Apologies for the light posting. I’ve been traveling, writing, and experiencing minor technical difficulties. I’ll have some exciting content for you tomorrow. For now, I’ll share a few stray links, including
(1) an excellent op-ed by Gilbert Welch of Dartmouth, one of the co-authors of Overdiagnosed. He begins by describing the decade-long vogue for hormone replacement therapy that was badly undermined when a randomized trial found that preventive hormone replacement was on net very damaging to human health. And so he calls for devoting more resources to rigorously evaluating standard medical practices that have in many cases emerged out of a combination of folk wisdom, convenience, and self-dealing rather than experimental evidence. One of the things I liked most about the piece is Welch’s amusingly self-effacing conclusion, which (to reveal my own cognitive bias) inclined me to trust him. The Manzians among you will particularly appreciate it.
(2) Michael Mishak of the Los Angeles Times has written a fascinating article on the extraordinary resources the California Teachers Association (CTA) has devoted to shaping the political playing field in the Golden State. Between 2000 and the present, the CTA has spent $251 million on political contributions and lobbying, and of course this doesn’t take into account the non-pecuniary efforts of its 325,000 members. Moreover, the CTA’s power is effectively entrenched in the state constitution thanks to a 20-year-old amendment that devotes a minimum of 40% of the state’s general fund to public education. Among other things, Mishak recounts how the CTA has used its power to defend tenure rules and seniority protections. Mishak’s article is an excellent companion to Terry Moe’s Special Interest.
(3) Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times has written a comprehensive article on the Obama administration’s fitful efforts to address the problem of excessive mortgage debt. Ezra Klein of Wonkbook suggests that President Obama’s reluctance to tackle mortgage debt directly may have contributed to the weakness of the recovery, and that it may well have proven a political vulnerability had Republicans not been equally reluctant to embrace some form of debt forgiveness. I discussed a number of related issues in a recent column for CNN.com.
(4) And though it’s been a few weeks since the Chick-fil-A controvery flared up, I was very impressed by Drake Bennett’s sophisticated take on the cultural politics of one of America’s most successful fast-food chains in Bloomberg Businessweek.
(5) This is not a stray link, but I wanted to say that I was very heartened to see the immediate, ferocious reaction from conservatives to Todd Akin’s recent remarks. And I saddened but not surprised by the reaction of the Obama-Biden campaign.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about adverse selection.