Tuesday (and some belated Monday) Highlights

Good, err, whatever.

  1. Revisiting the St. Gregory Palamas/Barlaam debate from a Western angle. That is to say, the essence/energies, uhm, thing.
  2. A kerfuffle in the philosopher’s corner of the blogosphere, i.e., the Synthese problem.
  3. Homophobia … not, or so says someone with a bit more skin in the game than I.
  4. That decline in education.
  5. Ooh, a closet Lenin/Stalin fan.
  6. What strikes me as theodicy done wrong.
  7. This years “carbon hypocrite” gold medal winner.
  8. 60 minutes at the Holy mountain.
  9. Apparently economics, in Mr Krugman’s view, doesn’t apply to some commercial transactions.
  10. What distinguishes Syria and Libya, for the White House and policy? Some grist for that argument.
  11. A coming crises?
  12. Groceries and education.
  13. Mr Obama and, uhm, torture … defend and deflect (now that he’s no longer running).
  14. Who is close to the truth, pig or rat? I’ll go with the pig.
  15. Finally, a non-trivial religion/separation Constitutional case.
  16. Zooom.
  17. Prayer … and remarks regarding its efficacy.
  18. Some good links here.

19 Responses to Tuesday (and some belated Monday) Highlights

  1. #4 is the wrong link.

    Apparently economics, in Mr Krugman’s view, doesn’t apply to some commercial transactions.

    That’s a cynical and wrong reading of what he wrote. All he’s saying is that there are other issues in health care besides the purely economic. Calling patients “consumers” highlights the economic side and downplays the human side.

    Mr Obama and, uhm, torture … defend and deflect (now that he’s no longer running).

    He is running, of course. But pretty much any criticism of his defending and deflecting questions about torture is right on. Absolute disgrace.

    Who is close to the truth, pig or rat? I’ll go with the pig.

    They’re both right, of course. :-) But mmm, better to focus on the in-between, yes.

    Finally, a non-trivial religion/separation Constitutional case.

    Gotta love those alleged followers of Jesus. If there’s one thing Jesus was for, it was discriminating against the disabled.

    Prayer … and remarks regarding its efficacy.

    Centuries of data, thousands of scientists, hundreds of models = no AGW.

    One rain after a prayer = prayer works.

    You, sir, are an inspiration.

  2. Hey, this seems right up your alley.

  3. JA,
    On Mr Krugman … hello? “All he’s saying is that there are other issues in health care besides the purely economic.” So? This is true of practically every single profession you could name. There is nothing at all unique about healthcare in that regard.

    Regarding the prayer thing … uhm, I’m sorry are you so humorless that you can’t see any irony in a strident atheist in a particular situation noting sarcastically that prayer “obviously” is no good in a drought … which is then immediately followed by two weeks of rain? It is not “One rain after a prayer = prayer works” but “One rain after prayer and a person calling that useless = humor”

    Sorry about #4. I’m not finding the link.

  4. JA,
    That bike link is interesting. Thanks!

  5. This is true of practically every single profession you could name. There is nothing at all unique about healthcare in that regard.

    It is true of every profession, but not nearly to the same extent. In fact, I suspect Krugman would make similar criticisms of the way “people” are turned into “consumers” in those other places as well.

    As an example of the difference it makes, if you think of a customer as a “consumer” then the only difference between selling him cigarettes or broccoli is the price margin. If you think of people only as consumers, you’ll market the hell out of cigarettes if it’ll make you a profit even though you know (although you don’t like to think about it) that you’re helping people grievously injure their health. If you think of them as people, you may still sell cigarettes on the basis that adults can make their own decisions, but you take care not to market to children or try to get new people hooked, etc.

    Regarding the prayer thing … uhm, I’m sorry are you so humorless that you can’t see any irony in a strident atheist in a particular situation noting sarcastically that prayer “obviously” is no good in a drought … which is then immediately followed by two weeks of rain? It is not “One rain after a prayer = prayer works” but “One rain after prayer and a person calling that useless = humor”

    Eh. Not really funny, sorry. If the atheist had said “If there is a god, let him strike me down!” and then gotten hit by lightening, I might chuckle. ;-)

  6. JA,

    If the atheist had said “If there is a god, let him strike me down!” and then gotten hit by lightening, I might chuckle.

    Hmm … and there goes your empathy-as-meta-ethics out the window.

    It is true of every profession, but not nearly to the same extent.

    Any non-retail profession, I offer, is just about equally about customer interaction, trust, and so on when done rightly. You hire a carpenter to do some work for you. Are you really wanting to say that economic considerations are not part of that transaction. As the link/commenter that I pointed to asked, does your carpenter/doctor get paid? How much? Hmmm? That sounds like economics to me. So … do you get your optometry/glasses done by a discount lenscrafter/Wal-Mart (or cheaperglasses.com) or do you go to a old style optometrist? The former can cost 3-5 times less. Now, rich people like you and Mr Krugman can be wistful and figure that everyone should do that. But we’re not all dripping money like you rich folk.

    That is to say, …

    As an example of the difference it makes, if you think of a customer as a “consumer” then the only difference between selling him cigarettes or broccoli is the price margin. …. but you take care not to market to children or try to get new people hooked, etc.

    Or on the other hand, if you think of your product in less personal terms, you can cut costs and bring your product to market for and order of magnitude less than before and make something which was formerly only available to the wealthy available to a larger cross section.

    If Mr Krugman wants to remove economics from professional interactions that’s well and good. He might, however, seek a new profession as money, price and the how value is transformed by monetary exchange is the bread and butter of his trade.

  7. Krugman didn’t say ‘non-economic’ matters in health care are more important than other areas. He said the customer-supplier relation is much more complicated than other markets. Likewise if you have been following Krugman…and I know you are since you told us you added his blog to your reading list….you’d know that Krugman was citing Arrow’s work on health care.

  8. Boonton,

    He said the customer-supplier relation is much more complicated than other markets.

    And I’m saying that except for retail … it isn’t.

  9. Hmm … and there goes your empathy-as-meta-ethics out the window.

    That little winky-smiley thing was supposed to imply that it was a joke.

    Are you really wanting to say that economic considerations are not part of that transaction.

    There you go again. I say X is not 100% of Y. You say are you really wanting to say that X is 0% of Y? You’re like an extreme false dichotomy athlete.

    Now, rich people like you and Mr Krugman can be wistful and figure that everyone should do that. But we’re not all dripping money like you rich folk.

    WTF?

    Or on the other hand, if you think of your product in less personal terms, you can cut costs and bring your product to market for and order of magnitude less than before and make something which was formerly only available to the wealthy available to a larger cross section.

    You act like I’m arguing against capitalism or economies of scale.

    If Mr Krugman wants to remove economics from professional interactions

    Dum da da DUM! It’s Straw Man Man here to prevent Mark from engaging in a discussion in good faith!

  10. And I’m saying that except for retail … it isn’t.

    Really? OK so you’re saying the market for, say, real estate is as complicated as health care? Or the wholesale market for industrial gold is as complicated or more than health care? Care to back this up?

  11. Just to make it easier, health care is unique in that demand and supply is managed in a proxy or shadow market. A person typicaly doesn’t demand, say, a bypass. He appoints a proxy supply and demand to ‘fight it out’ and determine that a bypass is called for. He appoints his doctor to be the ‘supply’ trying to ‘sell’ the bypass while he appoints his insurance company as the demand, trying to avoid the bypass or more specifically its cost. Likewise the actual purchase isn’t done directly at the level of the person whose consuming the bypass but instead is done at a level removed, the insurance company or Medicare.

    Yes there are areas where health care is like other markets. There’s a ‘retail’ end to it where you buy aspirin at Wal-Mart and compare prices and pay for it directly. There’s cosmetic surgery which is usually paid in full, OOP, directly by the consumer. There are even a handful of people who make major transactions, like a bypass, the way other people buy a car or a house….by paying cash after first comparing prices and negotiating the best deal they can get. That, though, is the exception that proves the rule.

  12. Boonton,
    Hmm. Real Estate probably is as complicated as health care from a legal perspective, but a lot less personal. Industrial gold is a lot more like retail, i.e., just interactions of buyer and seller over product. Your interior designer hired to contract your living space, on the other hand (or the handiman/carpenter) is more like a relationship that is as inter-personal as your relationship with your doctor. One might hope that, unlike relationship with your doctor (and unlike the relationship with your auto machanic) is one you might hope is does not last for decades. Although I think you’ll find that personal trust and relationships matter a lot more in industrial sales and transactions than you’d naively think (or apparently the naive Mr Krugman thinks).

    JA,

    That little winky-smiley thing was supposed to imply that it was a joke.

    Hmm. I guess I needed to put a winky smiley thing at my retort. I’ll also note, that I did a second check and asked a co-worker if he could see the humor in a atheist scoffing at the power of prayer only to have it immediately (and vehemently) answered. He did. He also remarked that he’d seen photos posted on the net of church signs in the region noting “If you’re the one still praying for rain, please stop!” And no, the sign didn’t have a winky smiley thing. And yes, it was, however, meant as a joke.

    “You act as if I’m arguing against capitalism…” Look, you wrote:

    As an example of the difference it makes, if you think of a customer as a “consumer” then the only difference between selling him cigarettes or broccoli is the price margin. If you think of people only as consumers, you’ll market the hell out of cigarettes if it’ll make you a profit even though you know (although you don’t like to think about it) that you’re helping people grievously injure their health. If you think of them as people, you may still sell cigarettes on the basis that adults can make their own decisions, but you take care not to market to children or try to get new people hooked, etc.

    Uhm. What the heck are you arguing for then?

    At my company, especially on the larger jobs, there is some division of labor. We have salesmen and project managers who can dicker price and change orders and what not with the customer. In those situations the programmers and engineers can concentrate on non-business aspects, i.e., delivering a custom product suited to the what we can perceive as what might best fit the customer’s needs. In those situations, we (the latter group) don’t talk about economic aspects. Just the personal ones. But that is because the other part is being taken care of elsewhere. On smaller jobs where we wear more hats … we have to handle some of the business aspects. I’ve been traveling several times a year to one customer for 2 or more days (it used to be per month, now per quarter) for 12 or so years now. The IT support guys and I have become fairly close friends over the last decade. The point is that it doesn’t matter if the particular service being performed is highly personal or not … the negotiation of price is separate from the provision of service. This can be more explicit if it is done by different people. But if not, it just means the persons involved (on both sides) need to wear more hats, so to speak.

    There you go again. I say X is not 100% of Y. You say are you really wanting to say that X is 0% of Y? You’re like an extreme false dichotomy athlete.

    No. I’m saying many, if not most, jobs are like the healthcare. So arguments that economics does not apply to healthcare … would mean it doesn’t apply to much commercial transactions. Which in turn, doesn’t make very much sense now does it?

  13. Hmm. Real Estate probably is as complicated as health care from a legal perspective, ….

    Not really. I ask an agent to show me houses in the $500K range, then I ask him to show me houses in the $750K range. There’s no real complication or confusion there. I’m asking for more house (either in the form of a nicer house, a bigger house, bigger property, better location or some combination of all of the above). The middleman aspect of the transaction is a complication to the pure economic model of a market which is not actually even a retail store but a type of huge auction.

  14. Boonton,

    Not really.

    I disagree. Purchase of a home is not the only transaction. You have additions, zoning, property line usage, sight lines, improvements, noise abatement, … the list goes on.

  15. Boonton,
    Oh, wait. I didn’t read your reply carefully.

    So, by focusing on just one aspect of real estate (the housing sale) you’re holding that industry as more impersonal than healthcare. But I could do the reverse. Hold “healthcare” as locating the best/cheapest vendor for your prescriptions and ignoring the rest and saying that is less personal than the relationship you develop with your real estate agent as you search for that home and find the price/location that you with to obtain. Hmm?

  16. Mark,

    On the joking, I think we can agree it’s hard to always get the tone in text. Another problem is that it’s hard to tell when people with radically different worldviews are joking. In this case, presumably the governor of Texas either genuinely believes that praying for rain makes rain more likely or is pretending to genuinely believe that because enough voters genuinely believe it. So if after they pray it rains and they point to the rain as evidence for prayer’s efficacy, are they joking? I don’t think so. Similarly, when the AGW deniers point to a warm day in winter and imply that it contributes to the idea that AGW is false, they aren’t generally joking either. So that makes it kinda tough.

    Uhm. What the heck are you arguing for then?

    I’m arguing that viewing medicine or (as you point out) pretty much any economic relationship as SOLELY (that’s in caps, so you don’t misinterpret it as IN ANY WAY) economic than you can cause a lot of damage by removing morality and empathy from the equation.

    No. I’m saying many, if not most, jobs are like the healthcare. So arguments that economics does not apply to healthcare … would mean it doesn’t apply to much commercial transactions. Which in turn, doesn’t make very much sense now does it?

    I think we (you and I) are agreeing that most jobs are at least somewhat like healthcare in this respect. However, “economics does not apply to health care” is a pure straw man that has nothing at all to do with anything Krugman, Boonton, or I has ever said. So yes, it doesn’t make very much sense, but that’s because you constructed it to not make very much sense.

  17. JA,
    Krugman was trying to point that healthcare was unusual in the aspect that personal interactions have a prominent place. My point was that healthcare was usual not unusual in this regard and while we all use economic considerations in those other fields that means we should (and do) use economic considerations for healthcare. That is to say his point was basically meaningless.

    One the joking, do you or do you not think the church sign noted earlier was meant to be humorous or not?

  18. Krugman was trying to point that healthcare was unusual in the aspect that personal interactions have a prominent place.

    He was trying to point out that healthcare is unusual, yes, but not specifically “in the aspect that personal interactions have a prominent place.” That’s your invention, as far as I can tell.

    One the joking, do you or do you not think the church sign noted earlier was meant to be humorous or not?

    I think it was probably kidding on the square but I suppose it depends on the church. Certainly you’d agree that at least some (or perhaps most) churches teach that praying for rain literally gets it to rain more?

  19. JA,
    So then, in what way is it unusual? My claim is that it is not so different than most occupations.

    I think that the church sign author (and his congregation) both believe in prayer and its effectiveness and that this was a joke. Can you not see that is the case?

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