Healthcare spending could be "the next stage in the evolution of advanced economies." That's a curve-bending, paradigm-shifting opinion from Michael Lind, who once again challenges the conventional wisdom. As we all know, Americans have been told--lectured is probably a better word to use--for decades now that healthcare spending is a problem, not a solution.
But what if that conventional wisdom was wrong? What if the same healthcare that improves and lengthens our lives could also improve our economy? Already is, in fact! Better health and better wealth--a win-win! That's been the Serious Medicine Strategy argument all along, but it's been distinctly in the minority.
Writing in The Financial Times, Lind makes some bold claims: For the real jobs of the future, look to healthcare, education and local public services--particularly healthcare. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare accounts for seven out of the 20 fastest-growing occupations, more than any other category. Home health aides and personal and home-care aides are found both among the fastest-growing job categories and among the occupations with the largest overall job openings in the years ahead.
While employment in manufacturing is declining overall, employment in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing in the US is expected to expand. Better yet, the growing healthcare sector is creating jobs for workers at all educational levels, from the highest--physicians and surgeons who need professional degrees--to the lowest--health aides who need only high school qualifications plus brief on-the-job training. The medical-industrial complex is unique among industries in combining the potential for greater research and development, more manufacturing and a growing number of labour-intensive jobs that cannot be offshored.
Lind, of course, is one of the leading policy thinkers in America today. For the better part of two decades, his work has ranged across a wide array of topics, international as well as domestic, but his impact on economic policy has perhaps been his greatest contribution to the current debate. Lind's signature has always been his ability has been to summon up historical parallels, reminding us that more often than not, we have confronted analogous problems in the past. Yes, technology changes, but human nature doesn't change much, and national interest is a constant.
Thus his many books--eight, by my count--have often encouraged Americans to look to their own national history for clues about future national solutions. Indeed, thanks in large part to Lind's efforts, the economic policy ideas of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay, and Abraham Lincoln, to name just three great historical figures, have enjoyed a substantial re-evaluation and much-justified revival. At a time when Americans are understandably dissatisfied with the performance of the economy, his work product stands as proof that fresh and valuable thinking can come from the past, as well as the present.
But Lind is not just a historian. He is actively engaged in the great debates of the moment. And so it is particularly interesting that Lind sees healthcare as an economic driver. That is, healthcare is an asset, not a liability. Indeed, Lind's views are provocative because his positive view of healthcare puts him at odds with the prevailing policy orthodoxy, which holds that health care is an expense in urgent need of being curbed.