Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm thankful for this news: stem cells generated from adult human cells.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Today's campus vapidity

I just walked up Bascom Hill. All along the way I saw many little plastic windmills planted in the ground, along with many different photos of undergrads holding up a whiteboard saying "I support clean energy. Do you?" Sophomoric? Yes, but I suppose this could be the work of sophomores. First, everyone who pays federal taxes materially supports research and subsidies for clean energy. Second, Capital-L Libertarians exceptecd, everyone who votes in federal elections almost certainly votes for someone who at least votes in favor of federal money for clean energy research. Third, in the energy market, which of us would actually prefer dirty energy to clean if all other things were equal? Obviously, all things are not equal. So, for the sake of cleaner energy, how much should the government tax and regulate you and your energy suppliers? Should you volunteer monetary support for cleaner energy without waiting for the government to act? How much monetary support, and to whom? Ah, specific questions. Alas, specificity was not to be found, only slogans like "Please be Earth-friendly."

Limp sentiment accomplishes nothing; it just wastes energy.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Following up on this post, I see that Greg Mankiw is linking to some more precise numbers to back up his case that American life expectancy is actually best the in the world after adjusting for "non-health-related injury, such as homicide and car accidents"

Friday, November 09, 2007

'Tis such an interesting economics post, and with the title "MIT Guys," how long can I resist linking to it?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I highly recommend Greg Mankiw's recent numbers-rich NYT article about U.S. health care. Or at least his comments on "Statement 1" & "Statement 2." His argument about "Statement 3" is much less compelling; I think often the latest greatest fancy medical procedure or diagnostic is not worth the cost in expected-value terms. The underprovided public good is separation of wheat from chaff... But the first two thirds of the article are compelling if you believe the studies he cites. The gist is that things like obesity and homicide rates explain America's relatively low (in the West) life-expectancy ratings, and that the majority of the uninsured as tallied by the Census Bureau are in the upper half of the US income distribution or are not American citizens.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Miscellaneous data

1. "A 10 percentage point increase in the effective corporate tax rate reduces the investment to GDP ratio by about 2 percentage points"

2. "68 percent of African Americans and 61 percent of Hispanics favor vouchers, compared to 38 percent of whites."

The mandatory right to sue drug companies

That and more here.
Welch also argues that even if pharmaceutical companies were allowed to sell their drugs prior to approval, they have strong incentive not to do so. Anything that happens to a patient taking a drug in development could later be used to argue against approval, halting manufacture and denying that drug to future patients. And under current FDA regulations, patients cannot waive liability for negligence. Whether they want it or not, patients must have the right to sue, which means they may never be given the chance to take a risk.
I'd been wondering for a while now why drug companies don't just make their customers sign forms agreeing to private arbitration before making a sale. A typical juror's concept of negligence in this context is biologically, statistically, and ecomonically unenlightened. Complex cases are better decided by expert arbitrators. If the government would just get out of the way, private arbitration would become standard business practice for the pharmaceutical industry.
I was not optimistic about divided government controlling federal spending, but headlines like this one make me think twice: "Bush vetoes popular water projects bill." I'm still not optimistic, however. First, I suspect this particular veto will be overridden. Second, would Bush have vetoed this if he wasn't a lame duck?