Posted on November 29, 2010 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Posted on November 24, 2010 Posted to Cato@Liberty
• Fewer Americans died in traffic fatalities in 2008 than in any year since 1961, and fewer were injured than in any year since 1988, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began collecting injury data. One possible reason: Seat-belt use hit a record high of 84% nationally. • Life expectancy in the U.S. reached an all-time high of 77.9 years in 2007, the latest year for which statistics are available, continuing a long upward trend. (That’s 75.3 years for men and 80.4 years for women.) • Death rates dropped significantly for eight of the 15 leading causes of death in the U.S., including cancer, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, accidents, diabetes, homicides and pneumonia, from 2006 to 2007. (Of the top 15, only deaths from chronic lower respiratory disease increased significantly.) The overall age-adjusted death rate dropped to a new low of 760.3 deaths per 100,000 people—half of what it was 60 years ago…. • Around the world, 27% fewer children died before their fifth birthday in 2007 than in 1990, due to greater use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, better rehydration for diarrhea, and better access to clean water, sanitation and vaccines.… • Twenty-seven countries reported a reduction of up to 50% in the number of malaria cases between 1990 and 2006.Read it all. (I should note that Beck attributes more of this good news to government action than I would, and she counts the mere existence of smoking bans as a “health care advance,” despite the lack of evidence that they actually have any health effects. But that’s an argument we can save for next week. Today and tomorrow let’s just celebrate the good news.) I wrote a couple of years ago about the good news of falling cancer death rates and falling heart disease death rates. Cancer death rates have continued to fall, as have motor vehicle deaths. In his book The Improving State of the World, Indur Goklany examined, as the subtitle put it, Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet.
Posted on November 24, 2010 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Posted on November 23, 2010 Posted to Cato@Liberty
I am awed again by the power of language. The Washingt0n Post today claims that government protection of the identity of lawful purchasers of legal weapons is "secrecy" to be "penetrated" for the sake of the paper's reporting. It is not "privacy" that is "violated," as with release of airport scans of travelers, gathering names of minors seeking abortions, and warrantless searches of homes. And how about those secret journalistic sources?(Language cleaned up slightly, as the original was typed Blackberry-style.) He's right. The word "privacy" doesn't appear in the article. Maybe a cynics' dictionary would read, "Privacy is the ability to keep facts about myself hidden from you. Secrecy is your keeping facts about yourself hidden from me."
Posted on November 23, 2010 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Every year, whether the Republican or the Democratic Party is in office, more and more power drains away from the individual to feed vast reservoirs in far-off places; and we have less and less say about the shape of events which shape our future. From this alienation of personal power comes the sense of resignation with which we accept the political dispensations of a powerful government whose hold upon us continues to increase.And here's the part that sent me looking for the anti-depressants: Buckley wrote this jeremiad in 1961.
Posted on November 22, 2010 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Politico reported just before Election Day that unnamed “party elders” were nearly united in wanting to stop her, out of fear that she’d win the nomination and then be crushed by Obama. Their complaints are seconded daily by Bush White House alumni like Karl Rove, Michael Gerson, and Mark McKinnon, who said recently that Palin’s “stock is falling and pretty rapidly now” and that “if she’s smart, she does not run.”Peggy Noonan spoke for a lot of Reaganites when she responded to Palin's suggestion that being a Fox-TLC celebrity was a reasonable platform for seeking the presidency, since after all "Ronald Reagan was an actor":
Excuse me, but this was ignorant even for Mrs. Palin. Reagan people quietly flipped their lids, but I'll voice their consternation to make a larger point. Ronald Reagan was an artist who willed himself into leadership as president of a major American labor union (Screen Actors Guild, seven terms, 1947-59.) He led that union successfully through major upheavals (the Hollywood communist wars, labor-management struggles); discovered and honed his ability to speak persuasively by talking to workers on the line at General Electric for eight years; was elected to and completed two full terms as governor of California; challenged and almost unseated an incumbent president of his own party; and went on to popularize modern conservative political philosophy without the help of a conservative infrastructure. Then he was elected president. The point is not "He was a great man and you are a nincompoop," though that is true. The point is that Reagan's career is a guide, not only for the tea party but for all in politics. He brought his fully mature, fully seasoned self into politics with him.I made a similar point back in February when David Broder was pushing Palin's prospects. And two months before that I noted that the Washington Post had run two op-eds "by" Sarah Palin in the space of five months, so that one "might almost think the Post wanted Palin to be seen as a leader of Republicans." In the coming months, watch for it: Democrats, liberal journalists, and red-state bloggers will talk up Palin's chances. Republicans and conservatives who want to defeat President Obama in 2012 will try to change the subject.
Posted on November 21, 2010 Posted to Cato@Liberty
"Too many lives are lost in motorcycle accidents," Christopher A. Hart, NTSB vice chairman, said in announcing that helmets had been added to the board's annual "most-wanted list" of safety improvements. "It's a public health issue."No, it's not. Motorcycle deaths are not a public health problem. If motorcyclist A doesn't wear a helmet, that has no impact on cyclist B. Riding a motorcycle without a helmet may be a bad idea, but it is an individual and non-contagious problem. The meaning of "public health" has sprawled out lazily over the decades. Once, it referred to the project of securing health benefits that were public: clean water, improved sanitation, and the control of epidemics through treatment, quarantine, and immunization. Public health officials worked to drain swamps that might breed mosquitoes and thus spread malaria. They strove to ensure that water supplies were not contaminated with cholera, typhoid, or other diseases. The U.S. Public Health Service began as the Marine Hospital Service, and one of its primary functions was ensuring that sailors didn't expose domestic populations to new and virulent illnesses from overseas. Those were legitimate public health issues because they involved consumption of a collective good (air or water) and/or the communication of disease to parties who had not consented to put themselves at risk. It is difficult for individuals to protect themselves against illnesses found in air, water, or food. A breeding ground for disease-carrying insects poses a risk to entire communities. The concern back in 2007 over a tuberculosis patient on an airplane raised public-health issues. You might unknowingly find yourself in an enclosed space with a TB carrier. But nobody accidentally rides a motorcycle without a helmet. And your helmetless ride doesn't threaten me. That's why riding a motorcycle without a helmet is not a public health issue, even though it may be a bad choice for an individual. As I wrote before,
Language matters. Calling something a "public health problem" suggests that it is different from a personal health problem in ways that demand collective action. And while it doesn't strictly follow, either in principle or historically, that "collective action" must be state action, that distinction is easily elided in the face of a "public health crisis." If smoking and obesity are called public health problems, then it seems that we need a public health bureaucracy to solve them — and the Public Health Service and all its sister agencies don't get to close up shop with the satisfaction of a job well done. So let's start using honest language: Smoking and obesity are health problems. In fact, they are widespread health problems. But they are not public health problems.UPDATE: An astute reader asks: But what about the costs to the taxpayer if an uninsured, helmetless motorcyclist is injured? That's still not a public health problem, and it's not the claim NTSB is making. It might be a public finance problem, but libertarians have generally argued that a free market in health insurance is a better response to that problem than a smothering nanny state that bans all dangerous behavior on the grounds of socialized medical costs.
Posted on November 18, 2010 Posted to Cato@Liberty
It features no big-name stars, drew mediocre reviews and traffics in the esoterica of Chinese ballet. And yet "Mao's Last Dancer," the true story of a ballet performer who defected to the United States in 1981, has become one of the season's biggest art-house hits. Bruce Beresford's Australian-produced film tells of Li Cunxin, an 11-year-old Chinese boy plucked from his rural village in 1972 under the reign of Mao Zedong to dance for the Beijing Ballet. While in residence at the Houston Ballet a decade later, he defected to the United States after a politically charged standoff that involved the FBI and diplomats from China and the U.S.It's been in theaters for three months, and I finally saw it this weekend. You can't usually wait that long to see an indie film, but this one's been hanging on under the radar. It's a great story about Chinese communism, politically controlled art, and one individual who chooses freedom. In a climactic scene, the Chinese consul tells Li "the Party knows what's best for you" and Li responds, "I know what's best for me." (The language is a little different in Li's autobiography.) The New York Times dismisses the movie as "nothing more than an old-fashioned tear-jerker," complaining that it is
stuck in an earlier era of heavy-handed clichés about Chinese innocence and American experience. The juxtaposition of wide-eyed villagers and labored aphorisms with shopping malls and casual sex may accurately reflect Mr. Li’s book, but on screen it feels absurdly outdated.Um, yes. The movie is set between 1972 and 1981. That was Mao's China, even the China of the Cultural Revolution and the Gang of Four, and then the very earliest days of the liberalization under Deng Xiao-ping. Today it looks dated, as do most movies set 30 or more years in the past. Anyone who has visited China recently might not realize just how stunning the Houston skyline would have looked to Li in 1981. But I saw the Shanghai skyline seven years later, in 1981, and I know that Houston would have seemed a different world to Li at that time. No doubt the Times reviewer also disliked the scenes in Chinese schools where students are told that China has the highest standard of living in the world, while the "capitalist and imperialist nations" live in unimaginable horror. And maybe the scene of Madame Mao visiting the Beijing ballet academy and demanding that the students perform only revolutionary ballet. But that was the reality of Maoist China. I've written before about the remarkable dearth of anti-communist movies in Hollywood, especially when you consider that communism lasted far longer and killed far more people than national socialism, about which there have been many movies. Of course, this movie wasn't produced in Hollywood; it was produced in Australia by the Australian director Bruce Beresford ("Breaker Morant," "Tender Mercies," "Driving Miss Daisy"). And "Mao's Last Dancer" is as much a story of individualism and breaking out of a world that would hold you down (not unlike "Billy Elliott" or "October Sky") as it is a political movie. The fact that Li was allowed to visit the Houston Ballet temporarily in 1981 was a sign of the changes that were happening in China, and the country has made much more progress since then. But China is still not comfortable with this story, and the producers were forced to shoot some scenes in secret after being denied permission to film in China. With Christmas movies coming, "Mao's Last Dancer" won't be in theaters much longer. See it now.
Posted on November 15, 2010 Posted to Cato@Liberty
I want to make sure that taxes don't go up for middle class families starting on January 1st.That's the right way to understand it. Taxes are about to go up. Of course, the problem is that President Obama does want taxes to go up for business owners, corporate executives, and investors on January 1, the very people whose decisions have the most immediate impact on economic growth and job creation. And that's the issue we should be debating: Is it a good idea, especially in a time of continuing high unemployment and slow growth, to raise taxes on investors and entrepreneurs?
Posted on November 13, 2010 Posted to Cato@Liberty