Americans pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Drug expenditures in the United States have doubled since 1993 and are expected to double again by 2004, according to a study by the Health Insurance Association of America. Elderly people now spend more on medicine than on doctor bills. Many health plans have cut back on other benefits because of their rising drug bills. About one-third of seniors have no insurance and are therefore paying the highest, nondiscounted retail prices.
The vision of broadly shared wealth is a long-standing American theme, dating back to the yeomen farmers of colonial times. America, uniquely, was a land of freeholders. Its egalitarian distribution of property undergirded its nascent political democracy. Thomas Jefferson explicitly put public policy on the side of broadly distributed property wealth when he decided that the public lands in the territories should be conveyed not to absentee real estate companies but to settlers who would work the land. The freeholding tradition was continued into the nineteenth century with the Homestead Act, the establishment of land-grant colleges, and the freedmen's demand for 40 acres and a mule.
Over the next few weeks, America will be consumed by debate about how life in this beacon of freedom may have to change to confront the terrorist threat. Liberals will have to think creatively about how to protect civil liberties in an era when it has become apparent that there are cells of people within the U.S. who are willing to engage in indiscriminate mass murder to further their insane politics.