Sunday, February 26, 2017

Will the Real Immigrant Deporter Please Stand Up?

Bryan Caplan on Presidents by their deportation numbers. Tyler Cowen calls it a revelation of sorts.
...the real Deporter in Chief was none other than fellow Democrat Bill Clinton. Adjusting for population, no one else even comes close.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Eggs in the Refrigerator

Why do we have to refrigerate our eggs in North America, but they don't in Europe? It has to do with whether those eggs are washed. In north America government requires eggs to be washed. In Europe government prohibits eggs from being washed. Here is the rationale from the FDA:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a regulation expected to prevent each year approximately 79,000 cases of foodborne illness and 30 deaths caused by consumption of eggs contaminated with the bacterium Salmonella Enteritidis.
The regulation requires preventive measures during the production of eggs in poultry houses and requires subsequent refrigeration during storage and transportation.
Egg-associated illness caused by Salmonella is a serious public health problem. Infected individuals may suffer mild to severe gastrointestinal illness, short term or chronic arthritis, or even death. Implementing the preventive measures would reduce the number of Salmonella Enteritidis infections from eggs by nearly 60 percent.
Here we have the rationale from some European legislators:
In general, eggs should not be washed or cleaned because such practices can cause damage to the egg shell, which is an effective barrier to bacterial ingress with an array of antimicrobial properties. However, some practices, such as the treatment of eggs with ultra-violet rays, should not be interpreted as constituting a cleaning process. Moreover, Class A eggs should not be washed because of the potential damage to the physical barriers, such as the cuticle, which can occur during or after washing. Such damage may favour trans-shell contamination with bacteria and moisture loss and thereby increase the risk to consumers, particularly if subsequent drying and storage conditions are not optimal.
This is from an intriguing article written by Jeffrey Tucker.

My first thought is that 30 deaths a year is not a large number. 79,000 cases of foodborne illness is a large number, but since only .04% of those people are dying I'm suspicious that the technical definition of foodborne illness matches the severity of what comes to mind when us layfolk hear it. When I hear foodborne illness I think of something fairly serious, but more often than not it may amount to nothing more than a tummyache.

As I read more about foodborne illness my suspicions become more and more validated. Consider this from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention:
48 million foodborne illness cases occur in the United States every year. At least 128,000 Americans are hospitalized, and 3,000 die after eating contaminated food.
 Soooooo, out of 48 million foodborne illnesses, 47,872,000 never even bother to go to the hospital, and 47,997,000 go on to live another day.

That doesn't sound so bad.

My second thought after reading the article is that my fast thinking system (system 1) wants to say that the washing eggs prevent some problems, not washing eggs prevent some other problems, and it's all a big tradeoff.

But if you think about it, the North American way of doing things is far superior for public health. By washing the eggs they prevent Salmonella. But what about the European rationale that damaging the eggshell which is a barrier to bacteria? That's why they're refrigerated! I think Jeffrey Tucker overlooks this by calling the situation, "tradeoffs either way, like most things in life." Sure there are always tradeoffs, but the FDA found a way to have it both ways at least in the public health sense by mandating the washing of eggs, and then prescribing that eggs ought to be refrigerated afterward.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Social Security: A tax on the dead?

Lets start with this. Cut the world into people who live to 65 years and those who don't. Of these two groups, which is more deserving of our sympathy? Who deserves our care? The people who lived that long or the people who die young?

It seems to me that regardless of your quality of life, you're pretty much in the fortunate group if you lived to 65 or longer.

But here's the thing: we give people who live to 65 a subsidy. It's called Social Security. And who pays for it? The people who never live long enough to collect the check.

People think Social Security is a tax on the young to benefit the old. But it's really not, since at the end of the day they're the same people. But who really loses in this system? Not the young who live long lives, they get their money back eventually. But the young who live short lives get nothing. That sounds like a cruel system to me.

And it's the biggest system in the United States Budget.

Lets say it again: old people are fortunate. Whatever problems they may have, in the broad scope of things it's probably better than being dead. Helping them is like subsidizing the rich because it's hard managing all that money. So too with being old. All that extra time you get to live comes with health problems. Okay, but at the end of the day all that time is a wonderful thing!

Monday, February 20, 2017

History is written by the victors

One of the most unfortunate and widely-accepted ideas about historical thinking is that “history is written by the victors.” This talking point asserts that the truth of the past is not shaped by reasoned interpretive historical scholarship or a factual understanding of the past, but by the might of political and cultural leaders on the “winning” side of history who have the power to shape historical narratives through school textbooks, public iconography, movies, and a range of other mediums...
“History is written by the victors” is a lazy argument that is usually deployed in the absence of historical evidence to defend claims about the past.

The quote, "history is written by the victors" appears to be misattributed to Winston Churchill

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Was the Civil War about Slavery?

We're not fighting for slaves. Most of us never owned slaves and never expect to, it takes money to buy a slave and we're most of us poor but we won't lie down and let the North walk over us, about slaves or anything else.
-Confederate soldiers in John Brown' Body, a book length poem by Stephen Vincent Benét.

It should be noted that Stephen Vincent Benet wasn't speaking from personal experience. Even if he were, one person never really speaks for an entire group.

Still, the there are arguments here. Does it make sense for the South to care so much about slavery when so few owned slaves? I recall a dispute with someone who insisted that most of them fought because they hoped to one day own slaves. I don't find that believable. So many gave so much for such a little chance - seems dumb.

When I read the articles of secession it seems to me that the civil war was really about States Rights of which slavery was one important subset.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

One Kidney down, One to go.

Here's Dylan Matthews on the Science and Ethics of Kidney Donation.

Related: Economists generally range from accepting to uncertain of the proposition:

"A market that allows payment for human kidneys should be established on a trial basis to help extend the lives of patients with kidney disease."

I've looked into donating a kidney to a stranger. Fear or safety isn't the main obstacle, complication is.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Minimal Group Paradigm

Here is The minimal group paradigm study everyone should know. Since people will discriminate according to even the most arbitrarily invented groups, to make discrimination stop happening along certain categories is to stop making those categories a thing. Or at least less of a thing.

Maybe the "race isn't real" people have a tactical advantage over the "race pride" people?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Trump and his Male Friends Attack Women's Right to Abortion

Donald Trump Signs Anti-Abortion Executive Order Surrounded By Men.

Who happened to be around when Trump signed the order should be taken, at best, as symbolic rather than as evidence I fear many are taking it for.

What does actual evidence say? It doesn't support abortion being a men vs. women issue. Consider: "Men and women hold very similar views on abortion and under which circumstances it should be available."

A fairer summary is that women are only slightly more pro-choice these days (not so true in the past), it still doesn't really qualify as an issue dividing genders. The Blue Team has a habit of sacralizing the fight of oppression, especially of certain groups like women (never whites, males, or Asians). And when you sacralize something, it's very hard to think straight about it.

So Trump's being surrounded by men probably has more to do with the demographics of his administration in general, not a male attack on women's rights.

What are gender attitudes toward abortion when you adjust for other variables like politics and religiosity? It's still being debated.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

We don't burn witches anymore
but the group psychology endures
Moral distance, cognitive discipline seem to be the cure
The first two Spider Man movies weren't good either

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Both are true:

"About twice as many economists believe a voucher system would improve education as believe that it wouldn’t"

"only a third of economists support vouchers"

Monday, February 13, 2017

Scott Alexander on Cost Disease

Here is Scott Alexander on Cost Disease.

"In 1983, the first mobile phone cost $4,000 – about $10,000 in today’s dollars. It was also a gigantic piece of crap. Today you can get a much better phone for $100. This is the right and proper way of the universe. It’s why we fund scientists, and pay businesspeople the big bucks.
But things like college and health care have still had their prices dectuple. Patients can now schedule their appointments online; doctors can send prescriptions through the fax, pharmacies can keep track of medication histories on centralized computer systems that interface with the cloud, nurses get automatic reminders when they’re giving two drugs with a potential interaction, insurance companies accept payment through credit cards – and all of this costs ten times as much as it did in the days of punch cards and secretaries who did calculations by hand."

He talks about average wages, but he doesn't talk about growth in employment in these sectors. Since 1970 employment in these sectors went from 6% of the workforce to 15%. That's very expensive. I'm surprised Slatestar didn't mention this.

Hanson says that healthcare is primarily about signalling care, not health. Caplan says that school is primarily about signalling good work, not education. If either or both of them are right, then the amount we spend and the number of people we employ in these industries seems like one of the worst things in the developed world.