Monday, December 13, 2010

ObamaCare: Flight of the Doctors (NY Post)

Doctors hate obamaCare--Marc K. Siegel -

This is the beginning of the unintended consequences of socialized medicine in the US. Distort the incentives of a market and this is what you get. When the legislation comes into full force, my prediction is that rationed care and extraordinarily long wait-lists won't be too far behind.


"The Physicians Foundation asked 2,400 doctors and American Medical Association members what they thought of the new law; a full 67 percent were against it.
More important, it asked how they'd cope with the new rules (which don't fully kick in until 2014). Sixty percent said they feel compelled to "close or significantly restrict their practices to certain categories of patients." And 59 percent said the "reform" would oblige them to spend less time with the patients they do have."

Update: April 5, 2013

Fed Up With Obamacare, Doctors Increasingly Prefer Cash For Care (Forbes)

"Others are considering a departure from the current system of third-party payment. Instead, they’re exploring direct payment, with patients paying for care on their own.

Nearly two-thirds of doctors say that they or their colleagues will retire earlier than planned over the next few years, according to a survey conducted by consulting firm Deloitte.
Patients should welcome this development. Not only does the move toward direct payment have the potential to reduce health costs — it could also yield higher-quality care.
Even before Obamacare, direct-pay practices were growing in popularity. According to the Center for Studying Health System Change, direct-payment practices increased from 9.2 percent of the market in 2001 to 12.4 percent by 2008.
Nearly 7 percent of doctors say they are planning to change to some form of direct-pay care in the next three years, according to a survey of 13,000 doctors done for the Physicians Foundation."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Happiness State and Nunavut's Inuit

The Happiness State coming to Canada?

On the website of the newly created Ludwig Von Mises Institute of Canada (awesome!), George Bragues posted the above blog regarding the possibility of individual happiness becoming a goal of government policy. Brague summarized his main concerns as follows:

"[Because] the wealthy supposedly do not get much additional happiness from all their money, while the less well-to-do can, let’s [through government intervention] redistribute incomes. That will augment the over-all level of happiness. And since, we’ll all be more equal as a result, people won’t be so dissatisfied by how they stand relative to others. Not only that, if people can be encouraged to become less avaricious, they can get off the so-called “hedonic treadmill” and focus instead on their families, friends, and communities."

I posted this response (with some revisions for my blog):

Talking about redistribution of wealth policies, what we need is an empirical analysis of the 'money for nothing' policy of Canada's Inuit people. Several of the communities in Nunavut have had been in a sustained state of welfare (i.e., over 50% on Social Assistance) since at least the 80s, if not longer. When I worked with Gov't of the NWT in the 90s, some communities had welfare rates of 80%.

Interested to see what the current statistics were, the Internet was very obliging. For 2010/11, the estimated transfer payment from the Federal gov't to Nunavut is 1.2 billion, which is $35,000 per person. (The NWT is not much better at $23,000 per person.) From 2001-2004, about 8,000 people per year have received Social Assistance (i.e., welfare payments) in Nunavut. That's about 25% of the population of Nunavut (In 2006, the population of Nunavut was 29,474,with 24,640 people identifying themselves as Inuit.)

Do we see an increase in happiness of the Inuit of Nunavut? Inuit suicide rates are more than 11 times higher than the Canadian rate, according to Health Canada. And 83% of these are people under 30 years of age.

This statistic is probably the tip of the ice berg of the state of well-being of Nunavut people. If anyone at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada wants to do research on how chronic welfare destroys a person's (and culture's!) psychological well-being, Nunavut would be a place to study. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Socialized Medicine is the Problem

Socialized Medicine is the Problem | Psychology Today

by Walter E. Block


"Why are there long waiting lines that do not dissipate quickly? In economic parlance, this comes about because demand is greatly in excess of supply. There is no other reason; that is it: supply's falling short of demand is a necessary and sufficient cause of long and enduring queues.

But to answer in this manner is only to put off the inevitable question: why does demand continue to exceed supply in some markets but not in others? Again, the answer comes straight out of Economics 101: a permanent shortage arises and endures if and only if prices are pegged at below-equilibrium levels and kept there through force of law.

Some people think there is something special about medical care. There is not. Yes, if we do not avail ourselves of it, we will be in dire straits. But no less can be said for food, clothing, shelter, energy, transportation - you name it. And economic law, just as in the case of chemistry or physics, is no respecter of how important an industry is to human well-being; it works just the same in medical services as for paper clips or rubber bands. Impose artificially lower prices in a market - let alone virtually zero prices as in medicine - and you guarantee a shortage."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Where the Bourgeois Virtues Are Found

Excerpt from Steven Horowitz's blog on The Freeman:

"Economic historian Deirdre McCloskey has just published the second volume [Bourgeois Dignityof her multi-volume look at the history of capitalism and its relationship to the “bourgeois virtues.”  What she means by the latter are the basic virtues of the middle class, from prudence to love to justice.  What makes this approach interesting is that critics of capitalism have long suggested that there were very few virtues associated with the bourgeoisie, mostly because capitalism itself requires and encourages what they saw as the unvirtuous behavior related to greed and self-interest.

In the first volume McCloskey convincingly argues that market relationships civilize us and lead us to treat one another, especially strangers, with openness and kindness, which was previously unknown in history.  In the words of economic anthropologist Paul Seabright, markets turn strangers into “honorary kin.”

Markets do this because they encourage us to treat others as equals in that we approach them, especially strangers, most often as traders.  They have rights to their property, we have rights to ours, and those rights limit the ways we can interact. But they leave exchange available as a way to get the things we want.  The mutuality and reciprocity of exchange both require and encourage us to treat one another humanely, with justice, and as equals.  In other words, markets lead us to treat strangers as fully human."
Link to full blog:
Where the Bourgeois Virtues Are Found | The Freeman | Ideas On Liberty:"Economic historian Deirdre McCloskey"

I've just begun reading The Bourgeois Virtues on Amazon's Kindle, which I've had since Christmas 2009, but have only recently begun purchasing volumes and using it. I particularly like the automatic "bookmark" function. Anyway, promoting Kindle aside, McCloskey's writing style is loose and conversational, which is radically different from other economics, philosophy, and history books I've read.  Reviews of The Bourgeous Virtues have been mixed. Most giving it high ratings, but don't find her evidence all that compelling and complain that her writing is a bit scattered. Reviewers are hopeful that she will answer their questions in her next 3 volumes in the series, with the 2nd volume, Bourgeous Dignity, soon to be available. Reading the reviews has convinced me to also get Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments. McCloskey views her 4 volumes as a modern day version of Smith's work.

I remember Objectivist-friendly philosopher George H. Smith (most known for Atheism: The Case Against God ) recommending The Theory of Moral Sentiments many years ago. Those not familiar with Objectivism, the philosophy attempts to provide a internally consistent framework between the ethics of self-interest, the practice of certain virtues (rationality, pride/self-esteem, benevolence, integrity, justice, purpose/productivity), and the political system of libertarianism (i.e., private property, rule of law, & free markets). Given my affinity for Objectivism, I am hopeful McCloskey's works provide further elaboration for the links between virtue and capitalism, especially in the area of historical evidence. When I'm done, I'll share my thoughts as to whether McCloskey's work accomplishes that.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rand Paul's Victory Speech

An outstanding political speech that clearly lays out a libertarian philosophy that he will bring to the US senate. The MSNBC panelists sound a bit afraid! One is afraid that Rand Paul alone will cause a world-wide depression. One of my favorite quotes, "He's not beholden to anybody....this guy is the lead dog in the Tea Party....He came out and almost dictated this how it's going to be!"

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Drug Decriminalization in Portugal (Updated Dec. 29/10)

Glenn Greenwald is a civil rights attorney, a blogger for Salon, and the author of a new Cato Institute policy study called “Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Policies.” The paper examines Portugal’s experiment with decriminalizing possession of drugs for personal use, which began in 2001. Nick Gillespie, editor of and, sat down with Greenwald in April [2009].

Greenwald's policy study can be downloaded at the Cato Institute website:

Drug Decriminalization in Portugal:
Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies

Update (Dec 29, 2010)

The Washington Post is carrying a series of Associated Press stories on the USA's war on drugs. This one examines Portugal's success with decriminalizing drugs.

The Associated Press
Monday, December 27, 2010; 12:01 AM

LISBON, Portugal -- These days, Casal Ventoso is an ordinary blue-collar community - mothers push baby strollers, men smoke outside cafes, buses chug up and down the cobbled main street.

Ten years ago, the Lisbon neighborhood was a hellhole, a "drug supermarket" where some 5,000 users lined up every day to buy heroin and sneaked into a hillside honeycomb of derelict housing to shoot up. In dark, stinking corners, addicts - some with maggots squirming under track marks - staggered between the occasional corpse, scavenging used, bloody needles.

At that time, Portugal, like the junkies of Casal Ventoso, had hit rock bottom: An estimated 100,000 people - an astonishing 1 percent of the population - were addicted to illegal drugs. So, like anyone with little to lose, the Portuguese took a risky leap: They decriminalized the use of all drugs in a groundbreaking law in 2000.

Now, the United States, which has waged a 40-year, $1 trillion war on drugs, is looking for answers in tiny Portugal, which is reaping the benefits of what once looked like a dangerous gamble. White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske visited Portugal in September to learn about its drug reforms, and other countries - including Norway, Denmark, Australia and Peru - have taken interest, too"

(Link to the full article) Portugal's drug policy pays off; US eyes lessons

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Being true to yourself: Research on authenticity and virtue

Below is an interesting set of studies that attempts to empirically demonstrate what "being true to yourself" means. Although the researcher, Fleeson, doesn't state this explicitly, the results suggest to me that acting in accordance with one's virtues leads to feeling your behaviour is "true to yourself." In Fleeson's studies, the virtues the participants adhere to are assertiveness, conscientiousness, and civility. -- WFF
Being true to yourself: Psychologist publishes new research on being authentic
October 13, 2010
By Cheryl Walker

( -- Staying true to yourself and not changing your personality to fit different situations is highly valued in Western culture. Shakespeare’s famous line "to thine own self be true," has been echoed across the centuries by parents, pop singers and motivational speakers.

But, in a new study published in the Journal of Personality, Wake Forest University psychologist William Fleeson found “being true to yourself” often means acting counter to your own personality traits.
Fleeson discovered that introverts feel more true to themselves or “authentic” when they are acting extroverted. For example, if a shy person attends a party and acts like a social butterfly, he is likely to report that he feels like he is showing his true self at that time in that situation.

Acting out of character in this way, some would say, suggests people are faking it. Fleeson says the study, co-authored by former Wake Forest graduate student Joshua Wilt, shows that is not the case.
“Authenticity is consistently associated with acting highly extraverted, even for those who characterize themselves as introverts,” he says. “Despite the cultural assumption that consistency with one’s traits would predict authenticity, it did not.”

He also found that people who think of themselves as disagreeable and rude feel more true to themselves when they are agreeable, considerate, polite and kind. And, people who consider themselves careless feel more true to themselves when they are conscientious.

In addition, his research showed that authenticity or feeling like you are being the real you, is consistently associated with acting emotionally stable and intellectual, regardless of the actor’s traits.
“Being flexible with who you are is okay,” Fleeson says. “It is not denying or disrespecting who you are. People are often too rigid about how they are and stick with the comfortable and familiar. Adapting to a situation can make you more true to yourself in some circumstances.”

This research can help people see they have so many options and choices for how they behave, he says.
Because authenticity predicts a variety of positive psychological outcomes, Fleeson says one implication of these findings is that “it might be possible for individuals to improve their mental health by acting against their personality traits.”

The multi-part study involved several groups of college-aged students. One hundred-forty three participated in multiple 50-minute sessions in a laboratory setting where they engaged in different activities, such as playing Twister and discussing medical ethics. Researchers recorded observations. The participants evaluated their own behavior and made judgments about whether their current actions expressed their true selves. The researchers then tested their findings with a sample of adults ranging in age from 18 to 51. The participants also filled out questionnaires assessing personality traits.

Link: Being True to Yourself

Monday, September 6, 2010

An Objectivist Individualist: September 2 is Atlas Shrugged Day!

An Objectivist Individualist: September 2 is Atlas Shrugged Day!

[From Charles Anderson's blog:]
  • In the opening scene of the novel, a bum asking Eddie Willers for a handout, asks "Who is John Galt?" This and the way it was asked bother Eddie. As he walks through NYC he is also bothered by the gigantic calendar hanging from a public tower and announcing the date as September 2.
  • On that date, Hank Readen and Dagny Taggart decide to take a vacation together. On that vacation they discover an abandoned motor that should have revolutionized the use of energy in the world.
  • Francisco D'Anconia makes his speech on money on September 2. He proclaims money to be the tool of free trade and the result of noble effort, not the root of evil. Those who call money evil choose to replace its use with the force of the gun.
  • D'Anconia Copper is nationalized on 2 September, but the date on the calendar is replaced by "Brother, you asked for it!"

Monday, August 16, 2010

Intransition - Then & Now (Updated Aug. 31, 2011)

Link to Intransition's website, where you can find lyrics and stuff about the band. The entire album can be downloaded here Intransition for only $2.50 CDN. Individual songs are also available at  iTunes. The music ranges from folk-pop (Tidal Wave), to country-pop (Hideaway, Don't Believe We've Met), to pop-rock (Betting to Hold, Mind in Motion), to rock (How's it Going to be) to blues-rock (Liar). Fan favourites tend to be Tidal Wave, How's it Going to be, & Hideaway.

Where is the band now? Our singer, Jennifer Bryan-Ahmed is an emergency room resident doctor in Toronto. Our creative lead guitarist, Scott Crockford, is in Toronto; never quite knew what he did, except that it was computer-related. Our jazzy bassist, Graham Hearn, has finally returned to Canada after years of travel & work in the middle East. He is studying aviation technology. I'm nearly done my doctoral program in clinical psychology. On August 30, 2010, I completed my one-year residency with Alberta Health Services in Edmonton. I learned a lot. At this point, I'm ABD: all-but-defended. In fact, I should be working on my dissertation instead of blogging. ;-)

In terms of new songs, there's a few older ones I've been re-arranging with different chord structures & slight melodic adjustments. These are basically ready to record. I just need singers and musicians! Musicians can now record using their own computer, which I've experimented with in the past. This works fine for sample songs, but it still requires a lot of time. When I have "good enough" recordings of these re-vamped songs, I'll post them.