America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)



Healthcare Debate

Eliminate all government restrictions on the production and sale of pharmaceutical products and medical devices. This means no more Food and Drug Administration, which presently hinders innovation and increases costs. Costs and prices would fall, and a wider variety of better products would reach the market sooner. The market would force consumers to act in accordance with their own – rather than the government's – risk assessment. And competing drug and device manufacturers and sellers, to safeguard against product liability suits as much as to attract customers, would provide increasingly better product descriptions and guarantees.

– Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Decrying the shameful want of good medicine,

Lyonel Lockear, licensed physician and chemist,

after long study and years of experiments,

offered, in 1670, a universal pill, a catholicon,

extracted in secret ways from the beams of the sun

and certain, in time, to root out all distempers.

Lockear’s patients brought fistfuls of copper

to his agents’ shops, waiting in endless queues.

There were balms, salves, and elixirs, as well,

syrups of manna, cocoa, aloe, and urine,

distillations of calomel, rhubarb, and herbs;

there was no mixture too bitter or fantastic

for which the ill would not put out their coin.

Even Daumier’s pharmacist, in Le Charivari,

made millions, or so he said, in only ten years,

from an ointment of suet and crushed brick.

Some of it worked of course, bringing cures:

opium antidotes, tonics, Kickapoo juice,

cordials, electric belts, and, most wonderful of all,

a celestial bed, in which, as its owner claimed,

a couple would conceive a beautiful child.

There were shows, too, uplifting spectacles,

and often an invocation of inspiring names


worked benefits as lasting as the medicine.

In wretchedness the body staggers on,

in constant fetters, as Lyonel Lockear knew,

as Texas Charley Bigelow and Colonel Edwards,

to their profit and amusement, understood.

Clark Stanley, too, a wrangler on the boards,

skinned rattlesnakes and boiled the yellow fat.

As sure as camphor, chloroform, and cloves,

a musked decoction, a mystic ambergris

– let the free and open marketplace provide –

it’s easy money, the quickest score there is.

“No need to pay, although one has to live.”

And the penny-pinching halt, with fists of cash,

come forward on their crutches to be cured.

We die asleep, awake, at home, abroad;

we perish in a plague, a war, a dream;

re-engineered, we often breathe our last

equipped with space-age valves and knees.

Impossible to keep these in the box;

all smart investors seek the cutting edge;

the marketplace will always let them know

which areas of suffering will grow.

27 October 2013

Stephen Bluestone

Stephen Bluestone is a past winner of the Thomas Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred and has published several volumes of poetry, including The Laughing Monkeys of Gravity.

See also: Poems.