Tuesday, November 20, 2007

To the Masses Go the Spoils

Last night during industrial organization, Alex Tabarrok told us something only an economist could truly appreciate: "People in China are now dying of cancer and this makes me very happy." It makes me happy as well. Yet we are not motivated by malevolence but a recognition of how humanity progresses.

As China becomes wealthier, its people no longer starve or work themselves to death. Instead they live longer and die of of other ills later in life. And in their wealth they gain the ability to pay to assuage their suffering. Firms the world over now have extra incentive to develop cures not just for cancer, but Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, and other aliments which tend to appear later in life. For most of human history, it was an extra burden to want something popular or common for everyone else wanted the same limited supply. But under capitalism, wanting what is popular often translates into getting it easier. Common diseases are rarely death sentences, a trend that is likely to intensify in the near future.

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