Taking the Fun Out of Life

A recent Bloomberg article ranked the U.S. health care system 46 out of 48 in efficiency based in part on life expectancy statistics. But Matthew Yglesias at Slate explains that life expectancy is a poor measure of a health care system’s performance:

If we raised the taxes on alcohol and gasoline and then spent all the revenue on a pointless bridge in Alaska, American life expectancy would go up. Not because our health care system would become more efficient, but because fewer people would die in car wrecks and murders. And as it happens, raising those taxes would be a good idea. Fewer people would die in car wrecks and murders!

Comments (17)

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  1. JD says:

    A lot of academic discussions fall prey to the same fallacious reasoning. It makes you wonder what else is wrong that we take for granted.

    • Dewaine says:

      I think that a lot of the problem is that public policy is so ideologically driven, yet we are trying to discuss it scientifically. Science, particularly social science, can be easily manipulated and misleading if you are expecting a certain result.

      • JD says:

        Similarly though, there are so many uncontrollable factors in social science that if we don’t know where we are going, we won’t know what to discount. It is a really hard balancing act that results in a lot of misinformation.

  2. JD says:

    I didn’t realize that Switzerland spends more per capita on health care than we do.

  3. Jimmy says:

    Our country spends our own money on some of the most stupid things!

    • JD says:

      And smart people still advocate for stupid spending in the name of “economic stimulus”. It’s ridiculous.

      • Dewaine says:

        The whole idea of “stimulus” is laughable. Why would a third-party spend your money more wisely than you would?

  4. Ian Random says:

    With the low cancer survival rates, letting old folks die, redefining live birth, high non-fatal violence numbers and all the “missing” people on dialysis, I still can’t believe the high life expectancy numbers in the socialized countries. That would make sense that discouraging driving and a homogenous society would bump them up.