Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Yeah, What He Said

Sometimes I'll have an idea in my head that on paper is not when you read expressed as I want not good enough too.

See what I mean?

It's at those times that it's best to just rip off whole pages of James Taranto. Often, when he's done, there's nothing left to add:

"Who's Fox Butterfield?" is one of this column's most frequently asked questions. Answer: Butterfield was a reporter for the New York Times--he seems to have retired in 2005--whose crime stories served as the archetype for his eponymous fallacy.

"It has become a comforting story: for five straight years, crime has been falling, led by a drop in murder," Butterfield wrote in 1997. "So why is the number of inmates in prisons and jails around the nation still going up?" He repeated the trope in 2003: "The nation's prison population grew 2.6 percent last year, the largest increase since 1999, according to a study by the Justice Department. The jump came despite a small decline in serious crime in 2002." And in 2004: "The number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday."

In that last story, Butterfield made reference to "the paradox of a falling crime rate but a rising prison population." The Butterfield Fallacy consists in misidentifying as a paradox what is in fact a simple cause-and-effect relationship: "Of course, the huge increase in the number of inmates has helped lower the crime rate by incapacitating more criminals behind bars." That quote is from Butterfield's own 1997 story, but it is a to-be-sure throwaway line, which he seems to have completely forgotten by 2004.

The Butterfield Fallacy is rooted in ideological prejudice....

...The Times's editors seem to have caught themselves in the Butterfield Fallacy over the weekend: "Despite New Health Law, Some See Sharp Rise in Premiums," read the early headline on the Times website. It was later changed to the more neutral "Health Insurers Raise Some Rates by Double Digits." Here's reporter Reed Abelson's lead paragraph:

Health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration's health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers.
So the real story is that ObamaCare is failing to deliver on its promises. To some of us that's utterly unsurprising, but there's no doubt it's newsworthy.

I was just reading about how $300 breast pumps are free now that Obamacare mandates coverage for them. Of course they're not free as in 'nobody has to pay for them'. They're only free in that the people who benefit from them don't have to pay for them. We all pay for them. Just as we all pay for morning after pills and birth control pills.

This is where the Euro-socialists don't understand the zero sum game. They have the false belief that wealth is finite and that me having an extra dollar this week means that some poor sap is a dollar short.

That's true if I stole the dollar from someone's tip jar. But not true if I got my extra dollar by carving a flute from a piece of driftwood. And if someone gave me a dollar for the flute it's because they wanted a flute; it's not because I robbed them. And it's the same whatever I do to earn money. Nobody loses money because I made some. It's not zero sum.

But the nation's health care budget is a zero sum game. At some point we will be paying as much as we possibly can for health care. And if you want to spend several billion dollars on breast pumps, birth control, and unneeded annual exams, the money has to come from somewhere.

It's not happening yet but one day there will be people not getting kidneys because everyone gets free birth control pills. Some people will have to suffer a few extra years with cataracts because everyone was promised free breast pumps.

That's zero sum. That's the government telling me what I must buy, dictating what I get out of it, and denying me what I would prefer.


Ten Mile Island said...

The flute purchaser had a preference for a flute compared to a dollar. The flute seller had a preference for a dollar compared to a flute.

Having played in a band from an early age, and knowing many flute players, it is therefore provable that flutes is the root of all evil. (Is flutes and money partitive?)

We need a government policy to determine who receives, and who does not receive, flutes. We may not be left alone to determine our own personal preferences. Because of the evil. And stuff. And unregulated flutes.

Stone said...

Since people who drive large SUV's and trucks are safer on the road than those who drive those idiotic "smart" cars, why not have the gubermint mandate that people drive only SUV's? That's sure to drive down the price of 'em, right?