Supply Chain Guilt?

By Lloyd Graff

A question that has troubled me for many years is if I fit into the supply chain of destruction.

I struggled with this following the Purdue Pharma controversy over its magnificent painkiller for cancer patients and surgery survivors, OxyContin. I took this wonder drug in its time-released form after my knee replacement. It worked beautifully for controlling my hurt, although it had a side effect of constipation. I understood that it was not a drug I wanted to take for more than three days unless I was in total misery because of fear of becoming dependent. I stopped taking it after two days. 

Mail order outpatient pharmacy, North Charleston, SC

Purdue Pharma was bought by members of the Sackler family in 1952. The company had made earwax remover compounds and other home remedies. The Sackler brothers were doctors who eventually moved the company into pain alleviation medicines, which were morphine derivations and substitutes. The business grew rapidly and moved from New York City to Connecticut, finally culminating in the making of their blockbuster product, OxyContin. The Sackler descendants became one of America’s richest families–and most charitable.

They were fabulously successful in convincing doctors to prescribe it. Over time it became the drug of choice for aching backs and aching souls. People shopped for doctors who would prescribe it liberally. Eventually it reached the street peddlers. More and more people’s lives were ruined by addiction. Things only got worse after Purdue complimented OxyContin with Fentanyl, a powerful drug with dramatic pain-killing power and addictiveness.

The Sacklers just kept getting richer and richer, having an estimated net worth of $13 billion in 2013. They contributed to hospitals, and gave massively to colleges and art museums. But lots of people, often young people and veterans, got hooked, stole it, and committed suicide. Millions of lives were damaged, many ruined. Millions of people also took the drug successfully and benefited greatly.

Are the Sacklers awful people? Are they murderers because so many people abused the painkillers they manufactured? I don’t think they are. But they are a significant part of the supply chain of destruction. 

Nor do I think the people who make the firearm parts that are sold to sportsmen and hunters and law enforcement are bad folks, just because a tiny number of metal pieces they turn and mill go into weapons used for evil purposes.

I think about the pharmacists and doctors who helped fill the painkiller supply chain. Most of them were good people in the healing field. Yet a small number of the billions of pills they prescribed were used destructively. How do those druggists and MDs feel when a client or patient becomes a pusher or an addict? How often do they know when it happens? 

A 10-year-old CNC lathe I may have sold in 2018 to a job shop in Oregon might have made a part that ended up in a gangbanger’s weapon in Chicago. I’ll never know, nor will he or she. 

Life is never simple. Purity of heart is a myth. 

I can’t help but wonder if in some distant way I have contributed to America’s supply chain of gun violence. Do you?

Question: Do you feel any guilt about gun violence?

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16 thoughts on “Supply Chain Guilt?

  1. Jerry

    As a raw material supplier to several rifle component manufacturers I absolutely do not feel guilt no more than any company that makes automobile components should feel guilt when a car is used in the commission of a crime. The same can be said for millions and millions of consumer products. It’s only when products are used in a perverse manner that they become “bad” or “contributors to violence”.

  2. Lance Manyan

    Absolutely not and I find the question ridiculous and insulting. If I felt guilty about gun violence I would have to feel guilty about automobile crashes, smoking deaths and spousal abuse by alcoholics. Quit blaming law abiding society members for the action of a few deviants…..

  3. Wendell Good

    No. But I think it is good to examine our conscience and actions from time to time regarding the unintended consequences of our lives and our work. Any machinist understands there is no perfect if measured by a high enough resolution measuring device.

  4. Misterchipster

    Without question Lance has it correct! Why are we blaming the product for the person that is misusing it? Anything can be used to harm others, why are we not putting our efforts on the cause of the problem (the person) instead of the product? Even a spoon can be used for harm. Responsibility belongs with people not products.

  5. Gordy Erickson

    Guns don’t kill people, people kill people
    Address the problem and you get the solution
    Take away the gun and the problem person will use a different weapon
    I don’t even feel guilt saying this, I absolutely believe it to be true

  6. brawlerman

    If guns kill people I guess pencils misspell words, Cars drive drunk, and spoons make people fat

  7. Jeff Smith

    Dear Mr. Graff:
    I appreciate the thoughtfulness on your part. A free market has a large amount of destruction built in. Products have short lifespans and then need to be replaced by new products. But the Purdue incident had the company actively over promoting its product, even though they knew people were getting addicted. Same with guns. You shouldn’t promote people committing suicide and then hand them a gun. But that is entirely different than simply producing a good product and then letting people make their own decisions, either good or bad, moral or evil. If you are simply trying to make a good product that has legitimate and beneficial uses, then you should not feel guilty.

  8. Cleet

    A Ball Bat is a very lethal weapon if not used for it’s intended purpose what will our kids do if our government outlaws their use. This makes about as much sense as outlawing fire arms. The real problem in our country is that mental health/ drug issues and criminal issues that are not recognized or ignored, and swept under the rug. How many are killed by drunk or drug impaired drivers yearly I would make a educated guess that it is way more by far than has been killed in these mass shootings..

  9. Brion the Lion

    In this moral struggle, which has raged for ages, I think it is really a simple question of listening to our CONSCIENCE in the face of our own human weakness. In the example of the drug manufacturer, the idealist would hope that this enterprise uses its effort, knowledge, ingenuity, etc. to produce a product which benefits mankind, and from which this enterprise may also profit. If acting in the interest of humanity, and in the spirit of easing human suffering, it is their duty to understand and minimize the negative implications of the drugs they manufacture and their responsibly to act accordingly and present them honestly. If driven by CONSCIENCE, they would not hide or dismiss the detrimental effects of their product. Nor would they use high pressure sales tactics, misleading advertising, thinly veiled bribery, or outright falsification, to get their product into unwitting people’s hands, while filling their wallets. Unfortunately, an ever-increasing number of pharmaceutical manufacturers do. When billions of dollars are to be had, the calm guiding voice of CONSCIENCE is all-to-often drowned out by the squeal of GREED. The same can be said of almost any industry. Was the use of your lathe driven by pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, sloth or other human weakness? If not, you have no reason for guilt. It is not you who contributed to the supply chain of destruction. We all have an inner voice which guides us in making good and just decisions in our industrial endeavors. When we listen to it, we are the supreme architects of human advancement. When we ignore it due to our own human weakness, we do so to our own detriment. Lathes don’t kill people, human weakness kills people.

  10. Cy

    Before I answer the question as asked, I feel obligated to tell any reader of this comment that I am a Life Member of the National Rifle Association, a Life Member of the Illinois State Rifle Association, a holder of a Firearms Owner Identification, and a holder of a Concealed Carry certificate. I’ve been an active target shooter, cartridge reloader, marksmanship trainer, and hunter since 1962. From this little biography, an anti-gun advocate or politician would conclude that I’ve been brainwashed so that my opinion isn’t worth their consideration. The fact is that I first held a firearm during basic training before active duty.
    Yet, I know that the frequent calls to disarm everyone to prevent further violence is nothing more than posturing – an effort (with good-sounding tag-lines) to confiscate and destroy all arms not issued to governmental employees – essentially to wipe out the 2nd Amendment to our Constitution.
    As good-sounding as they are, these efforts are misguided. The misuse of almost any manufactured object can result in injury or death. Another writer mentioned baseball bats. Will we need to confiscate pens and pencils – both of which can kill (admittedly at arm’s length) – to feel safe?
    The question asks whether the reader feels guilty about “gun violence”. My answer is NO. I am, however, angry and sad that the misuse of firearms (especially in cities) is almost as deadly as the COVID-19 pandemic. I feel angry and sad that the only way many politicians feel this “disease” can be dealt with is universal confiscation. I feel angry and sad that the people who misuse firearms are not found and legally dealt with so they can no longer harm their neighbors.

  11. Miles

    The best lesson / learning that I took from my MBA program was this ethical compass from Thomas Aquinas: “What is the object of the act?”

    In the Sackler’s case, if the object of the act is ‘creating and selling a medicine to alleviate pain and suffering’ – it’s an ethical act.

    If the object of the act was to “Pump up demand to increase profits,” that is problematic. That has nothing to do with healing.

    If the object of the act is “Maximize Marketing to maximize riches at any cost,” such gluttony and greed is a priori unethical.

    As someone that has had the experience of having a firearm in hand to prevent becoming a victim, I can assure you that the making available the means of self defense to millions of my fellow Americans who would otherwise be defenseless when attacked by those bigger, stronger, or “angrier” is an honorable “object of the act.”

    The object of the act of the person who abuses these same technologies to harm others, shares the same ethical issues as the Sackler’s. And it is their action that places the responsibility fully and wholly on them. There is no agency in the device. The agency lies with the person who acts.

    It is a shame that these day’s, the idea of clear lines of responsibility for personal behavior have gotten so fuzzy that folks are confused into thinking that they have “collective guilt,” when in fact they have neither guilt nor responsibility.

    In my management career, I learned that understanding responsibility and authority for occurrences are often very different from merely assigning guilt and blaming others not at all involved. And incredibly important if one is to manage justly and lead effectively.

    As someone that cheated Darwin because of the presence of a defensive weapon, (And being from Youngstown, back in the day, I must say on a couple of other occasions as well…) I can assure you that my children and grandchildren are really pleased that my wife and I did not succumb to evildoers that day.

    We don’t put locks on our doors because we hate those outside. We put locks on our doors because we love those we share our homes with. My having suitable means of defense was not because I hated the people in my community. It was because I knew what was needed for me to effectively be responsible for my safety and that of my family.

    Now we have six grandchildren. Because I had the means to cheat Darwin.

    By my calculation my name was on the chem certs / test reports for steel produced by my employer steel companies for roughly 10 years, give or take. That is a lot of steel. A lot of lives were improved because the steel we made, made a difference in their lives. I’m sure that many lives were saved because the steel my crew and I tested went into Air bags, antilock brakes, and defensive weapons. Where it performed as expected. Our craft is about love. It is about existential joy. It is about making things that make a difference. For People.

    Don’t confuse any of us in manufacturing for the bad guys. We make the things that make a difference in improving people’s lives.

    And when you are in doubt, or just in a thoughtful and reflective mood, remember Thomas Aquinas’ question: “What is the object of the act? ” It will serve you well, and help you sleep guiltlessly.

  12. Big+Al

    This whole “gun-crazed madman” epidemic began when the movie “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” came out. Everyone thought the mental hospitals were all terrible and that those poor people shouldn’t be held like prisoners. As a result, most of these hospitals were closed and the patents were released with little to no treatment for their ailments. They eventually got worse and struck out in the worst ways possible.

    The problem is that we have a lot of people out there who need mental health treatment and nowhere to find it if they are indigent (which many are since they can’t hold a job due to their mental problems).

    Instead of spending millions (billions?) trying to ban guns, spend those funds getting mental health help to those those need it.


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