My esteemed ursine compadre makes a lot of points about why he wouldn't buy Merck (NYSE:MRK) -- so many points, actually, that I can't help seeing them as "quibbling." But I really don't have the room to do a line-by-line shootdown of each and every one in this rebuttal.

So operating on the assumption that, like the stellar writer he is, Stephen placed what he feels to be his strongest arguments at the top and bottom of his piece -- so as to lodge them firmly in the mind of you, the reader -- let me focus on those points. Once more, so you don't have to click back to look these up, Stephen cites Vioxx's litigation risks and the availability of "better" investments elsewhere as arguments against buying Merck.

First things first: Vioxx. Stephen posits $3 billion as the likely "hit" Merck will take to settle its Vioxx claims. OK, I'll buy that. But remember that Merck generated nearly $3 billion in just the past six months. And if Vioxx returns to market, as the FDA panel recommended, this will both increase the cash the company generates and decrease the likelihood that Merck will have to pay anywhere near $3 billion -- because, heck, if the government wants the drug back on the market, how bad can it be (said the jurors)?

And last things last: Why buy Merck when you can buy Novartis (NYSE:NVS), Sanofi Aventis (NYSE:SNY), Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT), and so on? Because Merck's cheap, silly! Didn't we cover this already? Merck trades for 13 times earnings. All those other companies either trade in the 20s, if profitable, or have no P/Es at all, because they lack profits.

Priced at a P/E of 13 and paying you a 4.8% dividend, Merck isn't just affordable -- it's a stock you can't afford not to own.

Want to read the opposing viewpoint? Check out Stephen Simpson's original argument . Also read Rich Smith's original argument , as well as Stephen Simpson's rebuttal . Merck is an active stock recommendation in our Income Investor newsletter service. Check outthe latest dealfor new subscribers.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares in any company mentioned in this article, but two of these companies have received the Fool seal of approval: Motley Fool Income Investor has recommended Merck, and Motley Fool Inside Value has recommended Pfizer.