The Soviet Union and Plato’s Republic

“Baggy two-piece suits are not the obvious costume for philosopher kings: but that, in theory, was what the apparatchiks who rule the Soviet Union in the 1960s were supposed to be. Lenin’s state made the same bet that Plato had twenty-five centuries earlier, when he proposed that enlightened intelligence gives absolute powers would serve the…

What is an ISBN?

You may have seen on Amazon or near the UPC of your book an ISBN.  What is an ISBN?  Can it be any number?  Why does the Healthcare Economist care? Answers are provided below. What is an ISBN? According to Wikipedia: “The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique numeric commercial book identifier based…

Bring Market Prices to Medicare

Medicare is a government-run insurance program.  Can policy changes be made to add competition to Medicare, maintain quality and reduce cost?  A book titled Bring Market Prices to Medicare argues that it can through a competitive bidding process. This book makes a number of sensible arguments which I review today. The main proposal of the…

Smoking Prevention in China

“All tobacco companies are state-owned, and the industry provides signifiant revenue; it also directly employs more than half a million people. From the government’s perspective, smoking is important to stability, both economic and social.  Some cigarettes are even subsidized–the cheapest brands cost as little as thirty cents a pack, because officials fear that farmers will…

Book Review: Macrowikinomics

The theory behind Wikipedia is that the wisdom of the masses is greater than that of a few ‘experts’.  Many people believe that Wikipedia has greatly enhanced the amount of knowledge available to the common man.  Others lament that the encyclopedia entries are not always screen and the quality of entries is highly variable.  Can…

Book Review: This Time is Different

What is the history of financial crises?  Why to they occur?  Are they common?  In the book This Time is Different, authors Reinhard and Rogoff assiduously review the history of government defaults and crisis of the financial system. Their data on government default is truly astounding.  They document instance of government default in multiple ways:…

Penile Exorcism

Here is one more excerpt from the book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. The book often discusses the intersection between Westernized medicine and more traditional healing arts.  Since mental/spiritual well-being often affects physical well-being, it should be no surprise that more traditional ritual ceremonies should offer some health improvement.  This is one of…

Maximum Empathy

I just completed reading a very interesting book about cross-cultural medical care.  The book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, and deals with the problems physicians face when treating one Hmong girl in Merced and the problems the parents of this child face when dealing with Western medicine.  One interesting describes the progression…