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February 13, 2014, 5:28 amThe Tragedy of the Commons
"The tragedy of the commons develops in this way. Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.
"As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, "What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?" This utility has one negative and one positive component.
"1) The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly +1.
"2) The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a fraction of 1.
"Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another; and another... But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit--in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.
"Some would say that this is a platitude. Would that it were! In a sense, it was learned thousands of years ago, but natural selection favors the forces of psychological denial (8). The individual benefits as an individual from his ability to deny the truth even though society as a whole, of which he is a part, suffers."
February 7, 2014, 12:43 amWillful stupidity in the Obamacare debate
Willful stupidity in the Obamacare debate
By E.J. Dionne Jr., Published: February 5
One of the best arguments for health-insurance reform is that our traditional employer-based system often locked people into jobs they wanted to leave but couldn’t because they feared they wouldn’t be able to get affordable coverage elsewhere.
This worry was pronounced for people with preexisting conditions, but it was not limited to them. Consider families with young children in which one parent would like to get out of the formal labor market for a while to take care of the kids. In the old system, the choices of such couples were constrained if only one of the two received employer-provided family coverage.
Or ponder the fate of a 64-year-old with a condition that leaves her in great pain. She has the savings to retire but can’t exercise this option until she is eligible for Medicare. Is it a good thing to force her to stay in her job? Is it bad to open her job to someone else?
By broadening access to health insurance, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ends the tyranny of “job lock,” which is what the much-misrepresented Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study of the law released Tuesday shows. The new law increases both personal autonomy and market rationality by ending the distortions in behavior the old arrangements were creating.
But that’s not how the study has been interpreted, particularly by enemies of the law. Typical was a tweet from the National Republican Congressional Committee, declaring that “ObamaCare is hurting the economy, will cost 2.5 millions [sic] jobs.”
Glenn Kessler, The Post’s intrepid fact checker, replied firmly: “No, CBO did not say Obamacare will kill 2 million jobs.” What the report said, as the Wall Street Journal accurately summarized it, is that the law “will reduce the total number of hours Americans work by the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time jobs.”
Oh my God, say opponents of the ACA, here is the government encouraging sloth! That’s true only if you wish to take away the choices the law gives that 64-year-old or to those parents looking for more time to care for their children. Many on the right love family values until they are taken seriously enough to involve giving parents/workers more control over their lives.
And it’s sometimes an economic benefit when some share of the labor force reduces hours or stops working altogether. At a time of elevated unemployment, others will take their place. The CBO was careful to underscore — the CBO is always careful — that “if some people seek to work less, other applicants will be readily available to fill those positions and the overall effect on employment will be muted.”
The CBO did point to an inevitable problem in how the ACA’s subsidies for buying health insurance operate. As your income rises, your subsidy goes down and eventually disappears. This is, as the CBO notes, a kind of “tax.” The report says that if the “subsidies are phased out with rising income in order to limit their total costs, the phaseout effectively raises people’s marginal tax rates (the tax rates applying to their last dollar of income), thus discouraging work.”
But the answer to this is either to make the law’s subsidies more generous — which the ACA’s detractors would oppose because, as the CBO suggests, doing so would cost more than the current law — or to guarantee everyone health insurance, single-payer style, so there would be no “phaseout” and no “marginal tax rates.” I could go with this, but I doubt many of the ACA’s critics would.
The rest of the CBO report contained much good news for Obamacare: Insurance premiums under the law are 15 percent lower than originally forecast, “the slowdown in Medicare cost growth” is “broad and persistent” and enrollments will catch up over time to where they would have been absent Obamacare’s troubled rollout.
The reaction to the CBO study is an example of how willfully stupid — there’s no other word — the debate over Obamacare has become. Opponents don’t look to a painstaking analysis for enlightenment. They twist its findings and turn them into dishonest slogans. Too often, the media go along by highlighting the study’s political impact rather than focusing on what it actually says. My bet is that citizens are smarter than this. They will ignore the noise and judge Obamacare by how it works.
January 20, 2014, 3:22 amWe Defeated Socialism!
December 29, 2013, 8:42 pmClimate Change 2013: Not What You Think
Climate Change 2013: Not What You Think
"We are in the midst of an era of frightening contradictions, when it comes to public understandings of climate change. While climate changes are occurring more quickly than scientists have ever predicted, most people’s knowledge of these realities remains hazy and clouded by political overtones. Because of both the counter-intuitive nature of climate change and the massive misinformation campaigns created by the fossil fuel industry, the general population is 20 years behind most climate scientists when it comes to the straightforward fact of 'believing in' climate change."
December 26, 2013, 3:46 amBiblical Law
For those few of you who may be unfamiliar with her, Dr. Laura Schlessinger is an abrasive conservative radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show. Recently she said, as an observant Orthodox Jew, that homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.
The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by a U.S. resident and posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as informative:
Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I
have learned a great deal from your show and try to share that knowledge
with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual
lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22
clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other
specific laws and how to follow them.
1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a
pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They
claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her
period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15:19-24. The problem is, how
do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there degrees of abomination?
7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?
8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev.20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.
Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.
June 26, 2013, 12:42 amThe Tea Party's Legacy of Racism
"The American Right demeans racial minorities for playing the victim’s role, but today’s Tea Party is draped in 'victimhood,' claiming to be the target of an African-American president and feeling threatened by the nation’s demographic shift. But racist fears have always had a home on the Right, says Robert Parry."
June 20, 2013, 10:06 amLife in the Rural Police State
"For as long as humans have been growing food, farmers have saved seeds from their harvest to sow the following year. But Monsanto and other big seed companies have changed the rules of the game. They have successfully argued that they spend millions of dollars developing new crop varieties and that these products should be treated as proprietary inventions with full patent protection. Just as one can't legally reproduce a CD or DVD, farmers are now prohibited from copying the GM seeds that they purchase from companies like Monsanto, Bayer, Dow and Syngenta."
June 14, 2013, 8:22 amWhites' Deaths Outnumber Births
"Although the percentage is small, several demographers said they are not aware of another time in U.S. history — not even during the Depression or wars — when there was such shrinkage among the dominant racial group. No other group showed a similar falloff."
June 5, 2013, 8:40 pmA Shorter Version
June 5, 2013, 11:42 amMoral Imperative of Bradley Manning
"Official Washington still glorifies George W. Bush’s 'successful surge' in Iraq while ignoring the wanton slaughter inflicted on Iraqis. So, there remains a high-level desire to harshly punish Pvt. Bradley Manning for exposing the horrific truth about that and other war crimes, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern."
Due to the current work of the author, Ray McGovern, a former 27 year CIA analyst, biblical scholars will find this article of particular interest.
"Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He teaches a course called 'Biblical Justice: Is It an Un-American Activity?' at the Servant Leadership School. Earlier, he was an intelligence analyst for almost 30 years."
May 28, 2013, 1:32 pmSource of Anti-Government Extremism
"The Right’s hostility to 'guv-mint' is not new. It traces back to the South’s fears that any activism by the national government, whether building roads or providing disaster relief, would risk federal intervention against slavery and later against segregation, perhaps even the end of white supremacy, reports Robert Parry."
May 10, 2013, 1:16 pmThe Full Price of Our Cheap Clothes
May 10, 2013, 12:00 amF R E E D O M !
Do you know this guy?
May 8, 2013, 1:24 pmWhy Medical Bills Are Killing Us
Last Edited: May 8, 2013, 1:25 pm
March 26, 2013, 2:37 amProbability and Intuition
The first link at this page will take you to the discussion of Probability & Intuition.
There are other interesting links there too.