Friday, September 30, 2011

From Hope to Despair

Prepping for a lecture on economics and ethics, I stumbled upon this article by Drs. William Harmon and Francis Delmonico about organ transplants in Iran. Iran has a unique approach to organ donation: donors are paid, partly in cash and partly in the form of life-long health insurance. Unsurprisingly, 80% of donors are poor.
The Iranian model also makes evident what has long been anticipated would occur in a regulated market. There is a fundamental unethical construct that cannot be overlooked despite the attributes that we have cited regarding the Iranian system. It is the poor person who bears the burden of being the kidney source for transplantation. That exploitation becomes real in Iran (>80%) as it does in any other regulated market. The poor person is coerced to make this donation decision, as there are no other means available to obtain money for what becomes temporary personal or family support. This coercion violates the dignity of the human person who is used by those who are highly advantaged to undergo transplantation within the same society.
It takes an impressive amount of intellectual gymanstics to turn someone's best option into a source of their despair precisely because it is their best option.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Indifference Principle

I hope my managerial economics students can answer the following:
14. Briefly describe the Indifference Principle, when the Principle doesn’t apply, and why it doesn’t apply under those circumstances. (In answering this last part, it might be helpful to explain why the Indifference Principle applies under normal circumstances.)

Favorite Jokes About Qwickster

Netflix's making a separate company to handle sending off DVDs called Qwickster. Twitter's all a flutter about the name:

hunterwalk Hunter Walk
If you work for Qwikster, does that make you a Qwikee?

Gartenberg Michael Gartenberg
Ugh. Who thinks up these names? Qwikster? Sounds like streaming chocolate milk.

I'll get behind Qwikster if they choose Apu from the 'Simpsons' as their spokesman. It's the logical choice, on many levels.

misterpatches Matt Patches
Elmo smoking a spliff is a fine logo for your new service

liliales Mer
Netflix is about as perfect a name as could have been created. But Qwikster sounds like a weight-loss powder sold by The Onion.

And my personal favorite:

developer Aaron Draczynski
Qwikster sounds like the name of a 24-hour convenience store. Or, a service performed in the alley next to a 24-hour convenience store.

Which State Has the Least Educated State Legislature?

New Hampshire, with 46.6% not having a Bachelor's degree and 20.5% having no college experience at all. However it's part-time legislature made many of the degrees difficult to determine.

Maine is the runner up for Bachelor's: 42% have no Bachelor's degree.
New Mexico's the runner up for no college: 16.2% have no college experience.

Interesting, Delware's one of the lower ones for less than a Bachelors (40.3%) but one of the higher ones for percent having a doctorate (8.1%).

More information here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Recording Is Worse Than The Disease

Whenever a doctor hospital bills your insurance, they describe services rendered as one of 18,000 codes.

Starting on October 1, 2013 a federal mandate will explode that number to 140,000.

You'd everyone just grew several additional organs with an increase like that, but no. All the new codes come from a new level of detail. An astonishing level of detail. No, a ludicrous level. Here are some examples:

Code Y9272: Patient's injuries occurred near a chicken coop
Code Y92250: Or near an art gallery
Codes V00322A, V00322D, and V00322S: Snow-skier colliding with stationary object, initial encounter, subsequent encounter, and sequela (respectively)
Code Y93C1: Injury occurred while using a keyboard
Code E344: Ailment occurred due to being tall
Code E344: Bizarre personal appearance is covered by this code

It also covers that all-important difference from being "struck" and "pecked" by a chicken and seven ways to classify "mental retardation" (including "profound!").

Figuring out why we have new regulations means adhering to the time-old adage "follow the money." But here, it's not clear who benefits. Perhaps, fearing austerity measures, regulators can now point to all the additional stuff they have to keep track of?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Is Free Food Price Discrimination?

While preparing for my lecture on price discrimination, I stumbled upon this Yahoo! question: "Are free desserts for your birthday an example of price discrimination?" The answer appears to be "no." I disagree.

Price discrimination is when sellers charge different prices of the same good to different customers. This is often a way to take advantage of different sensitivities in price. For example, students have more free time than the average person so, with more time to shop around, companies offer them student discounts to entice them to patron their store.

In the case of the birthday dessert, if it's your birthday you generally get to decide where you and your friends will eat. You will probably also want a dessert. Even if you're not paying, you probably have some empathy for your friends's bank accounts. If you can get a good deal, you'll prefer it. And since it's your birthday, you have time to plan which means you are going to be more sensitive to prices (just like a student, who also has time to plan). Thus restaurants give out free desserts, lowering the price of the meal for people who are particularly sensitive to price.

If you need further convincing, note that there is a type restaurant where free desserts is not the case: fast food. These are also places where you are unlikely to insist on going for your birthday meal.

Monday, September 05, 2011

More People Means More Chickens

Apparently Bill Clinton switched to a vegan diet last year.
Apparently, in December of 2010, PETA applauded this decision, saying Clinton will save 200 animals a year.
Apparently PolitiFact recently checked this number and called it "Half True."
Apparently most PolitiFact readers were upset because the fact checker didn't consider sea creatures to be animals.

But, thankfully, at least one reader got it exactly right:
You completely missed the mark on this one. While you are correct about the shellfish, no farm-raised animals would be spared. At best they would never be born. Comercial farms do not spare any of the animals they have raised because somebody is a vegan. They only produce what will be consumeed as the marekt demands. It’s not as if a bunch of chickens and cows were freed because Bill Clinton stopped eating meat. Therefore, your explanation, and PETA's, is not well founded.