Re: Property rights.

From: J. Andrew Rogers (
Date: Sun Apr 20 2008 - 01:10:50 MDT

On Apr 19, 2008, at 6:52 PM, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Across the world, capitalists provide the cars while government
> provides the schools and the healthcare. It's not as if there is less
> money and less opportunity for corruption and a large bureaucracy in
> cars. Could it be that, um, empirically, it has been found that
> government is better at some things and private enterprise is better
> at others?

Not really. There is no evidence to support this assertion, just the
assertion itself.

The United States did not have universal public education until well
into the 20th century, yet for most of its history it had the highest
literacy rate in the world by a remarkable margin. Its robust private
education system was destroyed for purely political reasons, and the
consequence is that we pay orders of magnitude more per student today
for an arguably inferior education. At least the US still has its

As for healthcare, I would make the observation while the last major
industrialized country with a quasi-private system standing is the
United States, the United States also enjoys significantly better
diagnostic accuracy and disease survival rates than any other
industrialized country. As was highlighted in a recent Lancet
Oncology Journal study, the average cancer survival rate in the United
States is 20-40% higher (depending on the type of cancer) than in
Europe and the best in the world by any absolute measure. Those are
results that matter, since we are paying for healthcare results and
not feel-good platitudes. Add to that the fact that the vast majority
of medical research happens in the US disproportionate to either its
population or GDP and everyone benefits from its marginally private

An interesting fact is that a half century ago government funded R&D
was about the same as privately funded R&D in the United States.
Today, private R&D dwarfs government funded R&D, and the gap has been
growing steadily for decades.

There may be good arguments that the government is better at some
things, but you will have to pick your examples more carefully than
education and healthcare. You simply assumed your conclusion without
being cognizant of the available evidence.

J. Andrew Rogers

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