Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Diaphysics Reviewed

Diaphyiscs has its first review. Go read it.

Medicare and Medicaid ARE Government Insurance, People!

This from the Washington Post:

At a recent town-hall meeting in suburban Simpsonville, a man stood up and told Rep. Robert Inglis (R-S.C.) to "keep your government hands off my Medicare."

"I had to politely explain that, 'Actually, sir, your health care is being provided by the government,' " Inglis recalled. "But he wasn't having any of it."

It's almost too easy to make fun of people like this. And this isn't the only incident of this kind I have heard of. How do people not understand that Medicare and Medicaid ARE government-provided health insurance? And, more, that these two programs are both bankrupt in most states and have been major contributors to the high costs that in turn have made insurance practically necessary for everyone?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Presenting: The Incompetent John Conyers (By His Own Admission)

John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, said in regards to reading the health care bill: “What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”


It seems to me that if, as a lawmaker, you can't understand the bill, you either have no business voting for it at all, or you have no business being in Congress. If he can't understand the bills he's voting on, he should resign so somebody with some mental competence can have his seat.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Elemental Rebirth

Here is a sonnet I wrote. Scroll down a bit on the page to see it.

Let Me Point Something Out . . .

Pointing as a way of communicating is unique to humans. But responding to pointing, though absent in chimpanzees, is found in domesticated dogs and domesticated foxes, but not in wild wolves. It seems that domestication makes for detailed, specific communication. In 2004, in my dissertation, I argued that humans domesticated themselves, and that explained many of our features. May be this is more evidence to support that theory.

Noise Makes a Huge Difference

It turns out that speciation can occur beginning with genetically identical organisms. The difference? Partial penetrance, due to noise. Random variations in protein distributions -- noise -- affect development. It is pointed out that "It's interesting that noise—these random fluctuations of proteins in the cell—is critical for this to work." As information theory teaches us about other systems, "Noise is not just a nuisance in this system; it's a key part of the process that allows genetically identical cells to do very different things." An interesting epigenetic effect. Further evidence that one cannot predict what different complex systems will do, even if their underlying archeology is identical.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rational Ants

Ants are more rational than humans? As a self-organizing group, it turns out that, yes, they are. Each individual ant is terribly ill-informed. But all the ants together, providing to the group the local information they each have, contributes to rational behavior to the ants as a whole. Why are humans not able to act more rationally? Well, we keep having individuals with the ability to control others' behaviors interfering with and, subsequently, disrupting the spontaneous formation of order. The result of this is less rational human behavior. If the ants had some idiot without enough sense to know that he can't possible know everything trying to control their actions, they would act as irrationally as humans do as well. The natural emergence of spontaneous order makes people more rational.


Recommendations for topics?

Chavez and Anti-Semitism

Looks like Hugo Chavez is truly a classical socialist: he's using anti-Semitism. There is a long tradition of communists and other socialists being anti-Semitic that became lost to history due to the anti-Semitism of the National Socialist Party of Germany. Jews had lots of money, ran the banks, were wealthy capitalists -- so naturally socialists saw Jews as the enemy. After WWII, most socialists tried to get as far away from anti-Semitism as possible -- but it seems like Chavez has decided to go old school with his socialism.

Also, to those who said that Chavez wouldn't censor the media, well, there is little doubt any more that he is and will continue to do so. He recently shut down every media outlet critical of him. I told you so.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Health Care is NOT a Public Service

Is health care a pubic or a private service?

That is the soul of the issue, what we should really be talking about. Those in favor of single-payer plans, socialized medicine, medical welfare, etc. all believe that health care is a public service, like the police or the fire departments. Those in favor of market solutions believe health care is a private service. There can be no agreement on what to do with health care coverage unless and until we settle this issue.

The police and fire departments are public services. There's little debate about that, except among anarchocapitalists. The rest of us agree that these are public services which the government rightly provides for us. They are public services because the public as a whole benefits from these services, yet individuals are unlikely to pay for those services which they don't typically receive. How often do we really need the services of the fire or police departments? Yet, we want them there when we need them. They have to be funded in the meantime, and public funding seems the most effective and efficient way of paying for these services.

The question then is: will hospitals and clinics and independent doctors exist without government funding. The fact that they do answers that question. Health care is a service that individuals seek out for their own benefit. Enough people do so on a regular basis that hospitals, etc. can exist without public funding. Anyone with even the smallest amount of knowledge of economics understand that if something can exist without public funding, it should continue to exist without it, as that is the most efficient, cost-effective way of providing the service.

The fact that someone might need the service at some time is no justification for it being a public service. Everyone needs food to live, but grocery stores and restaurants are not public service -- they are private services. Yes, food is necessary for our survival, but that fact is insufficient to make the service of providing food a public one.

There is also this wrongheaded notion that doctors should only be doctors if they are truly service-minded. People should be paid what they are worth, and doctors provide a rare, difficult-to-learn service. If there is more demand than supply, one would expect prices to be relatively high, to reflect that balance. I am sure that we could find people out there who would be willing to be doctors if they received a free education to become a doctor and who would only receive a middle-class wage once they became a doctor, but are those really the only people we want to become doctors? What would be the incentive to specialize? Further, would yuo find more or fewer people becoming doctors in such a system? Any clearheaded person would answer the obvious: fewer. Thus we would end up with fewer doctors for more patients, creating long waits fo all kinds of medical services. Give me a system that attracts people into medicine and specializations based on the draw of high wages any time. That will ensure a high number of doctors and specialists. Of course, as the supply of doctors increases due to the attraction of high wages, the prices of their services will drop. But we need to make sure there are few barriers to entry to ensure this high supply of doctors. Those doctors who are truly community-minded are also free to open up free clinics, or discounted clinics, to provide care to the poor. Such generosity is to be admired -- but the desire to make a good wage isn't something that should be denigraded just because we admire the generous.

So health care is absolutely not a public service. The fact that it can and does exist without government support alone provides evidence for this fact. Prices are the most efficient way of determine how health care is to be provided. Nor should it be a public service, as turning it into one makes for passive inefficiencies, long waits, shortages, and other problems associated with government-provided private services. In fact, every time the government tries to turn a private service into a public one, we get inefficiencies, long waits, shortages, etc. We saw it with food distribution in the Soviet Union, and we see it with socialized health care systems in places like Canada and Great Britain.

Read the Bills

There should be a law on the books that requires Congress members to read every single page of whatever legislation they vote on. On the day before the vote, all members should be required to take a test on the proposed legislation. If they cannot pass the test, they cannot vote. This would require a certain number of days between the final bill and the vote, and it would also prevent last minute additions of several hundreds of pages that nobody will read. The fact that this would also slow down the passage of laws would only be an added bonus.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ph.D. or Postdoc?

I emailed Bryan Caplan and Peter Boettke at George Mason University about getting my Ph.D. in economics there. Boettke suggested postdoc work instead, but Caplan thinks an economics Ph.D. is the best thing in the world. Certainly, after reading his post, I agree. What I need to find out, though, is the benefits of each. And I need to find this out before I start taking the undergrad classes needed to get into the Ph.D. program.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Absurdity of "Fairness"

What is a "fair" wage? When we ask that question, the real question should be "fair to whom"? It is always someone outside the interaction declaring that this or that wage is or isn't fair. But what is meant by fair? Is the same wage for different activities fair? A coal miner should make the same money as a checkout person at Walmart? If it is not absolute equality, then how do you determine what is "fair"? Is $35/hour to mine coal fair, but $10/hr (or $1000/hr) unfair? How about $20/hr? Let's say you agree that $20/hr is fair, but no lower than that . . . so $19.99/hr is unfair? That's nitpicking, you say? Well, how do you decide, then? It boils down to an arbitrary decision. And it is, of course. That's why only those parties directly involved in the decision should be a party to that decision -- the worker (and perhaps his union) and the employer. The worker knows what his own labor is worth, what he is willing to work for, and the employer also knows what he is willing to pay to get that work done, with the pool of workers available. Those who wish to step in, who are not party to the contract being written, are essentially telling the worker that he's too stupid to know what's good for him, that he's treating HIMSELF unfairly. Can one treat oneself unfairly or unjustly? That's absurd on the face of it.

Of course, there are those who will argue that the employer is being unfair or unjust and is exploiting the worker. So offer the worker something better yourself. Give the worker options, rather than taking options away from him. If you really cared about "fair wages," you would start up a company and hire people at that wage. Or do you think you can get something more -- more money, more power -- by using government?

Brain is Self-Organized Critical

Not that I'm surprised . . . but we now have actual evidence that the brain works on the edge of chaos, known as self-organized criticality. A healthy cell is in this realm. A healthy organism is in this realm. A healthy brain is in this realm. So is, I suspect, a healthy ecosystem, culture, society, and economy. If this is true, then the best we can say about interventions into the economy is that the results will be completely unpredictable. If a politician or economist says that this or that law will have a certain effect, they are either delusional, at best, or liars, at worst. Attempts to order it are attempts to get it away from this delicate state on the edge of order and chaos where creativity occurs. Interventions thus either kill an economy by throwing it into true chaos, eliminate creativity by crystalizing it, or throw the system into wild fluctuations, boom-bust cycles.

But, to get back to the brain . . . what this says about creativity is that it truly is random. One just has to be prepared to catch what comes when it does. That's the difference between everyone else and the artistic genius -- the latter is always prepared to catch what comes to mind.

Looks like creativity in a brain and creativity in an economy are the same thing.

Consider, for example, the following quote: "It might seem precarious to have a brain that plunges randomly into periods of instability, but the disorder is actually essential to the brain's ability to transmit information and solve problems." Now consider this rewrite: "It might seem precarious to have an economy that plunges randomly into periods of instability, but the disorder is actually essential to the economy's ability to transmit information and solve problems." In fact, one could rewrite the entire article, replacing "brain" with "economy", and you would almost have a perfect description of a healthy economy.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Is an Economics Degree in My Future?

So, I'm thinking about going to George Mason University and getting a graduate degree in Economics. They allow you to concentrate on the Austrians. They have a really interesting program, with classes on the history of economics, institutional economics, philosophy of economics, etc. WIth most economics programs unfortunately focusing on econometrics -- that is, economics as a field of mathematics -- it is refreshing to know there is a program out there that actually deals with the economy as a complex system. Using the simplest methods (math) to understand a highly complex system doesn't work. It results in stupid decisions and stupid ideas, for the most part. Math overly simplifies things, and oversimplification is what has caused most of our economics messes throughout the world, throughout history. Socialism was an attempt to mathematize/scientize the economy, and econometrics approaches are mostly evidence that we didn't learn the lessons of history. GMU is a place where the full range of economics is still studied. Math has its place, of course -- just just is a tiny, tiny, tiny corner of economics.

So, what does everyone think of me going to GMU to get a graduate degree in economics?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation

As David Books notes in a New York Times Op-Ed, there is a correlation between the rules by which one lives and one's moral behavior, as exemplified by George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. Indeed, the best way for one to learn ethical behavior is by first learning etiquette. This culture has certainly dropped the ball on that one. Virtue and liberty are two sides of the same coin. We too often forget that.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy 4th

Happy Birthday, America! Once the p[romise of economic liberty, civil liberty, and political liberty -- free market capitalism, a liberal society, and a constitutional democratic republic -- I hope one day you realize that promise, that we get you back on the path to truth, justice, and virtue. May the USA become beautiful!


I just bought David Hare's play "The Verticle Hour." In it there is a character named "Dennis Dutton" -- you cannot tell me that is an accident, especially considering his political ideology -- who is arguing with his political science professor. In their discussion, she accuses him of being a capitalist. He responses that he doesn't like the word "capitalism." When asked what word he would prefer for the system he prefers, he answers: Life.

I love that, because that is exactly what it is. YOu can choose vibrant life, sick life, or terminal illness leading to death: a liberal spontaneous order economic system (free market), various interventionisms and welfare states, or socialism. Friederich von Hayek says that fascism is what you get when socialism proves a failure. Fascism: the final death throes after the terminal illness of socialism.