simple, George. The 30-second version is that the "small-molecule" drug business, on which those big pharma companies were built, is on its last legs. You could say they've picked all the low-hanging fruit and there aren't many new small-molecule drugs in the pipeline -- which lasts 10 years or so, from discovery to marketing.
The future looks like a big-molecule business, which means biologicals. Those aren't well suited to big corporation research. Small, innovative companies come up with them -- and drop like flies when they run out of money. When they come up with something that looks hot, the big pharma companies buy them out. That makes them both happy.
Meantime, as you say, survival requires "innovation" in patent-fighting and DTC (direct-to-consumer) advertising. Enter Huntress...<g>
-- Ed Huntress
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wrote:

have
have
to
complain
It's more complicated than that. The same company that makes that drug probably sells it across the Canadian border for a lot less too. Our pharmaceutical companies have the government by the balls and get sweetheart deals you wouldn't believe. If they had to really compete we'd be paying the same, or nearly the same as you are. Another example, Bill Clinton was in Africa promoting anti AIDS programs. They had one where drugs were being supplied from Europe and it cost about 200.00 a year to keep someone alive who had AIDS. The same medication in the US was 10,000. There is something horribly wrong when you see that kind of a difference in costs of medication. It's all about the government and business and the deals they pull off. There is no free market anywhere in the modern world. It's all under government control. Some care a lot more about their own people than others do. Just look at Japan vs. China. China doesn't care much about its people but Japan does. Japan cares more about the Japanese than America does about Americans. It all boils down to policy. In my view our policies suck and is why things are as bad as they are here. We could make things a lot better for the people here if we were willing to take control of the corporations. We lost control of the corporations when we got a right wing administration. If it changes to a Democratic one you will see changes that improve the lot of regular Americans. How much is the question.
Hawke
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wrote:

Nope. They aren't competing at all. What it takes is government price controls on drugs. Everyone has them but us. That's why most drugs are developed in the US. Our prices reflect all of the development costs. To make money in Europe, they use a different accounting -- one in which all of the development costs are sunk (in the US).

What it says is that we're paying for the world's drugs. When you sort out the arguments over this, you wind up with an accounting debate over whether we're making it up in pharma jobs and corporate taxes. I've tried to sort it out but it looks hopeless.
<snip>
-- Ed Huntress
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On Wed, 12 Mar 2008 01:40:45 -0400, "Ed Huntress"

snipped
Not in the case of Zestril that I quoted. See the following:
AstraZeneca is one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies, with a broad range of medicines designed to fight disease in important areas of healthcare.
Active in over 100 countries with growing presence in important emerging markets; corporate office in London UK; major R&D sites in Sweden, the UK and the US.
In nearly all cases, I can buy a medicine cheaper here in Thailand then in the U.S. and these are imported medicines. If they are made locally it is about 1/10th the price.
I realize that I'm using an example of an item where the price IS controlled by the Government and I think it is a valid example of why the U.S. prices are so much higher then other countries.
All pharmaceutical companies protect their developments by patent or copyright and there is no reason for government price controls on medicine except to ensure that pharmaceutical companies make a killing. I heard the other day that the patents/copyright finally ran out for Fosamax, a medicine used to treat osteoporosis. The made (I forgot how many) billion dollars during the period the drug was protected. .
Re: you AIDs comment, I don't know whether the Thai government subsidizes the AIDS program here or not but the cost to a Thai is just at $1.00 a month under the 30-baht medical scheme. But, as I say I don't know where the medicines come from except that they are legally made.
Bruce-in-Bangkok (correct email address for reply)
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wrote:

Bruce, I worked in pharmaceutical marketing for four years and A-Z was one of my clients, fer chrissake. Believe me, your costs have nothing to do with manufacturing costs. Neither do ours. Yours are based on price controls and accounting that covers only the marketing and distribution costs in Thailand. Ours are based on everything they can get out of the market, with no holds barred. Period.

Of course. You're larded with "compulsory licensing." That is, the Thai government gives your pharma industry a license for pirating. d8-)

Why, because you have price controls and we don't? Sure, that's a good reason why prices are higher here. It's also the reason we have the really good jobs in pharma.

Huh? You have that backwards. The price controls keep prices *down*, not up.

Of course. That's what the pharma business is all about. Big money on some drugs, losses on many others. In the end, it's a highly profitable industry. Or it was. Things are looking pretty iffy for Big Pharma right now.
Bruce, you started with an interesting point about manufacturing costs, but you're barking up the wrong tree to use pharma as an example. There are no conclusions that can be drawn about relative competitiveness from drug pricing -- except that it's screwed up so deeply that every country is different, and even every drug is different.
Why don't you try something else, like machinery or something?

-- Ed-in-New Jersey
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On Wed, 12 Mar 2008 13:43:01 -0400, "Ed Huntress"

Snipped
Sorry, incorrect. the Thai government is discussing the CL question with one or two drug companies but there has been no decision. According to the pharmaceutical department of Chulalongkorn University (the most prestigious school in the country) all current drugs covered by copyright or patent are imported from the makers, or their licensed representatives. (they operate a extremely well stocked pharmacy in the heart of Bangkok so they are easy to talk to).
But the point of the discussion was my trying to illustrate my assertion that costs in the U.S. are too high. I used the example of Zestril simply to point out that
More snipped.

I think I used the wrong example :-) as I had no intention of discussing the pharmaceutical industry. My point was, simply, that costs in the U.S. are too high. Perhaps I should have said something like "Why, even my medicine for high blood pressure costs less then a quarter of the U.S. price".
Bruce-in-Bangkok (correct email address for reply)
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wrote:

Bruce, I don't know what kind of smoke the Thai government is blowing your way, but they granted compulsory licenses in the last year or so for anivirals efavirenz and lopinavir+ritonavir, and for clopidogrel, a heart medication sold by Bristol Myers Squibb. There were four more in the works but Abbott Labs responded to the CL for lopinavir+ritonavir (Kaletra) by announcing they wouldn't register any more drugs in Thailand. The US put Thailand on its 301 Priority Watch List, citing " further indications of a weakening of respect for patents, as the Thai Government announced decisions to issue compulsory licenses for several patented pharmaceutical products."
NOW the Thai government is re-thinking the CLs, and may pull back on the ones they've already granted -- after they faced the probability that other pharma companies would just stop doing business there. If they can't make money there they aren't going to play.

But your whole premise was wrong. Here's what you said:

My response was no, it gives no hint. Because that wasn't the issue. If the Zestril was made in the US (it probably was made by A-Z's "licensed representative" in Puerto Rico), we'd sell it to you in Thailand for $12.90/30, too. That's the way the business works. It has nothing to do with costs within the US. It has everything to do with price controls and what the local market will bear. That's the way it is on virtually *all* pharmaceuticals, everywhere in the world.
The US market, as of now, will bear the costs, and there are no price controls. So A-Z sells Zestril for $48.00/30 *here*. Not there. They can get away with it in the US, but not anywhere else. That's what I was trying to tell you earlier.
Now, for future reference, you can buy the generic of Zestril at Wal-Mart for $4.00/30. And there are plenty of other ACE inhibitors to choose from if you don't like generic Zestril. That's an important thing that you're missing. FWIW, I can buy branded Zestril for $5.50/30 days, or $5.50/90 days if I order it by mail. That's because I have good pharma coverage. I'm the kind of person who might buy branded ACE inhibitors in the US. If you don't have the insurance coverage, you buy generics.

OK, back on track. It's true that costs in the US are high. For comparison, the USA's GDP is around $44,000 per capita, while Thailand's is around $8,000. Thailand's average income is under $4,000/year (much higher in Bangkok); the US runs around $37,000. The Gini index for the US is 40.8; for Thailand, 43.5.
So income distribution for both countries is rather widely split -- somewhat wider in Thailand -- while the US has a GDP running more than five times greater. One would expect costs to be MUCH lower in Thailand, as they are. It isn't just incomes in manufacturing that matter. It's the entire supply chain of embedded incomes, which means that practically all manufactured goods will cost much less to produce in Thailand.
Now, given all that, what is it you're saying, or prescribing, for the US? Our numbers are similar to those of Europe and Japan, and they're typical for highly developed economies -- the ones at the top, in terms of income and GDP. In direct competition, for anything that can be made in Thailand, we're going to get creamed. What would you suggest?
-- Ed Huntress
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