Arnold Kling  

Fantasy Agendas

Culture and Health Care Costs... Medicare-for-all Fantasy...

Tyler Cowen wants to means-test Medicare, get rid of farm subsidies and other corporate welfare, legalize more high-skilled immigrants, join Greg Mankiw's Pigou Club (meaning a tax on the use of evil fossil fuels) and get rid of the corporate income tax, and implement full-scale voucher experiments.

I predict we will get a carbon tax under the next Democratic president but not sooner; capital income taxation won't fall more than it already has.

He is equally cynical about the prospects for his other ideas.

Meanwhile, Jacob Hacker wants Medicare for the currently uninsured, universal personal retirement accounts (in addition to Social Security), more assistance for workers displaced by trade or technological change, and a pilot program of universal insurance of some sort.

While Cowen's agenda reflects some broad libertarian-leaning economist ideas, Hacker's is more specific to his personal hobby-horse, which is that trends are piling Big Risk onto The Little Guy, and We need to Do Something. I'm not a big Hacker fan, as we will see in the days ahead.

I think my fantasy agenda would be:

1. Solve the entitlement problem at the stroke of a pen by raising the age of eligibility.

2. Give school vouchers a real try.

3. Allow some states to experiment with radical deregulation of health care. I would like to see a state try letting anyone supply health care services, but with full disclosure of the supplier's qualifications or lack thereof.

4. Auction spectrum in a way that allows the owners to allocate it to its most valuable use, which I suspect is not any form of over-the-air television.

5. Try a pilot program that substitutes prizes for patents as incentives to develop pharmaceuticals.

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TRACKBACKS (3 to date)
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The author at Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of ... in a related article titled Fixing Unemployment Insurance writes:
    Arnold Kling and Tyler Cowen are offering five King-For-The-Day policy recommendations so I'm going to use it as an excuse to offer one of my own. [Tracked on October 20, 2006 10:58 PM]
COMMENTS (11 to date)
Eli writes:

Solve the entitlement problem at the stroke of a pen by raising the age of eligibility, AND by indexing benefits to prices, not wages.

ryan writes:

Even if they were allowed to deregulate healthcare, why would any state do so? The potential benefits to a government official of doing so are unclear, but the possible downside is enormous -- surely risk aversion will kick in here. At the same time, shouldn't we expect some real rent-seeking problems to kick in if anyone proposed ending what must be a somewhat profitable cartel? I know who will lobby against deregulation -- who will lobby for it?

ryan writes:

What I mean is, why would competition between states lead to deregulation in practice?

Jessica Pickett writes:

Which is your favorite global health R&D proposal? The current policy favorite (or at least my favorite) is the advance market commitment proposal. Is that what you were referring to, or are you thinking of one of the more strictly prize-oriented ideas?

aaron writes:

I'm definitely not a Hacker fan. He's been posting at Kevin Drum's and much of what he posts is just dumb. It is entertaining though. Reading the comments is good for a laugh.

About all I can get on board with him is giving help to people who need to transition to new jobs.

Ivan writes:

"5. Try a pilot program that substitutes prizes for patents as incentives to develop pharmaceuticals."

Isn't the patent the prive for development?

Isn't the patent system totally broken?

This is a horrible idea.

Chris writes:

My personal policy recommendation would be a change to unemployment insurance.

Instead of offering handouts to people that are not working, offer low interest loans to cover essentials: mortgages/rent, minimum credit card payments, utility bills, food allowance, etc.

Provide incentives for people to find work as soon as possible while taking as little as possible from the government.

Barkley Rosser writes:


Please do not be one of these ignorami who lumps all entitlements together. The medicare trust fund is currently running a deficit that is rapidly rising. There is clearly a problem with that one, and you are right that simply extending it to the rest of the population without any further changes is fiscally irresponsible.

However, there have been large amounts of literature showing that the mid-range forecast by the Social Security Trustees is simply ridiculously pessimistic. As long as real GDP growth exceeds about 2.2 % per year, well below historical rates, and below even our currently decelarated rate, and immigration continues at a modeslty positive rate, although well below our current one, the SS Trust Fund will run a surplus forever. There is no social security crisis and nothing needs to be done, unless one simply wishes to privatize for purely ideological reasons.

So, please do not join the chorus of idiots who conflate medicare and social security.

John writes:

My fantasy list would be in order:
1. Privatize education and eliminate government spending on education in any form.
2. Eliminate government participation in healthcare and health insurance.
3. Reduce the role of government from being social patron to social servant.
4. Make House/Senate jobs/positions part-time jobs with part-time pay and no benefits.
5. Require Non-profit organizations to add social value by earning a profit. In other words, no special tax and regulations for non-profits.

bruce charlton writes:

I am in favour of greater use of prizes to stimulate medical research, but I am also in favour of increasing the use of patents. The great benefit of patents is that they provide an incentive for marketing and selling the product, wheras prizes provide an incentive for making a discovery but not exploiting it.

Cyrus writes:


Part of the point of unemployment insurance is so that people are not forced to find work as soon as possible: the first job opportunity that presents itself to a job applicant under pressure is likely to underutilize the applicant's human capital, harming both that applicant, and the less-skilled person who could also have filled that position.

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