Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A thought

A lot of conservatives did not like Romney because he was too much of a compromiser.  Now some do not like Trump because he doesn't compromise enough!


Are conservatives healthier?

I am indebted to Deniz Selcuk, my indefatigable Turkish correspondent, for drawing my attention to the 2007 article below.  The article argues that emotions of disgust have evolved to drive us towards being more hygienic and hence healthier.

As is, I think, well-known by now, Jonathan Haidt has found that conservatives are much more easily disgusted than Leftists.  Since even mass-murder does not seem to disgust Leftists, that stands to reason.  So are conservatives healthier and therefore more long-lived?  It is the obvious inference to be drawn from combining Haidt's work and the paper below.

I consulted Professor Google on the matter and the most useful article seemed to be This one.  It basically pointed out that most indicators did seem to confirm better health among conservatives but also pointed to a much-quoted study by Pabayo which found liberals to be more long-lived.

The Pabayo study, however, seems to have been withdrawn so there were obviously problems with it.  None of the studies, however suggest a big difference in lifespans according to your politics.  There are of course many factors influencing lifespan so that is not inherently surprising.  But, in any event, conservative are probably more hygienic.

A natural history of hygiene

Valerie A Curtis, PhD


In unpacking the Pandora's box of hygiene, the author looks into its ancient evolutionary history and its more recent human history. Within the box, she finds animal behaviour, dirt, disgust and many diseases, as well as illumination concerning how hygiene can be improved. It is suggested that hygiene is the set of behaviours that animals, including humans, use to avoid harmful agents. The author argues that hygiene has an ancient evolutionary history, and that most animals exhibit such behaviours because they are adaptive. In humans, responses to most infectious threats are accompanied by sensations of disgust. In historical times, religions, social codes and the sciences have all provided rationales for hygiene behaviour. However, the author argues that disgust and hygiene behaviour came first, and that the rationales came later. The implications for the modern-day practice of hygiene are profound. The natural history of hygiene needs to be better understood if we are to promote safe hygiene and, hence, win our evolutionary war against the agents of infectious disease.



What if the Left Doesn't Really Want to Achieve Its Policy Goals?

John C. Goodman

Here is something I bet you haven’t thought about. We naturally assume that that public policy advocates actually want to achieve the things they advocate. But there are a lot of people both on the right and the left — but especially on the left — for whom that probably isn’t true.

Suppose you could wave a magic wand and eliminate global warming forever. You might think that all the environmental organizations and all the environmental scientists would get out the champagne and cerebrate. More likely their offices would look like a wake.

Causes are vehicles to money and power. They generate millions of dollars in donations. They create high paying jobs. They motivate millions in research grants and millions in campaign contributions. If the cause goes away, money and power go away with it.

Without global warming, the donations would dry up. The jobs would go away. The research grants would vanish. The end of global warming would be an economic disaster for tens of thousands of people. Especially for someone like Al Gore — who has made a fortune on the issue.

Ditto for race relations. What would Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton do if there were no more racial discrimination? They couldn’t Mau Mau any more corporations. They couldn’t shake down any more rich white guys. They would have to …. well …. they would have to go find an honest job.

What brings this to mind is four recent items in the news.

First, labor unions in Los Angeles — the very unions that were in the forefront in pushing for California’s recently passed $15-an-hour minimum wage legislation — are petitioning to be exempted from the new law. After telling us for years how good high minimum wages are for everyone else, they are now claiming that the regulation is not good for their own members.

Second, as the New York Democratic primary election was well under way, the rhetoric became increasing shrill. Wall Street is responsible for inequality we were told by both Bernie and Hillary.

Yet as Dan Henninger reminds us in a Wall Street Journal editorial, it’s the rich Wall Street types who are putting up the money to fund charter schools and other alternatives to the public schools that are failing so miserably. No one who is poor is likely to climb the income ladder without a decent education. Yet New York City liberals, including the new liberal mayor, aren’t lifting a finger to help. In fact, New York’s liberals seem quite content to let the teachers unions run the schools as they wish and leave things pretty much as they are.

Third, an editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Holman Jenkins makes a damning case against environmental advocates in Congress, who have been unwilling “to propose policies costly enough that they would actually influence the rate of increase of atmospheric greenhouse gases.” Exhibit A was Al Gore’s about face right after the 2008 election. Jenkins writes:

    [T]he closest the U.S. Congress came to passing a serious (if still ineffectual) cap-and-trade program was during the George W. Bush administration in early 2007. Then, within days of Barack Obama’s election in 2008, Al Gore announced a revelation: the “climate crisis” no longer required such unpleasant, de facto energy taxes. The problem could be solved with painless handouts to green entrepreneurs.

Then there is the issue of gun control, which Hillary Clinton has been increasingly using to attack Bernie Sanders. If you think that anything about guns proposed by those on the left is a serious proposal (gun show loopholes? The right to sue gun manufacturers?) consider the following.

Although no one knows for sure, there are apparently 310 million guns in private hands in the United States — about one for every person in the country. Further, by one estimate, private gun ownership increased by about 100 million since Barack Obama became president.

Here is the irony. It appears that every time the president talks about the need for gun control, people go out and buy more guns. Of course, the kind of measures he and Hillary are talking about are trivial. But in the attempt to fire up the Democratic base and convince them they intend to do something serious about guns, the president’s rhetoric apparently succeeds in convincing the opposition instead.

The best thing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could do to stop the proliferation of guns is to shut up and quit talking about firearms.

What would a serious gun control measure look like? In 1996, the government of Australia imposed a virtual ban on automatic and semiautomatic assault rifles and instituted a temporary gun buyback program that took some 650,000 weapons out of public circulation. The effort seems to have had no effect on suicides or homicides, but at least one would have to agree that the effort was serious.

Is that the type of proposal we might see from those on the left in the near future? Don’t hold your breath.



Let the patient pay the piper, and the price of health care will fall

By Jeff Jacoby

SHE WENT TO the doctor, the one at the downtown hospital she’s been going to for years, for her annual physical in January. She showed her insurance card when she checked in and confirmed that the details hadn’t changed. The doctor gave her a clean bill of health, renewed her prescriptions, and updated her medical record. It was a routine visit, and she gave it little further thought.

Until a bill arrived this week.

She was puzzled. The amount due wasn’t exorbitant, but she shouldn’t have been billed at all: Under her family’s health insurance policy, a yearly physical is deemed preventive care and not subject to a copay. She examined the statement more closely and saw that it was treating her January check-up as two events. One was identified as “Preventive Care” and carried a charge of $465, which was covered by the insurance payment of $319.31 and the hospital “adjustment” of $145.69. A second item, vaguely labeled “Office Visit,” was listed as a $397 charge. Of that amount, the insurer paid $113.55, and the hospital adjustment knocked off a further $248.45. That left a $35 balance for her to pay.

She called the doctor’s medical practice. “You probably discussed something with your physician that was outside the scope of an ordinary physical,” the billing clerk surmised. “So when your visit was entered into the system, it was coded for an office consultation as well as a checkup.”

She thought that was ridiculous — what was the point of an annual exam, if not to speak freely with the doctor about anything? At all events, she had no recollection of discussing an “outside-the-scope” topic and said so to the clerk. So her account has been sent back for a “coding review.” She’ll have to wait 45 days for an answer.

Against the backdrop of $3 trillion in annual health care spending in the United States, one woman’s frustration with a medical bill may seem insignificant. But who doesn’t encounter such frustrations? On any given day, millions of Americans are tearing their hair to make sense of billing snafus and insurance deductibles, prescription co-pays and out-of-network surcharges, baffling reimbursement rules and aggravating Medicare procedures, coding mysteries and paperwork blizzards. They face a myriad of complexities and convolutions that have nothing to do with buying health care . . . but everything to do with expecting someone else to pay for it.

Americans are forever being told that health care costs are out of control and that only sweeping government intervention can bring them back to earth. Obamacare was supposed to make medical plans more affordable, but premiums are higher than ever . Bernie Sanders campaigns on a platform of “Medicare for all” — single-payer socialized health care — yet any such system would inevitably lower the quality of care while raising prices still higher.

Any health care “reform” that intensifies government regulation or enlarges the role of insurance companies only makes a bad system worse. Like the woman described above, for most Americans, even their most routine and predictable medical costs must be routed through the maddening labyrinth of insurance procedures.

But nothing could be more counterproductive.

When Americans rely on a third party — private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid — to pay most of their medical bills, they forfeit their power as consumers. Our ill-conceived system of subsidized health plans provided by employers and taxpayer-funded “free” treatment through the government ends up stripping patients of their economic clout. Doctors and hospitals have little incentive to compete by lowering prices, because patients rarely bother to ask about prices. By and large, health care providers in the United States do most of their negotiating with insurers or the government. After all, they’re the ones paying the piper.

It’s only when medical services aren’t reimbursed by a third party — think of Lasik eye surgery or veterinary care or the growing number of direct-pay “concierge” practices that don’t accept health insurance — that the consumer is king. When providers are paid directly by customers, transactions are transparent, prices fall, choices proliferate, and consumer convenience becomes a priority. Bills reflect actual prices, not inscrutable codes and deductibles and “adjustments” negotiated way over patients’ heads.

The purpose of insurance is to protect policyholders from unforeseen or catastrophic expenses. Nobody taps auto insurance to pay for tuneups or new tires; we use it when the car is rear-ended or stolen. We shouldn’t be using health insurance to pay for routine checkups, either. If it seems odd to say so, that’s only because we’ve convinced ourselves that normal medical expenses shouldn’t be treated normally. If we want health care to cost less, we should pay for it ourselves.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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