May 12, 2004

getting down [under] to business

A bit of a diversion from American politics, and back into the much smaller, less globally consequential, New Zealand scene.

Colin James has a quick summary here about the campaign by Business New Zealand to "harness Kiwi values so growth is portrayed as an outcome of Kiwi values, not a threat to them." And there is much to admire in what follows.

One of the perennial problems New Zealand still faces is the lack of opportunity for its best and brightest. As well as tapping into the kiwi diaspora, New Zealand economy and society will only be strengthened by a more diverse range of companies and occupations.

Encouraging that cultural shift towards celebrating business success, while at the same time not losing sight of the best in New Zealand's culture -- a genuine warmth in the people, and the opportunities to enjoy the lifestyle will not be a short term change, but a valuable one.

That change is something that goes beyond party politics. Giving people more fields to excel in is not something that should go against the grain of good Labour people.

Posted by robe0419 at 2:13 PM

May 11, 2004

universal health care

In an op-ed in the Washington Times, Thomas Sowell argues, to put it crudely, that universal health care will kill people:

I saw what bureaucratic medical care meant in 1959, when I had a summer job at the U.S. Public Health Service headquarters in D.C.. Around 5 p.m. one day, a man had a heart attack on the street near our office.
He was taken to the nurse's room and asked if he was a federal employee. If he was, he could be sent to the large, modern medical facility there in the Public Health Service headquarters. But he was not a government employee, so an ambulance was summoned from a local hospital.
By the time this ambulance made its way through miles of downtown Washington rush-hour traffic, the man was dead. He died waiting for a doctor, in a building full of doctors. That is what bureaucracy means.

Now, it's a moot point whether you can really say that the American health care system is less bureaucratic than universal health care systems, but Sowell's example doesn't really illustrate the different priorities universal health care systems put on human life.

Now, to be sure, universal care systems use bureaucratic means to ration access to care, but they try to, and generally successfully do, ration on the basis of need and urgency. If a man had a heart attack outside a government hospital in a universal health care system it is almost certain that he would be bumped up the queue for treatment.

Indeed, it's precisely the fragmented, and non-universal nature, of the U.S. health care system that meant that this man died on the way to the other hospital.

Sowell's right, but not in the way, he illustrates. Sure, people suffer in universal health care systems because they are denied access to treatment, but it's not people collapsing on the street. It's people who have chronic conditions that appear not to be killing them, and who are waiting for their operations. People die in the American health care system too because they are denied treatment; by their insurer because their policy doesn't cover their condition, or because they don't have health insurance.

It's a much more complex moral and economic calculus which of these two ways to die slowly is worse than Sowell's column admits.

Posted by robe0419 at 4:12 PM

May 4, 2004

downsides to a Kerry victory

It doesn't appear to have been mentioned in the well-informed blogs and opinions I frequent, but one downside to a Kerry victory is that he would have to give up his Senate seat. Mitt Romney, the governor of Massachusetts, is a Republican and nothing would lead one to suspect he would feel obliged to appoint a Democrat to maintain the partisan balance in the Senate.

On balance, of course, it would be far better for Kerry to be President. Moreover, Kerry should pick his VP with an eye to winning the Presidency rather than holding the Democratic position in the Senate.

In the "worst case" scenario where Kerry picks a Senator from a Republican governed seat as his VP and they win, the Democrats will have to pick up two additional Senate seats to regain control of the Senate.

At present the Democrats are down 48 (+1) to 51 in the Senate.

To gain a working majority, they need to pick up 3 seats, and given that they're likely to lose Georgia and South Carolina, this requires that they pick up another 2 to compensate for this loss. Assuming that Kerry and his Senator-from-a-Republican-governed-state win, then the Dems have to pick up another 2 seats.

On most readings of the races, just 4 Republican seats are vulnerable: Illinois, Colorado, Alaska and Oklahoma. I'm not exactly high on the Dem's prospects of taking out PA, MO and KY which would compensate for the 2 Senators in the White House and losses in the South.

Presidential coat tails are not likely to be very long this year, on either side. For better or worse, you really have to do something egregiously wrong or incompetent to be dislodged from a Senate seat once you're there.

In summary, it's hard to see the Democrats picking up enough seats to regain the Senate, given that if Kerry wins they're down at least another one.

Posted by robe0419 at 5:47 PM