02 Aug 2009

Arnold Kling Thinks Like Me

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On those life expectancy puzzles:

Does anyone know how, if at all, unnatural deaths affect these data? Consider four possibilities–young in the U.S., young in the Netherlands, old in the U.S., old in the Netherlands. I would bet that of these four groups, the rate of unnatural death (murder, car accidents, and so on) is highest for the young in the U.S. If true, and if the life expectancy data are not adjusted to remove unnatural deaths, then this seems to me the most likely explanation for the fact.

On stagflation:

The bottom line is that I think that in 2011 and 2012 we may be experiencing increased inflation while unemployment is high. This would be true whether we tried using monetary policy to stimulate the economy or using the unfortunate delayed-action fiscal policy to stimulate the economy.

02 Aug 2009

The Owners of Private Health Plans Politely Disagree With the President

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Brad DeLong links to this interesting analysis of health insurer share prices, compared to Intrade’s odds of a government health insurance plan passing this year. The author, Arindrajit Dube (you spell it just like it sounds),concludes:

It appears that after the group of 6 announcement on July 28, the share price of the Intrade contract, “A federal government run health insurance plan to be approved before midnight ET 31 Dec 2009,” fell from around 45 to around 30, a roughly 15 point drop. This suggests the true value to these insurance companies of not having a public option may be around 6.7 (=1/.15) times the $4-5 billion change due to the announcement, or around $28-35 billion dollars.

Now let’s put aside the issue of whether it’s fair for some of the big health insurers to lose $30 billion in net worth if the government starts competing with them. Does anyone think (a) the shareholders are just falling for Glenn Beck’s scare tactics and/or (b) there will be no impact on the availability of private health insurance even in the face of tens of billions in evaporated wealth in the sector?

02 Aug 2009

Krugman Missteps in Health Care Debate

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David R. Henderson has a problem with this short Krugman clip (from September 2008):

I get what David is saying, but I actually thought Krugman’s reaction was pretty funny. If Krugman had started pooh poohing the statistical significance of a sample of size 7, people would and should have begun throwing Molotov cocktails at him.

02 Aug 2009

Is It Joan Rivers or Maybelline?

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Is this for real? I was flipping through the TV channels before crashing in the hotel, and saw this on some celebrity gossip show.


I kept waiting for it to be an ad for her new movie or something.

02 Aug 2009

Does That Word Mean What I Think It Means?

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This Media Matters smackdown on a Fox lady (I’m not saying a foxy lady. mind you) is upset because she said “Social Security: already bankrupt.”

But it’s not so much that what she said was false, rather it was nonsensical. You’re either bankrupt or not, right? If GAAP says I will be bankrupt in three years, then I’m bankrupt right now, right?

So I think MM is right to be alarmed, because viewers probably took away something more concrete from the statement than what the facts warranted. It’s just ironic because they defend the solvency of SS by saying:

In fact, the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees have projected that in the absence of a change in the law, Social Security will be able to pay full benefits until 2041, after which it will be able to cover between 78 and 75 percent of scheduled benefits through the end of the 75-year period covered by their 2008 long-range projection.

Right, that’s why it’s bankrupt, right now. That’s what it means to be bankrupt, you aren’t expected to be able to pay what you owe to your creditors.

02 Aug 2009

I Just Solved the Life Expectancy Problem

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Oh my gosh, I made the mistake of actually reading the first 1/3 of the comments on this Bill O’Reilly Media Matters brouhaha. I don’t want to encourage you folks to read it too, but it’s kind of like when you smell something really awful and want to share it with others.

In any event, the title of this blog post alludes to the fact that I lost 5 years of my life expectancy reading the arguments about bike helmets and, “You sir, have committed a logical fallacy. Touche!”

02 Aug 2009

Old Testament Prophecies of Jesus

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For believing Christians, one of the more convincing pieces of evidence confirming their worldview is that Old Testament writers seemed to have uncanny descriptions of the life of Jesus. For example, here’s Psalm 22: 1-18:

1 My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Why are You so far from helping Me,
And from the words of My groaning?
2 O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;
And in the night season, and am not silent.

3 But You are holy,
Enthroned in the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in You;
They trusted, and You delivered them.
5 They cried to You, and were delivered;
They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.

6 But I am a worm, and no man;
A reproach of men, and despised by the people.
7 All those who see Me ridicule Me;
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
8 “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

9 But You are He who took Me out of the womb;
You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts.
10 I was cast upon You from birth.
From My mother’s womb
You have been My God.
11 Be not far from Me,
For trouble is near;
For there is none to help.

12 Many bulls have surrounded Me;
Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me.
13 They gape at Me with their mouths,
Like a raging and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
And all My bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It has melted within Me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And My tongue clings to My jaws;
You have brought Me to the dust of death.

16 For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet;
17 I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me.
18 They divide My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.

Now for those familiar with the gospels (i.e. the four books in the Bible containing accounts of Jesus’ life), the above description, made hundreds of years before Jesus lived, is downright eerie. It accords very well with the (Biblically alleged) fact that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit (i.e. His mother was a virgin when she became pregnant with Jesus), and at His crucifixion the Roman soldiers cast lots for His garments, pierced His hands and feet with nails, threw a spear into His side so that He began bleeding water, and yet didn’t break any of His bones. And of course, just before He died Jesus proclaimed, “My God my God, why have You forsaken Me?”

So how does the atheist respond to this? I can imagine a few possibilities:

Objections a Hypothetical Non-Christian Could Give
(1) The Old Testament “predictions” were faked; they were written after the fact to fit Jesus’ experiences.

(2) The New Testament “facts” were doctored to match the Old Testament predictions. Jesus’ garments weren’t actually divided up by the Roman soldiers, or at the very least, the only proof we have of this is the assertion of a gospel writer.

(3) The Bible is a big book. If you squint hard enough, you’re bound to found all sorts of vague “predictions” that ended up coming true. It doesn’t mean there’s actually predictive power; look at all the Old Testament’s flowery poetry that doesn’t correspond to any obvious future event. Are those all examples of falsified predictions?

Am I missing anything? Now what do the Christian readers (many of you have much more knowledge in this area) say in response?

02 Aug 2009

US Life Expectancy Rates

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The chief activity in the geeconosphere is to bring up alleged facts (which I doubt anyone verifies) and then bust out theories to explain these stipulated facts using economic logic and a dash of pizazz.

The latest example concerns health care, of course. (Not only do the feds take half our money, they get to set the topics for some of the brightest armchair theorists to discuss.) Here’s Tyler Cowen:

Matt Yglesias and Paul Krugman weigh in on interpreting life expectancy statistics across the U.S. and the Netherlands. The fact under consideration, from a few days ago, is that the U.S. has low life expectancy overall but superior life expectancy after you reach the age of 65.

One way to interpret this data (re: Yglesias and Krugman) is to think that the U.S. should spread Medicare to its entire population.

I’m sorry but this just strikes me as patently absurd, like Bryan Caplan telling me adopted twin studies prove that “parents don’t matter.” Yes, the reported fact is consistent with the hypothesis that government involvement with health care is a good idea, but it’s consistent with all kinds of theories. For example, maybe it shows that for some reason, the introduction of Medicare caused more stillbirths. Voila, the data reflect that!

I’m not claiming the following is the most important factor, but I bet one factor involves different immigration patterns. E.g. maybe poor people come in from South America when they’re young, then they work 20 years and go home to retire in their home country where it’s a lot cheaper to live. If those people on average have less access to quality health care (or live in dangerous neighborhoods, eat fast food, etc.) then they reduce the life expectancy of the cohort they’re in. But since only 18 – 50 year olds are in the US in any significant numbers, they only drag down the front end of the life expectancy tables.

I bet another major factor–and I hope I’m not pulling an O’Reilly here–is that a lot of young males die at the hands of their peers. (So I’m including homicide, drunk driving, boating while blindfolded, etc.) But as the survivors get older, they mature: they get married and stay in on weekends, they move to safer neighborhoods, they pick better friends, etc.

I have no idea of the actual numbers, but I would be shocked if this type of self-destructive, yet short-lived (no pun intended), cohort were as big a factor in the Netherlands as it is in the U.S.