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Lifestyle Medicine

A few months ago I made the devil's advocate case for Medicare paying for impotence drugs. I noted I was doing this in spite of obviously being opposed to Medicare in general. But now I think I've been convinced by our wise Congressmen, who are passing a bill to prohibit their coverage: Read more »


Empty Sacks

Caleb Brown at Catallaxy:

SCROTUM - GONADS = SCOTUS


Clowns To The Left Of Me, Jokers To The Right

I'm actually going to leave aside this question for today (except for only to say that one could make good arguments that we' be better off aligning with the political left). While certainly grossly true that libertarians as a whole favor the right (at least from the behavior of registered and polled voters), it may be more useful to break the monolith down slightly. Mainly, the broad distinction of natural rights libertarians and consequentialist libertarians. I would be willing to bet that the natural rights crowd is more right libertarian, while the consequentialist crowd is more leftward. Read more »


Does Health Care Technology Drive Costs?

David Williams of Health Business Blog questions whether the conventional wisdom that claims technology is driving up health care costs:

Medical Spending Continues to Rise at a Strong Pace, according to the Wall Street Journal. The story reports on a new study by the Center for Studying Health System Change. The study's author, Paul B. Ginsburg says:


So When Are We Going To Get That Free-Market Health Care Everyone's Complaining About?

My colleague Nick adds to my post on health care. His goal is to examine how free market our health care system in the US really is:

In debates about health care it is often assumed by all sides that the US has the least socialist, most free-market health care system of any modern developed country. Advocates of market provision of health care point to the US system’s advantages as evidence of the advantages of markets; proponents of socialized medicine point to our problems as evidence of market failure. Both will concede that our system is not really a completely free market, but say that despite some significant deviations from the ideal, we still have the closest approximation to a market health system in the First World.

But is that premise true? I want to argue that it may well be false– that there may be other countries whose health care systems are more free-market than ours in most significant ways. This requires that I talk about what “more free-market” means and what it does not mean; I’m going to claim that the metrics by which it seems that the US is the most free-market are bad ones, and that the right metrics are inconclusive at best. Warning: geekery ahead.

He concludes:

One thing I do know is that health care here has become much more regulated over time and continues to do so. In the recent past we have the various acronymic acts– ERISA, COBRA, HIPAA, etc– and in the near future we’ll have the Medicare prescription drug bill (which will vitiate one of the few respects in which the US has hitherto been clearly freer than elsewhere, namely that drug companies don’t have to deal with the federal government as a near-monopsonic purchaser). So from the point of view of our “US is the most free-market” premise, not only does the present look murky at best, but the future is dark indeed.

Nick likely does not know this but I tried to answer this very question he brings up - namely when looking at our health care from an honest point of view, and not just looking at total government and private expenditures, but also at the costs of government mandates and regualtions - last year at my old website, The Proximal Tubule. What follows is the original post in its entirety: Read more »


Big Break Bob

Here's my problem - the notion that Duncan choked, or even had anything resembling a bad game is laughable. 26 points and 19 rebounds. My friend Scott Lange says it best so I'll quote him: Read more »


The Money Pit

There's been an interesting debate over at EconLog between Kling and Caplan over the general efficacy of medical care. And it goes as little something like this:

Caplan:

Start with medicine. Modern techniques have clearly saved a lot of lives. If memory serves me, survival rates for premature babies have skyrocketed from 10% to 90%. You probably know someone who is alive today as a result. I think my twins qualify.

But you probably also know quite a few cases of people who died prematurely as a result of unnecessary medical treatment...

...

My grandpa was probably one of the mistakes. He got elective surgery on his knee, and never came out of anesthesia.

From this perspective, low estimates of the benefits of medicine cease to be counter-intuitive. You don't have to deny the medical miracles you've witnessed. You only need to remember to average them in with all the disasters.


More Agri-Subsidies

From Wayne Wides of Commentary: Read more »


\'Round the \'Sphere

As if on cue after last week's debate here (and here) on agri-subsidies and the developing world, Cato's Christopher Preble and Marian Tupy discuss farm subsidies and their effects on the third world.



Agri-Subsidies, Redux

A lot of good and interesting feed back on agri-subsidies. Let's go through the commentary.

One comment reads:

The conventional wisdom is more correct if we somewhat sloppily use “agricultural subsidies” to refer to ALL the policies that “protect farmers” in first-world nations. Including quotas and “marketing orders” and “set asides” as well as plain old subsidies.

Just to get this out of the way: it may be the case that an individual may mean to cover all types of economic policies that disadvantage the third world by the term "subsidies," but if so, what a sloppy use of language. The word "subsidy" has a specific economic meaning, and it is best to use it by its economic definition.

Megan McArdle writes:

Certainly, some people, even many people, benefit from agricultural subsidies. But there are a lot of people who suffer from artificially cheap food:

1) Farmers in countries where the majority of the population lives in agriculture

2) People in countries where the institutional infrastructure is insufficient to allow the sort of development that could absorb displaced agricultural workers; cheap food produces a subsidy for those already well often, and a miserable existance scrabbling in garbage heaps and relief efforts for thos who cannot get jobs in either agriculture or industry

3) People in countries that are next exporters of food. Those farmers are forced to compete on the world market with food subsidized by the astounding productivity of industrialised nations. Of course, they cannot. So they, and often their country, end up poorer.

4) Aging people with no skills except for farming

And as others have pointed out, not all agricultural subsidies encourage production. A number of them are subsidies designed to keep domestic prices high by a combination of price supports, import barriers, and production restrictions; think tobacco, sugar, cotton or milk.

I should clarify that my original use of the word "subsidy" did not cover Megan's last point, paying producers not to produce. So that's a side issue (economically, not politically). Come to think of it, it seems fair to say that this, too, would have a neutral effect on the third world, provided that the market was open to them to sell at what would now be a higher US price. If they weren't so allowed they certainly would be hurt, but not because of the transfer from US taxpayers to farmers. They would be hurt from the closed market, which is economically independent from the payment. Read more »


\'Round the \'Sphere

Don Boudreaux comments on jury duty. His thoughts are similar to mine - I'm a big fan of jury nullification, especially after reading Clay Conrad's Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine last weekend. It seems like the ultimate check of excessive government power. (How ironic that it is itself coerced.)



Fundamental

Go read Ronald Bailey's recent article on national health care.

This reminded me of a blog post I saw last week following the Canadian Supreme Court's decision that a law prohibiting private health care is unconstitutional: Read more »


Agri-Subsidies

It has become conventional libertarian wisdom that among all the other anti-market policies that are stunting growth in the world's poor countries, agricultural subsidies in first world nations may be one of the baddest actors. You can find this argued in a variety of places; my colleague Randall McElroy this week:

If people... were really interested in helping the poor, maybe they’d be less hostile to putting plants and factories in Third World countries and more hostile to agricultural subsidies in rich countries.

Today at Hit & Run:

Wolfowitz said on Tuesday the key to helping Africa's poor cotton growers was to cut the subsidies paid to U.S. and European agriculture producers.

On a tour of a cotton-processing factory in Burkina Faso, Wolfowtiz said the World Bank would have a "strong voice" at the Doha trade talks to make a case for wealthy nations to reduce agricultural subsidies worldwide.

And in an article by Melinda Ammann reviewing Robert Guest's The Shackled Continent in this month's Reason print edition:

...Africa must be invited to competein global markets on an even playing field. Subsidies to rich farmers and tariffs on food imports to rich countries are an unbearable burden for Africa. According to Guest, "farm subsidies in rich countries are running at a billion dollars a day. This is roughly the equivalent of the entire GDP of Sub-Saharan Africa." Farmers in rich countries "sometimes are paid to grow stuff. Other times they are paid to stop growing stuff that they've grown too much of because they were paid to grow it." Surplus food is dumped on African markets, lowering the prices that African farmers can get at home. Opening agricultural markets to exports from Africa by eliminating tariffs and subsidies that shelter rich farmers overseas could make more difference for Africa than any aid program.

I think there's a big mistake being made here. Don't get me wrong - I'm all for eliminating agricultural subsidies for a whole host of reasons. Helping the world's poor doesn't seem to be one of the benefits. Usually we scoff at terms like "dumping" and "even playing field". And rightly so; so why are they accepted here? Read more »


Come And Keep Your Comrades Warm

Some Russian nationalists are supporting a measure to deport and seize the Russian assets of any Russian women who marry outside of Russia. Mr. Kuryanovich, meet Sir Paul McCartney: Read more »