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October 12, 2005


Rob Read

The NHS in total is a Deadly Cognitive Error.

The NHS in reality is a


Chris Williams

I thought that all of this was in the 'committees' section of _Parkinson's Law_.


You'll become a libertarian yet, I'll warrant.


Well, there are many many competent economists working inside the public sector doing CBAs on all sorts of things. Usually more small scale than "should the DTI exist?", but some economist somewhere has almost certainly raised that question in a policy debate (actually probably many have)

But you can find all sorts of reasons why analysis does not always carry over into policy.

Somtimes this is the terms of reference for the analysis. As a simple example, I was involved in analsis of housing privatisation early in the 90s. There the main issue for the "CBA" was the short term PSBR cost to the public sector per unit privatised (this was under a conservative government). So a bastardised CBA of sorts - a highly politicised one.

On other occasions it may be simply that those doing the anlysis don't have much say in the actual policy decisions. This was my experience of quite a lot of work on environmental CBAs in various contexts. The fact is that economists have to struggle to get themselves heard in some departments. So vulgar you see, measuring things.

On some occasions the policy advice is clear but ignored. Think anything to do with risks to health. Very emotive. Very tough for a politician to say that some risk - and some potential deaths - are inevitable and are actually a sign that we have kept things in perspective. That's "playing fast and loose with public safety" you see.

Of course, it varies case by case. The general rule is that it is difficult to generalise. Hmmm. I guess that is what you mean by incoherent.

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