Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Response to Patrick

This is actually very interesting about Danny Boyle. I did not know that, so now I can modify my initial statement. We can reasonably conclude that Danny Boyle likes the NHS. We can also reasonably assume that the writers of the articles you mentioned like the NHS. We could probably even go so far as to say that those whom participated in the display like the NHS, though it's possible they did it just for the paycheck.

It would be an irrational leap in logic to go from there to the "British people" en toto like it or that the "British people" want more money spent on it (which doesn't matter if there's no money). It may, in fact, be true that every single person in Britain likes and supports the existence of the NHS but you have not shown this to be true.

Saying, "I like it and everybody I know likes it, therefore everybody likes it," or, "It worked for me, it worked for my friend, and it works for mothers (more on this later), therefore it works for everybody," are not logical conclusions. You are committing the anecdotal fallacy which makes your argument invalid. Again, this does not mean that, by chance, your conclusion is not true, just that you have failed to provide an intelligent argument that it is.

My point here is to gauge your sense of justice. If you can not prove that 100% of people approve of the NHS then we can conclude that there is a reasonable probability that at least one person is being forced to be a part of a system they disagree with. Is that just? I think it is not.

If there are one million people in a country and 999,999 vote for something and force the one against it to be a part of it, is that just? What about 100 million to 1? 1 billion to 1? 500,001 to 499,999? These are important questions you should explore.

"Brandon, please don't take offense but
your right wing attitude is an anathema to the
British people. I've never, ever known a British
person to hold such frightening views."

These sentences are quite interesting. Not only do you result to ad hominem but you do so within the false dichotomy of political spectrum. Then you appeal to fear. This says more about you than it does about me.

As far as drug companies go, I never said that American drug companies are the only ones in the world. I said that American consumers, at least in part, subsidize lower drug costs in European countries. They also do the same in African countries where drug companies sell drugs at or below the cost of manufacturing.

I would agree that some drug companies are ripping Americans off but that does not disprove the fact that European drugs are subsidized by Americans.

Moving on to your incredulity about my questioning the World Health Organization. I merely followed your link and applied critical thinking to what I read. Once again, you are committing a logical fallacy; appeal to authority. You assumed that because the WHO is "independently renowned" that I was not supposed to question their findings; that this post would shut me down and present to me a slam dunk argument that I couldn't overcome. Let's go through what I said.

We'll look at life expectancy. I said there were problems in the WHOs methodology. If you follow your wikipedia link and scroll down to criticisms you see that one criticism levied is the WHO does not contril for homicides or car accidents. It would seem strange that in a ranking of health services and outcomes you wouldn't control for deaths unrelated to health outcomes. Perhaps WHO has their reasons but it is a reasonable criticism.

Then I spoke of subjectivity. Keeping with our life expectancy example, we see that the WHO has weighted overall life expectancy at 25%. If my goal as an individual was to live as long as possible then I would weigh overall life expectancy at 100%. I would want to choose the country with highest overall life expectancy regardless of anything else. Now, this is not to say that the taking is "wrong," only that it is not objective. All ranking systems are in some part subjective. It is up to the individual to decide to accept or reject the ranking based on their values. I did not "blow it off," I questioned it.

Moving on again, I have never been to France though I fail to see how that would make your arguments more authoritative or mine less so. I am part French. Does that give me greater authority on the subject? No, it does not.

I am inclined to believe that most French people like France just as I am inclined to believe that most people are naturally more comfortable in the surroundings they were born into and raised in. I am sure that most are "incredibly
proud of their health service, high speed rail etc." just as most Americans are proud of their health system and big cars. This still does not prove objectively that either is better. What it probably does prove is the conservative nature (in a denotative sense, not political) of human beings and the role of societal conditioning on likes and dislikes.

I do not think that most Europeans would swap health systems with the US but neither would Americans swap with Europeans. Again, this does not objectively prove anything. This is a non-argument.

"The Brits
can buy private insurance..." And thus you disprove the thesis that everybody likes the NHS. Let me ask you, are those that choose private insurance over the NHS still forced to subsidize those who stay with the NHS? If so, is that just or fair?

"NHS doctors are (in my experience)..." Again, the anecdotal fallacy but at least you recognize it.

"...costs less than $300 a month..." Again, you're talking subjective value. I believe most people would like to get more for less but sometimes you have to pay more to get more. You can't get an Aston Martin for the price of a Kia Rio.

"...Americans cannot opt IN." This is a good point and one you should have made a lot sooner. If my choice was between the European socialist model and the American facsist model, I would probably prefer the former. Not only are we Americans taxed but we are done so in order to directly subsidize corporations and indirectly subsidize them by financing a regulatory regime that reduces market competition and raises prices. But, again, this is subjective value and says nothing about the inherent financial stability of either system, which is where we began.

"Americans have no choice." And neither do Europeans. But we should know what choices we're arguing about. It's not between a government run system or non-government run system. It's between a voluntary system that is adaptable to need and change or a coercive system that will collapse under it's own weight crushing those dependent on it.

"You could do some of your own research
though." Once again you rely on ad hominem to indirectly belittle my intelligence. And again, what does that say about you?

Never the less, I will move on to the article. I am beginning to question whether or not you actually read the links you send me because two things jump out at me immediately.

From the article:

"'Everything is so simple when want to get a
cab, or rent a car, or take out, eat fast food,'
Tomas says. 'But once it gets to serious issues
— your health — then it gets hellish.'"

Well, why is that? What is the difference between the fast food industry and the health industry? Could it be because the health industry is probably the second most highly regulated sector in America, only after the financial sector? I think so.

And then the part that makes me question if you read it because, if you had, you may not have posted it:

"...French health
care comes at a high cost. There are questions
about how long France can sustain it. The
health system ran a nearly $9 billion deficit last

Thus, you lend credence to my thesis that these programs are unsustainable which was the point of my initial post concerning "social floors." The Irish president proclaimed that "social floors" are the future. If, in fact, "social floors" are financially unsustainable then ipso facto his statement is false.

I am happy that you engage in these types of discussions but perhaps next time you should do so with an open mind. Not to argue, necessarily, to persuade or attack but to perhaps increase mutual understanding or open your eyes to different perpectives or something you hadn't thought of before.

For me, this conversation will lead me to explore the difference between morals and values. I'm leaning toward morality being objective (which is hard to prove but I think it's based on the non-aggression principe) and values being subjective.

Good luck to you, Patrick. Until next time.

And Scott, perhaps I can get some acknowledgment for my information, clarity, and patience? Or perhpas you both should get props for your patiemce if you made it this far. lol

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Redefining the "Waste" in Waste, Fraud and Abuse

Politicians love to talk about getting rid of waste, fraud and abuse and pundits get all starry eyed when this term is mentioned but, in my view, most of what is mentioned is just fraud and abuse. A $1000 hammer is waste but more specifically it's really just abuse, maybe fraud.

Waste is anything that doesn't pass a cost-benefit analysis. If the "social" benefit isn't enough to justify the taxes collected and spent then that is waste. Or if a department or program continues to not be able to meet its goals and we continue to pay for it, that is waste.

For example, the Department of Education has been around forty years. That seems like plenty of time for it to justify its existence. Yet, every year we spend more and more without moving the needle on student achievement. That is waste. Eliminating waste would mean eliminating the Department of Education.

For some reason, liberal economists have a hard time with this concept. They believe if you just have the right people who perform the right tweaks, then it will work. But the evidence suggests otherwise. And experience suggests that the pendulum swings of politics will guarantee that who you think is the right person will not always be at the helm.

Instead, they should begin to follow the evidence. Apply the analysis. End those departments and programs that don't work and you won't have to make it your personal mission to educate people on the awesomeness of raising taxes through semantic magic.

New York Gay Marriage Net Loss for Freedom

A few quick thoughts in bullet format because it's more fun:

  • NOT a win for freedom. It's a win for equal rights under the law and against government sanction discrimination.
  • NY has just re-sanctioned and reinforced the idea that government should be the sole arbiter of marriage instead of private institutions.
  • Gay people have been placed into the privileged class of licensed married couples upon which the state of New York bestows 1,324 different benefits. The underclass of singles will now enjoy a little heavier lifting of the burden of government.
  • Woohoo for gay people.
  • Boohoo for freedom.
Been a while since I've posted. I have been very busy working two jobs. One with a celebrity who I am contractually obligated not to mention at this time. In the future.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Public Schools are Unconstitutional

Recently, a judge in Texas ruled that there could be no prayer or mention of religious words at the Medina Valley Graduation. The idiocy is profound:
Among the words and phrases banned by Judge Biery are “amen,” “prayer,” “join in prayer,”  “bow your heads,” or "in [a deity's] name we pray." He also ordered that the words “benediction” and “invocation” be removed from the graduation program. “These terms shall be replaced with ‘opening remarks’ and ‘closing remarks’,” he decreed.
Now, unless you're a Roman Catholic, the words "benediction" and "invocation" are probably nothing more than big words you here at graduations and invoke no religious meaning for the majority of people.

However, I make no claim to whether or not this particular ruling was the right decision based on the facts of the case and constitutional precedent because either way, the judge would have been wrong. His current ruling infringes on the religious and speech freedom of believers and had he ruled the other way, he would have been infringing on the rights of the plaintiff.

The socialist nature of the American public school system is such that there is no balance that can be achieved to satisfy the natural rights of all parties. The friction that arises from everybody trying to impose their will on everybody else is constitutionally untenable. The only correct ruling would be to strike down ALL public schooling as unconstitutional. And it's not just the first amendment.

First Amendment violations - see above

Second Amendment violations - The constitution puts no age limit  on gun rights, yet all public schools are considered gun-free zones. This is the government limiting your gun rights.

Fourth Amendment violations - Everyday across America, students lockers, bags, and persons are searched without a warrant.

Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Amendment violations - Everyday students are accused of a crime, denied representation, denied due process, denied a trial by a jury of peers, and sentenced without appeal all by a single person called "Principal."

Eighth Amendment violations - Students are frequently the given the maximum sentence of "expulsion" for minor violations.

Obviously, most of the above is said in satire. My child currently goes to a private school and the "principal" makes the decisions. I'd laugh her out of the school if she suggest my child be represented by peers or that a fellow student is packing heat. But my son's school is private. The constitution does not hold for this school.

The problem with public schools is that these policies are carried out by agents of the state; a state bound by the constitution. They do not have the same freedom that individuals have and do not get to make decisions in the same way. For our freedoms to be protected the state has to be bound. Public schools undo that binding and blur the distinction between us and the state. Yes, the principal is your neighbor and you trust him but that doesn't give him more authority than the constitution allows.

A lot of people talk about "choice." Education vouchers and tax credits are all the rage lately but, ultimately, it leads down the same road: state control of education. We're getting a lot of talk in Texas about private school choice but nobody is talking about disbanding the Texas Education Agency. Nobody is talking about me letting me choose the best teachers, regardless of licensing, and best curriculum for my son. That will all still be dictated by the state.

It's time to recognize our right to the Separation of School and State.

Also, a fantastic analogy from Don Boudreaux illustrating the absurdity of vouchers and tax credits.

The "One of Us" Myth

I listen to talk radio, in Texas, so a lot of hot air is exhausted over the potential Republican party nominee for the presidential run. A recurring theme is that this person must be "one of us."

First off, I'm insulted that they keep including me in this "us." I guess it's a twist on the Rene Descartes phrase: "I listen, therefore I am." You don't know me. That's as bad as saying that government is just a word for things we do together. Like this or this or this. Don't include me in those atrocities or your groupthink.

Second, there are over 160 million registered voters and I guarantee you that not two of those people think the same about everything. Even if you come to the same conclusions on some issues, you probably got their differently.

Third, according to a study, a lot of politicians share personality traits with psychopaths.
Kouri, who's a vice president of the National Assn. of Chiefs of Police, has assembled traits such as superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse and manipulation of others.
All those traits that make a good serial killer also make a good politician. That's why, even though you have good ideas, you're not running.

So, if you are looking for somebody like you, you will be sadly disappointed. But if we can't rely on the "like us" test, who will we vote for?

There are only two criteria for a politician of any kind:
  1. Are they THEMSELVES. Because, you know, if you try to be everything to everybody, you are   nothing to anyone. And probably a serial killer.
  2. Do they're ideas regarding policy match your ideas of good policy.
Regarding the first criteria:
  • If they begin to sound different as they gain more national prominence, they are not themselves. You see this all the time. Early on, usually before or at the beginning of a primary run, candidates say things that appeal to the Democratic or Republican base. Then as they get closer to the general election, their answers get muddier; they begin walking back certain statements. NOT a good sign.
  • Make sure they answer the question. A new study shows that you are not listening to their answer. "Researchers believe this could be because our brainpower is usually focused on interpreting the speaker's social actions — whether they think the person is honest or trustworthy — which distracts them from recognizing the dodge. (emphasis added)" Basically, you're hearing what you want to hear because the person has a nice smile or nice hair.
On the second point:
  • What are their means to an end? Like me, a lot of people think drugs are bad. I, however do not believe locking them up and throwing away the key makes their life better. I don't think that would have made George W. Bush or Barack Obama better off, do you?
  • Religion doesn't matter. They could be Christian, Mormon, Muslim, Scientologist, or Jedi. If they believe that torture is okay in certain circumstance, empire building for national security is cool, or that I HAVE to buy health insurance at gunpoint, they are not a good candidate.
So, don't go looking for somebody like you. There is nobody like you. If you think only someone like you can fix the problems, then you'll have to run yourself.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Solution to the Minimum Wage Problem

Economist Walter Williams discusses, with John Stossel, the effects of minimum wage laws on the very low skilled, especially blacks:

Essentially, blacks get trapped in a cycle of poverty because they're not initially worth enough to be paid minimum wage and without work they can't learn the skills. The obvious result is high unemployment among blacks.

In theory, a lot of Americans support the minimum wage. Of course, in practice even the most ardent liberal supporters don't support it in practice.

Although pointing out hypocrisy is fun, the point here is that the minimum wage isn't absolute. It only applies to hourly work. This is a good thing. It means we can employ low skilled workers and teach them the skills they need to move up the ladder.

So the solution? Contract work.

For example, instead of paying a kid $7.25 an hour to stock your grocery store, pay him $25/job or even $.10/box.

If you need help in a barber shop, $.000001/hair swept, or something like that.

This may even be better because not only are they learning skills and earning experience they're learning about entrepreneurship and self-employment. They may even stretch the limits of their creativity coming up with new ways to get paid.

Of course, knowing the quality of the public schools most of these kids are imprisoned in, I'm not sure how they will learn about this idea. But fatalism doesn't help. It's time to get creative in fighting back against the good intentions of bad policies.

Friday, June 3, 2011

That Creepy Morning Pledge

Hilarious video from the Whitest Kids U' Know:
From an intellectual standpoint, the idea of forcing kids to recite the socialist pledge is very creepy and anathema to a free society but having witnessed this ritual firsthand I'd have to say the effects are either a wash or negative.

It shouldn't be forced, especially before the kids can even understand the words. But it's hard to get people to care about this tiny fraction of the day when they don't even care about our  entire Soviet Style Education System.