Monday, December 22, 2008

Something More Effective Than Government Health Care

Dr. Luigi Fontana at Washington University School of Medicine said in a recent Newsweek article "According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of heart disease and 40 percent of cancers could be prevented with a healthy diet and lifestyle." That was in the 12-15-2008 issue (page 52). The article is online at Never Say Die.

In 2001, according to my World Almanac, 29% of all deaths in the USA were from heart disease. Another 23% were due to cancer. Crunching the numbers tells us that about one-third of all deaths could then be prevented with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Those were by far the leading causes of death. But the next two are probably related, strokes and chronic lower respitory disease (but those two only combined for about 12% of deaths).

I don't think I have ever heard anyone who promotes government run health care say that they had a way to cut deaths by 33%. This shows how much individuals can do for themselves without help from government.

Why This Blog Is Called "The Free Market Alternative" (first post)

I generally believe that free market policies work best. Certainly there is a role for government in providing public goods (like national defense) and dealing with externalities (like pollution). But economics is fundamentally a study of alternatives. Which policy works best? It is not the case that case that the market is perfect or great (although I think it might be good, in and of itself, in some ways). We need to ask the question does the market work better than the alternative, government intervention or regulation? Milton Friedman said that when we have market failure the problem in assuming that government intervention will make things better is that the same lack of information that created the market failure might lead to government failure. Any government policy might also have unintened consequences that make the situation worse (like rent control).