I assume that you were already planning on ignoring the new book-like product by Freakonomics Industries LLC. But, just in case, Michael Hiltzik presents this classic moment of self-refutation (or, more precisely, conclusively rebutted by Ken Arrow decades ago). Rarely has being more self-impressed with one’s intellect been less justified:
The issue was Britain’s National Health Service, which provides free healthcare to the entire population of the U.K. As described in an interview with Yahoo Finance, the pair tried to convince Cameron that the National Health Service “was laudable but didn’t make practical sense.”
“‘We tried to make our point with a thought experiment,’ they write in their new book, ‘Think Like a Freak.'”
“We suggested to Mr. Cameron that he consider a similar policy in a different arena. What if, for instance… everyone were allowed to go down to the car dealership whenever they wanted and pick out any new model, free of charge, and drive it home?”
“‘Rather than seeing the humor and realizing that health care is just like any other part of the economy, Cameron abruptly ended the meeting, demonstrating one of the risks of ‘thinking like a freak,’ Dubner says.
Yes, clearly the lesson here is the unwillingness of people to challenge themselves by “thinking like a freak.” Why, it’s obvious — if most people would ceteris paribus rather have a new Cadillac than an 1989 Chevy Caprice, then clearly if chemotherapy is free, people will get as much as they can. It’s just simple logic once you “think like a freak” and see that the market for health care is just like the market for cars, with similar elasticity of demand and ability to do comparison shopping. And Levitt and Dubner aren’t just engaged in smart theory here — they can also explain the empirical fact that Britain spends far more on health care than the more “free market” United States. Why Cameron did not want to continue to hear these brilliant insights is beyond me; I guess he just lacks courage. It certainly couldn’t have been his annoyance with people presenting transparently erroneous C+ Economics 101 chin-stroking as if they had just discovered cold fusion.
Hiltzik has more, but really — when someone is this epically clueless on an important issue the odds that their book on related topics is going to be worth reading approach zero.