This is an article about the disease economy. That's a term I coined because I could find no other existing term to describe what I'm observing in our economy today. I call it the disease economy because such a huge percentage of the economic activity and economic growth I see in this country is based on the manufacturing, marketing and selling of products and services based on disease. That is, products and services that either cause diseases or "treat" those diseases.
How do I know we're in a disease economy today? You can see it for yourself. Just drive around any city or town in the United States and you can see what's happening. Take a look at the new construction. What's going to be there? If it's an office complex, chances are it's going to be a medical office building. If it's on a street corner, it's probably going to be a pharmacy -- maybe a new Walgreens or CVS Pharmacy or a new drive-through Wal-Mart pharmacy. You even see pharmacies in grocery stores now, because they are so profitable. When you go into grocery stores and look at what's being sold there, you're getting a good look at the economic activity in this country. You mostly see products that promote disease, thanks to their disease-causing ingredients.
Of course, the disease economy promotes Big Pharma companies. These are the pharmaceutical manufacturers in this country, and they are huge global corporations. The selling of pharmaceuticals is a $1 trillion industry. It's an amazing statistic. Here in the United States, some of our largest corporations are drug companies. In fact, as I've stated before, the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in the United States earn more money than the remaining 490 Fortune 500 companies. Just recently, I heard the Bush administration was very excited about the news that we are experiencing economic growth in this country. The economy is up, more money is changing hands, and that's all that economists really look at when calculating gross domestic product or gross national product. They're just looking at the total number of dollars that changed hands.
An economy based on paying for disease treatment
However, if you look at the quality of the products and services that are being exchanged for these dollars, you'll realize something is amiss here, because what we're doing is basing our economic growth on the growth of chronic and degenerative disease
. We're basing our economy on the idea that we can treat more and more people with drugs and medical services and keep selling them soft drinks and fast food while calling it economic growth.
This leads me to the most important point of this article, which is that we cannot create abundance in the United States or in any country by selling each other increasingly expensive products and services that promote disease. In other words, we cannot create abundance by poisoning ourselves. The very idea is absurd. The whole point of economic growth is to create economic abundance, and if you look at the classic definitions of economic growth, they are about providing more goods and services to people in a more efficient manner. Those goods and services are supposed to improve the quality of life for those people.
In the old days, the arguments for the invisible hand in the economy were that if you let entrepreneurs compete in a free market, they would devise clever and efficient ways to create, produce and deliver goods and services to consumers that would ultimately enhance their quality of life. That part is absolutely true, and the United States has done that very successfully. The free market does work in accomplishing that, but what we're seeing now is something beyond what those old-school economists could have ever conceived. We're seeing an economy that is increasingly based on goods and services that do not add to the quality of consumers' lives but rather take away from it. We're seeing entrepreneurs and creative, clever people finding new ways to market products that harm people and calling that profitability or economic growth.
We see this quite blatantly in the drug industry, where creative marketers keep coming up with new, absurd ways to sell drugs to people through direct-to-consumer advertising on television. Some of these ads are absolutely idiotic in what they are promising. Yet, they are effective in creating demand. They sell products, but these products do not help consumers.
We also see a lot of products being marketed and sold to consumers that may give them very short-term benefits -- such as the taste of a hamburger or the taste of french fries, which lasts about 10 seconds -- but has long-term detrimental consequences, like obesity, heart disease, brain disorders, cancer and diabetes. These diseases largely come about as a result of long-term consumption of nutritionally depleted foods.
Without question, the U.S. economy is heavily invested in disease. Retailers like Walgreens have mastered the art of selling products on both sides of the equation. At the front of the store, Walgreens sells junk food products, soft drinks, candy and a lot of food that really has no nutrition. At the back of the store, they sell prescription drugs -- drugs that treat the symptoms of diseases that are ultimately caused by people's poor dietary choices and their consumption of junk food. Walgreens has really mastered this. They will sell you the problem and the treatment, all in the same store. One reason Walgreens is so incredibly successful as a business is because it has mastered the art of selling products to consumers as part of the disease economy. It is a flagship company of the disease economy, perhaps even more so than pharmaceutical companies.
Illusions of wealth in the disease economy
One of the funniest things about the disease economy is that the consumers who are diseased think they're doing well because they own stocks in the companies selling the products that harm them. This fascinates me. A guy dying of cancer or suffering from heart disease, because of the products he has been consuming for years, believes he's doing well because he owns stock in large food manufacturing companies or large pharmaceutical companies. Maybe he owns stock in a new medical technology, or maybe he's a partner in a local medical clinic. His investments are doing great, but he's dying, and he's dying from preventable degenerative disease.
This is what's happening across the country, not just to one person, but to millions of people -- perhaps hundreds of millions -- who think the economy is looking up and think that maybe they have a good job because they work for a pharmaceutical company. They think they have good investments now because they have stocks in the junk food manufacturers. They think they're doing well financially, but guess what? They're consuming the product themselves, and they are dying. They're dying from a degenerative disease at a rate that has never before been witnessed in human history. This demonstrates my entire point: We cannot create abundance by selling each other increasingly expensive products and services that harm each other.
By the way, I don't mean to leave out all those chemical companies manufacturing pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, toxic household cleaners and toxic personal care products. A lot of those skincare companies are really just chemical manufacturers with sexy marketing and lots of women in lab coats selling you products that actually harm your health; that literally contain ingredients that cause cancer and liver disease. People think our economy is booming, but we're all dying of chronic disease. Why is it that 50 percent of our senior citizens in the United States have high blood pressure? Why is it that 40 percent of our senior citizens are now clinically obese? I'm willing to bet that a similar percentage may have nervous system disorders or early stages of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Most of them are probably metabolizing some form of cancer right now, even though it may not have been diagnosed yet.
We are a nation of diseased individuals, and that disease starts very early. There are 12-year-old children who have atherosclerosis. There are teenagers with osteoporosis, and teenage children with obesity are now common. In fact, diabetes has gotten so bad in young people that they had to change the name. That used to be the name. Now they just have to call it diabesity, and that applies to children, teenagers and adults alike.
Returning to health would bankrupt the economy
We have created so much disease in this country, and we have based our economy on it to such a degree that, frankly, we cannot untangle this situation without causing economic distress. If there were a cure for cancer, diabetes or heart disease tomorrow, where a person could wave a magic wand and instantly eliminate those diseases, and if every person in the country did that tomorrow, the sobering truth is that our national economy would collapse overnight. It would collapse because there's so much money, so much real estate, so much education and so much expertise and research invested in disease that we could not financially survive in an economy based on health and abundance
, at least not the way things are configured right now.
We could not economically survive in an economy based on real health. We are so invested in disease in this nation that we truly have a disease economy, and in order for that economy to grow, you have to expand the number of people with disease, expand the definition of disease or expand the coverage of people who are treated with high-profit disease-masking products. All three of those things are happening right now.
Corruption in the Disease Economy
Drug companies have experts on their payroll who are part of the FDA's drug safety decision panels, and who don't disclose their conflicts of interest. They are making decisions that expand the definition of disease. A classic case of this was when cholesterol numbers were lowered from 130 to 100 to instantly make 10 million more Americans diagnosable with high cholesterol so they could be treated with statin drugs.
We have the ridiculous (and scientifically dishonest) expansion of psychiatric disorders or so-called brain chemistry diseases, which really have nothing to do with chemistry, but everything to do with expanding the marketplace of psychiatric drugs. The way you expand the marketplace is not to sit around and wait for people to become mentally disturbed. What you do is change the definition of mental disorders and make up new ones.
One of the biggest questions right now is the marketing of adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or adult ADHD. It is a made-up disease. What are the symptoms of this disease? You have too many things on your mind, you can't keep track of everything you need to get done and you are easily distracted. What adult doesn't meet those criteria? We all do, because modern society is a busy place. According to the drug company definition, and even the definition offered by the psychiatric community, we are all suffering from mental illness and must be treated with drugs.
This is one way to expand the disease economy. This is one way you keep those profits flowing and those shareholders happy that they've invested in your company. Most of us here in America are invested in a disease economy, one way or another. Take a look at your own retirement portfolio, if you're fortunate enough to have one, and you're likely to find that you own some percentage of some company that's invested in disease. Interesting, isn't it?
Transforming the Disease Economy into a Health Economy
Enough about the problem; what about the solution? How do you solve the disease economy, challenge it and turn it around into a health economy, a healing economy or an abundant economy? To do that, you first have to figure out a way to make health profitable. How do you make healthy people profitable when there's so much money in treating disease and chronic illness and so much money in addicting people to lifetime requirements for prescription drugs? How do you generate profits off of healthy people, as a nation?
Let's face it: If people are healthy, especially well into their old age, they are no longer customers of those clinics being constructed all over this country. They are no longer customers of Walgreens, CVS or the Wal-Mart pharmacy. They are no longer customers of surgeons, physicians, foot specialists or Alzheimer's doctors. This is why I believe there is absolutely no genuine investment in disease prevention in this country. There's really no investment at all, because preventing disease is the last thing that this disease economy wants.
How do you make it worthwhile to keep people healthy? The answer to that comes down to education, and here's why: When a person is educated, whether it be an education in the arts, the sciences or in any other realm, they live longer and healthier. They maintain their brain function, and they remain productive members of society, no matter how long they live. They can be producing something that benefits other members of society well into their 70s, 80s or even 90s. Healthy individuals can age gracefully and maintain healthy cognitive function. They can directly produce things, such as writing a book, or they can help teach others. They can even be mentors to young entrepreneurs, who can benefit from experience in learning how to manufacture, market or sell something useful.
An uneducated individual, on the other hand, tends to be more of a consumer than a producer of things of value, because they don't have the background, education or experience to be productive members of society. If you don't educate the population, they all become consumers and not producers. It is when people are stuck in the consumer state that they can be profitable to the disease economy. But when the public is educated, it becomes far more profitable to keep people healthy. You could add 20 or 30 years of creative productivity to an individual's life, which means you could boost the productivity of the entire nation by perhaps 15 to 20 percent, which is a huge number. You wouldn't have to base it on disease anymore. You could base it on health. We need a health economy that's based on disease prevention, tied with genuine education.
Think about what we produce in the United States versus other countries. While we are toiling away in our disease economy and inventing new super extreme nacho Doritos and coming up with new prescription drugs that alter brain chemistry in children, genius-level students in other countries are actually doing something useful. In Japan, for example, they are inventing a whole new industry, which I believe will dominate the world's economy. It will be bigger than the computer industry and automobile industry ever was. It's the robotics industry.
In the next 20 or 30 years, the robotics industry will be absolutely huge. Japan is at least 10 years ahead of the United States in this key industry. Why? It's because Japanese students are well educated. They also tend to have a lot better health than students in the United States. In India, they're inventing new computer technologies and new customer service systems that are siphoning labor away from the United States because they do it faster, cheaper and with similar quality but for less money and far lower health-care costs.
Globally, our disease economy simply cannot compete with global economies that actually produce something useful. You want proof of it? Just look at what's happening to General Motors. General Motors is shutting down. General Motors is probably headed for bankruptcy. One of the largest corporations ever produced by the United States is about to go bankrupt. Why? In my opinion, the answer is that General Motors is spending more on health insurance than it is on steel. They're operating in a disease economy, and in a disease economy, it costs way too much for workers because workers are diseased, and you have to cover the costs of treating all that disease so you can have health insurance for all those workers. The United State's health insurance costs are the highest of any nation in the world.
Not only do we have workers who are under-educated in the United States, they are also over-diseased. We have a disease economy, so we think we're creating abundance by selling each other expensive treatments, products and services for disease. The real industries, like automobile manufacturing, are disappearing. Toyota is smart. Toyota is going to dominate the auto industry. Personally, I won't drive anything other than the Toyota. Toyota is the best mainstream vehicle in the world. Interestingly enough, Toyota is going to be making robots soon, too. Japan does not have a disease economy. Japan has an economy with a good dose of innovation. In fact, innovation is thriving throughout Asia. They don't have a disease economy. They have an innovation-based economy where they actually have to produce something useful to get paid.
Smart nations will invest in prevention
Now, at some point these nations, as they adopt the Western lifestyle and become richer and start to consume more beef animal products, as well as junk food, may very well become disease economies. But some of these nations will be smart about it and start investing in prevention. For example, any nation right now in this world that allows cigarettes to be sold to its population is committing a form of self-destruction. It's like national suicide. What nation would want its citizens to smoke cigarettes so that they would halve their own lives, create huge health-care costs and at the same time reduce their long-term productivity?
Then there are nations like Singapore. Singapore is doing some very intelligent things, and education is one of them. Singapore has a very smart population and a booming economy based on actual abundance and not disease. Of course, people say, "Singapore is almost like a police state. What about personal rights?" That's a huge argument. Should people have the right to smoke themselves to death? Should they have the right to drink soft drinks until they're so obese that they need a knee replacement and demand to be covered by Medicare? Should people be allowed to eat junk food all day, avoid exercise and then get heart disease and need a heart transplant that's paid for by other taxpayers or other participants in their insurance company? These are questions I can't answer in this article. All I can say is that any nation that bases its economy on "diseasification" of its citizens is ultimately doomed to economic collapse. That's exactly where the United States economy is currently headed, to certain economic collapse.
We are losing our health. We are losing our minds. We're losing our genuine economic base. We're losing our manufacturing. We're losing our scientific edge. We're losing our education, and we're losing the inherent value of our money supply as the U.S. dollar continues to slip. What do we have left? Well there's always the Wal-mart and the Walgreens. Give me a Snickers bar. If you can't sleep, you can always buy sleeping pills. If you can't wake up in the morning, you can always drink some coffee. It's the disease economy.
The disease economy is all around you
You're probably participating in it, and if you think you're not, check again, because almost everyone is. It takes an act of great self-determination and courage to extricate oneself from the disease economy and be a productive member of society. It is a rare thing to witness. Very few people I've ever known, or know today, are actually productive members of society doing something useful for the benefit of other human beings.
Do you know who some of those people are? Organic farmers. These are people I greatly respect who are actually doing something useful for others. It is something difficult, something laborious, something a lot of people wouldn't want to do. There are people in society that are productive, and if we're going to succeed as an economy -- or even as a nation -- into the future, we're going to have to expand the number of people who are making a living doing something useful, not something that is just based on disease.
You see, thinking that money spent on disease treatment is economic productivity is actually an economic fallacy. Here's an example: If you just want to create jobs in the country, I have a brilliant plan for job creation. First, hire half the nation to be window breakers. Give them all hammers. Their job is to go around the entire country and break windows. Then you hire the other half of the nation to be window replacers. Their job is to go around and replace all the windows that were broken by the window breakers. You do that and you will have full employment! Sounds insane, doesn't it? But that's what's actually happening today with health.
We have people who are health breakers. They work for pharmaceutical companies, and they work for junk food companies and medical facilities. We have relatively few people who are healers. We've got to change that ratio so that we have fewer health breakers and more health healers in this nation. That's why I'm very happy to see the rising popularity of massage therapists, herbalists, nutritionists, acupuncturists and naturopathic physicians -- people who are true healers. That's what we've got to do in this country to turn things around. We've got to base the economy on healing, disease prevention and the education of our population so that as people live longer they can contribute to society in a meaningful way.
I realize this plan would require our national leaders to actually have vision. We need leaders who have vision beyond this generation. We need to be thinking about the next hundred years or beyond. I don't think anybody in Washington is considering the next hundred years. They're just looking at the next election.
Vote with your dollars
You can remove yourself from the disease economy. You know how you do that? You vote with your dollars. You stop funding these drug companies, junk food companies, toxic personal-care product manufacturing companies, pesticide companies and petroleum companies. You stop giving them your money. You starve them of economic growth by voting with your dollars. You go somewhere else.
You buy food from organic farms at your local food co-op or farmer's market. You buy honest personal care products made with natural ingredients, like Dr. Bronner's soap. You reduce your dependence on fuels. You start riding a bicycle rather than firing up your car all the time. You can change your behavior, and you can change the effect of your dollars. You can help reverse this disease economy and turn it into a healing economy.
You, me and the hundreds of thousands of people who read this article have got to change this world one buying decision at a time, because money is the only way we're ever going to change it. By changing the way we choose to spend our money, we reshape the corporate landscape. We reshape this economy and move it away from a disease economy. Pay attention to your actions when you're at a cash register. Look in your grocery cart. Ask yourself, "What am I invested in here? What am I supporting?" Commit yourself to making positive changes so that you support the companies, organizations and individuals that are actually doing something positive.
If you're currently working for a drug company, quit your job and find something productive to do. Find something that actually benefits humankind and isn't just based on scientific fraud and over-exaggerated, hyped-up marketing.