Category Archives: Politics vs. math

Bending the odds with social policy

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Anisela-and-Roberto

I became familiar with the work of two of the most recent winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics about seven years ago when I started volunteering with Outreach International, a non-profit organization that works in ten countries around the world to help communities find sustainable solutions to end extreme poverty. Nobel awardees Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo wrote an… Read more »

The bottom-up capitalism of Elizabeth Warren

I have lived and worked in Europe in past years, and we still visit regularly. Contrary to the views of Americans who never have traveled there, “classic capitalism” is alive and well in small communities across supposedly “socialist” northern Europe, and they are often far healthier than many U.S. communities of similar size. Small-business entrepreneurship is commonly evident and the… Read more »

The “giant cash suck” of healthcare – part 2

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In a prior post I introduced my view that we are not paying enough attention in the healthcare discussion to the top-line “giant cash suck” that causes U.S. healthcare costs to be over twice the per-capita level of many countries that achieve true universal coverage while delivering equal or better outcomes. In this second part, I will explore where much… Read more »

The “giant cash suck” of healthcare – part 1

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Michigan

What do the great cathedrals of Europe, the Las Vegas “Strip” and an impressive new hospital in economically-challenged northern Michigan have in common? They all answer the question, “Who controls the big cashflow here?” I have been struck in awe visiting many Old Europe cathedrals, but I also have been troubled by the “real history” of the stark contrast between… Read more »

The helpless gun violence theodicy of “thoughts and prayers”

In a recent post I looked at the theodicy expressed or implied by people as they sought to explain some “larger meaning” in hurricanes and other natural disasters. Theodicy is literally “the justice of God,” or figuratively the broader question of “Why do bad things (or good things) happen in this world?” That latter interpretation has come to include both… Read more »

How credit card debt makes income inequality worse

Debt leverage

Debt financing is commonly called leverage for a good reason: The lever is one of the classic “six simple machines” we learned about in school. Using a long stick and a fulcrum, a lever trades distance moved for force, enabling the lifting of a heavy object, or, in a financial example, the purchase of a new car with little money… Read more »

Gun math you should have learned on Sesame Street

Two horrible mass shootings in a short amount of time this past weekend in El Paso and Dayton have unleashed the normal bad arguments and excuses. This a quick post about how to parse the worst ideas from the better ones. It starts with an annoying but important earworm from Sesame Street: One of these things is not like the… Read more »

Applying John Rawls’ “maximin principle” on the border

The refugee crisis on the southern U.S. border confirms to me how impotent religion is in addressing the most pressing social and moral problems of our day, taking a back seat to political ideology and innate human “fear of the other.” The current administration’s policies of child separation, indeterminate detention, and harsh detention conditions for people convicted of no crime… Read more »