Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

Archive for August 2007

Snow cashes in

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Ezra gets all crazy and petty on the subject on Tony Snow’s resignation:

He’s resigning because he’s out of money. Not long ago, he told Hugh Hewitt that “I’m not going to be able to go the distance, but that’s primarily for financial reasons. I’ve told people when my money runs out, then I’ve got to go.” Snow makes $170,000 a year. Real median income in this country is about $50,000. So this White House spokesperson doesn’t think you can live on $170,000, but repeatedly told the press corps that “It is worth reminding people of how good this economy is.”

C’mon, Ezra, lighten up. It’s possible to critique the administration’s pretty awful economic policies — especially with regard to their effect on ordinary people — without resorting to (left) wingnuttery. And besides, when did Tony Snow say he doesn’t think he “can live on $170k?” He no doubt has implied he and his family can’t live on 170 grand in the manner to which they’ve grown accustomed, but that’s a very different thing. Even a quite large family can purchase adequate food, clothing, shelter, health insurance and transportation on that money. You can certainly live on $170,000 annually, even in a relatively expensive area like Washington, DC.

What folks might not be able to do on 170 grand is: make the mortgage payments on a big house in one of the swankier corners of greater DC and a vacation house at the beach and maintain three high end European imports and fly first class and afford Ivy League tuitions and dine out at expensive restaurants and afford seasons tickets to the Redskins and stay at top hotels when visiting London…

In other words, Tony Snow’s family is used to living the life of the affluent. It’s just silly to try and turn this fact into yet another way to pillory George W. Bush (as much as his policies deserve it).

Anyway, I can’t imagine the life expectancy for someone undergoing treatment for a recurrence of intestinal cancer is very long, so Snow undoubtedly wants to put away some money while he still can. I feel bad for the guy myself. Seems like a decent fellow.

Written by Jasper

August 31, 2007 at 11:01 pm

Posted in Economics, Politics

The cat ate my blogroll

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Once upon a time I had a wicked pissah blogroll complete with links to lots of bloggers big and small. My site went through a period of benign neglect for a couple of months over the summer (Hey, can you blame me? YOU try living through countless New England winters without developing a tender, obsessive, and hyper sentimental adoration of the weeks between Memorial and Labor Days), and this was followed by some format tinkering, and, lo and behold, my blogroll got lost.

Anyway, I plan to get the damn thing back on the site within the next few days, and build it up to a proper length in short order. So, if you happen to be a blogger, and you’re willing to link to me, shoot me an email or comment, and I’ll include your blog on mine. Seriously, I will. I don’t care how badly you write or how little traffic you get. Thanks in advance.

Written by Jasper

August 28, 2007 at 8:54 pm

Posted in Blogs, Miscellania

By the company they keep

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Awesome! My old party just picked up a key new ally in its noble quest to fight the browning of America.

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August 28, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Beggar thy neighbor

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Kevin Drum brings to our attention an LA Times opinion piece by one L. J. Williamson, who apparently is miffed at the efforts of the lunch ladies to get a little health insurance:

Part-time food service employees are seeking the same health benefits — including coverage for their families — that their full-time counterparts enjoy. Extending these benefits to cafeteria staff who currently work only three hours a day would cost an estimated $40 million a year, according to school board calculations…This is fat that the food service’s too-lean budget simply doesn’t have. If health benefits were extended to these part-time workers, the CFPA estimates it would mean that the per-plate meal budget would be reduced from 85 cents to 49 cents. Making healthy food available for that amount would take a miracle of biblical proportions. So we’d be improving the healthcare of nearly 2,000 part-time workers at the expense of the 500,000 children who eat in public school cafeterias every day.

In reply comes a morning rant from Kevin:

It’s true that the growing gap between public workers and private workers is a real problem. In the past, there was something of a tradeoff: public sector workers generally got paid less than private sector workers but made up for it with job security and benefits. Today, though, public workers generally get higher salaries and better benefits and more vacation and earlier retirement and more lucrative pension packages compared to comparable private sector workers. And private sector workers are understandably annoyed by this. But their annoyance would be better directed not at the lucky public sector workers, but at the mahogany row executives and conservative politicians who pretend that the only possible use for the mountains of cash generated by decades of economic growth is to give it all to mahogany row executives and the billionaires who contribute to conservative politicians.

That Drum fellow sure can write.

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August 28, 2007 at 7:17 pm

The ever littler big three

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Matt Zeitlin goes on a rant about the awfulness of Detroit’s products:

American cars, for the most part, are an inferior product.  They also have the potential to destroy the world.  At the low end, their Japanese (and ever Korean) competitors are cheaper, better designed, more fuel efficient and have better technology.  While the Ford Focus is one of the better low end American efforts, it is only popular overseas and is still beaten out by a comparable Civic at home.  Comparable Ford and Chevy’s to Corey Spaley’s favorite, the Honda Accord simply can’t compete with it’s higher gas mileage and superior design.  When American companies try to make more expensive, performence cars — like the Mustang GT, they are inefficient, overpowered brutes.  The GT has a lame 65 hp/liter, which pales in comparison to similarly powered Japanese cars, which manage to get around 100 hp/liter (Subaru WRX STI and Mitsu Evo).  Though the GT has an aluminum engine block, American companies have been late to using anything besides heavy cast iron in engine blocks.  Not to mention the poor gas mileage, 15/23 highway city.

Okay, Zeitlin, I’ll see your rant and raise you one: nobody ’round these parts under the age of 50 seems to even consider buying American (save in the USV category). I actually kinda like the new high end caddies, but not much else.

I’ve long been of the opinion that plain old marketing and branding bears a lot of the blame for Detroit’s decline. Look at one pretty successful Japanese automaker, Honda. They’ve got, like, four or five principal models that account for the bulk of their sales. Compare that to General Motors, which has, like, 30 or 40 to choose from. I mean, hello!?! Can you say “dillution of brand”? Has it really occurred to nobody in Detroit that a strategy that made sense in 1957 doesn’t work anymore? They’ve literally had decades to study their own decline and formulate strategies to reverse it. If I were dictator of GM I’d rename the company “Chevrolet”, I’d get rid of most of their divisions, and I’d cull the models down to a number comparable to what Toyota or Honda have to offer.

Modern, busy consumers simply can’t wrap their very harried brains around the dozens of possible models that GM can sell them. Thing is, it’s a total waste anyway, because anybody with an IQ over 70 can plainly see that the “Pontiac” and “Buick” and “Chevrolet” (or Pymouth, Dodge and Chrysler, etc) versions are pretty much the same product. Their lack of respect for the intelligence of the car buying public is simply astonishing. If ever there existed a firm that deserved to go out of business (and doesn’t deserve a dime of public money should the need arise) it’s General Motors, closely followed by Ford and Chrysler.

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August 28, 2007 at 5:48 pm

Michael Vick’s biggest fan

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The following thought occurred to me this morning: don’t you think David Stern is probably elated about the Michael Vick scandal? It’s definitely long past time for the once (but no longer) effective NBA impresario to lose his job, but the amount of media energy focused on his league’s travails is looking mighty skimpy at present.

Written by Jasper

August 28, 2007 at 8:21 am

Posted in Culture, Media, Sports

A lot like forty summers ago

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I don’t write much about Iraq (nor a great deal about foreign or military affairs in general) for a very good reason: I’m simply not much of an expert. Fortunately, other people seem to know what they’re talking about. Kevin Drum, for instance, has these sobering words for us:

Anbar is good news despite the long-term risk of arming Sunni tribal leaders. Petraeus seems to be doing a good job on the counterinsurgency front (though it’s frankly hard to say how much of this is good PR based on a limited number of success stories and how much is genuine widespread progress). And it’s possible that violence is down in Baghdad, though I’d rate the odds of that at no more than 50-50. On the downside, most of the evidence suggests that violence is following seasonal patterns and is going up, not down. The insurgency seems to be getting worse in the north. Civil war is breaking out in the south. Anecdotal reports of progress are undercut by suggestions that we’ll need to stay in Iraq for another decade. The Iraqi police force is a disaster and the army doesn’t appears to be much better, despite the usual Pentagon claims of improvement. Kirkuk is a timebomb. Iraqi infrastructure is in a ruinous decline. And the insurgency is apparently bigger than it was a year ago. The conventional wisdom this summer, after a steady round of dog-and-pony shows from the military, says that although political progress in Iraq is nil (or even in reverse), at least we’re finally making some tactical progress on the security front. And maybe we are. But I’m trying to be as honest as I can be here, and it looks to me like the balance of the evidence suggests that this is more hype than reality. As near as I can tell, we’re not making much progress on either front.

Read the whole thing. It’s not a pretty picture. As much as I wish he were wrong, my fear is he’s very likely right. It’s time to get out.

Written by Jasper

August 27, 2007 at 6:54 pm

Posted in Foreign Policy, Iraq

Britain’s murder spike

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Iain Dale discusses Britain’s recent increase in gang-related, US-style gun homicide:

All the evidence points to the lack of a male role model being a key part in a child’s descent into dark places. That’s not criticising single mothers, it is just a statement of fact. Chances are that a child with two parents will emerge into adulthood as a more rounded individual that if it doesn’t have two parents. This is especially true in inner city areas. This cannot be turned around within a few years, but if we do not do something in our education system to explain the benefits of duo-parenthood then if the current trend continues I fear not only for the future of our inner cities but wider areas too. As someone who in the past has aspired to hold political office, I don’t mind admitting that issues like this leave me reeling. I admire those who are thinking about the answers because I suspect very few of us can point to individual measures which we could take immediately to make a difference. Should we be adopting zero tolerance policies in inner cities, or would that push the crimes out into the suburbs? Should we seek to understand less and punish more, or would that entrench criminality for life? Whatever we do, we must learn from other countries. It’s clear that parts of our major cities are experiencing the kind of violent crime which used to afflict many major US cities. We need to learn from from them how they have tackled it and reduced it. New York is not the only example to look at. But we need to do it quickly.

It seems to me the sociological “causes of crime” approach is overly ambitious. Provide people with a good economy and solid education system by all means, but there’s not a whole lot that government can do besides that. All this talk of lack of role models and the bad influence of gangsta culture leaves me underwhelmed. While no doubt these things do add to an atmosphere that encourages violent crime, what exactly can government do about them?

Last time I looked Britain’s murder rate was still only 1/8th or so of America’s, so the British must be doing something right. As a Yank, I’d frankly be tickled pink if the USA had to deal with Britain’s (much smaller) violence “problem.” I mean no disrespect to the victims or families impacted by the recent violence, of course. But by world standards the United Kingdom is still a remarkably peaceful place.

What government can do, of course, is provide swift, efficient justice and effective policing targeting those who commit violent crimes, and those who would seek to profit from violent crime through the black market sale of firearms.

A big part of “effective and swift justice” means putting violent offenders in prison, where they no longer represent a threat to the general public. Imprisoning large numbers of people should make everyone a bit squeamish. And America’s record in this respect is frankly a national scandal (America imprisons a shockingly high percentage of its population). What I don’t think is right is to put huge numbers of non-violent offenders in jail. But I don’t see an alternative to putting away the violent ones. And without a doubt, such a strategy has played an important role in helping the US reduce the incidence of violent crime. It’s not pretty. And it sure isn’t cheap. But building prisons and confining violent criminals inside them has to play a role in any civilization’s quest to protect itself from its most violent elements.

Finally, though there’s not much that can be done about knives (we all have to cut our meat and vegetables, after all), I suspect Britain could redouble its efforts to remain a relatively firearms-free country. Again, this isn’t cheap, and will mean hiring more police specifically charged with the task of going after the illegal guns trade. But making it once again difficult to obtain an illegal gun in Britain will surely go a long way toward reducing the level of murder and mayhem on British streets. As I have argued on numerous occasions (and regrettably to little effect) to pro-gun Americans, being forced to rely on knives and fists turns many a would-be murder into a survivable assault.

UPDATE: I don’t know where I picked up that “Britain’s murder rate is 1/8th of America’s” stat. Well, actually I do, but the blog in questions shall remain nameless. Anyway, I don’t have a link at the moment, but I think recent statistics show America’s murder rate is “merely” triple that of the United Kingdom, not eight times.

Written by Jasper

August 26, 2007 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Crime, Culture, Policy

B-slapping the Chisox

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The events unfolding on Chicago’s South Side over the last few days have, to my recollection at least, constituted the most dominating series performance by any Red Sox team, ever.

David Ortiz hit a two-run homer, and J.D. Drew and Bobby Kielty ended long homerless droughts to back Julian Tavarez’s first win since late June as the Boston Red Sox finished a four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox with a 11-1 victory Sunday…The Red Sox outscored Chicago 46-7 in the series, dropping the White Sox to 18 games under .500. Boston has won four in a row, improved baseball’s best record to 80-51 and increased their lead over second-place New York to 7 1/2 games in the AL East.

Emphasis mine. Now bring on the (cough, slumping, cough) pinstripes.

Written by Jasper

August 26, 2007 at 4:56 pm

Posted in Boston, Sports

Babies and bath water

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Cafe Hayek brings to Jasper’s attention a John Stossel column on the how America’s healthcare system stacks up in world rankings. Here’s a little excerpt:

The New York Times recently declared “the disturbing truth … that … the United States is a laggard not a leader in providing good medical care.” As usual, the Times editors get it wrong. They find evidence in a 2000 World Health Organization (WHO) rating of 191 nations and a Commonwealth Fund study of wealthy nations published last May. In the WHO rankings, the United States finished 37th, behind nations like Morocco, Cyprus and Costa Rica. Finishing first and second were France and Italy. Michael Moore makes much of this in his movie “Sicko.” The Commonwealth Fund looked at Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States — and ranked the U.S. last or next to last on all but one criterion. So the verdict is in. The vaunted U.S. medical system is one of the worst. But there’s less to these studies than meets the eye. They measure something other than quality of medical care. So saying that the U.S. finished behind those other countries is misleading. First let’s acknowledge that the U.S. medical system has serious problems. But the problems stem from departures from free-market principles. The system is riddled with tax manipulation, costly insurance mandates and bureaucratic interference. Most important, six out of seven health-care dollars are spent by third parties, which means that most consumers exercise no cost-consciousness. As Milton Friedman always pointed out, no one spends other people’s money as carefully as he spends his own.

This, shockingly, got a nice frothy libertarian contra socialist comment debate going. Characteristic of the debate is the following claim:

The US healthcare system is the best in the world. Period. Better doctors, better/more accessible delivery, better research and development, better perfusion, better administration, better response time, better trained professionals (just not enough), better overall in virtually every single measurable metric.

Okay, let’s get one thing straight: what we have in the United States is certainly not the best healthcare system by “every single measurable metric.” What I think is more accurate to say is that the product delivered by this system is often superior — but the system for delivering that product is creaky, inefficient, and in need of reform. The libertarian pro status quo folks are aping the rigid, “blinders on” stance of their left wing opponents in the pro single payer camp. Both approaches are flawed.

While the actual product delivered by the US healthcare system is very often the best in the world, that system is nonetheless subject to pressures and difficulties that are far less severe and even non-existent in other rich world healthcare systems. Generally speaking, in those other systems, people don’t get denied coverage for preexisting conditions, but in the US this is a serious issue. As is the related problem of job lock. Moreover, in the US, a significant portion of the population lacks medical insurance at any given time; depending on whose statistics you cite that number is anywhere from 7% to 15% of the public. In the rest of the rich world that number approaches zero. In the US, administrative expenses — such as the money devoted to finding out which people ought not be sold an insurance policy — are a tremendous drain of resources. Again, these numbers have consistently been shown to be much lower in other rich countries. And here in the US, medical expenses are a significant driver of personal bankruptcy and financial ruin. Again, this simply isn’t the case elsewhere. And by “other” systems we’re not necessarily talking about evil socialist schemes. France, Australia and Switzerland, to give a few examples, embrace a wide degree of private sector participation in healthcare, and yet manage to avoid the pitfalls of the US model. And their systems deliver results broadly in line with the American experience. For a lot less money.

I agree with many libertarians about the numerous advantages America consumers enjoy because of the heavy participation of non-governmental actors in the delivery of healthcare. I also strongly agree with the notion, that, in any efforts to enact reform, we should refrain from throwing out the private sector baby with the bath water. But nonetheless it’s time to change that increasingly dirty water.

Written by Jasper

August 26, 2007 at 4:06 pm

Overheard on a Celtics online discussion board

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Somebody made the point that, even if things don’t turn out all that well for Danny Ainge’s rebuilding strategy, the Boston Celtics will actually be in a pretty good position to quickly rebound back into contention. Why? Because each of the three monster contracts they’re currently paying will become extremely valuable commodities  entering their respective final years. So, if, say, Garnett doesn’t quite work out, somebody’s bound to want to unload a younger, talented player in the middle of a multi-year deal to Boston in exchange for the Ticket’s expiring contract (which comes off the cap as it expires, thereby freeing up megadollars that can be used to sign a top player).

Is it possible that Danny Ainge has gone from goat to Auerbachian genius in just a few months?

Written by Jasper

August 23, 2007 at 10:19 pm

Posted in Boston, Sports

McArdle on the morality of healthcare finance

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Speaking of Megan, I’ll point readers to a long and rambling post by this (usually) very excellent blogger on healthcare — a subject near and dear to all the wonkishly minded these days. It’s frankly a bit sprawling and unfocused, so I’ll just cut to the chase — namely, my reaction. And my reaction is that trying to look at the particulars of health care finance as a moral issue is tiresome in the extreme.

There’s nothing more important than considerations of moral philosophy, but something as dry and policy wonkish as health insurance should be reserved for the utilitarians.

In my view making sure everybody has robust insurance coverage via the use of taxpayer money just makes sense. It’s not necessary to talk about justice.

If the US were to enact guaranteed, universal health insurance — adapting the best practices in place throughout the rich world for use in America — the country’s wealthy would hardly be worse off, even if their taxes were to increase. If you don’t believe this, ask rich folks in Australia or Denmark whether or not they enjoy high standards of living. The wealthy can afford to pay more in taxes. When you’ve got a lot of money you can afford things.

Middle and upper middle class people don’t have much room in the family budget for higher taxes, but theirs wouldn’t have to increase very much – and in amny cases they’d come out ahead (I guarantee you some poor schmuck paying 1,400 bucks a month for COBRA coverage would be better off financially were he to pocket the premium and pay Ontario levels of taxation). And the freedom — yes, let’s call it by it’s real name — the freedom to never have to worry about losing your coverage; the freedom from job lock; the freedom to join an exciting but risky start up; the freedom from the threat of disease-induced penury; the freedom of knowing your children’s health insurance can never be canceled — the value of such freedoms would be priceless to average people.

And, the poor, of course, would come out ahead with a robust system of universal health insurance — no calculus required.

Oh, and lots of businesses would realize a net advantage, as well.

Let’s keep it simple. Leave the discussions about angels and pinheads for the philosophers. The rest of us can debate and discuss costs and benefits.

Written by Jasper

August 23, 2007 at 10:10 pm

Deep thoughts

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Those environmentally-friendly light bulbs are cool, I guess, and they’ll save us all money in the long run. But I’ve noticed sometimes they simply don’t fit your average lamp. Which means I’ll have to continue to buy the old fashioned variety light bulb. Ain’t no way I’m getting read of all my light fixtures just to save a planet.

Written by Jasper

August 23, 2007 at 9:01 pm

I heart Jane Galt

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Well, Megan McCardle finally rolled out her snazzy new blog today on The Atlantic’s website. Shockingly, regular visitors to the site aren’t unanimous in their joy at her arrival. One commenter (rather representative of, oh, about 80% of the reactions, I’d guess) opines:

One is not born a libertarian: one has to chose to dismiss pretty much all the hard lessens learned through generations of struggle by people striving for freedom in order to embrace libertarianism.

Pardon mon français, but the above is just bullshit.

Now, Jasper ain’t no libertarian. I likes me some big government, Nordic-style safety nettage, or at least the smaller scale Canadian/Brit variety. I’ve got a list of things I’d like the government to spend more money on that tallies out to about $500 billion (or 4 points of GDP). I’m utterly confident embracing my vision would increase national utility.

But I’m not arrogant enough to cling to such patronizing notions about people whose values are different from mine. There is a real moral core at the heart of the libertarian argument, and it’s about freedom. At the end of the day, us bigger government fans must acknowledge our proposals rely on taking other people’s property.

Thing is, everybody except the anarchist agrees that sometimes it is indeed necessary to take other people’s property. It’s pretty hard to imagine even the most minimalist government surviving sans mandatory taxation. But libertarians — quixotic though their project might be — at least have the decency to only want to take as little of the other guy’s money as is possible. They value freedom and property rights more than you or I do — let’s be honest with ourselves.

Property rights shouldn’t be absolute of course, but they also shouldn’t count for nothing. The Robust Safety Net Nirvana I would like to see enacted most assuredly does reduce some people’s freedom. I disagree with the libertarians on this issue because I deem the utilitarian calculus is in my favor. But I don’t kid myself I possess sufficient moral insight to know with absolute assurance that the right and wrong part favors me. For all I know it is the libertarians who are right, and that all the filled stomachs and free healthcare in the world doesn’t justify taking somebody else’s nth marginal buck.

Anyway, I welcome Ms. McArdle’s addition to The Atlantic’s Voices. It’s best not to get too comfortable and smug in one’s ideas.

Written by Jasper

August 20, 2007 at 7:04 pm

Posted in Blogs, Economics, Policy

Senator Big Tent

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Over at Ezra’s place Kathy Geier writes:

…by the time of the Democratic convention, the Democratic nominee, whoever it is, is going to be portrayed by the media, and is going to be seen by a significant swathe of the public, as “divisive.” They did this with candidates as bland and moderate as Gore and Kerry, so what’s going to stop them from viciously smearing Obama or Edwards?…I think the allegedly “divisive” Hillary has an advantage, in that she’ll exceed expectations. In the fantasy world of the wingnuts, of course, Hillary is a shrieking Marxist harridan from hell, but in debates and speeches, she sounds reasonable, quietly authoritative, like a normal person. People will see this, and I think even a lot of the Republicans who are so hostile to her will calm the fuck down a little. They’ll never like her or vote for her, but they may be a lot less motivated to defeat her than people think.

I’m not so sure I’d agree with Kathy there don’t exist Republicans — or at least independents who normally lean Republican — who will vote for Hillary Clinton. I know, because I’m one of them. Reasons:

1) Although I disagree with Clinton on plenty of issues, and I was never a huge fan of her husband, the fact of the matter is any honest person has to admit the competence and normalcy of the Clinton years — when our biggest problem was oral sex — is looking mighty attractive right now. There’s no guarantee the Mrs. will perfectly emulate the Mr., but I reckon their philosophies and levels of intelligence are broadly similar.

2) The lurch to the right on the GOP side would be comical if it weren’t so scary. If you’re a moderate/centrist person who usually votes for the GOP, the fact is you now probably disagree with mainstream Republican opinion on as many issues as you do with the Democrats. I mean, there used to be a branch of the Republican party that was non-nativist, pro-immigrant, pro-diplomacy, and pro fiscal rectitude. Plus, even from a conservative, pro-business perspective, it’s obvious that the healthcare sector is screwed up (and that the GOP has essentially given up working on domestic policy issues). Moreover, from a hawkish perspective you can (and I do) make the argument the country would be made safer by taking resources from the Iraq fiasco and shifting them to Afghanistan. Anyway, with John McCain basically being run out of the GOP by the brain dead, and with the rest of seven dwarfs jumping all over themselves to pander to Jefferson Davis’s descendants, there’s really no place to go but to abandon the party of Lincoln for a cycle or two, and help the opposition save the country.

3) Again, even if you add up the tally of issues and find you disagree with Hillary on as many issues as you do with, say, Fred Thompson, at least with the former you’re getting somebody from a party that doesn’t seem, at least, to be actively trying to subvert the smooth functioning of government. I mean, I recognize there are limits to the ability of the public sector to solve all our problems. But I also recognize there are limits to our ability to deal with problems without the involvement of a competent public sector. As long as we must have a government, we might as well have one that works. I get the feeling that an unofficial but tacitly recognized position widespread in GOP circles is that government — outside of the national security apparatus — is for losers. I just don’t think the country will be a decent place to live — and won’t have a prayer of success in an increasingly competitive global economy – if this attitude is allowed to reign for very much longer.

I write these words as person who — honest to goodness — has voted GOP six presidential elections in a row — going back to the Gipper in ’84 (when I turned eighteen). For all the angst she causes liberals, Hillary Clinton has positioned herself — pardon the expression — as the best man for the job. She just seems to have more gravitas than any candidate on either side of the aisle. I’m predicting a landslide next year for the Democrats.

Written by Jasper

August 18, 2007 at 11:11 pm

Posted in Election 08, Politics

America: the healthcare spendthrift

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Kevin Drum ponders the issue of healthcare costs, and the reliance on life expectancy as a metric:

On a (marginally) related note, though, one thing that always bugs me about these discussions is their focus on mortality. In the great scheme of things that might be worth focusing on since a large portion of our healthcare dollars are spent in the last year or two of life. But extending life is hardly the only — or even the primary — purpose of healthcare. I tore a meniscus in my knee a few years ago and ended up getting $10,000 worth of arthroscopic surgery on it. It didn’t extend my life by a single minute, but it sure did improve my life. Ditto for things like dental care, antidepressives, athsma inhalers, cortisone shots, and all those infamous hip replacements. They cost a lot of money, but they don’t really have much of an effect on mortality at all. Still pretty nice to have around, though.

Good point, Kevin. I’ve always thought the same thing, which is one reason I’ve never had a problem with commercial advertising by drug companies. I mean, if you’ve got a product that will improve somebody’s quality of life, why shouldn’t you be able to market it? For the same reason, if we ever get everybody covered with medical insurance in this country, we all ought to take a chill pill over the issue of medical spending. Sure it’s likely to increase as a percentage of GDP for the foreseeable future. But if that spending is enhancing quality of life, why is that a bad thing?

Written by Jasper

August 15, 2007 at 9:16 pm