Back in 2007 I said “cut medicine in half”, as its marginal value is too low. (Since then, US spending is up 40%!) But prestigious health economists said yes on average marginal value is low, but don’t I agree that some identified treatments have high value, and as there must be more like that, we should wait and not cut until we can identify which are high vs low. I say cut now, and only add back good things once you can identify them. Those hidden good treatments are the nut in a
In February and March of 2020, as I read all I could about respiratory infections and watched where COVID-19 was having its worst impact, I realized that the dry indoor air of winter makes viral respiratory infections much worse (this is not the only factor, but it is a very big one). The data have born this out.
The mechanisms are simple:(1) Mucociliary clearance, the mechanism by which foreign particles are carried out of the lungs, functions poorly in very dry air as mucus dries out.(2) Dry air can lead to damage of surfaces of the throat and lungs (in the same way that dry air gives you cracked lips). This makes you vulnerable to inflammation and infections at the site of the injury. The virus can enter through such fissures.
I made it my goal to let the world know about winter humidifiers against COVID and I mostly failed as I am not well-known and the level of noise on this is extreme. But alas. Once more into the breach.
Since nobody will listen to me, here is leading COVID-19 expert Prof. Akiko Iwasaki of the Iwasaki virology lab at Yale Medical school and her team speaking:
For those who like to read scientific papers, a 2020 review of respiratory virus seasonality with some 130 citations explains things well (figure 4 says it all):https://www.annualreviews.o...
And for the lay person:https://www.washingtonpost....
The effects of humidity are dramatic. Florida and Texas have been almost completely open while New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan have been largely locked down, and yet those lockdown states have had much worse disease and death than those humid states. Humidity is the difference because indoor air is generally temperature controlled everywhere.
I bet a few hundred thousand lives will be saved this winter if this becomes widely known.
In the usual way economists that count these things, the value that the old put on their lives counts in total value, so reducing it is a cost.
From a strict accounting point of view, Covid deaths among the elderly have no net cost at all. In fact these deaths actually save money for society.
These deaths mean fewer years collecting Medicare and Social Security benefits, fewer families impoverished by nursing home costs, etc.
As Robin has pointed out, we have good emotional reasons for obeying the Golden Rule and treating the elderly well. But doing so is a pure cost. It is certainly not the worst way to spend our nation's excess wealth (compared to gambling or war, for example).... but it is pure spending nonetheless.
(p.s. I am 73 yrs old)
Not sure. Maybe it depends on what levers of influence you have access to. Do pull sideways if you have levers to do that, but sometimes you are limited in your channels of influence.
How does this "maybe we should just be yelling MORE or LESS because that's all the public/policymakers can hear" jive with one of my favorite posts of yours that emphasizes the importance of pulling sideways on some axis few people care about to make progress under partisan divides?
"Caplan and me" or "Caplan's and mine". Sorry, couldn't help it. Carry on.
Perhaps it's better to say that the spending we're actually doing on prevention is very wasteful. Spending a comparable amount on rapid testing and N95s rather than lockdowns and cloth masks would probably be highly beneficial.
For example, a test for late-stage pancreatic cancer has essentially no value for life extension, but considerable value to the peace of mind of the person who tests negative. Much of our medicine is like this.
I don't think you're factoring people's subjective sense of safety and reassurance into the marginal value of prevention spending (or of medicine in your other writing). You're assuming the only purpose of these measures is to extend life and promote physical health, when in fact much of it has to do with the benefits to subjective well-being of reassuring people that they are healthy and are at low risk of becoming ill.
I'm not talking about Mercatus papers. I'm (pretty obviously?) responding to your blog posts that criticize posts of Caplan and I regarding covid over-prevention.
I don’t get what any of your criticisms are. People as a whole—private individuals and organizations as well as the government—should (a) spend less and put less effort into avoiding infection, and (b) spend more and put more effort into research into vaccines and therapeutics. Anyone who says either (a) or (b), without denying the other, is doing fine in my estimation. That includes Caplan, Hanson, Cowen, and Tabarrok: you’re the good guys!
Note also that I've overseen, put out, and helped to fund literally dozens of Mercatus working papers on exactly that. Not saying I agree with them all, but we have genuinely made a major effort on this. I genuinely don't get your criticism here.
You have used the monkey trap analogy for this pandemic earlier:https://www.overcomingbias....
Huh? The "impairment harms" I mentioned are exactly that cost.
Arguing for more of some kinds of spending and costs is different from arguing against other kinds of spending and costs. Bryan and I are seeking more of that 2nd type.