The Wall Street Journal‘s Betsy McKay yesterday, followed by dozens of other news outlets today, are reporting that the World Health Organization is abandoning its long-standing aversion to the use of DDT to prevent malaria infection. The story provides unique insights about the contest between science and benefit-cost analysis on the one hand, and implacable opposition to pesticides nominally based on the Precautionary Principle on the other.
Category Archives: Health
We’ve posted recently on the topics of market failure and government failure. Market failure is the term used to describe the phenomenon where markets do not allocate resources to their highest and best use. The term is insensitive to severity, which invites public misunderstanding. For example, it can refer to severe situations where markets don’t even exist, and it can refer to cases so trivial that they deserve sustained attention only from underemployed academic economists.
Government failure is the term used to describe the phenomenon when regulation does not accomplish its intended goals. It is also insensitive to severity. It covers situations where the consequences of government action are socially devastating, or so severe that the regulatory “cure” is worse than the disease, or instances in which some of the net benefits of regulation are not achieved. A common problem in government regulation is the refusal to take account in regulatory design and implementation the predictable consequences of market and personal adaptation.
Economists and advocates of market allocation use both of these terms. Advocates of government regulation also use the term market failure, but they do not use the term government failure. They do not have any term to describe that phenomenon.
Decades ago the government of China embarked on a “one child” policy. This policy had several significant governmental failures associated with it including mass abortion and infanticide of females. It is now estimated that the ratio of boys to girls at birth is 1.12 to 1. (A ratio of 1.05 to 1 is normal. Higher ratios are found only in Armenia [1.17:] and Georgia [1.15:1].) China now has an extraordinary shortage of young women.
Recently China has established a “one dog” policy. What government failures can we expect?
Massachusetts State Senator Jarrett Barrios had threatened to enact legislation banning (or at least “severely limiting”) the serving of Fluffernutter sandwiches in school cafeteria. This story has been all over the news, reported first locally by the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, and more recently almost everywhere. (A Google News search today yields 436 hits.)
To non-New Englanders the Fluffernutter sandwich may seem to be an unpalatable oddity. But is it, nutritionally speaking, “out of the mainstream”?