Archive for October, 2009

Let’s say you have a good idea for serving new customers, or old customers more effectively.  In a private setting, that’s great.  You benefit your customers, and you make money doing it.  There’s every incentive to develop your idea and implement it.

In a government setting, however, that’s not true at all.  Customers don’t make you money; they cost you money.  You have no incentive at all to serve new customers.  And you have an incentive to serve existing customers more effectively only to the extent that doing so saves you time, effort, or money.  If doing so costs you money, you have an incentive not to do it, even if the value created for your customer far outstrips the cost.

That’s why my university, for example, does virtually nothing to serve adults in its community who would love to take additional classes and pursue additional degrees; why it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to be a part-time student; and why new ideas are evaluated solely on the basis of padding CVs or bringing in private donations.  We lose money on every student.  There’s no incentive to bring in more of them.

What will this mean for government-run health care?  There will be incentives to cut costs, but not to improve services, and not to reach additional people.  The system will lose money on every customer.  So, there will be incentives not to serve customers—that is, not to treat patients.  That’s you.


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The truth is out.  The British Labour party has intentionally permitted—indeed, encouraged—very high levels of immigration to ensure itself a permanent electoral majority and to undermine the “British” character of British society.  Melanie Phillips:

So now the cat is well and truly out of the bag. For years, as the number of immigrants to Britain shot up apparently uncontrollably, the question was how exactly this had happened.

Was it through a fit of absent-mindedness or gross incompetence? Or was it not inadvertent at all, but deliberate?

The latter explanation seemed just too outrageous. After all, a deliberate policy of mass immigration would have amounted to nothing less than an attempt to change the very make-up of this country without telling the electorate.

There could not have been a more grave abuse of the entire democratic process. Now, however, we learn that this is exactly what did happen. The Labour government has been engaged upon a deliberate and secret policy of national cultural sabotage….

It was therefore a politically motivated attempt by ministers to transform the fundamental make-up and identity of this country. It was done to destroy the right of the British people to live in a society defined by a common history, religion, law, language and traditions.

It was done to destroy for ever what it means to be culturally British and to put another ‘multicultural’ identity in its place. And it was done without telling or asking the British people whether they wanted their country and their culture to be transformed in this way.

Thomas Sowell notes that the Obama administration seems intent on “dismantling America.”  There are many forms of national cultural sabotage, which is not solely a British phenomenon.

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Smart Diplomacy

First President Obama gives up missile defenses in Poland the Czech Republic in exchange for. . . well, evidently, nothing.  Now, it turns out he declined to press Iran’s leadership on its phony election because he had a deal in the works—a deal on which he’s now been double-crossed.  What ever possessed him to think that he would engage in smarter diplomacy than the Bush administration?  Why, for that matter, did anyone believe him?  The Illinois state legislature is not known for producing people skilled in foreign diplomacy.

Then again, I’m not convinced that the President is as naive as these incidents make him appear.  There’s another possibility: that he’s accomplished exactly what he wanted, namely, shifting power away from the United States and its allies and toward Russia and Iran.  He gives every appearance of wanting a weaker United States.

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Abusing Aristotle

Okay, enough already.  You can go around carrying pictures of Chairman Mao; you can offer to help establish houses of underage prostitution; you can make up quotations and attribute them to Rush Limbaugh; but when you make up quotations and attribute them to Aristotle, I get mad.  Aristotle is supposed to have said,

If we believe men have any personal rights at all, then they must have an absolute moral right to such a measure of good health as society can provide.

Now it’s obvious that he said no such thing.  No one had any concept of rights until the seventeenth century, much less personal rights, which would have to contrast with collective rights, an incoherent invention of the nineteenth century.  There’s no word in ancient Greek that would be appropriately translated right.  And what’s this absolute?  That too is anachronistic.  Society providing health, or anything else, for that matter?  That too is completely foreign to Aristotle.

This is not to say, however, that Aristotle said nothing relevant to evaluating Obamacare.  He would plainly have been appalled at the idea:

Further, private education has an advantage over public, as private medical treatment has; for while in general rest and abstinence from food are good for a man in a fever, for a particular man they may not be; and a boxer does not prescribe the same style of fighting to all his pupils.  It would seem, then, that the detail is worked out with more precision if the control is private; for each person is more likely to get what suits his case. (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, X, 9)

Aristotle here gives voice to one of the classic objections to government regulation and provision of services of all kinds.  Government of necessity applies universal rules, which frequently produce the wrong results in individual cases—even if, as is all too often not the case, they are the best possible universal rules one could adopt.

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Global Warming Debunked

Here’s a story that came out more than two weeks ago but has received little attention.  The data underlying the global warming hypothesis turns out to have been cooked.  Richard Fernandez explains:

The most amazing part of this story from my point of view was the way in which a dogged Canadian mathematician, acting practically alone with the help of his trusty readers, forced the establishment back step by step to explain where the conclusions upon which a trillion dollar public policy came from and insisted on reproducing the results. If ever there was a tale of triumph over dauntless odds — almost to the point of comparing it to breaking the bank  — this is it.

Steve McIntyre is the Canadian mathematician who spent years in quest of the data underlying the famous “hockey stick” graph.  Finally, after the Royal Society joined him in the quest, he got access to the data.  It turns out the global warming graph that led to Al Gore’s Nobel Prize, the cap-and-trade bill, and widespread hysteria is based on analysis of the rings of twelve trees.  Twelve!  Wait—it gets worse.  Those twelve were cherry-picked from a group of 252 to yield the conclusion that the past century has been the warmest on record.  Analyzing the full set of data doesn’t yield that conclusion at all.

From this we know that the Yamal data set uses just 12 trees from a larger set to produce its dramatic recent trend. Yet many more were cored, and a larger data set (of 34) from the vicinity shows no dramatic recent warming, and warmer temperatures in the middle ages.

In all there are 252 cores in the CRU Yamal data set, of which ten were alive 1990. All 12 cores selected show strong growth since the mid-19th century. The implication is clear: the dozen were cherry-picked.

Bishop Hill has the full narrative.  You have to read it to believe it.  Historians of science are going to have a field day, maybe sooner than later, since this year’s unseasonably chilly temperatures are puncturing the global warming myth day by day.  (See, for example, John Hinderaker: “It is quite remarkable that liberals continue to sell their global warming/government takeover program, when any damn fool can see that the globe isn’t warming.”)

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Economics Explained

Greg Mankiw luckily has a sense of humor.

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I’m Back!

Well, after a break of about ten weeks—featuring moving two daughters off to college, the start of a new semester, some deadlines for writing papers and composing music, and two deaths (of my sister-in-law and one of my students)—I’m eager to get back to blogging.  Thanks to all those who have noticed that I’ve been absent.

I’ve often had the urge to blog over the past couple of months, but mostly I’ve been watching in dull amazement as the Obama administration, evidently filled with members of the loony left, pursues domestic and foreign policies that seem designed to repeat all the mistakes of the Carter administration, but at a greater order of magnitude.  How do you post an incredulous stare?

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