Martin Shkreli and the Crisis of Corporate Conscience

Martin Shkreli, founder and former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals
Martin Shkreli, founder and former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals
Martin Shkreli has been labelled the “most hated man in America” after his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of their potentially life-saving anti-parasitic drug Daraprim by over 5000%. But if you support the HHS Mandate, you can hardly complain about Turing Pharmaceuticals. You don’t get to spend years harassing Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor for bringing conscience into the marketplace, and then turn around and complain that the markets are amoral. That’s the core argument of a piece I’ve for First Things. Here’s a taste:

Siding with the Obama Administration against Hobby Lobby, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained in her Hobby Lobby dissent that “corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires.” She admitted that “churches and other nonprofit religion-based organizations” also had Free Exercise protections, but claimed that this was only a “special solicitude,” not to be extended to for-profit corporations. That’s because “for-profit corporations are different from religious non-profits in that they use labor to make a profit, rather than to perpetuate the religious values shared by a community of believers.” [….]

Shortly before his arrest, Shkreli was asked if, given the chance, he would do anything differently. He answered, “I probably would have raised the price higher.” Why? Because that would have made more money, and “this is a capitalist society, capitalist system and capitalist rules. My investors expect me to maximize profits, not to minimize them, or go half, or go 70%.” These are precisely the principles by which the Obama administration and Justice Ginsburg argue that for-profit corporations must be run.

I’d encourage you to read the whole thing over at First Things, and to let me know in the comments (here or there) what you think of the argument.

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