No, it’s not Capitalism.


On the Book of Faces, we had this:

Unlike Capitalism that has no faults? (Well I mean other than, slavery, oppressions, destruction nature in the name of profit, waste of natural resources, killing citizens, false imprisonments, withholding healthcare and eliminating the middle class. But other than that, capitalism is flawless)

First, we need to define terms.  Capitalism is an economic system of voluntary exchanges with prices determined by the free market.  “Voluntary,” in this instance means coercive force.  It’s not coercive force if someone offers terms that you don’t like, even if you really, really want what they have.  And if it involves coercive force, it’s not capitalism.

So, with that said, we have:

Slavery is not capitalism. It cannot be capitalism since capitalism is the system of voluntary exchanges (of labor, skill, material goods etc.) with individuals having control over their own property.

Oppression is not capitalism. See “voluntary exchanges”. Even if somebody chooses not to make a particular exchange with you (see “voluntary”) that’s not oppression. Oppression requires force. Force is either criminal or government (which some will claim is another way of saying the same thing; I don’t go quite that far). It is not capitalism.

Destruction of nature is not capitalism. If you own property it’s your property. You get to decide what constitutes “destruction” or not. Likewise other people get to decide what constitutes “destruction” of their own property. Yes, there is such a thing as the “Tragedy of the Commons” but note that word “commons”?  That’s something that’s not someone’s property.  It’s by definition something held in common.  I.e. Socialism.

There are some issues with what Milton Friedman called “neighborhood effects” (somebody does something with their property that affects your property–and so people who are not party to one of those voluntary exchanges can experience costs, or benefits, arising from it–“External costs/benefits” as Sowell put it in Basic Economics).  And those neighborhood effects/externalities can lead to loss of worth of other people’s properties without their being involved in a voluntary trade for it.  And, yes, there may be a role for government in protecting against that.  But, as Sowell notes in Basic Economics, and elsewhere, just because the government can sometimes do better than the free market, doesn’t mean that it will.  As Friedman points out in Free to Choose, while we all want clean water (to use one example) does it really justify reducing lead in wastewater from 1 mg/L (about 1 ppm by weight, the EPA limit for waste water) to a few PPB (permissible for drinking water) or to parts per trillion when the resources used to do that could be used for other nice things we’d like to have?

But, you know, far from being a symptom of “capitalism” it’s also endemic to Socialist systems. See Aral Sea, Yellow River Pollution, and just who’s dumping the vast majority of the trash in the ocean.

Waste of natural resources is not capitalism. See “voluntary exchanges” and “control over one’s own property”. Just because you disagree with a use does not mean it’s a waste. In Capitalism, the natural resource would not be used unless the people to whom it is traded (see “voluntary exchanges”) do not value it more than the people who own it in the first place. And they wouldn’t trade for it unless they can use it to produce something someone else values more than they do. Once again, that whole “voluntary exchanges” thing.

Indeed, “waste” is another way of saying “opportunities for profit not realized.” In the 19th century, gasoline was a “waste product” of kerosene production and was just dumped into the local waterways (ouch).  John D. Rockefeller and his company figured out how to use that gasoline to power the refining process, saving the waterways and making kerosene a whole lot cheaper.  In the process he made a ton of money.  And since the primary use of kerosene was in lamps and the primary competing material was whale oil, reducing the cost of kerosene reduced the profitability and quantity demanded of whale oil.  Rockefeller may have been responsible for the survival of several species of whale long before the founder of Greenpeace was even a dirty thought in his father’s mind.

Or consider the coal tar produced as a waste product of coking coal for ironmaking.  Someone decided to see if some use could be made of the tar rather than just dumping most of it.  One of the early results was aniline dyes, including a color called “mauve” which was so popular the “Mauve Decade” was named after it.

Capitalism provides every incentive to minimize waste and find ways to produce value even from the waste.  And one man’s waste is another man’s resource.

Killing citizens is not capitalism. I’m failing to see how you can even think that this has anything to do with voluntary exchanges with prices controlled by the free market.

It wasn’t capitalism that slaughtered over 100 million of its own people over the course of the 20th century.  Not talking those killed by enemy forces in war, but people killed by their own governments.

False imprisonments is not capitalism. See “voluntary exchanges.”  See also “gulag,” “reeducation camp,” “Dachau,” “Buchenwald,” “Cultural Revolution,” et al.

Withholding healthcare is not capitalism. Voluntary exchanges. You are perfectly at liberty to make whatever voluntary exchanges for healthcare that you wish. If, instead, you choose to spend the resources you could have used for healthcare for something else, well, that’s your choice. I am not obligated to cover your poor choices. Is health care expensive?  Yes.  And it’s made more so by various government controls and regulations that are the very opposite of capitalism.

And as for withholding healthcare? Ask Charlie Gard or Alfie Evans. Oh, wait, you can’t. They’re dead. Their government not only withheld health care but forcibly prevented them from seeking it elsewhere.  Private health care and health insurance can only decline to pay.  It takes government to actively prevent you from seeking alternatives.

Eliminating the middle class is not capitalsim. But even if it were, the “shrinking” of the “middle class” is because people are moving up out of it. And even the poor of today, at least in the mostly capitalist United States, experience wealth that all Rockefeller’s millions could not have bought him a century ago. My roughly “middle class” lifestyle would have been pretty damn rich compared to my parents upper-middle-class life back when I was in middle school.

So, bluntly, all of those “criticisms” of capitalism are substantially without merit.  Indeed, except for “Destruction of nature” they are completely without merit and in that one they are no worse that socialist systems.

Put simply, nothing has done more to improve the lot of the people as a whole than voluntary exchanges with prices determined by the free market…than capitalism.

“But Unbridled Capitalism is Bad Too!”

So I was making a post on the Book of Faces about the evils of Socialism. (Bluntly, to the extent you have socialism, you have slavery since you are using force–not persuasion and not trade, but force–to require some to work for others.) Naturally one of the left-leaning folk on my friends list had to come in and say “The evils of unbridled capitalism are as bad or worse as the evils of unbridled communism!”


What utter and complete crap.  Even if we credit the argument, it’s intellectually dishonest in that the existence of evil in the extreme does not mean that we’re anywhere close to that point and especially does not mean that we need “more socialism” now.  But they don’t stop at their being evil at some extreme.  No, they claim that the “evil” is all around us do to already being far too close to that “unbridled capitalism”.

First, let’s clarify terms.  Capitalism is a system where individuals have control of their own property and the uses to which they can put it and can engage in voluntary transactions involving that property without forcible coercion.  Basically, it’s what happens when you leave people alone to manage their own affairs.

The merging of business with the state is not capitalism.  That merging gets called by different names depending on the route toward that merging.  If it’s “seizure by the people” which ends up with the government owning everything it’s called socialism or communism.  If it’s government dictate what the businesses will produce and how much, what prices they can charge, and so forth while leaving (on paper) private ownership (with said owners having little actual say in how the businesses will run), it’s fascism.  If it’s through “regulatory capture” where a handful of big businesses through lobbying efforts get regulations passed that restrict competition, it’s merchantilism.

All of them rely on the coercive power of government.  And all of them are, quite frankly, built on the common foundation and structure of central control and planning.  The differences are simply arguments over what color curtains to hang int he window of that structure, or maybe what color siding to use for people outside to look at.

Capitalism, true capitalism, is where individuals and self-organized groups of individuals make their own decisions over property they own and manage that through voluntary transactions with others.

Once you understand that, it becomes brutally clear that the “unbridled capitalism” that is so often condemned is all too frequently anything but.

Consider the “company towns” that were the spur behind unionization in the late 19th century.  Consider the following:  employment monopsony (i.e. no other employers to compete for workers, meaning potential workers had no other choice), essentially issuing their own currency (“company scrip” usable only in the “company store”), generally physical isolation in a time where travel was much more difficult than today restricting the ability of people to “vote with their feet” and leave. Because of these, the company was acting more as a government than a business.  It was more a socialist/fascist model than capitalism.

Another one people point to is “sweat shops,” including the factory conditions often cited in the early Industrial Revolution.  However, this has proven, time and again, to be a temporary condition that fades with time.  Indeed, I’ve discussed that issue before. But, to summarize, going from a muscle-based agricultural economy to an industrial economy requires considerable learning.  As just one example, coordinating effort between people performing different steps of a process so that one group isn’t standing idle while waiting for the other to catch up can be a challenge.  And until they learn all the myriad skills and gain the requisite habits, the only thing they have to compete on is price.  As Thomas Sowell noted in his book Basic Economics, at one point factory workers in India were only 15% as productive as workers in the same types of jobs in the West.  One could pay Western workers five times as much and come out ahead.  If folk were going to build factories in India and develop an industrial base in the country to pull it out of poverty, those workers had to be competitive with workers elsewhere.  And that would only happen if they were paid, at most, 15% (less, actually because of uncertainty and risk factors) of what Western workers would be paid for ostensibly the same jobs.  And while soy-latte drinking pseudo-socialist college students might raise outraged voices at the “exploitation” the fact remains that even those low wages are better than other alternatives available to the people in those “sweatshops” and as the workers become more productive, it becomes more attractive for other businesses to locate there and hire away some of those low-cost yet productive workers.  Competition then bids up the price of the workers leading to their earning more.  As Thomas Sowell notes about a different example:  Japan after Perry forced its opening to the West:

As of 1886, the per capita purchasing power in Japan was one-fortieth of that in the United Kingdom, though by 1898 this had risen to one-sixth.

Later Japan would become one of the most technologically and economically prosperous nations in the world with a per-capita GDP (Purchasing Power Parity) per the IMF that places it #28 in the world. (The US, for comparison, is #10).

Indeed, this is a very common pattern in countries attempting to pull themselves out of Third World economies into modern, industrial and technological, prosperous economies.  It is the very pattern the First world went through in the beginning of the industrial age.  It may well be that there is simply no way to avoid it.

These are just a couple of examples of the mistakes (I’ll credit them as mistakes rather than deliberate dishonesty) involved when people make the claim about how bad “unbridled capitalism” is.  They either conflate government action with “unbridled capitalism”, or they confuse something other than capitalism (the crypto-fascism of the “company town”) with capitalism, or they look at a necessary stepping stone to better things which isn’t as good as they would like (while being better than was before) as though it were “evil exploitation”.  They conflate many things that are not capitalism into “unbridled capitalism” to give the impression of everpresent “evil” in order to justify the socialist programs they want to implement now.  It’s intellectually dishonest.

I’ve acknowledged before that there is a role for government.  That issues with external costs and benefits, goods that are indivisible so that people who don’t pay get the benefit so long as someone pays for them (therefore giving everyone the incentive to let someone else pay), and so forth.  But we are not anywhere near that point.  We are so far past that point that we can’t even see it behind us.

So, no, warnings about the evils of “unbridled capitalism” are not a valid excuse for “more socialism”.  We don’t have unbridled capitalism.  We aren’t even close to unbridled capitalism.  The problems we have are not because of too much capitalism.  They are because of too much socialism.  It’s not more socialism we need.  It’s more capitalism.


Science Fiction vs. Fantasy: A Blast from the Past

No, not a death match between the two genres, nor even a discussion of which is “better” in some way.  I like both in different ways.  Each suits a mood for me.  No, this is rather about when something is one or the other.  This will be something of a ramble.

Some folk have given long, involved definitions about when something is Science Fiction and when it’s Fantasy.  Me?  I like one similar to Orson Scott Card’s from one of his writing books.  Science Fiction has rivets and engineers.  Fantasy has trees and elves.

The late Arthur C. Clarke in his “three laws of prognostication” gave as his third law that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  Some folk, have inverted that: “Sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.”  Those twin statements are actually quite telling in looking at the fuzzy border between fantasy and science fiction.

A lot of it has to do with mindset, both the mindset of the writing and the mindset I fall into while reading it.  Sometimes a book can be both or either depending on how you look at it.

Take, for instance, the late Anne McCaffery’s Pern books.  They are science fiction.  A colony ship reaches Pern, an almost idyllic planet.  However, once the colonists have settled in and are essentially committed, an unexpected problem arises.  Another planet in the system, one with a highly elliptical orbit nears the sun and, for reasons that are mostly glossed over, extremely aggressive fungal spores cross the gap between this other planet and Pern.  The spores, called “thread” cause serious destruction, basically “eating” anything organic they hit, but are fortunately short lived so that they don’t completely lay waste to the planet.  Still, this is a disaster of epic proportions for the colonists.  A biologist on the planet engages in an emergency program of genetic manipulation, taking an indigenous species of flying lizard that has already demonstrated the ability to imprint on people at birth (forming an empathic bond) and not only augmenting that imprinting ability to a true telepathic as well as empathic bond and increasing their size, forming human carrying, self-replicating flamethrowers–dragons.

This is far backstory, however, for the first published Pern stories.  When we’re introduced to them, the world and its characters, due to a number of crises over the years, are essentially in a dark age and have forgotten much of their history and science.  So it’s a pre-industrial age with dragons and dragonriders.

Truth to tell, even knowing the back story, even having read the key prequel that told the story of landing and the first dragons, it still reads like fantasy to me.  My “mindset” while reading it is the one that I use when reading other fantasy.  The “fantasy elements”–the telepathic bonds, the ability of the dragons to go “between” (teleporting) are decoupled from the in-story “science” and they become the functional equivalent of magic.

On the flip side you have Rick Cook’s “Wizardry” books.  Here, Rick Cook has a clearly magical world but the main character, brought in from an analog of the “real world” takes a scientific approach to that magic, treating it like computer programming where small spells are created that function as functions, routines, and lines of code.  By bringing a scientific approach to the magic, it in many ways reads more as science fiction.

Similarly there is the late Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions.  The main character is once again taken to a fantasy world and approaches the magic of the world in an analytical way that unveils the deep thought Anderson clearly gave the magic of that world.  As one example, when the protagonist tricks a Troll into staying out past sunup and it is turned to stone, he realizes why Troll Gold is considered cursed.  The transmutation of carbon into silicon (the conversion from living flesh to stone) leaves the gold highly radioactive.  Anybody carrying it would soon sicken and die.

And so, this, too reads more like Science Fiction in many ways.

Now, consider Star Trek and Star Wars.  From the standpoint of modern physics, they are both ridiculous.  No, “reverse the tachyon flow” is no more scientific than “use the Force, Luke”.  (Someone basically just threw out the idea of “tachyons” from looking at the relativity equations.  If some particle had an imaginary rest mass and were traveling faster than light, in relativity that would give it a real momentum and a real energy.  There’s no evidence that tachyons exist.  And there’s nothing in physical theory that says they must, or even should, exist.  They’re just an idea someone tossed out in pure speculation.)

The two series’ have a lot in common.  Space travel.  Alien worlds.  Faster than light travel.  War, sometimes.  Exploration, sometimes.

However, there’s a big difference between the two series.  In Star Trek the presumption is that the fantastic elements are the result of science and engineering.  Research will (in the story world) lead us to those discoveries.  Scientists will find them.  Engineers will build them.  In Star Wars there is a lot of stuff that is built by science and engineering, but the story doesn’t center around that.  It centers instead around mysticism and, frankly, magic.  “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power.” “Your sad devotion to that ancient religion…” “‘You mean it controls your actions?’ ‘Partially, but it also obeys your commands.’”  And as the franchise developed, these mystics, these “space wizards” central even from the beginning of the series (from “Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope” to “You’ve switched off your targeting computer, what’s wrong?”–this mystical Force, this space magic and it’s users, were the key MacGuffin) grow to dominate.  It’s not the engineering and the science behind it that is central to the Star Wars universe as it is in Star Trek.  It’s the space magic.  Even the light sabers, a cool piece of technology in the beginning of the franchise, are quickly revealed (in the Expanded Universe) that one needs to use the Force to properly align the crystals at the heart of their operation.  They’re not cool tech any more.  They’re magic swords, forged by wizards.

So while both franchises have the trappings of science fiction, Star Wars, in many ways, has more of a fantasy feel.  But those trappings are enough for many people to still see it as science fiction.

And, so, in the end, it really comes down to the eye of the beholder.

The Junior Orwell League Strikes Again.

Reblogged from Larry Correi’s Monster Hunter Nation.


This has just gotten silly.

Check the date. That comment was from a month and a half ago.  Basically if you ever attract the attention of an unscrupulous jackass, they can simply go through all your old posts and report everything as hate speech. Then Facebook, being a bunch of morons, will automatically, unthinkingly, reflexively block you.

I’ve been banned from Facebook a bunch of times now.  I believe that comment was me complaining about their dippy censorship (and was when I started investigating MeWe, because I really was tired of FB’s Junior Orwellian bullhsit) where anything a conservative or libertarian says Violates Community Standards and needs Snopes to fact check it, but anything a progressive or a socialist says is just great, even when they are literally threatening to murder you.

A month after I posted that comment above, I caught my first Facebook ban for hate speech, My crime? Pretending to be from one imaginary country of proud (but genocidal) sandwich makers, and insulting another imaginary country.

It was obviously the stupid Facebook bots, but my fans had a lot of fun with it.

But then, I caught another 3 day ban immediately after, and this is where our story starts to get nefarious:

Because that one wasn’t bots with dumb code, that was a bunch of prog scumbags realizing that if they report my posts to Facebook, I just get auto blocked. We’ve even got screen shots of them bragging about it.

So I’ve been catching FB bans ever since, always for goofy crap. I got a 3 day ban last week. Why?  For talking about a scumbag  (Mike Glyer) who was pirating another author (said scumbag happens to own the same scumbag website where we got the last screen cap of them bragging about reporting me).

And the ban wasn’t even for the mean post where I actually insulted the pirate scumbag a bunch:

Oh no. That would make at least a little bit of sense. The ban was for a brief post the day before, where I tagged the author who was getting pirated to ask him for more info.  Pirating authors? Not a problem. Standing up to the scumbag doing the pirating? Violation of community standards.

And then today. Because apparently saying Facebook is Orwellian, will cause them to act Orwellian. Because hate speech? Or something. Hell if I know.

Basically what it comes down to is that if you ever come to the attention of scumbags, they can silence you on Facebook just by reporting all your posts. It doesn’t matter how innocuous the posts are, Facebook is stupid. I highly doubt any thinking humans ever actually look at any of this stuff.  Meanwhile, you can recruit child brides for ISIS terrorists while chanting death to the Jews, and Facebook says that’s totally cool. So it’s a teensy bit lopsided in its application.

It’s the Heckler’s Veto, only even more anonymous.  If you give a powerless chickenshit the ability to silence people they don’t like, without risk or repercussions, they’re  gonna use that power. It’s also a really good example of how Red Flag laws will inevitably be abused.

Like I said when I first started catching all these bans, I figure my days on Facebook are numbered. When mini painting posts are now Hate Speech, and pictures of my dog are Bullying. It is only a matter of time until I catch a perma-ban.

Now, I could do that silly thing where people make up fake EH accounts, but screw that. Facebook makes money off of me and my fans. I’m not going to reward them by working around their obnoxious bullshit, so that they can continue to mine our data.

The sad thing is that I spent years building up a fan base there. I’ve got one of the biggest and best (and actually functioning!) author fan pages on the internet.  And during most of that time, Facebook wasn’ttoo stupid.  It was bearably obnoxious.

But the stupid is becoming increasingly aggressive.  Now people want to leave, but they feel stuck. I’m not alone in this. Most content creators are in the same boat. We congregated our people there because it was convenient and then we became complacent. Now they think they own us, and can do whatever they want with impunity, because content creators don’t want to move away from where their fans are. So the abusive trailer park husband makes leaving hard, because he doesn’t hit you all the time, and he used to love you, and somebody needs to think of the kids.

I’m sure I’ve made a lot of sales off of Facebook.  Heck, my Book Bombs, most of the traffic for those comes from Facebook shares. And those are usually (by orders of magnitude) the biggest sales days of those authors’ careers.

So we stay in the abusive relationship with the incoherent alcoholic who occasionally beats us,  because of inertia.  And that’s just sad.

I’ve been transitioning more of my stuff over to MeWe. We’ve got a couple thousand people in the fan page over there now. But again, the sucky part of that is abandoning  a decade of community building and content. People don’t want to leave.

Here’s the thing though, the way things are going, you aren’t going to have a choice.  People like me are getting hit right now because the nail that sticks up has to be nailed down. I’m only a minor notable. (seriously, writer is like the lowest form of celebrity, right below Instagram gun bunny). But if random scumbags can control our ability to speak, it’s only a matter of time before they do it to everybody else.

So Facebook can either get its crap together, or let the Heckler’s Veto become their defacto working model. However, since Facebook is a giant evil megacorporation that only cares about prying into your life to sell your info to advertisers and to influence elections, good luck with that.

It’s a free market, Facebook is free to suck all they want, and we are free to leave once they become unbearable.

The “Slow Build” Myth

On the Book of Faces there was this.


This “slow build” myth needs to die a gruesome death.  I’ve demolished that silly “Trump is a new Hitler” idea before.  But the general principle remains.

While the extermination camps came quite a bit later, most of what made Nazi Germany a totalitarian regime happened with remarkable rapidity once Hitler was appointed Chancellor to Germany.

24 days into Hitler’s chancellorship, 40,000 SA and SS men were given police powers–sworn in as “Auxiliary Police”.  The population of Germany then was about 62 million.  The US population at the beginning of 2017 was 324 million, more than five times as much.  24 days into “the new Hitler” where’s the 200,000 SA and SS equivalent made into auxiliary police?

27 days into Hilter’s chancellorship, less than a month, and the Reichstag fire happened.  The Congressional building is still standing, no fire.

28 days (still less than a month) and The Reichstag, seeing their meeting place burned and the burning attributed to enemies, grants Hitler expanded powers–the Reichstag Fire Decrees.

31 days, one month in, and the first concentration labor camp was opened–Orianenberg–for political opponents of Hitler’s regime.  While some people like to use the term “concentration camp” to refer to detention centers used to house illegal aliens caught trying to illegally enter the United States, you could not get out of this one by simply asking to be deported to your home country.

52 days and Dachau and Buchenwald–two more concentration labor camps for political opponents of the regime–opened.

54 days–less than two months–and Hitler was granted dictatorial powers.

87 days, less than three months, and the “Secret State Police” were established.

101 days and mass burning of books that the Nazis find offensive started. (It’s not the Right, and certainly not Trump, banning, let alone burning, books for insufficient wokeness.)


123 days, about 4 months in, forced sterilizations of those with “genetic defects” begin along with more concentration camps (and still none where you could get out by saying “send me home”).

136 days, still in that fifth month, all parties but the Nazi party outlawed.

Within six months of his appointment as Chancellor, Hitler and the Nazis had seized total, complete, and uncontested power in Germany.  While the mass executions and exterminations had to wait for a few more years, when it came to seizing power and crushing dissent, they moved lightning quick.  Nazi Germany went from a democratic republic to a totalitarian regime not in years but in months.

The “slow build” thing is a myth, pure and simple.

Vaccinate Your Kids People (Combining my “Anti-Vaxers vs. Math” posts)


Over on the book of faces, the subject of vaccines has come up and the usual suspects are screaming about how they’re a scam designed only to get money for “big pharma.”

So let’s look at that.  Let’s use “measles” which is often dismissed as a “harmless childhood disease” and so would be one of the more routine (and therefore cheaper) things to treat. (Please note:  I am just dealing with the ” vaccines are a scam to make money” argument here.  Other anti-vax arguments can wait for another day.)

Before the vaccine came out, the US averaged about 400 cases of measles per 100,000 citizens per year:

measles cases2

That’s per 100,000.  Looked at in total numbers:

Now, this “harmless, childhood disease” was perhaps less harmless than people may have thought.  Looking at deaths per year we get the following:

Before the vaccine an average of about 450 per year died from measles.  I will note that a number of sites out there have charts that show the “mortality rate” for measles going down, way down, long before the vaccine was introduced.  However, what the naive reader might miss is that they are looking at the mortality rate of measles cases.  I.e. what chance someone who got measles had of dying.  The chart says nothing about the likelihood of getting measles in the first place.

Comparing the death numbers with the total number of cases and we get a death rate of about one in a thousand or 0.1%. (Other sources give a rate of 3 per 1000 or 0.3%–for purposes of this post I’ll use the lower number.)

In addition to the death rate, measles can require hospitalization.  In the years 1985-2002 an average of 757 patients per year were hospitalized for measles (total 13621).  The low was 19.  The High was 5856 in 1990.  For comparison, over that period 147 patients died (above chart).  So for every death there are 93 hospitalizations.

So with modern medicine and standards of care, if we had the same number of measles cases as before the vaccine was introduced the number killed (correcting for current US population, 1.8 times what it was in 1960) would be 810 per year (about 30 per 100,000).  And the number hospitalized would be over of 75,000 or just under 4300 per 100,000.

A typical hospital stay is 5 days at a cost of $10,000 and that’s just for the bed and the most basic of care.  It doesn’t include actual treatment.  It certainly doesn’t include any time in the ICU.  That means the cost per 100,000 for treating measles, what “big pharma” could get from letting people get measles and treating those who require hospitalization is $43 million per year per 100,000 people at an absolute minimum.

So how does that compare to how much they make from vaccines?  Well, the MMR vaccine costs about $100 per dose.  That is for three diseases, but let’s leave that aside and only consider measles.  The standard is a dose and a booster in one person’s lifetime.  Considering an average lifespan of 75 years that works out to about a bit under 2700 shots given per 100,000 people per year assuming everyone gets the vaccine.  Or, $270 thousand per year per 100,000 people.

$43 million to treat.  $270 thousand to vaccinate.  Letting people get the disease and treating it grosses 160 times as much as vaccinating.

If they were really about selling out your health for money, they’d let you get sick.

But wait, there’s more!

The other point that is claimed is that the vaccines themselves cause injury and are more dangerous than “acquiring immunity naturally” (which is weasel wording for “getting the disease”).  And one of the things they like to point to is the Vaccine Injury Court and all the awards it’s granted.  There, proof positive that vaccines are dangers and so you should avoid them.

Well, not so fast.  First off, there’s very little actual science in this Vaccine Injury Court.  As ZDogg (a practicing physician with popular YouTube and Facebook feeds) points out, you don’t need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt like in a criminal trial.  You don’t even need a preponderance of evidence like in a civil court.  All you need is to spin a story that’s reasonably plausible to people who only have a layman’s knowledge (i.e. none to speak of) of immunology and biochemistry.

But let’s take the strongest possible argument.  Let’s presume that every case where an award was granted really was because of vaccines.  In the thirty years between 1988 and 2018 20,728 petitions were filed with the vaccine injury court.  Of these, 6,579 were determined to be compensable, i.e. that presented a case that sounded good to folk essentially ignorant on the subject.

6,579 over 30 years, or an average of 219 per year.  In my previous post I noted that, before vaccination, the number of deaths from measles alone averaged about 450 per year.

Without vaccines, more than twice as many died from a single “harmless childhood disease” than all the compensable injuries (even at that very low standard of evidence) from vaccines–even if the compensable claims all, every single one, represented real injuries from vaccines instead of “just so stories”–combined.

And I’m still not done.

A couple of things that people claim about vaccines which continue to fail, or at least ignore, basic math:

“Most of the cases of people who get X have been vaccinated.”

That’s simply because, at least for now, the vast majority of people are vaccinated.  Okay, let’s look at how that works.  Let’s take a population of 1000, all of whom are exposed to a disease.  Let’s say that the exposure is fifty percent likely to cause the person to get the disease.  Now, 99% of those people have been vaccinated with a vaccine that’s 90% effective in preventing infection.  So, let’s look at it.

First, the ten people who weren’t vaccinated.  Half of them get the disease (50% of those exposed).  That’s five unvaccinated people getting the disease.

What’s interesting, however, is what happens with the 990 who were vaccinated.  Half of them, or 495 would catch the disease except the vaccine prevents that in 90% of those cases (446–rounding up).  That leaves 49 who get the disease.

So, 49 vaccinated people got the disease but only 5 unvaccinated (total 54 sick people).  Per anti-vax logic this shows that vaccinating increases the risk.

Only without vaccinating, that number would have been 500–half of the entire population of 1000–not just 54.

This “most of the cases are people who have been vaccinated” simply means two things:  most people in the US are still vaccinated, and vaccines are not 100% perfect (which nobody claims except anti-vaxers in setting up straw men).

“The Mortality Rate from X fell long before we started vaccinating.”

This one is a little sneakier.  It relies on the fact that what the “rate” is not based on the total population but only on the number who actually get the disease.

It goes like this.

One year, you get 10000 cases of the disease and 10% of them die.  That’s 1000 people dying.

Supportive care improves.  We get better at keeping people who have the disease alive.  So, at a later year only 1% die.  That’s 100 people.  900 people still alive who would have been dead before the improvement in supportive care.  That’s great.  That’s absolutely wonderful.  No joke.  No sarcasm.  It’s an unequivocal win for medicine.

But now, at a later date that 90% effective vaccine is introduced and the population is vaccinated with it.  Now, instead of 10000 cases of the disease we get 100.  With the same supportive care and 1% mortality that means only 1 person dies.

Looking at mortality rate over time we see the big drop in mortality rate happening before the vaccine is introduced and the mortality rate didn’t change much when the vaccine was introduced.  And that’s where the anti vaxers stop. “See, the _real_ improvement had nothing to do with vaccines.”

What they miss is that when you look beyond just the folk who have the disease and look to the total population, there are a lot fewer dead people because fewer people get the disease in the first place.  The improvement in mortality rate for those with the disease certainly may have improved the odds of those who get the disease, but many more people don’t have to rely on that because they don’t get the disease–because they’re vaccinated.

Vaccinate your kids, people.

“The Lesser of Two Evils.”

I get so tired of hearing people tell me “The lesser of two evils is still evil.” This usually comes (in my experience–your mileage may vary) from the ideological purity types in the Libertarian party when I’m looking at the best candidate who actually has a chance in the election. (Yes, yes, I know, people don’t vote for the Libertarian because they don’t think he has a chance, but if the people who just didn’t think he had a chance would vote for him then…well, he still wouldn’t have a chance but he might poll a percentage point or two higher.  The Overton Window appears to be a remarkably good model for political processes.)

And yet, these same people, go all in and gush for the candidate of their chosen party.  But…well, consider this gem from the Libertarian Vice-Presidential candidate in 2016:


As the expression I’ve heard goes, “every word in that is wrong, including ‘a’ and ‘the'”. I’d say more it’s gibberish too incoherent to rise to the level of “wrong.” It’s simply meaningless word salad.

Now, I’m sure my friends on the left would be quite pleased with the sentiment (because “guns bad”) however wrong or meaningless the actual statement is, but from the stated values of actual libertarianism this should be anathema.

But that’s just the vice-presidential candidate.  What about the Presidential candidate, Gary Johnson?  Well, Johnson agreed that the government should, indeed force the Oregon Christian baker to custom make and decorate a cake for a gay wedding. (The key words are “government” and “force”.) And, yes, my friends on the left will no doubt cheer this assertion but let me add to you that he also said in a debate that a Jewish baker should be forced to make a Nazi cake as well.

“Government” and “Force.” Anyone reading much on this blog should have a pretty good idea about how I feel about that in the vast majority of cases.  And yet, Libertarians keep voting for these individuals even though what they’re espousing is anything but libertarian.  It’s Drazi Politics all over again.

So, the people who tell me “the lesser of two evils is still evil” don’t seem to realize that the only thing adding a third candidate does is change it to “the least of three evils is still evil.”  A fourth candidate? “The least of four evils…” And so on.

And even if I did find one who actually did go all-in on liberty, enough to satisfy me, well, if they tried to implement those policies too quickly, without very careful planning, the result will be disaster as I wrote about in The Arrow is Plugging the Wound.  But if they are methodical, careful, and gradual, why the same “the lesser of two evils” people will be all over them as yet another “evil” because they don’t give them everything they want now.

However many candidates there are, I’m left with “the least of X evils” with X being the number of candidates.

Or perhaps, just maybe, I can find a “best candidate I have a reasonable chance of getting” and give that individual my support.

It seems, at least, worth a try.

Playtime at the Vet

We lost one of our ferrets (Udon) earlier this month.  She’d been sick and we had the vet check her out.  Since she wasn’t eating the dry food, the vet suggested some wet food, watered down even more until we could use a syringe to feed her.

After a while, she got better, not well but better.  Unfortunately, she soon began deteriorating again.  We made an appointment with the vet for the next day but…sadly…she didn’t make it through the night.  I found her dead the next morning.

My daughter was, as you can imagine, seriously broken up.  I didn’t want to suggest to her getting a “replacement” since, of course, you can’t just replace something you love that’s gone with something else.  So I snuck it in.

Ferrets, you see, don’t generally do well alone.  They can get depressed and get destructive.  Or they can literally mope themselves to death.  So, I suggested, for the other ferret’s (Soba’s) sake, we get another ferret–this one named Ramen.

It worked on both counts.  My daughter’s mood picked up.  She was still sad, because, yeah, a new ferret doesn’t make the loss of the old one go away and stop hurting.  But it did provide something else to lavish attention on.  And Soba seemed to get along well with the new ferret.

One thing we had to do was to have our exotic animal vet check out the new ferret.  So, after dropping my daughter off at school recently, I went home, picked up the ferrets (taking Soba along to keep Ramen company) and took them to the scheduled appointment.

Ramen needed a round of shots.  We’ll have to go back in about a month for the rabies shot.  Ramen is only about eight weeks old and that shot is supposed to be at 11-12 weeks.

After the shots, we needed to wait just to make sure Ramen wouldn’t have a reaction to it.  So I put them on the floor to play.  They had a nice, long play session.

And, yes, I have pictures.  Soba is the white one.  Ramen is the champagne.  Note that Ramen actually crawled under the scale in the corner of the room.  There’s a strip at the bottom of the door to the treatment room, closing off the gap between door and floor, that was added since the last time we were there (with Udon and Soba to see if they could help with Udon’s illness). In fact, it was our last trip that prompted adding that strip because Soba was able to get out that way.


More Whining About CEO Compensation Again.

So there was this.

GM Manages to find $22 million to pay CEO as it closes 5 plants and lays off 15,000 workers.


I don’t know how much the average worker at those plants makes, but looking at the low end of pay scale for assembly line workers for GM ($12/hour) 15,000 full time workers comes to $7.2 million per week or $226 million over the course of a year, just from wages and not counting things like employer contribution to SS, Workman’s comp, insurance and other benefits, and so forth that the company is on the hook for. The actual total cost of that labor would be enough higher that, frankly, even if the CEO’s pay was reduced to zero and that money used to pay the workers it wouldn’t keep them at work another week.

OTOH, GM’s revenue for 2018 was $147 billion. Gross profit was $10.8 billion so expenses would be the difference between those or $136 billion. A CEO whose decisions can affect either revenue or expenses even a single percent Can cost, or save the company over a billion dollars a year. Given the value to the company of what a CEO does, $22 million is a bargain.

People make these kinds of comparisons as though there’s some kind of direct cause–workers have to be laid off because of high CEO pay. The comparisons are bullshit. CEO’s get paid what they do because the work they do is enormously valuable to the company. And labor is paid what it is paid because the value the individual worker brings to the company is what it is. Yes, all the workers together bring enormous value to the company. And all the workers together get paid a combined amount that dwarfs the CEO pay. (What I did up there for the 15,000 laid off? Do that for the entire 180,000 or so that GM employs in toto.)

Fun With Numbers


On the way home today, my daughter told me she needed a scientific calculator for class.  After a heavy sigh on my part, we stop and get one.  Nine bucks.  I can remember when those things were in the hundreds of dollars.

As we head out, I ask her what class it’s for.

Algebra 2.

Wait, what?  Okay, maybe I’m an old fogie but what in the world would she need a calculator for for an algebra class?  I could see it for something like high school physics (which she’s also taking) where the numerical answer matters, but algebra?  This isn’t a graphing calculator which I could also see, but instead is there for simple number crunching.  It has nothing to do with the symbolic manipulation which is at the core of algebra as opposed to simple arithmetic.

I was tempted, really tempted to say all of that but, I refrained.  I am however rather disappointed that the algebra teacher feels the need to require a calculator in the class.  This suggests that the actual algebra has been watered down and is padded with numeric manipulation.  I mean writing the square root of two in symbolic notation should be a perfectly acceptable answer like this:


See?  They don’t need 1.4142… It’s a waste of time and a distraction from learning algebra.

Still, since complaining, especially to my daughter, will accomplish nothing I kept my mouth shut.  But it got me thinking about algebra and numbers.  Back when I was in sixth grade we learned a process for converting a repeating decimal into a fraction.  Now, I’d long since forgotten that procedure having used it exactly never in the intervening years.  But, since I now know at least a little algebra I thought I’d be able to derive it again.  And…as it happens.

First, understand that a rational number is one that is the ratio of two integers:  1/2, 2/7, 438/926 and so on.  One thing about rational numbers is that they always produce a terminating or repeating pattern of digits.  1/2 is 0.5 and stops there exactly.  2/7 is 0.285714 with the string “0.285714” repeated to infinity.  4/2 = 2 exactly.  You can think of terminating ratios as also being repeating decimals just that what’s repeating is zeros.  1/2 is 0.500000000… and so on with zeros to infinity.

Going from ratios to decimals is fairly straightforward.  You simply divide.  But what about going the other way.  Let’s try one.

Let’s start with a number.  Call it X, where X is oh something like this:

x = 76.4879838383…
with the “83” repeated out to infinity.

We can see that:


We can also see that:

1000000X = 76487983.83838383…

Note that the points after the decimal point are now the same on the two.  Since we can subtract the same thing from both sides of an equation and still have the equation be true we can do the following:

1000000X – 10000X = 76487983.83838383… – 764879.8383838383…

Everything after the decimal point subtracts out leaving us with only:

990000X = 76487983 – 764879 = 75723104

Which means:

X = 75273104/990000

We can reduce that a little bit, dividing both top and bottom by 16:

X = 4723694/61875

And there you have it, a repeating decimal converted to a rational number in lowest terms.