Sunday assorted links

by on January 24, 2016 at 12:50 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Which are the most successful “textbooks”?: Strunk and White are first, Plato is second…

2. American vs. German health care systems.

3. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: good take on China.

4. Bernie Sanders supporters: Here is Corey Robin, here is Jedediah Purdy.  It is always worth trying to figure out how and why other people think the way they do.

5. The news here is the Kiwi car chase, not the sheep blocking passage.

6. The Great Skyscraper Stagnation.

1 Jay January 24, 2016 at 1:09 pm

Can we get the “we’ve got too much inequality” crowd to more appropriately advertise themselves as the anti-variance crowd?

2 prior_test January 24, 2016 at 1:16 pm

We truly live in the age that deserves Megan McArdle not having a clue what she is talking about, but fully clear on what the goal of the words is supposed to be.

3 Zeitgeisty January 24, 2016 at 1:18 pm

No idea what you are talking about… But you obviously need to spend less time reading blogs.

4 widmerpool January 24, 2016 at 1:26 pm

Purdy has never made much sense to me. He likes to hear himself talk and, and certainly believes his musings to be very profound. What does this mean?:

“Krugman’s mistake is very basic. He’s wrong about the Sanders campaign’s theory of change. It isn’t that a high-minded leader can draw out our best selves and translate those into more humane and egalitarian lawmaking. It is that a campaign for a more equal and secure economy and a stronger democracy can build power, in networks of activists and alliances across constituencies. The movement that the campaign helps to create can develop and give voice to a program that the same people will keep working for, in and out of election cycles. In other words, this is a campaign about political ideas and programs that happens to have a person named Bernie at its head, not a campaign that mistakes its candidate for a prophet or a wizard (or the second coming of Abraham Lincoln, who gave us the now-cliché phrase about better angels, but had no delusion that words could substitute for power).”

5 PD Shaw January 24, 2016 at 1:53 pm

All I can tell is that this is someone, unlike Lincoln, who doesn’t pay that much attention to the power of clarity. Also, Charles Dickens gave us that phrase: “the shadows of our own desires stand between us and our better angels” in Barnaby Rudge, who presumably took it from Othello.

6 Ricardo January 24, 2016 at 11:40 pm

It’s not the most well-written passage but I still think the meaning is clear enough. Purdy is saying that the Sanders campaign is building an infrastructure of grassroots organizations throughout the country that will outlive the campaign. If he gets elected, they will help mobilize support for certain policies that Sanders is likely to support.

7 Urstoff January 25, 2016 at 9:00 am

What reason do we have to believe any of that?

8 rich January 24, 2016 at 1:40 pm

“Banks are disguising the damage by rolling over bad loans and pretending all is well, with the collusion of regulators, but this draws out the agony and ultimately furs up the financial arteries.”

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that Ambrose Evans-Pritchard was talking about some other country after it amended FAS 157.

9 chuck martel January 24, 2016 at 1:43 pm

6. Skyscrapers are so 20th century. The Asians building them are seeking to validate their economies with these obsolete, expensive artifacts that are left over from a bygone era. Modern communication means that large businesses no longer need to concentrate employees in a single location. The flexibility that comes with dispersing the administrative work force to smaller, more easily accessible locations far outweighs any advantage packing them into a corporate ego symbol might have. They might go on building these steel and concrete dinosaurs for awhile but it doesn’t make any sense.

10 Todd K. January 24, 2016 at 1:51 pm

“6. Skyscrapers are so 20th century’
.
Exactly. Bring on the geodesic domes!

11 Nick_L January 24, 2016 at 2:51 pm

Skyscrapers might not be a business solution, however they may be an accommodation solution. Especially for large cities that have very high population densities. Are American cities burdened by having to support the infrastructure costs of urban sprawl, or not? And what’s wrong with building skyscrapers inside of geodesic domes?

12 TMC January 24, 2016 at 5:39 pm

Skyscrapers are an expensive way to provide housing. They are a monument to someone’s ego than anything else.

13 Albigensian January 25, 2016 at 11:28 am

There are many different types of skyscraper housing.

Super-rich New Yorkers buy apartments in supertalls, which are narrow relative to their height and therefor offer fine views and, with large apartment sizes, little elevator congestion.

Chinese residential high-rises look like a high-rise version of Soviet-style blocki; apartments are small, congestion is high, views are of the adjacent high-rise.

Most would prefer to live in a sprawly suburb than in a high-density, Chinese-style high rise, and only very few can afford to live in a Manhattan supertall.

As for office space, this is driven by economics. An office building has a much higher population density than a residential building; thus, high rise office buildings must devote much of their space to elevators, even though these generate zero rental income. And even with elevators it takes entirely too much time to go from street level to office.

There will always be a market for a few high-cost, high-prestige skyscrapers, but, outside a few very densely populated areas, neither economics nor personal preference seems to favor high-rise buildings.

14 Mark Thorson January 24, 2016 at 6:20 pm

They’re also building giant Buddhas again, after a long period of stagnation. Is there much hand-wringing in Japan as their giant Buddhas are dwarfed by the ones on the mainland?

15 Stubbs January 24, 2016 at 1:46 pm

The Letter from the Birmingham jail is a textbook? Henry V? Yellow Wallpaper (short story)? By the way, King’s letter appears in many essay anthologies. Wallpaper is in literature anthologies. Are they all counted?

The most heavily enrolled college course in America is freshman writing. A single book or two or three may be used in all sections offered by a university. A single school’s bookstore might order a thousand or more copies.

These facts and others make me wary of drawing any conclusions from this list. Calling it “crude” would be charitable.

16 Enrique January 24, 2016 at 1:55 pm

Agreed: We need a set of well-defined criteria defining what a “textbook” is before compiling such a list

17 Virginia Postrel January 24, 2016 at 2:01 pm

Tyler called them “textbooks.” The Open Syllabus Project calls them “texts.” They are works assigned on syllabi. The project and methodology are explained here: http://opensyllabusproject.org/faq/

18 CD January 24, 2016 at 5:20 pm

Yes. There’s a much richer presentation of the data here: http://explorer.opensyllabusproject.org/graph

You could represent any syllabus as a path in this space.

19 Stephen January 24, 2016 at 9:02 pm

So what does this purport to show? What does it mean if the methodology “can’t reliably distinguish primary from secondary reading (yet)?” Or mere vanity cites? What about enrollment? These days far more students study the Fundamental Theorems of Calculus than all the works of Plato: departmental student credit hour generation will back that up.

20 lemmy caution January 25, 2016 at 10:47 am

They scoop up all of the syllabuses on the internet then analyse them. It is interesting but it isn’t magic.

21 Art Deco January 24, 2016 at 1:52 pm

It is always worth trying

Sorry, I quit trying re Robin around bullet point #8. It all began to dissolve into blah blah blah as he made not one non-jejune observation. I’m sure his book on Clarence Thomas will be another addition to the cemetery in college libraries courtesy gosizdat university press publishers.

22 Alain January 24, 2016 at 11:05 pm

Initially I clicked on it and noted it was crooked timber and said “not this shit again” and closed the tab immediately. The I read your comment and figured I could, maybe, make it through a of the arguments. Wrong.

His entire mode of arguing is (a) state the issue in as vague a manner as possible, (b) say that the issue really is some other clap trap that he wishes to argue against and then make little headway, (c) attack those making the initial argument and then somehow claim victory. Standard fair for a crooked timber article and I couldn’t make it past #5.

23 Dan Weber January 25, 2016 at 11:13 am

I’m always interested in a good Clinton deconstruction, but that whole thing seemed like a bunch of stream-of-consciousness prattling. The one good criticism was that Clinton was calling Sanders “establishment,” which is hilarious, but not worth 17 points (or 18 if you realize he used “3” twice).

24 8 January 24, 2016 at 1:52 pm

Barron’s had a piece on the Skyscraper Index signaling trouble for China and the Middle East. NYer is pretty much making the same argument from the flip side.
http://www.barrons.com/articles/the-bigger-asia-builds-the-harder-it-falls-1453337389

Chinese are among the most positive, forward looking people. They are dreaming big and building big. Americans increasingly think the dream is dead, and when they do dream, they dream of getting off the planet. These things are cyclical and due for a change.

25 dearieme January 24, 2016 at 1:53 pm

I’ll bet that The Blessed Ambrose is wonderful at reading ghost stories to his children.

26 dearieme January 24, 2016 at 1:55 pm

Central Otago is also very good for Pinot Noir.

27 Art Deco January 24, 2016 at 1:58 pm

How can you discuss the Clintons without character strings like ‘crime’ ‘criminal’ ‘abuse’ &c? Well, Prof. Corey Robin and his acolytes can, because shallow.

28 rayward January 24, 2016 at 1:59 pm

1.That’s encouraging; my understanding is that there’s been something of a revolt against Strunk and White on many college campuses, that their style is too plain vanilla, too many short declarative sentences. As I’ve commented before, Strunk and White arose out of a time and place, when words were used to confuse and to mislead. Not unlike today. As long as there’s Strunk and White, there’s hope.

29 CD January 24, 2016 at 5:45 pm

You’re mistaken. Nobody objects to Strunk & White’s advocacy of simple sentences and plain expression.

The problem is crap advice about grammar and usage.

http://chronicle.com/article/50-Years-of-Stupid-Grammar/25497

more: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/index.php?s=strunk+white

30 CW January 24, 2016 at 9:19 pm

Exactly. So many poor people have been browbeaten into believing that a passive sentence is an awful thing because of this book. It’s really a disgrace (not to mention tiresome when you have to deal with the obnoxious prescriptivists who quote it). The two links above are must-reads. Actually, read everything you can from Geoffrey Pullum on that front. For a wonderful explanation of the passive, read his essay here: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2922

31 Stubbs January 25, 2016 at 12:16 pm

A dose of Strunk and White is not a bad thing. Overuse of the passive results in dull prose and a lack of clarity. Overuse of the passive produces most of what people think of when they speak of academic prose. No action. No agent.

Unless it has experienced a resurgence, the book hasn’t been widely used in the standard freshman course in decades. You are more likely to find it in use in advanced writing, where it doesn’t seem to serve as the basic text. It is, after all, a very short read. It offers quick advice.

32 Bryan Willman January 24, 2016 at 2:02 pm

The whole “how europe does healthcare” vs “how the US does it in spite of Europe being ‘better'” conversation has grown stale. And misses a very big similar example that likely guides the future.

The metric system versus the “imperial” system. Essentially every developed and almost all developing countries on Earth use the metric system for most things (though there are more exceptions than you might think.) The US does not. Attempts to get the US to change have failed – so so while metric was very much taught when I was in Jr. High and High School, it is apparently not taught now.

The metric system is without doubt cheaper to use, less prone to certain errors, and so on.

So why is the US so stuck with the inch system?

Path dependency, inertia, and profound lack of political or economic return for changing. Changing would be very difficult both politically (in fact failed) and economically (failed) and the returns are, well, not enough to matter. And never will be.

And so, the 8,000# Gorilla known as the USA will do as it pleases, even in an area with much more objective certainty about the “best way” than the other topics of the day.

33 Cliff January 24, 2016 at 2:54 pm

Ridiculous. Everyone learns metric in science class starting in junior high if not earlier. You also greatly overestimate the benefits of metric even considering your point that the returns of switching would be not enough to matter. For example why should the reference temperature be boiling water instead of the human body?

34 Florian von Schack January 25, 2016 at 8:05 am

Although Fahrenheit was originally defined by the temperature of the human body, the modern standard definition uses the freezing and boiling point of water, just like the Celsius and Kelvin scales. It just sets the freezing point at 32 and the boiling point at 212 degrees instead of 0 and 100.

35 Joe January 25, 2016 at 8:43 am

1 cm^3 = 1 mL in the metric system

36 chuck martel January 24, 2016 at 3:13 pm

The US already has the metric system in its money and liquor bottle volumes, among other things. The military uses it extensively. Hawaiian gasoline is sold in liters. It’s been legal for trade since 1867. But state driver licenses stubbornly maintain feet/inches and pounds in descriptions. If an applicant gives their height in meters the DMV refuses to use that info and insists on inches.

37 Adrian Ratnapala January 24, 2016 at 3:38 pm

When I went to school, we learned only the metric system, and now I have lived in Germany for five years. But when people say their height is “171cm” I have to start converting in my head.

38 carpenter January 24, 2016 at 6:34 pm

Metric is fine for sizing: an 11mm wrench.
Metric is optimal if you are scaling in orders of magnitude.

How about land? Draw a square. One line cuts it in half, another into quarters, and so forth. Can’t do that with a ten-count. In US we still have land grants described in varas. What could possibly induce us to redescribe real estate in meters?

39 Albigensian January 25, 2016 at 11:51 am

Strictly speaking, the U.S. uses “soft metric” in that traditional units such as pounds, inches, etc., are defined by NIST in terms of their metric equivalents.

Traditional units do work better for some things, mostly because they tend to scale in powers of two (e.g., cups, pints, quarts, half-gallons, gallons) whereas metric, with its decimalization, lends itself well to the very large and very small numbers often used in engineering and science (e.g. nanoseconds in electronics, Avogadro’s Number in chemistry). Although even in science some units (e.g., astronomer’s parsecs) remain outside the SI system.

The USA may well switch to metric for many everyday measures over time; after all, the public doesn’t seem to mind that soda comes in liter and 2-liter bottles. But land measure and building materials are unlikely to change.

Land survey in the USA is organized around townships, with their square-mile ranges and their rural subdivisions into “quarters” (160 acres), “quarter-quarters” (40 acres), and on down to 5-acre farmettes. Again, traditional measure divides nicely by powers-of-two, and in any case, a glance out an airplane window at the graph-paper-like rural section roads shows why this is is unlikely to change.

Building materials are the other area that (because buildings are durable) is resistant to change. Just about everything built in the last 70 years or so is built out of 4 x 8 foot materials, 80-inch high doors, etc., and at a minimum the market for replacement materials will produce demand for these standard sizes. Yes, you could buy a 121.92 x 243.84 cm piece of plywood, but why?

What’s annoying and error-prone are areas where both systems uneasily coexist. Thus, although American-brand cars have used metric fasteners for decades, many lawnmowers and whatnot still use fractional-inch fasteners and, in any case, metric-thread screws are not common but not unheard-of either.

At least there are no traditional units of electricity; we all use Amps, Volts, Watts (etc.), all of which are SI.

40 Floccina January 25, 2016 at 2:45 pm

After your 1st paragraph I though you were going to go to our schooling system which spends much more than other developed countries but yet our students do poorly on PISA.

41 rayward January 24, 2016 at 2:11 pm

2. I would never have guessed her success, not just a few short years ago when she was the bloggingheads debate partner with Jonathan Chait, which I would watch to see if Chait’s eye brows would merge with the hair on his head when Ms. McArdle would say something so insipid that even she would be astonished that she said it.

42 Skip Intro January 24, 2016 at 2:15 pm

She has the whole-hearted support of the libertarian welfare complex.

43 TMC January 24, 2016 at 5:51 pm

McArdle writes in an easily digestible manner, not hard to see why she’d become popular. You give her too much credit though. Confusing Jonathan Chait isn’t exactly all that difficult.

44 Art Deco January 24, 2016 at 9:49 pm

No, Rayward. Chait has been a magazine journalist his entire adult life. He has neither the academic or professional background to make much sense of her arguments. That’s generally characteristic of all McArdle’s critics, especially the cretins who used to run the stalker site slamming her every (misunderstood) word.

45 Bryan Willman January 24, 2016 at 2:11 pm

In thinking about the healthcare debate in the US, it seems to me that a very important dynamic is being missed.

1. A very large number of Americans have literally best-in-the-world care, at higher-than-best-in-the-world cost, which in general, they don’t see the bill for (“somebody else” pays, though of course their compensation and taxes reflect this.)

2. A very large (but by no means all) of the Americans who didn’t have coverage also:
(a) didn’t want it, at least not at the effective price
(b) were/are in many ways of low status (the majority doesn’t identify with them.)

In other words, the vast majority of Americans are not interested in paying more (in some way or another) to supply soemthing they have to the fraction of the population that doesn’t have it. Note that American “social insurance” (social security, medicare) is heavily predicated on work history. We’ve never actually been interested in providing pensions to people who could never get a job.

When trying to answer “why doesn’t the US have a healthcare system like Germany’s?” the appropriate answer is “why aren’t German’s happy subsidizing healthcare in Greece?” or for that matter Syria?

46 Skip Intro January 24, 2016 at 2:17 pm

I thought individuals got access to Medicare at 65 regardless of work history.

47 Bryan Willman January 24, 2016 at 2:42 pm

No, unless you have one of various special diseases, or fit some other exception, you only get Medicare Part A “free” under certain very broad conditions (which apply to almost everybody.)
https://www.medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/part-a-costs/part-a-costs.html
“You usually don’t pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) coverage if you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes while working. This is sometimes called “premium-free Part A.”

Other sources suggest that about 10 years worth of paying medicare taxes (at any level from any source) would make one eligible. Since medicare taxes are part of the payroll tax in the US (and self-employment taxes) it would be very difficult, but not totally impossible, to never pay such taxes.

So *virtually* everyone is covered by medicare at age 65, but it is NOT everyone.

48 Skip Intro January 24, 2016 at 2:57 pm

Thank you for the clarification. It’s appreciated.

49 Steven Silk January 24, 2016 at 7:25 pm

American’s have best in the world health care by what metric? Quality of life for the health care providers?

50 Dan Weber January 25, 2016 at 10:13 am

Look at survival rates, or life expectancy among European-Americans.

The results are superior to most other systems, although at great cost, and almost certainly not worth the premium that America pays.

The American system is something Americans haven’t chosen, either through the ballot box nor through the invisible hand of the market. But the American health system has been “damn the costs, we want the best,” and the (predictable) results are slightly better results at way higher costs.

I think switching to a French-style system would have great benefits, but one of the biggest problems is the single-payer-boosters in America who think that it will be absolutely painless and absolutely no one will get denied treatment and that absolutely no one besides drug companies will end up financially worse.

51 JonFraz January 25, 2016 at 5:19 pm

Re: The results are superior to most other systems…

This is a myth. In survival rate comparisons the US does well on a couple of conditions, but certainly not on most, let alone all. And where the US does seem to do better we need to ask if that stat is a mirage, due to earlier detection of diseases from which the patient does eventually die anyway, or perhaps from keeping people alive artificially long past the point of common sense.

52 JonFraz January 25, 2016 at 5:16 pm

The problem with your comment is that it is not mainly (long-term) non-working people who lack healthcare coverage. It’s people who are working but whose employers do not provide it, and self-employed people.

53 Alex from Germany January 25, 2016 at 6:09 pm

“When trying to answer “why doesn’t the US have a healthcare system like Germany’s?” the appropriate answer is “why aren’t German’s happy subsidizing healthcare in Greece?” or for that matter Syria?”

Well, that’s exactly the question! Because it shows you that the line us Germans draw between healthcare-worthy and unworthy does not run through our society. Where as the in the US it does. Or to put it in your terms: Some Americans care for some of your countrymen as much as us Germans do for some far-away Societies.

At this point, some US-readers might feel charged with something here. But don’t. The reason the healthcare systems differ is because we have a different concept of “Nationhood”. Which boils down to: “What should we share with and what can we demand from each other” And since, usually, people never question a current concept of “What can I expect from the people around me” I think it’s fine to let such concepts get their reality-check by looking at the blunt results of the concept’s implications.

It’s not all Healtcare-Wunderland in Germany either. Probably, Germany could use a lot more “reasoning” from America in terms of Healthcare-Economics. But when it comes to “social welfare”, economic reasoning alone will not get you anywhere. Which is why, I think, most economists get so personally involved and worked-up about it.

54 Jake January 24, 2016 at 2:13 pm

#4 Corey Robin is a smart person with many interesting insights, but in some profound, essential way, he seems to me like a fool. When someone complains about the “shitty life” they live in the modern United States, well, I literally can’t even.

55 Art Deco January 24, 2016 at 3:10 pm

He has comprehensive job security, and only has to be at a particular place at a particular time about 400 hours per year, as opposed to 1,700 hours per year as is mean for a working adult. He’s been associated with some handsome addresses over the years, including one locus in Chappaqua, N.Y. and another in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. and (curiously) another in Sevierville, Tn. (lots of land). Both his degrees are from pricy private research universities, and he had a junior year abroad at Jesus College, Oxford. He was 31 when he completed his schooling. He may have a somewhat rarefied idea of what a non-s$&t#y life looks and feels like

56 Bryan Willman January 24, 2016 at 2:25 pm

@rayward – so what you are really telling us is that anybody who explains any part of the dynamics of why the US does not have a Euro style healthcare system must be an inspid fool, even though the observed political facts on the ground are that we do not have a Euro system, and are not about to get one?

This is like saying “the sky should be red” and then disparaging someone who explains the physics of why the sky is blue. OK, disparage them. But the sky is still blue not red.

Getting to “single payer” or even “German multi-equivalent payer” healthcare does NOT DEPEND on “winning” an argument with McArdle, or for that matter with Donald Trump. It depends on changing an observed political outcome determined by millions upon millions of people who mostly like the current system and have zero to negative interest in copying anything from the UK, Germany, or anywhere else.

57 Ricardo January 25, 2016 at 4:51 am

We do have a Euro system. Obamacare is pretty similar in its basic principles to the health systems of the Netherlands or Switzerland. The most substantive difference is that health insurers in the U.S. are private companies that are now effectively regulated as public utilities while in the Netherlands and Switzerland they are non-profits.

58 Dan Weber January 25, 2016 at 10:21 am

Stop fetishizing “non-profit.” A lot of American insurance companies are non-profit, and if all you needed to make healthcare awesome was a “good non-profit” then any number of liberal Americans millionaires could have passed the hat to fund one and taken over the market.

59 Ricardo January 25, 2016 at 11:01 am

My comment was descriptive and accurate. It is funny to see what sets some people off with accusations of “fetishizing,” though. Do you have anything to contribute to the conversation about the American system versus that of the Netherlands or Switzerland?

60 Dan Weber January 25, 2016 at 11:16 am

If you think “non-profit” matters you don’t understand anything about the American system.

Oh wait, you were “just saying.”

61 jim jones January 24, 2016 at 2:38 pm

1. All the most successful textbooks are by white men – dats wacist.

62 Axa January 24, 2016 at 2:39 pm

#1: does people in social sciences is more heavily represented on open syllabus project?

#36: C : How to Program
#78: Physics
#88: Computer Networks

Those are all books on something close to engineering. Perhaps Tyler is right. STEM is so underrated.

63 Axa January 24, 2016 at 2:44 pm

Missed Calculus by James Stewart on place #84 just behind Max Weber. Also missed Biology on #4. If biology is close to the top? Why all that GMO ignorance?

64 kimock January 24, 2016 at 11:44 pm

Social sciences is more heavily represented, I believe, because (1) there is greater consensus as to what handful of classics a young student should read in an introductory course in the social sciences and especially the humanities relative to natural sciences and engineering, and (2) I suspect that many more natural science majors take a handful of introductory courses in humanities and social sciences than the reverse.

65 lemmy caution January 25, 2016 at 11:09 am

right plus natural sciences and engineering often use a single text while other classes often use multiple texts.

it is fun to play around with though. you can find lots of interesting things. I liked this article:

http://urban.hunter.cuny.edu/~schram/lindblom1959.pdf

66 Adrian Ratnapala January 24, 2016 at 3:08 pm

Euclid’s Elements is missing from the list: for thousands of years it was the main textbook in a field that is actually useful — and unlike other greek classics — nearly everything in it is actually true.

Until recently, I assumed I that, having a modern education, I must have learned my plane geometry from somewhere else. But when I tried to remember where I actually had learned it, I realised it was by reading Euclid on a school holiday while visiting relatives.

In Canberra, there’s nothing else to do.

67 dearieme January 24, 2016 at 7:31 pm

Canberra even looks like an exercise in plane geometry.

68 Adrian Ratnapala January 24, 2016 at 3:11 pm

#5. A car chase is not really surprising in Queenstown. It’s a pretty racy place, full of bars and night clubs for energetic tourists and locals who once were energic tourists. Lots of drugs and alchohol.

Sheep blocking the road aren’t surprising either.

69 Donald Pretari January 24, 2016 at 3:14 pm

#4…There is nothing magical about a single-payer system. One can imagine a very expensive single-payer system based upon the voters desire to fund everything and anything. I took Krugman’s point to be that, if you want a single -payer system that saves money from our current system, some people, like doctors, are going to need to accept pay cuts. Fairness requires that, if you advocate such a system, then you detail where the savings will come from. Otherwise, you’re just like Paul Ryan and the case of the missing cuts.

The most amusing political argument, in my opinion, is when someone says that everything will turn out fine when we get to my perfect program. Communists used to claim that. When the entire world is communist, things will be fine. Until then, however, expect some rough patches. Nowadays, you’ll hear people say that, when the Fed is totally abolished or that when social security is no longer mandatory, things will get better, etc. Some of us, however, want to try a few things short of perfection on the way there, just in case, well, perfection, isn’t.

Prudence demands that we take short steps with verifiable results on our journey. I’m not a fan of the rough patches policy. Either things are getting better or they aren’t, as best we can tell. Consequently, to the extent that you make it harder to get going towards perfection, you’re not helping the cause, and this too, quite simply, must be verifiable. Either focusing on perfection without a roadmap of short travels helps or hinders getting there, and if it’s found to be hindering getting there, then maybe you should rethink your priorities.

70 Adrian Ratnapala January 24, 2016 at 3:23 pm

#2

It’s a bid odd to compare the US to Germany in the context of single-payer health care.

In its rough outline, the statuary German system is similar to Obamacare. Working people pay a compulsory premium to a private health-finance company of their choice — but those companies are heavily regulated.

“Single payer” would be more like the NHS. My advice to anyone moving to Germany is: Remember to fill out your health-insurance forms and hand them in. My advice to anyone visiting England is: Don’t get sick.

71 dBonar January 25, 2016 at 2:20 pm

I was an expat in London for the last two years. Both my wife and I had life acute medical issues. We both found the hospital care to be quite good. The buildings weren’t as fancy as ones near us in the U.S., and the waiting rooms were just as frustrating, but the quality of care was everything we could hope for.

72 JonFraz January 25, 2016 at 5:23 pm

No the US is closer to “single-provider”: doctors are government employers and hospitals are government run. That’s true Socialized medicine and Almost no one in the US wants that. Single Payer is what Canada has: the government pays the bills but the doctors and hospitals remain private businesses.
Germany is not like either system.

73 JonFraz January 25, 2016 at 5:23 pm

The above should read “The UK is closer to single provider”

74 K. January 24, 2016 at 4:06 pm

#1 what does it say about the study of the humanities that the most popular text books are over 100 years old? I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense, I’m genuinely curious why there are nearly zero popular humanities books from the last century.

75 kimock January 24, 2016 at 11:42 pm

The sciences have little reason to read an older book. In the humanities, a handful of older books continue to shape thought. Yes, newer texts are assigned, but there is much less consensus as to what post-WWII books are the most important and influential.

76 BC January 24, 2016 at 5:42 pm

#4) The strange thing about the Democratic race is that, while there are many people on the Republican side that are alarmed by and trying to stop Trump, with his extreme nativism, there seems to be no counterpart on the Democratic side trying to stop Sanders, with his socialist policies, and Clinton, with her extreme ethical shortcomings and scandals. Yet, somehow, it’s the Republicans that are perceived as the crazy party.

There are many candidates that fall between the extreme of Trump on one side and the extreme of Sanders and Clinton on the other, but only one of them, O’Malley, is a Democrat and he barely registers any support. In fact, the most mainstream, non-scandal-ridden Democratic candidate was probably Jim Webb, who dropped out very early with less than 1% support. Democrats seem to fall into two camps: (1) the Sanders camp, who aren’t so bothered by Clinton’s ethical shortcomings, but don’t think she is progressive enough, and (2) the Clinton camp, who aren’t so bothered by Clinton’s ethical shortcomings, full stop. Why is there no contingent on the Democratic side searching for a candidate whose support can extend beyond blind partisan loyalists?

77 Art Deco January 24, 2016 at 9:45 pm

with his extreme nativism,

To the open borders crowd, someone who suggests enforcing the bloody immigration laws is an ‘extreme nativist’.. We’re there any actual ‘extreme nativists’, the policy would be an immigration moratorium and summarily deporting every person who came into this country on the QT in the last 50 years, amnesties cancelled.

78 Derek January 24, 2016 at 9:50 pm

We’re no big fans of Clinton or sanders, FYI. The more pragmatic will go for Clinton probably, hoping that her presidency will look something like Obama the sequel. If the republicans were putting up a reasonable moderate, even Romney, they would have a great shot. But the most important goal is to keep perceived crazy candidates like trump and cruZ out of office.

I am pretty damn liberal. I would probably volunteer for a Bloomberg campaign if he ran against any of the current choices.

79 Ricardo January 25, 2016 at 10:19 am

I don’t favor most of Sanders’ policies but he strikes me as a thoroughly decent man and it’s unlikely he would be able to actually many of his policies through Congress. A Sanders presidency probably wouldn’t look that much different than an Obama presidency, which is fine with me. As for Clinton, there’s a lot of smoke being blown but no fire. It’s a false equivalence.

80 lemmy caution January 25, 2016 at 12:09 pm

I am for Bernie, but Clinton does not have any substantial ethical issues. lots of bullshit accusations though.

81 jkl January 24, 2016 at 6:37 pm
82 jkl January 24, 2016 at 6:40 pm

Cowboy capitalism by Olaf Gersemann with similar arguments about health care

83 jkl January 24, 2016 at 6:40 pm

Popluar in the USA.Not in the Western world

84 Donald Pretari January 24, 2016 at 7:19 pm

#1…I hope no one takes A Modest Proposal for a textbook.

85 Timothy January 24, 2016 at 7:23 pm

I think I am confused about what socialism is, or Bernie is confused, or his supporters are – maybe everyone is. He says he is for “socialism”, he says he wants to be more like the Scandinavian countries, which I thought was “capitalism with higher taxes”. IKEA ain’t a revolutionary workers’ cooperative (though it is technically a non-profit). What’s the bait and switch here? Is he promising Denmark and planning to deliver gulags and megadeaths, or vice versa? What do his fans think he is promising when he says “socialism”?

86 Mark January 24, 2016 at 9:44 pm

1. “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”

Have always loved this quote since I first read it.

87 Urstoff January 25, 2016 at 9:08 am

I’m surprised to see Krugman’s book as the first econ textbook listed. I know it’s not exactly a representative sample, but I had thought that McConnell and Brue had been the best-selling undergrad text for quite a while.

88 ptuomov January 25, 2016 at 10:06 am

Here’s a link for you:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2720479

Replicating Private Equity with Value Investing, Homemade Leverage, and Hold-to-Maturity Accounting

Erik Stafford
Harvard Business School – Finance Unit

December 20, 2015

Abstract:
Private equity funds tend to select relatively small firms with low EBITDA multiples. Publicly traded equities with these characteristics have high risk-adjusted returns after controlling for common factors typically associated with value stocks. Hold-to-maturity accounting of portfolio net asset value eliminates the majority of measured risk. A passive portfolio of small, low EBITDA multiple stocks with modest amounts of leverage and hold-to-maturity accounting of net asset value produces an unconditional return distribution that is highly consistent with that of the pre-fee aggregate private equity index. The passive replicating strategy represents an economically large improvement in risk- and liquidity-adjusted returns over direct allocations to private equity funds, which charge average fees of 6% per year.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 43

Keywords: Private Equity; Value Investing; Endowments; Investment Management; Asset Pricing

JEL Classification: G11,G23

89 Floccina January 25, 2016 at 12:34 pm

It seems to me that it is probably too late to implement single payer in the USA.

Because medical care is now up to 18% of GDP and…

Because the industry has gotten so big there are a lot of people working in the industry, to some extent they will fight single payer.

Because the industry has gotten so big the taxes to cover it would have to big, and contrary to what Bernie says taxes are different from health insurance premiums. That is because if you quit paying your health insurance premiums you do not get the benefit but, if you work less or for less money and so no longer pay the taxes to cover your medical bills you are still covered in single payer (and people do that especially wives) and that expense is shifted to other tax payers.

You cannot shift consumption from the very rich to consumers of health care because the rich do not consume enough.

Of course you could cover everyone with what gov. spends today by cutting low benefit care but the AARP will have your head.

So IMHO it is too late!

90 Floccina January 25, 2016 at 2:09 pm

Another Difficulty with Implementing Single Payer Health Insurance in the USA is that if economists like Milton Friedman are correct the states are causing much of the high cost. Worse with the federal Government already paying for 50% of health care, state and local politicians have an incentive to push up medical costs in their states. This will only get worse if all medical spending is done through the Federal Government.

91 spencer January 25, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Medicare is not quite 18% of GDP.

Total national healthcare expenditures is 17,5% 9of GDP.

Medicare is 20% of national healthcare expenditures.

That makes medicare 3.5% of GDP.

https://www.cms.gov/research-statistics-data-and-systems/statistics-trends-and-reports/nationalhealthexpenddata/nhe-fact-sheet.html

Is the rest of your analysis that far off?

92 Floccina January 25, 2016 at 3:05 pm

Hi Spencer,
I think that you mis read me I did not say Medicare was 18% of GDP, I said Medical care was 18% of GDP. Yes, I should have said about.

93 ww January 26, 2016 at 9:28 pm

Sadly, the lead author of the original and classic editions of Campbell Biology, Neil Campbell, passed away in late 2004, just after completing the 7th edition. Noted this, seeing that the author lifespan wasn’t truncated as were some of the others.

Anyway, Campbell Biology is an absolute classic and marvelous text, ranking high, appropriately, among older classics, and leaving other modern texts, regardless of topic, in the dust.

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