David R. Henderson  

60 Minutes Highlights

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UPDATE: Correction below

Just before watching David Ortiz's grand-slam home run in the Detroit/Boston game this evening, I watched 60 Minutes bat 1.000. Two out of three segments were excellent, one was good, and all had explicit or implicit economic content. Of course, I have some critical comments.

1. The horrible state of Detroit. Bob Simon did a good job--I'll say in a minute why it wasn't excellent. I see the ruined neighborhoods he shows every year when I go to Detroit and visit my friend--the one who ran the gas station that I posted about.

The good news was Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans taking a risk and buying up buildings in downtown Detroit to locate his firm there from the suburbs.

Now the bad part from Simon. Simon asks: "Bob Simon: Are you doing what's good for Detroit or what's good for you?"

What I would have liked Gilbert to answer and what I answered to the TV in real time: "What do you mean 'or'?"

What Gilbert actually answered, which wasn't bad: "I know that sometimes there's Hollywood movies that, you know, describe every investor and profit-making capitalist as somebody very greedy. But in our case, I think it's doing well by doing good. And I think that fits very nicely together."

2. Boy Wonder, the story of Jack Andraka. Jack is a 15-year old who has developed a test for pancreatic cancer. His delight at winning a big prize is wonderful. He's such a sweet kid.

Here's the story of how his teacher--I think in his government school--reacted:

He began probing the Internet for everything he could find about pancreatic cancer biomarkers. He read research articles during class and in the middle of biology while stealthily reading a medical journal he says inspiration hit. The teacher was not amused.

Jack Andraka: I swear, she has, like, eyes on the back of her head or something. She sees me. And she storms up to my desk and is like, "Mr. Andraka, what is this?" and, like, snatches it out of my hand.

Morley Safer: As if you had Playboy Magazine right?

Jack Andraka: Yeah, yeah. I'm just like-- it was just a science article. Shouldn't this be a good thing?


He managed to persuade a scientist to give him a space in a lab to work out his ideas. When the camera shows him going into the lab, the viewer notices David Koch's name on the side of the building. You've heard of David Koch, right. He's that really bad man who wants to help people fight cancer and who hates America so much that he donated $10 million to the ACLU to fight the civil-liberties destroying USA PATRIOT Act.

UPDATE: A regular reader informs me that David Koch, contrary to the report linked above, did not contribute $10 million to the ACLU.

One creepy note:

Morley Safer: You've also become a heavy-duty celebrity?

Jack Andraka: It's pretty insane. I mean, you see Barack Obama.

Morley Safer: President Barack Obama.


Can't have this kid mention Barack Obama as if he's a guy. He's the President. Can't have the kid deny his authoritay.

One sobering note: The scientist who helped him cautions that the test for pancreatic cancer must undergo large-sample testing before it will be on the market. He doesn't explain why. But the reason is the FDA. We can't have people actually trying the test now. The downside, when there's no other test around, would be awful.

3. The daring rescue that saved 105 Vietnamese people from the Communists. Heroic story.

I would tell the latter story at greater length--kind of a mini-Schindler's List--but I need to go to bed to get up at 4:15 a.m. PDT to see who won the Nobel prize and figure out whether I know enough about the winner to write a piece for the Wall Street Journal.


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CATEGORIES: Economic Philosophy



COMMENTS (20 to date)
Bedarz Iliaci writes:

Are you doing what's good for Detroit or what's good for you?
The question makes sense. The questioner actually wants to know whether the primary intention is to do one's good or the good of the Detroit.
He may even know that in the standard economic paradigm, that good of the other is always an unintended (but sometimes foreseen) side-effect of doing one's good.

Ashwin writes:

@David,

It appears your link to the Vietnamese rescue story is the same as the one about Jack Andraka.

Mark Brophy writes:

It would be nice if 60 Minutes would play some music in the background of the interview with Jack Andraka:

We don't need no education
We don't need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it's just another brick in the wall

Parents who rent their children to government or religious schools are fools!

David R. Henderson writes:

@Ashwin,
Fixed. The link is now to the correct video. Thanks.

Yancey Ward writes:

I also noted the exchange over Obama's title. It did seem to me Safer was mildly chiding the kid for slighting Obama by not including the the title.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Yancey Ward,
My take also. The emphasis Safer put on "President" was unmistakeable. I generally like my fellow Canuck. I didn't like this.

Robert Shiller discusses why finance makes for the good society here. Which answers the 60 Minutes question about what's good for society.

Scott Sumner writes:

David, Doesn't your second paragraph contradict your first paragraph?

David R. Henderson writes:

@Scott Sumner,
How so?

Brian writes:

David, perhaps Scott is referring to this:


"All three segments were excellent"

"Bob Simon did a good job--I'll say in a minute why it wasn't excellent."

ColoComment writes:

Well, obviously (and granting the line the most charitable meaning possible), Safer was merely clarifying that the kid wasn't referring to another Barack Obama. LOL

David R. Henderson writes:

@Brian,
Oops. I'm sure that's what Scott meant. That will teach me to write in a hurry so that I can get to bed. :-)

MingoV writes:
The scientist who helped him cautions that the test for pancreatic cancer must undergo large-sample testing before it will be on the market. He doesn't explain why.
A false positive test for pancreatic cancer is a nightmare. The patient and his loved ones believe that death is likely. (Most pancreatic cancer patients die within one year of diagnosis.) Imaging studies may not be able to determine whether cancer is present. Confirmation will require a biopsy, a nontrivial procedure since the biopsy itself can release digestive enzymes that will damage the pancreas and surrounding tissues.

Unbiased assessment of the accuracy and precision of a cancer test are necessary, though such testing can be done privately.

Note: I was a medical director of clinical laboratories.

Harold Cockerill writes:

Who knows what's good for Detroit?

ThomasH writes:

Is there anything wrong with reminding a teenager that it's polite to show respect to elders: "President" Bush, "Governor" Perry, "Father" O'Mally.

liberty writes:

MingoV: "A false positive test for pancreatic cancer is a nightmare. The patient and his loved ones believe that death is likely. (Most pancreatic cancer patients die within one year of diagnosis.) Imaging studies may not be able to determine whether cancer is present. Confirmation will require a biopsy, a nontrivial procedure since the biopsy itself can release digestive enzymes that will damage the pancreas and surrounding tissues.
Unbiased assessment of the accuracy and precision of a cancer test are necessary, though such testing can be done privately."

I agree in general with your reply here, but just one thing: the point of this test is to catch it early, much earlier than was previously possible, so hopefully those diagnosed would not believe that death is likely, nor certanly within one year of this diagnosis. The whole point is that they would be catching it early enough that it should not be fatal. Still, it would be a traumatic ordeal and a lot of money and time wasted if it was a false positive.

Yancey Ward writes:

Why a teenager, Thomas? Would you have felt differently if Safer were interviewing Dan Gilbert? Or, let's say that Obama were not the president at all, but was instead a highly respected elder- would you have expected Safer to correct the young man by saying "Mister Obama"?

LD Bottorff writes:

Would Morely Safer have been comfortable reminding Barrack Obama to call John McCain SENATOR McCain?

The current president has set the tone by calling Senators by their first names. Let's respect the president's authority.

Brad Petersen writes:

MingoV: Your objection that false positives are a nightmare is easily resolved by simply telling the patient that the FDA hasn't vetted the test yet, and that false positive and false negatives are possible.

So take your chances or don't. That's what freedom is all about.

Your objection also ignores those who would presumably benefit from early notice that they suffer from pancreatic cancer.


Bob Crosser writes:

@Brad

Exactly! MingoV's (and the FDA's) premise is that patients, and their doctors, shouldn't/can't be trusted to make decisions for themselves.

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