Marketplace Scratch Pad

Morning Reading

Scott Jagow Aug 17, 2009

This morning, a possible breakthrough (breakdown?) in the health care debate. Did we go through a man’s crisis and a woman’s recession? And using our DNA to make microchips…

NPR says President Obama may be ready to drop the “public option” from health care reform:

Facing mounting opposition to the overhaul, administration officials left open the chance for a compromise with Republicans that would include health insurance cooperatives instead of a government-run plan. Such a concession probably would enrage Obama’s liberal supporters but could deliver a much-needed victory on a top domestic priority opposed by GOP lawmakers…

Under a proposal by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), consumer-owned nonprofit cooperatives would sell insurance in competition with private industry, not unlike the way electric and agriculture co-ops operate, especially in rural states such as his own.

It’s a pretty intriguing idea. At Real Clear Markets, Bill Freeza writes “What’s so bad about death panels anyway?”

If the nation’s medical care pie is only so big and too expensive as it is, and you’re determined to give every citizen a slice regardless of ability to pay, then everybody’s pie slice on average has to get smaller. Any third grader can puzzle this out. Furthermore, if we’re all going to be forced to eat from the same pie, someone has to dish out the helpings. And let’s face it, grandma already ate her share!

The only way to avoid this fate is to pursue economic policies that are not zero-sum, allowing for outcomes that are not one-size-fits-all. This is an alien concept to central planners despite the fact that most markets do perfectly fine relying on supply and demand to set prices. The individual choices of every consumer do the rationing and the pie grows bigger as competitive innovation drives the cost per slice down. True, not everyone is guaranteed a bite, at least initially, and some do go hungry. But in the long run it’s amazing how effective this approach has been at spreading all sorts of pies around, from PCs to package delivery.

In Time Magazine, Weekly Standard senior editor Christopher Caldwell says one thing that’s bound to change after this recession is the relationship between the sexes:

Should we expect men to cede some control over an economy they have so thoroughly messed up? No. We have no examples of that ever having happened. What we have plenty of examples of–you can see variants of it all over the developing world–is economies in which women do all the arduous work while men sit around smoking and pontificating in coffeehouses and barbershops. For decades, policymakers have been attentive to the flaws of a patriarchal, middle-class, single-earner, nuclear-family-oriented model of family economics–and their attention remains fixed on it. Whether or not that model dominated American society as much as its critics claimed, we are now leaving it behind. Maybe there is a humane model that can replace it. We have not found one yet.

Tech researchers are exploring the idea of creating microchips using the structure of our DNA:

“This is the first demonstration of using biological molecules to help with processing in the semiconductor industry,” IBM research manager Spike Narayan said in an interview with Reuters.

“Basically, this is telling us that biological structures like DNA actually offer some very reproducible, repetitive kinds of patterns that we can actually leverage in semiconductor processes,” he said.

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