Friday, September 4, 2009

Mainstream Economics (Partial) Smackdown

Krugman answers the question "How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?" Well-written, but he does do what he accuses 'freshwater economists' of doing to 'saltwater economists'. The rest of us, who are in neither camp, are left out entirely. Amazingly, in an essay explaining how economists missed the real estate bubble and financial crisis, he doesn't mention Minsky once. Let alone Marxists, who were arguing that capitalism is inherently unstable long before Keynes. Ah, well. Et tu, Paul?

h/t Mankiw

Thursday, September 3, 2009

David Frum is a genius . . . oh, wait

In Four simple steps to health care reform, heard on Marketplace last night, David Frum makes the case that what we really need to do is reform individuals, not health care. He makes some good points, and also an excellent point he did not, I think intend. First the good points. Individual actions matter. He is a genius. That must be why he gets paid the big bucks. If people smoked less, ate less, exercised more, etc. blah-blah-blah. You already know all this, right? He does add some useful numbers about savings we could realize if people acted as if they really cared about their health, which I'm too lazy to fact check. Let's concede the point. All right?
Then we can move on to the excellent point:
Our infant morality statistics are awful, worse than Cuba's. It's these infant deaths that pull down American life expectancy overall. Once Americans reach 65, American life expectancy ranks a respectable 9th in the world.

Why so many infant deaths? The shockingly high American incidence of premature birth: about one baby in eight. And the most important causes of premature birth are controllable: smoking during pregnancy, drinking, drugs, maternal overweight, and sexually transmitted diseases.

We all want wider health access and a more rational health-care system. But a big obstacle to a better system is our expectation that doctors, hospitals, and machines will save us from the harms we do to ourselves.

Hmm, if we're so crappy at taking care of our health when we're younger, why do we do so well once we reach that magical age of 65? "Say, isn't that the age at which that socialized health system called Medicare kicks in?" I hear you ask (it's a fair question: not everyone gets this point). The answer of course, is yes, yes it is. Coincidence? Hah-ha. Maybe.

Naturally, correlation does not mean causation, and the fact that seniors do so well in the US, comparatively, could be due in part to other factors. Also, this isn't to say that taking better care of ourselves is a bad idea. I'm just sayin'. Medicare works.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Patrick J. Buchanan Hearts Hitler - it's official

Oh. My. God. Pat Buchanan says Hitler didn't want war. He just wanted to be friends with his neighbors. Poor Adolf. Pushed into a massive mobilization on the Polish border. Pushed (somehow) into making deals with Stalin over who would get what part of Poland “In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to the Polish state." Whocouldanode that such a "rearrangement" might come from a German invasion nine days later? Please.
If you want to be fair to Buchanan's argument, go read Did Hitler Want War? Bring your own barfbag.

h/t Volokh Conspiracy

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