A Tale of Three Sectors

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Mike N and Amit Ghate have harrowing tales at their respective blogs about the folly of having the state run two different sectors of the economy. Mike makes the following astute observations about the use of an inadequately-tested material that ultimately proved inferior by the Michigan government to build bridges.

Had roads been privately owned it is highly unlikely the private owner would have used a new cement mixture without testing it for a number of years and only on a small number of bridges to make sure it holds up. His incentive of course would be the profit motive. Standing to lose a lot of money in law suits over crumbling cement not to mention higher insurance cost and the loss of subscribers to his roads due to bad press, there is no way he would use an untried mixture for 8 years on 1300 bridges.

But the state? No one in government stands to lose a nickel so the incentive to do it right isn't there. [bold added]
And Amit points to a story about the gross mismanagement of New Jersey's state pension fund, rightly noting that a private firm would never have gotten away with the same behavior and echoing Mike's observations on the government's lack of accountability:
As far as I can tell, no one's ever answered the question of why people should be considered evil, incompetent and requiring oversight if engaged in private business, but beyond question if working for the government. If anything it should be the opposite as market forces tend to ensure competence, while lack of accountability encourages incompetence and fraud. [bold added]
In the meantime, we have good news from another sector of the economy that, unlike transportation and retirement planning, is not (yet) automatically regarded as a proper function of the government and remains relatively free from its interference. A private medical firm, in the process of greedily pursuing profits may be only three years away from saving countless lives and making it cheaper to do so!
An international team of scientists announced that it has found a way to convert Types A, B, and AB blood into Type O -- the universal donor blood group that can be given to anyone -- and the American company that commissioned the research said such "universally transfusible" blood has the potential to solve problems associated with storing, transporting and transfusing blood.


It is costly to ship blood where and when specific types are needed, Mr. Clibourn said. If the new process proves to be safe and cost-effective in clinical trials, "it will allow all red blood cell products to be transfused to anybody, so it will significantly reduce blood shortages," said Samira Johnson, a spokeswoman for ZymeQuest, based in Beverly, Mass.


Mr. Clibourn said his company has also devised a tool for keeping the blood units produced sterile.

The concept of stripping antigens from red blood cells to repel immune response dates back to the early 1980s, when an enzyme was discovered in coffee beans that removed B antigens. Early clinical trials showed the converted blood could be safely transfused. However, the approach was far too costly and inefficient to be used on a large scale.

Mr. Clibourn hailed Jack Goldstein, one-time head of cell biology at the Lindsley Kimball Research Institute at the New York Blood Center, for "laying the foundation" for what the European researchers and his firm have achieved. He said use of this technology in blood banks is at least three years away. [bold added]
And yet, one of the major issues of our upcoming presidential election is whether we should run our medical sector more like we do our transportation systems and our retirement plans! Amit explains why this is so and what we need to do to begin rectifying this life-threatening problem.
The sad truth is that under altruism results don't matter, only motivation counts. So private businessmen who are pursuing their own values are evil by definition while conversely every bureaucrat can simply wave his "for the public good" wand to avoid any further questions.

To right this wrong requires nothing less than challenging the morality of altruism.
In other words we are letting dolts endanger our lives and threaten our future quality of life simply because they can claim that their hearts are in the right place and that they are good simply because they are not acting in their own selfish interests.

Myrhaf recently stated a profound truth when he noted how difficult it can be to argue in favor of capitalism, given the conceptualization required to grasp why it is good, versus the fact that even the mentally-deficient can latch on to a socialist slogan.

But that is only half of the story. After all, while the comparisons I make above do not constitute an iron-clad defense of capitalism, they are evidence that most people could grasp in favor of at least giving freedom a fair hearing. The other half of the story is that so many turn their minds off so quickly once that "public good" wand has been waved, and so prone to take advances like universally-transfusible blood for granted. Both of these problems are a direct result of the idea that morality is all about serving others and has nothing to do with furthering one's own life.

-- CAV

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