Re: Which Project for Hanson?

Robin Hanson (
Mon, 18 Aug 1997 12:16:28 -0700 (PDT)

Thanks for the many replies on this topic.

Taking raw "votes", I seem to get the most votes for

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

But I think I might see a pattern. My libertarian friends like this
one, my older friends (like my parents) who have the most contact with
current health care systems like this one

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

and my academic/abstract-thinker friends like this one:

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

I'd be interested to hear of evidence against this theory, that the
distribution of responses mainly reflects the distribution of health
care contact vs. libertarians vs. academics among those I've asked.

My other general comment is that I'm now thinking about these
alternatives more in terms of what there is for me to learn. In the
"Incentive Contracts" project, I would mainly be trying to convince
non-economists of some standard results known to economists. I'd have
a lot to learn about institutional details, and about how to perusade,
but I'm not sure that would keep my interest up. The "Why we
disagree" project, on the other hand, is most centered on a question I
don't know the answer to, and so I am most personally curious to work
on this project to learn the answer to the question. The "Product
Bans" project is in the middle; I think I understand the basic
dynamic, but there are lots of details I don't understand to work on.
So I'm wondering how much weight I should give to selfish curiousity,
vs. "making an impact". Tough choice.

Now for responses to specific comments:

Hal writes:
>But I doubt that anyone's going to change how people choose their
>beliefs. So it seemed mostly of academic value.

I understand your point, but I'm more optimistic about the long term.
I think, for example, that many people have been influenced by
understanding Bayesian decision theory. I think I was.

>gives me a very uncomfortable feeling. "Sorry, we've decided it's cheaper
>just to pay out your life insurance than to cure you. Have a nice death."

Unless we want to pay any arbitrary amount for any small health help,
we *must* accept that at some point possible cares are not given.
The issue is to induce the right cost/benefit tradeoffs.
As you note in a later post, we now do this indirectly via "standard
practice", "its experimental", and other indirect labels. I'm
proposing we be very direct about making cost/benefit tradeoffs.
I'm curious to see what you fear about such directness.

"Peter C. McCluskey" <> writes:
>>2) "Explaining Product Bans" (http://hss.caltech/edu/~hanson/
>... I'm not convinced you have the beginnings of a powerfull argument

I'd be interested to hear more about your concerns here.

Robin D. Hanson