Monday, June 30, 2008

Canadian Health Care Lies In Ruins.

Years ago, Canadians touted their health care system as the best in the world; today, Canadian health care stands in ruinous shape.

Sick with ovarian cancer, Sylvia de Vires, an Ontario woman afflicted with a 13-inch, fluid-filled tumor weighing 40 pounds, was unable to get timely care in Canada. She crossed the American border to Pontiac, Mich., where a surgeon removed the tumor, estimating she could not have lived longer than a few weeks more.

The Canadian government pays for U.S. medical care in some circumstances, but it declined to do so in de Vires' case for a bureaucratically perfect, but inhumane, reason: She hadn't properly filled out a form. At death's door, de Vires should have done her paperwork better.

De Vires is far from unusual in seeking medical treatment in the U.S. Even Canadian government officials send patients across the border, increasingly looking to American medicine to deal with their overload of patients and chronic shortage of care.

Iraq and Germany: A Tale of Two Occupations.

I get the sense that Marshall and Sullivan, like many of their antiwar compatriots, don’t really care about whether we win or lose in Iraq. They simply want to get out, and damn the consequences. That brings up another historical analogy that I’m sure they would rather forget: the way we pulled out of South Vietnam after the defeat of the North’s Tet and Easter Offensives when a decent outcome (namely the long-term preservation of South Vietnam’s independence) was within our grasp. A lot of antiwar voices back then said it would actually be good for the locals if we left, just as they now say it would be good for Iraq if we skedaddled. Tell it to the Vietnamese boat people or the victims of the Cambodian killing fields.

Oil Futures and the Folly of Price Controls.

Richard Nixon's early-1970s price controls were a disaster. Administering the controls on energy alone took an estimated 5 million man-hours per year and punished motorists with gas lines. Repeating this experiment by clamping down on oil trading is like burning your hand on a gas stove and then sitting on a barbecue.

Would-be Nixons argue that hedge funds and their ilk are piling into oil futures, driving prices above "reasonable" levels. They note that in 2000, speculators owned just over a third of the "paper oil" traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange but now own more than two-thirds. This buying pressure on paper oil is said to be pushing physical oil up. Stop the speculation, they say, and prices would revert to normal.

The most basic problem with this claim is that a speculator can buy paper oil only if someone else sells to him. For every trader who bets on a price rise, there must be another who bets the opposite. So an increase in the number of speculative players does not show whether prices will move up or down. Think of a youth soccer team: If it adds two extra players it doesn't become more likely to win, because its opponents will add two players as well.