Bionic prosthetics need not cost an arm and a leg

The year was 1982, when Robert Campbell, of the UK, was diagnosed with muscular cancer and doctors were contrived to amputate his arm. However, fortunately, 11 years on Robert was bestowed with the world’s first fully-functioning bionic arm – a marvel, designed by a team of five bio-engineers in Edinburgh. Bionic prosthetics such as Robert’s have the ability to unlock a vast amount of potential in anyone suffering from a lost limb. Yet over a quarter of a century on with over 2 million amputees in the US alone, only a few thousand have been recipients of this gift. Why? Perhaps, in order to tackle such a complication, it would be prudent to implement effective free market policy reforms.

The single most decisive factor preventing millions from benefiting from the use of bionic prosthetics is the colossal price tag attached with each prosthetic. For instance, a bionic arm fitted to go up to the shoulder, can cost an immense $60,000: over $5,000 more than that of the median household income in the US. This enormous price is primarily driven by the cost of innovation and R&D involved in developing such a sophisticated piece of technology. However, by advocating the deregulation of financial markets, this can induce greater competition between financial institutions, while precipitating positive spillovers for firms developing bionic prosthetics. These positive spillovers would come in the form of lower interest rates, as banks begin to compete on the cost of loans, effectively encouraging firms to undertake more investment, enabling the acceleration of R&D in bionic prosthetics, and the eventual long-term reduction of the price of such prosthetics.

Crucially, the lack of skilled engineers also presents a pivotal threat to the lack of bionic prosthetics in circulation. However, by adopting more liberal immigration policies, the free movement of labour can enable firms to fill skills shortages and meet consumer demand. This free movement of labour can also help supply skilled engineers to new firms wishing to enter the market, further expediting the pace of R&D in bionic prosthetics. Furthermore, by allowing more diversity in the workforce, it is more likely that greater innovation is generated, which in the long-run, can help introduce more efficient and cheaper bionic prosthetics.

Widespread availability of cheap bionic prosthetics is an inevitable part of the future, so why not advocate such policies to help make this vision a reality sooner rather than later?  

Prerak Goel is the winner of the under 18s category in the ASI's 'Young Writer on Liberty' competition.