Sunday 4 December 2011

Platypus economics

My introduction to the latest issue of ANU's Agenda owes a debt to my colleague and barracks co-resident, Andrea Menclova, who provided some of the opening analogy.
A good health economist is a bit like a platypus, or at least so-says a health economist colleague of mine.2 The friendly beast must combine a clinician’s medical knowledge with an economist’s techniques, both theoretical and empirical, and a bureaucrat’s understanding of the administrative structures within which policy operates. Perhaps the health economist’s empirical techniques are not as refined as the theoretical econometrician’s, just as the platypus’s fur is perhaps not quite as soft as that of a kitten, but it does a good job of combining a set of characteristics that are normally not found in one place.
But I'll take the blame for what follows:
Unfortunately, health policy instead seems set by a chimera that rather seems to have taken the design specifications for the platypus and decided that the kitten should in fact provide the beak and the duck provide the fur: we too often find combined the clinician’s goal of health care, as maximand; the economics undergraduate’s captivation by partial equilibrium and neglect of general equilibrium; and the bureaucrat’s inadequate respect for methodological individualism. The papers in this Agenda Special Issue on health economics work to bring more standard economic method back into health policy analysis.
The full issue is here. I especially enjoyed Harrison & Robson's critique of the Australian National Preventative Health Taskforce.

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