Sunday, January 06, 2008

Does the Drive for Equality Trump Absolute Benefit?

I'm going to point to two, shall we say...divergent viewpoints as linked by KevinMD. Read them both.

My sense is that most people would choose Graham's perspective over Panda's. One survey of college students revealed that they would prefer two nations to experience the same growth in their standards of living over having both achieve improvement but one having significantly greater gains than the other. Equality seemed to trump absolute gains for both nations.

I believe the same finding would hold were the question to concern a wealthy and a poor group within the same country. The notion of equality has been imbued with biblical preeminence, even if its quest might exclude policies that improve the lot of the poorest but improve that of the wealthy even more.

I'd love to know what people think about this. Please comment or email me.

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Blogger Vijay Goel, M.D. said...

Its an interesting debate. At the end of the day, there are two fundamental differences in terms of the assumptions that each has-- and they are at two different levels.

Graham takes the approach that there is a limited amount of pie, and that the section we've received is out of our control. Therefore the goal should be to more equally allocate the pie.

Panda takes an approach that pie is a result of people incented to bake pie, and therefore leaving incentives to create pie will make sure that everyone who wants some will get some, and in the flavors they want.

I'm with Panda in believing that the world we're in has a mix of producers, maintainers, and destroyers.

I want to reward the producers, who will create the new ways of doing thing, resulting in disruptive change and the creation of more personalized, better functioning things at a lower price (this is why I left medicine to become an entrepreneur). To compensate for the risk of doing this, need to create the opportunity for the producer (and her investors)to make outsized returns.

Although this approach is more inequitable in the short term, I think it makes for a better society in the long term, kind of like "wasting" energy on osteoclast/ osteoblast interaction because I think in the end it makes bone stronger and more adaptive (you can draw your own conclusions of what i think your osteoclast inhibitor drugs do in "building" bone).

January 06, 2008 2:19 PM  

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