Sunday, December 30, 2007

Be careful what you wish for!

The NY Times is such a funny bunny. In the opinion section I read "The Free Market: A False Idol After All?", where I am informed by Jared Bernstein that "Untethered Market Forces lead to bad things. You simply can't run an economy as complicated as ours on ideology alone".

Now we could have a lot of fun with that on its own, no? Being the richest country on earth is a bad thing?? Someone is "running" or supposed to be "running" the economy? Mr. Bernstein is bringing something beyond "ideology" to the table?

But, what I want to do here is to point out yet again, or in this case let the Times itself point out yet again, the simple fact that in the real world where we live, actual government regulation often makes things worse instead of better. To wit, two pages later, in the very same section of the Times, Atul Gawande unpacks a great example.

He describes a John Hopkins program that institutes a five step anti-infection checklist in hospitals. The program has been a big success, "Over 18 months, the program saved more than 1,500 lives and nearly $200 million", by among other things, reminding doctors to wash their hands before running IV lines into patients!

And then, the government acted: "Yet this past month, the Office for Human Research Protections shut the program down. The agency issued notice to the researchers and the Michigan Health and Hospital Association that, by introducing a checklist and tracking the results without written, informed consent from each patient and health-care provider, they had violated scientific ethics regulations. Johns Hopkins had to halt not only the program in Michigan but also its plans to extend it to hospitals in New Jersey and Rhode Island."

Ah yes. The sweet logic of the "small kings". A poster telling doctors to wash their hands is basically the same thing as an experimental drug and every patient that enters the hospital with the posters would have to provide written consent to having them there, just like you'd have to give written consent to being experimented on with a new drug therapy.

I can't wait for these guys to fix the financial services industry! How about y'all??

Maybe we could put a poster up all over the country saying "Remember: just because things could be better doesn't mean new government actions will actually make things better"

I wonder how long it'd be before the small kings would make us take it down?


The Unknown Professor said...

Sowell recently made a comment to the effect that those arguing for a larger role for the gummint typically compare a perfect government to an imerpfect market.

Kinda stacks the deck, eh?

Here's wishing a Happy New Year to the Mungo clan. My you all be healthy, happy, and well armed (an armed family is a polite one).

Dirty Davey said...

A fine example of "argument by anecdote". From a single instance of inappropriate regulation, you conclude that any government intervention is doomed to fail!

C'mon, Mungowitz, you know better than that.

Angus said...

1. if u call me mungowitz again, we're gonna have a real problem

2. i happily stand by everything in the post.

3. i dispute your characterization of my conclusion being "any government intervention is doomed to fail". I didn't say that at all.

4. come on DD, you know better than that.

Dirty Davey said...

1. My apologies for the misidentification. Since you are not Mungowitz, I cannot say whether you know better than that or not.

2. Argument by anecdote is still argument by anecdote.

Tom said...

I don't see "argument by anecdote" here. The thesis in the Times piece is that GovCo's regulations are needful and helpful. Angus's contribution is a counterexample. Having vivid counterexamples to his thesis is something Mr. Bernstein has to deal with.

Angus said...

DD: you say I conclude that "any government intervention is doomed to fail".

I ask you again, where do I say that?

Why cop an attitude? put up or shut up.

Dirty Davey said...

I take your statement:

"I can't wait for these guys to fix the financial services industry!"

to mean that you expect that, if "these guys" take action to deal with the plight of the financial services industry, the result will be a bad one.

(If in fact that was NOT a sarcastic remark and was meant to indicate that you really WERE looking forward to successful government intervention in the financial services industry, then the remark was a bit of a non sequitur.)

Angus said...

you have an amazingly deaf ear for humor, but even granted that I expressed pessimism about the efficacy of new regulations on financial services it still doesn't equate to "any government intervention is doomed to fail!"

you're busted. admit it.

you love to dish it but man u absolutely cannot take it.