Sunday, 2008 November 16, 12:47 — economics, medicine

chaos and health

In a private forum, Rafal Smigrodzki wrote:

I remember that one of my early epiphanies on the road to libertarianism came when I was reading about chaotic, scale-independent oscillations in heartbeat frequency. One might naively think that the healthier the heart, the more regular its beat – but actually the opposite is true. A healthy heart chaotically wanders around a setpoint, as a result of interactions of millions of locally coupled oscillators, the spontaneously spiking cells in the AV node. But as you press your heart harder and harder, as in heart failure, the chaotic rhythms are becoming simpler, until one last AV frequency remains, usually quite high, tachycardic, produced by an ever smaller set of cells. The next step may be fibrillation, or asystole, and death.

So, in our hearts health comes from chaos, the absence of a rhythm for every cell to dance by. Networked interactions can be made much more robust using multiple, locally interacting oscillators, rather than relying on a single one. The analogies to the society, the share of activities controlled by a single global decision-maker versus multiple local ones are in my mind crystal clear.

Saturday, 2008 October 4, 14:52 — arts, economics

it’s a post, ain’t it?

a very clever picture — clean, but be warned, much of that site is NSFW.

Bon mot from Sheldon Richman:

Advocates of the free market are sometimes parodied for their seemingly all-purpose answer to any problem: Let the market handle it. What may sound like a simplistic answer, however, is actually the most complex prescription imaginable. In the modern world, the workings of any particular market are so complicated, they are beyond the grasp of mere mortals. Moment by moment, day by day, so many subtly interrelated decisions are made by so many people worldwide that no individual or group could possibly understand the big picture in any detailed way. So there is nothing simplistic about proposing the market as a solution to an economic problem. It’s short way of saying: let the multitude of knowledgeable people seeking profit, risking their own money, and responding to incentives find a solution based on persuasion not force. Translated that way, it sounds like a promising approach.

Ironically, those who don’t appreciate markets are in fact the ones who offer a simplistic, even empty alleged solution to economic problems: government regulation. That phrase is uttered like an incantation, the magical answer to all doubts about how, in the absence of fully free markets, problems would be solved. The irony is that while “let the market handle it” can be unpacked and made specific, “regulation” cannot.

Tuesday, 2007 October 9, 12:17 — economics

pent-up demand

It occurs to me that, assuming Cuban Communism does not long outlive Fidel, a lot of gringos are going to buy nostalgic cars there.

Sunday, 2007 September 9, 22:53 — economics, medicine

what, more links?

Friendly societies: ancient free-market social security

Meet the Mind Readers: brain implants to control prostheses.

In previous studies, Nicolelis’s team showed that when monkeys had their brains hooked up to robotic arms, they assimilated the arm, effectively making it their own. “Their brains actually incorporated the robotic arm by dedicating neuronal space to it. We want to see if the same thing happens in humans,” he adds.

Can’t imagine why it wouldn’t. What I wanna know is whether – and how readily – a brain can embrace an interface that has no familiar analogue.

Monday, 2007 August 20, 22:37 — economics, language, security theater


Charity finds that U.S. food aid for Africa hurts instead of helps. Oh dear, CARE has been taken over by evil selfish libertarians. What else could explain such a conclusion?

What American accent do you have? I got Philadelphia on the first try, and I’ve never even visited Philadelphia. I went back and changed Mary/merry/marry from “marry is different” (a conscious affectation on my part; I value distinctions) to “all alike”, and got Midland, no surprise.

The Serious Organised Crime & Police Act 2005 forbids protesting in the vicinity of Westminster Palace without a permit. What is a concerned comedian to do? (three parts, about 29 minutes total)

Sunday, 2007 June 24, 14:36 — economics, politics

go Hillsdale!

The first letter in this week’s Economist is from Nikolai Wenzel, assistant professor of economics at Hillsdale College, who says in part:

. . . as of 2004 only 55% of America’s health spending was private . . . . this 45% does not capture the so-called “Cadillac effect” that comes from the American Medical Association’s guild-like stranglehold on providing medical services, the distortion from the tax treatment of certain health and insurance expenses, and many other unseen costs of government regulation and subsidies.

I am fond of observing that my ideological opponents, whenever they want to gloat about the inadequacies of the private sector, invariably point to the most heavily subsidized and regulated industry of all; illustrating Hayek’s law that intervention creates distortion which provokes clamor for more intervention.

Friday, 2006 July 21, 16:13 — economics, politics


Will Wilkinson debunks the notion that private charity would be better spent to “leverage” government spending — in other words, in rent-seeking.

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