Category Archives: Politics vs. math

Lifeboat ethics #2 – Ventilators and PPE

Pittsburgh Triage

It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only near the beginning of March that I wrote a post about the literal application of lifeboat ethics that was being forced onto passengers on two cruise ships denied docking privileges to offload passengers still uninfected by the Coronavirus. At that point, only nineteen people had died of COVID-19 in the… Read more »

Kids, can you say Fecundity?

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Nautilus shell

Note: this post has been updated to bring the data up to March 19, 2020. A little family secret: my maternal grandparents were very fecund. This word is not used much in normal conversation these days, and indeed it sounds a bit nasty. However, it simply means that they “went forth and multiplied,” which indeed they did fifteen times, with… Read more »

Choose your favorite autocrat

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Political Compass

I spent the longest part of my career teaching and publishing books relating to the world’s financial systems. In recent years, however, I have come to accept that a lot of the “great economic debates” are more often closer to the millions of words written over “angels on the head of a pin” differences in theologies among the world’s religions…. Read more »

COVID-19 and real-life lifeboat ethics

Before there was the “Trolley Problem,” ethics classes would commonly haul out “Lifeboat Ethics” scenarios to stimulate class discussion. In my years of teaching ethics, I never used either because I dislike them both. They both ask the wrong questions, and they lead the Stephen Millers of the world to invoke horrendous “Lord of the Flies” government policies like caging… Read more »

The roll of the COVID-19 dice

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Bayes Theorem

“It doesn’t want to kill you before you transmit it.” – biologist Michael Farzan of Scripps Research That quote is not so scary as it sounds; it is basic probability math. The probability math of the COVID-19 Coronavirus variant has hit the news, and not in a good way. We have already seen the first reported cases in my county… Read more »

Am I my brother’s heathcare keeper?

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He Ain't Heavy

A drug treating seizures in small children formerly sold for $40 per vial. Mallinckrodt, the manufacturer, has raised the price to $39,000 per vial, causing one city in Georgia to expend over $2 million for just one employee’s child. [1] Yes, the manufacturer has “reasons” and the story is more complicated than the headline. Regardless of this complexity, does this… Read more »

Grease, friction, and Amway markups in healthcare

UnityPoint Hospital

With a few exceptions, U.S. consumers spend at least twice as much per capita on healthcare than they do in a dozen other countries with true universal coverage and equal, if not better, outcomes. Bad, right? Here is the sticky part: most of that extra cash that you and your employer fork out pays the salaries of hundreds of thousands… Read more »

John Roberts and the myth of balls and strikes

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Little League

The details of the role Chief Justice John Roberts must play in the upcoming Senate trial of President Trump is a matter of some debate, even among Constitutional scholars. One commentator has said that he is to be a “potted plant,” in other words that his role is completely ceremonial. In this view, this proceeding is completely under the control… Read more »