Friday, August 01, 2014

Friday Morning Ramble: So I found this stuff on the internet …

It’s Friday, and you know what that means …

So David Cunliffe’s Labour wants to boost teenage and Maori unemployment, make it harder to employ new-starts, and harder to make money from any employees. That would be the effect of their “wages and work” policy announced Wednesday.
Labour promises $2 boost in minimum wage – NZ HERALD

“But I am still left wondering what the IP stands for and how it proposes to effect change if its candidates are elected.”
Eye Candy, Window Dressing and Deep Pockets. – Pablo, KIWIPOLITICO

“If one of the the points of a public broadcaster is to provide basic factual information to voters prior to an election, so that they can then make up their own minds about what policies are the appropriate responses to the current state of the world, then TV One failed magnificently with Nigel Latta's infomercial [on inequality].”
Whole Latta Derp – Eric Crampton, OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR

“When they say ‘all water bodies,’ they Greens  really mean only those in the countryside because they do not wish to alarm their core urban constituency.”
The Greens are disingenuous with their 'swimmable' rivers policy because urban rivers are under the most stress, whereas 'they really mean only those in the country' – Ian MacKenzie, INTEREST.CO.NZ

Politicians are going wowser this campaign. I hope they don’t not-drink and drive.


“As an economist, I’m nervous that the motorway spend-up will have perverse economic effects, driving up prices and crowding out other activity. When I went to look at the data, I found reasons to worry.”
The inflationary impact of road spend-ups – TRANSPORT BLOG
Rescuing defeat from the jaws of recovery – NOT PC, 2008

“You mean, when we amalgamated all the councils, we would save money?”
Auckland "Black Budget" No Obstacle for Len BrownWHALE OIL

Sue Bradford wonders why there are no left wing think tanks in EnZed. Problem might be the eighth word in that sentence.
State of the left in Aotearoa/NZ – DOUBLE STANDARD

So, who exactly is farming fish?

“What is happiness and does the welfare state help or hinder our pursuit of happiness?”
The Debt Dialogues [Episode 19]: Tara Smith on Happiness – ARI

“Before the advent of workplace safety regulations, factories with poor working conditions were often economic springboards of prosperity in the developed world.”
Think Sweatshops are Exploitative? Got 10 Minutes? – ON LIBERTY STREET

“Whenever I talk to people [in government], one of the phrases that comes up again and again is that ‘politics is a game of inches.’ But what determines the goal posts? What determines over the long run what is politically feasible? The answer is: the fundamental ideas that shape people’s political thinking.”
It's Time to Debate the Safety Net – VOICES OF REASON

Q: “Think this green icon's Aspen luxury home (above) is as efficient and autonomous as he makes it out? What do you think is missing from stories like this, and what kind of premises are they operating on?”
Power Surge: “Carbon Legacy” Babies and Amory Lovins’ Footprint on the Colorado Coal Grid – Alex Epstein, CENTER FOR INDUSTRIAL PROGRESS

“Because   there   is   no   good, cheap   green   energy,   the   almost   universal  political  choices   have   been   expensive   policies   that   do   very   little.”
Bjorn Lomborg’s Senate testimony – JUDITH CURRY.COM

"There is compelling evidence that weather has become less extreme in recent decades even as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have risen. There’s been no increase in global temperatures for 17 years. How can recent weather events be attributed to something that isn’t happening?"
Actually understand climate change – LAS VEGAS SUN

"The anti-GMO fear-mongering is not based on science, but on the dogma that man should not "play God" by trying to improve nature - and that if he does, his hubris will lead ultimately to disaster. But there's no evidence of this pending disaster, so activists have resorted to fear tactics and the strong arm of the government to drive people to reject a successful technology and the foods improved with it."
What GMO Labels Really Tell Us – Amanda Maxham, POLITIX

Moral clarity on Greenpeace's attack on Shell and Lego.
Greenpeace’s campaign against Shell, Lego—and human flourishing - Janna Woiceshyn, PROFITABLE AND MORAL

“More attempts to fudge the numbers by the warming alarmists. Such scientists are the real deniers of facts.”
Molehill of Antarctic Ice Becomes a Mountain – Patrick Michaels & Chip Knappenberger, CATO INSTITUTE

"If you can't explain the 'pause', you can't explain the cause."
Updated list of 29 excuses for the 18 year 'pause' in global warming – THE HOCKEY SCHTICK

A 125 year-long timeline showing how environmental scientists, and the media, are seemingly always touting climate disaster, be it cold or warm. 
A brief history of climate panic and crisis… both warming and cooling – WATTS UP WITH THAT

“A business in which every single model overshoots reality is not science.”
Study: Climate Models Overestimated Global Warming For The Last 55 Years – Michael Bastach, DAILY CALLER

“While proclaiming victimhood,[the left] detest and vilify any experts who express doubts that we face an imminent climate Armageddon… They use hysteria and hyperbole to advance claims that slashing fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions will enable us to control Earth’s climate – and that references to computer model predictions and “extreme weather events” justify skyrocketing energy costs, millions of lost jobs, and severe damage to people’s livelihoods, living standards, health and welfare.”
Who’s really waging the ‘war on science’? – Paul Dreissen

Yes, mainstream environmentalism is “moderate.” If by “moderate” you mean moderately Stalinist.
Green Groups Vow to End Capitalism – BREITBART

In this episode of Power Hour, Alex Epstein talks with climate scientist Dr. Tim Ball on the process by which climate science is misrepresented to the public.
Power Hour: Tim Ball on the Corruption of Climate Science – Alex Epstein, CENTER FOR INDUSTRIAL PROGRESS

The Art of the Deal

“The natural and angry human reaction to such scenes is, ‘What monsters did this?’ But the rational response should also be, ‘What is the full context of this suffering and death?’”
Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Corpses, and Context – Ed Hudgins, SOLO

“The thinning line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism … ”
Anti-Zionism And Anti-Semitism – Andrew Sullivan, THE DISH

“From reading the international and national news you would probably never have known that , over 700 people were killed in Syria at the hands of jihadists and pro-Assad forces.”
Over 700 Syrians Were Killed Last Week. But Jews Didn't Do It, So the Media Doesn't Care. – BREITBART LONDON

“But if we are calling for ‘proportionality’ from Israel, then I’d like to ask a question: what would a proportionate response actually look like?”
Israel's critics don't want a proportionate response in Gaza. They want no response at all – Dan Hodges, TELEGRAPH


“We must note that Hamas is no longer carrying out resistance as a constant, ongoing strategy to liberate the land, but rather is conducting 'seasonal resistance' to achieve certain political ends at specific times. Its primary goal is to preserve its control in the Gaza Strip…”
Egyptian Columnists: Gaza Conflict Is Over Rafah Crossing – MEMRI

“And here is an explanation of Hamas's script for how it wins this conflict.”
Does Obama Realize the Stakes in Gaza? – Jonathan Tobin, COMMENTARY

“Reporter Nir Devori of Channel 2 and analyst Ehud Yaari confirmed the carnage was most likely the result of a failed Fajr rocket launch — aimed at central Israel … “
Hamas hits Shifa Hospital (with playground update) – POWERLINE

“”On Tuesday, he tweeted that the deaths of Palestinian children on a playground caused by rocket fire were the result of a misfired Hamas rocket. ‘Misfired rocket killed children in Shati. Witness: militants rushed and cleared debris,’ Barbati wrote. Significantly, Barbati tweeted this only after he had left Gaza. In the same tweet he wrote, Out of Gaza far from Hamas retaliation.’”
Honest journalist tweets with good reason, "Out of Gaza, far from Hamas retaliation' – POWERLINE

“Palestinians have no idea how much better off they will be if Israel finishes Hamas and other terrorists in West Bank and Gaza.”
Hamas Mass-Executes 25 Palestinians… Media Silent – CONSERVATIVE TRIBUNE

Defining-down success is crippling Israeli action, and encouraging continual conflict.
Defeating Hamas vs. “Mowing the Grass” – Elan Journo, VOICES FOR REASON

Brendan O'Neill's 2006 essay on how Western activists infantilise Palestinians.
Oh Palestine, let us mother you! – Brendan O’Neill, SPIKED

“MEMRI is announcing a new section on focusing on the current Gaza conflict. The section contains articles, analysis, and video clips from the past two weeks, and is constantly being updated with the latest content.”
Announcing Section At MEMRI.Org On Current Gaza Conflict – MIDDLE EAST MEDIA RESEARCH INSITUTE (MEMRI)

“Anyone killed or martyred is to be called a civilian from Gaza or Palestine, before we talk about his status in jihad or his military rank. Don’t forget to always add ‘innocent civilian’ or ‘innocent citizen’ in your description of those killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza….”
'Innocent Civilians' Hamas Style – MEMRI

Send this to John Minto.
So You Want to Boycott Israel? Here's A List of Products and Services You Need to Start With... – PREPPERCHIMP

“Wow, the deafening silence and solidarity from the sisterhood is overwhelming. Perhaps the feminists are, as Rand remarked, too busy protesting against being used as sex objects when its obvious that they are in no such immediate danger. Where all all those lefties so concerned about children overboard or "evil Monsanto seeds" now?
Iraqi jihadists order genital mutilation of all women – TIMES LIVE
ISIS demand four million Iraqi women undergo genital circumcision – BEN SWANN.COM

““It’s like a subway under Gaza,” he said.”
NYT: The tunnels of Gaza – BLAZING CAT FUR
A spoof guide to Hamas tunnels – BLAZING CAT FUR

“Unless someone has made lots of money hiring lawyers and lobbyists instead of researchers and developers, wealthy people got rich by creating a whole lot of value for a whole lot of people. Thus, the absence of super-wealthy people would actually be a bad sign for the rest of us—especially the poor. Indeed, it would indicate one of two things: Either very little value had been created (fewer good things in our lives, like iPhones and chocolate truffles) or the government had engaged in radical redistribution, removing significant incentives for people to be value creators and stewards of capital at all."
Cliché #1-- Income Inequality Arises From Market Forces and Requires Government Intervention – FOUNDATION FOR ECONOMIC EDUCATION

“Thomas Piketty's destructive program of confiscatory taxation of income and capital derives from his lack of essential knowledge in the areas of the theory of capital, profit, and saving.” Essential reading if you don’t wish to share his ignorance.
Piketty's Capital: Wrong Theory Destructive Program [Kindle Edition] – George Reisman, AMAZON

“Our main claim in this article is that monetary policy has converged into a blend of two theoretical approaches, despite there being three established schools of thought. We feel that there is room at the top table of policy debate for more explicit attention to Austrian ideas, and will survey emerging and prevailing attention amongst policy commentary.”
Is there room for Austrian ideas at the top table? – Anthony Evans, COBDEN CENTRE

“…a constant dilemma faced by prop suppliers in Hollywood: the necessity to skirt the line between strict counterfeiting laws and producers’ demands for incredibly realistic money.”
The Business of Fake Hollywood Money – PRICEONOMICS

The 2008 Wall Street meltdown is long forgotten, having been washed away by a tsunami of central bank liquidity. However …
David Stockman On The Real Evil Of Monetary Central Planning – David Stockman, ZERO HEDGE

“Murray Rothbard was a great economist, and a disaster when it came to politics.”
Murray Rothbard on Organized Crime – Per-Olof Samuelsson, HOUSE AT POS CORNER

“One lesson that people should not take away is that the 1995-96 shutdowns themselves were a political disaster for Republicans.
Lessons from the last government shutdown – PEW RESEARCH CENTER

“The problems of our centrally planned dollar cannot be fixed by changing who is in charge of central planning. They cannot be fixed by changing the "rules", "framework", or "model" used to centrally plan. The central planners are damned if they do impose a regulation, and damned if they don't. My articles on Forbes this weekend illustrates just such a dilemma in Money Market Fund regulation.”
Will New Money Market Rules Break Money Markets? – Keith Weiner, FORBES

The outbreak of World War I, one-hundred years ago this week, didn't just kill millions and impact the relationship between the nations of the world—it also had a profound effect on the relationship between citizen and State.

“It's not that the nation is ignoring the centenary, but there are several reasons why the commemoration is low-key compared with Britain.”
Remembrance of the First World War is subdued in Germany – TELEGRAPH

“A recent article in The Economist reported a link between socialist upbringing and dishonest behaviour, but failed to explain why this link exists. Guardian Syndrome may provide an answer.”
Cheating Commies and Guardian Syndrome – FOUNDATION FOR ECONOMIC EDUCATION

“The idea that men are naturally more interested in sex than women is [so] ubiquitous that it’s difficult to imagine that people ever believed differently.
The Demand and Supply of Sex – MARGINAL REVOLUTION

“Looks like someone has finally decided to strike back against the obnoxious French knights of Monty Python and the Holy Grail…”
British Inventor Builds Giant ‘Fart Machine’ to Fire at France – POWERLINE


How to Rule Souls. Ellsworth Toohey explains to Peter Keating

“We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the Onion is publishing solid economic analysis, and the New York Times is printing Krugman's stale economic jokes.”
Scientists: Rich People, Poor People May Have Shared Common Ancestor – THE ONION

Music: Ways of Listening is to listening what Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book is to reading — a timeless, yet remarkably timely meditation of a skill-intensive art we all too frequently mistake for a talent or, worse yet, a static pre-wired capacity.”
How to Listen to Music: A Vintage Guide to the 7 Essential Skills – BRAIN PICKINGS

But what if your team has no fans?
VIDEO: Korea's Hanwha Eagles have robots for fans who can't attend – CBS SPORTS

The trouble with watching the Atlas Shrugged movie is that the Atlas Shrugged movie makers don't understand Atlas Shrugged.
Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged' vs. 'Atlas Shrugged Part 3' – CAPITALISM MAGAZINE

But turns out the Lego movie-makers know more about how economies work than those who think they can make them work. Take your kids too.

Did you know Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, met and interviewed Raymond Chandler, creator of Philip Marlowe? Thoughts on thrillers,heroes, literature and drinking soon followed.
Raymond Chandler in conversation with Ian Fleming: Rare BBC interview – SOUNDCLOUD

Did you know Frank Lloyd Wright was not just an architectural genius but an automobile aficionado? And the automobiles he loved the most were British sports cars. Like this AC Roadster:


[Hat tips Marginal Revolution, On Liberty Street, Geek Press, Rio Norte Line, For The New Intellectual, History News Network, Catallaxy Files, Thomas Pilchard, Robert Tracinski, The Ayn Rand Institute, Jim Matzger, Yaron Brook, Keith Weiner, Peter Namtvedt, Kenneth MacKenzie, Gena Davidovich, Michael Neibel, Scott DeSalvo, Hilton Wayne Holder, FEE, Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, Lindsay Perigo]

Thanks for reading.
Have a great weekend!


The Golden Dollar: A Recipe for an Economic Boom

Guest post by Peter Ferrara, introduced by Laissez Faire Today 

Sometimes the best solution is to do nothing. But when you have the eyes of the world watching your every move, expecting you to save the day, that might be the hardest decision you can make.

Thankfully, you might never be in a position like this. But for government and Federal Reserve officials, they find themselves in this predicament quite often. Don't bother offering them any sympathy. Most of the time, they got themselves into this mess.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen stayed true to her promise to keep cutting back on the amount of money being pumped into the economy. She's on track to ending the Fed's quantitative easing policy in the next few months.

The problem you should be really worried about is the government and the Fed's obsession with correcting any problems that might pop up. Like I said before, sometimes, the best policy is doing nothing at all.

If you need proof, look no further than... soccer penalty kicks.

In soccer, if a player is given a penalty kick, he basically has three options. He can kick left, right, or straight down the middle. On the flip side, goalies have three options as well. They can block left, right, or remain still and block the middle.

Do you see what I'm getting at?

University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt (of Freakonomics fame) gathered data about penalty kicks. You'd think, over a long enough timeline, the percentage breakdown of kick direction would match the percentage breakdown of goalie blocks.

But that didn't happen.

Levitt found goalies are least likely to block the middle of the goal, choosing to dive left or right more than they should. In other words, penalty kicks down the middle had a higher percentage of going in.

Why? For the same reason the government or the Fed always springs into action at the first signs of trouble. When everyone is watching them, they don't want to look like they're doing nothing.

A goalie who remains in the middle as the ball sails to his right looks like he didn't even try, even though he made a logical decision. In politics, politicians who choose to do nothing because any more government intervention might actually worsen the situation will be scolded by their opponents or by constituents who demand action.

The same goes for the Fed Chairwomen. Even though they're going to stop pumping money into the economy in a few months, they're not completely ruling out future stimulus. Their friends need to know they're not going to be completely left out in the cold if the economy takes a turn for the worst.

After all, the Fed has to do something, right?

You're living in a world where the people in charge will never miss an opportunity to fix a situation. They might not fully understand the problem, of if the solutions they're proposing will actually work. But as long as they can make headlines and say they've done something, they can go to sleep at night thinking they made a difference.

Of course, when the real repercussions of their solutions cause even worse problems months or years down the road, barely anyone will remember how they got their in the first place. If only someone had just stopped for a second, taken a deep breath, and done nothing.

Today's article is a two parter by Forbes columnist Peter Ferrara. The U.S. economy didn't always depend on the "leadership" of Federal Reserve officials and analysts. There once was a time when the money that flowed through the economy basically managed itself. A time when it was objective and not subject to subjective policy decisions.

But that was a long time ago. In today's article, Peter will walk you through that period, looking at benefits of a gold backed dollar.

Linking The Dollar To Gold: The Recipe An American Economic Boom: Part 1

Alexander Hamilton was America's first Secretary of Treasury under President George Washington. When he first entered office in 1789, America was an agricultural nation of just 4 million still broke from its financially costly victory over the British Empire in the Revolutionary War.

The states had accumulated relatively massive debts to finance that war, which mostly remained unpaid. The United States did not even have a national currency, with Spanish coins still in wide circulation and use. Steve Forbes explains in his recently published definitive work, Money: How the Destruction of the Dollar Threatens the Global Economy and What We Can Do About It, "America's finances were in a state of disarray after the wild inflation resulting from massive money printing during the American Revolution." As a result, "Hamilton faced the challenge of restoring the economy of the young republic that had been devastated by the Revolutionary War…."

Hamilton boosted America's economy first by advancing legislation for the federal government to assume and pay off the debts of the states, establishing the foundation for America's historic creditworthiness. That was recognized by America's AAA credit rating for over 200 years, until 2011 when the relentless spending of the Obama Democrats led to the first credit downgrade of the nation in history.

But even more importantly for the nation's long term economic growth and prosperity, Hamilton promoted The Coinage Act of 1792, which established the first U.S. Mint, and fixed the value of the dollar at $19.39 per ounce. That was devalued slightly in 1834 to $20.67, which prevailed for 100 years, until President Roosevelt adopted the only major U.S. devaluation in history during the Depression, to $35 an ounce. That prevailed until President Nixon took America off the gold standard in 1971.

Forbes explained the results: "Overnight the economy sprang to life. Capital poured in from the Dutch and also America's former enemies, the British. Barely a century after Hamilton's reforms, the United States was the premier industrial power in the world, surpassing even Great Britain." He added, "Hamilton's system of banking and stable money quickly attracted and generated capital. It turned the American economy into the leading industrial power in the world."

Forbes further explains that while America was under the gold standard, the economy boomed at an astounding 4% real rate of economic growth. At that rate, our economy, incomes and standard of living would double every 17 years. That was the foundation of the American dream and our historic, geometric explosion into the world's leading "hyperpower."

Forbes adds that in the U.S., "Between 1870 and 1914, real wages more than doubled even though the country had millions of immigrants [greatly expanding the supply of labor]. Agricultural output tripled. Industrial production… surged a jaw-dropping 682%."

Campaign PosterCampaign poster showing William McKinley holding U.S. flag and standing
on gold coin "sound money", held up by group of men, in front of
ships "commerce" and factories "civilization". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The question is why did Hamilton understand economics so much better than the Ivy League poobahs of today, like Paul Krugman, who are more interested in promoting the socially hip stagnation of socialist equality than the dynamic economic growth of capitalism.

If only Colonel Hamilton were alive today, he would be more worthy of the Nobel prize in economics than at least half of those prize winners living today.

Great Britain experienced quite similar results under the gold standard. In 1696, the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke was joined by the path-breaking scientist and physicist Isaac Newton in arguing against devaluation in the process of Britain replacing or "recoining" its debased currency with new, unshaved, fully restored coins.

imageBy 1717, Newton was Master of the Royal Mint, and he fixed the British pound to the value in gold of 3.89 pounds an ounce. That exact same historic value remained the same for more than 200 years, until 1931.
Forbes notes, "When it tied the pound to gold, Britain was a second-tier nation. Soon all of that would change." A century later, "By the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, Great Britain emerged indisputably as the world's major power and global center of innovation."

Economic Benefits of the Gold Standard
Fixing a nation's currency to gold assures that the currency maintains a stable long term value, without inflation, or deflation. That enables a nation's money to serve as a measure of value, like a ruler measures inches, or a clock measures time. Such a stable measure of value, in turn, means money can best perform its most essential function in facilitating transactions.

When money serves as a stable measure of value, it most clearly expresses the value of everything in terms of everything else.

That best enables producers to determine whether their production is adding or wasting value as compared to the value of the inputs to that production. Or whether they should be producing something else instead that might create greater value. That information is essential for an economy to maximize output and economic growth over time.

When a farmer trades his crop for such stable money, he immediately knows what that crop is worth. And he knows that he can keep that value of his production in the currency because it will hold its value over time, until he is ready to buy something with it.

That stability of the reward for production undisturbed by monetary fluctuations adds further to the incentive for such production.

Similarly, with a stable value for money, investors know the money they will receive back from their investment will be worth the same as the money they put in it, undepreciated by inflation. That encourages greater savings, investment and capital formation from within the country. And it encourages investment and capital to flow into the country from abroad. This maximizes overall investment, production and economic growth.

Nixon Takes America Off the Gold Standard
On August 15, 1971, President Nixon took America, and the world, off the gold standard completely, leaving a world of unanchored fiat currencies, by terminating the postwar Bretton Woods monetary regime.

Nixon and his advisors mistakenly believed that this would help the economy by promoting American exports, which Forbes recognizes as 18th century mercantilist thinking.

But it was a decisive turn for the worse for the American economy, and the entire global economy. Since that time, real annual U.S. economic growth has averaged 3%, down 25% from the prior gold standard long term trend. Forbes explains,

"If America had grown for all of its history at the lower post-Bretton Woods rate, its economy [today] would be about one quarter of the size of China's. The United States would have ended up much smaller, less affluent, and less powerful."

Moreover, "Since 1971, the dollar's purchasing power has declined by more than 80%," with about a third of that (26%) since 2000. Real incomes have been stagnant, or even declined. "[A] man in his thirties or forties who earned $54,163 in 1972 today earns around $45,224 in inflation adjusted dollars -- a 17% cut in pay."

Unemployment has been significantly higher on average. Globally, "After the 1970s, world economic growth has been a full percentage point lower; inflation 1.5% higher."

Forbes observes, "The correlation between unstable money and an unstable global economy would seem obvious." Indeed, the termination of any link between the dollar and gold immediately inaugurated worsening boom and bust cycles of inflation and recession in the 1970s, with inflation soaring into double digits for several years. Inflation peaked at 25% over just two years in 1979 and 1980.

It took the worst recession since the Great Depression in 1981-1982 to tame that inflation, with double digit interest rates for years, and unemployment peaking at 10.8%. The Reagan/Volcker/Greenspan strong dollar monetary policies effectively restored a discretionary link to gold, with gold stabilizing around $300 to $350 for 20 years.

That kept close control over inflation.

But this discretionary standard broke down as 2000 approached. The Fed loosened money and reduced interest rates over the Y2K scare, contributing to the tech stock bubble. Much worse, the Bush Administration supported a weak dollar monetary policy again on the mercantilist/Keynesian confusion that would help the economy by promoting exports.

That included more loose money and 2½ years of negative real interest rates which served to pump up the housing bubble and lead, along with Clinton's wild overregulation (in the name of affordable housing), to the 2008 financial crisis and recession.
[Ed. note: So the table's been set. Now you know the history behind the gold standard and how far the U.S. has strayed from it. It's time to stop looking and lamenting about the past, and find some answers for the future. On Monday, we'll look at how the U.S. can restore the gold standard and get the economy back on track.]
- Peter Ferrara

Peter FerraraPeter Ferrara is Director of Entitlement and Budget Policy for the Heartland Institute, Senior Advisor for Entitlement Reform and Budget Policy at the National Tax Limitation Foundation, General Counsel for the American Civil Rights Union, and Senior Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States under President George H.W. Bush.
This article originally appeared here on, and subsequently on Laissez Faire Today


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Devoid of Purpose [update 2]

Our roving correspondent Suzuki Samurai has some advice for Jamie Whyte, after the response yesterday of the Racist Relations Commissioner to his call for equality before the law.

Good on the Whyte man calling for Susan Devoid's resignation. But Baldy should grow some and make it ACT policy to get rid of that whole worthless commission; that would show us he means it.

Or, in other words:

Grow some balls, baldy.

UPDATE 1: And there’s more:  “ACT out your principles,” he says.

The first principle you learn when playing squash is to return to (or hold) the 'T'; this is the middle spot on the court, thus the most strategic position being that it is equidistant to all four corners. The truth of this is evident when you see fat blokes that follow this principle winning games over much fitter, but less strategic, opponents.
    In politics one could say that the 'T' represents a political party's principles – have them, and stick to them, and you can snipe, defend, and be more likely to smash your opponents off the public court.
    ACT's Jamie Whyte has got himself some mileage out of Susan Devoy's response to his recent speech about special treatment for Maori. His calling on her to resign is a tasty morsel of political point-scoring, giving him and his party some unexpected media coverage.
    This is an opportunity for him to shake off the past weirdness of Archbishop John Banks -- and to show that, unlike Aunty Don Brash after Orewa, he'll not lose his nerve!
    So I say: Go on Jamie, show all of us that ACT has balls: show a full list of all the ministries, departments, commissions, quangos, and other second-hander groups your party will decommission, how much each one has cost, and how much the taxpayer will save once these moochers have been eliminated.
    I see a strategy. Come out this weekend and announce your party's principles on getting nanny government out of the way.  Announce with it your intention to not just get rid of Susan's non-job, but the whole worthless commission she doesn’t work for. Then poke a stick into another hole to get a reaction next week, following it up with the announcement they will be the next bunch of moochers to go. And then do it again, and then again, and then again, announcing one after another the quangos full of cockroaches that will be axed. 
    Have a go. It might be worth voting for your lot, if you have the gumption. 

UPDATE 2: From Lindsay Mitchell:

He just called for the role to be abolished on NewstalkZB. He explained how these quangos (and even charities) thrive on the very problems they apparently want to solve.

Looks like Suzuki is now obliged to vote.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

ECONOMICS FOR REAL PEOPLE: The Epitome of the Financial Collapse


Here’s the note about tomorrow night’s session hosted by our friends at the Auckland Uni Economics Group:

The most spectacular collapse of the 2008 financial crisis was Iceland’s financial system. It was wiped out, and it nearly wiped out the country.
    How could such a developed and sophisticated economy collapse so spectacularly? And what has happened since?
  Turns out this is one of the most important questions that can be asked about the ongoing world economic malaise,  because the Icelandic experience mirrors the experience of many other developed countries, but in microcosm – making it very easy to understand.
    In other words, understand why the Icelandic economy experienced a boom and then a spectacular bust and you will understand causes and consequences of the continuing economic crisis.
    And note: the real reasons for the collapse of Iceland‘s economy will probably come as much of a surprise to you as it did to them.
    Come along and learn more!
        Date: Thursday, 31 July
       Time: 6pm - 7pm
        Location: Case Room Two, Level Zero, University of Auckland Business School, Grafton Rd
                              (plenty of parking in the basement, entrance off Grafton Rd)
All welcome!
We look forward to seeing you there.
Auckland University Economics Group


This man is a racist [update 2]


ACT leader Jamie Whyte

is calling for a taskforce to identify and repeal laws which he says give special treatment to Maori, saying that "the principle that the law should be impartial has never been fully embraced in New Zealand.”

That’s enough for Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell to play the racism card :

Dr Whyte is vying for the "redneck sector of the voting community,” [says Flavell] and there is "no doubt that there is an element of racism in those comments."

This from the leader of a race-based party, sitting in a race-based seat, elected to parliament by a race-based electorate to argue for race-based law.

This man is a racist.

UPDATE 1:  If you can get your head around this page of pseudo-academic jargon-ridden bile poured over Whyte’s position, you’ll be on your way to seeing how postmodernists can call non-racism racism, and vice versa.  (I’d say “make black white”…  but racism.)

UPDATE 2: More drivel, from alleged pundit Tim Watkin, who ‘argues,’ “Jamie Whyte's speech insisting "race has no place in the law" ignores the fact that the law has never been blind to race, let alone wealth, history and any number of other things.” And then proceeds to argue the law should continue not being blind to race.
Because, apparently, racism.

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2 sides of Charlie Christian [updated]

Today is, or would have been, Charlie Christian's birthday.

Guitarist Charlie Christian was one of the pioneers of electric guitar and jazz guitar.  In the early days, he had to make his own amps and pickups, the volume of the guitar and the skill and inventiveness of his horn-inspired picking style making it a lead instrument in big bands and small groups.

Here are two contrasting performances: from 1939, one of his first recordings with Benny Goodman’s Sextet, soloing on Rose Room (the perfect accompaniment to a dry martini) …

… and a rare recording of Charlie Christian “after hours” at the legendary Minton’s Playhouse, helping invent bop with a band including Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke. (Another 27 minutes here!)

[Hat tip Jazz on the Tube]


Repeal Prohibition, Again!

imageThis is big.

The New York Times is not the paper it was, but it still regularly sets the news and political agenda. And the New York Times  has now come out four-square for marijuana legalisation, saying the US Government should Repeal Prohibition, Again.

It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.
The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

It should.

This is big.


Moral equivalence in Gaza

Why is there a prevalent view that Israel and Hamas are, at best, morally equivalent – and, at worst, that Israel is morally inferior? Take John Minto and his friends, for example, who want everyone to shun Israel, but make no mention of shunning the people who take millions in international aid and turn it into networks full of tunnels, thousands of rockets, and suicide bombs and bombers.

It’s like judging a rapist and a rape victim the same, and suggesting all that’s needed is mediation. Or, worse, that all that’s needed is the rape victim to lie down.

There’s a simple way to see things.  In the context of the present conflict, it’s true to say that if Hamas were to lay down their weapons, there would be peace. But if Israel were to lay down their weapons, there’s be no Israelis.

Take another example: Israel tries to use its weapons to protect its citizens. Whereas Hamas uses its citizens to protect its weapons.

As Hamas itself says, they love death as Israelis love life.

There are no grounds for moral equivalence between live-lovers and death-worshippers.

Elan Journo argues we’re entitled to judge a country on these bases, and should:

So why are so many libertarians either morally neutral on the conflict, or if they have a view are opposed to Israel, and supporting Hamas? Strange, you’d think. Yaron Brook has a theory, based on his observation that because so many anarcho-capitalist libertarians are not so much pro-freedom, but anti-government – leaving their end-game being opposing comparatively free governments, like Israel and the U.S., and being in favour of dictatorships, like Hamas.  Brook offers the following explanation:

I think that the libertarians who tend to be anti-Israel tend to be in the [Murray Rothbard wing] of the libertarian movement. They tend to be anarchists. They tend to have a deep rooted hatred of government. And it’s interesting [because] they tend to hate free governments more than they hate totalitarian governments. They tend to focus their hatred much more on the American government [and] on the Israeli government than they do on Hamas.
If you’re libertarian, that is if you claim to care about individual liberty, Hamas should be one of the top most hated regimes in the world. You should be celebrating that they are being destroyed and that the Palestinian people might have a chance to be freed from such a totalitarian evil regime like Hamas is.
And yet, libertarians don’t seem to care about the Hamas government, or actually support it, and they focus all their ire [and] all their hatred [and] all their focus on the Israeli government, a government that is in relative terms a rights respecting government, at least as rights respecting as any Western government. Essentially there’s free speech in Israel. There’s freedom of contract. There’s private property, not as much private property as those of us who believe in liberty would like, but much much better than 90% of the countries in the world.

But as an explanation of libertarian support for Hamas, it begs the question, says Paul Mirengoff. Why would those who have a deep hatred of government be more supportive of a totalitarian regime than a semi-free one?  Walter Hudson, he says, “offers a plausible, and rather elegant, explanation”:

[I]t occurs to me that advocacy of anarchy requires one to minimize the legitimacy of foreign threats while demonizing any action which government takes to protect citizens. After all, if government can be seen acting properly in defence of liberty, that stands as evidence against anarchism. In this way, anarchists masquerading as libertarians have boxed themselves into a philosophical corner which requires them to become apologists for evil.

Same reason, you might recall, that Murray Rothbard ended up denying that the Soviet Union constituted a cold-war military threat.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Boring is a strategy too [updated]

Is there anyone truly excited about this election? Commentators are bored by it. Bloggers are bored by it. The half-a-million (and growing) non-registered to vote are clearly bored by it. Even politicians making deal-or-no-deal seem bored by it.

There is one fat German who’s not bored by it, but he’s produced far less of real interest than those bored by it all might have hoped.

There is an election campaign currently underway, not that you’d know it.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but the big issues this week  appear to be which deals are being made where, or not; what a minister said to a quango; what the polls are telling politicians; and (who would have guessed it) fears of low voter turnout.


Turns out it’s not just me that’s bored out of my mind by the election campaign.  But boring is a strategy too. If people are bored, they’re not disgruntled, and only the disgruntled show up in large enough numbers to throw out a government.

Boring is a strategy too, one presently working like all hell for the incumbents. Incumbents who are barely being challenged by anything of any substance.

Mind you, it makes even small things stand out. Like moas. And scarfs. And apologies, or lack thereof. And any other road bumps between now and when a large majority decide to stay home from from the polls.

That could make things interesting, if you like that sort of thing.

But in the meantime, here’s the Manics:

UPDATE: Where I see boredom, Bob Jones sees material for “a wonderful comic operetta.” With the minor parties, anyway,

Monday, July 28, 2014

Peak politician

You don’t hear the Greens talking about “peak oil” anymore, and there’s a simple reason for that. The simple reason is that even the Greens now realise “peak oil” is bollocks. Fracking changed all that. So now, they’re against that.

So we are still nowhere near peak oil, and given how resource economics work, unlikely ever to approach it.

However, we’re a small country, with few naturally occurring sources of hot air and blowhard, and it looks like we might have now approached peak politician.

The evidence for this frightful state of affairs grew even greater over the weekend, with the announcement of a recycled politician needing dialysis several times a day as a candidate for the Mana Party in Te Tai Tonga.

Georgina Beyer, who when last heard from was withdrawing from work while whinging about not picking up political appointments is the latest political retread to enter the hustings.

Because with so many parties this election year with so few real differences between them, and with only so much locally-produced hot air and blowhard available, there just aren’t enough politicians to go around.

Poor lambs.


Planning for the Unpredictable

Guest post by Randal O’Toole

How do you plan for the unpredictable? That’s the question facing “planning” organisations writing transportation plans for their regions. Self-driving cars will be on the market in the next 10 years, are likely to become a dominant form of travel in 20 years, and most people think they will have huge but often unknowable transformative effects on our cities and urban areas. Yet not a single regional transportation plan has tried to account for, and few have even mentioned the possibility of, self-driving cars.

Instead, many of those plans propose obsolete technologies such as streetcars, light rail, and subways. Those technologies made sense when they were invented a hundred or so years ago, but today they are just a waste of money. One reason planners look to the past for solutions is that they can’t accurately foresee the future. So they pretend that, by building ancient modes of transportation, they will have the same effects on cities that they had when they were first introduced.

If the future is unpredictable, self-driving cars make it doubly or quadruply so. Consider these unknowns:

  • How long will it take before self-driving cars dominate the roads?
  • Will people who own self-driving cars change their residential locations because they won’t mind traveling twice as far to work?
  • Will employers move so they can take advantage of self-driving trucks and increased employee mobility?
  • Will car-sharing reduce the demand for parking?
  • Will carpooling reduce the amount of vehicle miles traveled (VMT), or will the increased number of people who can “drive” self-driving cars increase VMT?
  • Will people use their cars as “robotic assistants,” going out with zero occupants to pick up groceries, drop off laundry, or do other tasks that don’t require much supervision?
  • Will self-driving cars reduce the need for more roads because they increase road capacities, or will the increase in driving offset this benefit?
  • Will self-driving cars provide the mythical “first and last miles” needed by transit riders, or will they completely replace urban transit?

Planners  in Seattle and Atlanta asked participants at the recent Autonomous Vehicle Symposium to help them incorporate self-driving cars in their regional transportation models. Yet the consensus was that no one has any idea about the answers to the questions I asked above. The only prediction that people could come close to agreeing on was that self-driving cars will increase miles of driving as people take advantage of greater mobility more than they increase carpooling.

Self-driving cars are not a black swan amidst the flock of urban planning “knowns”; they are a whole flock of black swans, any one of which could completely sink even the most accurate predictions about all the others.

Some of the planners believed they could make guesses about the effects of self-driving cars and use them to make “sensitivity runs” to estimate the possible magnitude of the effects of self-driving cars on cities. But even if they made such runs, they would have no idea which runs will come close to reality.

“There are no models in planning practices that can predict the emergence of new modes and forms of mobility,” admitted one planner. “Our models haven’t even got the Internet yet. They haven’t got the cell phone. They’re not going to have autonomous cars.” Another agreed: “ITS [intelligent transportation systems] is 25 years old, but our models still don’t account for it.”

We are about to introduce a new technology that will completely transform our society in unpredictable ways, and many of those transformations will start changing travel behaviours and land-use patterns well before 20 years are up. The fact that plans are revised even every five years doesn’t help because many of those plans include costly investments in projects that take decades to complete. Even if new information reveals that those investments are no longer appropriate, once begun the political pressure to complete the projects will likely be too great for future officials to resist.

This means it’s not enough to simply rewrite transportation planning models. We need to rewrite the entire process of urban planning, following four principles:

  1. Instead of writing 20-year plans that pretend to know what a city will need in the distant future, planners should only write short-term plans that solve today’s problems without foreclosing options for the future.
  2. Planning processes should be streamlined so that it no longer takes 10 or more years to plan, design, and build facilities that, a few decades ago, were built in a couple of years.
  3. Urban areas should avoid infrastructure projects that take decades to complete and would make sense only if people completely changed their lifestyles.
  4. New transportation facilities should be “generic” in the sense that they can be used by a wide variety of modes and easily adopted for whatever modes become dominant in the future.

If some of these suggestions sound familiar, that’s because I’ve made them before, particularly in my 2007 book The Best-Laid Plans. The future is unpredictable even without self-driving cars, and I’ve had little faith in the ability of long-range plans to cope with those unpredictabilities. But now even the planners are willing to admit that they can’t cope with the unpredictable effects of this new technology.

I hope that at least some of them are willing to tell that to the politicians  who create the legal requirement for their “plans.”

Randal O’Toole is a Cato Institute Senior Fellow working on urban growth, public land, and transportation issues, and author of the books Reforming the Forest Service, The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths. In his book The Best-Laid Plans, O’Toole calls for repealing planning laws and proposes reforms solving social and environmental problems without heavy-handed government regulation.
This post first appeared at the Cato at Liberty blog. It has been lightly edited for local context.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

This would make smokers quit...

[Hat tip Casey Daily Despatch]

Friday, July 25, 2014

Quote of the day: On growing up

“That's one of the hard things about growing up that I'm starting to see
all too often: life isn't just a matter of crossing off a neverending list of
accomplishments, it's more a case of watching on helplessly as yet
another thing is added to the list of things you'll never do.”

- Bob Murphy, Western Bulldogs utility, ‘Father Time ... slam dunked


Thursday, July 24, 2014

How Regulation Kills Innovation

A guest post this morning from Greg Beato,  and our friends at Laissez Faire Books, who introduce it.

We've talked recently about  disruptive technologies, and there's a reason for that. The world you live in is very hesitant to change. It's difficult to make a significant or meaningful change. This isn't something new to modern times. Take a second to think back through history and come up with some other big game changers.

Henry Ford's assembly line that made the Model T affordable is a good one. How many cars does your family have in your driveway?

Don't forget the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk. A trip across the Pacific used to take months. Now it takes hours.

Then there's the rise of computer giants Microsoft and Google. You're reading this via email right now, correct? Still taking photos on emulsion film, or do you take digital photos on your phone?

These ideas changed the way the world functions. The way you live your life. They ended the old business models and created something different, allowing new entrepreneurs and innovators to take that new model and create something even better.

It's the very definition of laissez faire: what happens to the world when people are left to play, tinker, have fun, and innovate a better tomorrow. We're currently living in our ancestors' imaginations, and the future consists of what we can dream up today.

But there are those who aren't too keen on this line of thinking. They're the people who have too much invested in the status quo, who want to keep things just the way they are because they're reaping the advantages. They're the people you really need to look out for. They'll stop at nothing to make sure things stay the way they've always been.

For example, the taxi companies that are so mad about ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

Or the hotel industry that thinks Airbnb threatens their high hotel rates.

Or even the Fed with Bitcoin. Imagine what the Fed thought when they found out about an anonymous currency they can't control that's actually gaining traction throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Governments at all levels are more likely to side with the status quo than embrace the new technology. They have special interests they need to take care of. They don't want to rock the boat and potentially give up the power and control they've accumulated. And that's dangerous.

Because in a free market, the old guard can't so easily keep out a new idea or technology that threatens to put them out of business. They might be able to force them out of the market, but they're not strong arming-people under the cover of law. Additionally, they can't prevent you from choosing the less expensive or better-quality option. That's how a functioning free market works.

But once you get the grey ones involved (or any of their relatives at the city, or local level), things get a little hairy.

Suddenly, you're not allowed to open up shop unless you fill out the right forms and get approval from the right people. In fact, in some places, there are boards that determine whether the industry needs additional competition. And those boards... are made up of current businesses.

That's right. The people with the most incentive to keep competition out are the ones manning the gates. And the people in power actually think this is a good idea, that it actually helps consumers.

Fortunately, new technology is like gravity. When someone finds a new, better way of doing something, that force is unrelenting. Never-ending. Unstoppable. So the companies that benefited from the old way of doing things, along with their government sponsors, can fight tooth and nail to keep things the way they are... but I wouldn't put money behind them. Progress will win out.

Now, with the power of disruptive technologies in mind... let's turn to today's article. Reason's Greg Beato thinks there's another sector of the economy ripe for a new business model. Unfortunately, the guys in D.C. (as well as governments throughout the rest of the U.S.) have spent the last four years building a new (and insanely expensive) system to manage it, which will impact us even here in New Zealand.

The ACA created a massive piece of regulation that affects millions of people and businesses, raising costs for everyone involved. Now new technologies are popping up that offer better (and less expensive) ways to do what the law requires, and the U.S. government is trying to shut them down.

That’s bad for everyone.

Smart Apps vs. Obamacare

Health care costs in the U.S. have been rising so steadily for so long that containment barely seems possible. Even optimists don't dream of cutting the price tag. As its official name -- the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- suggests, Obamacare aims for affordability, not radical reduction.

But at a time when we're all walking around with more computing power in our pockets than NASA used to send Apollo 11 to the moon, perhaps we should be setting our expectations higher. Is it really so hard to imagine, in 10 years or so, the advent of advertising-sponsored health care? Or at the very least, bulk-purchased cardiology readings for a Netflix-like $8.99 monthly subscription?

The device that could potentially enable such scenarios already exists. The Alivecor Heart Monitor, above, approved for over-the-counter use by the Food and Drug Administration in February 2014, is a shell that fits over iPhones and Android devices. It converts electrical impulses from a user's fingertips into ultrasound signals, which are then picked up by the phone's microphone and processed using Alivecor's app.

Users can email the single-channel electrocardiogram (ECG) produced by the Heart Monitor to their physicians, or they can pay a small fee to Alivecor directly through the app for analysis by a cardiac technician or board-certified cardiologist within 24 hours.

Currently, the heart monitor costs $199. The ECG analysis ranges from $2-12 a pop. In comparison, two researchers who published a study in the February 2014 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine queried 20 Philadelphia area hospitals about the fee they charged for an ECG-and found prices ranging from $137-1,200.

So Alivecor's fees are already quite nominal. But imagine if, say, Google or Amazon decide to incorporate such functionality more seamlessly into their devices. ECG analysis would likely be offered for free or near-free, in return for opt-in consent to share this information with advertisers and other third parties. When you have a heart attack in the future, the beta-blocker coupons will arrive faster than the ambulance.

imageIn 1997, Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen introduced the concept of "disruptive innovation," the process by which a "simplifying technology" combined with a "disruptive business model" upsets established markets and radically broadens access to goods or services.

The Model T is a classic disruptive innovation. The PC is another. In a September 2013 white paper published by the Clayton Christensen Institute (CCI), Ben Wanamaker, executive director of CCI's health practice, and Devin Bean, a research associate at CCI, examine the disruptive potential of Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

In their estimation, some aspects of Obamacare encourage disruptive innovation, at least theoretically. To accommodate the millions of new consumers that the individual mandate has created, the "already burdened" health care system will potentially turn to "new care delivery models that leverage less-credentialed practitioners to deliver care for more routine health concerns."

Similarly, employers who are mandated to provide care for their employees will look for the least expensive options available, creating "opportunities for new and disruptive entrants" to offer cheaper alternatives to traditional forms of coverage from established providers.

But while Obamacare creates new health care consumers, it also dictates the kind of health care these consumers must purchase, which severely inhibits innovation. As the CCI white paper suggests, minimum "essential" benefits that can only be purchased through tightly regulated insurance exchanges "put a floor on the low end of coverage."

Because of these policies, Obamacare simultaneously "overshoots the needs of many customers while preventing innovation that could fundamentally lower the cost of care by requiring that insurance plans mimic the legacy state insurance markets."

Obamacare, in short, puts the weight of law behind the status quo. To illustrate this fact, Wanamaker and Bean offer an historical hypothetical. If Obamacare had existed in the 1940s, insurers would have had to offer sanitarium care for tuberculosis treatment, because that was the standard level of care back then.

And even when antibiotics emerged as a cheaper, more effective form of treatment, health care options that didn't include sanitariums would not have been permitted -- at least until legislators got around to removing that service from its mandated package of minimum essentials.

In addition to "lock[ing] customers into outdated, expensive treatment options," Wanamaker and Bean maintain, Obamacare-compliant health plans will, "by virtue of the benefits they cover," funnel most care into "traditional venues of care-the hospital and doctor's office." So ultimately, all the entities that have been in charge as health care costs have soared achieve further entrenchment via Obamacare. Washington loves an incumbent!

"When you are young and healthy, you may not think you need health insurance. But life is unpredictable," goes an Obamacare recruiting pitch at "Health care is expensive. Making sure that you are covered is very important." Granted, even one-percenters who can afford concierge genetic sequencing can't foretell car crashes or autoerotic asphyxiation mishaps.

But new technologies are making our medical destinies far more predictable than they once were. And the high price of health care isn't nearly as predestined as the Obamacare pitch insists.

In reality, we are heading toward a world of highly distributed and comparatively cheap diagnostic tools that will allow patients to self-collect health data more assiduously than a team of ICU nurses. The Cellscope Oto (left) turns your smartphone into a digital otoscope for viewing the inside of a person's ear.

The Scanadu Scout (right) , a small, puck-shaped device scheduled to hit the consumer market in 2015 with an estimated retail price of $199, is an attempt to approximate the tricorder of Star Trek fame-a sensor-rigged device that can quickly monitor your temperature, blood oxygenation, respiratory rate, and more, then make an automated diagnosis using intelligent algorithms.

In addition, simple but ingenious innovations, such as "smart pill bottles" that track whether or not you've taken your medication, or predictive analytics programs that identify which patients are least likely to stick to drug therapy regimens and thus need more intervention from caregivers, promise to significantly improve outcomes.

Eventually, all of the data that devices like the Scanadu Scout produce will be stored, shared, and compared as never before, producing more accurate patient histories, more closely tailored diagnoses, and better predictive insights.
The transition to this new world won't always go smoothly, of course. Making powerful diagnostic tools available to people who remain completely stymied by the self-checkout line at CVS promises to be a recipe for both comedy and tragedy.

But health care is on the verge of becoming far more individualised, far more contextualized and collaborative, and most of all, far more ubiquitous. And as this happens, the Affordable Care Act will start to look more and more anachronistic, a 20th-century solution imposing itself onto a rapidly shifting set of 21st-century conditions.

Indeed, imagine if, in the late 1990s, the federal government decided to ensure our right to affordable music by making every American purchase a monthly subscription to the Columbia House Music Club or Tower Records. That would have been great for the Columbia House Music Club, Tower Records, and, say, Sisqo, but would it have been great, in the long run, for the American people?

If you want to pay hundreds of dollars for a traditional ECG, many health care providers will accommodate your desires. But as the Alivecor Heart Monitor suggests, cheaper alternatives exist.

Obamacare doesn't prohibit consumers from pursuing these new cheap alternatives. Nor does it prohibit companies from offering products and services that could radically reduce prices. But unfortunately it will be a long time before you can expect an iPhone a day to keep doctors and insurance agents completely at bay.

As long as those $2 ECGs from Alivecor can detect a pulse, you're going to have to keep paying substantial premiums to Aetna or Blue Cross each month. Essentially, Obamacare establishes an obsolescing way of doing business as a pre-existing condition.

Greg BeatoGreg Beato is a contributing editor for Reason magazine. He has written for dozens of publications, including SPIN, Wired, Business 2.0, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
This article originally appeared here on It has post has been reposted here from Laissez Faire Books.

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