The great news is pharmaceutical companies are sprinting toward the development not just of a safe and effective COVID vaccine, but perhaps several successful new vaccines. The terrible news is the White House may impose socialistic government price controls on U.S. drugs.

An executive order is reportedly under consideration that would peg U.S. drug prices to their price in several foreign countries that have government-controlled health systems. Those countries don’t have private markets for health care. Their governments run health care delivery, medical goods purchasing and the like, putting budgets and agencies first, ahead of patients. An “international pricing index” would set U.S. prices based on an average of prices dictated by foreign government bureaucracies.

There’s a hefty price for “cheaper” medicine. The price controls EO would mean fewer new drugs developed because price controls would shrink R&D dollars for biopharma innovation. With IPI, patients wouldn't get access to the newest medicines. Prescription drugs would be rationed. U.S. patients who today need a medicine the most and get it may well be denied the medicine they need as a government cost-saving measure.

This routinely happens in socialized medicine countries and here in Medicaid and the veterans’ health system. Do we want to force this nightmare on all Americans?

Today, biopharma R&D firms are rapidly doing in a year or 18 months what usually takes up to a decade or more, thanks to their years of private investment in the arduous, expensive, medically challenging field of vaccine development. All the prior intellectual property from R&D investment allows drug makers to recoup the value of that investment, including yielding new investigational treatments and vaccines.

Drug companies are all-hands-on-deck developing COVID vaccines, treatments, diagnostics and cures. It’s a race against time and the virus that each company would be happy to lose. They’re lining up massive manufacturing of their respective drug candidates on spec — if their respective candidate fails to obtain FDA approval, the company will lose millions or billions of dollars (about 9 in 10 drug candidates fail to get regulatory approval).

Astoundingly, the White House is considering an executive order that would shackle these same drug innovators with price controls on their medicines. That gives credence to radical, antiproperty rights proposals. It ignores the Council of Economic Advisors’ cautions. And socialists aren’t limiting their expropriation schemes to vaccines — they’ve targeted Gilead’s therapeutic remdesivir.

In pursuit of a COVID vaccine, Pfizer and BioNTech have completed early human studies demonstrating antibody production. The companies aim to start the final phase of human trials before August.

Johnson & Johnson is adapting its Ebola vaccine platform, a drug which has proven safe and effective and can quickly be manufactured.

Sanofi expects its COVID vaccine to reach more than 70 percent efficacy.

AstraZeneca and Oxford University have a very promising vaccine that’s already in phase 3 human testing.

Moderna, with the cooperation of the National Institutes of Health, has a highly promising vaccine candidate showing equally promising results in initial human trials.

All in all, about 160 COVID vaccine candidates are under development. It’s likely that several versions will eventually gain FDA approval.

Vaccine development is especially challenging. A novel pandemic outbreak sparks urgent calls for a vaccine. Drug companies pour millions and billions of dollars into designing a drug. As the outbreak recedes, government commitments to buy a vaccine, particularly in countries whose populations need it most, get reversed. Drug innovators are stuck with sunk costs and new knowledge about a virus, but no market for the new product. Yet these private companies are all in on creating a COVID vaccine.

Rather than importing government price controls on drugs, we need to incentivize innovation — not only for pharmaceuticals but for all areas of cutting-edge invention. We must value the property rights-based system that rewards innovation, because the value of that system and the fruits it produces is beyond question. A price controls EO is wrongheaded, socialistic and extremely hazardous to Americans’ health.

China and other rogue nations haven’t let a global pandemic stop them from aggressively seeking advantage against the United States and the developed world. America faces a public health crisis, a dramatic economic slowdown and foreign crocodiles chomping at America’s heels.

In other words, national security remains a priority for a secure U.S. future. The Republican Study Committee in the U.S. House has produced a strategy document that goes to the heart of this. The RSC National Security Strategy: Strengthening America & Countering Global Threats addresses a range of threats and aggressors.

The report acknowledges the need to shift our approach. “The old way of thinking about China has failed. A strategy limited to trade and economic integration alone has not caused China to democratize or grow less aggressive in its behavior. On the contrary, the CCP has grown more authoritarian and aggressive.”

RSC’s strategy builds on the fact that our economic security is national security. Economic and national security aren’t one and the same, but we can’t have one without the other.

For the U.S. economy to recover, thrive and prosper, it relies upon both individual citizens and private businesses working, inventing, producing, creating, building, competing, saving, investing — doing their respective parts in achieving U.S. industrial competitiveness and creating new wealth by putting food on the table and paying the rent. This requires private property rights and the rule of law to secure those rights.

Importantly, the RSC grasps the critical role of American ingenuity and IP rights in realizing our economic future. It casts a clear eye at China’s multifaceted theft of U.S. intellectual property and sensitive, cutting-edge research.

It notes the threat Chinese aggression presents to U.S. leadership in such areas as 5G wireless, quantum computing, biotechnology and robotics. Rather that decoupling from China, the RSC strategy imposes accountability and transparency. It enables leapfrogging China by such means as open RAN virtual wireless networks.

The House Republican organization thus proposes measures to disrupt Chinese IP theft networks and stratagems, curtail recruitment and proliferation of foreign agents, hold foreign businesses accountable and force changed behavior.

For instance, to discourage foreign countries from choosing predatory-priced Huawei equipment for 5G networks, multilateral entities getting outsized U.S. funding such as the International Monetary Fund would be constrained from lending to countries that lack sufficient security measures in their wireless telecom systems — e.g., that use Huawei or ZTE equipment.

Another example from the RSC paper is improving the U.S. International Trade Commission’s ability to consider cases involving IP theft by foreign cybersnoops. A U.S. firm qua cyberhacking victim would provide evidence of its own R&D being knocked off and imported. The Chinese state-backed company that stole the U.S. firm’s trade secrets, for instance, would bear the burden of proving that it developed the alleged IP-infringing imports from scratch.

The ITC remedy in Section 337 cases is enjoining foreign-made goods that infringe American IP from entering the U.S. market. It’s effectively an injunction — formerly a routine remedy domestically for IP owners seeking to enforce their right to exclude, until the Supreme Court screwed things up. Keeping knockoffs from commercial markets is effective medicine.

Other ideas in the RSC report include blocking IP-thieving, cyberspying foreign companies’ access to the U.S. financial system; requiring state-owned entities to waive sovereign immunity claims under the commercial activity exception as a condition for doing business in the United States; cracking down on Chinese IP thievery schemes such as the Thousand Talents program; and barring foreign students and researchers from working on sensitive, advanced technology projects.

The RSC deserves great credit for devoting attention to the vitally important matter of foreign aggressors stealing America’s technological innovation and thus our innovative edge in both national security and economic progress.

What’s your impression of baseball star Ty Cobb? Probably not favorable.

In 2015, a New York Times-bestselling book, Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, exploded the derogatory, even defamatory, myths and half-truths about the Hall of Famer. Writer Charles Leerhsen went over contemporaneous sources dispassionately and with an open mind.

So? So the “narrative” about a sports phenomenon was grossly wrong for years and remained the conventional wisdom until someone brought another perspective, systematic research skills and willingness to let the chips fall where they may.

The point is that the First Amendment protects property rights of free speech and independent communication outlets. The Founders valued John Milton’s marketplace of ideas, where open dialogue sifts competing ideas such that the truth rises to the top.

Yet, we see this threatened. Take the debate over responses to the coronavirus. Lockstep news media parrot the latest COVID model predictions as though they were gospel. They paint officials for lockdowns as morally superior and those for an approach balancing commerce and containment as evil or stupid.

In grad school, I learned how experimental-designed research with control group and statistically adequate data yields the most valid and reliable results. And even well-designed projects face internal and external factors that may invalidate their findings.

Groupthink poses a risk to free-speech property rights. All the experts speaking to one another in an echo chamber seem so assured and definitive — until proven incorrect. COVID modelers, who are experts in their fields, are humans with blind spots and limitations and perhaps a strongly fixed interpretive lens. Their track record? To quote N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “All the early national experts, ‘Here’s my projection model’ . . . They were all wrong.” One might say more Chicken Little and less Oracle of Delphi.

Today an oligopoly of Left Coast Internet platforms — that suck the lion’s share of advertising dollars away from smaller competitors — and a few dominant media conglomerates dictate a groupthink narrative about things. This stranglehold on the throat of the free marketplace of ideas is destroying free speech, through censorship and “cancel culture” writ large, including about COVID-19 issues.

This matters; it assaults our property rights of free speech. It also matters because of huge consequences. Consider Aaron Ginn, whose March 20 article on Medium, titled “Evidence over hysteria — COVID-19,” got millions of eyes, including two of a University of Washington interested expert. Medium pulled the article, which compiled official data and scientific research and presented fresh analysis by an unbiased party, after groupthinkers’ criticism.

What if Ginn’s right and they’re wrong? Should self-appointed censors with fat wallets be the sole judges of which ideas are privileged and which ones to “protect” the public from?

Another COVID-lockdown skeptic devoted to real science, Dr. John Ioannidis of Stanford Medical School, has used sound quantitative methodology and statistical analysis applied to real data, instead of modeling based on flawed assumptions. For instance, Ioannidis analyzed actual data from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and found a COVID death rate similar to regular old flu. You won’t learn that from lockstep propagandists.

True scientists admit their finitude, consider alternative conclusions, and adjust theories as new evidence and better, more substantial data emerge. That’s known as the scientific method.

We desperately need rededication to that and to Miltonian First Amendment rights. Americans should take to heart the principled and practical benefits of unencumbered exchange of ideas without resorting to character assassination.

As for Cobb, the “Georgia Peach” was elected on the first ballot to the Baseball Hall of Fame, getting the most votes of the five electees on the ballot. “The real Cobb was a far more complex character . . . ,” the book cover reads. Thankfully for Cobb, his HOF vote came well before Jacobins of political correctness and ideologues masquerading as scientists, experts and news reporters “cancelled” him based on a false “narrative.”

Locke's Notebook

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