It is commonly believed that healthcare is a sector plagued by “market failure.” A heavy dose of government intervention is therefore necessary to optimize the needs of society. A paper most commonly cited in support of that view is one published in 1963 by Nobel Prize winner Kenneth Arrow, one of the giants of economic theory in the twentieth century, and titled “Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Medical Care.”
But how does economic theory arrive at the concept of market failure and how do economists conceive of health care when they apply their theoretical models to medical practice?
To help sort this out, we have as our guest Robert P. Murphy, economist, teacher, and author of many books. Dr. Murphy obtained his PhD from NYU and is Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute. He is co-host with Tom Woods of the popular podcast Contra Krugman, and he is also host of The Bob Murphy Show, “a podcast promoting free markets, free minds, and grateful souls.”
The episode is in two parts. In this first part, we review the theoretical framework that forms the background to Arrow’s paper. In the upcoming second part, we will delve into the paper itself, discuss how economists conceive (or misconceive) of medical care and what the implications have been for the US healthcare system as a whole.