“We tend to think about [health care] as a totally different realm where the rules of supply and demand and consumption don’t apply, but they do.”
An economist and a writer walk into an emergency medicine conference—stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
You haven’t, yet, but Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the famed authors of international best-seller Freakonomics and its successor SuperFreakonomics are keynote speakers at ACEP14 in Chicago next month. The pair will talk about the unique nexus of health care and economics in the kickoff session of the meeting, at 8 a.m., Monday, Oct. 27 at McCormick Place.
“We tend to think about [health care] as a totally different realm where the rules of supply and demand and consumption don’t apply, but they do,” said Dubner, a New York Times journalist. “And so while it’s true that you don’t want to make your every health care decision based on economic thinking and incentives and supply and demand and so on, you sure want to make most of them that way. Otherwise you end up with a bloated system full of no accountability and perversely misaligned incentives and overconsumption and bloated costs.”
And who better to speak about economics and health care than these two? Levitt is the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, where he directs the Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory. In 2006, he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 People Who Shape Our World. Dubner is an award-winning author, journalist, and TV and radio personality published in the New York Times magazine, the New Yorker, and Time magazine.
The pair shot to stardom in 2005 when they authored Freakonomics, which overlaid economics with seemingly unrelated topics such as cheating teachers, baby names, and drug dealers.
Between their debut book and SuperFreakonomics, the pair has sold six million copies. Earlier this year, they published their third take on the topic, Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain.
Dubner says the pair likes to use anecdotes as parables, in order to give lessons that are both insightful and entertaining.
“We try to tell stories,” he said. “Sometimes they’re about ourselves and how we try and work through a problem, but more typically we like to make other people the heroes of the story…while it feels like it’s just a strange, wacky narrative about somebody who did something very unusual, the idea is really to bury within that strange story a set of lessons.”