September 20, 2007 4:58PM

What if We Just Slashed Medical Spending in Half?

That’s the question Robin Hanson poses in the most recent issue of Cato Unbound. His answer? We’d probably be better off:

We could cut U.S. medical spending in half without substantial net health costs. This would give us the equivalent of an 8% pay raise.

Hanson entertains responses to his essay by distinguished health economists David Cutler, Dana Goldman, and Alan Garber — who are not as dismissive of Hanson’s thesis as you might expect.

Hanson was my health economics professor. Only later did I learn he does not have a degree in economics. (Insert your own credibility‐​shattering joke here.) As he explains in his essay and elsewhere, “Most students in my eight years of teaching health economics have simply not believed me, even after a semester of reviewing the evidence.”

I was familiar with much of the evidence presented, and so I found Hanson’s argument plausible. But I am not so familiar with the evidence to be confident that I could find the holes in Hanson’s argument. So I did what any student would do: I put my professor on the hot seat with A‐​list economists from Harvard, Stanford, and Rand.

So far, the discussion has been everything I hoped. But it hasn’t yet zeroed in on the heart of the contributors’ disagreement. I hope they will all stay engaged.