Side Effects: List of Missed Obamacare Deadlines Grows

Side Effects: List of Missed Obamacare Deadlines Grows.

Economics teaches us that for anything there can be too much or too little. Too little pollution means that pollution is being reduced at a cost higher than the benefit (eliminating all pollution would involve killing most of the population of Earth while the rest move into caves). Too much health care means too little of something else (i.e. lower economic growth).

This idea extends to questions of when–a common example is pharmaceutical patents. The current patent system incentivizes coming up with a patentable drug now, which means investing too much money into a drug to try to beat rivals. Say a drug will eventually generate $100M in profit, and a firm spends $80M to research this drug even though they could have invented it for $30M if they took more time. This drug was invented too soon. (Yes, the people who buy this drug a year sooner are happier, but at the cost of unforeseeable, foregone opportunities — say another drug that would benefit some other group.)

While intellectual property laws give pharmaceutical companies incentive to do things more quickly than is efficient, we hope Congress will move slower. The whole point of the Senate is to slow down the legislative process and encourage deliberation. However, election cycles, combined with the fact that Congress is normally split about 49-51 on one side or the other, have created incentives that have undone a lot of the incredible innovation that the framers of the constitution gave us.

Unlike a pharmaceutical firm, whose output is constrained by the laws of chemistry and the physiology of their customers, the output of Congress is constrained only by politics. And politics need not make any sense at all.

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