Private equity and tax welfare

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With Mitt Romney back in politics, running for senator from Utah, as well as the recent death of his business mentor, Bill Bain, [1] I thought I should revisit the legacy of the “private equity” (PE) model of corporate governance. Romney’s Bain & Co. spin-off, Bain Capital, was one of the first, and has long been one of the most… Read more »

Will you choose the cake or the fruit?

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Call it “choice” or call it “free will,” we struggle daily when trying to figure out why people do bad things. Most of us go through our day thinking we are in control of our own choices, and we assume that others are as well. We can’t even entertain the thought that perhaps some other force if affecting how we… Read more »

The gun violence lottery

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A recent New York Times story reported the frustration in trying to determine a “cause” for Stephen Paddock’s October 2017 murder of 58 concertgoers in Las Vegas, and the wounding of hundreds more, all shot using a modified semi-automatic weapon, fired high up from an adjacent hotel. [1] No strong personal motives have emerged, at least significant enough to commit… Read more »

Remembering Tom Rapp and one very appropriate song

In the very early 1970s, I had passed the FCC test for what was commonly called a “First Phone” radio operators license, which allowed me to work briefly as an engineer for two Upper Peninsula Michigan radio stations. Warner Brothers Music and their Reprise label would supply stations regular demonstration LP records, which would contain sample tracks from upcoming albums, and… Read more »

Ambulances, drugs and the fixed-cost dilemma

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Vox.com’s Sarah Kliff has been mounting an excellent campaign to make hospital emergency room charges more transparent. One example making the rounds is several accounts of short ambulance rides being billed in the vicinity of $2000. I have yet to see a good discussion of this rate level presented as the very basic math problem that is the “Fixed-cost Dilemma.”… Read more »

Wait for it…wait for it…

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If you were a horse soldier in the Prussian Army in the late 1800s, you were obviously not at any risk of dying in an automobile accident, but there was a persistent, yet low-risk, problem with soldiers dying from being kicked by their horses. Polish/Russian statistician Ladislaus Bortkiewicz famously found that these “random” deaths did indeed form a pattern, in this… Read more »

Cancer, probability, normality and theodicy – part 4

Said no one at any funeral ever: “I figured out the probability for why he died.” [1] Part Two and Part Three of this series of posts looked why the statistics for cancer, automobile accidents and other unfortunate life events are often so rigidly probabilistic in narrow ranges in aggregate. In other words, we can often predict “How many?” down… Read more »

Free trade #2 – It’s personal

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In Part One of this series, I discussed the best, largely-unspoken argument in favor of free trade, where the increasing fungibility of goods and services will largely circumvent any attempts to make effective one-on-one trade deals. In this second part, I want to address what is, in my view, the best populist argument against free trade too often ignored by… Read more »

Cancer, probability, normality and theodicy – part 3

Part One of this series of posts introduced the idea that natural probabilities for life events like a cancer diagnosis or a traffic accident are counter-intuitively very predictable in the aggregate, although usually not individually. Part Two demonstrated how a low-probability and very skewed random event begins, after a lot of time and repetitions, to look very “normal” because of… Read more »

Free trade #1 – Assume everything is fungible

With free trade hitting the news in conjunction with the President’s recent visit to the Davos conference, I was looking again to see if either side could identify the best arguments for the other side of the debate. Advocates don’t like to give press to strong ideas from the other side, so too often the ideas get passed by. In… Read more »