TIME magazine has devoted its entire issue to the cost of medicine in the United States. The article is written by Steven Brill and entitled “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us.” The well written issue is interesting and very important but it can all be summed up in one sentence. Health care costs are too high in the States. That’s it. Evidence is provided but “too high” is the bottom line of the article. The cure is a lot less clear. The problem, as I like to point out to my own students, is that our business school students learn absolutely nothing about healthcare accounting. The result is that no-one knows the real cost of doing anything in a hospital. Sad! The result is a series of makeup costs that essentially rip off the unwary.
President Obama’s State of the Union speech this week talked about how government could help bring jobs back for the middle class. Senator Rubio responded that if government got out of the way, middle class jobs would come back of their own.
What neither politician wants to recognize is that many of those well-paying jobs disappeared with the advent of the computer. As I note elsewhere, over 1 million secretarial jobs have disappeared in the last decade. So neither government nor the private sector alone is going to turn back the tide. Instead, we are all going to have to think, and think hard, about how to structure the economy when people want cheap goods without service (aka Walmart) and business is able to make those goods most cheaply with machines and not people.
Huw Price is Bertrand Russell professor of philosophy at the University of Cambridge. With Martin Rees and Jaan Tallinn, he is a co-founder of the project to establish the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. He worries in the NY Times that when we have created machines that are smarter than us then those machines might take over the world. Or more broadly, what happens to us when machines can do everything better than we can? Also see computer revolution and income redistribution.