I’m Nearly Certain He’s Right

I’ve started reading some economics blogs lately. Marginal Revolution is one of them. It’s not the standard fair I cover here, but keep in mind I’ve left myself the option to talk about anything by saying my blog is about programming “and stuff”. Anyhow, economist, author, and blogger Dr. Tyler Cowen posted this gem called What I Think I’m Nearly Certain About. I didn’t know anything about Dr. Cowen until I read this post, but several of his insights are quite profound to me. I’ll name the ones that stand out.

3. Government-dominated health systems, insofar as they work well (a number of them do), succeed simply by lowering costs. Health care has a murky relationship to human health, pharmaceuticals and broken limbs aside. A version of the single-payer system, as might be adopted in the United States, would not lower costs. We would be raising taxes and lowering medical innovation to give poor people a good deal more financial security and a slight bit more health; that is the relevant trade-off.

It seems that often when you get people talking about healthcare, there’s this simple pat answer people give no matter what side they are on (and there seem to be many sides). The pat answers are almost always wrong. Dr. Cowen I think hits the nail on the head. If you have a plan that reduces costs, it doesn’t matter what side you’re on. It just makes sense. If public healthcare could do that, so be it. If it’s privatization, so be it. It gets to the root of the matter–make healthcare cheaper by lowering costs. Who’d a thunk.

5. We are programmed to respond to the “us vs. them” mentality and highly intelligent people are no less captive to this framing. We should try very hard to get away from this framing.

Man, isn’t that the truth. Seems hard to admit sometimes, but it’s so much easier to be all about what we (humans) are against than what we are for. This is no less the case for intelligent people. Look at the presidential candidates. There’s a lot of rhetoric about what’s wrong with our country/the world/etc., but it’s very difficult to get a clear answer as to what direction any of them would go that isn’t neck deep in spin and fancy words. This applies to all candidates.

7. It would be a disaster if American taxation ever reached 55 percent of gdp.

A democratic candidate is a shoe-in for Prez. this year, which, frankly, makes significantly higher taxes likely.

8. Which institutions work well is often country-specific.

Amen! Man, I get tired of people saying, well healthcare, taxes, gun control, {your favorite societal problem here} is so much better in {favorite european country or Australia here}. It’s more complicated than that with *everything*.

12. It is a big mistake — even in rhetoric — to conflate concern for the poor with comparative egalitarian intuitions. The left ought to turn its back on this mistake, although it would mean losing one of their most effective rhetorical tools.

Lip service that shows favor to the poor is pathetic. Anyone who does it should be called out on the mat for it. A true bleeding heart is a good thing–a bleeding heart in name alone is societally detrimental.

Well, that’s all I have to say about that. Read the rest of the post and enjoy Marginal Revolution. You should also start reading Mark J. Perry’s blog called Carpe Diem if you’re even remotely interested in economics. I think I like his blog a little better (though slightly) than Marginal Revolution for some econ insights. Mark cuts through the crap and gets to the point. Short posts with a ton of digestible information.