What Is a Wealth Pump?

The main thing about wealth pumps is that those of us who have the business end of wealth pumps applied to us do not like them.


I first ran across the expression “wealth pump” in a 2012 post “The Nature of Empire” that appeared on “The Archdruid Report.” It struck me as an admirably straightforward and simple explanation of the purpose of an empire:

With this [preceding 13 paragraphs] in mind, we can move to a meaningful definition of empire. An empire is an arrangement among nations, backed and usually imposed by military force, that extracts wealth from a periphery of subject nations and concentrates it in the imperial core. Put more simply, an empire is a wealth pump, a device to enrich one nation at the expense of others. The mechanism of the pump varies from empire to empire and from age to age; the straightforward exaction of tribute that did the job for ancient Egypt, and had another vogue in the time of imperial Spain, has been replaced in most of the more recent empires by somewhat less blatant though equally effective systems of unbalanced exchange. While the mechanism varies, though, the underlying principle does not.

You may have run across the expression elsewhere, earlier or later than 2012. In any case, I found that the idea of a wealth pump is useful well beyond its application to the principles of empire. Continue reading “What Is a Wealth Pump?”

The Business of Insulin

In 1921 Frederick Banting and medical student Charles Best, working in laboratory space provided by J.J.R. Macleod at the University of Toronto, first isolated insulin. Prior to their work, diabetes was literally a death sentence. People who developed diabetes would go into diabettic ketoacidosis, and die in hospitals because doctors had no means to treat them. From the Wikipedia article on insulin: “On January 11, 1922, Leonard Thompson, a 14-year-old diabetic who lay dying at the Toronto General Hospital, was given the first injection of insulin.”

The patent for insulin was sold to the University of Toronto for one half-dollar (Canadian). The scientists hoped that affordable insulin would become available quickly. The University then granted non-exclusive licenses to several medical companies. Continue reading “The Business of Insulin”

Dying Nuclear Power Industry

Subsidies to nuclear power reactors are among the most obvious instances of the federal government acting as a wealth pump for large corporations. Now, companies that operate these expensive and dangerous power plants are looking for additional wealth pumping from state governments. If those of us who support cleaner, cheaper and much less dangerous power can’t stop them, our state governments will have less to invest in education, clean energy and other beneficial work because more will go to extending the life of a failing nuclear power industry.

We might start by looking at the Price-Anderson Act. It was first passed in 1957 and has been renewed as needed since. It puts a cap on the amount of damages for which a commercial reactor can be held liable. For 2017, that amount is $450 million per reactor. (Read the linked Wikipedia article for details.)

It seems like a big number, but it is pretty small when compared to what is possible. In December of 2016, the Japanese government estimated the cleanup costs for the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster at $190 billion. That’s “billion,” not “million.” For an equivalent disaster in the United States, insurance would cover $0.45 billion, leaving the government to cover the other $189.55 billion. Continue reading “Dying Nuclear Power Industry”

Not so Unspeakable

Today, I came across two articles on the state of health care insurance in America. Both are worth reading.

This first is entitled “Unspeakable Realities Block Universal Health Coverage In America.

Here is an excerpt that sums up the central point made by the article:

“Why are economically struggling blue collar voters rejecting a party that offers to expand public safety net programs? The reality is that the bulk of needy white voters are not interested in the public safety net. They want to restore their access to an older safety net, one much more generous, dignified, and stable than the public system – the one most well-employed voters still enjoy.”

Later in the article, the author names this “older safety net” as “white socialism.” Don’t let the naming convention stop you from reading through the whole article. It really does go a long way toward explaining why so many people voted for Trump in 2016.

I would not use the term “white socialism” to describe this reality. “Corporate socialism,” to indicate health care controlled by and for the benefit of corporations, is a more accurate term. The article is published in Forbes, and Forbes is not going to approve an article about corporate socialism. It’s surprising that they published this article, since the description, if not the name, is quite accurate.

The second article, “Opponents of single payer are moral monsters on par with AHCA proponents,” is a bit more straightforward. It takes the talking point currently used by Democrats defending Obamacare and applies it exactly to those same Democrats who will not support Medicare for all.

The argument is that, compared to Obamacare, the Republican’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) will result in having 24 million more people uninsured by 2026. Compared to Medicare for All (actual universal health care coverage), Obamacare will result in 28 million people uninsured.

That is, to quote directly from the Congressional Budget Office Report on the AHCA, “In 2026, an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.”

If those who would choose to leave 52 million people uninsured when it is possible to insure them are immoral monsters, then are those who would choose to leave “only” 28 million uninsured only slightly less immoral and slightly less monstrous?

In other words, 52 million uninsured fits well with a callous version of corporate socialism. 28 million uninsured fits with a somewhat more benign version of corporate socialism. Nobody uninsured fits best with an egalitarian socialism that is not controlled by or benefiting corporations.

And if you are not in favor of any variety of socialism, then Medicare for All would still be the best way to “… promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” That phrase comes directly from the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America. It defines the purpose of the federal government. It’s a pity so few of our elected representatives in Washington are interested in working for that purpose.