Open access to federally funded research

The White House is asked for public comments on public access to federally funded research. Here are the relevant links, including the rather alarmingly title blog post by Aram Harrow where I found this: Could Elsevier shut down arxiv.org? Call to action from the alliance for taxpayer access The details The deadline for comments is tomorrow, January 2. My comments follow. If you read this and have much better ideas for how to expand open access, please send your own!

Insurance choice can be bad

This is a followup to the previous post about health insurance elaborating on the fact that it can be bad to let individuals make choices about their insurance policy. I stated without much detail that “assuming sufficient options and perfect competition, the result of this individual choice would be exactly the same as if the insurers were allowed to use knowledge of $K$.” The “sufficient options” assumption is important (and not necessarily realistic), so more explanation is warranted.

Free market insurance is incompatible with knowledge

Yes, it’s an extreme title, but it’s true. The idea of insurance is to average risk over a large group of people. If advance information exists about the outcomes of individuals, it’s impossible for a fully competitive free market to provide insurance. In particular, free markets cannot provide health insurance. To see this, consider a function $u : S \to R$ which assigns a utility value to each point of a state space $S$.

The Anonymous, Recursive Suggestion Box

Good discussion with Ross today, resulting in one nice, concrete idea. Consider the problem of suggesting policy improvements to the government. In particular, let’s imagine someone has a specific, detailed policy change related to health care, financial regulation, etc. Presumably, the people who know the most about these industries are (or were) in the industries themselves, so you could argue that they can’t be trusted to propose ideas that aren’t just self-serving.

Externalities and tariffs

Krugman correcting a flaw in an Obama speech about the energy bill. It’s very unfortunate that the president didn’t get this right, since externalities are the whole point behind cap and trade legislation. If he isn’t able to articulate this point consistently and correctly, he won’t (and shouldn’t) be able to convince anyone. Moreover, any bill that comes out of this process that isn’t based on people understanding (and admitting to understanding) externalities will likely be hopelessly flawed.

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