Friday, February 20, 2009

About Economists...

When considering the opinions of economists who say prevention costs too much because it makes people live longer, it might be wise to keep in mind these words from from Nobel Prize winner Friedrich A. Hayek’s “Pretence of Knowledge” Speech:

“Unlike the position that exists in the physical sciences, in economics and other disciplines that deal with essentially complex phenomena, the aspects of the events to be accounted for about which we can get quantitative data are necessarily limited and may not include the important ones. While in the physical sciences it is generally assumed, probably with good reason, that any important factor which determines the observed events will itself be directly observable and measurable, in the study of such complex phenomena as the market, which depend on the actions of many individuals, all the circumstances which will determine the outcome of a process, for reasons which I shall explain later, will hardly ever be fully known or measurable. And while in the physical sciences the investigator will be able to measure what, on the basis of a prima facie theory, he thinks important, in the social sciences often that is treated as important which happens to be accessible to measurement.“

Prevention critics claim that preventing illness causes people to live longer, which results in costs to Social Security and other social programs that outweigh the savings accrued by preventing the initial illness. But when you suggest that helping people live healthier lives makes them more productive, they respond that they cannot measure that.

Thanks to Healthcare Economist for coming up with the Hayek quote.


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