Economism and the commercialization of health care

Howard Brody

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Those concerned over the excessive commercialization of health care, to the detriment of both professional and patient-centered values, commonly propose remedies that assume that meaningful change can occur largely within the health care sector. I argue instead that a major shift in the public culture and political discourse of the U.S. will be required if the commercialization of health care is to be adequately addressed. The notion that health and health care are commodities to be bought and sold in the market is encouraged by the ideology that is preferably called economism, though also today labeled neoliberalism, market fundamentalism, market triumphalism, and other terms. This ideology has been successful in pushing aside alternative accounts and policies over the past four decades, so that economism-inspired policies seem both commonsensical and inevitable. This dominance of the public political discourse hides two important facts about economism - it is a quasi-religious ideology that pretends to be a reflection of economic science; and it is shot through with internal contradictions that ultimately render it self-defeating as a guide to policy. Advocates for reduced commercialism in health care must directly address economism and attempt to educate the public and policymakers about its flaws.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)501-508
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Law, Medicine and Ethics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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