Saturday, August 15, 2009

Whole Foods Health Care

If find myself agreeing with the eight health care reforms proposed by John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc. "Enact tort reform" and "enact Medicare reform" seem much easier to say than they are to do, and "repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover" does not seem very politically feasible. But some of the proposals seem so obvious it is hard to imagine them lacking a consensus:
• Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits. Now employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible, but individual health insurance is not. This is unfair.

• Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost. How many people know the total cost of their last doctor's visit and how that total breaks down? What other goods or services do we buy without knowing how much they will cost us?
Does anybody disagree with these points? If nobody disagrees, why isn't somebody in Congress pushing hard for these types of reforms?

Additionally, Mackey mentions that "two-thirds of Americans are now overweight and one-third are obese." It makes me wonder what the definitions are for overweight and obese. Are all obese people overweight?

Anyways, with a clear thinking CEO and health food becoming trendy, the suggestion I was given to invest in Whole Foods is looking pretty good. (Current Price WFMI: $28.10)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Market that is College Textbooks

According to the New York Times, it is about to become a rental market. After reading this, I'm left wondering why it took so long for this to start. Also, much to my surprise, there was no mention of the Kindle anywhere.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Internships, in Brief

The task: write one paragraph for the Nobel Laureate responsible for your summer employment expressing what you've gained from the time you spent on his dime. Can't say I succeeded, but dammit, at least I tried.

This summer began for me in Rome, where I spent five weeks doing a study-abroad program. In my course on the Italian economy, the professor spent one day talking about internships in Italy: there, internships are for college graduates and often last for up to two years. Essentially, they allow employers to test-drive employees by paying them almost nothing but giving them the duties of a regular employee. I bring this up because it is the opposite of everything I’ve experienced at ESI. This internship has been a chance for me to learn about myself as well as economics, and it’s helped me to develop intellectually in a way that my classes (at least in recent memory) had failed to do. George Mason University has a fine economics department, but many of the professors teach the same anarcho-capitalist story in their undergraduate courses. Our reading group here never bothered to debate politics; we were learning simply for the sake of gaining knowledge, and this was a welcome change. Outside of the reading group, the work I did replaying and analyzing experiments was much more interesting than I had expected. I have been a participant in experiments at GMU, in class and otherwise, but in my first attempt to design an experiment I failed to understand the experimenter’s perspective. Close examination of other experiments has helped me better understand how to begin when designing an experiment and has given me a glimpse of exactly what can go wrong – or right – once you bring subjects into the lab. Considering the knowledge I have gained about experiments, economic science, and especially the human mind, I can say this internship has been, for me, an experience of learning in the purest sense of the word.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My Letter to Chairman Boudreaux

Dear Chairman Boudreaux,

As the fall semester approaches, is there any new information on who will be teaching the fall section of ECON 496 - 002 (Economics of Regulation). I am interested in the title of the course, but my college career has taught me that teachers make classes, not titles. Is the course likely to go to a particular faculty, or is the answer still a complete mystery?

Two of the classes I hoped to take this term (Economics of Information and Experimental Economics) were dropped after I signed up for them. I am told those classes had been cut several weeks before I signed up for them, but the change had not been listed on Patriotweb. Currently 26 of the 57 Econ undergraduate classes have no professor listed. This is the worst ratio for any GMU social science department. Additionally, Professor Leeson is still listed as teaching a section of 385, though I understand he will be a visiting faculty at the University of Chicago in the fall.

I have enjoyed my time as an Economics student, and have especially appreciated Mason's emphasis on undergraduate education. With or without changes I will still be a GMU Econ major in the fall. But I ask that the department (or rather its actors) make distributing course information to undergraduates a higher priority. Certainly increased information would help undergraduates secure a better use of their resources.

Thank you,
Josh Knox
George Mason University '10


Note to self:

Finish reading this article on Lincoln.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Box Office Inflation

via Slate:
The problems with our growing fixation on box office figures—they don't account for costs of the film, they don't include home-entertainment revenue, etc.—have been chronicled in the past. But as long as we continue to indulge this obsession, shouldn't journalists at least factor in inflation, instead of pretending that it doesn't exist?
What is the appropriate way to measure movie success? Is there any objective measure?

Educational Resource Fees

So this year, in addition to the usual tuition increases, GMU has added Educational Resource Fees to all student bills. But what makes an Educational Resource Fee different from regular tuition? Isn't tuition supposed to be an "Educational Resource Fee". Education Resource Fees have been implemented to help Mason cover the budget shortfall in this tough economy.

These fees should really be called "Economic Downturn Fees". And these fees make sense. When the economy is down, business suffers, as do people with jobs. College students don't have jobs, so they are insulated from the economic downturn and best able to bear the hardship. Further, colleges don't adequately prepare students to get jobs meaning it could take many years after graduation before students are exposed to the harsh realities of working in a weak economy. Students should be thankful their school shelters them from the economy and be happy to keep George Mason University afloat in its time of need.

I hope I'm not the only one who sees something wrong with this picture. Maybe an alternative budget solution in the lien years would be to stop building like there's an impending shortage of bricks. But then again, maybe I'm just a cynic.

Hello, Big Brother

Please don't let kids mix caffeine and alcohol! According to the Wall Street Journal, there is a significant campaign underway to ban drinks that combine the two. Not sure how this will affect popular mixed drinks such as rum & Coke, but it's safe to say the line will be completely arbitrary.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that which the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is comparatively insignificant. ~Fredrich Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty