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Monthly Archives: June 2009

china_russiaChinese president Hu Jin Tau is visiting Moscow and the message from meetings there is that bilateral ties need to be encouraged, especially because of the poor economic situation. Trade between the two has fallen  42% over the past year, but the two sides are agreeing to make greater use of their own currencies when trading (not converting to the dollar) and Russia is renewing its efforts to build an oil pipeline to China from Siberia.

Ironic and strange that these formerly communist countries are responding to the downturn by encouraging trade, and in the capitalist west many are calling for trade restrictions.

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housecallToday’s Yahoo Opinion page introduces two articles arguing about the degree of government involvement in private industry–New Bill Ends Government-Run Companies and The private health industry’s time is up. The first decries the US government’s control of over 500 companies and makes some good points about the inability of public companies to run efficiently and competitively.

The second article argues that the profit motive has left US medical services far behind much of the developed world, largely because health insurance is too expensive for much of the population. Included are some statistics, bizarre for the richest country on the planet–

  • 18,000 people die each year of preventable illness
  • The World Health Organization says the U. S. ranks 37th in terms of health system performance
  • The U.S. is far behind many countries in rates of infant mortality, life expectancy, and preventable deaths

But is the solution to socialize the system? It may be, but I wonder if the profit motive has pushed the medical industry into  a noncompetitive system that might be restored to a working, efficient market. I remember one of Lewis Thomas’ essays where he recalled a very different medical industry of the early 20th century. It was affordable and competitive, and a doctor’s care was available because of need, not ability to pay.

Sure the technology is much better now, but I suspect the real culprits are the insurance companies and the AMA, effectively managing to set monopoly prices for medical care.

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wind%20turbineKate Galbraith writes here about how some in the American west are claiming that the new embrace of wind power should allow power companies to get rid of damns, returning rivers to their natural state.

Environmental groups contend that the Bonneville Power Administration’s shift to wind turbines buttresses their case for tearing down dams in the agency’s territory, particularly four along the lower Snake River in Washington State that helped decimate one of North America’s great runs of wild salmon.

I don’t get it. How does the presence of wind power get rid of people’s need for the hydroelectric? First, the idea of the wind  turbines is to stop burning fossil fuels, right? If a damn is today worth keeping instead of an new oil powered plant, how does that equation change when you install the wind turbine?

It doesn’t.

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Karl_MarxInteresting editorial here that echoes some of my sentiments from weeks (months?) ago, that Marxism is showing itself valid and relevant again. I still have doubts about the real possibility of a revolution in the relatively near future, but it is likely that revolution–in the strict sense–is not needed.

Interviewer: “Nowadays we call these ‘crises’ recessions. You predicted that over time, capitalism would become dominated by larger and larger firms.”

Marx: “[T]he concentration of capital and land in a few hands.”

Interviewer: “And how does this concentration bring on socialism?”

Marx: “By paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.”

Interviewer: “So the bigger firms become, the harder they fall. In the US economy, some firms have become ‘too big too fail,’ and the government has moved in. As this plays out, what will happen to capitalism?”

Marx: “Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.”

It is true that much of the policy designed to help the US finance and auto companies seems particularly socialist in that government is taking over the control of many larger firms. Not sure that counts as a victory of the proletariat, but I also read today that governement is limiting executive pay. That levels the playing field a bit.

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crowdingoutStock markets slid slightly lower on Wednesday, undoing early gains as investors worried that rising interest rates on government bonds and home mortgages could impair the broader economy.

Investors shied away from Treasury debt, pushing interest rates higher, amid more worries that the government’s fund-raising needs would overwhelm demand in the bond markets.

Overwhelm demand? Yeah, I think they just mean there will be a shortage of saved money and interest rates will continue moving up. The bad part comes when investors start considering funding a new project, see that it is too expensive and walk away from the project–the classic monetarist critique of Keynesian economic policy.

Through-A-Wall-Clipart-IllustrationI don’t imagine I am the only blogger in China having to deal with my site being regularly blocked by the government. My first year here, I was told there are 50,000 people working full time here to monitor the internet and block web sites that carry damaging information.

Too bad they don’t do a better job, cause I have never (I think) written something negative about China–or maybe I am doing that now. In fact, most of what I write is quite positive about China, like the bit on greening-up the coal powered generation plants.  

Anyway, sorry I have not posted in some time, but it is not my fault! I can get around the block with a proxy switch, but then I am unable to sign in to my blog host–until today! I went to the WordPress website, signed in there and then I opened the proxy switch and went to my blog. I was still signed in and here I am blogging again.