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By TheophileEscargot (Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 07:14:21 AM EST) Reading, Watching, Economics, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "A History of Capitalism". Watching. Me. Web.


What I'm Reading
Found the TTC course "History of the US Economy in the 20th Century" pretty interesting, so when I saw a new-looking book A History of Capitalism by Michel Beaud in the library I snapped it up. Wasn't till I got a chapter or so in that I realised this was a Marxist history of capitalism. Don't want to get all Joe McCarthy about it, but I think it would have been helpful to mention that on the cover or in the blurb, or at least say stuff like "a devastating indictment of Capitalism through the ages". If a book is "A History of X by an hardline opponent of X", it would be nice to indicate that somewhere. I suppose the word "Capitalism" should have clued me in: a non-Communist would have called it "An Economic History" or something.

Good points: most economic histories tend to skirt briefly over the disruptions and suffering usually caused by the Industrial Revolution: this book focuses heavily on it, using much more emotional language than you usually see. It also specifically quotes the more ruthless sayings of pro-market philosophers and economists like Adam Smith.

The dialectic of history also makes the book much more readable, since it presents history as a narrative, an entertaining story rather than just a bunch of stuff that happened. Overall, its a much better read than most economics.

Bad points: the book doesn't really engage with conventional economic arguments at all. Rather than dismiss, argue against, or provide evidence against non-Marxist economic thought; the book mostly ignores it completely.

So, we get a couple of pages of Adam Smith, but no discussion of the core element of his theory, that by specialization productivity can be improved, which leads to growth of the economy. On 18th century Britain, at the start he makes much of the suffering caused by land enclosures, and at the end he mentions that agricultural productivity had increased greatly; but he doesn't consider the possibility that there might have been a connection.

Marx gets hagiographic treatment. Ricardo's work gets a mixed review: good to the precise extent that Marx agreed with him. Non-Marxist socialism is disparaged as "utopian" rather than "scientific".

We get lots of traditional Marxist explanations of events in terms of surplus labour and accumulation. There are lots of neat little class diagrams with one-way arrows pointing from the peasantry to the bourgeoisie, where the wealth is generated and accumulates. There's lots of talk of bourgeois "accumulation", with no suggestion that this wealth might circulate anywhere else in the economy: it's as if the bourgeoisie just roll around in coins like Scrooge McDuck, rather than spend or invest.

The increase in wealth in the 18th century is attributed to "pillage" of the colonial world: "pillage" being taken to include indistinguishably the production of crops from plantations, silver mining and direct theft of gold from South American civilizations. There's no discussion of how, say Germany managed to industrialize without colonies at first, and then use its industrialized muscle to acquire them.

The book seems most informative on the 19th and early 20th centuries. The depression of the 1930s is treated with a refreshing lack of US-centrism: it's attributed to the lack of any institutions to stabilize global currencies and act counter-cyclically: the UK no longer dominating enough to do so, the US being unwilling to do so, and the post-WW2 Bretton Woods institutions (IMF, World Bank) not yet created.

Beaud is also good at demolishing some myths. For instance, Henry Ford's generous wages are sometimes described as being motivated by altruism and a desire that employees could be purchasers: he points out that beforehand Ford's factories suffered great turnover, absenteeism and retention problems:

In 1913 "Ford required between 13,000 and 14,000 workers to run his plants at any one time, and in that year over 50,000 workers quit." At the end of the same year, in order to add 100 persons to the workforce in one factory, the company found it necessary to add 963 workers.
The book is also good at pointing out how the reduction in working hours over the 20th century was generally caused by direct government action, or else collective action by unions; not by market forces or individual workers preferences.

The book was originally published in 1981 and revised in 2001, with a new chapter added to cover that period. Hard to say how much was changed: the original publication date would have been promising for an ending where capitalism is doomed by its contradictions, but Beaud seems less hopeful now.

He describes the period 1945 to 1980 as "Capitalism's Great Leap Forward", grudgingly admitting the success of the system. The 1980 to 2000 section mostly goes through globalisation and the usual anti-capitalist complaints about it: excessive branding, privatisation of the public sphere, inequality and environmental problems.

Beaud sums up by gloomily acknowledging that capitalism is stronger than ever, but manages to raise a faint hope of apocalypse with the rise of Asia.

Given these developments, must not Europe and the West be prepared to harvest the storm whose seeds they sowed while conquering the world for the sake of progress, civilisation and Christian faith? A storm of which we have felt so far only the first squalls...
Overall, a surprisingly interesting book, though at times you feel like you've entered Bizarro World. However, it doesn't engage enough with conventional capitalist economics to provide a meaningful critique of it. Has plentiful notes and the information that it cites seems to be accurate.

So, makes a pretty good social history of the negative side of capitalism. If you're a Marxist, you'll probably like it; if you're fairly familiar with conventional economics, you'll probably be interested by it. But it wouldn't really be a good introduction to economic history: too many inconvenient theories and facts are sidelined.

Amazon.com, review, 1980 edition review.

What I'm Watching
Having finished Civilisation, decided to try the next obvious classic documentary The Great War. Another BBC documentary, this one in black-and-white, from 1964 and with 26 40-minute episodes. Didn't realise that the main scriptwriter was John Terraine, one of whose books I liked.

Have watched the first 5 episodes. Seems pretty good and reasonably objective so far, though gets a bit over-patriotic about some modest British achievements. Voiceover isn't too annoying, and it gives a good impression of what was going on. The high point is definitely the interviews with protagonists on all sides. With so many survivors still around, they were able to get junior staff officers to describe what was going on in command, as well as a wide selection of front-line soldiers and some civilians.

The amazon page complains about the graphics a lot: I thought they were intelligible and useful, though they're heavily re-used: you see the same Schlieffen plan diagram about 5 times. Also apparently some of the footage was used out of context, from other times in the war and occasionally with movie footage used. Still thought it was striking though. One particular one was of Parisian taxis, commandeered to rush troops into position ahead of the German advance.

Me
This seemed like a brilliant idea very briefly, but I'm pretty sure is turning into a big mistake.

Trying to get a coworker up to speed with RSS feeds, but she complained she didn't have enough to read. So, I exported my Google Reader feeds to hers.

I assumed she'd immediately unsubscribe from most, go back to her own list, or just give up, but she still seems to be using it a few days later. I feel painfully exposed.

Web
Astroart blog,

Indian middle class politically apathetic:

The political apathy of the middle class owes something to the differences in the way 21st-century India and 18th/19th-century western Europe developed. Whereas the growth of free-thinking western bourgeois culture preceded universal suffrage, Indian democracy is nearly half a century older than the birth of an economically vibrant middle class. So, whereas fighting for political power was a crucial element of early western bourgeois culture, in India political rights were taken for granted and are now neglected by those who see their prosperity as a result of their own economic wherewithal. Politics for the middle class is an intellectual preoccupation, not an urgent ethical imperative. Polls routinely show that compared to poorer sections of society, the middle class treats voting and other political activity as low priorities. In a recent focus group I ran with the polling company ACNielsen, young IT professionals dismissed political activity as dishonest, and said they preferred donations to their own company charities as the way to make a difference. The Indian middle class behaves more like the contemporary consuming classes of the west, relentlessly concentrating on expanding its choice of lifestyles while taking political parties to be as bad as each other and non-party politics to be hopelessly idealistic.
Cool oscilloscope patterns (YouTube).

Behaviourist electroshock punishments used at special school.

VoxEU: Over-reaction to credit crisis.

The public is overreacting to the current turmoil in financial markets. The turmoil is most likely a situation where very specific problems are spread out extensively across investors and countries and thus the defaults are benign.
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After you be eight | 31 comments (31 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Over-reaction to credit crisis by MillMan (4.00 / 2) #1 Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 08:43:52 AM EST
The bursting of the bubble doesn't need to be any more logical than the bubble creation was.

When I'm imprisoned as an enemy combatant, will you blog about it?

John Berkley by spacejack (4.00 / 1) #2 Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 09:28:59 AM EST
That sf art blog has a lot of cool stuff, but John Berkley is just amazing. I remember seeing some of those, maybe on books I had as a kid. His designs are great but what I find most amazing is his ability to believably depict things like water, explosions and other effects at such scale, as if his brain could run modern-day computer simulations.

The credit crisis could be exceedingly bad by lm (4.00 / 2) #3 Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 09:37:35 AM EST
From what I've heard from listing to NPR and APM on the way to work in the morning, the big danger in the US is that for the past decade or so, the economy has been almost entirely fueled by credit. With real wages either stagnant or shrinking, discretionary spending has been driven almost exclusively by credit. In some cases this has been due to credit cards but in others it has been due to home owners using their houses as an cash machine. They've either gotten home equity loans based on appreciation or they've taken loans with temporarily absurdly low payments (balloon notes, interest only loans, adjustable rate loans, etc.). Even a significant minority of this last set defaulting could be devastating to the US economy. (Not that it has to be devastating, but it could be.)

What concerns me more, in the US at least, is that over the next ten to twenty years the baby boomers are going to start retiring en masse. As they do, they're going to start liquidating all of the mutual funds and stocks in their retirement accounts. As they move from buying mode to selling mode, who will be interested in buying?


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
Is it true that wages are falling or stagnant? by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #4 Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 10:39:23 AM EST
According to this and this total compensation at least has been increasing since 2001, though he mentions some of that is going to benefits rather than wages.

Also on Metafilter the other day I found myself arguing with people saying somewhat the opposite: that cheap credit will continue leading to an "inflationary death spiral". Is the problem for the next few years going to be too much credit or too little?
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Since 2001? by lm (4.00 / 1) #5 Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 10:46:15 AM EST
I would agree that real wages have risen since the deepest point in the trough of the last recession. But I question as to how relevant such a fact is to the question of whether real wages have risen or declined in general over the past decade.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Also, if this page is correct ... by lm (4.00 / 1) #8 Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 12:36:29 PM EST
If we increase the time span, it looks even worse. Wages and Benefits: Real Wages (1964-2004)

If that page accurately draws in the numbers for m the US Bureau of Labor Statistics like it claims, there has not been a recent year where the real value of wages + benefits matched what they were in  1980. And 1980 itself was substantially lower than the peak in 1973.

AFAICT, the way to conclude that real wages aren't falling over the long term is to be deceptively selective about where to start the comparison.

Admittedly, it could the 60s and 70s that were the aberration in the US.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Doesn't that page by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #9 Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 10:08:00 PM EST
Just have the same problem my first link pointed out? That it lists only wages, ignoring the trend to compensate employees with benefits (pensions, healthcare). It seems to be headed "Real Wages" rather than "Compensation".

When I search the Bureau of Labour Statistics website directly, I get stuff like this. This seems to show real (i.e. inflation adjusted) total compensation increasing:

US compensation

Now regarding your earlier point about measuring things from the last recession: I don't think that's unreasonable since you wouldn't really expect compensation to rise much during a recession. And wouldn't the ten-year time period you prefer measure things from the peak of the dot com boom?
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
"compensation" isn't really valid either by R343L (4.00 / 2) #10 Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 08:59:03 AM EST
Take for example one of the bigger (and rapidly increasing) costs that would be included -- a healthcare program. Now, the cost the employer is paying may be going up (drastically fast in many cases over the last decade -- 15% and more a year), but the employee isn't really seeing any more benefit out of it. In many cases, the increased cost for the company health plan(s) comes with fewer benefits (or higher copayments). So by these rules "compensation" is up, but as far as the employee is concerned they are getting less. And the employer, stuck with higher health insurance premiums, is also far less likely to increases wages/salary which is something an employee is going to consider an increase.

Rachael

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot

[ Parent ]
I thought the dot bomb boom peaked in 99 by lm (4.00 / 1) #11 Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 09:42:51 AM EST
But I could be wrong on that.

Also, I think I did misread the data I linked to. The page is headed ``wages and benefits'' but on closer inspection the chart looks to be only wages. My apologies on that.

Regardless, I'm not really stuck on ten years. Feel free to expand that to twenty or thirty years. My point is that when you look at the big picture, real wages (whether you include benefits or not) are headed downwards when looked at from the point of view of history. Even if real wages + benefits are up since 1980, they're still down since the sixties and seventies (and probably the fifties as well). A five year trend, IMO, tells us little to nothing.

I also suspect that averages are skewed. From the BLS report you linked to:

The real earnings of the bottom quartile in 2003 were 2.9
percent above the level of 1979. Each year from 1980 to 1999, the lowest-paid 25 percent of workers made less than they did in 1979, after adjusting for consumer price inflation.
Only in 2001, 2002, and 2003 did the real earnings of the bottom quartile exceed their 1979 level.
The highest-paid 25 percent of full-time wage and salary workers earned 14.7 percent more in real terms in 2003 than they did in 1979. The real earnings of the top quartile were below their 1979 level each year from 1980 to 1985. Beginning
in 1986, the real earnings of these workers exceeded the 1979 level.

For the top quartile of workers in the US, things look quite good. For the bottom quartile, not so much. I suspect that those in the middle are holding steady at best.

Also, it is perhaps relevant that about a quarter of the `benefits' in that chart are FICA taxes and about a third is the cost of health insurance.  Even though employer costs for health insurance are going up, fewer workers are being covered through their employers. This greatly distorts the `average' benefit package because the average worker increasingly doesn't have employer provided health insurance. Not only that, but the average employee with health insurance increasingly pays a larger contribution so even though they get more in benefits reflected in the statistics, they are taking home less pay in a way that is not reflected in the statistics.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
But by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #13 Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 11:50:33 AM EST
Your original point seemed to be that easy credit has been required to keep the economy "fueled" (I assume you mean growing), because wages had been decreasing, with the implication that wages=compensation.

If the compensation has been increased, that money is still circulating in the economy, whether it's being paid directly from the employer to pension/healthcare/other, or being channelled though the employee.

Similarly, I don't think the increased inequality between quartiles reduces overall growth.

However, since the rise in inequality seems linked to productivity, it's likely that taking steps to reduce inequality would also reduce productivity and hence growth.

You're concerned about inequality and you're concerned about keeping the economy fueled/growing. However, there seems to be a trade-off between the two. Which way do you want to go?
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
wages are compensation by lm (4.00 / 1) #15 Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 12:02:40 PM EST
``Benefits'' don't usually fuel economic expansion. For example, employer contributions to a retirement plan don't do squat for the economy until such time as the work retires. Similarly, health insurance. For employer contributions to health insurance to fuel economic expansion, it has to reduce the employee compensation otherwise the employee actually has less take home pay despite the employer's cost increasing.

Also, I could care less if income inequality corresponds to gains in productivity. What I'm concerned about is whether or not most wage earners in the US are keeping up with inflation. increases in productivity tells you quite a bit on whether shareholders stand to gain but very little on whether wage earners stand to gain.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Are you sure? by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #17 Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 12:30:07 PM EST
`Benefits'' don't usually fuel economic expansion
I disagree.

If healthcare costs go up, the worker will end up paying more whether it's through benefits, or though wages that he spends on his own healthcare. It's still overall compensation that has the effect on the economy.

Don't forget that healthcare is an industry too. I'm slightly skeptical about the scare stories about "increasing healthcare costs". If we see that more money is being spent on IT, or DVD players, or mobile communications we don't complain, we say "great, an expanding industry".

When US commentators complain about expanding healthcare costs, it seems to me sometimes a veiled way of complaining about the way a large proportion of those costs are paid by the government. It's not the total spending per se that's the problem, but where it comes from and whether it's delivered efficiently.

Also, I could care less if income inequality corresponds to gains in productivity. What I'm concerned about is whether or not most wage earners in the US are keeping up with inflation
By the figures you cited, even the lowest quartile are just about keeping up with inflation. They were slightly ahead for the last 3 years of the survey, and only a couple of percent behind for the previous 3. They're just not getting wealther relative to inflation.

You do need to care about productivity because it's linked to growth, which is what lets US earners keep up with inflation or get wealthier. If you go in too heavy-handed to wipe out inequality, you're also going to wipe out productivity and growth... which is going mean US earners fall behind inflation.

As always with economics, it's about the trade-offs. You can prioritize reducing inequality, or you can prioritize increasing growth, but not both at once.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
health care costs by lm (4.00 / 1) #18 Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 12:54:28 PM EST
In the US, most people go without if it can't be afforded. Or at least they go without until it gets to the point where a trip to the emergency room is unavoidable. Either that or they go into bankruptcy trying to afford it. Most bankruptcies in the US, after all, are medically related. If it isn't due to medical costs, it's due to missing work because of ill health. I have a large amount of suspicion over whether the increase in medical costs drives the economy.

I also think you're misreading the figures. Being behind 1979 in most years except the last few is hardly keeping up with inflation. Rather, its lagging behind inflation most years except the last few.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Lagging behind inflation by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #21 Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 09:03:29 PM EST
Going back to the report, the figures show percentage change since 1979 per quartile.

US income distribution

The last three years of data show the bottom decile experiencing .0, .4, .3 percent change since 1979, which leaves them pretty much exactly where they were. The bottom quartile are at .1, 1.2, 2.2 and 2.9 in the most recent data. It doesn't really show them progressing at all, but nor are they falling behind in the most recent snapshot.

(It only goes up to 2003 and the 2004/2005/2006 data may show them falling behind of course, but I don't know that for sure).
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Maybe naive here by Herring (4.00 / 1) #22 Mon Sep 03, 2007 at 12:21:39 AM EST
But if you consider the US economy as an entire "thing", sure healthcare costs are money moving around, which (for whatever reason) is considered good. However, if, say, 20% of the price of a Dodge is employee healthcare costs and 5% of the price of a Honda is employee healthcare, then the horribly inefficient US health system starts to look more of a hindrance than a help.

If you take a simplistic approach and just draw straight line graphs for US GDP and Healthcare spending, they intersect in about 2051. I suspect that this wont actually happen as some money will need to be spent on other necessities like food and guns.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
don't confuse by MillMan (2.00 / 0) #28 Mon Sep 03, 2007 at 07:17:48 PM EST
Lack of competition with economic robusness. The US healthcare system is a parasitic money grab all around. It's pretty easily proven - a non-trivial % of healthcare costs end up being spent on denying care to patients, which is damaging to the economic efficiency and quality of life even if it's profitable for those doing it.

When I'm imprisoned as an enemy combatant, will you blog about it?

[ Parent ]
healthcare costs are definitely a problem by R343L (4.00 / 1) #24 Mon Sep 03, 2007 at 11:01:51 AM EST
Yes, usually an "expanding" industry is considered a good thing. But when, for instance, ipods took off the consumer electronics market is expanding. But people are getting something new different and (depending on your opinion) better than what was before. People are getting more for their money than before. With healthcare, we have rising costs (for the employer and employee), but what we are getting is not generally any better. Higher copays, higher premiums, longer waits, more red tape .. for the same (or worse) health services. Sure, some people get super-high-end better treatment for rare / expensive diseases. But most people just have "routine" care. I don't see how them paying more for the same stuff is a good industry expansion.


"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot
[ Parent ]
What about longer, healthier lives? by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #25 Mon Sep 03, 2007 at 11:53:58 AM EST
Surely those boost economic output, as well as having other advantages.

While the US doesn't do too well in life expectancy terms, that's because of the obesity and the shooting, not poor healthcare. Those people it bothers to treat, US healthcare treats very well.

I feel a bit like I'm one of those meetings where you try to explain to managers why they can't have the project quick and cheap and good. Do you want the total cost of healthcare to be cheaper, or do you want to expand coverage to more people? You're not going to get both unless you greatly reduce the quality of the care.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
not to be arguing from anti-authority by R343L (4.00 / 1) #26 Mon Sep 03, 2007 at 01:27:51 PM EST
But I don't consider John Stossel and expert on anything. Too often I've read his stuff and known (from other reading) that he has something completely wrong. He has a major axe to grind (which is "free market rules, socialism is evil").

But, to take a few bits in there:

When you adjust for these "fatal injury" rates, U.S. life expectancy is actually higher than in nearly every other industrialized nation.

Diet and lack of exercise also bring down average life expectancy.

I would want to see a citation on this (as in a study that normalizes a bunch of countries for the same things). The US has a horrid infant mortality rate -- I have to think that has a huge effect itself. I found a cite (by Jean Lemaire) that suggested that homicide only reduced male life expectancy by around 180 days. Hardly that important, although in combination with diet and exercise might explain some of the gap. There are of course major poverty / racial disparties as well.

When was the last time you heard of someone leaving this country to get medical care? The last famous case I can remember is Rock Hudson, who went to France in the 1980s to seek treatment for AIDS.

Um, medical tourism? localroger going to Mexico for dentistry? Thousands of people going to South Asia for surgery. Hundreds of thousands going to Canada and/or Mexico for drugs? Obviously this is not primarily driven by quality but clearly people are not willing to pay for whatever we have here in many cases.

I also find his dismissal of the uninsured as ridiculous. The flip "well this many people make what I think is enough to afford health insurance" is insane. He obviously hasn't heard of pre-existing conditions and the near impossibility of getting health insurance (even "catastrophic") at a reasonable rate if you have any of hundreds of conditions (many which are manageable and cheap). A healthy family of four with no parent eligible for a "group" (employer) policy could easily spend $2000 a month on health insurance. And not fancy insurance either. $24,000 a year is nothing to laugh at even if your family income is $70,000 a year. When I was pricing an independent policy for me and my now ex (who has diabetes), we would have been spending at least $700 a month for a bare bones policy (likely they would have rejected him for his diabetes anyway). And that was six years ago. I'm sure it's higher now. Note that those would just be the premiums, not any copays or "uncovered" portions of care (often PPOs split major services 80/20 or 90/10).

I also find the dismissal of "equity" as bias towards socialism as unfair. A measure of health of a population that includes "equity" as a component seems fair to me. Surely most people living fairly long productive lives is better than 20% of the population dying 5-10 years before the other 80% (racial disparity). Now, I'm sure he is arguing that if the "distortions" on the free market were removed this would fix itself, but I don't see it happening easily and I don't see it bringing the price down to be affordable to families making less than $50,000 a year (without help, but he would consider that socialism).

Rachael


"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot

[ Parent ]
Every healthcare system by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #29 Mon Sep 03, 2007 at 08:43:22 PM EST
Has some form of rationing expensive care. Having a government department do doesn't mean people aren't going to die because it's too expensive to treat them.

There's a table here of cancer survival rates across countries. If you're a male American, you have 66.3% chance of surviving cancer. An English male: 44.8%. Female American: 62.9% chance of surviving. English female: 52.7%.

Split the difference: you're about 15% more likely to survive cancer in America. That's because US healthcare is expensive and high quality.

If you want to expand the coverage of US healthcare and keep the quality: you can do that. But costs will have to rise.

If you want to cut the costs of US healthcare: you can do that. But after a point, quality is going to decline.

If you try to expand coverage and cut the overall cost simultaneously, you're going to see your excellent survival rates start to decline.

There are plenty of ways in which US healthcare can be changed. But you're not really addressing how you want it to be changed, because you're demanding everything. You can't have it wider and cheaper and better: you need to decide what you're willing to trade off.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
I'm not demanding anything by R343L (4.00 / 1) #30 Mon Sep 03, 2007 at 09:15:55 PM EST
I'm just saying the "Rah! Rah! Capitalism" push for the American medical system seems silly given the current inefficiencies and problems. Well that and pointing out that it is probably more important to concentrate on equity and broader care (whether it costs more or less is irrelevant although you're right it would probably cost more), than cheerleading "free market healthcare" which doesn't seem to have anything to do with broadening care.

Okay I'm also demanding that we do something to address high costs because I'm just not seeing how the current costs are that beneficial. You cite the cancer thing ... but that link also shows a bunch of other "socialist" countries right behind the US (well at least for women) so clearly it is the UK that is messed up, not that the US is so much better than everyone else at treating cancer.

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot

[ Parent ]
median wages have been falling by MillMan (4.00 / 2) #6 Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 10:47:26 AM EST
since the early 70's. Mean wages have been steadily rising, but most of that is going to the top 1% and I think it goes negative once you get below the top 25% of earners.

When I'm imprisoned as an enemy combatant, will you blog about it?

[ Parent ]
I believe you are correct by R343L (4.00 / 1) #7 Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 11:32:40 AM EST
Can't find a decent post (a couple blogs I read regularly have postings on it, but of course I can't find one right now that is just about that).

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot
[ Parent ]
Also, just out of curiosity .... by lm (4.00 / 1) #12 Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 10:12:05 AM EST
... would you be equally surprised at a history of Marxism titled `A History of Marxism' written by an opponent of Marxism?

It seems to me that it is not uncommon for titles to be neutral yet be written by partisans. In this case, I think it was only jarring because it was written from a minority perspective.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
I'm not surprised to see it by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #14 Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 11:54:19 AM EST
I'm surprised to see no reference to that fact in the title, cover or blurb.

If an extreme free-marketer wrote "A History of Socialism", I wouldn't expect it to be presented as a neutral and objective account on the packaging. And I'd expect it to be called something like "The Road to Serfdom"...
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Mortgage bubble by dn (4.00 / 1) #16 Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 12:25:23 PM EST

"The public is overreacting to the current turmoil in financial markets. The turmoil is most likely a situation where very specific problems are spread out extensively across investors and countries and thus the defaults are benign."

The problems are pretty concentrated for the families with suicide mortgages.



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Actuatlly, it's wider than that by lm (4.00 / 1) #19 Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 01:05:55 PM EST
It's causing mortgage companies with significant sub-prime mortgage holdings to go belly up or, at minimum, to stop issuing all new mortgages. The result of this is for the mortgage market in general to tighten up which means that it is now more difficult for all families to get mortgages and home equity loans. This will exert a certain amount of pressure on the housing industry as well as the retail sector as one of the key drivers of retailing is home purchases.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
I'm aware of that by dn (4.00 / 1) #20 Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 05:45:59 PM EST

Certainly workers in the housing industry are going to be in the hurt locker for a while. But they have the chance to "refinance" into a new job at a rate they can live with, and can defer some expenses, so in some sense the pain is spread out.

The result of this is for the mortgage market in general to tighten up which means that it is now more difficult for all families to get mortgages and home equity loans.

In non-bubbly markets it should not be so bad, a return to sound lending practices. That's long overdue anyway.

The bubbly markets are in for protracted pain. ARM rates are going to be resetting until 2011, people hold out for far too long with emotional investments, and it can take many months for the late notice/foreclosure/eviction process to finish. There are also going to be a lot of mortgage fraud, securities fraud, and ownership lawsuits to sort out. I expect it will be 2015 before the mess gets cleaned up, and 2020 before the bubble markets get vaguely back in supply-demand equilibrium.



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Is there any analysis of capitalism... by bob6 (4.00 / 1) #23 Mon Sep 03, 2007 at 09:50:32 AM EST
besides the Marxist one?

Cheers.
You've never heard of Sraffa? by lm (4.00 / 1) #27 Mon Sep 03, 2007 at 01:46:13 PM EST
Neoricardian economics rocks the house down.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Yeah, but still marxist by bob6 (2.00 / 0) #31 Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 10:26:20 PM EST
somehow

Cheers.
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