Posts tagged ‘Ronald Bailey’

And We'll Never Know What We Are Missing

Perhaps the scariest potential effect of the proposed health care bills is the negative effect they likely will have on innovation.  And if we adopt the bill, we will never know what we have lost.  Unlike budgets, which with near certainty will become overdrawn quickly, we will never be able to point to the health care innovation we didn't have.

I want to quote liberally from a Ronald Bailey post, but I encourage you to read the whole thing:

Yet, the elements of market competition that still manage to survive have had the salubrious effect of driving medical innovation and improving patient health outcomes. A new study by the free market Cato Institute, "Bending the Productivity Curve: Why America Leads the World in Medical Innovation" reports:

...In three of the four general categories of innovation examined in this paper "” basic science, diagnostics, and therapeutics "” the United States has contributed more than any other country, and in some cases, more than all other countries combined. In the last category, business models, we lack the data to say whether the United States has been more or less innovative than other nations; innovation in this area appears weak across nations....

...Harvard University economist Kenneth Rogoff observed:

"[I]f all countries squeezed profits in the health sector the way Europe and Canada do, there would be much less global innovation in medical technology. Today, the whole world benefits freely from advances in health technology that are driven largely by the allure of the profitable U.S. market. If the United States joins other nations in having more socialized medicine, the current pace of technology improvements might well grind to a halt."

In my column, "2005 Medical Care Forever," I suggested this thought experiment:

...what if the United States had nationalized its health care system in 1960? That would be the moral equivalent of freezing (or at least drastically slowing) medical innovation at 1960 levels. The private sector and governments would not now be spending so much more money on health care. There might well have been no organ transplants, no MRIs, no laparoscopic surgery, no cholesterol lowering drugs, hepatitis C vaccine, no in vitro fertilization, no HIV treatments and so forth. Even Canadians and Britons would not be satisfied with receiving the same quality of medical care that they got 45 years ago....

As Rogoff suggests, the nationalized health care systems extolled by progressives have been living off the innovations developed by the "only country without a universal health care system." I wonder how Americans would vote if they were asked if they would be happy freezing medical care at 2005 levels forever?

The Cost of Solar

I had wanted to dig into the costs of a Florida solar facility that Obama recently visited.  Fortunately Ronald Bailey does it for us:

Now let's do a rough calculation of the costs of DeSoto Solar versus conventional power sources. According to the Electric Power Research Insitute, a modern 1,000 megawatt coal plant without carbon capture technology would cost about $2.8 billion to build. Adding carbon capture would boost the cost to as much as $4.7 billion.

The 25 megawatt DeSoto facility cost $150 million. Scaling it up to 1,000 megawatts would cost $6 billion. But coal power plants operate 90 percent of the time snd solar only 30 percent, so in order to get the equivalent amount of electricity out of solar plant would mean tripling the capital cost for a total of about $18 billion. In other words, building a solar power plant costs between 4- and 6-times more than conventional, or even carbon capture, power. Even worse, a scaled up DeSoto-style plant costs 18-times more than a natural gas plant.

Speaking of Technocrats...

Apparently leading technocrat and Mussolini-style-economic-dictator Robert Reich is at it again, arguing the path to freedom requires more government coercion.  Ronald Bailey reminds us that Reich was the one who advocated the US adopt Japanese MITI-style economic management, just before the American economy took off for 25 years and Japan's spiraled into stagnation.  Now, he is arguing that capitalism is the enemy of democracy:

As Freedom House points out the number of countries that qualify as free rose from just 44 in 1972 to 89 in 2005,
even as capitalism expanded around the globe. It has been hypothesized
that as incomes increase in a country (rise of a middle class), the
demand for democratic governance becomes irresistible. This seems to
have been the pattern in South Korea, Chile, and Taiwan. Will the same
thing happen in China? As a negative leading indicator---whatever Reich
predicts, the opposite occurs-don't be surprised if China becomes a
democracy in the next decade.

State Run Medicine: Bureaucrat Salaries Trump Patients

Italian Daniele Capezzone writes in the WSJ($):

This situation is especially dire in Italy. The
government has capped spending on pharmaceuticals at 13% of total
health-care expenditures while letting expenses for infrastructure and
staff skyrocket. From 2001 to 2005, general health expenses in Italy
grew by 31% while expenditure on medicines increased a mere 1.7%.
Italian patients might well have been better off if the reverse was the
case, but the state bureaucrats who make these decisions refuse to
acknowledge the benefits of advanced drugs....

Part of the problem is that regional authorities
manage most of Italy's health-care spending. A strike by health-care
personnel has an immediate impact on the region, but the consequences
of cutting the budget for medicines are only felt in the long term and
distributed across the nation. Hence, local authorities continue to
focus on personnel and infrastructure in an age when medical research
has become the most efficient way to improve public health.

Gee, government officials more concerned about raising government salaries than performance?  Couldn't possibly happen in the US, could it?  This is classic government management -- freeze or reduce expenses that actually provide customer service, and raise administrative costs and salaries many times faster than inflation.  This is exactly what has happened in public schools, as infrastructure and teaching aid investments have been deferred in favor of raising salaries and adding untold number of vice-principals and administrators to every school.

But the government is focused on the long-term while greedy old for-profits are short-term focused.  Right?

Unfortunately, most of today's cutting-edge research is conducted
outside Europe, which was once a pioneer in this field. About 78% of
global biotechnology research funds are spent in the U.S., compared to
just 16% in Europe. Americans therefore have better access to modern
drugs. One result is that in the U.S., the annual death rate from
cancer is 196 per 100,000 people, compared to 235 in Britain, 244 in
France, 270 in Italy and 273 in Germany.

Update:  Ronald Bailey points out that drug re importation is just a way to impose drug price controls in the US, effectively applying the most aggressive price-control regime for each drug worldwide to US prices.  Right now, drug companies tolerate price controls set as much as 2/3 under US prices or more because they can still make money at the margin, because the marginal cost of drug production is so much lower than the total cost with R&D, etc. included.  However, they cannot survive at these prices applied to US demand.  Remember, drug companies have profits margins averaging in the 18-20% range.  Perhaps you might argue they should only be making 10%, but that only gives you room for an imposed 10% price cut, not the huge cuts politicians would like.  And you would get that only at tremendous costs in terms of lost freedoms and demolished incentives for new drug development.

Universal Health Care Trojan Horse

For quite a while, I have been arguing that universal health care is a Trojan horse for freedom-robbing government interventions into our personal habits (and micro-habits).  Suddenly activities that used to be personal choices that affected only ourselves (e.g. unhealthy diet) become public interest questions affecting government-funded health care costs.

Jonah Goldberg, via Ronald Bailey, seems to agree:

The British government recently unveiled
plans for a massive crackdown on "excessive drinking," particularly
among the middle class. It will include all of the familiar tactics of
public health officials: dire new warnings on wine bottles,
public-awareness campaigns, scolding from men and women in lab coats...

still subscribes to a system where health care is for the most part
socialized. When the bureaucrat-priesthood of the National Health
Service decides that a certain behavior is unacceptable, the
consequences potentially involve more than scolding. For example, in
2005, Britain's health service started refusing certain surgeries for
fat people. An official behind the decision conceded that one of the
considerations was cost. Fat people would benefit from the surgery
less, and so they deserved it less. As Tony Harrison, a British
health-care expert, explained to the Toronto Sun at the time, "Rationing is a reality when funding is limited."

it's impossible to distinguish such cost-cutting judgments from moral
ones. The reasoning is obvious: Fat people, smokers and "” soon "”
drinkers deserve less health care because they bring their problems on
themselves. In short, they deserve it. This is a perfectly logical
perspective, and if I were in charge of everybody's health care, I
would probably resort to similar logic.

But I'm not in charge
of everybody's health care. Nor should anyone else be. In a free-market
system, bad behavior will still have high costs personally and
financially, but those costs are more likely to borne by you and you
alone. The more you socialize the costs of personal liberty, the more
license you give others to regulate it.

Universal health care,
once again all the rage in the United States, is an invitation for
scolds to become nannies. I think many Brits understand this all too
well, which is one reason why they want to fight the scolds here and

I like his term "socializing the costs of personal liberty."  Its a good description of much of what is wrong with government today.

Burning Climate Skeptics at the Stake

Ronald Bailey makes a plea for free scientific inquiry in response to Dave Roberts proposal vis a vis climate skeptics.  Mr. Roberts said, in part:

When we've finally gotten serious about global warming, when the
impacts are really hitting us and we're in a full worldwide scramble to
minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these
bastards"”some sort of climate Nuremberg

Oh goody, yet another reason I will be put up against the wall come the progressive revolution.  I would give Mr. Roberts a helpful suggestion:  A better analog for prosecuting people over their scientific beliefs would be the Catholic Church's various attempts to stamp out heresy, including their prosecution of Galileo for his views that the earth orbits around the sun, rather than vice-versa.

My views on the reasonable skeptical middle ground on climate change here. (and more here)

Besides, I would argue that progressives like Mr. Roberts willful ignorance of the science of economics has been far more destructive than potential scientific misreadings of global warming.