One Man’s Health Care Costs Are Another Man’s Way Of Earning A Living

Nicholas Wade reports a fascinating story about a Ecuadoran villagers with a rare genetic abnormality that makes them very short but also seems to grant extraordinarily low rates of various illnesses.

Of course, if I had a dime for every promising-looking breakthrough in medical science that didn’t pan out in the end I’d be rich. But what if it does pan out?

That reminded me of some recent posts from Steve Randy Waldman and Ryan Avent that seemed to me to be walking up toward a Marx-style theory of overproduction, crisis, and the collapse of capitalism. Like suppose scientists did come up with a pill that grants you good health up to the year 100, at which point you quickly and painlessly drop dead. I’d take a pill like that. and I bet most everyone would join me. The short-term result would be . . . catastrophic economic collapse as the bulk of the health care sector is rendered obsolete.

Which in turn is a reminder that while it’s easy to talk about “controlling health care costs” in practice these “costs” are also known as “income” for a lot of people. The Internet has allowed for a revolution in reducing newspaper article distribution costs, also known as the collapse of the bulk of the American newspaper industry. Anything that works in a really radical way to make health care cheaper would create serious problems for lots of people and lots of firms and thus prompt fierce resistance.