Saturday, January 2, 2010

Robin Goes to Mass

We mentioned in a post the other day the experience of Robin of Berkeley who tried to find a church at which to worship on Christmas eve. Well, after her disappointing experience with liberal Episcopalians, Robin, who's a middle-aged psychotherapist and former atheistic, socialist, Jewish woman, finally found what she was looking for.

It's a good story and funny.


How Can This Be?

One liberal shibboleth often accepted without much analysis is that in order to reduce violent crime we have to limit the sales of firearms to citizens. This may seem to make sense in some superficial way, but whenever one looks at the data, as John Lott does in More Guns, Less Crime, it turns out that violent crime actually diminishes in environments in which citizens are armed.

This is completely counterintuitive to those who believe that the solution to every problem is to limit the freedoms of those who act responsibly, but in fact it makes perfect sense. Criminals do a subliminal risk/benefit analysis when they pick their prey. By raising the uncertainty level in the criminal's mind as to whether a potential victim may be armed, he may decide that the risk outweighs the potential benefit and think better of attacking his victim. If the criminal misjudges the risk and does attempt the crime his chances of success are diminished when the victim is armed - a fact which could deter other thugs who hear of the misfortunes suffered by their acquaintances who picked on the wrong target.

As evidence that this is not just speculative theorizing I adduce this interesting data from an article on an NRA website:

Last week, the FBI issued its preliminary 2009 crime report, showing that the number of murders in the first half of 2009 decreased 10 percent compared to the first half of 2008. If the trend holds for the remainder of 2009, it will be the single greatest one-year decrease in the number of murders since at least 1960, the earliest year for which national data are available through the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Also, the per capita murder rate for 2009 will be 51 percent lower than the all-time high recorded in 1991, and it will be the lowest rate since 1963-a 46-year low. Final figures for 2009 will be released by the FBI next year.

According to gun control supporter dogma-"more guns means more crime"-the number of privately owned firearms must have decreased 10 percent in 2009. To the contrary, however, the number rose between 1.5 and 2 percent, to an all-time high. For the better part of the last 15 months, firearms, ammunition, and "large" ammunition magazines have been sold in what appear to be record quantities. And, the firearms that were most commonly purchased in 2009 are those that gun control supporters most want to be banned-AR-15s, similar semi-automatic rifles, and handguns designed for defense.

Whether or not there really is an inverse correlation between gun purchases and violent crime, the fact is that the statistics simply do not support the belief that there's a direct correlation between them.

Parenthetically, a gun dealer of my acquaintance told me a few months after the 2008 election that sales of firearms were booming. People were afraid that the Obama administration would seek to make gun purchases either difficult or impossible, and they wanted to make sure they didn't wait until it was too late to buy their weapons. He went on to say that had he known what a boon Obama's election would have been to his business he would have voted for him himself.


A Better Way to Do Health Care Reform

Ronald Bailey at Reason offers an outline of what market-based health care might look like. Here's part of it:

The typical American might purchase high-deductible insurance policies that cover expensive treatments for chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, AIDS, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis, as well as the catastrophic consequences of accidents. Coverage would also include expensive treatments such as heart surgery, organ transplants, dialysis, and radiation therapy. In addition, we'd be able to buy health status insurance that would guarantee that we could purchase insurance at reasonable prices in the future.

Such policies are available already. The online clearinghouse eHealthInsurance pulls a quote of $131 per month from Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield for a single 55-year-old male with a $3,000 annual deductible, no co-payment after the deductible, reasonable pharmaceutical benefits, and lifetime maximum benefits of $7 million, with an option for health savings accounts. (With such accounts, consumers make annual tax-deductible contributions, then take tax-free withdrawals to pay for uninsured medical costs.) That was the cheapest plan, but more than 80 other insurance policies were available. As deductibles went down, of course, the prices went up.

A lot of routine care could be handled through retail health clinics located in shopping malls, drug store chains, and megastores. Such centers would be staffed not with physicians but with nurse practitioners or other qualified personnel. Consumers generally would pay for routine, everyday transactions directly out of their health savings accounts.

As has been suggested by others, perhaps health insurance should be more like auto insurance. We expect our health insurance to cover everything from prescription drugs to doctor visits for the flu, but we don't expect such routine maintenance for our car to be covered by our auto insurance. We buy auto insurance in the case that we have a catastrophic accident, not to cover state inspections or to have a fuel pump replaced.

By placing the responsibility for purchasing insurance on the individual consumer rather than on employers the employee could be given the cost of their insurance otherwise withheld in their pay check, they would have portability since they wouldn't lose coverage if they switched jobs or lost their job, and employers would benefit by having more money available to them to hire more employees.

Ideas like this are at least worth looking into, but they're not going to be popular in Washington because they wouldn't allow the government camel to get its nose inside the tent of our health care.