Monthly Archives: December 2010

Hey Econ Nerds, Want To See Some Economic Humor?

Economists Do It With Models

via Hey Econ Nerds, Want To See Some Economic Humor?.

Slippery Slope to Death Panels?

Fear of Death Panels continues. This is an example:

Just about everyone is talking about how the Dems and the Obama administration snuck the death panels back into Obamacare, and snuck really is the operative word:

“We would ask that you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your lists, even if they are ‘supporters’ — e-mails can too easily be forwarded.”

The e-mail from Rep. Blumenauer’s office continued: “Thus far, it seems that no press or blogs have discovered it, but we will be keeping a close watch and may be calling on you if we need a rapid, targeted response.  The longer this goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it.”


Some folks are mostly bothered by the sneaking around, and some are more worried about where these end-of-life consultations will take us.  You know:  euthanasia, assisted-suicide, pulling-the-plug-on-Granny, or however you phrase it.

As the author continues, this is quite a personal issue.  The main issue is the process to to arrive at end of life consultation, where will this lead.  I just want to comment on the latter.

I’ve lived in Oregon for 16 years, and went through the death of my mother in 2004.  In 1994, Oregon passed its Death with Dignity initiative.

At the time there was a great deal of fear about the slippery slope.  Would troublesome relative: “be put out of their misery”?  Would Dr. Kevorkian take advantage of our state?

So have the fears been justified?  Mostly no.  The use of the death with dignity options has been very limited.  Less than 500 people have used it for the period 1998 to 2009, and that is much less than half of a percent of all deaths.  The details are here, with a summary:

Death with Dignity

I think fear regarding this issue reflects that as a nation we don’t deal with death very well.  After all the debate about death panels has to in light of that we all will die, and the so called death panels may at worst mean people who will die will do so sooner.  That seems to be missed.


Tax Cutters Set Up Tomorrow’s Fiscal Crisis

The Baseline Scenario

via Tax Cutters Set Up Tomorrow’s Fiscal Crisis.

Marriage via Veracities

I thought this was insightful.

It seems that marriage used to be more of a objective oriented organization, focused mostly on children. Today its more focused on the emotional needs of adults who may never have children.

Her point about adaption that has resulted in a lower divorce rate was also interesting.

I think should make us less nostalgic for the good old days.


I think that in the last 60 years or so, American society has fundamentally changed its idea of marriage, even if we’re calling it the same thing. I’m not talking about gay marriage or interracial marriage or the sexual revolution. Almost the opposite, in fact. Marriages used to last because there was no other option. Now they last because (or rather, if) the partners put a lot of effort into maintaining a healthy and happy relationship so that neither of them wants to leave.

In the mid-20th century, divorce became socially acceptable, and those rates skyrocketed. Over the next few decades, we slowly learned how to make a relationship last when it doesn’t have to. We have self-help books, marriage counselors, couples retreats, and more broadly, immense dedication to self-knowledge of any kind, which is a luxury we have only recently been able to afford. All this study has slowly seeped into the common knowledge base, and now divorce rates are falling. So much for the collapse of the family! We just had to figure out how to hold together families in a new culture.

But, divorce rates have plummeted among the educated and wealthy and barely moved among the financially challenged. We’ve heard the scary statistics: half of all children born in the U.S. are now born out of wedlock (and the wealthy and educated have far less than their proportion of children), couples earning less than $25,000 per year have a 50% chance of divorcing whereas couples with postgraduate degrees have less than a 15% chance. This all just serves to extend income inequality to family life inequality.

I hope that as income rises across the board, lifestyle inequality will decrease as self-knowledge becomes a more accessible luxury. But I wonder if, the longer the upper and lower classes exist in society in different ways, the more they develop diverging societies entirely. Is a stable family no longer the goal at all? Is it the norm to hop from person to person and help the kids through the chaos as much as possible? Are they only learning how to tolerate chaos better, rather than how to avoid it in the first place?

Honestly I feel like that has already happened in a lot of ways. In some neighborhoods in Brooklyn, almost every 15 year old girl I see has a kid or two with her. Maybe they are babysitting, but they can’t all be. Even a single girl like that in a rich private high school would be an enormous scandal. I don’t think the rich educated suburbanites have the right answer to everything either, far from it, but I think that that lifestyle clearly is less prone to condemning children to an existence they don’t like and can’t escape from. And that’s a bit tragic.

Christmas Humor


Sunset near Toppenish

Sunset near Toppenish

Originally uploaded by BruceTheEconomist

Books: William Shatners Bio–Up Till Now

I really enjoyed this, and would recommend it.

I was (and am) a big Star Trek fan, and I knew Shatner mostly from that.  In fact though, as my well informed readers know, he’s done a lot of other things, many of them since the show.  Some of these things were less known to me.  Also, he’s lived a very interesting life.

In the book he uses all of this as great raw material.  He discusses his triumphs such winning an Emmy for Boston Legal.  He spends a lot of time on Star Trek of course, and you learn some things you may not have known about Leonard Nimoy as well, such as his growing up as a Jew in Boston and struggling with Alcoholism.  He also discusses his four marriages, including his third that ended with his wife’s death by drowning in their pool.

The book is very honest.  He is shamelessly, but with a wink engages in self promotion, à la price line.  But he also, discusses his failures and some regrets.  Regrets such as hunting down a bear with a bow and arrow, only to realize why kill such a noble creature.

Finally, William Shatner is a very funny guy.  Read the first chapter if you can and you’ll see what I mean.  If you can get the audio book.  Shatner reads it in his “Shatnerian” style.

Thumbs up.

Lots of Links


Should a Lame Duck Quack? (via The BackChannel Blog)

A couple of brief observations:

1. The 1998 elections also indicated unpopularity of the direction of the party in the power. It was a rare case where there President’s party (Clinton’s Democrats) gained seats; and
2. However, the size of the loss of the majority was a lot smaller, and the Republicans did mantain a majority.

Should a Lame Duck Quack? The latest outrage from the right is the legislation Congress is trying to pass before the 111th United States Congress adjourns.  They insist that it is wrong for anything to pass before the new Congress is sworn in.  Some of the legislation are minor things like approving the START Treaty to make it difficult for nuclear proliferation. I'm trying to remember when there was this sort of major outrage during other lame duck sessions.  Sure there' … Read More

via The BackChannel Blog