I had one of my 2 minute bouts with Alex again and sometimes twitter is not the best media. Here is what I think about this whole ‘why Cuba has better education and health than the US’ issue:
– It is the context, stupid: I bet you that peasants in 17th century Italy had less cholesterol than your average New Yorker. I also bet that inmates are less prone to traffic accidents than me. To try and compare Cuba, a place where the GDP per capita is almost 5x lower, movement is restricted and where people cannot choose their job or in many ways their education is preposterous and useless.
– To believe in any statistic that comes out of a system that doesn’t allow political criticism and where the press is owned and controlled by the government is an act of faith. I don’t care if the UN or the government of Canada are believers in the Castro god or not – Logic, experience and common sense tell you that dictatorships cannot be trusted to tell you any news – especially good ones.
– Such comparisons are harder even among countries that are ‘compatible’. For instance, it is totally understandable to me why Japan has a longer life expectancy than the US. They eat fish and algae, we eat hamburgers and fries. The question is: what do you do about that? Should the government force McDonalds to stop selling Big Macs? Should we spend trillions of dollars in marketing campaigns trying to convince young people that sushi is good for you?
Part of the life expectancy gap between the US and some other countries is related to the rate of accidents. People drive more than 3x in the US compared to the Japanese. Should we limit people’s movement?
Another example: The US pioneered in vitro fertilization and is currently the country that uses that technique the most: some 58,000 American IVF babies are born each year. One consequence of that however is a huge increase in risky premature and multiple births. Now, premature infants in the United States are more likely to survive than those elsewhere. Yet they are still more likely to die than full-term babies, and the sheer numbers born prematurely in the United States—more than 540,000 per year—drive up infant mortality.
Is that a bad thing? Is allowing women who would not be able to have babies to do so more important than pretty statistics?
Freedom is to be able to choose what to eat, when to exercise and whether to have an in vitro baby. Is that something we should sacrifice in the name of better life expectancy? What is the next step? Government mandated exercise?
I believe that people should think twice before boasting about certain ‘advances’ in human behavior. Things are usually much more complex than they seem.