Political Discord at the Copenhagen Summit

Mark Lynas, A so-called journalist for The Guardian claims that China wrecked the Copenhagen deal. To see why, let's take a look at the emissions per capita:

It becomes abundantly obvious that citizens of China haven't taken advantage of their share of the Earth's resources nearly as much as most other countries, yet the US insists on capping the entire developing world at that level. What must happen is that (1) all countries must agree to a global emissions cut of 20% by 2020 and 15% for each additional decade, and divide that proportionately with the world's population; (2) an open and international research organization to coordinate on policy prescription, technical innovation and civil education; and (3) agreement on concrete measurement devices to maintain records of progress--changes in average yearly temperatures, level of rainfall, forest acreage, and of course, emissions numbers.

Lynas further demonstrates his inhibited vision of the world. He continues, "I am certain that had the Chinese not been in the room, we would have left Copenhagen with a deal that had environmentalists popping champagne corks popping in every corner of the world." What he ultimately meant was that his absolute confusion prevented him from seeing the issue from the other 4/5th of the world's population.

Yes, environmentalists in the west, oblivious to the desire of people in developing nations to exercise the same rights to development as those in the developed nations, would have been celebrating; but certainly not in every corner of the world.

He claims to have been at the climate summit. We need someone more humanistic and rational to represent the developed world. After all, this planet belongs to no one--hence, no one is entitled to a larger proportion of its resources than anyone else, certainly not the developed nations that triggered the problem in the first place.

It frustrates me to know how biased, selfish and close-minded people can be. This is our world to share and save; let's protect it together.

Why This Recovery is Good for the Long Run

In the previous article, I briefly laid out the case for a jobless recovery in the short run. However, despite the immediate pain, it has positive long-term consequences.

  • The federal government has more time to fix the entitlements issue with regards to the boomers. Their accumulated skills and experience are necessary in the workplace, and with last year's market decline, they have a stronger incentive to work--and pay taxes--than retire--and draw entitlement funds.
  • Greater investment in capital will allow us to achieve the same level of production using fewer people, or equivalently, more production using the same number of people.
  • The above, combined with our lessened propensity to consume, will help lower (or perhaps altogether eliminate) the trade imbalance (net exports)
  • The savings rate going back to a more normal level will help investments in future growth

Perhaps the US will be in a less unsustainable path of unbridled consumption after this transformation.

The Abbreviated Case for the Jobless Recovery

There are three key reasons why this recovery will be fairly jobless in the short run:

  • Aggregate demand is below the normal level because of increased propensity to save and the permanent rise in energy costs (Oil likely won't return to pre-Katrina levels)
  • The workforce is above the normal level because of the recently-devastated retirement accounts of the boomers; they have to work a few more years to compensate for the lost retirement value
  • Companies are increasingly turning towards technology and automation as the way to increase margins and profits. Capital investment is long-lasting and should provide them with increased capacity (at any given labor employment level).

The increased capacity due to both a larger workforce and capital expenditures, combined with lower aggregate demand for the final products will lead to a near-term squeeze on employment and wages. For the inflation hawks, this means wage-pressure inflation still has a long way to go before becoming an issue.

University of California, Incorporated

With the massive 32% tuition hike on top of endless years of double-digit increases, the University of California is not far from achieving full privatization. The days of world class education for the public are quickly coming to an end due to incompetence higher up. The potential of California's future is being gradually sacrificed to feed the hunger of the past.

We are entering an unmitigated cycle of doom and bust. The treasure that has attracted the world's brightest will soon be nothing but the smoke from a smothered candle.

It Worked for Salt--It'll Work for Rice

Before we worry about how many people go to bed hungry in the world, we must tackle an even more damaging yet easy-to-fix problem--how many people are simply malnourished.

It costs less than a dollar to fortify an entire ton of rice with essential nutrients like calcium, many metals (like iron), and vitamins, whether by genetically engineering them to be more nutritious or by artificially mixing them in. Yet, for that dollar, it produces at least a ten-fold (estimated 17x) return within that year in terms of boosted productivity--not to mention the higher standard of living, better health, and clearer mind. The social dividend from this minor investment will be on a scale magnitudes more significant than the global iodizing of salt.

So why don't developing nations invest in such a project? It has three options:

  1. Pay for it: Distribute fortification materials to farmers, or expand the ambitions of agriculture research labs, and distribute engineered seeds. For the few hundreds of millions of dollars spent annually, more than that will be earned back in increased productivity (captured in taxes), better health (captured in lower health costs and higher happiness), and political points (for the democracies). This is the preferred option
  2. Force it: By law, all rice has to be fortified. This has enforcement issues. Since farmers aren't paid to do it, they have no incentive to pay to do it themselves.
  3. Hope for external help: This isn't exactly a complete option--but hope for help from an agency like the IMF or WFP--and simply deal with enforcement

Each idea has issues with centralization, because farmers aren't as concentrated as salt-producers, but if implemented correctly, will provide tangible returns ad infinitum. So why not give it a try?

Let's start with China and India.

The Law of Conservation of Procrastination

Similar to the law of conservation of energy and mass, there's another universal law just as applicable--to students.

When one form of procrastination is blocked, another takes its place. When Digg and Slashdot began to phase out, Google News reemerged in renewed prominence. When I chose to stop reloading Google News, FML and MLIA came into the picture. When I finally blocked FML and MLIA, Failblog staged another comeback.

Not to mention, Reddit has been slowly creeping into my procrastination arsenal since summer.

So all in all, blocking one means of procrastination won't help. You'll just find that an even worse means of procrastination comes into being. Therefore, I propose a new universal law--that of the conservation of procrastination.

Because the only way you'll procrastinate less is if your peers procrastinate more. (*shakes fist at Courtney* for getting me into Reddit) By the way, for the rest of you, be sure to frequent the websites I mentioned up there!

Obama and the NPP

If you disagree with the award, you must be in either case 1 or case 2. I'd like to hear your responses. Note, this is not to say that I agree with the award. I just wouldn't be able to nominate anyone else who has done more.

See http://dailycow.org/system/files/NPP.pdf

My Perspective on Health Care Reform

For years, I've been planning to synthesize my perspective on the growing need for health care reform, but I've had neither the will-power nor the time to compose something as comprehensive yet completely rational as this. Although it is a lengthy read, I assure you every word is worth your time.

In the essay, the author (Goldhill) scrutinizes the major faults of the entire health care infrastructure--the lack of transparency in pricing, the disconnect between the customer (Medicare and insurance companies) and the consumer (us), and the complete abuse of the role of insurance. In short, with a truly rational judgment, he identifies the key issue: the failed incentives.

While reading his essay, I was constantly amazed by how eloquently and clearly he expressed what I've been wanting to synthesize for years, but could not. With every word, I nodded in agreement--his analysis is so comprehensive and flawless that it would be impossible not to.

With the initiative of a business leader and the focus that policy leaders aspire to have, he concludes his essay with clear actionable steps that is concisely summarized as follows:

A more consumer-centered health-care system would not rely on a single form of financing for health-care purchases; it would make use of different sorts of financing for different elements of care—with routine care funded largely out of our incomes; major, predictable expenses (including much end-of-life care) funded by savings and credit; and massive, unpredictable expenses funded by insurance.

And to mitigate the common fear that this would drive the incremental direct costs of health care (such as end-of-life care) through the roof, Goldhill addresses that fear directly:

Anyone with whom I discuss this approach has the same question: How am I supposed to be able to afford health care in this system? Well, what if I gave you $1.77 million? Recall, that’s how much an insured 22-year-old at my company could expect to pay—and to have paid on his and his family’s behalf—over his lifetime, assuming health-care costs are tamed. Sure, most of that money doesn’t pass through your hands now. It’s hidden in company payments for premiums, or in Medicare taxes and premiums. But think about it: If you had access to those funds over your lifetime, wouldn’t you be able to afford your own care? And wouldn’t you consume health care differently if you and your family didn’t have to spend that money only on care?

Ultimately, the author offers us a vision of what America's health care system could be--efficient, affordable, and competitive:

Today, insurance covers almost all health-care expenditures. The few consumers who pay from their pockets are simply an afterthought for most providers. Imagine how things might change if more people were buying their health care the way they buy anything else. I’m certain that all the obfuscation over prices would vanish pretty quickly, and that we’d see an end to unreadable bills. And that physicians, who spend an enormous amount of time on insurance-related paperwork, would have more time for patients.

I hope you find the time to read the essay. It deserves an hour of everyone's time. In order to ensure that this essay remains available even if the original source has removed it, I've attached a full PDF-print out for your convenience.

Protecting Your Legacy--It's "Human Nature"

Alan Greenspan attempts to salvage his legacy by claiming that "another global financial crisis is inevitable because human nature always reverts to 'speculative excesses'," implying that the violent bubble that formed under his guidance was inevitable and not his fault.

I suppose it's also "human nature" to defend your legacy.

Inefficiency Shouldn't Be Rewarded

While hundreds of millions of people starve in the world, "USDA has bought about $151 billion of pork so far this fiscal year". What are they going to do with it? Throw it away. Yes, $151b/6b=$21.2 of pork for every human in the world.

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