07 Sep 2014

Norman Horn on Christian Libertarianism

Religious 3 Comments

06 Sep 2014

Obama on Pulling Troops Out of Iraq

Foreign Policy 88 Comments

This is pretty awesome, just watch the whole thing, it’s short.

05 Sep 2014

Government Plea Bargains Are a Horrible Practice

Big Brother, Police, Shameless Self-Promotion 88 Comments

I think you will like this one; it has a plot twist near the end. The opening:

Because it is so commonplace, most people accept the practice of State prosecutors offering a “plea bargain” without much thought. After all, it seems like a win-win situation: the State saves on court costs and other resources, while the defendant who takes the “deal” does less time than what he or she is likely to suffer if the case goes to a full trial. Yet even though they are very common in the U.S., a prosecutor offering a plea bargain is actually quite horrible and a travesty of justice, when you think about it from a certain perspective.

To warm you up to my view–which may at first seem odd–consider this quotation I found from a legal website: “Plea bargains are extraordinarily common in the American legal system, accounting for roughly 90% of all criminal cases. Many countries, however, do not allow plea bargains, considering them unethical and immoral.” Isn’t that interesting? By the end of this post, you’ll understand why this typical U.S. practice is considered a miscarriage of justice in many other parts of the world.

05 Sep 2014

Health Insurance Premium Bask

Health Legislation 10 Comments

(Bask = Blog Ask for newcomers, not to be confused with a Bleg.)

There is a new wave of projections for increases in health insurance premiums for 2015 (relative to 2014), and they are not heart attack inducing. But I’m concerned that something fishy may be going on with some of these relatively innocuous analyses.

It’s one thing to look at how much a given insurance plan, with specified benefits, deductibles, caps, etc., increased in price because of the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (aka “ObamaCare”).

However, that type of analysis doesn’t really correspond to what most people think when they say, “Holy #)($*! My premiums jumped up x percent!”

For example, in my case my policy is going up about 50%. But I’m being forced to get a “better” policy. So I’m wondering if my type of situation would go into these studies as a 50% increase, or instead as a (say) 20% increase because that’s the premium hike for the new policy that I’m being forced to buy, compared to that same policy pre-ACA.

And then of course, how do you do a percentage calculation for the people who used to pay $0 for health insurance, not because they had a pre-existing condition, but because they were young and healthy and didn’t think it was worth the money? That’s an infinite percentage increase, though I understand it’s a tricky situation.

In any event, does anyone know of a scholarly treatment of these subtleties? I have never seen an actual study that made the above distinctions.

04 Sep 2014

Private Judicial Rulings and Law Enforcement

private law 38 Comments

I looked this up because some people were arguing about these issues in the comments of a previous post. I’ve given this talk at Mises U several times, but I think I really nailed the private law enforcement part in this version. Specifically, from 4:00 – 22:00. I talk about the distinction between being morally justified in taking certain restitution, versus the wisdom or utility of doing so when the community at large doesn’t know whether you are justified. I also explain very precisely why the private enforcement agency would want to first get a ruling by a respected judge before taking action.

04 Sep 2014

Clarification on Fama vs. Shiller

Efficient Markets Hypothesis, Eugene Fama 20 Comments

In the comments here at Free Advice, regarding my Mises CA post on Fama, J Mann was bringing up some good points. In response to one of his comments I wrote the following clarification, which may help some of you:

J Mann wrote:

If I’m being as charitable as I can to Fama, then if Shiller claims there’s a bubble in equities, and equities somewhat underperform other assets over the next 5 years,.

Here’s what I think happened:

(1) Shiller claimed a tech bubble.
(2) A few years later, tech stocks crashed hard.
(3) People said, “Shiller called it, he’s a prophet.”
(4) Fama pointed out, “Wait a second, tech stocks went way up after Shiller called bubble. So we need to see what the crash looked like, compared to when he first called bubble, not compared to the peak.”

If the above (4) steps were all Fama/Sumner had done, then they would be great. I would congratulate them on their caution before rewarding people with kudos for calling “bubble.”

However, Fama went further:

(5) He looked at the market bottom, saw that it was higher than the price when Shiller first called bubble, and concluded that Shiller had in fact been an idiot.

So that’s what I was objecting to.

Further, the stuff with housing was just complete nonsense. With perfect certainty and a static equilibrium, you would expect house prices to be flat at a price that capitalized the annual rental equivalent at the market rate of interest. If your house price went down 6.7% or whatever over a 9-year stretch, you wouldn’t say, “Oh that’s OK, I got to live in my house for free.” Fama totally ignored the opportunity cost of the funds you invested in your house in 2003. He stated something matter-of-factly about the preferences of the home buyers that only makes sense if you ignore interest over 9 years. That’s kind of a big deal, especially in a Nobel acceptance speech pertaining to the subject matter for the award.

03 Sep 2014

Health Insurance Coverage in the U.S., 1999-2012

Health Legislation 22 Comments

I had known that coverage fell sharply when the recession struck, but I didn’t realize how much it had been falling the entire decade, even amidst the prime housing bubble years:

Depending on one’s worldview, the above chart could be spun either way. If you like ObamaCare, you could say, “See? The U.S. health care system was truly broken.” If you hate ObamaCare, you could say, “See? The massive government interventions in health care drove price hikes that made insurance more and more unaffordable. ObamaCare is just going to mess things up even more, except that the damage may show up in the form of shortages and delays, if prices are suppressed.”

03 Sep 2014

Government Data Is Corrupt

All Posts 5 Comments

I realize this is a silly thing to be posting, but does anyone know why all of the Census Excel tables on health insurance coverage are “corrupt” according to my Excel program? I’m using a MacBook and MS 2007 for Mac if that helps. It won’t even let me open the files.