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Comments on Dave Mowery What does economic theory tell us about mission-oriented R&D? Ed Steinmueller SPRU. What does economic theory tell us about mission-oriented R&D?. An immediate answer – not much Once one defines a mission as a public good, the question need not be asked.
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What does economic theory tell us about mission-oriented R&D?
An immediate answer – not much
Once one defines a mission as a public good, the question need not be asked.
Implicitly mission-oriented research is pure public good – it is not that its funding will be inadequate; without this funding research in service of the mission will not exist.
This is a ‘blank cheque’ rationale by which allocation is purely a political matter and thus subject to stories of pork barrels and the like…
This, however, is not the end of the story…
War without soldiers
Energy without emissions
Knowledge without learning
All very tempting and scary…these too are missions
Waiting for a mission…the opening line of Apocalypse Now
The Dismal Science, the Crown Jewel, and the Endless Frontier
What do we expect?
Is the goal eliminating death or ‘premature’ death or some type
of ‘avoidable’ death?
Since death still seems inevitable, the fact that a lot of progress has been made in reducing cardiovascular disease-related deaths necessarily means that people are going to die of other causes
If we use the phrase ‘health outcomes’ it is still relevant to say that medical intervention relative to diet, exercise, and genetic pre-disposition remains unimportant – this doesn’t mean that $44 dollars per year is a wasteful expenditure
Is the political process adequate to oversee the management of
public research (a case of governance failure?)
Reason to be concerned – fear of death is a powerful motivator
In short, there is good reason to believe that rationality will not triumph
It is easy to make this observation and its corollaries
--Some diseases make good ‘poster children’
--Other diseases are stigmatised
--Drama wins over the routine
It is more difficult to carry the alternative – does rational health care policy mean let the ‘public health technocrats’ decide? Or, more cynically, if they want circuses – why not given them circuses?