Here's a new, nutty discussion from British health care authorities, who are having the devil of a time getting people to reduce their heavy drinking and overeating habits, to say nothing of near total failure to successfully encourage adequate amounts of healthful exercise among the citizenry.
Well, not to worry you British folks, because following good health guidelines may be just another way to add to your health woes. In a new 'damned if you do or if you don't' analysis, we learn that healthier life styles may 'just add more years of bad health' to one's life.
This could be a mixed gift for the profligate. Will overindulgent Brits, greatly relieved at the news, eschew lives of (apparently) pointless moderation and virtue? Perhaps, if it means nothing better than extending one's misery and decrepitude. The possible policy implications are even more perverse.
Given the emerging pattern of British health care for its ageing, I can imagine that in lieu of recommendations for moderate drinking, exercise, and weight control, British citizens will simply, from now on, receive strong suggestions from British Health Services on their optimal eternal exit dates, and be expected to take care of it in a timely and considerate manner. They are already well on their way there.
And in some possible universe (not this one), this makes perfect sense.
Now that the Senate and House health care bills appear to be dead, there is much discussion in DC about the possibility of a compromise with the Republicans that will produce a "scaled-down" health care reform bill. NCPA's John Goodman addresses that prospect here.
Suppose, for example, that Congress took the advice of those who want to ban insurance discrimination on the basis of medical history, and stopped there. What would happen next? The answer, as any health care economist will tell you, is that if Congress didn't simultaneously require that healthy people buy insurance, there would be a "death spiral": healthier Americans would choose not to buy insurance, leading to high premiums for those who remain, driving out more people, and so on.
And if Congress tried to avoid the death spiral by requiring that healthy Americans buy insurance, it would have to offer financial aid to lower-income families to make that insurance affordable -- aid at least as generous as that in the Senate bill. There just isn't any way to do reform on a smaller scale.
Alert readers will recall that I made a similar point here and Uwe Reinhardt agreed with me. But I wasn't arguing for ObamaCare. I was arguing against divorcing health insurance premiums from risk.
In a complex system -- especially one that is hugely dysfunctional because of regulation, tradition and bureaucracy -- there are basically two ways to go:
We can liberate people, giving them new opportunities to solve problems; or we can further constrain them, making problem-solving more difficult than ever before.
We can give people new tools to solve problems; or we can take away tools they already have.
We can unshackle the price system, allowing competition and choice to solve problems the way problems are solved in other markets; or we can suppress prices even more than they are already suppressed.
The former choices are the path to real problem-solving; the latter are not workable, not desirable and not real reform
In Raleigh, city council members are using the proposed $225 million Public Safety building to justify a property tax increase. Justifying a tax increase by targeting funds to an essential city service is a variation on the "Washington Monument" technique. Phoenix city council members are much more bold. They threaten to cut the number police officers and firefighters in order to frighten the public into accepting a two-cent tax increase on groceries.
The Americans for Prosperity chapter in Arizona reports the political trick.
A majority on the Phoenix City Council just voted to put a TWO-CENT TAX ON GROCERIES (in the middle of a recession). The Arizona Republic’s story repeated city propaganda, saying that the council was “desperate to save police, fire and other city jobs.” But the truth is that the City does NOT need to cut police and fire to balance its budget. It needs to cut the “other city jobs,” eliminate non-essential services, and use public-private partnerships to operate and maintain assets such as city parks.
If you are the average Phoenix taxpayer, the City is going to tax your groceries to support city employees who make a LOT more than you do. Councilman Sal DiCiccio (who voted against the tax hike) reports that “the average cost for all city employees is $100,000, including all benefits. That includes all employees--clerks to managers.” DiCiccio points out that the average private sector total compensation in the Phoenix-Mesa area, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $54,100—which is about half the average for City of Phoenix employees. “For an enterprise the size of Phoenix,” DiCiccio concludes, “with about 14,000 workers, that’s simply unsustainable, which is why we need to look to the private sector to perform some functions less expensively.”
It would be great if the Raleigh city council had a councilman like Sal DiCiccio to blow the whistle on Raleigh's version of this dirty political trick.
Daren, I don't see any way the rule can be enforced without restricting dogs from outdoor dining areas. A rule regarding daycare services, for example, that states "pets shall not come into contact with children" would inevitably ban pets from the facility.
As I wrote yesterday, the NC Commission for Public Health is banning dogs from outdoor areas. I feared that there would be confusion because it appears that there's an exception for dogs in outdoor areas, but the details of the rule show why the exception is smoke and mirrors.
Pets in outdoor dining areas are allowed "provided that pets shall not pass through any indoor areas of the food service establishment and shall not come into contact with employees engaged in the preparation or handling of food, utensils, or other items that may result in contamination of food or food contact surfaces. Nothing in this Rule prohibits a food service establishment from prohibiting pets in outdoor dining areas. [Emphasis added].
Anyone on the wait staff handles utensils and therefore I argued that would prohibit dogs in most outdoor dining areas.
However, someone made a good argument to me that "comes into contact" means "physical contact," and therefore so long as a dog doesn't touch a waiter, then it is allowed.
I don't read "comes into contact" as so narrow in scope especially in the context and intent of the rule (and why not just say physical contact?). Even if I'm wrong, for all practical purposes, a restaurant likely will feel that it is prohibited from allowing dogs because they can't control whether a dog will touch a waiter, hostess, etc. As soon as one dog touches an employee that handles utensils, the restaurant has violated the regulations.
The N & O ran an article today making it sound as if dogs definitely are allowed in outdoor dining areas. At a minimum, the language makes it very questionable whether this is true.
It is easy to imagine capitalism working without businesses having the power to imprison people, fine people, or shoot people, because we see it working every day without businesses having these powers. But who could imagine socialism working without government having those powers?
The lead editorial in today's Wall Street Journal informs us that for the first time, the number of unionized government workers outnumbers unionized private sector workers. Undisciplined by competition, government unions have contributed mightily to the fiscal abyss facing states like California New York and New Jersey. They're no small part of the mess facing the federal government since the momentum for ever-larger federal spending comes to some degree from the public unions. The more the government grows, the more jobs open up for people who will have to join and pay dues. Public union officials are rent-seekers par excellence.
I have to wonder if they have ever entertained something akin to a Laffer Curve realization -- that at some point, adding another government worker does more to depress the societal output from which compensation can be paid than it does to increase the haul of union dues? Probably not. Union officials seem to be stuck in what Thomas Sowell calls "stage one" thinking.
It's nice to see thoughtful discussion on the topic. And Ryan does a nice job explaining the benefits of markets.
Klein: When I think of getting Lasik, or buying a television, I can walk out of the store. That’s what gives me as a consumer my power in the market. But if I have chest pains and my doctor prescribes a bypass, how do I walk out of the store?
Ryan: In Milwaukee, the price of bypass ranges from $47,000 to $100,000. Nobody knows where to go for quality, or the prices. So wouldn’t it be good for the prices and quality metrics to be publicized? And let people make a decision. There’ll always be some level of co-pay or deductible or co-insurance that’s going to push people towards the best value. Then, when you have those chest pains and you’re being rushed in the ambulance, you’ll be rushed to a hospital that’s all along been competing for business and has been improved by that process. You’ll get better health care than you otherwise would. That’s how you improve the system.
In today's Wall Street Journal, UNC history professor Peter Coclanis contributes a good piece entitled Haiti Needs to be Built, Not Rebuilt in which he makes the sound point that Haiti, due to its lack of the necessary foundations for economic development (the rule of law, private property, limited government) won't benefit from a new "Marshall Plan" as some people are talking about.
That's right, but I have to quibble with Prof. Coclanis' praise for the Marshall Plan. He writes that it helped "usher in the European 'economic miracle' of the 1950s." That 's the conventional wisdom about the Marshall Plan, but I think it's mistaken. George Mason University economics professor Tyler Cowen has written a paper "The Marshall Plan: Myths and Realities" (available here) that takes a skeptical view of that giant international welfare program.
Prof. Cowen concludes, "Policy makers and aid proponents should no longer view the Marshall Plan as an unqualified success. At best, its effects on postwar Europe were mixed, while its impact on the American economy was negative. The basic problem with foreign aid is that economic growth is not a creature of central planning and direction. Growth is the result of individual initiative and enterprise within a sound legal and economic framework."
The problem is that outsiders -- politicians, philanthropists, human rights activists -- are powerless to catalyze the change that Haiti needs, a change in thinking.
NCSU's February Newsletter brags about the accomplishments on two of its engineers: discovering the best way to shoot a free throw.
I'm sure that many basketball fans are all agog to hear the results, and maybe brush up on their game. I would be equally interested in the physics of how to "Bend It" like Beckham.
But it makes me wonder: is this an appropriate use of state funds? (In case you didn't know, most professors' salaries are paid directly out of state funding.)
What should professors at public universities be researching? Cures for cancer? Innovations in construction safety? Should state universities concentrate on public goods? Or it is open season on anything that brings the university more fame and prestige?
I don't know the answer. But somehow "Free Throw Science" doesn't seem to be it.
Center received the following comment on Max Borders’ paper, “The UNC School of
the Arts: Should It Be Self-Supporting?” (discussed by George yesterday).
like to comment on the publication of Max Borders book on UNC School of the
Arts. I would like to say a big F--- YOU to him because he obviously has
no clue about this school personally. He needs to shut him big f------
mouth because his opinions of this school are s--- and completely biased.
Screw him and his book. It's complete b---s--- and so is he.”
As George noted to me, "Wouldn't it be useful to know where this person learned the brilliant critical thinking skills he displays in his rebuttal to Max's paper? Which college or university can proudly claim this scholar as one of its graduates?"
The state has maxed out its credit lines. On the General Fund, they're stuck at least FY2012, not counting the $1.7 billion (and growing) borrowed from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits. The last time taxpayers were able to vote on debt was in 2000.
On the transportation side, they're over-committed until at least FY2013.
Deficit peacocks are, of course, useless, but I'm not really so fond of deficit hawks either. What we need is some sort of avian like a "spending pterodactyl" that goes around ferociously gobbling up needless federal outlays, billions per mouthful.
The State Board of Education has decided that North Carolina's public charter schools should face stricter performance standards.
Terry Stoops' latest Spotlight report shows how those same standards would affect all public schools. The bottom line: 164 schools would close. Of that total, 155 are traditional public district schools, three are district alternative schools, and six are charter schools.
Terry discusses key findings in the video clip below.
Recent John Locke Foundation 20th anniversary speaker Newt Gingrich uses his latest Human Eventscolumn to take on a group dubbed "deficit peacocks."
As opposed to deficit hawks who are the real fiscal conservatives, deficit peacocks strut around pretending to cut spending through gimmicks like spending freezes that are “freezes” only in the sense that they “freeze” into place previous frenzied spending binges. ...
By pretending to be budget cutters, deficit peacocks engage in an old liberal trick. They promise future spending cuts while approving massive current spending. Then, later, they demand tax increases to pay for all that spending.
Today, deficit peacocks are strutting all over Washington. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and President Obama could all cut spending if they wanted to, they just don’t want to.
They’d rather pretend and try to fool the American people. They say, “Wait for the spending cuts.”
Viewed historically, what we experienced was a classic boom and bust. Prolonged prosperity dulled people's sense of risk. With hindsight, we know that investors, mortgage brokers, and bankers engaged in reckless behavior that created economic havoc. We know that regulators turned a blind eye to practices that, in retrospect, were ruinous. We know that the Fed kept interest rates low for a long period (the overnight fed-funds rate fell to 1 percent in June 2003). But the crucial question is: why? Greed and shortsightedness didn't suddenly burst forth; they are constants of human nature.
One answer is this: speculation and complacency flourished because the prevailing view was that the economy and financial system had become safer.
That nugget of wisdom from Ludwig von Mises came to mind when I read Anna Quindlen’s latest contribution to Newsweek, in which she shares her frustration that inarticulate voters are standing in the way of President Obama and his experts:
[A]t the moment the problem in Washington is us, not them, or at least how they try to figure us out. Good luck with that. One poll of former Obama supporters who abandoned the Democrats in Massachusetts showed that 41 percent of those who opposed the health-care plan weren't sure exactly why. If elected officials are supposed to act based on the wisdom of ordinary people, they're going to need ordinary people to be wiser than that.
Why can’t you dumb people just let us decide what’s good for you?
Will turns to the president’s past in assessing his present state of affairs:
Obama, a former lecturer in constitutional law, continues to say things that reveal an astonishingly inflated sense of his place in our complex constitutional order. To Sawyer he also said: "There's a legislative process that is taking place in Congress, and I am happy to own up to the fact that I have not changed Congress and how it operates the way I would have liked." No one, at least no one who has passed a high-school civics class, thinks Obama was elected to change Congress's operations. Who was the last president who did change them? Presidents come and go; Congress, with its distinctive culture—two cultures, actually—and institutional pride, abides.
Meanwhile, Fineman — a fan of Obama’s State of the Union speech — offers his own reservations:
[T]he attribute that gave the speech its force also gives me pause. The address sometimes seemed more about Obama himself than about the country. At times it was not so much his thoughts on the state of the Union as it was his thoughts on the state of his presidency, and on our view of him. "Now, I am not naive," the president said. "I never thought that the mere fact of my election would usher in peace, harmony, and some post-partisan era." And later: "I have never suggested that change would be easy, or that I can do it alone." (Now he tells us!) Then, in the closing flourish: "I don't quit." (You'd better not: you have a four-year contract.)
In the post-Oprah age, we not only accept but also even demand this kind of intimate, almost confessional style in our leaders and public figures. Most Americans like Obama as a person, and most want him to succeed as a president. But he has to remember that he's supposed to be a character in our story—not the other way around.