How should we pay for medical research ?

by John Q on August 4, 2004

In reading the discussion on my post on pharmaceuticals and the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement, I thought it might be useful to look at the more fundamental question – how should we pay for medical research ? In the framework of neoclassical economics, it’s natural to start by looking at the free-market solution. In the absence of government intervention, firms innovate in the hope of securing above-normal profits by offering a superior product. They discourage imitators using a variety of methods such as branding and trade secrets. While these methods don’t work forever, in some cases they deliver enough profits to finance a satisfactory rate of innovation. But, as far as I know, no-one seriously suggests this is the case in relation to medical research. To finance adequate levels of medical research, we need some form of government intervention. There are three main options

* Patents

* Research grants

* Research rewards

Of these options, patents involve the most intrusive government intervention and the largest welfare costs.

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What to think

by Ted on August 4, 2004

Ken Layne is back from a long hiatus, and he’s smelling opportunism in the Sunday terror alert. He begins:

After getting through the insane security at CitiBank Headquarters — caused by four-year-old Evidence of Terror Plans released Sunday to scare the bejesus out of you — you get to say “Hi” to Laura Bush in the lobby! That’s neat. (emphasis added)

It’s neat when schedules work out that way.

Oh, and the Immediate Alert Scary-Ville terror info? Now they’re saying it actually refers to an attack planned for Sept. 2. You know, the last day of the Republican Convention in New York, when Bush gives his big speech?

This stinks. Go ahead and say, as Tom Ridge did this morning, “This is not about politics. It’s about confidence in government.” If you have to deny it’s about politics — while your party is actively campaigning in the locked-down buildings of New York City filled with teevee cameras and photographers and frazzled employees who wonder if today’s Terror Day — then you have done a Poor Job of showing us otherwise.

I didn’t know that. I’ve been content to be agnostic about this; I genuinely sympathize with the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” dillemma that the Administration faces.

But, yeah. If Homeland Security seriously believed that the CitiBank building was under direct threat- an “enemy target area”, specifically- what was Laura Bush doing there? Wouldn’t it put her safety at risk, while making the building a more attractive target?

Literature and the WWW

by Henry Farrell on August 4, 2004

As I’ve remarked “before”:, the Washington Post’s Michael Dirda is a prince among fiction reviewers. Dirda has wide-ranging tastes and an altogether infectious delight in the books that he loves (see “here”: for a collection of his recent reviews). It’s a pity then that the NEA’s “Reading at Risk” report has “provoked”: him into a fit of the “Birkerts”:

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Think different

by Ted on August 4, 2004

I’ve recently read some of the Sandman graphic novels by Neil Gaiman. Few who have picked them up will be surprised to hear that I’m finding them to be very, very good. But it occurred to me, while reading them, that virtually all of the non-human characters so far seem to act like humans.

They do things that real people can’t do, but they all seem to share the same motivations as people- pride, jealousy, duty, family ties, anger, love of power, and so on. Despite all the things separating them from humans- immortality, immense power, the obligation to hop around the universe picking up people when they die- the non-humans can be psychologically understood as super-people. They don’t seem noticeably less human than, say, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, or Humbert Humbert from Lolita.

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Liberals and their unfair stereotypes

by Ted on August 4, 2004

“I felt I should do my part to counter the prevailing notion in my neighborhood that Republicans are all obnoxious blowhards.”

Catherine Seipp, Beyond the Valley of the Bush-Bashers, in National Review Online

“I’m glad to be reminded that not everyone on the left is a Stalin apologist.”

Catherine Seipp, same article

via Roy Edroso

Free Trade Agreements are bad for your health

by John Q on August 4, 2004

Most of my blogging time this week has been devoted to criticism of the Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the United States. Wait! Don’t stop reading yet!

I know that “Trade agreement said harmful to small faraway country” is the stereotype of a boring newspaper story, but this one is really important to Americans as well as Australians, and to anyone interested in health policy. If you ever hope to see affordable health care in the US, you’d better hope that (against all the odds) this agreement falls at the final hurdle.

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Not for all the money in the world …

by Daniel on August 4, 2004

Due to a sudden period of enforced idleness, my insomnia is back (my previous schedule of working five caffeine-fuelled 14 hour days a week and recovering at the weekend had cured it nicely. I can recommend this method to anyone although to be honest, my doctor frowned on it). As a result, I find myself thinking about the aggregativity of capital, labour theories of value, and so on. I therefore pass on this small question which may be of some amusement to those of our readership who indulge in either cannabis or value theory; the two groups may find it equally interesting.

If you had all the wealth in the world, ie you owned every single object of value that was known to humanity ….

what would you spend it on?

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