“In cancer studies, the primary investigator behind any one advance might rely on the specialized skills of a radiation oncologist, a disease-specific biologist, an evolutionary ecologist, a biophysicist, a geo-biologist and an evolutionary-dynamics expert.” Those were the words of Michael Milken in a piece for the Wall Street Journal earlier this week.
Work divided is the most powerful force in commerce, hands down. And it’s the clearest explanation for all the abundance we enjoy today. Milken indicates that they’re rapidly applying the division of labor to the division of thought in healthcare.
Milken’s description of cancer studies signals a growing ability to blend genius in the way that the profit-motivated have blended work for centuries. It’s a sign that we’re at the doorstep of thoroughly amazing medical advances that will happily turn all-too-many killers of today into yesterday’s afterthoughts. Only for the news to get even better: the rapid evolution of ChatGPT signals the marriage of mechanized genius with that of humans. It tells us that tomorrow will be another country in terms of health and living standards. In other words, don’t shed a tear for the kids being born today. To say they’re fortunate screams understatement.
Please now think about the potential for advance with the barrier that is government spending top of mind. And in thinking about government spending, don’t cloud your mind with Republicans vs. Democrats. The reality is that both parties have controlled the national purse at varying times over the decades, and it would be hard to distinguish between the two in a numerical sense. While each Party has spending priorities, spend is what both do. Always.
Rather than pointing fingers at the Parties, focus on the government spending through the prism of the advance that’s not taking place as resources are allocated in politicized fashion instead of being pushed to their highest use. Figure that when resources are allocated in profit-motivated fashion, information is created. This is the stuff of progress.
From there, think of information creation in the cancer studies described by Milken. These intense collaborations of knowledge didn’t just happen; rather they’re the happy result of endless and very expensive trial and error over time. As Milken points out so essentially, “as recently as the 19th century, people suffered through gruesome surgeries without anesthesia.” Stop and think about that. People didn’t suffer in this way because they wanted to, or because the doctors of old were sadists, rather limits of knowledge meant that the surgery of the past was barbaric. It’s no longer that way, and it isn’t because the wealth-creation motive results in staggering resource leaps that arm the brilliant (and frequently opposite thinking) with the tools necessary to rush a much better future into the present.
It’s something to think about with the debt-ceiling debate well in mind. While everyone knows compromise will eventually be arrived at so that Treasury can pay its bills, at some point it would be great if Congress (spurred on by voters) were to have a real discussion about government spending. The latter doesn’t grow the economy, rather it’s a tax on freedom and the production of information without which there is no progress.
In short, smaller government born of real spending cuts doesn’t amount to “sacrifice” or “hard choices,” or the taking away of the proverbial punch bowl as way too many believe. Spending cuts are the rolling out of the punch bowl as the innovative are matched with more resources on the way to advances that vastly elongate and improve life. Shrink government in order to advance freedom, progress, and yes, cancer studies.
John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, Vice President at FreedomWorks, a senior fellow at the Market Institute, and a senior economic adviser to Applied Finance Advisors (www.appliedfinance.com). His latest book is The Money Confusion: How Illiteracy About Currencies and Inflation Sets the Stage For the Crypto Revolution.