Folks love to ask me if I think anything the government does now, or has ever done, is good. That’s a silly question for a lot of reasons. Without explaining why I think the question is silly, let me share with you my quick answer: Yes! Public Health Investments. Now, when I say this, I do not mean providing outpatient/inpatient/drug health services free of charge for all Americans, but rather the things that truly look like public goods. What things are these? Vaccination programs, water cleanup programs, efforts to fight infectious diseases, etc. have been spectacularly successful. They really have. Here is some recent evidence for some such program:
Saving Babies: The Contribution of Sheppard-Towner to the
Decline in Infant Mortality in the 1920s
by Carolyn M. Moehling, Melissa A. Thomasson – #17996 (DAE)
From 1922 to 1929, the Sheppard-Towner Act provided matching grants
to states to fund maternal and infant care education initiatives. We
examine the effects of this public health program on infant
mortality. States engaged in different types of activities, allowing
us to examine whether different interventions had differential
effects on mortality. Interventions that provided one-on-one contact
and opportunities for follow-up care, such as home visits by public
health nurses, reduced infant deaths more than classes and
conferences. Overall, we estimate that Sheppard-Towner activities
can account for 9 to 21 percent of the decline in infant mortality
over the period.
This really isn’t the best example, but is nonetheless illustrative.