Posts tagged ‘David Bernstein’

Where's the Love For Princeton Law School?

From David Bernstein

The president went to Harvard, and barely defeated a primary opponent who went to Yale. His predecessor went to Yale and Harvard, and defeated opponents who went to Yale and Harvard, and Harvard, respectively. The previous two presidents also went to Yale, with Bush I defeating another Harvard grad for the presidency. And once Elena Kagan gets confirmed, every Supreme Court Justice will have attended Harvard or Yale law schools.

I know that Harvard and Yale attract a disproportionate percentage of America's talented youth, but still, isn't this a bit much? Are there no similarly talented individuals who attended other Ivy League schools, other private universities or (gasp!) even state law schools?

For what its worth, I have a Princeton undergrad degree and an MBA from Harvard and the number of Harvard-Yale-Princeton employees working for me in our 420-employee firm is ... zero.

Another Idea

Apparently, the Obama administration is worried about the shortage of GP physicians.  Personally, I think anything we do within the present framework, or more onerous government interventionist approaches likely to be proposed by Obama, will fail at reversing this problem.  If plumbers were not allowed to contract directly for price and scope of service with individual homeowners they serve, and were forced instead to fill out 23 yards of paperwork just to get paid rates that were set by government bureaucrats, subject to thousands of pages of regulations any one of which could cause his payment request to get rejected, we would have a shortage of plumbers too.

However, since no one in Washington currently seems to be in the mood topromote commercial relationships in medicine that mirror how we contract for every other product and service, I guess we can nibble at the edges of the problem.  David Bernstein suggests:

I have yet to see in any of these articles one simple reform proposed: abolish the requirement of an undergraduate degree before attending medical school, and turn medical school into a five or six-year post-high school program instead. This would eliminate two or three years of debt, and, perhaps even more important, the opportunity costs of two or three years of college. Right now, an aspiring physician must go to college for four years (and take many classes that have nothing to do with his future career), then medical school for four years, and then typically do a poorly paid internship and then residency for another five years. By the time this aspiring physician goes into practice, he will be at least thirty-one years old, and have eight years of student loan debt.

I have a better solution.  Why do we have a one-size-fits-every-corner-of-the-medical-field education and licensing at all?  Why do I need to pay for someone with 8 years of college and five years of residency to put three stitches in my kids' cut?  Or to write a Viagra scrip?  In dentistry, why do oral hygienists all seem to be in dentists' offices?  Why do I need to pay the overhead of a dentist to get my teeth cleaned?

We shouldn't really be surprised, I guess, about this licensing approach -- when the government turns over the licensing board to the incumbents of the industry being licensed, they have every incentive to choke off supply and to kill any initiative that might create low-cost competition for themselves.

So the licensing system that is all or nothing -- you are either a full-fledged medical doctor that can handle anything, or someone who is allowed to handle nothing.  This is reinforced by the payment system we have, where people do not bear the marginal cost of the services they consume.  So, since every office visit costs them the same (zero or a fixed copay), they might as well ask for the most experienced and over-educated guy they can find -- it's not costing them any extra.

Well, this is true for most people.  I have a high-deductible health insurance policy, and we often consider the price of different alternatives. Here is an example.  I am a healthy person, but still go in for a physical each year.  Nothing complicated happens in these visits.  Surely there could be some kind of less-trained traige MD who could conduct such screenings, passing folks on to the full-fledged doctors if anything unusual pops up.  If you told me that I could be seen by such a person for $100 or a full MD for $300, I would certainly consider it, particularly since the triage guy's schedule probably runs smoother as he doesn't get bogged down with the unexpected -- he just passes those folks on.

Statism Not So Fun When You Aren't In Control

Every once in a while I post something off the cuff and find retroactively that I have tapped into a rich source of blogging material.  Such is the case with my post a couple of days ago about technocrats on the left regretting loss of control of the statist institutions they created.  In that article I cited examples of the left freaking out over a conservative-controlled FDA halting over-the-counter approval of the Plan B morning after pill and the injection of certain conservative dogmas (e.g. intelligent design) into public schools.  The moral was that the left is lamenting the loss of control, when they should be reevaluating the construction of the regulatory state in the first place.

David Bernstein at Volokh brings us another example with the Solomon Amendment, the legislation that requires universities that accept public funds to allow military recruiters on campus.  Folks on the left hate this act, many because they oppose the military at all junctures while others more narrowly oppose recruiting as a protest against the Clinton-era "don't ask, don't tell" policy law brainchild.  Eskridge and Polsby debate the pros and cons at the ACS Blog.  I tend to be sympathetic to the private universities, who rightly don't feel like acceptance of federal money or research grants should negate their control of their institution.

But my point is not the merits of the Solomon Amendment, but to point out the irony, very parallel with the FDA and public schools examples previously:  The Solomon Amendment is built sturdily on the precedent of Federal Title IX legislation, legislation that is a part of the bedrock of leftish politics in America.  Title IX first established the principal that the Federal government could legally override the policy-making and decision-making at private universities if they accepted any federal cash.  It was the left that fought for and celebrated this principal.  The left ruthlessly defended the state's right to meddle in private universities in substantial ways, and passed legislation to shore Title IX up when the Supreme Court weakened state control (from the Bernstein post):

The Court's attempt to preserve some institutional autonomy for universities
from anti-discrimination laws caused uproar among liberal anti-discrimination
activists. They persuaded Congress to pass the "Civil Rights Restoration Act."
This law ensured that if a university receives any federal funds at all,
including tuition payments from students who receive federal aid, as in Grove
City's case, all educational programs at that university are subject to Title

The Solomon Amendment is modeled after the Civil Rights Restoration Act's
interpretation of Title IX.

In fact, in the linked articles, Solomon is being attacked by the left precisely because it does not allow universities the freedom to set their own anti-discrimination policy (in this case, banning recruiters judged discriminatory to gays), when the whole issue of Title IX was precisely to override a university's chosen anti-discrimination policy (or lack thereof).  So again we have the case of the left building an government mechanism to control private decision-making, and then crying foul when their political enemies take control of the machinery.

In my naive youth, I would have assumed that this contradiction would quickly be recognized.  However, the left (and the right too, but that is for another post) has been able for years to maintain the cognitive dissonance necessary to support the FDA's meddling in every single decision about what medical procedures and compounds a person can have access to while at the same time arguing that abortion is untouchable by government and that a woman should make decisions for her own body.  In this case, it will be interesting to see if the left is able to simultaneously decry state control of discrimination policies at private universities in Solomon while continuing to support state control of private university discrimination policies as essential in Title IX.

Correction: You learn something every day.  I called don't-ask-don't-tell a "policy, as I had assumed that it was merely an internal military policy.  Apparently it is a law.