Medical Research Funding

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Fri Dec 22 21:36:27 EST 1995

On 22 Dec 1995, William Tivol wrote:

> Alexander Berezin (berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA) wrote:
> : ... and here I am puzzled ..... Why it
> : (USA Government) should fund medical research at first 
> : place ?
> 	The short answer is in the Preamble to the Constitution, "
> promote the general welfare..."
> : Americans largely against government-run medicine. All attemps
> : so far (Clinton and prior) in this direction were rejected as 
> : (aparently) smelling red, or whatever. Fine, no objections - this 
> : is your democratic consensus as a mature nation - you don't want 
> : anything to do with with socialistically-directed reforms in 
> : medicine and keep insisting on free-market operated medicine.          
> 	Consensus, yes; uniformity, no.  People seem to have degrees of
> concern for government-run medicine, and certain aspects smell redder than
> others.  For some aspects--especially those which apply to society as a
> whole, rather than to individual treatment--there is agreement that govern-
> ment involvement is OK.
> : So far, so good ... But then, I am afraid you loose the consistency 
> : in saying, ..." yes, but ... medical RESEARCH is the responsibility 
> : of the Government (primarily through NIH)" ... and here I have to
> : stop and ask you WHY. If your market-operated medicine is unwilling 
> : to provide funding for medical research (at least at the level you 
> : claim it should be), then why your Government should ? (After
> : all isn't democratically elected Government reflects the will
> : of the people electing it ?).

> 	Like other basic research, much of medical research is not aimed at
> something which will directly benefit either the researcher or the patient.

Here I disagree. It researcher does "basic research" it is
BY DEFINITION "benefits him" (what, aftwer all is the definition
of "benefit" for a fundamental researcher - isn't it comes
by the "in the eyes of the beholder" rule ?).  

> Thus everyone in a free market will decide that it is better not to do the
> research, but just read the publication when it comes out.  That way they
> get the benefit without substantial costs--a rational free-market decision.

> Like building roads, performing basic research is a suitable collective
> (i.e., government) task. 

No, I don't buy the analogy. When you build a road, the traffic on
it starts the next day you bulid it. But when you presume that a piece 
of "basic research" will deliver a benefit (even in a long run), this is
an article of faith which may or may not come true (negaive end
is predominant). 

> It is also a rational free-market decision to pro-
> vide funds from everyone to derive the value of the research.  This is more
> complicated than the usual free-market example, but not inconsistant.
> 				Yours,
> 				Bill Tivol

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