Re: Theory vs. Data

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Wed Jun 28 2000 - 08:35:43 MDT

Damien Sullivan wrote:
>... But we know that when public
>water systems break after an earthquake or storm that disease rates go up. So
>it's rather hard to believe that spending on public water systems doesn't
>improve health.

An earthquake or storm large enough to break water systems is no small thing.
*Lots* of bad things happen because of such an event, so the question is
which of those many things is as fault for disease.

>If someone says they can't measure it, we're inclined to think their
>measurements are bad.

Well of course that's the attitude that preserves theories in the face
of any contrary data.

>To take the really big view, spending on medicine has increased in the past
>two centuries. And life expectancy has increased dramatically. The latter
>phenomenon needs to be explained. (Of course, we know more; it's not just a
>matter of spending money.)

A great many things have changed in the last two centuries; again the
question is which of those things deserve the credit.

I refer you to these health posts of mine that I could find in the
archive in the last 6 months (search is still broken there):

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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