Capitalism in practice

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

 4 July 2012

Just two fresh examples to remind those of you with short memories of how capitalism operates.

Example 1:

Oxford University Press (OUP), a department of Oxford University, is the largest university press in the world. The university, founded in 1167, has been involved in the print trade since 1480 when Theoderic Rood, a business associate of the first English printer, William Caxton (1415-1492), brought his wooden printing press from Cologne to Oxford.  OUP’s home page says that the press “furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide”. However, the home page does not highlight the fact, reported in today’s Guardian newspaper, that OUP has been fined £1.9 million following a bribery charge brought to court by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office. According to the newspaper, two OUP subsidiaries based in Kenya and Tanzania bribed local officials to obtain contracts, including two financed by the World Bank, for the supply of school textbooks.

Example 2:

The fine paid by OUP, however, pales into insignificance when set against the $3 billion (£1.9 billion) fine imposed,  in a settlement with US federal prosecutors, on London-headquartered global pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). GSK had pleaded guilty to criminal charges involving bribing doctors and encouraging the prescription of unsuitable antidepressants for children.

According to today’s Guardian newspaper, the company admitted corporate misconduct over antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin and asthma drug Advair.

“The company encouraged sales reps in the US to mis-sell three drugs to doctors and lavished hospitality and kickbacks on those who agreed to write extra prescriptions, including trips to resorts in Bermuda, Jamaica and California,” said the paper.

“Psychiatrists and their partners were flown to five-star hotels, where speakers, paid up to $2 500 to attend, gave presentations on the drugs.

“GSK also paid for articles on its drugs to appear in medical journals and ‘independent’ doctors were hired by the company to promote the treatments, according to court documents.

“Paxil – which was only approved for adults – was promoted as suitable for children and teenagers by the company despite trials that showed it was ineffective, according to prosecutors.

“GSK held eight lavish three-day events in 2000 and 2001 at hotels in Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Palm Springs, California, to promote the drug to doctors for unapproved use.

“Those who attended were given $750, free board and lodging and access to activities including snorkelling, golf, deep-sea fishing, rafting, glass-bottomed boat rides, hot-air balloon rides and, on one trip, a tour of the Bacardi rum distillery, all paid for by GSK.”

US attorney Carmin Ortiz is reported as saying: “The sales force bribed physicians to prescribe GSK products using every imaginable form of high-priced entertainment.”

Antigone1984: Surprise, surprise. The company is said to regret what happened. Well, who wouldn’t? No doubt it particularly regrets the fact that it was found out. It claims to have learned from its mistakes. Well, it could hardly proclaim that it had learned nothing. We take this hand-wringing with a pinch of salt. “Qui a bu boira”, as the saying goes.


We refer readers who may be interested to the discussion that has followed publication of our post on 2 July 2012 on the subject of “the end justifies the means . The post and attached comments can be accessed at:


 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

 1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Das Vierte Reich/The Fourth Reich (6 Feb 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

5. What would Gandhi have said? (30 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.



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2 Responses to Capitalism in practice

  1. ‘I like’, as one says on Facebook.

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