« Comparative Longevity—Posner | Main | On the Debt Ceiling-Becker »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Except for auto accidents all of these issues are related to our not having a national health care system and even that could be part of our health care if we were a smart country. We as a nation are shamefully neglectful of our people by not having safe means of bicycle or pedestrian travel which would improve both the quality and quantity of life and that is part of the myopic view of what our health care should be, what the 'general welfare' of a people should be. Get people out of their automobiles and you will improve their lives. Surely you do not think that infant mortality would not drop if women were more likely to seek prenatal care. Do you truly think that suicides would not drop if mental health care were something everyone had access to without worry of cost and shame? Part of a good health care system is education. Why do you think that the teen pregnancy rate is so shockingly high in this country when compared to other 'advanced' nations?

This is a sadly uninformed article and lacks understanding of what health care could be in our country.


Just to respond to @Disisdkat, I think you're confusing welfare and healthcare. Definitely everything marginally impacts everything in some way, and it is at times and art rather than a science at determining what counts as healthcare. But there is a difference between education and sex ed, for example. There is a difference between things that affect health and are part of the healthcare system, and that is really part of what makes evaluating healthcare systems so difficult. So maximizing health and efficiently running the healthcare system are two different tasks, I'd say.


The analysis of Health Care outcomes and its concerns is a good reportcard on general American Health. As for the statistical anomaly in the improvement in the aged population health, this is simply due to the weaker members in the study dying off and skewing the results. As for the nine health categories, all of them appear to have a "lifestyle and choice" component, but this should not preclude some form of Health Care intervention. Perhaps, another analysis would ferret out a more powerful root cause as opposed to "lifestyle" choices. May I suggest a much more powerful and insidious root cause. Such as Mass Marketing and Modern Advertising of unhealthy lifestyles and the control of human behaivor. Now, how do we roll this idea into Health Care intervention?

Terry Bennett

I agree that our choices drive the stats; I don't see why anybody is worked up about that. This is what we do with our freedom. Judge Posner has a point that much of this individual choosing takes place in the absence of good data, but that data is freely available, and if one recklessly chooses to proceed with one's choice and not do the research, that is also a freddom Americans currently have.

I am not convinced that stiffer penalties for drunk driving would help. We've cut way down on it in the last few decades already, but I am still flabbergasted at the self-inflicted misery I see at the bi-weekly session of my local municipal court. People are still driving drunk, and I can't figure out why. Among teenagers it carries a certain cachet, sort of an initiation to be able to say you've faced your first DUI arrest, but I see people in their 50's facing a fourth offense ten years after their third offense. I conclude that some segment of the population is unteachably stupid, and if we can't take them out and shoot them we are stuck with them and their consequences upon us.

How would decriminalization reduce drug addiction? I expect that some people are predisposed to addiction and others are less so. My father more or less died of alcoholism, but I've never had a drink so I don't know if I would be overwhelmed by a thirst for it were I to open that door. If drugs are decriminalized, virtually everyone will try it, just like alcohol currently. If more people try it, more of those people who are predisposed to really, really like it will be found, and we will end up with a larger population of addicts. Furthermore, those same people who are already willing to defy the current law and use drugs are probably not going to forego a clinic on the grounds that it's socially embarrassing.

I own one gun, I've never fired it, and I don't care if I ever do. (I find it much more satisfying killing my enemies with my bare hands.) Having said that, we may already be at the optimum balance on the gun issue. Let's suppose that of Chicago's 500 murders last year, one a day was gang competition. In three years, that takes over a thousand gangstas off the streets. If they each would have lived another 5 years on average before finally receiving their inevitable life sentences, and if conservatively we assume they would have each committed two crimes a month, the presence of guns has prevented 120,000 crimes, and no doubt lowered the proliferation of venereal diseases as well. The obvious human cost is negligible; the cost to society is that every so often a child gets caught in the crossfire, but the next time that happens we should all remember that we probably were saved from a mugging by the same forces that hurt that innocent victim.


Bennett, "Bare Hands" you say? Really...?! Do you eat them as well? Perhaps the "powers that be" need to put the University on a Werewolf, Vampire and Zombie alert...

Amanda Purcell

This is a really interesting perspective. I think the effect of lifestyle choices on health are significantly talked about in the US. Here is a discussion based on this article trying to find the main arguments on whether lifestyle or medical care is the biggest culprit for the lower than expected life expectancy in the US: http://www.the-counterpoint.com/discussion/2O

Justin Van Hoose

"However, this mortality difference is also likely mainly due to the personal behavior of these pregnant mothers than to any limited access to good health care"

Are you suggesting Europeans are more caring mothers? Or just that they are smarter?

Bill Drissel

The US measures infant mortality differently from the rest of the world. US doctors cut themselves no slack. If a baby breathes in the US, he is born alive. If he subsequently dies, that's an infant death. In the OECD nations, a baby less than 30 cm long or less that 1kg at birth is recorded as stillborn if he dies within 30 days. On an equivalent definition, the infant mortality of the US is about that of Switzerland See:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110006161 There is more at:

http://debate-central.ncpa.org/topics/2002/book2.pdf around p 22.

Outside of OECD and the English-speaking countries, much of the public data on infant mortality needs heavy discount. 41 nations have better reported rates than the US incl Azerbaijan and Cuba.

Life expectancy isn't a very good measure of health care systems unless deaths that aren't influenced by the systems are controlled. If controlled for accidental death and homicide, US life expectancy is the best in the world (although to my statistician's eye, the differences of the first dozen or so look insignificant). See
Table 1-5 of: http://www.aei.org/docLib/20061017_OhsfeldtSchneiderPresentation.pdf

Bill Drissel
Grand Prairie, TX

Justin Van Hoose

"If controlled for accidental death and homicide, US life expectancy is the best in the world (although to my statistician's eye, the differences of the first dozen or so look insignificant)."

There is a bit of a logically fallacy with this statement. "Accidental death[s]" and "homicide" do not occur independent of the healthcare system. Look at battlefield medicine for proof. Quick and timely access to emergency response is a major factor in whether a victim dies or not.

If there is a smart and intelligent way to control for this that may or may not make a difference in the comparision-I don't know. I am not a statistician, but I would think that it would a mistake to just dump out of the denominator anyone who dies from a "accidental death" or "homicide."


They should do another survey for this year because some people change their eating habit yearly. They should really reduce that number of people that are obese.

-Abigaile Nagle

Lafjohn Wify

Determine what programs and services are currently available or lacking in the community. This may involve contacting your local health department, nonprofit organizations or physicians specializing in reproductive health. Thanks.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Become a Fan

May 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31