Doing Well While Not Doing Good

Progressive talk show host and author Thom Hartmann has periodically stated that the economic system known as “capitalism” has now reached what he describes as the “cancer stage.”

Mr. Hartmann has a valid point. In order to survive, cancer must keep growing…and growing…and growing…ultimately, the cancer becomes so large and invasive that it interferes with its host's biological life processes, thus killing its host. Otherwise, cancer could, in theory, live forever. It is only the limits of its host that prevents this.

Similarly, capitalism must expand…and expand…and expand. However, as the last three decades have made apparent, capitalism's host – our planet and its society – has finite limits, just like a living body. Increasingly, capitalism is interfering with the life processes and threatening the life of the planet and its people – just like cancer does to humans and animals.

Unlike cancer however, there seems to be no treatment for runaway, malignant capitalism – particularly in a rigged system that actually rewards failure on the part of the rich, powerful people, both natural and corporate.  Case in point – Stryker Medical, one of the medical device manufacturers that brought you defective prosthetic hip and joint products. Stryker's own Rejuvenate & ABG II Modular-Neck Hip Stem systems have been implicated in metallosis, known to cause necrosis of muscle and bone tissue and suspected of being the cause of numerous other ailments. Like other companies in the industry, Stryker has been the target of growing litigation.

Despite this, Stryker is doing quite well – so well in fact that it's able to shell out over three-quarters of a billion dollars to swallow up Hong Kong-based Trauson Holdings Co., Ltd. – one of the largest orthopedics firm in Asia. On the investment website, blogger Stephen Simpson reports that Stryker is “back on track,” while  has announced that the company's shares recently jumped  up by  2.5%  ahead of “promising revenue results ahead of its Q4 earnings release.” According to medical implant attorney Daniel Nigh this is not an unusual occurrence in product liability lawsuits.  “As trial lawyers, we see an ongoing trend of companies that make faulty products doing well in the stock market,” opined attorney Nigh.

Despite of the alleged harm Stryker's flagship products have caused to patients, to quote lyricist Stephen Sondheim, “Everything's coming up roses” for Stryker.

Of course, roses have their thorns – in this case, the impending litigation over its modular neck hip devices. But if history is any indication, it's a good bet that the company will get off lightly. Stryker may wind up paying hundreds of millions of dollars to settle the cases against it – but shareholders can rest assured that the CEO and the board have already figured this as part of the cost of doing business.

After all, what’s a few hundred million dollars when overall revenues in the billions – and projected to go up even more?

K.J. Bard is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to major online publications.


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