Monthly Archives: August 2008

Episode 1 Transcript

We had a couple of requests for a transcript of Episode 1. Here it is. Download (PDF, 132 kb)

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Upcoming Episodes

To whet your appetite, here’s the release schedule for our next few episodes.

  • 9/15: Leif Wenar (Kings College London) on the Resource Curse
  • 10/6: Jessica Wolfendale (University of Melbourne) on Torture Lite
  • 10/27: Larry Temkin (Rutgers) on Extending Human Lifespans

We’ve got lots more in the works, and we’ll let you know about those as they materialize. In the gaps between shows, I’ll be posting here with discussions of our past episodes, previews of future ones, and lots more.

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Episode 1. Thomas Pogge on Pharmaceutical Innovation

In our first episode, Thomas Pogge explains his proposal for dealing with the thorny intersection of public health, property rights, and poverty. As he sees it, the patent system doesn’t work as well for medicines as it does for, say, consumer electronics. Allowing an inventor a monopoly over her invention works well enough when that invention isn’t a life necessity. Sony and its collaborators can sink enormous funds into researching Blu-Ray discs because they expect consumers will pay for them. And Pfizer can spend a fortune creating Viagra, because it expects, rightly, that there’s a huge demand for that product.

But this kind of economic demand can deviate from social value when it comes to life-saving medications. An affliction like Chagas’ disease that is widespread in Central and South America, but relatively rare in North America, doesn’t generate the kind of worldwide economic demand that erectile dysfunction does, simply because its sufferers don’t have as much ability to pay. The aggregate economic demand for drugs to fight Chagas’ disease, or tuberculosis or malaria, isn’t sufficient to motivate firms to splash out on R&D.

Pogge is working feverishly to rectify this situation. He proposes a Health Impact Fund, which would allow anyone to register a drug for an effectiveness-based award in exchange for giving up monopoly profits. I’ll let him explain the details. You can listen to the show directly by clicking on the at the bottom of this post, or by subscribing to our podcast, which is linked to in the right-hand column.

Thomas Pogge is Professorial Fellow, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE); Professor, Yale University Philosophy Department; and Research Director, Oslo Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature (CSMN). You can find more details about the Health Impact Fund at More information about Thomas Pogge is available at his Yale website:

Click here to download (29:01, 29 mb, mp3), or click on the online media player below.


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Welcome to our show!

Hello, everybody.

We’re thrilled to announce the launch of this brand-new podcast. The idea behind the show is to get careful thinking about political problems out into the world in a new way. Many of our discussions will be with people who call themselves philosophers, but we hope to be both intellectually rigorous and engaging for nonphilosophers at the same time. It’s a tough balancing act, and we hope you’ll let us know when it works and when it doesn’t.

And with all that said, we should introduce ourselves. The man writing these posts (and most of the future ones) is Matt Peterson, and the show’s host is Christian Barry. We both work at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics—Christian in Canberra at the Australian National University, and me at the University of Melbourne. If you do a little digging, you’ll see that our backgrounds are in print editing (we used to edit a journal together called Ethics & International Affairs). Audio is new for us, but we love it already.

We’ve had some great assistance in putting the show together, both from CAPPE, whose staff has enthusiastically supported this project, and from our sponsors, who we’ve linked to in the right-hand column. The Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs has agreed to add Public Ethics Radio to its own podcast stream. And the superb German record label Kompakt has generously agreed to let us use their music in our show. The producer Steve Rennicks has also composed some original music that appears in the show, and we thank him as well.

We’ve got a lot of great material to give you. We’re delighted to have as our inaugural guest a philosopher we know well and respect deeply, Thomas Pogge. We’ll tell you a little bit more about him in the next post. We’ve got plenty more more in the pipeline: Leif Wenar on the resource curse, Jessica Wolfendale on Torture, and Larry Temkin on extending human lifespans.

We hope you enjoy the show. If you do (or don’t!), we’d love to hear what you think: send us an email at

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