Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Kling's not a doctor, but he plays one on the Internet

by Ken Houghton

Every once in a while, I wonder why the general public speaks as if economists are bonkers.

Then I read Arnold Kling
The trick proposition is number (2), that health care is a necessity. Some health care is a necessity. Not all health care is a necessity.

Getting an MRI after you hurt your back may give you peace of mind. Getting a colonoscopy every five years after you turn age 50 may be a helpful precaution against colon cancer. Getting an experimental, expensive, but unproven treatment for kidney cancer may give a dying man a sense of hope.

But none of these medical services is a necessity. You would not say that someone's human rights were violated if they did not obtain these services.

Certainly not. And the pain and cost of treatment of rectal-colon cancer is just compensation for letting it metastasize before checking to see if anything is wrong. As it is perfectly fine not to know whether your back has soft tissue damage or a herniated disc. And an experimental treatment may be unproven, but it provides hope both to the patient and the medical researchers who are trying to cure that cancer.

In Arnold Kling's world, we don't need to do research, we don't need to detect diseases when they can still be treated, and we don't need to know how badly we are injured or impaired.

There are those who would say that this is just the ultimate of laissez-faire, or the thinking of a "first-best economist."

I tried to believe that, until this:
On the issue of universal coverage, I say
most of the people who are uninsured today are reasonably healthy. They just do not want to pay for their own health insurance. In my view, they ought to be allowed to make that choice, but they should face the consequences. If they require health care, the cost should not be shifted onto other people who have insurance.

Yep. Those nine million completely uninsured children all chose not to buy insurance.

He doesn't just teach the children of Virginia; he holds them in contempt as well.

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I disagree with your interpretation of my essay. I did not say that getting screened for colon cancer is a bad idea. I just said that it is not a human right. I did not say that clinical trials are a bad idea. I just said that undergoing a therapy that is just in the clinical trial stage is not a human right.

As to uninsured children, if they are orphans then certainly it makes sense for the government to insure them. Otherwise, their families have the primary responsibility for paying for their health care. I stand by my position.

--Arnold Kling
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