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Correct Measures

Me: So which is a better measure - wages, which represent only a fraction of workers compensation, or total compensation, which represents the whole damn thing? Honest answers only, please.

If total compensation is rising, the labor market is not bad, and it's as simple as that. Read more »

Protection From Zero Risk

Thank goodness we have licensed physicians to protect us from innocuous and relatively inexpensive ultrasounds. The article (reg. required) from the Dallas/Fort Worth Star-Telegram (via Medgadget):

Four keepsake ultrasound imaging companies -- three in Dallas-Fort Worth -- have agreed to stop offering souvenir videos of fetuses without physician supervision and approval.

Saying that ultrasound machines are not toys, Attorney General Greg Abbott announced Thursday that the companies had agreed to comply with Texas law, which requires physician oversight. The companies also cannot advertise their services as having entertainment value without the need for physician involvement.

"They can't just leave a physician out of the loop and make money doing it," said Tom Kelley, a spokesman for the attorney general's office. "The ultrasound must be done as a medical necessity and not just for the mother to have a souvenir or keepsake."

Landsburg on Schiavo

Just when you think there isn't possibly anything more of interest to say on the Schiavo case... Read more »

An Unnecessary Evil

Wilkinson's Law:

The more your markets need government, the less your government will be able to do for your markets. Or, equivalently, the more your government is able to do for your markets, the less it will need to do. Pithier still . . . Government: if you need it, it won't be good, and if it's good, you don't need it.


I'm playing hurt (right hand is in a cast; dodge ball injury; don't ask) and have had to take a little break from blogging, but I have two sports-related items to share.

First, how 'bout the college basketball regional finals. 8 teams, 8 great efforts, and 8 opportunities to win the game inside of two minutes. As a sports fan, you can't ask for much more. I, of course, was sad to see my 'Cats (UK, not Arizona) bow out. I am especially sad to see Chuck Hayes, one of my all-time favorites, lace 'em up for the last time in a Kentucky uniform. The biggest reason human beings love sports, I think, is to get the opportunity to see others attempt to maximaize their potential. Hayes was the epitome of "maximizing potential" and he was a joy to root for. Thanks, Chuck.

On an unrelated note, I advise everyone to read this interview given by baseball historian Bill James.

I'm a big fan of Friedman, Barnett, Locke, and all the other usual suspects, but I'd have to say Bill James was my first libertarian influence. I don't even know if he's a libertarian, but reading how he thought about baseball played a big role in how I thought about, well, everything. He taught me about being rational and how to make an argument; he taught me how to approach problems and how to go against conventional wisdom.

This excerpt provides an example of the power (or necessity) of decentralized rule- and decision-making: Read more »

A Step Back

From Medscape:

As hospitals have come under pressure from patients and health insurers to lower the rate of medication errors and adverse drug events, a small but growing number have purchased computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems. These systems, credited with lowering medication errors by up to 81%, can flag harmful drug-drug interactions, eliminate mistakes due to illegible handwriting, and reduce the likelihood of errors that stem from drugs with similar names.

\'Round the \'Sphere

Radley Balko: Get pissed off. This is important. Instapundit has more.

Medrants discusses the coming doctor shortage.

\'Round the \'Sphere

Asian laborers have finally revolted against those evil US exploiters by...striking for more hours. Tyler Cowen has the story. Read more »

Decentralized Memory

All true, and these point have been made before by the likes of Gould, Dawkins, et al. However, I think he makes a mistake with this... Read more »

Is the 13th Amendment Still Necessary?

I recently watched this video of The future of Freedom Foundation's Jeffrey Hummel in a talk entitled "A Libertarian Looks at the Civil War." In it he argued that the Civil War period saw the greatest reduction of liberty in American history (setting aside, of course, that it brought about the end of slavery). He makes a quite compelling case that the increase in government power was extraordinary, that it was the first large expansion of it's kind, and that many of its remnants are still with us today.

Toward the end of the talk, an audience member asked him the obvious question about slavery, and his thoughts on the necessity of the war to bring about its end. Hummel stated that, first of all, if the Civil War would prove to be necessary to end slavery, then he would find it worth its great costs in economy and freedom. He then, however, went on to state why he didn't think it was necessary.

He claimed (and I have no idea on the veracity of this claim, but will take it at face value for the purposes here) that at around the beginning of the 19th Century almost the entire world practiced slavery, and by the end of it the whole world had abolished it. Interestingly, only two countries, the US and Haiti, had to endure massive civil-war level violence to see it end. In addition, it required large subsidies (in the form of enforced fugitive slave laws, etc.) to slave-holders from non-owners to keep the institution going. Thus, slavery would have inevitably ended peacefully (when compared to the Civil War) in the US in a relatively short amount of time (obviously not short enough if you were a slave). [Certainly, the War was necessary to end slavery in 1865, but not necessary to end it by, say, 1900].

This was something I had not ever really considered before. When thinking about slavery, liberty, and government before, I had always in my mind held myself to the fact that war was necessary to end slavery. I thought about it quite a bit more recently when reading this article from The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review by Don Boudreaux:

But even on purely economic grounds, capitalism rejects slavery because slaves are productive only when doing very simple tasks that can easily be monitored. It's easy to tell if a slave is moving too slowly when picking cotton. And it's easy to speed him up. Also, there's very little damage he can do if he chooses to sabotage the cotton-picking operation.

Compare a cotton field with a modern factory -- say, the shipyard that my father worked in as a welder until he retired. My dad spent much of his time welding alone inside of narrow pipes. If you owned the shipyard, would you trust a slave to do such welding? While not physically impossible to monitor and check his work, the cost to the shipyard owner of hiring trustworthy slave-masters to shadow each slave each moment of the day would be prohibitively costly. Much better to have contented employees who want their jobs -- who are paid to work and who want to work -- than to operate your expensive, complicated, easily sabotaged factory with slaves.

Finally, the enormous investment unleashed by capitalism dramatically increases the demand for workers. (All those factories and supermarkets must be manned.) Even if each individual factory owner wants to enslave his workers, he doesn't want workers elsewhere to be enslaved, for that makes it more difficult for him to expand his operations. As a group, then, capitalists have little use for slavery.

History supports this truth: Capitalism exterminated slavery.

Almost everything that Boudreaux and Hummel addressed I find to be true. Which lead me to this (hopefully) provocative question: If tomorrow Congress pased a law that made the practice of slavery legal, would our world look significantly different? In other words, would the actions of rational economic actors (who I assume everyone to be) change perceptively? Before anyone tries to answer this question, I'll have to make three points/assumption. Read more »


Radley offers his thoughts on blogging and traditional media... Read more »

Bush and the NYT about 20 Years Behind the Times

The New York Times writes:

The Bush administration predicted Wednesday that government would account for nearly half of all the nation's health care spending by 2014.

Grand Rounds, Revisited

We got a lot of good feedback on Grand Rounds. Thanks again to everyone who submitted, and thanks for all the links, kind words, and suggestions since. Read more »

Grand Rounds XXII

Welcome to Catallarchy, home of this week's Grand Rounds. This is the first time that the Rounds is being hosted by a blog not solely dedicated to medical topics. However, I am a fourth-year medical student preparing to enter pathology, and my co-blogger Jonathan Wilde is a resident in the Northeast. It is an honor to take part in the growing medical blogosphere's weekly gala. Read more »