Assorted links

1. My quasi-debate with Greg Mankiw (Korean language account, imagine a dialogue between Average is Over and his JEP essay on inequality).  There is more here, and here, both in Korean.  There are brief excerpts in this Korean news video.

2. Robert Graboyes on supply-side innovation in health care.

3. Brasilia 1967+ Kraftwerk.

4. Trauma as a major medical issue in Africa.

5. Which are the world’s worst cities for air pollution?  More provincial than you might think.

6. Can a famous jeweller become a great philosopher?  By the excellent Oliver Burkeman.

7. Michael R. Strain reviews Average is Over at National Review.


Any idea if there will be a write up of that debate for your desolate English readers? A picture is not worth 1000 words in this instance

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Scroll down from #5 on Quartz (God, I think the function of that website is terrible.)

On China's economy:

"From January to June, investment in transportation—things like overpasses and railway tracks—grew 21.5% on the previous year. Something goosed that a lot in the third quarter: in the nine months ended in September, transportation investment leapt 40.6% on the same period the previous year. Other things soared even more, such as water conservancy (up 52.2%), which includes investments in sewer systems and the like.

"This investment obviously had a lot to do with the stimulus-in-all-but-name that the government set into motion early in the quarter. That was around the time it became clear that there wasn’t much in the way of organic growth to prevent the economy from sputtering. "

I'm sorry, the Chinese government needs to use a stimulus program when the economy is running at 7% growth? Really?

Yes they do need a stimulus to take on the mass exodus of rural populations (due to farm mechanization)to cities, the labor force absorption of whom could not remotely come close to taking place apart from a %10 YOY growth rate in the economy. So, for China, %7, given their circumstances, is a depression.

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(God, I think the function of that website is terrible.)

Quartz was the most badly designed site on the internet until this month.

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#5. And yet the Euros lecture Americans on clean air...

They were just counting particulates, and that's the weakness of diesel. Wonder how much different car mix affects Europe vs US there.

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How on Earth is Berlin tied with Los Angeles for air pollution? Having lived in LA for four years and Berlin for two, they're not even remotely comparable. In LA, smog is an everyday issue. I don't recall a single "smoggy" day in Berlin, where you actually noticed the air quality.

The only way they could be comparable is if they took into account B.O. If you've been in Berlin in the summer, you'll know what I mean. Germans don't seem to wear deodorant. Even the women. It's strange walking around in public in nice areas and smelling rancid B.O. everywhere, even from women.

Why don't they wear deodorant? Do they not notice the smell? Are they just so used to it?

They don't give a shit, and are comfortable with their bodies. You do, and aren't.

You mean they're comfortable with their B.O. They don't fart openly in public so it's not simply a matter of being "comfortable with their bodies". I was uncomfortable with the B.O. which was overwhelming at times. It's something American expats in Germany have noted:

What is with so many Germans and awful body odor? I'm talking odor so bad it fills up a store, or lingers in aisles after they are gone.

This issue isn't exclusively a male one, either. I've smelled women just as bad. My gf, who is German, actually didn't notice this phenomenon until I mentioned it to her, and now in retrospect, she has just simply accepted it and never thought about it. Thankfully, she does bathe pretty religiously, but others, oh man.

I also noted this phenomenon is especially bad in the east, though it's also in the west.

The odor is so bad that it has nauseated me in a store or on a bus, and I rarely get nausea.

Yesterday, I'm sitting outside waiting for a class to start, and it's 8am, when everyone should be showered. One of the females in my class comes and sits next to me, only to unload her stench, which no one else other than the international students flinched at. In our 300 person lectures, there are many very good looking, seemingly well-kept girls who just absolutely smell (in addition to the males). On top of that, I look around and see them picking their noses without any reservations.

It's been noted in surveys as well:

The UK firm OnePoll asked the women what bothered them most about the lovers they’d had around the globe and had them rank the nationalities. And according to the findings, German men were just that – rank.

Apparently the ladies thought stinky German men should bathe more often before initiating a romantic encounter. Their overpowering stench pushed them to the top of the worst lover’s poll.

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Here's another story about German B.O.:

"Stinky German Doesn't Fly: BA Turns up Nose at BO

Don't stink and fly. That is the lesson learned by a German man after he got thrown off a British Airways flight for excessive body odor."

A German man returning from Honolulu to Düsseldorf could have used just such a sympathetic peer to caution him before he boarded his British Airways flight. A well-timed word could have saved the perspiring Teuton a lot of money and inconvenience -- he got kicked off the plane for being too smelly.

The man was in his seat, ready for take-off, when the women sitting next to him complained to cabin crew about her neighbor's over-powering stench. The obvious expedient of a change of shirt was not an option -- the man's suitcases were already stowed in the hold. And so the bromhidrosic individual was asked to leave the flight.

The man, who claimed he had overheated while dragging three suitcases around the non air-conditioned Honolulu airport, tried to sue BA for damages. He demanded €2,200 to compensate him for his wasted time and for missing his connection back to Düsseldorf.

A first attempt failed when it transpired that the airline's conditions of carriage allow individuals with extreme body odor to be refused passage. His second attempt, brought to a higher court in Düsseldorf, was thrown out Wednesday when the man, apparently plagued by transportation problems as well as those of personal hygiene, got stuck in a traffic jam and failed to show up for the hearing.

Commenting on the case, BA's lawyer Martina Griebel spoke out for zero tolerance of stinky passengers. "Personal freedom has to come to an end when it limits the freedom of others," she said. "This is certainly the case with strong body odor."

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I would presume it's the diesel cars. Why you notice smog in LA more, can't say, maybe their particulate emissions don't really trigger "smog" per se, that's a wild guess.

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It's about PM10, less than 10 micron ashes from combustion, not the nitrogen and sulphur oxides that generate "smog". There are many sources of PM10, but the most ironic one is super efficient gas and diesel engines.

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From the review of Average is Over:

One of the most interesting passages in the book concerns the physician– computer team of the future. The computers that deal with our health will be very smart — but how much medical knowledge will the human operator need to have? We’re “pretty far from accepting this fact,” writes Cowen, “but the person working with the computer doesn’t have to be a doctor or even a medical expert. She has to be good at understanding and correcting the computer’s mistakes, which is a very different skill.” She must have “knowledge of smart machines, how they work, and what their failings are likely to be.”

Unlike me and the GPS, the good physician in Cowen’s future knows how the computer works and when to overrule it — how to work with it, as a weird combination of the computer’s assistant, maintenance man, and supervisor. This is the skill that matters. The human in the man–computer physician team doesn’t need an M.D.

One time, after looking at a very checklist-oriented medical book, I asked my father (a physician) if he thought they would ever computerize the process. He predicted they wouldn't, because a definite prediction or diagnosis by the computer opens up the doctor to liability:

"So, Doctor, despite your years of using AutoDoc, you decided in the crucial moment to overrule the program. And would you like to tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury what happened next?"

And that's not even getting into the liability of the people who write the program...

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Your NYT piece is more than a little confusing.

"At the same time, I’d recommend narrowing the scope of required insurance to focus on catastrophic expenses. If insurance picks up too many small expenses, it encourages abuse and overuse of scarce resources. "

Seems like you are not talking about Medicaid here, but those buying policies through the exchanges. Because the deductible will certainly stop people from "small expenses" that are not important. Somehow I think the number of people who take trips to the doctor for small things is quite small even if they do not have to pay for them. And if they have to pay for them, the number is smaller still.

Continuing, I think it is rather disingenuous to talk about "employers who are shedding insurance coverage" in an article about the ACA without including the fact that employers have been doing just that on a continuing basis for more than a decade. From 2002 to 2010, 17%of the people whose insurance was employer provided lost their coverage.

Should have put some more work into it, unless of course you put in all you wanted.

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Wow. So all we really need to do is find a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, or maybe 20 of them, and get "the innovation that sends costs plunging and unleashes previously undreamed-of quality improvements"?

Here's a thought. There are more than 20 countries in the civilized world with low costs and much higher quality than the US. So maybe we should look at what they do, instead of patching together a tiny fix.


Health care in America costs twice what it costs elsewhere for lesser results.

The article says: "Unfortunately, advocates of decentralized, market-oriented approaches have never offered the electorate convincing alternatives to centralized, bureaucratic command and control." Maybe so. Maybe not.

This may not be so much an innovation issue as a market cartel issue.

Why is it that the parts for a replacement hip surgery in America cost as much as a complete hip replacement surgery overseas? See:

The outrageous cost of care in America has nothing to due with a lack of innovation. It has to do with all different kinds of market restrictions. That's the real problem. Not a lack of innovation. Innovation is not necessary to bring down the costs, though it would always be welcome. But right now the medical industry is ripping every one off.

Ixm nails it.

In Australia, patients can receive the same surgical technologies and delivery of these as in the United States a fraction of the price. If of interest, try this:

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So, why exactly does Iran show up most frequently in the top of the air pollution list? I was expecting that it would be industrialized cities (the absence of Mumbai and Bangalore did not surprise), but Iran did surprise me.

I would guess that it is a combination of being a major Oil producer, combined with economic sanctions that that have prevented upgrades (or even ongoing maintainence) to their refineries? Does it have to do with the character of the Islamic govt? Does it have something to do with the position relative to the sea? (note all the bad US cities are in CA, none in Texas.) I'm curious.

The worst cities in CA (Bakersfield, Fresno) are actually inland cities near large farm areas. Inland cities in CA get both pollution blown from the coast as well as nasty stuff in the air from burns in the farms or forest fires at certain times of the year. Also, they're against mountains that trap nasty air in basins until wind comes and blows it away.

Coastal cities actually have quite clean air, due to few farms or industry nearby (one can thank environmental regs + union-shop laws for no industry), and fairly constant wind that blows pollution inland. The only time pollution gets bad in SF or San Jose (a bit worse than SF) is if the air is still for several days, as it is occasionally in the winter. Pollution also was far worse when I was a kid than now due to better engines and anti-emissions tech in cars.

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Wasn't Spinoza a famous lens grinder?

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