Two Entry Points to the Sad Second Path

Following on from yesterday's post, I see two main entry points to the sad second path for the future of healthy life extension - the path that sees us all suffering and dying from age-related degeneration because the technologies to save us from this fate arrive too late.

The first: that the distributed global advocacy community for longevity and life-extending research never attains critical mass, never manages to sufficiently educate the public to tell the difference between junk science and real anti-aging research, never starts the research funding avalanche. Our models for success are AIDS advocacy since the 80s, or patient advocacy for cancer across the past three decades. It's up to us to make this movement just as successful - all our lives are at stake.

The second entry point to a future in which medicines capable of extending our healthy life spans arrive too late is one in which the monsters of regulation, nationalization and socialism in medicine (and no end to socialism in medicine, sadly) impede research and progress. Government investment is, by its very nature, enormously inefficient when it comes to producing results. Demonstrably so - the incentive structure is counterproductive, as decision makers have no meaningful reward for success nor penalty for failure. Even worse is government investment coupled with protectionism, making it the only game in town. Competition is the alchemy by which selfish human nature produces greater good - just look at what happened to the space program in government-enforced absence of any meaningful competition. Billions upon billions spent for very little gain; there is nothing to say that this couldn't happen to medicine in these times of ever bigger government and ever greater attempted social control. The worst case scenario would be for the present trends in socialism in medicine in the US and Europe to continue and spread in Asia as well; it would cripple the research communities and our chances of longer, healthier lives.

Comments

Re your second point, I fail to see the connection between the perfectly respectable political philosophy of Socialism and scientific research.

Are you simply biased, or even worse, prejudiced against Socialism, as, apart from a throwaway comment about the USA space programme, you fail to make a case for the connection?

Posted by: alienboy at August 11th, 2005 6:07 AM

I'm libertarian / minarchist in leanings, and Austrian in economics, which should explain my views in these matters. I feel that the true consequences of socialism have been quite adequately demonstrated over the course of the 20th century - it is the path to poverty, powerlessness and death.

Posted by: Reason at August 11th, 2005 9:05 AM

I don't see how anyone right in the head can still believe in socialism or consider it a respectible political philosophy.

The problem with socialism is that it is based on the belief in the efficacy of bureaucracy. Anyone who has been in the real world can tell you that bureaucracy is incapable of productive work. When applied to scientific research, NASA and the Tokamak fusion program are classic examples, billions of dollars wasted and nothing to show for it. Both are examples of government programs the exist for the purpose of keeping civil servants employed until retirement, with minimal results.

If the last 20 years is of any guide, its the replacement of top-down, hierarchial social organization with "bottom-up" networking based society. As for socialism and freemarket entreprenuerialism, which one is associated with the former and which one with the latter?

Why anyone in this day in age would still believe in socialism is completely incomprehensible to me.

Posted by: Kurt at August 11th, 2005 2:38 PM

Perhaps "alienboy" is nothing more than a troll?

Posted by: Kurt at August 11th, 2005 2:39 PM

Probably not. There are all too many supporters of socialism in the world, even inside the transhumanist and healthy life extension communities, sadly. Start with "Cyborg Democracy" in my sideboard and keep following the links - a veritable constellation of pro-tech, pro-socialism folk, most of whom seem to be managing their cognitive dissonance and economic misapprehensions quite handily. Modern society, for all its achievements, provides a nice buffer protecting people from the consequences of their views - at least until dangerous memes become dominant, by which time it's too late for everyone.

Posted by: Reason at August 11th, 2005 3:00 PM

Reason,

I have no problem with the "Cyborg Democracy" and the WTO people, even though I do not believe in socialism. The reason is that many people, particularly in Europe and Canada, identify with "left of center" political views and I would rather have these people be pro-technology than anti-technology. I view cyborg democracy as a useful marketing tool for selling tranhumanist ideas to people who are left of center. There is no harm in this and it think it quite beneficial.

As to Asia, most of the Asian countries have some sort of national health insurance, but the practice of medicine itself is completely private. Also, there is much less regulation of innovative new therapies than there is in the U.S. or Europe. Because there is much less regulation of medical therapies as well as the licensure of MDs, health care costs are far lower in Asian countries (except for Japan, where they are moderately lower) than in the U.S. Also, income tax rates are lower as well. Hense, it is easier for people to save up for medical therapies there than it is in the U.S. For example, bypass surgury costs USD 11,000 in Singapore. It costs USD 100,000 in the U.S.

Medical tourism is becoming big business as of late. This trend will continue. Globalization will affect medicine just as it affects any other industry.

I do not expect the setup in Asia to change (i.e. become more "socialistic") in the foreseable future. It anything, it is more likely to become more free market in the future.

Even Japan has less medical regulation than the U.S., and Japan has way more regulation than any other Asian country. In Japan, if its not part of the national health care system, it is not considered to be "official medicine" and, therefor, is not regulated. Of course, this means that there are alot of quacks but there is also alot of innovative good stuff as well.

Posted by: Kurt at August 12th, 2005 11:02 AM

Health care in the U.S. is not as socialistic as it is fascistic (medicare being the exception). The governer of each state appoints people to the state medical boards. The state medical boards then decide who can and cannot be an MD. The MDs, in turn, decide what kind of medical therapies you can or cannot have. This is how Hitler described in "Mein Kampf" how proper government should be run. Such a "top-down" method of decision making and control is very facsistic.

Medical regulation has evolved in the U.S. over the past century specifically to benefit the MDs and, more recently, the pharmaceutical giants. The problem with socialized medicine is that it does nothing to remove these entrenched interests. In fact, it further entrenches their interests by making even more laws and regulations designed to keep people from seeking medical treatment "outside the system". This is very evil. Change cannot come from within. Positive change can only come from the "outside" in the form of entreprenurealism. This is true for ANY area of human society and endevour and is by far the number one reason why I am a libertarian and a fervent advocate of free markets.

My problem with people who believe in socialized medicine (and socialism in general) is their complete inability to understand this phenomenom. Big established institutions, either private or governmental, are inherently evil. Their power can only be limited from the "outside". Positive change can come only from the "outside". Free market capitalism is superior to socialism, both practically and morally, because it fosters a society of many, many smaller entities in a constant flux of change. In otherwords, free market capitalism is inherently more dynamic and, therefor, more revolutionary than socialism.

Think of it in terms of decentralized "bottom-up" networking based society vs. a centralized "top-down" command society. For some reason, people who believe in socialism fail to grasp these points. Thats why their world view is flawed.

Posted by: Kurt at August 12th, 2005 11:20 AM

I am no troll, nor so rude as you. I think the problem is that you have a warped idea of what socialism is. The American understanding of the term seems to be all mixed up with its historical irrational objection to the word Communism.

there are many times when group action (coalition) is preferred to acting alone or leaving things to the law of the jungle, don't you think?

Posted by: alienboy at November 1st, 2005 6:42 AM

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