Assorted links

by on August 12, 2013 at 1:27 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Are hedge funds actually about, believe it or not…hedging?

2. When co-pays are bad.

3. Interesting Noah Milliman piece on Bezos and WaPo.

4. Critical review of Reza Aslan.

5. It is cheaper to fly in the German orchestra than to pay the Australian musicians.

6. Details for my August 23rd lecture in Singapore, do come and introduce yourself.  Note that while the talk is free, you must register in advance and there is a penalty charge for no-shows.  The time for the talk is missing on the announcement and that is 3-5.

Andrew Edwards August 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm

#1 – unless I mis-read the data, what it says is that the weighted average of a large number of hedge funds carries lower volatility. That’s an investment only available to institutional investors, usually.

I’d be interested in comparing the average beta, not the beta of the average.

Brian Donohue August 12, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Also, are hedge fund returns gross, or net of the notorious “2 and 20″ pricing?

Over the period in question (1994-2012), a vanilla 70/30 (stock/bond) portfolio outperformed the S&P 500 by about 5% total (about a quarter point per year) with much lower volatility than the S&P 500. No rocket science needed.

Doug August 12, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Hedge fund return statistics are always net of fees. That’s what’s so disheartening about hedge fund skeptics, is that even the most pessimistic take on the hedge fund industry, still only concludes that hedge funds are worthless only **after** taking into account fees. Use gross instead of net returns and there’s no question that any reasonably constructed hedge fund index far out-performs any other asset class. Claims that the industry is all marketing are quite mis-leading. There’s absolutely no question that hedge funds offer excess returns, the only question is how much of those returns are re-captured by the manager in fees.

As to your second point, starting in 1994 for a 70/30 stock/bond mix is extremely arbitrary. You’re basically picking the biggest bull market in bond history, and a pretty good range for equity too. Extend back to say 1980 and your 70/30 mix looks much crappier (your hedge fund investment would also look much better). Regardless there’s no way that a 70/30 mix can perform anywhere near the way it did the past 18 years, since bonds are near the zero bound. In some regards the growth of the industry and the capacity constraints imply that future hedge fund returns will be lower than historical, but bonds are against a much harder limit.

Skepticism of hedge funds is mostly unwarranted. Unlike how they present themselves there’s little magic going on underneath the hood. Pretty much all hedge funds, at least by the time they’re large enough to be a major component in an index, are simply giving the investor access to exotic beta. Some combination of quality, value, momentum and carry factors. The academic literature is quite clear that these factors robustly offer excess return over standard indexing. Most of the time their excess return is high enough to cover even the high “2/20″ fees. The hedge fund apocalypse won’t be when investors wake up and realize that they don’t offer any benefits. It will be when financial entrepreneurs offer reliable access to these factors on a lower cost basis.

Brian Donohue August 12, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Thanks for the info on ‘gross’ v. ‘net’. I have no doubt that alpha exists or that smart people can find it but, as you say “the only question is how much of those returns are re-captured by the manager in fees.” This goes for any kind of active investment. Sometimes, the answer is “more than 100%”.

My point is that I could dust off a couple pretty vanilla investments myself and reproduce something like what the hedge fund business did during the period in question. This is not to dismiss hedge funds at all, but this pool is for those with big boy investing pants, which, IMO, rules most of us out.

You suggest I’m cherry-picking data, which is pretty funny considering I’m operating within constraints provided in the link. It’s doubly curious because you describe this period as “the biggest bull market in bond history”- but, while capital gains have been rewarding, coupons have been dwindling. The total CAGR on (10-year Treasury) bonds over the period in question is a little over 7%. You’d have to go back to a starting point around 1966 to find a 20-year period where bonds performed WORSE than this. Yeah, a lotta inflation years, but the real sweet spot for getting into bonds (like stocks) was the early 1980s.

As for stocks, a bit over 8% during that period is actually below average post WWII. You gotta go back to the early 1960s to find a worse 20-year period.

Willie g August 12, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Actually, it’s over 8,000 funds and not investable. A “typical” large institutional investor might invest in 30-40 funds. The S&P 500 is an index, cheap, liquid and completely transparent.

Miguel August 12, 2013 at 2:30 pm

S&P 500 is a completely useless benchmark for an global index that includes essentially all asset classes.

Andrew Edwards August 12, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Very good point.

The lack of volatility could just be exposure to a wider range of assets, smoothing returns.

Wonks Anonymous August 12, 2013 at 2:32 pm
Marie August 12, 2013 at 2:39 pm

#2, copays — nope.

That ain’t the way it works, even though it would seem to be. Statins are a fantastic example, let’s make them free for all and the cost will be way outweighed by not having to treat heart disease later, right? Shoot, let’s put it in the water.

Every drug has an up side and a down side. Every drug. Statins, the new wunderkind, have some messy side effects. I know one guy who was put on statins even though he had no heart disease or high cholesterol. He was not overweight. He was simply over 65, so the thinking was — why not? He wound up having one of those nasty reactions where he lost his mind for a day and had to be hospitalized. But he’s still on the statin.

No, encouraging people to take drugs like Pez by providing them free is a bad, bad idea.

As for copays, I’m going to get a little miffed if they add statins to birth control in the list of free drugs, when I just filled my six year old’s prescription for insulin and paid over $100 out of pocket, even though we pay $278 a month in premiums JUST for her. The retail price is over $300, even though the wholesale price is probably closer to $150 (at least that’s the way it works in billing for medical visits). The idea that my premium payment could help subsidize someone else’s free drugs that they might not even need while I’m copaying out the ears for a drug my kid will die without (where’s the point of copays in that case, I’m going to cut down on her insulin to save myself and insurance money?) makes me want to puke.

Cliff August 12, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Re-read the article, it doesn’t say free for all.

Marie August 12, 2013 at 5:57 pm

No, it didn’t, that’s true. It says this:

“My proposal is targeted: Take drugs that are shown to be of very high benefit to some people, and make those drugs free for them. ”

How that is likely to be determined seems pretty subjective. The study was done on folks post-heart disease, but wouldn’t most doctors who prescribe statins agree that they are of very high benefit to anyone within the group they prescribe to already? I think it’s reasonable to assume this would open a barn door fairly wide. I might have been less convinced of that in the pre-Fluke era, but these days I’m pretty suspicious, and not a little bit snarky when it comes to medical financing.

anon August 12, 2013 at 8:50 pm

off topic

@Marie

Years ago when I my blood sugar levels were getting a bit high, I ended up using Walmart’s ReliOn brand for meter and strips as they were by far the least expensive. (Seemed like Walmart went a long way to keep the prices low.) Recently switched some generic RX to Costco and was surprised how much less they were than either Walmart or Target.

Wondering if insulin is the same price everywhere, or if Walmart and Costco have special prices as they seem to for many RX drugs. See, e.g., this forum:

http://www.tudiabetes.org/group/minimedparadigmusers/forum/topics/insulin-at-costco

Marie August 12, 2013 at 10:30 pm

That’s super interesting. Don’t want to OT too much but I’ll have to check back, it’s been awhile since we’ve looked at either ReliOn or Walmart’s pharmacy. Thanks.

anonymous August 12, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Andrew: “I’d be interested in comparing the average beta, not the beta of the average.”

Isn’t it the same thing?! (with just a weighting issue according to the size of the fund)

Simone Simonini August 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm

No, assuming the returns are not perfectly correlated. Imagine you have to stocks and whenever one went up, the other went down the same amount. Your portfolio beta would be zero, even though the individual betas would not be.

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/modernportfoliotheory.asp

FXKLM August 12, 2013 at 7:33 pm

In that example, you would have one stock with positive beta and one with negative beta. The average of the betas and the beta of the aggregate portfolio would both be zero. Total volatility is going to be lower when you look at the hedge fund index as a whole than when you look at individual funds. I’m not sure that’s true of beta though.

Andrew Edwards August 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Maybe I was being to clever with my words…. I’d like to see the statistical distribution of individual fund betas within the index, not just the beta of the index.

Adrian Ratnapala August 12, 2013 at 3:06 pm

So the reason importing a German orchestra is cheaper the local Aussie one is that the German taxpayers are forking out for it. I would be quite happy about that situation if I weren’t a German taxpayer.

dearieme August 12, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Berlin is well worth visiting for the cheap opera.

Norman Pfyster August 12, 2013 at 4:56 pm

When I lived there, it was cheaper for me to see an opera (live) than to go to the movies. I saw a lot of opera (and orchestras, too).

Andreas Moser August 12, 2013 at 3:30 pm

A different sort of bailout.

Foobarista August 13, 2013 at 2:39 am

In all fairness, it sounds more like it’s cheaper to fly in a pre-organized and trained German orchestra than to fly individual musicians one-by-one from various parts of Australia, have them train together for weeks, and have them put on a show.

Jasonl August 12, 2013 at 3:06 pm

1 – I laugh a lot about people who so quickly opine about the low value proposition and obvious scammitude of hedge funds without for moment pausing to think what a legitimate hedge strategy might look like in the numbers. It is almost nuts to even talk about hedge funds as a single reference point anyway. They can have any strategy in the world because you might be trying to, you know, hedge against anything else in the world.

dirk August 12, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Sure, in theory one could invest in a hedge fund with a strategy to invest against a specific risk, but in practice are most investors in hedge funds seeking to hedge or are they chasing larger returns? As Andrew Edwards points out above, it would be more meaningful to see the average beta. (And, no, that isn’t the same thing. The average beta could be 2 whereas the beta of the average could be .5) The linked chart is absolutely meaningless.

I suspect that the success of hedge funds all boils down to marketing and nothing else.

Urso August 12, 2013 at 3:13 pm

“there is a penalty charge for no-shows.” “The time for the talk is missing on the announcement.”
Incentives matter.

Mark Thorson August 12, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I predict Bezos will give every subscriber to the Washington post a free Kindle. He knows the marginal cost of production for the Kindle, and he probably could negotiate a deal with himself to buy them for the MC plus a penny. There are less than a million WashPo subscribers right now, and the MC is probably less than $50, so that would cost Bezos less than $50 million, or about 20% of what he’s paying for the paper. This would enable transitioning WashPo off of print without devastating the subscriber base, and it would be the first time someone has ever done such a thing. It’s an experiment worth doing because it would reveal what value an elite traditional print media franchise has in the era after print. It may turn out that dying newspapers have quite a lot of value, if they’re smartly transitioned into the post-print world.

Z August 12, 2013 at 5:40 pm

#3: I think the answer lies in this little fact about Amazon. The only thing they make money doing is selling media. They break even or worse selling stuff. They make all of their money peddling books, music and movies. The trouble is that is not a growth market. In fact, it is contracting. If you are a company really good at selling media, you will be a company really good at selling media you own. I know, I know, Bezo bought this with his own money, but let’s not kid ourselves. Amazon will be delivering the digital version of WaPo and a bunch of other media companies they and Bezo will buy.

Chip August 12, 2013 at 7:38 pm

6. Was penciling this in and then realized I’m in KL that day.

The question I would have asked is probably best asked here in any case.

Singapore needs to work very hard to make up for its lack of resources. so the government has powerful incentives for budding entrepreneurs and is very welcoming to skilled workers and businesses from abroad.

However with, for example, 40% of marriages now to a foreign spouse, there is a growing fear and resentment of foreigners; and despite years of encouragement native Singaporeans aren’t natural entrepreneurs because the country continues to score lowly on creativity.

How does Singapore avoid its unique stagnation, in which a paternalistic society with limited political discourse and slowing immigration nevertheless produce the dynamic and creative economy of the tech age?

Patrick August 13, 2013 at 2:08 am

How do you reconcile your two observations: (1) no natural resources, which means that the bulk of the value-add is human-sourced, and (2) a lack of creativity?

Given a reconciliation, how is it that this source of value today will no longer be a source of value tomorrow?

Dima August 13, 2013 at 11:45 pm

In part, Singapore avoids the stagnation by means of modern-day slavery, as increasingly more and more low-end jobs (e.g. in construction it appears that 100% of labourers are foreign imports) are done by imported temporary workforce. The latter is paid less than 1000$S a month for 60-hour weeks, of which they have to pay roughly a third for a place on a bunk bed in a (horrible) dorm, etc etc.

The Wobbly Guy August 12, 2013 at 9:14 pm

23 August? Damn it, I’m not free. :( I’m organizing a farewell party for my choir students.

Anyway, Chip has a good question which we’re trying to answer. A significant part of it lies in our education system, but our system is just too rigid. Oh sure, the subjects exams are cognitively demanding (PRC students have commented that the thinking processes required for our A level Chemistry papers is beyond anything they have ever seen before), but the very rigid structure of our system is a cookie-cutter design that simply hammers everything that goes through it into pre-set shapes.

It doesn’t help that our cultural mores have a narrow view of success, or that the government sucks up a lot of the talented segment into its ranks.

If it was up to me, I’d reduce the size of the government in terms of civil servant pay, then use the extra monies to offer bond-free scholarships to students (both citizens and non-citizens) who have talent but have no wish to spend the best years of their lives working for the state. It’d be even better if we can avoid the massive boondoggle that is our National Day Parade (it’s fascist brainwashing) and use those monies to invest more in our own people.

philemonloy August 13, 2013 at 12:38 am

1. Singapore government spending is about 17% of GDP. That’s paltry compared to OECD countries. And expenditure on manpower for the 2013 budget amounts to about 6.660 billion SGD, a mere 12% of total expenditure. It’s not clear how much smaller the size of the government can get in terms of $. On the other hand, ‘size’ of government in terms of *intrusiveness*–I’m all for it going down.

2. Bond free scholarships for citizens and non-citizens. That’s nice. Get ready for the public backlash when it’s discovered that so many of them end up migrating, working overseas, etc. Even on the current schemes, non-citizens who receive education subsidies are bonded to work in Singapore (in a job of their own choice) for some number of years.

3. While I’m generally in support of more scholarships with as few strings attached as possible, there is something to be said for the idea that entrepreneurs are not the ones they benefit. What you want is more people who are *risk takers* rather than academically capable people. Maybe more venture capital? More societal acceptance of failure? If you insist that education is the thing (and I don’t disagree), then work on improving the system to make it less rigid. If so, again, scholarships are really the point.

philemonloy August 13, 2013 at 2:50 am

Sorry: last bit should be “scholarships aren’t really the point.”

The Wobbly Guy August 13, 2013 at 8:46 pm

So we change the selection criteria for scholarships. Though given our academic-biased nature, things often eventually swing to favoring academics sooner or later.

The societal acceptance of failure is a good one. Again, very much a cultural thing. It doesn’t help that the penalties for failure (e.g. bankruptcy) is so high. There’s been some evidence that softening these penalties would encourage more risk-taking.

CPV August 12, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Proving once again that TC is in the tank for the hedge fund industry. Between illiquid asset return smoothing and asset class diversification this comparison is fairly bogus.

Daniel Riveong August 12, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Hi TC,

On 6. Lecture on Singapore:
I’ve signed up! It appears there is some sort of approval process and that priority is given to those that are in the Singapore Gov’t. I hope this isn’t a problem? Do you know if its easy for the general public to be “approved” for the lecture?

The topic hits very much on an area I’d like to explore further which is how a) The Great Stagnation applies to regions outside the US; and b) How does the impact of the Great Stagnation interplay with Climate Change.

I did write on the potential impact on Climate Change for Singapore (salt water intrusion, potential loss of trade to Singapore due to the opening of the Arctic Passage):
http://www.slideshare.net/Parivartin/singapore-and-the-warming-climate

Regards,

Daniel

Tyler Cowen August 13, 2013 at 7:53 am

I believe it is not so hard, but I cannot personally vouch for the policies of the organizers, hope to see you there!

Patrick August 13, 2013 at 11:12 pm

The CSC just emailed that “our courses are only offered to public service officers.”

Perhaps an after-talk MR meetup for loyal readers? ;)

Daniel Riveong August 14, 2013 at 3:24 am

Hi Patrick & Wobbly Guy,

I just received that email as well! I did ask her (Sylvia Ng) if she can put me in touch with the program director regarding any possible exceptions for TC’s readers.

I’d have to fly out from Kuala Lumpur to attend, so I’m hoping they’d get back to me sooner then later on this. If not, alas! So near but so far.

Daniel

CSC August 16, 2013 at 7:06 am

Hi Daniel, we understand that Sylvia’s got in touch with you again about this. We look forward to seeing you at Prof Cowen’s talk!

Daniel Riveong August 14, 2013 at 3:27 am

Hi Patrick & Wobbly Guy,

I received a similar email as well! I did ask Sylvain Ng if I could get in touch with the program director about any possible exceptions for TC’s loyal readers.

I hope she gets in touch with me soon on it, since I’d have to buy a plane ticket to get from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore if it is at all possible to attend.

Cross Fingers, Stay Tuned!

Daniel

Daniel Riveong August 16, 2013 at 5:32 am

Apparently, the earlier email was a mistake. It is, indeed, open to the public.

See Below:
I apologise for the confusion caused.

This complimentary seminar is actually open to public and we welcome you to join us in the seminar.

I will forward your seminar application to the course administration for registration and she will be sending the course placement note to you shortly.

Additionally, you mentioned in your email that there are several other applicants who are interested in this seminar as well.

You may inform them to fill up this table and I will forward their registration to the course administrator for registration:

CSC August 16, 2013 at 7:02 am

Hi Patrick,

We are pleased to inform you that Professor Tyler Cowen’s talk on 23 Aug is complimentary and open to public. Website registration is now closed, but we welcome you to write in to cscollege@cscollege.gov.sg with your name and organisation if you are interested to register for the talk.

Thank you and we look forward to meeting you.

The Wobbly Guy August 13, 2013 at 8:43 pm

From the website, it seems to be open only to bureaucrats, who sign up for it under their training requirements for the year. The ‘open to all’ could be interpreted as ‘open to all public servants’.

Tyler, maybe you should check with the organisers regarding the composition of the audience. If it’s really all bureaucrats, you might want to modify your lecture.

Also, Singapore has, like the US, seized most of the low-hanging policy fruits – we’re now stuck between tough trade-offs on the optimal policy curve. Our innate disadvantages (no agriculture, natural resources etc) don’t help.

CSC August 16, 2013 at 7:04 am

Hi, we are pleased to inform you that Professor Tyler Cowen’s talk on 23 Aug is complimentary and open to public. Website registration is now closed, but we welcome you to write in to cscollege@cscollege.gov.sg with your name and organisation if you are interested to register for the talk.

Thank you and we look forward to meeting you.

Chip August 12, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Temperature and sea level have been increasing slowly since the Little Ice Age centuries ago.

If Singapore managed these changes in the 1800s and 1900s what makes you think it won’t this century, with all it’s new wealth?

This is of course leaving aside the possibility that the planet may now be entering a cooling phase in line with solar cycles (ie, last 17 years of plateaued temps and recent record cold in the Arctic).

Daniel Riveong August 12, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Hi Chip,

If anyone will mange, it’ll probably be Singapore. Being wealthy means it has the resources to manage but it can mean it has more to lose (esp. with key parts of the city and water reservoir in low lying areas). Rather than specifically focusing on the rising waters, I’m more curious about the opening of the Arctic Passage and how much – if any – impact it would bring to Singapore as a port city.

Daniel

Chip August 13, 2013 at 6:26 am

You might have to wait a while. This is the current ice extent. As you can see there’s a fair bit of ice this year.

http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/plots/icecover/icecover_current.png

Ronald Brakels August 14, 2013 at 2:52 am

People who understand graphs and have some grasp of statistics will appreciate the significance of the following link. That and that fact that the Northwest passage isn’t crushing in its icy grip the dozens of ships that are currently plying its waters.

http://www.cejournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/arc_antarc_1979_2007.gif

Ricardo August 12, 2013 at 11:13 pm

The claims about hedge fund returns are based on Credit Suisse’s hedge fund index. How does CS deal with the survival and reporting bias and lack of transparent, audited methods for calculating returns that exist in the hedge fund industry? If you are comparing a stock index to a hedge fund that invests in highly illiquid, non-transparently-priced-and-traded assets, it’s no shock that the stock index appears more volatile but that by itself doesn’t tell you much.

Plamus August 13, 2013 at 3:16 am

Stock indices have survivorship bias too, and it’s not clear which way it cuts – if I remember correctly, in the past (the last 20-ish years?), it was a profitable strategy to go long stocks that are dropped from the DJIA, and short the index.

Also, re “lack of transparent, audited methods for calculating returns”: ummm, no, the methods for calculating returns are pretty well-established and transparent, and while in the past it may have been possible to sell a hedge fund without audited returns, that’s not been the case for a long time now. There are companies that specialize in such auditing. My company is in the process of launching a couple of funds, so I have been through the auditing process, which is pretty exhaustive, and we had to add/modify disclosure statements so that the auditors would sign off on our returns.

Your concern about reporting bias is spot on, though. As far as I am aware, our returns, for example, are not and are not likely to appear in any hedge fund index. The Credit Suisse Hedge Fund Index and other hedge fund indexes (HFRX Global Hedge Fund Index, Barclay Hedge Fund Index) have different numbers of constituents, and it would be interesting to see how much they differ in return and volatility – although I would be surprised if the difference is bigger than, say, the S&P 500 and the S&P 1500.

Ricardo August 13, 2013 at 10:28 am

“Stock indices have survivorship bias too, and it’s not clear which way it cuts”

That’s a problem if you try to interpret an index’s return as the expected return on a buy-and-hold strategy. Some people do make this mistake but not people who understand how indices are constructed.

The reality is that S&P, MSCI, FTSE, etc. will be happy to sell you periodically updated lists of their respective indices’ constituents and the weights of each stock as well as give you fairly detailed sets of rules for how they determine the constituent stocks and the weights based on publicly available information about free-float-adjusted market caps of publicly traded companies. It is, of course, possible to imitate this as an actual investing strategy through index funds, ETFs or simply by having millions of dollars to invest in individual stocks and a subscription to Datastream or whatever. The official index numbers are not biased in any serious sense — if you understand how they are calculated and want to base your investing strategy off of them, the index gives you an unbiased estimate of what your gross returns would be. Does anything approaching this level of transparency exist in the hedge fund industry? My impression — formed in 2007, admittedly — is that there is not.

Plamus August 13, 2013 at 9:33 pm

How do you reconcile your second paragraph about expected returns on a buy-and-hold strategy and “… the index gives you an unbiased estimate of what your gross returns would be”?

Also – correct me if I am wrong – but it seems to me you are drawing a parallel between a stock index and an individual hedge fund (as in your first post: “If you are comparing a stock index to a hedge fund…”). Should the correct comparison be between a stock index and a hedge fund index?

Let’s put it this way, I am reasonably sure that, just like S&P, MSCI, and FTSE, Credit Suisse would, for an appropriate fee, provide you with their numbers and methodology. They might not let you link an individual return with a specific hedge fund (not only non-disclosure agreements, but also possibly a regulatory restriction on hedge fund advertising), but it’s unclear to me that that makes the underlying numbers any more suspect than the results public companies publish (remember Enron’s audited statements?). Sure, a hedge fund index is less practically investable, so to speak, than a stock index, but does that reflect on its transparency?

On the other hand, when comparing a hedge fund to an individual stock to an individual hedge fund, I again do not see a big difference – yes, a hedge fund will not let you replicate their portfolio/strategy, but neither will most companies let you, say, look at their customer lists or payrolls. In both cases, you are relying on the word of accountants and auditors.

Andrew` August 13, 2013 at 3:33 am

2. The opinion piece did not present the rate of compliance. They made a case for drug efficacy after demonstrated heart attack. They did not present placebo effects. Maybe the result is higher copays if you haven’t already had a heart attack.

Hazel Meade August 13, 2013 at 10:47 am

#2.
I think we need to question the approach that we need federal leglistlation to mandate whether you have a co-pay or not in order to direct people into getting the right treatment.

People are not seeing the perverse effects of the PPACA in socializing the cost of healthcare via insurance. You get this problem where everyone’s insurance rates will rise if some people don’t get their preventive care and take their medication, and then you start implementing all sorts of regulations to try to get other people to follow the doctors orders. Zero co-pays for this or that. Free birth control. Higher premiums for smokers.

We’re slowly moving from a system when an individual’s health was his own business, to one where the government is going to be formally incentivizing and disincentivizing behaviors in order to control health care costs. Your health is no longer your own personal affair, it’s now everyone else’s business, since they are paying for it. Think about what that is going to do to the culture.

Hazel Meade August 13, 2013 at 10:50 am

#2.
We really need to stop and think about how the socialization of healthcare costs via insurance, institutionalized via the ACA, is going to impact public health policy in the US. Your health is no longer a private personal matter. Since everyone else is paying for it, they are going to want to control what you do with your body. Unhealthy or risky activities are a cost to other people, and there is going to be a powerful lobby to control and limit activities that increase risk.

Hazel Meade August 13, 2013 at 10:50 am

test….

Floccina August 14, 2013 at 2:46 pm

If I do not change the oil in my car my engine warranty is void. Should we not allow insurers to try to keep their insureds taking high value low cost drugs. Like if you did not buy the prescribed drugs each month and you have a heart attack we will not pay the full bill.

Jacob A. Geller August 15, 2013 at 12:51 am

#5:

” He said European arts organisations were heavily subsidised by their governments, which made it possible for them to perform at the Sydney Festival.

”These companies come well-oiled by European subsidy,” he said.

”Oh, my god, are they ever,” Applebaum said. ”German companies receive something like up to 75 per cent of their costs from the government. The German model is the one we all love.” “

Jacob A. Geller August 15, 2013 at 1:04 am

I enjoyed #4 (Critical review of Reza Aslan) until it actually got to the criticism part, which is totally unsupported by any actual examples from the book or related literature.

Elizabeth accuses Aslan of relying heavily and unquestionably upon Josephus — but doesn’t give even one example of from the book.

She writes that Aslan took a literalist view of the Gospels — which I find hard to believe, but at least I could be convinced if she gave even one example of Aslan taking a literalist view of the Gospels in his book.

She also repeats the meme that Aslan’s book “depends upon scholarship that has been definitively challenged by more recent work” — but doesn’t give even one single example of something Aslan wrote that has been definitively challenged by more recent work. In fact the only work besides Aslan’s that she cites is a 1906 book by Albert Schweitzer.

Again, I enjoyed the piece up until the actual criticism of the book itself, but all that there was before that criticism (and all that this piece amounts to) is an argument from authority — that Aslan’s PhD is in sociology, not religion, and so on.

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