Arnold Kling  

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I've been away, mostly in Prague (where the big economic question is why so many older buildings have so many fancy details. My answer is that there must have been a very unequal distribution of wealth, so that rich folks could afford to hire a lot of labor for building). Some things I would have put more time into had I been around:

1. Jeffrey Rogers Hummel on the prospects for a default by the U.S. government.


according to the latest intermediate projections of the trustees, the Hospital Insurance (HI-Medicare Part A) trust fund will be out of money in 2017, whereas the Social Security (OASDI) trust funds will be empty by 2037. Although other parts of Medicare are already funded from general revenues, when HI and OASDI need to dip into general revenues, the first firewall is gone. If investors respond by requiring a risk premium on Treasuries, the unwinding could move very fast, much like the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union. Politicians will be unable to react.

Read the whole thing, which fits under "banana Republic watch." My personal prediction/fear is that the politicians will opt for a capital levy--an immediate confiscation of wealth in order to keep the creditors at bay.

2. Economists seem to be voicing opinions in groups. One bunch says not to audit the Fed. More .

3. A bunch of health care wonks say that it would be a good idea to turn the health care industry over to a bunch of...health care policy wonks. Like the Fed, this so-called IMAC would be insulated from politics. Once again, we have the ideology that experts know best. The alternative viewpoint is to respect the evolutionary processes of markets and traditions. Those of us with the latter viewpoint don't seem to be as well organized with public petitions.

4. The Fed gets somewhat less love from Amar Bhide and from George Selgin (audio) and (text).


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The author at The Liberal Order in a related article titled It's A Sign of Progress writes:
    Arnold Kling asks, I've been away, mostly in Prague (where the big economic question is why so many older buildings have so many fancy details. My answer is that there must have been a very unequal distribution of wealth, so... [Tracked on August 5, 2009 2:55 PM]
COMMENTS (6 to date)
Norman writes:

Wait... people who prefer decentralization and resist hierarchy are less organized? Really?

honeyoak writes:

Ahh, I loved traveling in the Czech Republic. the beer is incredibly good, the food is surprisingly bad, and don't even get me started on the beauty of the country's women. Furthermore, the people while not overtly friendly were nonetheless very helpful and tolerant of loud(read me) tourists. I found the hideousness and persistence of soviet architecture far more fascinating than the baroque architecture the predominates the tourist section of Prague.

Juan Carlos writes:

the answer to the prague buildings question: they are that beautiful because they were built in an aristocratic society.

that answer comes, as sooo mnay other do, from alexis de tocqueville

Sam Wilson writes:

Prague's reasoning for exquisite architecture is shades from Brooklyn's.

Take it from a guy who's spent low-price leisure time in Prague: there is no single reason for the hitch-gasp beauty of Prague 1 and 2. What you're witnessing is the orgiastic Hayekian order of post-Vatican command-and-control. Prague is the very cradle (both geographic and philosophic) of the Bohemian movement.

And the best parts still survive.

I saw them in the loony bastards swinging their broadswords on a soccer pitch only to knock back a pitcher of perfect pivo next to the Lord's own knedli.

Anyone who tells you Czech food is bad never bothered to look harder. A forgivable fault, to be sure, but take Tyler's advice and shimmy your ass over to Prague 6 for the best restaurants.

Don't take this post as adive though. I am superby drunk at the moment. I'll try to catch up with you later in person.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a fantasic move for the idle economist, in case anyone is interested...

Not that there are any idle economists anymore.

spell check is 4 suckers.

Dan Weber writes:

Once again, we have the ideology that experts know best. The alternative viewpoint is to respect the evolutionary processes of markets and traditions.

How do you know if your insurance is "good"? Most people have no way of knowing. All they can base it on is "do they approve what I want?", which leads us to a market where insurance companies compete on giving us access to tests and procedures, even if this isn't what is best for our health.

If you are a client of Mayo, Kaiser, Cleveland, or VHA, though, the "panel of experts" is how your decisions get made. The clients seem very happy and very healthy with the results.

I don't think these options should be made mandatory, since I value freedom. But we should work on expanding these options to the rest of the country, so people who value getting good health for their money can choose them.

mobile writes:

Fancy details in old buildings were used to cover or distract attention away from unaesthetic joints or other limitations of old construction methods (I think I read that in an Ayn Rand essay, her point being that modern architecture need not copy classical elements just for the sake of being classical).

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