[ExI] Overall health and time preference/was Re: Health care discussion

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Wed May 13 13:20:15 UTC 2009

--- On Tue, 5/12/09, Damien Sullivan <phoenix at ugcs.caltech.edu> wrote:
> On Tue, May 12, 2009 at 12:59:41PM
> -0400, MB wrote:
>>>> Then, healthcare is only partially
>>>> responsible of life length of people.
>>>> Better food, sanitation, lower crime, etc.
>>>> can have an effect.
>>> True, but that turns "the US health care system
>>> is broken" into "the
>>> American way of life is unhealthy and
>>> broken".  An interesting maneuver,
>> "can't provide"?  The food is there, sanitation
>> is there. Soap and
>> water are not *that* expensive.  I see people
>> buying junk food while
> Dan was the one citing better food and sanitation as
> possible factors in lower US life expectancy.

That wasn't me; that was Mirco.  I don't believe I've offered any explanation of lower US life expectancy.  I do think one would have to control for all sorts of factors to figure this one out.  I'd be very surprised if it could be narrowed down to one factor -- unless it were some blanket one like "overall life style."
>> I'm buying whole grain flour and fruit and vegs. 
>> That is *choice*.
> Healthy food isn't easily available in a lot of bad
> neighborhoods, actually.

That's hilarious!  I've lived in bad neighborhoods quite often.  I've also lived without a car for long stretches.  And I was into eating healthy and life extension during that time (and now).  I used to walk or take a bus to places where I could buy the typically more expensive foods and things I thought would be healthier for me.  I don't think the problem here is availability.

However, I don't want to make light of this.  Again, I'm not sure there's a simple explanation, though someone like Hoppe might offer that most poor people stay poor because they have a higher time preference -- i.e., are more present-centered.  If his view has any application here, it might go like this.  Poor people, sadly, tend to be more present-centered, so they just don't think in terms of a longer life; instead, they tend to favor immediate gratification over investing for a long-term reward.  So, they won't walk or take the bus or train across town to get healthier food or evne think in terms of eating right at this moment for some potential pay-off -- in terms of lower risk of cancer, heart disease, chronic illness, etc. -- decades from now.

Let's say Hoppe's right here.  This would only be an observation.  The take home for Extropians and transhumanists would not be to condemn people with higher time preferences*, but to see how to help people lower their time preference.  Some of this can be done by removing certain government interferences in the economy, such as government interference in money, which tends almost always to create inflationary currencies.  (How does this link to time preference?  Inflation and the expectation of inflation, all else being the same, tends to encourage a more present-centered culture.)  All this, of course, is predicated on time preference having this sort of overall impact on health.**



*  This wouldn't include only the poor.  After all, many middle and upper class people seem to have the same.  They just start out with more, so, depending on how high their time preference is and how expensive their diversions are, they might take longer to whiddle down their wealth and health.  And there's no iron law stating that time preference for anyone is locked in: a person's time preference isn't fix or locked in one direction, though I believe it's probably harder to go from a higher time preference to a lower one.

**  It might be more complicated too.  One can easily imagine people of ill health with a high time preference, such as a sickly wealthy man who is not so much interested in prolonging his life as in preserving and passing along his fortune or firm to his posterity or in having some other long-term -- long after he's dead -- impact on society, such as rich people who fund research foundations.


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