Individual Liberties and the Right to Die

About three months ago, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard ended her life. Diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, her prognosis was less than grim, with the average life expectancy of similar patients about 14 months.

Upon receiving her diagnosis, Maynard and her husband moved to Oregon, where the state’s “Death with Dignity” law would allow her to end her own life using a high dose of sedatives prescribed by her doctor.

Brittany’s story received nationwide attention. Now Brittany’s husband, Dan Diaz, is sparking further debate by discussing his wife’s decision in an interview with Meredith Vieria. In particular, people debate, does someone have the right to die? What unintended consequences may occur as a result?

Let’s begin with a thought experiment. Suppose you were diagnosed, like Brittany, with some incurable, painful, ultimately fatal disease. Armed with the knowledge and ability to painlessly end your life, would you consider it? To be honest, I don’t know that I could do it (I’m not sure I can square it with my moral compass). But even if I wouldn’t, I cannot say that I would deny that choice for another person.


No Jobs Bump from Obamacare

Last Friday’s employment report demonstrated once again that Obamacare is not having the effect that the health services industry overall hoped for: Employment in health care is increasing at pretty much the same pace as in the rest of the economy. There is no evidence of an Obamacare jobs bump.


Self Censorship

self-censorshipOne by-product of the Paris terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo was an outpouring of support for freedom of speech. While there was general agreement that the magazine’s content has been, beyond a doubt, offensive to some (and not only Muslims), almost everyone agreed that freedom of speech is a fundamental right that should be protected, regardless of who is offended by the speech.

While nobody has proposed limiting freedom of speech, some commentators feared that the attack might result in self-censorship. People would be afraid to speak out if they thought they would be targeted for what they said.


Agonizing over Sports Teams’ Mascot Names

WashingtonRedskinsLogoI have written several columns on current controversies involving the apparent offensiveness of the Washington Redskins’ nickname, the most recent of which was published by the Washington Times. A later contribution to the same debate, by Hayley Manugia at FiveThirtyEight, finds 2,128 such American monikers, all of which should be equally offensive to people who don’t like references to “Braves”, “Warriors”, or “Seminoles” to characterize the athletic teams that compete on football fields, basketball courts, or any other sports venue. Most of the Indian nicknames in question have been adopted by high schools.

As a matter of fact, the women gymnasts who represent the University of Utah prefer to call themselves the “Red Rocks” rather than be associated with the “Utes”, which is the school’s nickname in football, basketball, and other male sports. It is my understanding that the University of Utah has entered into an agreement with current representatives of the Ute tribe to continue using that nickname in return for promises of scholarships earmarked for members in good standing of that Native American tribe.


The Unintended Consequences of Banning the “World’s Oldest Profession”

Prostitution is known as “the world’s oldest profession.” Indeed, as far back at the 18th century B.C., the Code of Hammurabi contained provisions regarding rules and protection for sex workers. “Sacred prostitution,” or sex associated with religious worship, occurred in many ancient societies and is well-documented. Over time, however, the sex industry has come under increased regulation. In the U.S., prostitution is only legal in the state of Nevada.


One Benefit of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press...

Voltaire... is that you know who your enemies and opponents are. They will speak out against your ideas, your actions, or maybe just you on a personal level.

One reason we value these freedoms is that they help make those in power accountable. Those who disagree with particular policies or actions can say so without fear of being sanctioned, whether they were undertaken completely transparently, or undertaken with fraud and corruption.


Obamacare’s Effect on Uninsured Is Trivial

At the end of 2014, Jason Furman and Matt Fiedler of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers published an analysis of the uninsured in the first half of 2014. The two economists boasted that “2014 Has Seen Largest Coverage Gains in Four Decades, Putting the Uninsured Rate at or Near Historic Lows.”

Their own graph shows how exaggerated and misleading this claim is. READ MORE

I, Nutella

The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society’s legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed.” —Leonard Read

I recently came across this fascinating graphic that shows all the countries that contribute to the making of one jar of Nutella, the popular chocolate hazelnut spread that has become a cultural phenomena with its own holiday.



Medicaid Expansion Does Not Create Healthcare Jobs

Ani Turner of the Altarum Institute has examined the growth in healthcare jobs in states which expanded Medicaid versus those which did not expand Medicaid. Here are an image and an excerpt from her blog:


This preliminary analysis shows that the recent acceleration in health care job growth should not be attributed primarily to Medicaid expansion, in part because (1) overall job growth accelerated, (2) the impact of expanded coverage on demand may turn out to be small compared to other forces, and (3) an expanded coverage effect may be present in both groups of states to a greater extent than we expected. It is important to emphasize that this is not a test of whether expanded coverage increases jobs but whether the recent acceleration in health job growth can be attributed to expanded coverage, as measured by Medicaid expansion status.


Total National Security Spending Is Much Greater than the Pentagon’s Base Budget

C1-defense-spending-2013_0In a recent publication of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, “Defense Spending Extends Beyond the Pentagon’s Budget,” Veronique de Rugy presents a valuable compilation of data for fiscal year 2013, showing how much of the government’s national security spending appears not in the base budget of the Department of Defense, but elsewhere in the government’s budget. This point is important because in debates about Pentagon funding, those who favor giving the Pentagon more money generally rest their arguments on references to the amount appropriated for the Pentagon’s base budget alone, ignoring the substantial amounts that appear under other rubrics in the government’s overall budget.