The U.S. Healthcare Money Pit

Comparing U.S. healthcare spending per capita with that of other rich countries in terms of life expectancy. It’s wildly anomalous, and not in a pretty way.

via America’s inefficient health-care system: another look « Consider the Evidence.

Some related musings here from Stuart Saniford on the increasing cost of survival.

Twitter Digest: 2011-07-15

  • Tomorrow to Plateau de Beille in Tour de France should be huge fun to watch, esp finishing climb. ->
  • Just finished inflight reading of book "Endgame; Bobby Fischer's Rise and Fall". Superb, smart and unflinching. ->
  • [Big Picture] 2011 Tour de France, Part 1 ->
  • Cambridge Journals has made all their academic publications available free for six weeks. PLoS effect? ->

Tim Harford on Error and the God Complex

My twitter friend @timharford talking at TED Global 2011 this week about error and the “god complex”. Worth a watch.

Me TV: Debating Not-Com Bubble Thing

My friend Vivek and I (and Emily and Cory) sharing a few moments on Bloomberg TV yesterday discussing, ahem, the not-com bubble/expansion/convulsion/thing. Good fun.

Wien’s Smartest Man on the Dollar

From Byron Wien’s “smartest man”:

The United States is destroying its currency.  You cannot keep borrowing from abroad at the rate you are doing it and expect the dollar to maintain its value.  America has been living beyond its means for a long time.  Most people think that means that consumers have been spending too much and borrowing to do it, but that’s not what bothers me.  The government has been spending seriously beyond its means.  It has 150 military bases around the world and is involved in three wars.  How does that make sense when you are running a deficit of $1.5 trillion?

Lots more here.

Today in OMG-We’re-So-Screwed

Vaclav Smil downplaying climate change relative to economic stress in terms of near-term global problems. In case you though that might make you feel better, trust me, it won’t.

…I see [global warming] as very secondary compared to the already unfolding Great Unraveling, with all rich economies in chronic downfalls that will last and last (real U.S. unemployment already 20%, debt at $14 trillion is trivial compared to $114 trillion of uncovered obligations, all E.U. save for Germany is collapsing etc., etc.). The only sensible way out of it is to tax and tax and that will kill the economies even more in the medium-run, and combine it with aging and China and terrorism (by my estimate bin Ladin has, so far, cost the U.S. at least $6 trillion and counting) — and soon there will be no monies for anything beyond basic survival.

I agree, mostly, but what’s worth emphasizing here is that those domestic obligations, unlike some of the other problems we bipedal apes face, like our tendency to foul our own nest, or like interlocking sovereign debts, can be eliminated with a policy change. Alter entitlement rules, say, and those unfunded liabilities change radically. Granted, easier said than done, but these are arguably different classes of problems.

via On Debt, Death, Taxes and Temperatures –

A Treasuries Puzzle: 200% of Issuance?

Riddle me this, Treasury market geeks:

Indeed, foreign purchases of Treasuries have fallen in recent quarters from their boom-like levels of recent years. Russell Napier, a global macro strategist with CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, notes that in some years this influx of foreign cash exceeded the size of total Treasury issuance. Until 2010, foreign central banks were buyers of at least 40 per cent of what the Treasury cranked out.

However, foreign central banks bought just 16 per cent of Treasury issuance in the first quarter of 2011. As part of its quantitative easing, the Federal Reserve bought the equivalent of almost 200 per cent.

How does that work? What I am I misunderstanding? Are they adding purchases of other than newly issued Treasuries? I may just be tired and thick(er) tonight.

via As disaster looms, investors keep buying Treasuries – The Globe and Mail.

Travel T-Shirts Puzzle

Why do people so frequently wear t-shirts with names of other places when they’re traveling? In my unscientific study of travel t-shirts, people don’t wear such shirts as often when they’re not traveling as when they are. What’s more, they generally wear t-shirts from other places than the one where they’re currently touristing.

Three theories:

  1. They wear t-shirts when traveling, and they buy travel t-shirts when traveling, so it’s not surprising they mostly wear travel-shirts when traveling.
  2. Their travel t-shirts are like plumage, showing off the other, better places they have been.
  3. They wear t-shirts from other places as a way of maintaining ironic distance from the current location.

Other ideas? Tomorrow, A Unified Theory of the Incidence of Aeropostale T-shirts at Major Theme Parks.

[Update] From a comment to this post, someone else who has been studying this important problem:

I conducted a sub-study of this in which I spent a year seeing if I could locate some form of Ohio State athletic gear at every airport I attended, each time I attended it. The answer: Yes, except for Omaha, NE. I flew 160,000+ miles last year. Even customs in SYD and the gate at MEL satisfied my criteria. Truly disturbing.

Intervention Bias


Eye in the Sky: Intervention Bias, from Nassim Taleb.

Me on Job Creation

Me opining on job creation over at The Atlantic:

It is easy to get cynical about job creation. There are, after all, many incoherent policy suggestions about dealing with the worst job market in the U.S. since the Depression. However, they range along a continuum between “do anything” and “do nothing”, with brief forays into self-serving tax policy. It is wearying and nihilism-inducing.

via Use These 4 Cheap, No-Nonsense Ideas – Paul Kedrosky – Business – The Atlantic.