Daily Archives: 06/05/2010

More on that Dartmouth health care study

Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science

via More on that Dartmouth health care study.

Knowing that spending is high and poorly correlated with measures
of quality (if such a correlation exists!) is not the same as knowing
how to pare spending in a way that increases net social benefit from
health care.

What’s Worse Than An Oil Spill?

I thought this was really interesting, and a good application of economics. None the less it is an incomplete way to think about the issues he raises. Good policy is more than economic efficiency.

From Steven Landsburg | The Big Questions:

Let’s try for a little perspective. The BP oil spill threatens to cause something like $10 billion worth of damage. That’s pretty bad. By contrast, an extra trillion dollars worth of federal spending threatens to cause something like $300 billion worth of deadweight loss (that is, underproduction due to tax avoidance and disincentives to work). That’s 30 times worse. How is it that so much angst about the former seems to be coming from people with a history of shrugging their shoulders at the latter?

I think one can say the cost of the spill is 10 billion treating the losses as only lost fishing and other losses to human consumption. Measuring that is a good question for an economist. But is consumption the big loss here?

I’d argue that fouling God’s creation in this way is immoral, and I’m not sure what cost you would put on that. I suppose you could be compensated for the shame, but in some sense I think it’s bigger than that. On the other hand the benefits of programs that make society more equitable are hard to measure also. I don’t a value to equity is being included.

I think the piece is interesting, but incomplete.

Steven Landsburg | The Big Questions: Tackling the Problems of Philosophy with Ideas from Mathematics, Economics, and Physics

via What’s Worse Than An Oil Spill?.

A Common Sense Constitution? Insulting the Framers in Wasilla

Wisdom and the best sense may not be “common” sense.  From Jonathan Bernstein on the the subject:

I’m certain that the Constitution of the United States of America is not common sense.  It’s a sophisticated document, based on a complex and subtle theory of politics.  It was drafted by brilliant men, who relied not on common sense but on serious study of politics, history, and philosophy.  Chief among them was James Madison.  Madison was a practical man, and certainly had practical political experience, having served in the Continental Congress and the Virginia General Assembly.  But he did not believe that the sorts of things that he learned from practical experience were enough when he took it upon himself to organize the Constitutional Convention and to prepare a draft plan for a new government.  So Madison made a study of it.  Bandwith being somewhat limited in those days, what Madison did was ask his good friend Tom (who happened to be in France on government business) to scour the bookshops of Paris for books about…here’s Adrienne Koch (quoted in William Lee Miller’s wonderful The Business of May Next):

Madison specifically requested Jefferson to purchase for him “Treatises on the ancient and modern Federal Republics, on the law of Nations, and the History, natural and political, of the new World,” adding to these subjects “such of the Greek and Roman authors, where they will be got very cheap, as are worth having, and are not on the common list of school classics…Jefferson’s thoughtful provision of books for Madison, including some thirty-seven volumes of the coveted Encyclopedie methodique, which Madison called “a complete scientific library,” treatises on morality, and histories of European countries, surely made Madison the most cosmopolitan statesman never to have quit American shores.

A plain blog about politics

via Insulting the Framers in Wasilla.

snow puff




snow puff

Originally uploaded by Pill bug

Port Orford, Sunset




Port Orford, Sunset

Originally uploaded by rebelxtned

Red sky at night sailor’s delight!

Three Strikes: Sestak Gate / Oil Gate / immigrate

I’ve been pretty defensive of Barak Obama, feeling many of the criticisms of him were:

irrelevant (he’s a Muslim!!, he put mustard on hamburgers!);

petty and nasty (he uses a teleprompter!0

misleading (he a socialist, no make that fascist, no both!!!!);

self contradictory (he’s terrible because he’s following Bush’s terror policy and because he isn’t following Bush’s terror policies, he stupid because he uses a teleprompter, but he’s an elitist);

ignore the context of the times (he’s running up a deficit, IN THE WORST RECESSION IN 25 YEARS!);

naive (he and the Democratic leadership are using every political tool to, GASP, pass their agenda);

hypocritical (he’s adding to the deficit for healthcare, never mind we Republican added to the deficit for a pointless war, he’s attacking freedom, what’s that about holding prisoners for years with no charges?);

prejudiced or xenophobic (he not constantly proclaiming that we’re flawless to the rest of world! He has no US birth certificate!); and

so on.

But now, comes oiliness on the administrations part.

First Sestak gate.

Apparently a White House job was offered to payoff Arlen Specter by trying to buy his primary challenger out of the race, and now it appears to have happened in Colorado as well. Perhaps there will be more examples.

This disturbs me. Some such Jonathan Bernstein dismiss it:

the US has a disconnect between a political system based on parties, bargaining, deal-making, logrolling, and, more broadly, (self-) interested people and groups finding ways to work things out with each other, and a political culture that has quite a bit of disdain for all those things. See, for example, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and the dozens of movies and TV shows that have followed, all built around the idea that parties are bad, interest groups are bad, cutting deals is bad, and the only hope for democracy are radically independent people with pure motives who alone have access to what constitutes good policy. Thanks to that disconnect, there are always plenty of perfectly ordinary things that pols do in the perfectly ordinary course of their jobs that can easily be sold to many reporters as corrupt.

I get his point that deal making is always part of politics and life in general, though at time most of feel shocked by it. Most of us do it, and certainly politicians do.

I think I could see offering policy compromise to move ahead. I’ll help you do good from your point of view if you help me do good from mine.

The Republicans might have done us all good if they had tried to actually get more movement on issues like tort reform, and more controls of costs, and other regulatory reforms during the bargaining on health reform. Instead they just sat on their hands and in the end accomplished none of their goals, and lost the fight against what they opposed anyway. This is an example of what Bernstein means.

But Sestak Gate seems different. This wasn’t I’ll help you accomplish your policy goals, if you help me with some of mine. This was using public dollars and a government job to buy votes. If it had been an out and out bribe and I think the reason for outrage would be more obvious.

The oil spill is troubling also, though less so. It raise the issue I found most troubling in the end about the Bush administration. Is this a competent administration? Can they pursue objective (whether right or wrong) in an effective way, or just posture (Mission Accomplished!). Sestak gate doesn’t seem like a sign of competency either.

I’m not sure a lot more could be done in the gulf to stop the spill, but Governor Jindahl seems to raise a legitimate issue that more could surely have been done to protect the shore and mitigate the spill. Couldn’t stimulus dollars have been used for this project. After all the main thrust of stimulative policy in a recession is to find public uses for resources that the private sector hasn’t figured out a way to use just yet. Here we have a clear and present need.

On immigration, the President is considering challenging the new Arizona law. I’m unclear on how this law can work and not be discriminatory. I’d lean toward making checks during all traffic stops, it shouldn’t be up to the officers discretion. I don’t see any other way to be effective yet non-discriminatory. But this is an issue that concerns many, and I don’t think the federal government should crush a local effort to deal with this problem.

After becoming as disenchanted with President Bush as I did, it discouraging to have that sinking feeling in my stomach. Again.

IfItWasMyHome.com – Visualizing the BP Oil Disaster

IfItWasMyHome.com – Visualizing the BP Oil Disaster.