Saturday, June 20, 2009

Foxes watching over chicken coops

In today's WSJ, Abraham Verghese writes about "The Myth of Prevention". With respect to Medicare (and the President's chiding of his AMA audience last week), the writer notes that:

Cut, poke, sew, burn, insert, inject, dilate, stent, remove and you get very well paid; if you learn how to do this efficiently, maybe set up your own outpatient center so you can do it to more people in a shorter time (which is what happened when this payment system was put in place in 1989) and you are paid even more. If, however, you are a primary care physician, and if, just like the young doctor who saw my parents yesterday, you spend time getting to know your patients, and are willing to play quarterback when your patient enters the hospital, so that you can herd the consultants and guide the family through a bewildering experience that gets surreal if you are in the intensive care unit, then you may have great personal satisfaction but you will make five to tenfold less than your colleagues in the doing-to disciplines.

In the same newspaper, Jason Zweig writes approvingly of the proposed financial sector regulations.

Over at The Austrian Economists, Peter Boettke sums up the insights of James Buchanan as "Don't let the fox guard the chicken coop."

That's the problem. In the old dueling-economists days at Newsweek, when Milton Friedman and Paul Samuelson went at it, I recall one of them writing that they agreed on the lessons of economics, except that one of them applied them to public policy questions. That was a clarifying moment.

Suspend disbelief, ignore public choice, and you enlist foxes to watch over chicken coops. How could it turn out any other way?