Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Hopeful about the innovations transpiring in various small sectors of fields like medicine or education?

Atlantic Monthly blogger Megan McArdle isn’t.

According to McArdle, the history of “social science” — society? — is “littered with exciting programs that promised to both significantly improve the lives of the targeted populations, and to save money.” Yet average costs of education and health care keep going up.

Gee willikers, why?

Scalability. McArdle suggests that successful but small-scale experiments have expertise and enthusiasm going for them that can’t be readily replicated on very large scales. The positive effects of the small programs tend to disappear when people who don’t want to change their ways have to sign off.

She says that this isn’t a medical or educational problem but a social one.

What kind of social problem? McArdle doesn’t say.

But compare and contrast. Do small-scale innovations in electronics and computers, for example, tend to dissolve into puddles of social lethargy and recalcitrance even if they achieve substantial improvements at lower cost? Apparently not. So what’s the difference? Well, hardware and software firms may be taxed and regulated by government, but they’re burdened with nowhere near the level of bureaucracy that swaddles schooling and medicine.

In free markets, bad solutions don’t get entrenched. Good ones don’t either, unless they prove economically viable over time.

So how about removing the shackles and just letting us function as free people — in every realm of human endeavor?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor


  1. bruce stark says:

    Would vouchers eliminate the failing school system?
    I think so.

  2. Dr. T says:

    “In free markets, bad solutions don’t get entrenched.”

    Wrong. Bad solutions get entrenched all the time due to intellectual laziness.

    There are physicians who practice the medicine they learned decades ago, not the evidence-based medicine of today.

    There are farmers who farm like their grandfathers did despite evidence that the older techniques are less productive, less efficient, and cause more topsoil loss.

    There are people who spend thousands of dollars on nutritional supplements, herbal “medicines”, copper bracelets, etc. despite the complete lack of evidence that they cure anything.

    There are teachers and educators (even in private schools) who use teaching techniques that are known to be ineffective for most students.

    There are business managers in the private sector who treat employees in ways that are known to lower morale and decrease productivity.

    Bad solutions die out only when a significant number of competitors adopt better solutions that are recognized as better by consumers. (The latter clause is important, because consumers often continue to do business with those who offer the same old bad solutions. That’s why the quackeries of today are so similar to the quackeries of the 1800s.)

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