Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Bill Gates: Capitalism means male baldness gets more funding than malaria (wired.co.uk)
134 points by dsego 1710 days ago | hide | past | web | 195 comments | favorite

Yes, and a casino is more profitable than a hospital, and "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads, that sucks." (Jeff Hammerbacher, Facebook.)

Communism is dead, socialism is dead, fascism is dead, god is dead, and now market fundamentalist capitalism is dying.

Of course all these things still have their True Believers, but as time goes on the ranks of those true believers dwindle and it becomes increasingly difficult to find serious and widely educated thinkers among them.

This is interesting. Ideology with a capital I is a big part of how human beings model and conceptualize the world. I think what we're seeing is that our cognitive modeling capabilities have limits. Our models break down. It honestly reminds me of the trends that sweep through the computer programming world: object oriented, aspect oriented, functional, MVC, late binding, strong typing, weak typing, multiparadigm, templates, and so on... all work well for a while and then show their weaknesses.

P.S. The big thing that killed market fundamentalism for me was doing a stint in business consulting and seeing what the average rich person actually is: a glorified street hustler. I was once a bit of a Randian... it was a real "the emperor has no clothes" moment. (I can think of a few rich folks who remind me of Rand heroes... a very, very, very few. I don't think I would run out of fingers. Elon Musk would be at the top of the list. Oh, but wait, his enterprises are quasi-philanthropic ventures...)

I feel that Gate's comment about curing baldness is a testament to the efficacy of the marketplace. Markets only represent what the people want, and I guarantee you that more people want to cure baldness than malaria. Bill is noticing a problem with people, and the markets reflect that.

The nice part about markets is they can adapt very quickly. If we were to convince enough people malaria was worth curing, we could do it! There's no rule to a marketplace that says you can't.

I see two roads you can go down in solving this problem. We can convince the public that a cause is worth investing in, or we can force the public to support a cause (by means of a State actor or other monopoly on violence). Personally, I think historical evidence proves forcing people to do anything is unsustainable and counterproductive. Just one guys opinion.

> I guarantee you that more people want to cure baldness than malaria.

I know you're getting hammered on this point already, but I feel like the other responses are coming from the angle that there are a ton of people in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and South America that don't have much money but would likely disagree with your count.

But I'll come at it from a different angle: My step-father has spent a decent chunk of change on hair-growth products. But I guarantee you if he was given the choice between curing malaria and curing baldness, he would cure malaria, and I expect this would be true of most people.

Yes, if given a choice of spending someone else's money on research to cure either malaria or baldness, they would pick malaria. However, it seems your step-father has already made the decision about how to best spend his own money.

He may be modeling it as (or similar to) a prisoner's dilemma, with the assumption that only a huge infusion of funds could cure malaria. In this case, assuming a democracy, "spending other people's money" is more like enforcing an agreement contract in a dilemma game.

(This model is wrong, of course, but I doubt many people are aware of the expected disability-adjusted-years-gained-per-dollars-spent-on-mosquito nets statistics)

This might sound like a nitpick, but I think it's important, the parent's step-father most likely spent his money on what were advertised as cures and treatments that guaranteed to solve his baldness problems. I doubt he put that money directly into baldness research, but instead spent it on what was supposed to be a viable product.

I think it's an unfair distinction. Would I spend money on a solution that directly affects me or would I invest in a possible treatment that doesn't affect me? That belief that the first choice is available and implemented heavily skews the balance.

Your step-father already had the choice of donating that money to malaria research or prevention programmes. Sure, the former isn't guaranteed to lead to success, but from what I hear hair-growth products don't exactly have a stellar track record either (unlike malaria prevention programmes).

I don't know how much I like this sort of statement. It seems like such a damning thing when someone professes that they'd do one thing, but end up doing another. We like to consider it hypocrisy, or at least inconsistency. (Note: for all I know, furyofantares' stepfather donates 2x as much money to malaria research/prevention than hair-loss prevention, I really have no idea).

But it seems like we all do this sort of thing, at least part of the time. Baldness is an issue apparently directly affecting furyofantares' stepfather, on a daily basis. Malaria isn't. Should we expect him to keep malaria constantly on his mind whenever making economic decisions?

Of course. If everyone was a perfect little rational automaton then they would weigh all the factors and choose appropriately.

Bu they aren't.

Social and cultural norms, advertising, pride, self esteem, distance and on and on influence people to choose the hair products over people's lives.

I'm not saying its wrong to want to keep your hair over saving people from malaria. But I am saying its wrong to think that "the market" is this perfect thing and "rational actors" actually exist.

The market is great, but it isn't right about everything, and people don't have enough information and are too easily influenced by everything else to be considered rational about anything.

It's also entirely possible that if baldness was cured, he'd have more hair, which would give him more confidence, which would in turn affect everything in his life including his earning potential, which he may then donate to curing malaria in much greater amounts.

At least if I was selling Rogaine, that's how I might spin it.

> I guarantee you that more people want to cure baldness than malaria.

You are so very, very wrong. More rich people want to cure baldness than malaria, because pretty much all rich countries are in climates where malaria can't thrive.

How many people do you think care more about their thinning hair than an illness that can kill their children?

The USA has ideal conditions for malaria. Washington DC was a giant malarial swamp at one point.

Florida has an abundance of skeeters, but they do not test positive for malaria.

Yes but that was not always the case. Malaria was endemic to North America and existed from Florida all the way up through Minnesota. The CDC was formed as the center for malaria control. I was responding to the point that "pretty much all rich countries" are in areas with climates not conducive to malaria. There are at least a half dozen rich countries that once were endemic to malaria. USA, Hong Kong, Australia, Italy, Singapore, etc.

It seems, then, that we need to figure out how to create more rich people in sub-Saharan Africa. Capitalism isn't the problem. It is the best long-term solution to problems like these.

I should have specified that I was talking about the US. My point was the US markets serve the US's demands very well. And if demand grew to cure malaria, the market would solve it, much like any other demand.

I think it's not as simple as that.

People who would be affected by Malaria wouldn't have the purchasing power to affect the market. Baldness is universal and so people who have money and care about cosmetic effects, can affect the market to a greater degree.

I feel like you just skipped what I believe was smokeyj's entire point: that perhaps it's possible to convince people that a cure for malaria is a cause worth investing in, even if it doesn't affect them personally. It's not a truism that people who are sufficiently well off will necessarily care more about their impending baldness than the lives of others.

You're right, I did skip over some of his point. I would like to think that there is more to the notion than theory though. In practice, cures and treatments for baldness are self-sustaining --advertising > want > investment in treatments > more ads. Malaria (or similar affliction) have different dynamics and are not self-sustaining. (at least I don't see that). It's nice to think we could convince people to care about Malaria the same way they care about baldness (superficially this is a crass comparison), but the benefit (re Malaria) is remote and not immediate. Now, maybe it's not impossible. People unaffected personally by bigotry can show interest (and put effort) into ending bigotry, for example. I think that and Malaria are examples of 'big society'. So, maybe there is hope...

Correct, treating baldness has more demand. My point is we can influence demand with things like outreach and awareness programs.

I'm curious, of all the things killing poor people, who decided malaria was at the top? Some people see clean water and food as a higher priority. Why should anyone tell me how to donate? Do people really have such level of faith in the benevolence of central planners?

>The nice part about markets is they can adapt very quickly. If we were to convince enough people malaria was worth curing, we could do it! There's no rule to a marketplace that says you can't.

This is a big problem of free market fundamentalism, in my opinion. It's far too optimistic about how rational people are.

I do still think that capitalism might be one of those "it's crap but all options are worse" kind of thing. At least for now.

> This is a big problem of free market fundamentalism, in my opinion. It's far too optimistic about how rational people are.

I think it's a problem with your understanding, in my opinion. If you accept that people are inherently irrational, wouldn't a representative government be equally irrational? Unless of course one accepts the notion of the benevelent actor who burdens himself with the task of propellingn society foward against its will. A parental figure in a sense, who safeguards his sheep for the greater good. You essentially believe in batman, and I'm the optimistic one. I say this lightheartedly, simply trying to illustrate my view.

You're putting words into dscrd's mouth. They didn't say that people are "inherently irrational", which would imply that making a rational decision would be some extraordinary occurrence.

Likewise, I wonder if it's reasonable to claim that people are "inherently rational", because we all know from experience that it doesn't require extraordinary circumstances for a person to make an irrational choice. People make both rational and irrational decisions all the time!

I know you're trying to make a lighthearted jest, but your benevolent actor = batman illustration seems a little too mean-spirited in its chiding. You start by misconstruing dscrd's meaning, and end by claiming that dscrd's "essentially believe[s] in batman".

I don't think it's unreasonable (irrational?) to presume that people are capable of increasing the amount of rationality they wish to apply to a problem based on its stakes (although we have plenty of anecdotes to support the counterpoint to this, as well), while still constantly making irrational choices on things which are (or appear to be) lower-stakes.

For example: I probably wouldn't build a house next to a coal power plant. I would consider that to be a rational decision. On the other hand, I may be a smoker, or really, really love doughnuts. There may be rational components to each of those (they give pleasure), but when viewed in the light of my decision to not live next to a coal power plant (I don't want to eventually get sick), they seem like pretty irrational decisions (because they'll eventually make me sick).

If I'm misinterpreting dscrd's argument please help me out. I interpreted his critique to markets as they won't work because they represent the will of the people, and sometimes the will of the people is wrong (because they're irrational)? He seemed to accept that argument and wanted to push it forward..

> There may be rational components to each of those (they give pleasure), but when viewed in the light of my decision to not live next to a coal power plant (I don't want to eventually get sick), they seem like pretty irrational decisions (because they'll eventually make me sick).

Sounds like value theory to me. It's a simple cost/benefit analysis. Donuts make me reeeaaally happy, so I'll indulge. To make up for it, I'll run a mile. I like eating a donut and running a mile over not having a donut at all. It's not a matter of rationality, but preference -- which is what value should reflect. The creation of value can't be institutionalized by a central planner because preference is so diverse and changes at a rate quicker than any beurocracy can address. Again, just one persons observations.

>If I'm misinterpreting dscrd's argument please help me out. I interpreted his critique to markets as they won't work because they represent the will of the people, and sometimes the will of the people is wrong (because they're irrational)? He seemed to accept that argument and wanted to push it forward..

Yes, that was pretty much my critique: people are often irrational. I think you mispresented that critique by taking it to absurdity. Continuum or slippery slope fallacy?

I guess I don't agree with your use of "rational". Motives such as selfishness and greed are perfectly rational. They may not be altruistic, but they sure as heck make sense. I associate irrational behavior with children, the insane, and mentally handicapped. These are people who are not capable of reasoning. Corrupttion, cronyism, and greed all make perfect sense.

Saying free markets aren't effective due to mans selfish nature is a reasonable observation. I agree that markets would be more effective with more altruistic agents. But then again, what wouldn't be? I believe whatever shortcomings in human nature that voluntarily interacting people face (ex, selfish agents in a market) will only be magnified in a Statist society. A "bad guy" trying to game the market with anticompetative practices sucks. What sucks more is this bad-guy gaming the government, and everything government regulates (hint, everything).

The difference is that people are more willing (or perhaps capable) to be rational and idealistic about long-term abstract decisions like voting for a candidate who wants to ban unhealthy food, than about immediate everyday decisions like whether to eat a salad or a donut...

While that's not entirely implausible, if we start structuring societies around that idea, then the state could justify any action to a scary extent. You know, for the greater good, we know better, yadda yadda.

Well, that's a bit of a false dichotomy.

But for argument's sake... Even if people (as in, most people) are irrational, that wouldn't necessarily lead to their rulers being irrational, would it? After all, we supposedly* select people who are good at ruling to be rulers, just like we supposedly select people who are good at healing people to be doctors. They are expected to be better at it because they are interested in it, have studied it and are focused to do it, not because they're supermen.

* yes, this could be tad optimistic, especially under democracy because of the very irrationality of most people

> we supposedly* select people who are good at ruling

The consumer is irrational, but the voter is rational? This is a contradiction.

The operative difference between a purchase and a vote is that purchases are (1) voluntary, and (2) continually adjusting to changing conditions.

Please reread my comment. Everything you said was covered there already.

I had a professor once who invested in the stock market a lot. He invested a lot in Apple, but he always looked dismayed. When we asked him about it, he replied: "the market can remain irrational longer than I can stay solvent." So while, I believe that the market is ultimately rational, there are delays which can make it appear irrational.

No, this is not a problem with market fundamentalism, whatever this is, but with properties ascribed to market fundamentalism.

Advocates of free markets tell you that the outcome is such and such if and when market participants can serve their interest as they see fit. They don't tell you that the outcome will be what you call "rational".

You appear to be assuming that wanting to cure malaria in some other country is more rational than wanting to cure one's own baldness. Can you provide an argument for that?

Instead of rational, I would say valuable. Curing malaria can be more valuable than one's own baldness due to altruistic motives such as love, empathy, compassion. It can also be valuable for selfish motives. People do things like donate and volunteer all the time, so I don't think it's an unheard of concept.

All this is true, and the point is that "free market fundamentalism" is perfectly consistent with it. Free market fundamentalism doesn't assume people are "perfectly rational"; it assumes that people value things and will do things that they reasonably expect to lead to things they value. (I realize that you know this, but I'm not sure the parent poster to mine does.)

You got it wrong: more DOLLARS want to cure baldness than malaria.

You're correct, but in a "true" market the Federal Reserve wouldn't devaluate currency held/saved by the public, thus allowing the markets to better represent the productive agents of the economy (hint: all the people who go to work everyday). The skew isn't due to capitalism, but the crony nature of finance and banking. One biased opinion.

  We can convince the public that a cause is worth investing in,
  or we can force the public 
I think this is a fundamental distinction. I am surprised and dismayed so many (smart and intelligent) people do not appear to consider it critical. Perhaps I have a different perspective after having lived in a non-democratic country for about half my life? I am not sure.

>I guarantee you that more people want to spend money on a cure for baldness rather than saving millions of lives, because people are selfish

Fixed that for you. Healthcare and medicine break down when they become for-profit instead of for-health ventures.

> Healthcare and medicine break down when they become for-profit instead of for-health ventures.

Saying for-profit and "for-health" (whatever that means) are mutually exclusive is simply not true. I just picked up some allergy medication yesterday for $10 that is performing excellent. My exercise equipment is manufactured at a very fair rate. I think a profit motive was critical in providing me this invaluable preventative care.. so I can't see it your way. I think a more true statement would be, ventures that are heavily regulated break down, and I would agree.

Unsustainable maybe, but then historical evidence proves no political endeavor is sustainable. Most sustainable entity really goes to the the Catholic Church. On that note I'd argue historical sustainability is not a great way to choose political models.

As for counterproductive, the US has a number of good examples of "forcing" people to do things being productive. WWII and the moon landing are the classic examples. Of course, since I'm not a free-market capitalist but a staunch advocate of democracy, I don't really view government-directed activities as forced but rather democratically directed.

Markets represent what rich people want.

> Markets represent what rich people want.

Do you want to tell us, that it is the rich people that crowd the Walmarts and other temples of mass consumption? If that are your rich people over there in America, then GOD may have pity with you!

How did they get rich in the first place? Hint: It wasn't by charitable donations.

Where is my baldness vaccine?

Capitalism also allowed Bill Gates to make $60 billion so he could donate it to finding a cure for malaria.

RMS created the GNU GPL v2 and canvassed for free and open Software and programmed our minds to create open source software too and I believe Trillions of Dollars of wealth will be created thanks to this and none of it will be credited to RMS, and Bill Gates will be showered praise for the 60 billion he is going around donating.

But RMS, I want you to know that I recognize your contribution.

Far far rather have Bill Gates deciding how to spend $60 bn than Congress / Parliament. Just seems more likely to get bang per buck.

Just to add context to this comment - The US spends about $60b per year in aid to other countries. How much is wasted is another debate but it's probably a lot.

It's more like 50, and of that 50, probably 30 goes to middle eastern countries for strategic reasons and is only called 'aid' so it looks better on the balance sheet.


$56b projected for 2013. Close enough. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/factsheet_department_state/

Military aid to Israel, making Israel the the only nuclear power in the Middle East in opposition to every other country there (they all support a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East), is not "Foreign Aid"; it is pure (misguided) self-interest.

Are there other instances of Foreign Aid that also align with self-interest? Sure; but calling the funding of a proxy military in the most resource-rich area of the world Foreign Aid is really stretching the semantics. Why not go ahead and classify the entire military budget as foreign aid, since we only ever do things with noble intentions?

The other large portion of "foreign aid" used to go to the dictatorship in Egypt...

It's not just Israel, we didn't make Israel a nuclear power (they built the nukes in the 60s using a french reactor design IIRC), and if the Saudis had nukes and Israel didn't, then their positions on a nuclear free middle east would be reversed.

What's not just Israel? I mentioned Egypt. The two make up the bulk of the foreign aid (or at least did before the Arab Spring; I haven't looked at it since then).

We don't know the details of Israel's nukes, but you are right that the Washington consensus is they developed them themselves.

The only thing preventing a nuclear-free Middle East is our veto in the UN.

Yeah, close enough. The key point though is that the figure includes military aid and even for non-military aid, most of it goes to strategically important states. Top 5 are Afghanistan, Israel, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan, before we finally get to purely humanitarian aid for Haiti at #6. Nigeria's got oil, or they wouldn't be getting any aid.

Really, as far as my personnel spending priorities go Bill Gates has wasted close to 100% of his charitable donations. Which I would not care about, however he get's a huge (multi billion dollar) tax break on donations which is simply a staggering waste of money.

PS: Want to pay people to pray for world piece? That's a tax break after-all we don't actually need to repair roads and bridges or pay down debt.

Deductions for charitable contributes are capped. There is also the difference between what Bill Gate's paper worth is and what his tax liabilities are for the year.

Deductions for charitable contributes are capped.

Not for capital gains if you sell the underlying asset. If I buy a stock for 1 cent and donate it then I avoid all capital gains even if it's now worth 30 billion. Considering the original baseline Gates working with it's ~30 billion * .15 ~= 4.5 billion tax savings. You also get to deduct the original 1 cent from your income, but as I said your avoiding the 50% income cap on donations.

I agree that his paper worth and taxes are separate issues, I am simply stating that having a charity sell stock is much better than having a person sell stock for the amounts involved. And it would be reasonable to charge capital gains at the time of donation for the same reason it's reasonable to remove the donation tax break. To further prove the point if your dealing with a deprecated stock it's better to sell and then donate.

PS: Wikipedia has a good example (Ordinary Income Producing Property and Short Term Capital Gain Property) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charitable_contribution_deducti...

100% ? What are you smoking? He spends millions on malaria nets that have a proven record of saving lives. If that is wasting money I don't really want to know what you think the right way to spend money is...

Gates tends to attack symptoms not the root cause. Handing out net's is more or less the same as handing out food which has many well known downsides. He would have done more long term good donating 1 billion to deal with corruption and setup garment factory's in Africa than everything else he has done in Africa.

Again, I don't care what he does with his own money but as soon as the Government subsidies charities efficiency is something to consider. Panama had a huge problem with the disease and it was delt with they now have 36 cases per 100,000 people vs 75,386 in Guinea. http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/hea_mal_cas_per_100-malari... And the simple truth is net's don't get you to 36 from 75,386.

The death of ideology appears to be a major shaping force in the 21st Century. Religion seems to be at least partially filling the vacuum. Most of the radical groups in the MENA used to be Socialist (PLO vs Hamas).

I suspect that this will not last and that a new ideology will arrive (demand is high, supply is low, very few competitors). Any bets on what this ideology will look like?

Let's certainly hope so. Problem Solving > Ideology.

The world is far too complex for a simple set of rules (Ideology) to be capable of providing all the answers to all the problems.

The simplest cell in the human body is unimaginably complex - why would the rules governing the interaction of billions of humans comprised of billions of those cells be simple?

That is the problem, ideologies are more about story telling (narratives) than modeling the world. You need a hero, villan and a great problem. Ideologies are often not good at solving the "great problem" since they often have really naive model of the problem (see Communism/Capitalism/Libertarianism/Fascism/Democracy/Anarchism) but they are extremely useful. They can bring people together and bridge divides of culture and religion (and create new divisions and hatreds). They can inspire us to work toward a grand project. They can manifest changes that never would have been possible.

I believe one of the reasons that large scale innovation was greater in the mid 20th Century than in the late 20th Century was the death of ideology but also one of the reasons that the late 20th Century and early 21th Century has been so peaceful.

The mid to late 20th Century was largely about the contest of ideologies. While there may not have been as much mass bloodshed, it was no more peaceful. Proxy wars were fought across pretty much the entire globe. Other conflicts also erupted in areas that were not defined by the Cold War, but their own local Ideological differences.

I think some of this talk about ideologies is throwing the baby out with the bath water. Abstracting your worldview so that you can better explain yourself to others should not be looked down upon. That is how you will ultimately come to better compromise when it possible. You can't solve problems without ideas.

Ideologies are harmful when you take some text some Russian wrote years ago and try to bend the world to match that text. When you define your own worldview and don't rely only on the words of a dead guy that isn't there to clarify things, then you get into trouble.

No, it is a very serious problem when your Ideology can provide a single correct answer to every single problem, regardless of the actual facts related to that problem.

I'm pretty sure that matches my statement about bending the world to match your Ideology. Odd that you would disagree when saying the same thing...

The scale and ambitions of wars today are much smaller which is in essence what you are saying and it is a really important point. We are living in a time of extremely limited war that in comparison with the mid 20th Century is a time of relative peace (the mid 20th Century being one of the most bloody in human history). This graph makes this point better than I:


>think some of this talk about ideologies is throwing the baby out with the bath water. Abstracting your worldview so that you can better explain yourself to others should not be looked down upon.

Agreed, and for the record I'm not against ideology or story telling in general. It is what humans do to make sense of their role in the world. It is interesting to me that we live in a time of old dying ideologies and it skews our perspective about the future since long term these treads have never lasted. For example the The_End_of_History(tm) claim that was getting some traction in the 1990s. What will come next?

Yes, the scale of wars has not been on the multinational "total war" level the last half century, but it is hardly been peaceful. Just more along historical norms pre-World Wars. That is normally true of wars following more encompassing conflicts.

Ideology played just as large of a driving force during the second half of the 20th Century yet the bloodshed was less. It is hard to say that withdraw from Ideology equals greater peace.

There is a hopeful, post-collapse, ecological/open source movement growing. See e.g. Charles Eisenstein [0], Open Source Ecology [1]. It's not an ideology, perhaps it will never be, but I think this is something that can attract many who feel alienated and discontent with the establishment.

[0] http://charleseisenstein.net/

[1] http://opensourceecology.org/

Hey glanch, I'm happy to hear you enjoyed OSE. Your account is hellbanned, FYI.

> Our models break down.

This is a fundamental fact of how humans make models. They're never perfect the first time, and rarely (if ever?) are models every truly perfect. The most important hurdle for us as a species to overcome is the advancement of new models that refine our old ones; specifically, we need to become less averse to change.

Actually I think hospitals in the US are more profitable than casinos. I believe that was pointed out by the latest Time magazine article. The author said on The Daily Show that the hospital lobbies make the oil and gas industry lobbyists look like homeless people. Hospitals are assisted by a government enforced monopoly.

> God is dead

You obviously don't live in the south, do you? ;)

It's sad to hear what Gates has to say. Unfortunately market and monetary pressures are the pitfalls of a pure capitalistic society where humanity takes a back seat.

As a helpful recipe for the future, let's maybe not say X,Y,Z Ideology is DEAD but list those properties which turned out to be crucially misunderstood, unknown and in the end hurting.

In almost every failed/criticized ideology there are parts which still make sense and should not be thrown away.

Let's not make the mistake again of blindly replace "all of communism" with "all of capitalism" f.e.

This would maybe get a higher chance for the next idea to "succeed better"

The big thing that killed market fundamentalism for me was doing a stint in business consulting and seeing what the average rich person actually is: a glorified street hustler.

Capitalism isn't just about the rich people. Small business owners are capitalists, too, and most of the ones I know don't fit your description.

These days, there's a good chance that a hospital being more profitable than a casino. Many of the casinos are having serious money issues (Revel in AC being the most recent case) and quite a few hospital groups are minting money.

probably because people's life depend on the treatment they got from the hospital and so with out regulation , the hospital can charge what ever they want.

> fascism is dead

I wish

> god is dead

god likely never existed, but the idea of god will continue to cause humans to kill and oppress each other. Ideas don't die so I'm not sure what you mean when you say they are dead.

Our ways of thinking evolve just like everything else on this planet.

It's not "capitalism", it's humanity. Governments do not magically make perfectly rational allocations of funds either. For instance, see http://www.csulb.edu/~acarter3/pdfs/carter-nguyen-BMCPublicH... for a staggeringly complete overview of the government cancer money allocation, including measurement by multiple different possible metrics. (My compliments to the chefs on that paper.)

Of course they don't, but then nobody argues that.

You can find a ton of people who will argue that capitalism quote 'magically makes perfectly rational allocations of funds'.

I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone claim that capitalism guarantees "perfectly rational" allocation of charity. More efficient charity I've seen argued, but not rationally allocated charity.

If no system in use anywhere is making rational allocations, it's misleading to try to name one as the problem. (And it's the sort of misleading that leads people to solve the wrong problem, so it's not harmless, either.)

Well I have! As a former dogmatic libertarian, I think this thinking exist more than you think. Even regular Republicans will say that private charity will solve healthcare problems - which it just won't...

Just because no perfect system can exist isn't a reason to not try for a better one. Right now, we need a mix of government, capitalist, non-profits, and perhaps others to actually solve these collective action problems.

If no system in use anywhere is making rational allocations...

I would go further and say that no system can make rational allocations because definitions of 'rational' vary quite radically.

I would go so far as to say that people who worry about the dangers of unfriendly superoptimizer intelligences need to look at the massively distributed unfriendly superoptimizer running on the abstracted meatware of human relationships and conveniently labeled "capitalism".

Well you can say that about many problems that we actually have today. That does not necessarily mean that UFAI is not the greatest long-term existential threat. I am not saying it is, but the SIAI sees it that way while recognizing that a lot of money and energy should go into solving problems we actually have today. But does that mean absolutely no energy or money should be spent on unlikely existential threats?

Quite to the contrary. I'm pointing out that while a bunch of people choose to worry about potential threats in the future, the exact kind of threat they worry about is already here, and actively destroying the world and ruining lives. The prophecies are all true, you could say, they're just coming true right now in a way that the worrying prophets don't recognize because they themselves, insofar as they favor capitalism, are participating in the damage.

When I first realized this, the irony kind of threw me for a giggling fit.

We are talking about research not charity.

The dichotomy is not between "Capitalism" and "Goverment", but "Capitalism" and another form of "social order" (or ways to organize society and production).

Goverments that operate inside "capitalism" are still a product of a "capitalist society".

His main argument seems to be that, without people acually trying to solve unpopular problems, they are not going to be solved "by the system" (product of the emergent behaviour of the "system").

I rather think you confuse "rational" and "moral". If I suffer of illness X, and I have more money than someone who suffers of Malaria, then it may be rational for pharmaceuticians, for example, to look for cures against X.

The market is not moral, and nobody ever said it was. It is the outcome of the decision of the market participants, no more, no less. Whining about markets that are not moral is a primitive, yet very effective form of anti-capitalism.

> It's not "capitalism", it's humanity.

Not sure how much value is to be found in an argument that basically says "if it weren't for humans, this would be great" * . Reminds me of Basil Fawlty - who believes he could run Fawlty Towers perfectly if it weren't for all the guests. In the end, everything we do is kind of about humans.

* Ironically, I mutter that under my breath at least a couple of times per day. So there.

And breast cancer gets more funding than pancreatic cancer even though pancreatic cancer kills about everyone who gets it because, you know, the boobies.

As far as malaria is concerned, DDT turns out to be real effective at killing mosquitoes, the major problem in the developing world of LOTS of infectious diseases. But those of us in the developed world got more concerned with the eagles and stuff and essentially go out of our way to keep DDT from being used even though it's use in the developing world would literally save tens of thousands of human lives. The governments of the developed world did that, not capitalism.

It's a grey world out there and while it's much easier to get clicks with "male baldness gets more funding than malaria so capitalism doesn't work", it's not really very helpful in actually fixing things.

> And breast cancer gets more funding than pancreatic cancer even though pancreatic cancer kills about everyone who gets it because, you know, the boobies

Or perhaps breast cancer gets more funding because it's far more common? Here in the UK, the incidence rate for breast cancer is 125.7/100,000, whereas the incidence rate for pancreatic cancer is 9.3/100,000.

And before you say "but pancreatic cancer kills more people", that's also not true. Again, in the UK the mortality rate for breast cancer is 24.3/100,000, whereas for pancreatic cancer it's 12.6/100,000 [1].

More people die from breast cancer than pancreatic cancer. That's why the former is funded more than the latter. Not "because, you know, the boobies".

[1] All these stats are from http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats

> Among the big cancers, breast cancer receives the most funding per new case, $2,596 — and by far the most money relative to each death, $13,452. Notably, prostate cancer, the most common cancer, receives the least funding per new case at just $1,318. But on a per-death basis it ranks second, with $11,298 in N.C.I. funds.

Source [http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/06/cancer-funding-does...]

We should look at normalized figures of funding per death, or funding per incidence.

Again, not sure it's much more grey than that. In the US, breast cancer gets more funding in part because the Susan G. Komen organization is massive, powerful and well connected. Age adjusted death rates for females has fallen dramatically since 1975 while funding has dramatically increased.

Yes funding happens because breast cancer happens more but also because the breast cancer lobby exists and the pancreatic cancer lobby mostly doesn't.

[1] [http://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2009_pops09/browse_csr.php?s...]

[2] [http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/NCI/research-fu...]

The NIH also spends twice as much on researching female specific diseases as they do on male specific diseases.

Also I would like to note that prostate cancer exist in the same amounts as breast cancer, and has much less research funding...

And there are some nasty politics related to that, including prostate cancer researchers being labelled "misogynists" or "patriarchalists" just because they called our that breast cancer has more funding.

It's a little more nuanced than that. 1.47% of women aged 40 will develop breast cancer within ten years, but only 0.34% of men aged 40 will develop prostate cancer over a similar time period (according to the CDC risk statistics).

0.01% of 30 year old men will develop prostate cancer within ten years, as opposed to 0.44% for women/breast cancer. That's a huge difference.

One of the reasons there is more funding for breast cancer is that it often manifests itself earlier, meaning the benefits of treating it in terms of years saved is much greater.

Lots of men die of old age with prostate cancer, not because of it. Breast cancer is a far deadlier disease, one that strikes more young people, women and men (rate of incidence about 1% that of women).

Prostate cancer is dramatically less virulent, isn't it? To the point where the medical community is starting to say early screening can be a negative thing, because loads of folks get surgery for cancer that never would've killed them?

> As far as malaria is concerned, DDT turns out to be real effective at killing mosquitoes, the major problem in the developing world of LOTS of infectious diseases. But those of us in the developed world got more concerned with the eagles and stuff and essentially go out of our way to keep DDT from being used even though it's use in the developing world would literally save tens of thousands of human lives.

Mosquitos have developed DDT resistance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DDT#Mosquito_resistance

In many impoverished areas it is largely ineffective as a mosquito pesticide now. If we'd use it more liberally, it's possible that resistance would have developed more quickly due to the increased selection pressure. DDT is not a silver bullet.

I know it might sound evil.

But the market still does not reflect what people want?

Most people don't have malaria, they don't care about malaria, and they will only care if it affects them.

It is not that capitalism is evil regarding that, but why a person living in Japan for example will care if someone half planet away that have zero interaction with him will die?

Now suppose that farmers that make your food are plagued with some disease... This would make your food expensive, and this would make you want to heal them, so they make your food cheap again.

What happens today, is that the news about the world are faster than the economic interactions, you feel pity for people in blasted places, but you don't need them, most people don't need them, so most people won't care for them. Now tell me, if someone had asked for donations to do more research on the cancer that killed Steve Jobs, I am sure lots of people would help, not because they like Steve Jobs or because it is noble to do so, but because they like what he did.

Face it, even collectivist humans are still thinking about themselves, humans either think about themselves only (the ultimate individualism) or about their immediate community.

Few people care about a person with no genetic relation to you, that live half planet away, and have no economic interaction with you, either as buyer or seller.

The market does excel at giving people what they want. That's not a feature. It's a bug.

"If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." - Henry Ford (possibly apocryphal, but probably true)

Markets pander. They do not elevate. I do not want what I want. I want things that are so much better than what I want that I have not imagined them yet.

Think about when you see a movie or read a book. Isn't it boring if someone's already told you the plot? You want to be surprised, and you're usually disappointed if things turned out the way you expected them to.

Of course, markets do have virtues. They excel at solving multi-dimensional resource allocation problems in the short term, and they excel at taking new things and delivering them to customers. Big science bureaucracies and such are good at discovering and inventing, but they suck at shipping. The "pirates of Silicon Valley" invented little, but they shipped.

Markets excel at giving people what they want in the long term, too. For example, the Henry Ford you quoted built a car company that became one of the most successful in the world. There is nothing about markets that prevent entrepreneurs from selling innovative products and it happens all the time. Entrepreneurs creating new things and then selling them is so common that on Hacker News, people like Steve Blank and Eric Ries have made names for themselves encouraging entrepreneurs to listen to the market even just a little bit.

It's a feature.

A market that decides what I want is the dream of every communist dictator.

Sometimes invention is the mother of necessity. That doesn't mean it's a bug. It means there are innovative and resourceful people who realize what people want before they ask for it. Capitalism gives those people a better chance to succeed than any other economic system.

It also has room for the guy trying to treat baldness.

P.S. Is there evidence that Henry Ford actually said that? Because he definitely didn't invent the automobile; Karl Benz did.

> Most people don't have malaria, they don't care about malaria, and they will only care if it affects them.

The real answer is "most people with disposable income don't have malaria"

From Wikipedia: The World Health Organization has estimated that in 2010, there were 219 million documented cases of malaria

(That would represent nearly the entire adult population of the US)

The world has seven billion people.

It is not just related to disposable income.

Why the average chinese for example, would care about malaria? He has other problems, the malaria mosquito does not do well in China, but other diseases do, they will care about their own diseases for example.

Actually, the Chinese have a large malaria control program. They get a lot of cases in southern China, especially along the border with Myanmar.

So do the (South) Koreans. They get a lot of malaria cases along the demilitarized zone, which has basically been left to return to a state of nature. This leads to stagnant water, which allows mosquitoes to breed.

But, of course, they spend a lot more money on malaria control in their own countries than in, say, Equatorial Guinea. Also, China and Korea are lucky in that the prevailing form of malaria is Plasmodium vivax -- which actually used to be called "benign tertian malaria." In terms of death rate, it's about as benign as the flu. Which is to say, not benign at all -- until you compare it to the other form of malaria.

> But the market still does not reflect what people want?

A lot of people want a cure for Malaria. A minority with all the money don't care so much for it.

So the market isn't reflecting what people want, it's reflecting what people with money want.

I'd prefer a system where money didn't vote, and people's needs take preference over people's wants.

The markets reflect what the money wants. But money isn't distributed equally. So the markets really just reflect what people with money want... and that's not a malaria vaccine.

Are you kidding? More people have malaria in the world than people that have ever heard the word "iPhone".

About 250 million iphones have been sold. That's fairly close to the WHO estimate of 210 million cases of Malaria in 2010.

Even accounting for overlap, the hyperbole is a bit excessive there.

These two issues are nigh incomparable. One is a simple medical cure for rich first world country people. Well, not simple, but simple to sell if you've got the answer.

Malaria, on the other hand, is not a product or an answer to a research problem. It's a symptom of - basically - bad government in certain parts of the world. We're not looking for a cure because there is no cure, or we're not interested in using the only cure we do know of - recolonialisation. That's the only cure which might work within 10 years.

All of these issues that come under the umbrella term of "poor people problems" are of this category. They're actually bad society/government problems, and they're a devil to fix, and simply throwing money at the problem arguably just makes it worse.

So we do what we can - slowly, slowly, carefully try to help them build a better society and a better class of living for their citizens. And it does seem to work, kind of, slowly.

What!? Recolonisation? What a stupid thing to say. That's like solving someone's money problem by giving them cheap credits they can never return. Or solving thirst by drinking sea water. Colonisation leads to conflict, which leads to Decolonisation, which returns them back where they started only they wasted both just time and sometimes people's lives.

Want to help them? Look at their native populace and find outliers (people that have least amount of malaria), then analyze what these people do that reduces their contact with malaria, and spread those methods to other people. If those methods are successful spread them, if not go back to start of paragraph. Rinse, repeat.

Since you speak English, you were almost certainly born in a colonised country. Yes, it can indeed go badly. And if you had thought for 10 seconds before typing your outraged reply, you can probably think of a few cases where it has gone well.

Ironically, your "solution" requires either being, or having the cooperation of, the government in the affected territory, so you're actually agreeing with me.

You seem to be using a different definition of colonization of state than what I considered nominal i.e. maintaining power structures that are closely aligned to the colonizing force or transferring people to create such power structures. Of the top my head, I can't name a single one, I can however name several botched attempts at colonization.

My "solution" doesn't require much cooperation, other than having a NGO and government tolerance of such NGO. IF NGO count as colonization than colonization is pretty meaningless.

Australia was a colony before it became a country. it turned out pretty well.

Your proposed solution is textbook recolonization.

This is straight out of "Idiocracy" !


Narrator: The years passed, mankind became stupider at a frightening rate. Some had high hopes the genetic engineering would correct this trend in evolution, but sadly the greatest minds and resources where focused on conquering hair loss and prolonging erections.

Also advertisement, social profiling and of course weapons, weapons, weapons, weapons. Not that this is limited to just capitalism or even necessarily inherent to all incarnations of that particular system.

Idiocracy is such a stupid movie. Worst: People take it seriously. As in: As if it actually had some sort of meaningful or true message (even in satirical form). That’s just sad.

Before someone posts "releveant XKCD,"[2] I'd like to head it off by asking what XKCD thinks is wrong about Idiocracy. Are people with higher IQ really having more kids, unlike the movie says, or is the Flynn Effect[1] pushing IQs up despite people with higher IQ having less kids?

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect

[2] http://xkcd.com/603/

Having kids or not having kids is mostly an issue of:

* Money/class * Laws and social status * Time-to-adulthood for your culture

Educated, middle-class people in Western countries have stopped having kids en masse largely because the first and last factors on that last have risen, massively. It now takes large amounts of time and money for educated, middle-class parents to raise a child to their own level (ie: an educated, middle-class adult), and the process has extremely many points of potential failure. It's often not even likely enough to succeed; for instance, if you live somewhere with bad schools or need your entire 20s to establish your own career before you can afford to feed a child.

Aww it's pretty cheap to feed a child, but raising them in a socially acceptable way for your cohort might be expensive.

Minimally feed one? Yes. Feed, clothe and care for them "properly", so that measures of their total health (like for example, their height) wind up in strong greater-than-or-equal correlation with parents who are already decently-off? Takes a bunch of effort.

I think we're saying the same thing except that you believe it's more expensive to make sure kids have shoes and aren't stunted than I do.

> Takes a bunch of effort.

100% with you on that one.

Food is expensive for a large family with a decent mortgage payment. Also, Remember when you have a family your career mobility drops dramatically. I know I won't have kids until I am 30, without going into debt of course.

Evolution is way to slow to be showing significant effects. The Flynn Effect is mostly a consequence of better nutrition and like increased height it's slowed down a lot in the US. Another long term trend in in reverse is people have stopped living longer in the US and life expectancy is decreasing.

However, poor and uneducated does not mean genetically dumb. People with really low IQ's are far less likely to have kids. Comparing people with sub 60 IQ's with over 140 IQ's the smarter people have more kids.

I've not seen the film, but I would assume it is using the idea of a future "dumb" humanity to satirize current "dumb" humanity.

The fact that lots of people currently believe exactly this theory about societal decline due to the lower classes breeding too much just underlines this.

Only thing worse than people talking about Idiocracy are people who bring up XKCD

Come on, it was just a funny movie along the lines of Dumb and Dumber, Harold & Kumar or Fletch.

There was some vague sci-fi mashed up with societal critique, but really this was a pretext to get Gun toting presidents, morons and scantily clad chics on screen with a fish-out-of-water present day man.

Hey, it’s one of my favorite dumb movies. I have no problem with it as a movie.

I have a problem with people saying that it has some sort of profound message. Yeah, it satirizes current-day stupidity pretty well (and I like that) but I do not think it makes any reasonable statements about humanity’s future.

Some truth rings through the satire, like the television that appeals to the masses.

Except instead of Ow my balls we have reality tv (though wipeout is pretty close to the former).

There are plenty of stupid things in the movie but that doesn't mean the social commentary isn't without insight.

Minoxidil (Rogaine) and sildenafil citrate (Viagra) were both created to treat high blood pressure. Turns out they had side effects.

It also means that some people (like Gates), that greatly succeed in a capitalist society, who has never been personally affected by Malaria (that I know of), can allocate money, awareness, and research towards a solution.

Gates has never been personally affected by male baldness either (that I know of). I wonder if he'd make the comparison if he was one of the millions of sufferers of m.b. We need to find a cure, now.

Hey, fellow “sufferer” here. (And a young one: visibly started when I was 23/24, now I’m 25 and it’s totally obvious.)

No, we do not need to find a cure. Sure, it would be nice if there were one, but that surely ranks far below curing Malaria. Baldness is a minor inconvenience. It doesn’t kill people, it doesn’t make people sick, unproductive or reduces their lifespan.

Personal note: whiney bald people who act as if baldness were some sort of serious ailment are the worst.

(I’m not sure whether you are serious or just joking. I have read bald people write like you, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you were serious.)

Currently a bald guy manage the company he has hundreds of million of shares of.

Hormone replacement therapy stops and in some cases reverses mpb. Maybe not the solution you were looking for, though.

I guess I get to be the guy to defend hair research. The reason this gets so much attention is that androgenic alopecia is linked to metabolic syndrome. This also means it is linked to, for example, polycystic ovary syndrome and... heart disease and diabetes.


Yes, really. The fact that it's [alopecia] linked to some of the leading causes of death in the developed world might help to explain some of the research money.

Of course that doesn't mean he isn't still essentially right that malaria deserves to get more money. This still, of course, reflects an implicit difference of focus between rich people and poor people. Rich people have money and they spend it on themselves, not others -- but it [the research funding] isn't just an outgrowth of simple vanity.

Also, the reason we have treatments rather than cures is that the cure is horrifying. AA is caused by -- on a simple chemical level -- androgens. Read: testosterone. Finasteride et al. inhibit them. You want a cure: cut your balls off, that's the cure.

I wonder how much baldness research actually does go on, since the two main drugs weren't discovered by researchers working on baldness?

The fact is that the Private Sector solves problems exclusively for people who can pay for them.

In other words, how useful the Private Sector is to you is a direct function of your income. The Public Sector may be inefficient and costly, but if you don't have money, it's the only Sector that gives a shit about you.

Which is why it infuriates me to see invariably affluent, educated professionals preaching the Gospel of Free Markets and Small Government to the shiftless masses, with their petty concerns like Health Insurance. Why can't they just buy anything they need?

Conservative/Libertarian types like to pontificate about how the 47% will always vote for policies which take from the Randian Supermen (which they fancy themselves) to distribute to the Moochers, yet they fail to recognize how easy it is for someone with an income in the top 10% to dismiss the Social Welfare programs which they will never themselves be in need of as "wasteful spending". The Hypocrisy!

In Software Development, we like to say that to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The experienced developer knows that different tools have different uses, and does not get caught up in holy wars advocating for her favorite design pattern or algorithm. I wish that people would look at the public/private sector debate with that kind of maturity - the Public and Private sectors are well suited for some issues, and poorly suited for others. The question is to determine which is the better fit for a given scenario. To reflexively advocate for either Private or Public solutions in every scenario is foolish, like the undergraduate Comp Sci student who just discovered recursion and wants to solve every problem that way.

Let's try to move past Ideology and on to Problem Solving.

Which is why it infuriates me to see invariably affluent, educated professionals preaching the Gospel of Free Markets and Small Government to the shiftless masses, with their petty concerns like Health Insurance. Why can't they just buy anything they need?

Your understanding of their motivations is deficient. You seem intelligent, maybe you could spend some time understanding their argument. If you do understand their argument, why misstate it?

It's not so much they think, "Why can't they just buy anything they need?". It's that they (we) think, "These masterminds who lie by telling voters that they can set up this magical one-size-fits-all healthcare system and work it efficiently are just trying to grab power and votes for themselves. It's a horrible idea to set up yet another governmental dependency that is doomed to fail like all the others. Already, the system will cost triple what we were told. We have seen that 'You can keep your own insurance' was a lie. It contains numerous hidden taxes and costs. When will we ever learn?"

I'll admit to setting up a bit of a straw man here. I am probably to quick to do so because for most of my own life I was a conservative/libertarian type. I know that many of the points, arguments and concerns of this group are valid (like your concerns above). For instance, the cycle of dependence on government is a very real, sad problem (as noted here - http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/opinion/sunday/kristof-pro...).

My first point is that there is a definite tendency, especially in the more extreme right, to 1) make a knee-jerk reaction any time a solution involving government is proposed, 2) hold up private sector solutions as inherently superior to anything the public sector does.

Second, I wish to point out the plank in the eyes of the affluent who seek to destroy programs that cater to the disadvantaged, while simultaneously accusing those who vote for social programs of mooching off of their heroic economic efforts.

It's fine that you have the Left and Right starting with different default answers to problems, but both need to recognize that their "pet" solution (public/private) is not always the best one in a given situation. In a perfect world, the two sides would engage in a civil debate, considering data or even precedent in other nations facing similar issues, and come to a reasonable conclusion. Maybe some day. :)

Well said. I don't see much consensus happening soon with all the vitriol being thrown about and a lack of even being able to agree on simple things like whether or not a national debt the size of our GDP is a bad thing.

But we can hope.

As someone who has just started balding, I have to cry bullshit on this.

The only two medical treatments for male pattern baldness were found by accident... Minoxidil was created to treat blood pressure issues and Finasteride was created for prostate issues.

I'm sorry for your loss, but how does it make you an expert on how much funding is given to malaria vs male pattern balding research?

When billg says "if you are working on male baldness or other things you get an order of magnitude more research funding" is he only counting the unfruitful research into baldness, or is he also counting the blood pressure and prostate research that accidentally led to baldness treatments?

It seems like the value of a human life should be greater (than solving male baldness) in financial terms in addition to humanist terms over the long time period. Wouldn't it make more sense for Gates to make a capitalist argument for why investing in malaria research should be more profitable than investing in male baldness?

But that's the problem ... it's not, or at least is very difficult to convince the average person of it. If you're a middle aged dentist in Wyoming making $127k (http://swz.salary.com/SalaryWizard/Dentist-Salary-Details-Ca...), what are you more likely to spend your money on ... large donations to malaria research, or a monthly payment to the hair club for men so you can look better and try to have an affair with the hot dental assistant?

That may be a very jaded view of what the average person would do, but tell me it's wrong.

You can't compare that. You can't compare a person spending on themself versus a person donating to a cause.

Or else you'll make a suggestion that we all move to slums because it's not fair that we get to live in an actual house when not everyone can afford that.

It's wrong because it makes the assumption that it is either hair club for men or malaria research. Also I don't think hair club for men = large donation to malaria research. It is far cheaper.

Sadly the capitalistic value of a life is relative and it correlates with earnings.

There are public policy numbers which generally aren't talked about. In most western countries you can figure the value of a life on order of about 10 million dollars or so.

Empirically, lives are valued on the high side of lifetime possible earnings, something like double the average wage * 100 years or so.

Do we fix an intersection to prevent the high statistical likelihood of a death? What about a swimming pool danger PR campaign? Political swing matters more, but the dispassionate (and rational) way of doing it uses life valuation.

Giving people with money hardons and a full head of hair is enormously more profitable than public spending (or charity expenditure) in poor countries. To the point where it is rational expenditure based on numbers :(

Also, you can't really charge people for not getting malaria. You can try and get their government to pay for it though.

I'm not saying this is right.

Can you explain more about what you mean by "value"?

Yeah, sorry about that.

What I mean is that on a wider level, public policy decisions about saving lives need to have a ballpark dollar valuation on human life in order to make allocation decisions.

It would not make sense to spend $20MM on an intersection upgrade which saves 2 lives per year when spending $10MM each on two other intersections might save 5 lives per year. It gets more complicated when you're comparing different things, like a dialysis machine versus a PR campaign for type II diabetes versus a traffic upgrade.

The minute you acknowledge that line of reasoning makes sense, it is easy to get trapped in this messed up alternate reasoning where the market cap of facebook is 5,884 American lives.

Male baldness occurs late in life - high value individuals have had a chance to accumulate wealth. Malaria hits early, before potential earnings have accumulated. Though it hits poor people, the potential lifetime excess incomes of malaria victims should rival that of males willing to spend on baldness. Thus, we have an issue of time horizons - finance knows how to solve this!

A coalition of African governments could create an X Prize for a malaria cure, committing to a certain level of expenditure, e.g. 30% of the population within 10 years, for a cure or vaccine that meets certain efficacy and cost hurdles. Theoretically, taxes on the salvaged incomes would pay for the safety net - this presupposes a reasonable level of productivity. A coalition willing to levy a conditional tax on its population for when a cure meeting certain efficacy and cost hurdles becomes available should also qualify for some sort of multilateral backstop, thus increasing the probability of the "prize" being paid.

Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations did not speak about the economy alone, but of the political economy. Talking about capitalism absent the institutions that frame the market is vacuous. Philanthropy is a good balm, but I reject that malaria is immune to the vectors which are fighting male baldness.

It also means there are more chances for individuals to have the wherewithal to step in and correct the deficiencies they perceive in their life and the lives of those around them.

He's wrong. The lack of capitalism where malaria abounds is the reason that malaria gets little funding (assuming that's even so; I've not checked).

If you want to improve the lot of people, give them capitalism.

Bill Gates is a great example of the aphorism "trust capitalism, not capitalists". He's a capitalist, but he himself does not believe in capitalism. It's like the quip about Karl Popper's Open Society and its Enemies: "by one of its enemies". Gates lacks the authority on this subject that his success would appear to lend him. Beware!

Yes, this is an interesting effect of capitalism: locally significant but globally quite irrelevant issues gets more resources allocated to them than globally significant but not locally sensible investments.

That's of course bad. The immediate alternative: government allocates funds to locally insignificant and because of prestige, buy-in and general politics, eventually globally worthless investments, is also not very attractive.

Actually, one may see Bill Gates as an example of why capitalism is advantageous. Being allowed to amass a significant portion of wealth, he can now choose to spend it on efforts he considers good. As long as his interest is to use his money for purposes he considers the greater good, the money will certainly have a greater effect than government's spending of the same resources would.

Think what you will of the Malaria problem. But I think that giving larger amounts of resources to certain individuals (just kings) is one of the most efficient ways of allocating resources. Now, the main problem with modern capitalism is this: Why do so few just kings arise from the very wealthy? Most very rich seem incapable of creating or living by any sentiment or value-system that goes beyond their own self-indulgence. Why is that? And how to make a system where the people that rise create value and values?

perhaps having a sense of morals and ethics means you end up not being as ruthless and thus less likely to earn the big bucks.

Well yeah. That's why you're never supposed to have pure, unalloyed capitalism, any more than you want pure and unalloyed anything.

Monoculture always leads to death.

Capitalism also means DDT, which kills mosquitoes that are vectors for malaria. However, statist intervention bans DDT and allows mosquito populations to thrive, thus killing large numbers of people in places like Gambia where...wait a minute! Places like Gambia where malaria rates are in free-fall! And why? Because of the use of insecticide treated netting...(kinda makes you wonder what kind of drop in malaria rates could be achieved through DDT, huh?)

See: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081030203243.ht...

So, socialism and enviro-wacko statist intervention gets people killed by malaria through bans on insecticides, which turn out to be the most effective counters to malaria.

What I find interesting is that malaria gets less funding because the countries with malaria are so poor. And they are poor because of their governments are bad.

And if a country with malaria suddenly started to grow quickly, it itself would also quickly solve its malaria problem.

So what do charities do? They fund malaria cures, not government reform. They fund the treatment of symptoms, not the root cause.

And why don't we fund the root cause? It turns out it may well be much harder than curing malaria. How do you un-corrupt a thoroughly corrupt government?

And Europe has a horrific colonial history with the developing world, especially Africa. First worlders attempting to dictate what and how 3rd world leaders should do would be embarrassingly reminiscent of colonialism. And here embarrassing means leader might lose the perceived power which keeps them in office.

And lastly donor countries tend to have laws against corruption which would punish charities for paying off foreign leaders. Even if they are paying them off to reduce poverty or something good like that.

So here is a totally crazy idea. Make an exception to foreign corruption laws if the cause is worth it.

Then offer secret payment to developing world leaders if they meet certain metrics. And also offer them advice on what to do to meet the metrics. And do it all in secret.

Imagine Kim Jong Un one day suddenly starts slowl and steady market reforms. Imagine 10 years later North Korea is growing quite fast, and Kim Jong Un is a dedicated fighter of corruption. Imagine Kim Jong Un himself starts to encourage direct democracy, first at village level and then higher. Imagine a few years later Kim Jong Un gives an emotional speech about the two Koreas being one, liberty and democracy in the North, and then resigns leaving a Swiss like democratically chosen group of people in charge, and a North Korean government structure looking quite similar to that of Switzerland. Then Kim Jong Un moves to southern California with a mysterious fortune of several billion dollars, a universal pardon from the US president, and protection from foreign prosecution in the states.

why would kim so all of that when he can already live it up like a King right now? having a few bil in money isnt enough to replace what he has right now, which I'd essentially evwrything in NK...

That's because consumers will allocate money to pay for baldness. That's where the money is. We all understand that, now please quit complaining and figure out how to get consumers to pay for other advances.

For example, we pay for Moore's law by buying new computers and iPhones every few years. We will start paying for huge advances in robotics once they can do more of the house chores and yard work. We need to get to the tipping point.

As for advances in biology and the cures for diseases, I'm not sure how to approach that. However, if we could funnel billions more from the consumer sector, we'll cure cancer, the common cold, etc. years sooner.

The consumer incentives encourage biological advances nearly ideally. Even diseases from which the West no longer suffers have incentives as NGOs and other organizations will pay billions for effective cures. The difficulty is that the FDA makes productive research very expensive and difficult to quickly iterate based on real feedback, and the academic publishing system is full of questionable research that slows down the advance of honest research as it is not reliable.

When I go to Pet Smart to buy dog food, the credit card reader asks me if I want to donate $1, $5, $10, etc., to help homeless animals. I imagine that if I was at Walgreen's buying NyQuil and the credit card reader asked me if I wanted to donate $1, $5, $10, toward medical research so that people just like me can get over a cold faster in the future, I'd probably say yes.

You'll spend $200 for a new smartphone every few years.

Samsung and Apple are fighting a war to make the better phone. Billions are spent. Likewise, Intel and ARM are competing for the future of the CPU. Someday soon, someone like iRobot will be competing with another company to automate the home. The "Apple II" of home robotics isn't too far off? The race starts then.

Now find a way to commercialize companies that will also do more medical research. We do have big pharma but that research takes many years.

I don't think that people want to spend money on medicine like they want to spend money on phones. Even when they are ill, it comes across as more of a necessity than something inherently desirable, though at least when feeling ill they might give more thought to how much nicer things would be if medicines worked better than they do now.

But to expect folks to cash their paychecks, run out to the store and buy some new cough syrup just because it's so cool?... that's what happens with phones, but it seems unlikely to happen with medicine.

And in fact that'd be ridiculous. If one isn't even feeling ill, why should they go out and buy medicine? Unless they are buying it for someone else, but this sort of gets us into the realm of charity and donations.

I don't know; what do you think? What sort of situation can you imagine in which a consumer treats funding medical research the same way they treat buying a new phone?

People don't fund semiconductor research directly either. Hundreds of millions of people pay Apple.

Capitalism isn't an idea, like, say, socialism. Capitalism is something that arises organically in societies that allow their citizens/residents freedom.

The alternative to capitalism isn't a different economic organization. The alternative to capitalism is not-freedom. Those who say (like @api in the first post) that capitalism is dying and imply (or state) that we need an alternative, either mean to take freedom away from us, or don't know that that's what they mean.

Recently, when hearing about Gates's health initiatives along with the US discussions about tax rates, I thought that if the government had taken significantly more of Bill Gates's wealth through taxes, they probably would not have globally reduced diseases like malaria with those few billions of dollars as much as Bill Gates will with his own allocation. Not saying that's an argument against any higher tax rates, etc, but it's an interesting thought.

Interesting thought, in 2009 the US government spent $139 billion on health research. http://www.researchamerica.org/uploads/healthdollar09.pdf

What if most rich people do not give a damn, and just keep all their money for themselves, where would medical research be then ?

>Ideally you create a business model that lets you get your margin from the rich countries and the middle income countries, or through tiering customers in developing countries." He cited eye clinics in India that offer free lens replacement and other treatments to the poor but charges those who can afford it as a good example of a tiered system.

It seems like pharmaceutical companies come under a lot of fire for that kind of approach.

This is a very narrow view. What the article should be saying is that with every dollar you do not spend for fight against deadly diseases, well, you're effectively let people die.

That means, you (not capitalism), as the owner of a computer or an iPhone, value watching cat videos higher than helping people not to die.

This, of course, is such a heavy moral burden that you're happy someone comes along and blames it on "capitalism".

there is no moral burden on you for not using you available wealth to help the poor. selfishness is a natural state of things. i respect and admirer people who go Wismar against their natural state to give allergically altrustically, but i will never judge someone for not wanting to donate.

Nitpick, title implies people are funding malaria.

It also means that male baldness is being funded.

The original was too long, so I removed 'research'.

Capitalism used to include having to provision a private army to protect your home, and keep the caravans safe from marauders along the trade routes.

Now it does not. In the future it will be more profitable to cure malaria than male pattern baldness.

How do we get there? I am not sure, but having one of the most respected business figures in the world holler about it will help.

Read Andy Kessler's WSJ article from today. It provides an answer: Want to Change the World? How About a Billion-Dollar Prize


You can google for the story to get beyond the paywall if you need to.

Yet it's capitalism that ends up financing the malaria vaccine. It just had to go through Gates first.

Capitalism is not the problem. It's our culture. We need to find a way to funnel more people into STEM jobs. The west has failed. India and China have drastically different governments but they both have been able to do one thing. Produce Engineers.

Easy for a man with a full head of hair to say. Or is this just a swipe at Balmer?

It's in capitalism's interest to keep more of these people alive to sell them more stuff. Someone dying of malaria at age 7 doesn't get a chance to go bald in the first place, hence fewer sales of baldness cures.

The bald guy in the first world makes more money in a year than the malaria kid would make in his/her lifetime.

A related story from TIME Magazine in 2008: http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1828417,00.html

But it also means malaria gets more funding than it would otherwise.

Well, yeah. Humans are pretty poor at basic risk assessment and very tuned into their own needs. The economic system doesn't matter much, its basic human nature.

Capitalism is what created the billions of dollars that Bill Gates has in his Gates Foundation to spend on things like curing malaria.

Double-edged sword.

I really respect this guy. At the time when Apple et al stockpile their gold, he puts his money up for a noble cause.

This guy sucks the joy out of being successful. Him and the oppressor of Omaha are my least favourite bourgeios.

I thought Gates made fortune due to Capitalism

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact