Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Health and Family Welfare Minister, has called for the country to redouble its efforts to bring electricity to all of its huge rural population.
The introduction of the electric light and television sets to those vast areas that still did not have them would discourage procreation, he argued.
“If there is electricity in every village, then people will watch TV till late at night and then fall asleep. They won’t get a chance to produce children,” Mr Azad said. “When there is no electricity there is nothing else to do but produce babies.” Related Links
He added: “Don’t think that I am saying this in a lighter vein. I am serious. TV will have a great impact. It’s a great medium to tackle the problem . . . 80 per cent of population growth can be reduced through TV.”

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Which protozoan makes many people more likely to be in a car accident? Answer here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

John Lee is pessimistic about future Chinese economic growth.
Looks can be deceiving. Most Western commentators focus on the spectacular success of China’s export sector and the emergence of China as the world’s factory. But the greater contributor to Chinese growth is actually domestically funded fixed investment, which constituted over 50% of GDP in 2008 and over 40% of growth in that year. China is way off the charts in this regard...

China is unusual in that bank loans constitute around 80% of all investment activity in the country—a disproportionately high level. Even though state-controlled enterprises produce between one-quarter and one-third of all output in the country, they receive over 70% of the country’s capital, and the figure is rising...

The massive bias towards the state sector would be acceptable if the state-controlled enterprises could learn to innovate and adapt. Unfortunately, except for a handful of centrally managed state-controlled enterprises, this is not the case...

One should read Robin Hanson every once in a while. He tries to explain a lot, probably too much, in terms of signaling. See for example, his thoughts on health care. I also liked reading from these posts on

shallow signals, anti-perspirants, and global warming.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Look at page 9. Is it a green shoot, or data mining?

Monday, July 13, 2009

How Japanese bees kill hornets.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I've been reading a lot---too much---about health insurance reform. My current thoughts are that (1) right now, the easiest way to help the uninsured poor is to expand Medicaid eligibility to all poor adults (as defined by the poverty line), not just poor children and their parents (and the disabled). (Vouchers would be better, but the political winds aren't blowing that way.) Once the poor are covered, the case for "universal coverage" loses all moral urgency.

(2) The current system can't control costs. (Here's a shorter article making the same point.) The practice paying doctors and hospitals for actions instead of outcomes is corrupting and bloating the health care industry.

(3) The political system is not capable of significantly curtailing costs in the short-term or medium-term (by which I mean about ten years).

(4) However, a bureaucracy may very well be created that in the long-term does incrementally make the hard choices needed to cut health care costs. The coming fiscal train wreck will force large benefit cuts or large tax-increases, and the politicians don't want to touch this dilemma with a ten-foot pool. Better to let the bureaucrats become objects of public hatred.

(5) The cost explosion eventually also will force private insurers (and their customers) to make hard choices (if the government doesn't drive them out of business first). In a better world, we would listen to Arnold Kling; we would significantly deregulate health insurance markets to allow competition to find the most palatable ways of controlling cost. (The plurality of "ways" is essential here; consumers have diverse preferences.) Our more likely future is that a lumbering bureaucracy will find a suboptimal, mostly uniform way to control cost.

(6) What will happen to medical innovation after the party ends and serious cost controls come to America? I don't know,but there is certainly reason to worry.

(7) Arguments about reducing administrative costs (really through economy of scale) are not a compelling reason to move toward single-payer health care.

The inside story of AIG's financial products division.
New patterns have been found in Social Security numbers. I predict that driver license numbers will be used more in future years. In any event, keep your birth date as private as you can.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

"Asperatus" clouds. I was equally struck by the photos and by the apparent existence of the "Cloud Appreciation Society."
Pithy (HT: Mickey Kaus):
Here is a handy-dandy way to determine whether the failure to order some exam or treatment constitutes rationing: If the patient were the president, would he get it? If he'd get it and you wouldn't, it's rationing.
I agree, but let me approach this from another angle. Perhaps the next time a doctor recommends a test, procedure, or drug to me, I should ask, "If I were a CEO, and my time and productivity were very valuable, would you still recommend this?" I want to avoid long-shot treatments of dubious benefit. I hope, for the President's sake, that he feels the same way.

To overtreat is not to err on the side of caution. Medical errors kill 200,000 Americans every year.

Insert Simpsons quote here:
Argentine ants living in vast numbers across Europe, the US and Japan belong to the same inter-related colony, and will refuse to fight one another.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The 62-million-year extinction cycle and its intergalactic cause.