Suppose you’re the President of the United States at a time when your country is facing a $1.3 trillion annual budget deficit and a $13 trillion national debt. Meanwhile, a country on the other side of the world is running a budget surplus but could potentially end up slightly in debt if it pays for its own security instead of depending on U.S. taxpayers to do so. What would you do?
Once upon a time, so the story goes, the American pharmaceutical industry was a “wild West” in which greedy, unscrupulous snake-oil salesmen preyed on unsuspecting citizens. Average Americans, in the same tale, were incapable of sifting through the claims of drug purveyors and of determining which drugs were both safe and effective, and thus were suffering and dying in droves at the hands of these conniving profiteers. The happy ending to the story is that the federal government, in response to public outcries for salvation, stepped in and forced all drug manufacturers to prove their products were safe and effective before they could sell them; henceforth, Americans could be certain that no drugs would ever harm them again.
Not surprisingly, it was the Nestor of the Founding Generation who made the most lasting and dramatic impact on the final day of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Benjamin Franklin, hobbled by gout, was the central player in three scenes of the final act of this history-changing event.