Which Project for Hanson?

Robin Hanson (hanson@hss.caltech.edu)
Fri, 25 Jul 1997 13:25:55 -0700 (PDT)

I am considering the following three research projects for my new 2 yr
position as a health policy scholar at UC Berkeley. My immediate goal
is to get a tenure-track position after this one, which I think will
require that I focus in more depth on a single topic than I have in
the past. I'm interested in advice/preferences regarding my choice.

The three projects are:

1) "Incentive Contracts" (http://hss.caltech/edu/~hanson/buyhealth.html)

Examine more closely my proposal to bundle health and life
insurance, in order to give caregivers a more direct incentive to
support health. Its a good idea for a product, but the problem
academically is the product idea is too simple and has never been
tried. Academics would rather hear a theory to explain why this
product isn't offered, or data on actual trials so see if it works
better. This project could lead into a health economist position.

2) "Explaining Product Bans" (http://hss.caltech/edu/~hanson/whyban.ps)

Elaborate and test my theory of product bans as a response to the
cheap-talk nature of warning labels. Theoretically, I could allow
regulators to tax products, in addition to labeling and banning them.
Empirically, I could see if this theory can explain statistical
regularities in actual ban vs. labeling choices in some health area
(such as drug approval or professional licensing). This project could
lead to positions in either public economics, public policy, or
political science.

3) "Why Do We Disagree?" (http://hss.caltech/edu/~hanson/calibration.ps)

Elaborate my theoretical result that error-prone but "savvy"
agents cannot disagree for information reasons. Perhaps do
anthropological-style interviews of pairs of people who disagree on
specific health policy questions, to suggest hypotheses for more
formal empirical and/or experimental study. This project might lead
to a position in political science, where they approve of such
methodogical breadth. It might also lead to a position as an economic
theorist, though economists don't care for interview methods.

Robin D. Hanson hanson@hss.caltech.edu http://hss.caltech.edu/~hanson/