Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fitness blog

Careful about the conclusions, these are not interventions studies they are observational studies only.  Causality therefore is not proved - but the information is consistent with a large amount of theory.  I take fish oil every day, and given the prediliction for polyunsaturated (vegetable oils) to oxidize, eat them only when I have to.

"A diet rich in fish, omega-3 oils, fruits and vegetables may lower your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, whereas consuming omega-6 rich oils could increase chances of developing memory problems, according to a new study.

Isn’t it ironic that the very oils we’re told to consume, omega-6 rich polyunsaturated vegetable oils (peanut, corn, soy, etc), are contributors to mental decline? It’s not incredibly surprising if you put the consumption of such oils into the context of evolution. Polyunsaturated vegetable oils have only been possible in the last century or so when we could press huge quantities of grains like corn to get the extremely small amount of oil. Our ancestors never ate corn oil. They weren’t eating olive oil either, but an olive is a naturally oily, fatty fruit. As Ray Peat discusses here, polyunsaturated fats are immunosuppressive."

Understanding the Pragmatic Value of Liberty

In another magnificent bit, Don Boudreaux paints a picture of why liberty works better than centralization and political control of economies. Intuitively, if asked, most of us would rather the world work via cooperation than coercion. Most of us have been taught to think of democratic government interventions as at least "well
intentioned." Often ignored is the fact that any and every government intervention is based on coercive force - and not cooperation; at best, the citizens comply with the government's force. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

Here comes the G-20
By Donald J. Boudreaux, Sunday, September 20, 2009
The Group of 20 that travels to Pittsburgh this week for another economic summit proclaims on its Web site the goal of laying "the foundations to move beyond the crisis to a sustainable recovery." Good idea.
The difficult question, though, is "How?" One school of thought -- call them the "decentralists" -- advocates
greatly expanding the role of markets. As markets expand, so too does diversity, competition and creativity.
Entrepreneurs experiment with different types of financial instruments, manufacturing processes, retail-distribution methods and other ways of earning profits. Because markets are open, a wide variety of these
experiments in earning profits arises. Some of these ways prove to be less profitable than others. Entrepreneurs abandon the less-profitable ways and mimic the more-profitable ones. As this process goes along, some business products and practices establish themselves as being generally reliable -- "sustainable," to use the G-20's jargon -- while others disappear. Nobel economist F.A. Hayek described this ongoing competition as "a discovery procedure." No one can figure out in the abstract just what are the best ways of
doing business: What are best ways of balancing the returns on financial instruments against their risks?
What is the optimal size of a steel plant? How much reserves should banks hold? What is the optimal ratio of mortgage debt to household income? Whatever knowledge we have about these and countless other such matters is discovered through experience. And the experience that produces the most trustworthy knowledge is the experience that includes the widest feasible range of trials and, hence, of errors. For the decentralists, the ideal economy is always in a state of becoming -- becoming better, in fits and starts, as evermore useful
knowledge is uncovered by the vigorous winds of competition. And so this economy is never free of errors, failures or disappointments. But because in this economy not all financial eggs are in the same basket, if Jones Co.'s newfangled hyper-indexed-and-derivative-backed financial instrument goes bust, there's a good chance that Smith Inc.'s rival financial instrument remains strong. Mistakes are offset by successful moves. And bad luck is offset by good. The other side The second school of thought views the economy in a radically different

Members of this second school -- call them the "controllers" -- advocate more detailed government management of the economy. Controllers don't trust the inherently messy process of trial-and-error competition. They are motivated by two abiding faiths: The first is in man's abilities to figure things out through abstract reason. The second is in the general trustworthiness of smart people to apply the findings of abstract reason dispassionately for the general welfare. Whenever the controllers see evidence that the world isn't perfect, they assume that the imperfection can be corrected by government applying genius to the problem.

This "controllers" approach is dangerous. First, not all imperfections should be corrected. Many are the
unavoidable byproducts of productive trial-and-error competition. "Correcting" these imperfections too often means shutting down trial-and-error competition. Second, because controllers can exercise economy-wide control only through "Big Plans," these plans are necessarily formulated in aggregate lumps. They are plans for "workers," for "banks," for "mortgagees" and so on. All nuance and individuality are lost, for these Big Plans cannot possibly be customized to account for the different tastes, talents and hunches of each of hundreds of millions of people. The differences among workers, among banks, among consumers are ignored. Third, because Big Plans are premised on the notion that the planners have figured out just how the different sectors of the economy should operate, these plans crowd out the individual, decentralized  experiments that are the hallmark of a market economy. A plan isn't really much of a plan if individuals are permitted to ignore it. Fourth, unlike in decentralized markets, if the Big Plans are flawed -- either in design or in execution -- there's no offsetting, competitive alternative. Everyone is along for the dangerous ride. All eggs are in the same big basket. The problem with associations such as the G-20 is that they are by nature prone to formulate Big Plans -- and, in the case of the G-20, Really Big Plans -- plans that span not just one country but 19 countries plus the European Union.

Government leaders do not meet to agree to do nothing. Being the ultimate "controllers," they must propose to "do something." Harmony's danger "Harmonizing" regulatory rules is among the efforts they'll undertake. Sounds good. (Who opposes more harmony?) But this harmony is especially harmful. One of the most important types of competition is competition among governments. For example, a government that raises taxes to too high a level will lose investors to governments that tax more moderately. "Harmonization" eliminates this competition. But "harmonization" is a weasel word for governments conspiring not to compete against each other for capital. "We won't cut our taxes if you don't cut yours" is the kind of agreement that harmonization brings. The G-20 meeting will end with all manner of happy talk about cooperation. Some cooperation, of course, is desirable. But be on the lookout for cooperation that throttles competition, swapping the creative initiative of decentralists for the centralized power of controllers.

Natural Gas ... Glut?

BLUF:  Government messed this one up too.

"But the real big consumer is, of course, the power-generation industry. And those guys are still tepid, having lived through the gas booms and busts before. So, will gas get really cheap until there is widespread carnage in the domestic exploration and production business? Or will power companies - or Congress - blink and take steps to use more gas to keep the lights on. Something has to give and it should be interesting. Stay tuned."

Lies, Damned Lies, and Health Care Statistics

From http://www.cafehayek.com/:
On Life Expectancy in America
This letter in today's Washington Post <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/25/AR2009092503391.html> gives some perspective on life expectancy in the U.S.:  The Sept. 23 front-page article <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/22/AR2009092204289.html> "For French, U.S. Health Debate Hard to imagine" cited the longer life expectancy of the French compared with Americans as an indicator of superior health-care quality.  Broad population metrics, such as life expectancy, are affected by behavior. Our lower life expectancy is not attributable to poor U.S. health care. It stems from the higher U.S. rate of homicides and the death rate from transportation accidents. In their book "The Business of Health," Robert Ohsfeldt and John Schneider explain that the U.S. homicide rate of 7.3 per 100,000 population is eight times the rate in France. The U.S. death rate from transportation accidents is also higher than in other countries. When life expectancy data are adjusted for differences in homicide and transportation death rates, U.S. life expectancy is slightly higher than for all other countries.  U.S. health-care expenditures per capita are much higher than in France, but that spending results in access to high-quality care and the latest medical advances. In terms of quality indicators, such as five-year age-adjusted survival rates for almost all cancers, the United States has significantly higher survival rates than France.  KEN McLENNAN,Williamsburg

The 45 Million Dead - Or Not?

Statistical deaths - should we also include how many were statistically killed by the fraud, waste and abuse of an over-reaching over-bearing government?
"One study "found that every year in America, lack of health coverage leads to 45,000 deaths," he told the committee. "No one should die because they cannot afford health care. This bill would fix that."
There was more. "These reforms would give Americans real savings," Baucus said. The Congressional Budget Office "tells us that the (insurance) rating reforms and exchanges in our proposal would significantly lower premiums in the individual market." As well, the bill wouldn't increase the budget deficit and "starts reducing the deficit within 10 years."
If only all this were irrefutable. But Baucus' claims are shaky. It's questionable whether more insurance would save 45,000 lives a year. Unfortunately, just having insurance doesn't automatically improve people's health. Sometimes more medical care doesn't really help. Sometimes people don't go to doctors when they should or follow instructions (take medicine, alter lifestyles). Indeed, many people don't even sign up for insurance to which they're entitled. An Urban Institute study estimated that 10.9 million people eligible for Medicaid or CHIP in 2007 didn't enroll.
The 45,000 figure cited by Baucus is itself an unreliable statistical construct built on many assumptions. It's based on a study of 9,004 people aged 17 to 64 who were examined between 1988 and 1994. By 2000, 351 had died; of these, 60 were uninsured. The crude death rates among the insured (3 percent of whom died) and uninsured (3.3 percent) were within the statistical margin of error. After adjustments for age, income and other factors, the authors concluded that being uninsured raises the risk of death by 40 percent. They then extrapolated this to the entire population by two techniques, one producing an estimate of 35,327 premature deaths and another of 44,789.
This whole elaborate statistical edifice rests on a flimsy factual foundation. The point is not to deny that the uninsured are more vulnerable (they are) or that extra insurance wouldn't help (it would). The point is that estimating how much is extremely difficult. Advocates exaggerate the benefits. Remember: Today's uninsured do receive care."

Lomborg on Climate Cost Benefit Analysis

"The rhetoric did little to disguise an awful truth: If we continue on our current path, we are likely to harm the world's poorest much more than we help them."
"In other words: In our eagerness to avoid about $1 trillion worth of climate damage, we are being asked to spend at least 50 times as much -- and, if we hinder free trade, we are likely to heap at least an additional $50 trillion loss on the global economy.
Today, coal accounts for almost half of the planet's electricity supply, including half the power consumed in the United States. It keeps hospitals and core infrastructure running, provides warmth and light in winter, and makes lifesaving air conditioning available in summer. In China and India, where coal accounts for more than 80 percent of power generation, it has helped to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
There is no doubt that coal is causing environmental damage that we need to stop. But a clumsy, radical halt to our coal use -- which is what promises of drastic carbon cuts actually require -- would mean depriving billions of people of a path to prosperity.
To put it bluntly: Despite their good intentions, the activists, lobbyists and politicians making a last-ditch push for hugely expensive carbon-cut promises could easily end up doing hundreds of times more damage to the planet than coal ever could."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hayek! Simply Brilliant

"All political theories assume, of course, that most individuals are very ignorant. Those who plead for liberty differ from the rest in that they include among the ignorant themselves as well as the wisest.  Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is comparatively insignificant." F. A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty

Would You Be More Free in the US or Chile?

Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek proved, again, to have been a visionary when he stated in 1981: "Chile is now a great success. The world shall come to regard the recovery of Chile as one of the great economic miracles of our time."

What Is Freedom? Who Has Freedom?

Economic Freedom of the World
The foundations of economic freedom are personal choice, voluntary exchange, and open markets. As Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, and Friedrich Hayek have stressed, freedom of exchange and market coordination provide the fuel for economic progress. Without exchange and entrepreneurial activity coordinated through markets, modern living standards would be impossible.
Potentially advantageous exchanges do not always occur. Their realization is dependent on the presence of sound money, rule of law, and security of property rights, among other factors. Economic Freedom of the World seeks to measure the consistency of the institutions and policies of various countries with voluntary exchange and the other dimensions of economic freedom. The report is copublished by the Cato Institute, the Fraser Institute in Canada and more than 70 think tanks around the world.

I get the feeling that as soon as a politician says anything, it ceases to be true (Part II)

With apologies to T Bone Burnett, who's song lyric was "I get the feeling that as soon as anything is published in the paper it ceases to be true."
Such fudges reveal a politician who, for whatever reason, feels like he can't be honest about the real-world costs of expanding health care. "Add it all up, and the plan I'm proposing will cost around $900 billion over ten years," he said, trying hard to sound like those numbers weren't pulled out of Joe Biden's pants, and won't be dwarfed by actual costs within a year or two. "We've estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system-a system that is currently full of waste and abuse," he said, making him at least the eighth consecutive president to vaguely promise cutting Medicare "waste" (a promise, it should be added, that could theoretically be fulfilled without drastically overhauling the health care system). Any government-run "public option," he claimed, somehow "won't be" subsidized by taxpayers, but instead would "be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects."

"And in a critical, tic-riddled passage that many of even his most ardent supporters probably don't believe, Obama said: "Here's what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits-either now or in the future. Period." In case you couldn't quite read his lips, the president repeated the line for emphasis. Then: "And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize."

Uncompensated Care Another Straw Man to Justify Government Intervention

This is consistent with other information I've seen on the topic. IOW - uncompensated care is not such a massive problem that it would justify using the coercive power of the state to force the purchase of insurance by all.  Would you be willing to pay $200 a year to help those who's care is not covered?  That's what you are paying now.  Seems fair to me.


"I get the feeling that as soon as a politician says anything, it ceases to be true"

With apologies to T Bone Burnett, who's song lyric was "I get the feeling that as soon as anything is published in the paper it ceases to be true."
"Again and again last night, the president's numbers didn't add up. "There may be those-particularly the young and healthy-who still want to take the risk and go without coverage," he warned, in a passage defending compulsory insurance. "The problem is, such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money. If there are affordable options and people still don't sign up for health insurance, it means we pay for those people's expensive emergency room visits." No, it means that, on balance, the healthy young don't pay for the unhealthy old. The whole point of forcing vigorous youth to buy insurance is using their cash and good actuarials to bring down the costs of covering the less fortunate."

The Aussie Brings a Useful Perspective

Posted by Sallie James
"Mainly, though, I am surprised that questioning of power is not more valued in America. To be sure, the President of the United States is not answerable to Congress in the same way that Ministers (including Prime Ministers) are to a Westminster-system parliament, but I would have thought that questioning the president would be well within the bounds of a nation conceived in liberty and on the understanding that all men are created equal. You got rid of infallible kings in 1776, remember?"

I have wondered this too. It has become the common perception that govt actions are both necessary and good for the People, despite the fact that govt has but one tool to wield to make things better: coercion backed by people with guns. That the leftists - characterized by the ACLU and pacifist tendencies - view the coercive force wielded by govt as a 'good' has always seemed contradictory to me.

"I get why the Democrats are making political hay out of Representative Wilson's outburst, even if I think they are hypocrites for suddenly finding religion on civility, given their own history. And I thoroughly reject, by the way, the notion that much of the criticism directed towards Obama is based on racism, even if this sort of talk gives unfortunate credence to the claims. But those same Dems who are shocked (shocked!) by Joe Wilson's behavior are right now allowing a tax cheat to pull the nation's purse strings."
My comment - given the last two presidents - Clinton and Bush - and the more or less continuous stream of charges that one or the other had lied about something (to which the Dems had to add "and people died" to make the unspoken point "of course our President lied on tape and it's verifiable but it doesn't matter because it was just about a sexual dalliance"). It is a curious human phenomenon that humans identify with those in power if it is perceived that the one in power 'represents' them somehow. "He is me!"
"Meanwhile, the Dems are keeping "internal" investigations of Charlie Rangel's ethical violations very quiet indeed. Quite frankly, I'm far more interested in those than I am in Joe Wilson's rudeness."
The absurdity, the hypocrisy, the double speak, in politics is beyond comprehension. I think the current system in effect filters out 95% of those who feel compelled to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. 

The Missing Element from Reform - Choice

"MY guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition," President Obama said last week in an address to Congress on health care reform. It's a good principle, one that may determine the ultimate success or failure of reform, but unfortunately it's not really guiding the Senate bill unveiled on Wednesday or any of the other health reform legislation now under consideration in Congress.  Under the nation's current employer-based system, most people have little if any choice about where they get their insurance. They just have to accept the plan that comes with their job. That insurance company, in turn, is provided a captive group of customers, so it has no incentive to earn their loyalty.  Empowering Americans to choose from a broad selection of health plans would turn the tables. Those insurers that charged affordable rates and provided good coverage would attract more customers, while those that treated customers badly would be forced to change their ways or go out of business. To stay competitive, insurers would need to follow the example of places like the Mayo Clinic and offer good, low-cost coverage."

That health care 'insurance' (really more often a pre-paid service plan) comes through our employers is a result of govt interventions in the market place through tax policy. The fact that the current systems is perversely incentivized to drive prices higher while removing choice and consumer power is becoming the justification for additional government intervention. The 'intervention begets future intervention' pattern is so pervasive, we would be wise to assume it will happen with every govt intervention.

The Biggest Health Care Lie

"If you are going to repeatedly refer to "my plan" or "this plan" or "the plan I'm proposing," then unless you have a plan you are lying. The only question is whether it is a little lie or a big one. Obviously, most people think it is only a small lie, or the President would have been called out on it. However, I think that health care policy is an area where there is too much temptation to promise results that are economically impossible to achieve. In that context, my opinion is that giving a speech in favor of a nonexistent plan is a really big lie."

Master Jaques

You don't want to ever be Number 8.

Master Jacques appeared at a martial arts tournament as a demonstrator. If you’ve been around the MA world, especially before MMA arrived on the scene, you know the atmosphere. Blindfolded, holding "nunchuks" (aka two pieces of wood on a string), you can imagine him standing in a circle of his students (selected for courage and/or devotion, but intelligence ... questionable). Eight students, forming an octagon - as Master Jacques prepared himself for the task of deftly but powerfully whacking the apples from their mouths (yes, they're standing there with apples in their teeth).

This would be an impressive feat – striking the apples but leaving the students unscathed – even with open eyes. But with a blind fold? The crowd was riveted.

Master Jacques completed his intense meditation, and swinging his nunchucks in a flash of motion, popped Number 1 squarely on the jaw. Dropped him like he was hit by lightening. Then ... he hit Number 2, Number 3, Number 4, Number 5, Number 6 and Number 7 ... they flopped to the ground like a grenade went off. Something - perhaps the hollow sound of a skull bouncing from the floor - keyed Master Jacques in to the fact that all was not going as planned. Maybe it wasn't the heads hitting the floor, perhaps it was his refined situational awareness or ninja like intuition. Whatever the reason, Master Jacques raised his blindfold to peek at number 8, as if to clarify the correct range and bearing for the final impressive blindfolded strike. Perhaps that is what gave Number 8 the confidence to do what I don't think I could have ... hope I wouldn’t have …. to stand there so that Master Jacques could knock his stupid ass out too. Which Master Jaques did.

So please, my CF brethren and sisteren, should you be in position to do so, remind me NOT to be a figurative Number 8 and will do my best to perform a similar service for you.

This story brought to you courtesy of my beloved instructor, mentor and friend, the man who introduced me to my bride of the last 9+ years, Mr. Alan S. Gardner, of Bath, Maine. He died the night I started my trip home from Iraq in 2006 for R&R. I was in the group phone booth in Kuwait, on the way home after 8 months, crying like a baby. It still feels like I lost him yesterday, probably for all of us who knew him. 800 people converged on Bath, Maine for his funeral, but I was back in the desert by then (that was within two weeks of my discovery of CrossFit. He would have said "the old saying goes that when the student is ready, the teacher will be there"). He could tell this and the other two episodes of Master Jacques’ tournament appearance and keep a crowd of 50 crippled from laughter. The legacy he left was a very small version of CrossFit; people who loved to sweat and learn together, people who worked hard to excel, people who found a teacher with no end of knowledge, people of passion and at least some courage who formed a community around a man we loved.

Forgive the indulgence – but having started the tale of Master Jaques, I found the rest of the story too compelling to leave out and I offer it as an altogether inadequate thank you and tribute to my friend.

Master Jacques part II. After an few more events at the tournament, the announcer returned to announce, with a somewhat ambiguous tone, that Master Jacques was to return for a second demonstration. The crowd quieted - how could even a Master follow up such a knock out first performance? His students brought out a box, a sledge, and some glass bottles, and a another carried boards - clearly, there was to be a board breaking demo. The purpose of the glass was revealed when the audience watched and heard the students breaking the glass bottles, then they poured the contents into a circle drawn on the stadium floor.

Cool! Man stands on glass and punches through wood - that's a gutsy demo, especially for small town Maine. Perhaps Master Jacques has game after all?! Master Jacques takes his position in the center of the glass, his students line up, four of them, one on each side of the Master.
After a dramatic, deep breathing warm up, Master Jacques signaled his request to the students to present his four targets, which they did. However, the student facing him presented the board at an angle (edge of the board towards the Master) that could only mean the Master's intention was to execute a spinning technique. Every karateka in the room immediately winced - spinning kicks on glass? Are you kidding me?

Master Jacques began his demo with a ferocious kiaa/yell, which finished in a sort of a wailing wimper as he quarter spun on one foot and froze in place. He hobbled out of the ring and left bloody foot prints across the floor as he beat a hasty-as-possible retreat. At this point, a few in the audience clapped as Master Jacques devoted acolytes cleaned up the glass ... and blood.
The tournament spun back up, and the buzz about Master Jacques' memorable performances was growing. Later in the tournament when the announcer returned and trumpeted the news that Master Jacques would be presenting another impressive demonstration, the crowd went wild!

Master Jacques returned to the floor to enthusiastic cheers. His students, who trailed behind the Master, brought two chairs and some boards for a breaking demo. The set up was quick and no one could figure out how this would top his previous attempts - anticipation was keen. Master J set up the first board on the chairs. They were folding metal chairs. And they were facing away from each other - a soon to be delicious oversight. After a suitable warm up and kiai/yell, he dropped a wicked and obviously well polished sword hand chop directly on the middle of the timber suspended on the back edge of the seat of the two chairs. The chairs folded up in a spectacular fashion, and the momentum of the event resulted in the chairs arriving on opposite sides of Master J's head in more less simultaneous impacts. Master Jacques succeeded in knocking himself out in perhaps a one and only version of the act. He departed the stage - carried by his dismayed students - to a standing ovation.

I heard this story many times and met one other martial artist at a tournament who confirmed it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Will On the Looming Power of the State

"The automobile industry and much of the financial sector have been broken to the saddle of the state. Ninety percent of new mortgages and 80 percent of student loans -- the average family's two most important financial transactions -- are financed or guaranteed by the federal government. Now the Obama administration is tightening the cinch on subsidized artists, conscripting them into the crusade to further politicize the 17 percent of the economy that is health care."


"It is a profitable thing, if one is wise, to seem foolish."
- Aeschylus
"After two years in Washington, I often long for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood."
- Fred Thompson
"When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home."
- Sir Winston Churchill

Lomborg on Climate Cost Benefit Calculations


Suppose you can ignore the dishonesty, the fear mongering and the
political manipulation on the topic of anthropogenic climate change.
Suppose you think they really can sort out whether weather changes on
it's own or is also influenced by humanity. Suppose, even knowing how
dicey the 'science' of AGW is, you think the risks are so high we have
to act as if the science proved the conjecture that man's activity is
driving temps higher.
How could you sort out what might be done that is:
-affordable at all
-won't hurt more than it harms
-doesn't simply require all undeveloped nations to remain that way
-doesn't solve the problem by removing those who cause it; which is
theoretically, us
Lomborg's thoughts on the matter are persuasive, and do not reek of the
political manipulation that seems part and parcel of this topic.
"Evidence is growing that relatively cheap policies like climate
engineering and non-carbon energy research could effectively prevent
suffering from global warming, both in the short and long term."
"To sustainably reduce temperature rises, though, we need better
non-carbon-based technology options. Research by economist Chris Green
from McGill University shows that non-fossil sources like nuclear, wind,
solar and geothermal energy will--based on today's availability--get us
less than halfway toward a path of stable carbon emissions by 2050, and
only a tiny fraction of the way towards stabilization by 2100.
Policy makers should abandon carbon-reduction negotiations and make
agreements to seriously invest in research and development. About $100
billion spent annually on non-carbon-based energy research could
essentially stabilize our emissions and get temperature reductions under
control within a century or so. Green conservatively concludes that the
benefits of such an investment--from reduced warming and greater
prosperity--would bring about $11 worth of climate damage prevention for
every $1 invested.
Because research spending would be much cheaper than carbon-emission
cuts, there would be a much higher chance of political agreement, and a
much higher probability of the promises being enacted.
Many of us fear inaction on global warming. But we should equally fear
continuing down the perilous path of promising costly action that will
either fail to be enacted, or be more harmful than global warming
itself. "

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Does Fraud Count as Administrative Cost?

Could your business survive a 10% fraud rate? http://www.realclearpolitics.com/printpage/?url=http://www.realclearpoli tics.com/articles/2009/09/15/health_reform_should_begin_with_ending_frau d_98308.html "We believe that fraud constitutes at least ten percent ($100 billion) of the nearly one trillion in taxpayer dollars that Medicare and Medicaid will spend this year. That is likely a conservative estimate. Harvard's Dr. Malcolm Sparrow, author of the seminal book "License to Steal," estimates that the losses could easily be in the 20 percent or 30 percent range, even as high as 35 percent, but he insists that we ought not to have to guess. He believes the government should measure the losses and report them accurately."

"The story of convicted murderer Guillermo Denis Gonzalez illustrates the vulnerability of government run health programs to fraud. Gonzalez was released from prison in 2004 after serving a twelve year sentence for a murder conviction. Two years later he bought a Medicare-licensed equipment supply company and duly notified Medicare authorities that he was the new owner. In 2007 he submitted $586,953 in false claims to Medicare and got paid for some of them. In 2008 he is alleged to have killed and dismembered a man.

The fact that a convicted murderer with a seventh grade education could so easily become a supplier to our largest health program and begin defrauding it illustrates how pervasive fraud is in America's government-run health care programs. If only the Gonzalez case were an isolated incident. Miami Dade Country is notorious for health care fraud. There are more licensed home health agencies in Miami Dade County than the entire state of California. In 2005, billing submissions from Miami Dade to Medicare for HIV infusion therapy were 22 times higher than the rest of the country combined. New York also has a serious problem with fraud. A private study of New York's Medicaid in 2006 found that one-quarter of that then-$44 billion program cannot be explained."

This is the first of several posts on this blog on the same topic:
Medicare’s top officials said in 2006 that they had reduced the number of fraudulent and improper claims paid by the agency, keeping billions of dollars out of the hands of people trying to game the system. But according to a confidential draft of a federal inspector general’s report, those claims of success, which earned Medicare wide praise from lawmakers, were misleading.
In calculating the agency’s rate of improper payments, Medicare officials told outside auditors to ignore government policies that would have accurately measured fraud, according to the report. For example, auditors were told not to compare invoices from salespeople against doctors’ records, as required by law, to make sure that medical equipment went to actual patients.
As a result, Medicare did not detect that more than one-third of spending for wheelchairs, oxygen supplies and other medical equipment in its 2006 fiscal year was improper, according to the report. Based on data in other Medicare reports, that would be about $2.8 billion in improper spending. That same year, Medicare officials told Congress that they had succeeded in driving down the cost of fraud in medical equipment to $700 million. Some lawmakers and Congressional staff members say the irregularities that the inspector general found were tantamount to corruption and raise broader questions about the credibility of other Medicare figures.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Michael Pollan Op-Ed

Interesting piece. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/10/opinion/10pollan.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=pollan&st=cse

Pollan's assumptions:

-Grain is fit for human consumption, and there's an alternative to raising grain that is sustainable without oil based fertilizers

-Health Insurance companies, unlike other insurance companies, will not play fair unless bullied into it by the govt

-Health ins companies and/or the govt has any idea what people should eat to avoid the diseases of civilization that he references

What I agree with - grass fed beef is much healthier for human consumption, creates much less impact to the environment and throws into question all the calculations about whether grain or beef makes better, more sustainable human food. Correllate-all the global warming concerns for beef change considerably if we stop talking about grain fed beef. If you have any time to read, "The Vegetarian Myth" is a fantastic book about food, sustainability, and health - rolls most of what I've learned about nutrition into one book and a very concise one. It's a must read book in my opinion.

The goal should be sustainable, non-grain based food production - annual monocrops (grains) are poor quality food and not sustainable.

Health insurance companies will respond to market incentives to take care of customers just like most businesses do if they are not allowed to circumvent competition through govt intervention. As is well delineated here (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200909/health-care), current govt interventions create the excessive cost and compromised quality so easily observable in our US health care systems. I consider myself somewhat well read on the topic - books by Porter, Herzlinger, Kling and Gratzer. More govt control will do nothing to deal with these root causes.

Unfortunately for Pollan, if we continue to eat what the govt and its proxies tell us, we're going to get more sick, not less so. Zone/Paleo/Atkins/Eades protein power and even south beach to some extent - carbs regulate body fat accumulation. If you eat a bunch of high density carbs, you get fat and sick.

My two cents - not that you asked!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What Is "Comparative Advantage"?

A Note on Comparative Advantage

Posted: 15 Sep 2009 06:11 AM PDT

Moggio, commenting on this post <http://cafehayek.com/2009/09/witless-on-trade.html> , asks for "a text that explains that the principle of comparative advantage still holds under 'non standard' assumptions."

This principle is not an esoteric possibility, identified by clever economists, in search of applications in reality; it's not something that requires any unusual set of conditions in order to operate. It's operation is nearly universal. It permeates our reality. All that it requires is that, as between any two potential trading partners, the cost to one of them of producing (or, more generally, of trading away) at least some units of good X is less than is the cost to the other trading party of doing the same.

Critical to the point of comparative-advantage explanations is the recognition that costs are reckoned as values forgone by producing and trading.

I can walk faster than my secretary. Yet on those occasions when I need a document hand delivered quickly somewhere on campus, I send her to deliver it. The reason is that, although the amount of time that it would take me to deliver the document and to return to the office is less than the amount of time that my secretary requires to do the same task, the value of my time is greater than the value of her time. That is, the value of the output that I would forgo producing were I to deliver the document myself is greater than is the value of the output that she forgoes producing when she delivers the document.

So I have a comparative disadvantage, relative to my secretary, at hand-delivering documents - meaning she has a comparative advantage over me at this task. Because she can perform this valuable task at a cost lower than I can perform it, we both gain - I by paying her to relieve me of the cost of performing this task, and she by being paid an amount sufficient to compensate her for performing it.

Nothing in this account depends upon 'perfect competition,' 'perfect' knowledge, or anything particularly special. The facts of reality that create this particular instance of comparative advantage between my secretary and me are ubiquitous; they create countless instances of comparative advantage across each office suite, across each town, across each country, and across the globe.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

These Articles Are "All Good"

Very well written on the topic of gun carry on campus. It's a complex topic. A well known tactic for suicide is to attack a police station; the attacker's motive is to force someone else to do what he cannot do for him self. There are also well documented patterns of folks attacking with guns where they know the victims will not be armed - attacks on schools and colleges, a Jewish Community Center, in a subway, in restaurants, at the US Post Office or other defacto locations of disarmed workers; these places attract the kind of killer that wants to be in control of what is happening. Running into an armed 'victim' spoils that plan.

The proposal below is little more than common sense to me. However, there is a significant part of our population that trusts the State as the monopoly agent on deadly force more than they trust 'we the people.' Strange.


"There's a famous example in Luby's Cafeteria in Texas. A woman with a concealed-carry permit was unable to stop a gunman from killing her parents and 21 others in 1991 because she had left her gun in her car to avoid breaking the state's law at the time, which banned gun owners from carrying their weapons into public places. She went before the state legislature and she said, "Look, if I'd been allowed to have my gun on me I could have stopped this guy. He had his back to me. He was only a few feet away. I didn't need lightning-fast reflexes. I didn't need dead-eye accuracy. I just needed my gun" ... She had been carrying the gun for several years for personal protection, and because she was a chiropractor she had become worried that because there was no legal provision for concealed carry in Texas at the time that if she got caught carrying that gun she might lose her chiropractic license, so she started leaving it in the car. When this shooting started she reached into her purse for a gun that wasn't there and
basically watched both of her parents be gunned down by this madman because she was unable to defend herself. There was the example at the church in Colorado Springs back in December
where they actually allowed members, encouraged certain members who had a concealed-handgun license to carry their guns at church. These people were not licensed security guards. They had not been through the state-mandated security guard training or any of that. These were simply people who had concealed-handgun licenses, and the church said, "You
know, we'd appreciate it if you would carry your guns at church for the protection of this church." And this woman actually managed to shoot a guy as he was walking through the door armed to the teeth, like Rambo. So concealed carry has mitigated dangerous situations like this in the past."

This passionate and hard hitting piece highlights the absurdity in claiming there's any way to determine causality between a specific govt action and the resulting employment or lack thereof. http://www.realclearmarkets.com/printpage/?url=http://www.realclearmarke

"The White House Council of Economic Advisers said Thursday the $787 billion stimulus plan kept one million people working who would otherwise not have had jobs. But when the White House Council of Economic Advisers calculated the number of jobs saved by our government's massive stimulus spending, how is it that they entirely neglected to account for the impact on
employment of removing $787 billion dollars from the balance sheet of the private economy?

What kind of single-entry bookkeeping is this? Who are these experts so willing to make glib claims with a straight face? How is it that the press, politicians, and pundits credulously report these claims as facts? And why are those who question whether the emperor is wearing any clothes treated like obstructionist members of some lunatic fringe?

There are those who passionately promote the theory that the government can, on net, create jobs by taking money from one set of citizens and handing it to another. Does this make sense to you? Are these promoters easily fooled, willfully blind, or cunningly smart?"

Is no one above the law? Or, are some exempt from the rules they make for us to follow?
"Rangel is now the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and a man of immense importance in Washington. Nonetheless, he has been busy of late revising and amending the record, backing and filling, using buckets of Wite-Out as he discovers or remembers properties he has owned in New York, New Jersey, Florida and the Dominican Republic and God only knows where else -- and has forgotten or neglected to fully report on the required forms, not to mention the income from them. Oops!

Rangel recently even discovered bank accounts that no one in the world, apparently including him, knew he had. One was with the Congressional Federal Credit Union, and another was with Merrill Lynch -- each valued between $250,000 and $500,000. He somehow neglected to mention these accounts on his congressional disclosure forms, which means, if you can believe it, that when he signed the forms, he did not notice that maybe $1 million was missing. Someone ought to check the lighting in his office.

The dim bulb could also have accounted for why Rangel did not notice that he was soliciting contributions for the curiously named Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service on the congressional letterhead of the very same Charles B. Rangel. It may also account for why he failed to report dividend income from various investments in addition to what he made by selling a townhouse in Harlem. The place went for $410,000 in 2004, and had been rented -- or not -- to various people, who paid rent or didn't -- since Rangel reported no income for years at a time. This is what he did, too, with the rent he earned on his Dominican Republic villa. Again, nada.

There is something wrong with Charlie Rangel. Either he did not notice that he was worth about twice as much as he said he was -- which is downright worrisome in a congressional leader -- or he thinks that he's above the law -- which is downright worrisome in a congressional leader. I was with Rangel on election night last year and heard him speak movingly and eloquently about what it meant for a black person to become president of the United States -- my God, who would have thought this day would ever come? -- and he moved me to tears. So I don't think age has muddled his brain. He is sharper on a bad day than most people on a good one."

Do You Believe?

From George Will (link below)

On the 233rd day of his presidency, Barack Obama grabbed the country's lapels for the 263rd time—that was, as of last Wednesday, the count of his speeches, press conferences, town halls, interviews, and other public remarks. His speech to Congress was the 122nd time he had publicly discussed health care. Just 14 hours would pass before the 123rd, on Thursday morning. His incessant talking cannot combat what it has caused: An increasing number of Americans do not believe that he believes what he says.

He says America's health-care system is going to wrack and ruin and requires root-and-branch reform—but that if you like your health care (as a large majority of Americans do), nothing will change for you. His slippery new formulation is that nothing in his plan will "require" anyone to change coverage. He used to say, "If you like your health-care plan, you'll be able to keep your health-care plan, period." He had to stop saying that because various disinterested analysts agree that his plan will give many employers incentives to stop providing coverage for employees.

He deplores "scare tactics" but says that unless he gets his way, people will die. He praises temperate discourse but says many of his opponents are liars. He says Medicare is an exemplary program that validates government's prowess at running health systems. But he also says Medicare is unsustainable and going broke, and that he will pay for much of his reforms by eliminating the hundreds of billions of dollars of waste and fraud in this paragon of a program, and in Medicaid. He says Congress will cut Medicare (it will not) by $500 billion—without affecting benefits.

He says the nation's economic health depends on controlling health-care costs. Yet so important is the trial bar in financing the Democratic Party, he says not a syllable in significant and specific support of tort reforms that could save hundreds of billions of dollars by reducing "defensive medicine" intended to protect not patients from illnesses but doctors from lawyers. He has said he will not add a dime to the deficit when bringing 47 million people into government-guaranteed health care. But Wednesday night, 17 million went missing: "There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage." Almost 10 million of the uninsured are not citizens, and most of them are illegal immigrants. Presumably the other 7 million could get insurance but chose not to. Democrats propose fines to eliminate that choice. He suggests health-insurance companies are making excessive profits. But since 1996, profits of the six such companies in the S&P 500 have been below the 500's average. He says a "public option"—a government insurance program—would not be subsidized to enable it to compete unfairly with private insurers. (The post office and the government's transportation -"public option," Amtrak, devour subsidies.)

McConnell of the Mona Lisa smile says Congress will pass something because Obama will sign anything.

(Obama) says "the time for bickering is over." Presidents of both parties disparage as mere bickering all inconvenient arguments about what government can and should do. Americans "didn't send us here to bicker," said George Herbert Walker Bush, in the first 15 minutes of America's most recent one-term presidency.

Find this article at

© 2009

A Bone In the Mouth is Worth How Many In The Water?

The dog looked down into the water and saw his reflection. He thought it was another dog with a bone in his mouth-- and it seemed to him that the other dog's bone was bigger than his. He decided that he was going to take the other dog's bone away and opened his mouth to attack. The result was that his own bone fell into the water and was lost.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Market Based Health Care Reform Ideas, Powerful

"The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."
—Margaret Thatcher


"While we clearly need health-care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system. Instead, we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction—toward less government control and more individual empowerment. Here are eight reforms that would greatly lower the cost of health care for everyone:"

Can a Politician Tell the Truth and Live? Part 2

In a ten-year window, even if Obama delivered what he promised twice this week, it would save a grand total of $33 billion dollars - and that's for the whole industry. If the government covered a third of the costs, the total deficit reduction over ten years drops to a mere $11 billion dollars over 10 years. At that rate, how long will the "long run" need to be to save $4 trillion dollars in deficit spending? It would have to be 3,634 years.


Can a Politician Tell the Truth and Live?

Note: I disagree with the author's assertion that we can only have 2 of the 3 (see para 4 below), because on many fronts markets have shown us we can have it all if we can allow competition, and allow winning competitors to reap the benefits of their effort, risk taking, and success.

"When Obama says that "I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last," he is indulging his ambition for a special place in history and illustrating why Americans don't discuss health care honestly."

"Americans generally want three things from their health care system. First, they think that everyone has a moral right to needed care; that suggests universal insurance. Second, they want choice; they want to select their doctors -- and want doctors to determine treatment. Finally, people want costs controlled; health care shouldn't consume all private compensation or taxes.
Appealing to these expectations, Obama told Americans what they want to hear. People with insurance won't be required to change plans or doctors; they'll enjoy more security because insurance companies won't be permitted to deny coverage based on "pre-existing conditions" or cancel policies when people get sick. All Americans will be required to have insurance, but those who can't afford it will get subsidies. "

"As for costs, not to worry. "Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan," Obama said. He pledged to "not sign a plan that adds one dime to our (budget) deficits -- either now or in the future." If you believe Obama, what's not to like? Universal insurance. Continued choice. Lower costs. "

"The problem is that you can't entirely believe Obama. If he were candid -- if we were candid -- we'd all acknowledge that the goals of our ideal health care system collide. Perhaps we can have any two, but not all three. "

"If we want universal insurance and unlimited patient and doctor choice, costs will continually spiral upward, because there will be no reason or no one to stop them. We have a variant of that today -- a cost-plus system, with widespread insurance and open-ended reimbursement. Higher costs push up premiums and taxes. That's one reason health spending has gone from 5 percent of gross domestic product in 1960 to 16 percent in 2007. (Other reasons: new technologies, rising incomes.) But controlling spending requires limits on patients and doctors."

"The candor gap reflects a common condescension. One side believes it must fool Americans into thinking "reform" will do more than it will; the other thinks it must frighten Americans into believing that it will harm them in ways that it won't. Given Americans' contradictory expectations, any health care proposal can be criticized for offending some popular goal. We refuse to face unavoidable -- and unpleasant -- choices."

Fact Checking


Truth, assumptions, full disclosure, the gritty details - the question is, why should we trust a President?

It brings to mind a quote I saw in 1984 or by the business guru Peter Drucker - who said in effect, "Of course rock stars are more popular than Presidents, rock stars are impotent! They can do nothing to affect your life except what you grant them power to effect - Presidents, on the other hand, make decisions daily with ramifications for what you can or can't do with your life."

So simple, so obvious - how is it that we ever forget such a thing?

Inevitable Outcome

It is with no particular pride or satisfaction that I say, I see the end of the drug was as inevitable, and painful, but better than the continued subsidization of criminals through drug prohibition. I think we will one day view the 'drug war' as we now view prohibition.
"Mexico's big problem—for that matter the most pressing security issue throughout the hemisphere—is organized crime's growth and expanded power, fed by drug profits. Mr. Calderón's new policy is unlikely to solve anything in that department.

The reason is simple: Prohibition and demand make otherwise worthless weeds valuable. Where they really get valuable is in crossing the U.S. border. If U.S. demand is robust, then producers, traffickers and retailers get rich by satisfying it.

Mexican consumers will now have less fear of penalties and, increasingly in the case of marijuana, that's true in the U.S. as well. But trafficking will remain illegal, and to get their products past law enforcement the criminals will still have an enormous incentive to bribe or to kill. Decriminalization will not take the money out of the business and therefore will not reduce corruption, cartel intimidation aimed at democratic-government authority, or the terror heaped on local populations by drug lords. "

"The war on supply is a failure, something any first-year economics student could have predicted. But this plan is unlikely to reverse the situation. It is demand north of the border that is the primary driver of organized-crime terror. And that shows no signs of abating."

A Courageous Leader?

From www.cafehayek.com:

"I forget the name of the guest you interviewed earlier today who, praising last-night's speech by President Obama on health-care, described Mr. Obama as being "a courageous leader."

Please contact your guest and ask her to read the editorial in today's Washington Post entitled "Slashing Tires <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/10/AR2009091003629.html> " - and in particular its opening lines: "President Obama has maintained a conspicuous ambiguity about trade policy, sympathetically absorbing and sometimes restating the arguments both for and against free trade but not really committing himself on any particular issue."

The Post describes here a man neither courageous nor leading-the-way but, rather, a standard-issue politician - which is to say, a shark as duplicitous as he is pompous, and as skilled at fraud and flattery as he is hungry for power and glory.

Donald J. Boudreaux

"l cannot for the life of me understand the appeal that politicians have for many people. Nearly all successful politicians - approximately 999 out of every 999.00001 of them - strike me as being, at the very best, buffoons. Through less-romantic lenses they are accurately seen to be shameless ego-maniacs driven by gluttony for power and celebrity status. " Don Boudreaux

Importance of Rules

Posted: 11 Sep 2009 12:17 PM PDT

"Here's a letter that I sent a couple of days ago to the Wall Street Journal:

Chris Daly correctly argues that the 17th amendment - which provides for direct election of U.S. senators - is unwise (Letters <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204731804574387131863977664.html> , Sept. 9). As George Mason University law professor Todd Zywicki <http://www.law.gmu.edu/faculty/directory/fulltime/zywicki_todd> shows in his pioneering research into this amendment, it eased the way for special-interest groups to pick the pockets of consumers and taxpayers.

Prior to ratification of the 17th amendment, to achieve their goals interest groups had to persuade both the representatives of the populace (in the House) and the representatives of state governments (in the Senate). Members of this latter group were eager to maintain their own power rather than cede it to Washington. The high cost of persuading these two diverse groups to support any piece of interest-group legislation kept such legislation to a minimum. Now, however, because members of the House and members of the Senate are elected from the same pool of voters, interest-groups' costs of lobbying Congress for special privileges are greatly reduced. The result is the explosion of special-interest dominance over politics that we've seen during the 20th century - and continuing into the 21st. " Donald J. Boudreaux

"I'm both deeply saddened and deeply disturbed by the letter in your pages today from Jane Powers lt;http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/letters/articles/2009/09/09/her_kids_have_homework_now/> who, writing about Pres. Obama's speech to schoolchildren, declared that "Before I even listened to the speech, I felt that the office of the president of the United States commands respect regardless of who occupies it."

In a free society, not even the loftiest office should command respect "regardless of who occupies it." And the notion that the U.S. presidency is lofty or respectable in any ethically significant sense is ludicrous. As Saul Bellow said about politicians <http://thinkexist.com/quotation/take_our_politicians-they-re_a_bunch_of_yo-yos/219240.html> , "they're a bunch of yo-yos. The presidency is now a cross between a popularity contest and a high school debate, with an encyclopedia of cliches the first prize." "Sincerely, Donald J. Boudreaux

Friday, September 11, 2009

Four Questions On Healthcare

1. Why does the impending fiscal disaster known as Medicare justify increasing the role of the federal government and reducing the role of prices which are the essence of Medicare?
2. Why is the fact that “every other industrial nation provide universal health care coverage” considered evidence for its desirability?
3. Why do proponents of universal care argue that demand for health care is vertical when a major cause of the expanded use of health care over the last 40 years is the fact that so many people now pay so little out of their own pocket?

4. Why does there exist a widespread sense that each of us, as individuals, is incapable of — or should not be obliged to — providing for our own health-care needs in the same way that we provide for our own grocery needs, our own household-furniture needs, our own automobile-insurance needs, and many other of our needs?


Adam Smith - A Thief?


Thanks to Cafe patron David Dansky for this wonderful quotation from the Babylonian Talmud — a quotation that captures very nicely what Adam Smith meant when he wrote in 1776 that “man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren”:
Ben Zoma [a Talmudic sage] once saw a crowd on one of the steps of the Temple Mount. He said, Blessed is He that discerneth secrets, and blessed is He who has created all these to serve me. [For] he used to say: What labours Adam had to carry out before he obtained bread to eat! He ploughed, he sowed, he reaped, he bound [the sheaves], he threshed and winnowed and selected the ears, he ground [them], and sifted [the flour], he kneaded and baked, and then at last he ate; whereas I get up, and find all these things done for me. And how many labours Adam had to carry out before he obtained a garment to wear! He had to shear, wash [the wool], comb it, spin it and weave it, and then at last he obtained a garment to wear; whereas I get up and find all these things done for me. All kinds of craftsmen5 come early to the door of my house, and I rise in the morning and find all these before me.

Least possible infringement

A friend commented about how, in some matters, State intervention was a requirement as the only way to fix a prior State intervention. My response:
"As to your fight fire w fire point - you may be right but you should be horrified by the implication. The phrase 'throwing good money after bad' comes to mind. As to insurance company influence over legislation - it is a given that businesses, given their money, the skin they have in the game, and their time to develop the capability/capacity to influence legislation will bend the laws to their benefits. That's a prima facia argument for minimizing the role of govt in any arena to the least posible intervention. The govt is rapidly made into the weapon of choice against the competition. This was part and parcel of the Bill of Rights - the founders had seen the damage that resulted from mercantilism.

Liberty has a value, conceptual and practical. The govt seems at this point in time necessary to defend the liberty of each individual. In some cases, a infringement on liberty seems necessary in the defense of liberty. What is the least possible infringement? "What is the least possible infringement of liberty in cases where some infringement is necessary"

-Apply this framework to social security; how long would it take you to come up with
an alternative that would be far superior to the present system, but require significantly less coercion?
-Apply this framework to medicine; how long would it take you to come up with a better option to accomplish what medicare and medicaid are supposed to be doing?

This is what the libertarians bring to the plate. I find a lot of irony in the President's 'hope and change' mantra, given that his entire agenda is recycled Statism from the 1920s or before. There are solutions out there which ARE change. Most of what he represents has already been tested and proven to be untenable.

Have you read Hayek's opus "The Fatal Conceit"? It might make our positions boring to you, but you would be able to better focus your anti-liberty pro-State arguments. Then again, perhaps you would see the libertarian side with a completely new lens.

"What is the least possible infringement of liberty in cases where some infringement is necessary" should be the first and most important question.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fructose - Naturally Deadly

Fructose ain't good


The Ethanol Myth

"What we need now is a serious debate on national energy policy. At least in the short term, turning fields of corn or grain into ethanol will not significantly reduce what President Bush describes as our addiction to foreign oil. The pro spects for ethanol from cellulose may be more promising than is the case for corn, but the benefits, assuming they exist, surely lie a decade or more in the future. We must forgo looking for scapegoats: the oil companies did not get us into our current pickle and their profits (approximately 8 percent of revenues) are not obscene. We should support politicians who are not afraid to articulate bold new suggestions with clarity and honesty. But we should be hardnosed in holding to task those who would propose easy fixes. Senator John McCain was not totally out of school when he summed up the corn/ethanol energy initiative launched in the United States in 2003 as highway robbery perpetrated on the American public by Congress. We must be careful not to buy into excessive hyperboleabsent careful analysisas we search for alternatives to vulnerable supplies of imported oil.

Michael B. McElroy is Butler professor of environmental studies. An extended, more technical discussion of the issues raised in this article is available on his website, www-as.harvard.edu/people/faculty/mbm."


Health Care Reform that Does Not Empower the State, Part Deaux

"Perhaps those interested in insurance reform should first understand why millions of Americans are uninsured in the first place, and to identify who of those cannot afford current health insurance plans. Of the 47 million uninsured, the U.S. Census Bureau notes that almost 10 million are not U.S. citizens, many of whom are illegally in the country. Another 15 million adults do not need significant insurance reform, because they are already fully eligible for Medicaid or Medicare but simply have not signed up, and will be enrolled as soon as they interface with the medical system. And nearly three quarters (74%) of the 8 million uninsured children are already eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP, according to the Urban Institute.

This leaves us with 13.9 million non-elderly adults (only 5% of the population, by the way) without health insurance who do not already qualify for Medicaid or Medicare. Of these, Blue Cross Blue Shield estimated that 8.2 million are without insurance for prolonged periods of time, mainly due to lack of affordability, while 5.7 million adults lack health insurance for short periods because they are either between jobs, are recent college graduates, are part-time seasonal workers or have no perceived need for insurance."


What Would You Do If Your Father Was Killed by Health Care?

This is a highly informative read, one that is informed by a broad base of reading and a good understanding of how markets work to make things better for consumers - unless distorted by coercive government interventions. I'm not as inspired by his solutions as by his understanding, but that does little to diminish the significance of the article. I hope you enjoy the understanding this piece will provide.


Blue Eyes From a Sole Ancestor

Very interesting if you have blue eyed family members, or like to think about genetics, or like to think about how the human genome may have changed over a very short period of time.


Credible on Health Care?

This article says it all better than I could. He says one thing, but does another, and that does not increase my confidence in his promises, nor make me thing giving control of health care to folks like this is a great idea.


If he fixed Medicare and Medicaid, it would be worth a lot of 'cred' that he has something to offer to the rest of the US health care system.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Minimum Wage - Pricing the Low Skilled Out of the Market for Over 50 Years!

On July 24 this year, the government raised the minimum wage to $7.25, which is another way of saying that unemployment is mandatory for anyone who is otherwise willing to work for less. You have no freedom to negotiate or lower the price for your service. You are either already valuable at this rate or you are out of the game.

These guys say labor law violations are hurting the economy, and that we'd be taking better care of the low skilled laborers if we vigorously enforced these labor laws.
But their assumption is that these low skilled laborers would still have jobs if the laws were obeyed - and that's a big assumption. There's an immutable fact that if a business has to pay more for labor than the labor will generate in income, the business will not hire. That's how these labor laws hurt the unskilled. Of course, it also creates a market opening for illegal immigrants - because they are happy to work for less than the minimum wage and have a high incentive not to rat out their employers. In that sense, this is a double whammy for low skilled American workers - they are priced out of competition with more skilled labor by minimum wage, and unable to compete with illegal immigrants who can be employed for much less cost.

Says Dr. Boudreaux, www.cafehayek.com:
Fifteen years ago, David Card and Alan Krueger <http://press.princeton.edu/titles/5632.html> made headlines by purporting to show that a higher minimum-wage, contrary to economists’ conventional wisdom, doesn’t reduce employment of low-skilled workers. The RSF study casts significant doubt on Card-Krueger. First, because the minimum-wage itself is circumvented in practice, its negative effect on employment is muted, perhaps to the point of becoming statistically imperceptible. Second, employers’ and employees’ success at evading other employment regulations – such as mandatory overtime pay – counteracts the minimum-wage’s effect of pricing many low-skilled workers out of the job market.
Donald J. Boudreaux

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ever Wonder What the World Looked Like From Their Eyes?


Captivating analysis from an economist who watched the unfolding of economic issues after WWI and didn't know he was watching the 'Great Depression.' Professor Graham's conclusion is that market theories were "fundamentally sound and the policy of laissez-faire to which they point is valid still.… The mills of international finance grind slowly but their capacity is great.…The one condition is that the hoppers be not unduly loaded in [an] effort to get the whole grist from a single grinding. So much for the economics of the question. What politics has in store is, however, an inscrutable mystery. It can only be said that such financial difficulties as may occur will almost certainly arise from political rather than economic sources." (pp. 325 – 326)

Understanding WWII - Essential Knowledge


Fascinating stuff - how did Hitler pull if off? Why wasn't he effectively opposed? What were the forces at play?

I'd welcome any additional commentary on this topic - I generally learn quite a lot when friends and family pontificate on these topics.

This is part two: http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,646481,00.html

The Root of All (Big Govt) Evil?

Would it be possible to have a curriculum that identified politicians as fundamentally untrustworthy? Would it be possible to have school teachers lecturing on the downsides of unions? Is there any doubt that the curriculum reflects the pro-govt bias of those that work in government and academia? Who would suggest that it is possible to have a public school curriculum that is neutral in the political philisophy debate?

"...rather than bringing people together, public schooling often forces people of disparate backgrounds and beliefs into political combat. This paper tracks almost 150 such incidents in the 2005–06 school year alone. Whether over the teaching of evolution, the content of library books, religious expression in the schools, or several other common points of contention, conflict was constant in American public education last year. Such conflict, however, is not peculiar to the last school year, nor is it a recent phenomenon. Throughout American history, public schooling has produced political disputes, animosity, and sometimes even bloodshed between diverse people. Such clashes are inevitable in government-run schooling because all Americans are required to support the public schools, but only those with the most political power control them. Political— and sometimes even physical—conflict has thus been an inescapable public schooling reality."

The Laissez Faire That Never Was

From www.cafehayek.com:

Laissez Faire – Not!
Posted: 23 Aug 2009 05:10 AM PDT
Some myths never die. I sent this letter yesterday to the New York Times; it addresses only one of the many flaws in David Leonhardt’s article:
Suggesting that President Herbert Hoover followed laissez-faire policies, David Leonhart writes that "we can’t rerun the past year with a Hooverite economic strategy" to see what its outcome would have been ("Theory and Morality in the New Economy <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/books/review/Leonhardt-t.html?scp=1&sq=Hooverite&st=cse> ," August 19).
No need to do so, for the past year was run "with a Hooverite economic strategy." From Pres. Hoover’s 52 percent increase in government spending to his running the third-largest budget deficit then in U.S. history – and from his creation of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to his signing of the Federal Home Loan Bank Act – Hoover’s hyperactive intervention nearly 80 years ago was not very different from Bush’s and Obama’s hyperactive interventions today. Hoover himself, campaigning for re-election in October 1932 <http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=23269&st=&st1> , bragged of rejecting the advice of "reactionary economists [who] urged that we should allow the liquidation to take its course until it had found its own bottom."
Donald J. Boudreaux

From Cafe Hayek.com, Concise Summary of Economic Principles

Fascinating! I would have found a way to work Bastiat's "What is unseen" into this as shown in the "Broken Window Fallacy."

Economic Foundations
Posted: 01 Sep 2009 06:35 AM PDT
The late Arthur Seldon offered a darn good, and nicely concise, list of the important foundational tenets of economics:
Production takes place for consumption (derived from the Scot Adam Smith <http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Smith.html> ), not the other way round. Value is measured not as an average but at the margin (the Englishman W. S. Jevons <http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Jevons.html> , the Frenchman Leon Walras <http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Walras.html> , and the Austrian Carl Menger <http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Menger.html> ). The cost of producing a commodity or service is not the labour required (the German Karl Marx <http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Marx.html> ) but the commodity or service thereby lost (the Austrian Friedrich von Wieser <http://homepage.newschool.edu/het//profiles/wieser.htm> ). The instinct of man is to "truck and barter" in markets (Adam Smith). He will find ways round, under, over or through restrictions created by government (the Austrian Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk <http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/BohmBawerk.html> ). There is no such thing as absolute demand (for education, medicine or anything else) or supply (of labour or anything else) because both vary with price (the Englishmen Alfred Marshall <http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Marshall.html> , Lionel Robbins <http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Robbins.html> and many before and since). Not least, without the signalling device of price, man cannot spontaneously and voluntarily co-operate for prosperous co-existence (the Austrian Ludwig von Mises <http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Mises.html> and the Austrian-born but voluntarily-British Friedrich Hayek <http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Hayek.html> ).
(From page 6 of Vol. 7 of The Collected Works of Arthur Seldon <http://www.libertyfund.org/details.asp?displayID=1889> .)

What You Are Up Against in CGM Schools

It is an inevitability that a coercive govt monopoly on schools will become a tool for political indoctrination.

"Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a letter and detailed “classroom activities” with all sorts of alarming buzzwords and guidance to schools across the country. In his letter, Duncan asserts that the work of educators is “critical to…our social progress.” It’s a statement that suggests – as many educators have held and continue to hold – that it is the job of public schools to impose values, often collectivist, on students. Fear that this might be the case is reinforced by suggested classroom activities in the department’s guidance for pre-K-6 students that encourage children to make posters setting out “community and country” goals. Perhaps even more frightening is the lesson being pushed that it is important to listen to “the President and other elected officials.” Possibly most distressing of all, though, is guidance that appears explicitly designed to glorify both the presidency and President Obama himself, encouraging schools to prepare for the speech “by reading books about presidents and Barack Obama.” Finally, schools are told to ask students how president Obama will “inspire” them in his speech before he gives it, and how they were inspired after Obama has spoken."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sarcasm on ObamaCare - but Good Sarcasm!

"How easy! Why didn't anyone think of that before? We'll simply pay the doctors $1,000 to talk to us about weight and only $500 for cutting off a foot and we'll end up with skinnier people, fewer detached feet, smaller health care costs and a lower federal deficit.
It's the same with cutting the deficit by just picking the right colors. As Obama explained, "If there's a blue pill and a red pill and the blue pill is half the price of the red pill and works just as well, why not pay half the price for the thing that's going to make you well?"
So "why not"? It's either because the doctors are too dumb or because they're stuck in a capitalist trap where greed is ruining everything. Either way, the solution is to have a smart socialist call all the shots."


The essence of statism is the arrogance required to believe that a centralized organization of the behavior of millions of people can possibly result in efficiency, effectiveness, or anything of the sort.

"In the upside-down world of the statist, deceit and avarice are concentrated in the private sector; honesty and bigheartedness in the government sector.... Today's politicians, heroic? And we should be quiet? Thomas Jefferson had it right: "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."""

George Will on Obama's Presidency and DC in General

"August ended with the unembarrassable administration uttering a $2 trillion "Oops!" by estimating that the 10-year budget-deficit projection is about $9 trillion rather than $7.1 trillion. The supposed means of paying for the president's $1 trillion health-care plan include substantial Medicare cuts that will never happen, and the auction of carbon-emission permits that, instead, would be given away by the Waxman--Markey cap-and-trade legislation the House has sent to the Senate. That legislation is a particularly lurid illustration of why no serious person nowadays takes seriously Washington's increasingly infantile bandying of numbers. The point of cap-and-trade is to impose a ceiling on the nation's greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions—primarily carbon dioxide. The legislation endorses the goal of holding the global carbon--dioxide level to a maximum of 450 parts per million by 2050. That. Will. Not. Happen." http://www.newsweek.com/id/214268
He crunches the numbers to give us an idea of what would be required to get us to 450 parts per million by 2050:
"Waxman--Markey endorses the goal of reducing all of this nation's GHG emissions 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. In 2005, the United States' carbon-dioxide emissions were 6 billion tons, so an 83 percent -reduction would permit about 1 billion tons—what America's emissions were in 1910, when the population was 92 million and the economy was one twenty-fifth of today's. But by 2050, the population probably will be about 420 million, so per capita carbon-dioxide emissions would have to be 2.4 tons—one quarter of 1910's per capita emissions.
Hayward and Green say that historical data indicate that the last time emissions were that low was 1875. And even before that, before widespread use of fossil fuels, wood burning by Americans may have produced more than 2.4 tons per capita. Today France, which generates approximately 80 percent of its electricity by nuclear power, and Switzerland, which generates most of its electricity by nuclear or hydropower, have per capita emissions of 6.59 and 6.13 tons, respectively."

How is it that the people with the most serious job on the planet - defending liberty for the 300 million free citizens of this nation - cannot be taken seriously on practically anything they say?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

An Example of "High Quality", "Free", Govt Health Care


"the common wisdom is "don't get sick after June"—the month when the federal dollars usually run out. "

These people are also being victimized by the govt recommendations on what to eat - which directly contribute to the chronic health care issues from which they suffer.

Anyone want to stand in line for this free care?

More on the "Compassion" of Politicians from Cafe Hayek


Posted: 31 Aug 2009 06:58 AM PDT
Here’s a letter that I just sent to the Los Angeles Times:
You join legions of others in describing Ted Kennedy as having been compassionate ("Ted Kennedy, America’s conscience <http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-gabler30-2009aug30,0,3766724.story> ," August 30). Aware that I’ll come across as low-brow – as unable to appreciate the transformative magic of politics – I must ask: What’s compassionate about spending other people’s money and minding other people’s business?
Suppose Mr. Kennedy were my neighbor. One day he arrives at my door with a handful of other neighbors (all carrying concealed weapons) and demands some of my money and tells me that he’ll regulate what I eat, drink, and smoke. "And I’ll stop your teenage son from being employed if no employer offers him a wage at least as high as one that my friends here and I determine is appropriate."
I gaze at him aghast. "Oh, don’t worry," he assures me. "Because my undying dream is to help others, I’ll spend the money that I take from you in ways that will help you. But I’ll also spend much of it helping people on the other side of the tracks. And any restrictions that I impose on your behavior are ones that, you can be sure, spring only from my compassion for you and others."
Should I regard neighbor Kennedy as great and compassionate – as a gallant champion of the interests of others? Or should I regard him as an arrogant bully, as fraudulent as he is dangerous?
Donald J. Boudreaux