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Considerations On Cost Disease | Slate Star Codex
[via: https://meaningness.com/metablog/post-apocalyptic-health-care ]

"IV.

I mentioned politics briefly above, but they probably deserve more space here. Libertarian-minded people keep talking about how there’s too much red tape and the economy is being throttled. And less libertarian-minded people keep interpreting it as not caring about the poor, or not understanding that government has an important role in a civilized society, or as a “dog whistle” for racism, or whatever. I don’t know why more people don’t just come out and say “LOOK, REALLY OUR MAIN PROBLEM IS THAT ALL THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS COST TEN TIMES AS MUCH AS THEY USED TO FOR NO REASON, PLUS THEY SEEM TO BE GOING DOWN IN QUALITY, AND NOBODY KNOWS WHY, AND WE’RE MOSTLY JUST DESPERATELY FLAILING AROUND LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS HERE.” State that clearly, and a lot of political debates take on a different light.

For example: some people promote free universal college education, remembering a time when it was easy for middle class people to afford college if they wanted it. Other people oppose the policy, remembering a time when people didn’t depend on government handouts. Both are true! My uncle paid for his tuition at a really good college just by working a pretty easy summer job – not so hard when college cost a tenth of what it did now. The modern conflict between opponents and proponents of free college education is over how to distribute our losses. In the old days, we could combine low taxes with widely available education. Now we can’t, and we have to argue about which value to sacrifice.

Or: some people get upset about teachers’ unions, saying they must be sucking the “dynamism” out of education because of increasing costs. Others people fiercely defend them, saying teachers are underpaid and overworked. Once again, in the context of cost disease, both are obviously true. The taxpayers are just trying to protect their right to get education as cheaply as they used to. The teachers are trying to protect their right to make as much money as they used to. The conflict between the taxpayers and the teachers’ unions is about how to distribute losses; somebody is going to have to be worse off than they were a generation ago, so who should it be?

And the same is true to greater or lesser degrees in the various debates over health care, public housing, et cetera.

Imagine if tomorrow, the price of water dectupled. Suddenly people have to choose between drinking and washing dishes. Activists argue that taking a shower is a basic human right, and grumpy talk show hosts point out that in their day, parents taught their children not to waste water. A coalition promotes laws ensuring government-subsidized free water for poor families; a Fox News investigative report shows that some people receiving water on the government dime are taking long luxurious showers. Everyone gets really angry and there’s lots of talk about basic compassion and personal responsibility and whatever but all of this is secondary to why does water costs ten times what it used to?

I think this is the basic intuition behind so many people, even those who genuinely want to help the poor, are afraid of “tax and spend” policies. In the context of cost disease, these look like industries constantly doubling, tripling, or dectupling their price, and the government saying “Okay, fine,” and increasing taxes however much it costs to pay for whatever they’re demanding now.

If we give everyone free college education, that solves a big social problem. It also locks in a price which is ten times too high for no reason. This isn’t fair to the government, which has to pay ten times more than it should. It’s not fair to the poor people, who have to face the stigma of accepting handouts for something they could easily have afforded themselves if it was at its proper price. And it’s not fair to future generations if colleges take this opportunity to increase the cost by twenty times, and then our children have to subsidize that.

I’m not sure how many people currently opposed to paying for free health care, or free college, or whatever, would be happy to pay for health care that cost less, that was less wasteful and more efficient, and whose price we expected to go down rather than up with every passing year. I expect it would be a lot.

And if it isn’t, who cares? The people who want to help the poor have enough political capital to spend eg $500 billion on Medicaid; if that were to go ten times further, then everyone could get the health care they need without any more political action needed. If some government program found a way to give poor people good health insurance for a few hundred dollars a year, college tuition for about a thousand, and housing for only two-thirds what it costs now, that would be the greatest anti-poverty advance in history. That program is called “having things be as efficient as they were a few decades ago”.

V.

In 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that his grandchildrens’ generation would have a 15 hour work week. At the time, it made sense. GDP was rising so quickly that anyone who could draw a line on a graph could tell that our generation would be four or five times richer than his. And the average middle-class person in his generation felt like they were doing pretty well and had most of what they needed. Why wouldn’t they decide to take some time off and settle for a lifestyle merely twice as luxurious as Keynes’ own?

Keynes was sort of right. GDP per capita is 4-5x greater today than in his time. Yet we still work forty hour weeks, and some large-but-inconsistently-reported percent of Americans (76? 55? 47?) still live paycheck to paycheck.

And yes, part of this is because inequality is increasing and most of the gains are going to the rich. But this alone wouldn’t be a disaster; we’d get to Keynes’ utopia a little slower than we might otherwise, but eventually we’d get there. Most gains going to the rich means at least some gains are going to the poor. And at least there’s a lot of mainstream awareness of the problem.

I’m more worried about the part where the cost of basic human needs goes up faster than wages do. Even if you’re making twice as much money, if your health care and education and so on cost ten times as much, you’re going to start falling behind. Right now the standard of living isn’t just stagnant, it’s at risk of declining, and a lot of that is student loans and health insurance costs and so on.

What’s happening? I don’t know and I find it really scary."
scottalexander  economics  education  history  politics  policy  prices  inflation  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  bureaucracy  costdisease  healthcare  spending  us  government  medicine  lifeexpectancy  salaries  teachers  teaching  schools  regulation  tylercowen  poverty  inequality  litigation  litigiousness  labor  housing  rent  homes  subways  transportation  health 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Argentina: The Price of the Popular Yerba Mate Goes Up · Global Voices
"The nation's minister of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fish, Norberto Yauhar, set the price for green yerba at $1.70 and $6.90 for the canchada. The prices will go into effect starting April 1. “We have made a decision that covers all the bases. We're defending not only producers, but consumers as well.”"

"However, the controversy surrounding yerba mate arose before the price increase, when yerba mate producers from the Misiones province [es] requested from the Secretary of Domestic Trade Guillermo Moreno a renegotiation of the yerba price."

"A Moreno le dicen “Agua hervida” [el agua para el mate no debe hervir, ya que el calor quema la yerba] porque nos cagó el mate #yerba"
2012  prices  policy  argentina  yerbamate  mate 
june 2012 by robertogreco
The Cause Of Riots And The Price of Food  - Technology Review
"If we don't reverse the current trend in food prices, we've got until August 2013 before social unrest sweeps the planet, say complexity theorists"
2011  food  trends  unrest  economics  riots  2013  prices  via:adamgreenfield 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Global house prices: Clicks and mortar | The Economist
"The Economist has been publishing data on global house prices since 2002. The interactive tool above enables you to compare nominal and real house prices across 20 markets over time. And to get a sense of whether buying a property is becoming more or less affordable, you can also look at the changing relationships between house prices and rents, and between house prices and incomes."
housing  economics  data  us  uk  japan  international  prices  2010  property  via:cityofsound  housingbubble  graphs  statistics  charts 
october 2010 by robertogreco
Historical Census of Housing Tables - Home Values
"Median home values adjusted for inflation nearly quadrupled over the 60-year period since the first housing census in 1940. The median value of single-family homes in the United States rose from $30,600 in 1940 to $119,600 in 2000, after adjusting for inflation (see graph). Median home value increased in each decade of this 60-year period, rising fastest (43 percent) in the 1970s and slowest (8.2 percent) in the 1980s. Both home values adjusted and unadjusted for inflation are presented. These values refer to owner-occupied single-family housing units on less than 10 acres without a business or medical office on the property."
housing  bubble  census  data  economics  realestate  money  prices  statistics  us 
august 2010 by robertogreco
InvisibleHand
"InvisibleHand Add-on Always Gets You the Lowest Price

InvisibleHand shows a discreet notification when the product you're browsing can be bought for a lower price elsewhere. It gives you a link directly to the product page at the competing retailer."

[via: http://scudmissile.tumblr.com/post/956734600/my-new-favorite-browser-extension ]
extensions  comparison  ecommerce  firefox  safari  chrome  browser  amazon  addons  extension  prices  pricing  shopping  shop  plugins  price  money  online  invisiblehand  browsers 
august 2010 by robertogreco
$11,000 for the First Apple Portable Computer! The Real Cost of Apple Products - What's the Big Deal?
"On the eve of Apple's iPad launch, we thought it would be interesting to see whether the cost of the iPad really is an 'unbelievable price' compared to previous Apple product launches.

Looking back through the archives, to the launch of the first Apple computer in 1976, we've worked out how much it would cost to buy each of Apple's new major product releases today - accounting for inflation.

So, is the iPad as good value as Steve Jobs would like us to believe? We'll let you make your own mind up."
visualization  infographics  inflation  infographic  statistics  apple  computers  mac  money  prices  gadgets  comparison  hardware  ipod  iphone  ipad 
april 2010 by robertogreco
Southern Cone Travel: Mismarketing Argentina - the Disaster of Discriminatory Pricing
""differential prices" which, over the last several years have become a plague and an excuse to rip off foreign tourists even as Argentine prices return to their pre-crisis levels, when the dollar and peso were one to one (at present, the dollar is slowly regaining strength against the Argentine currency). In March, the federal government finally acknowledged the problem by passing a Defensa del Consumidor (Defense of the Consumer) law that prohibits differential rates in hotels and other services, but the problem has not gone away. According to the Buenos Aires daily Clarín, in hotels, restaurants and taxis, services often continue to cost more to the client who's obviously foreign. In some cases, advertised peso prices are claimed to be dollars or even euros - three or four times the true cost."
argentina  pricing  prices  tourism  discrimination  opportunism  buenosaires  travel 
october 2008 by robertogreco
RepairPal [via: http://blog.wired.com/cars/2008/06/dont-get-taken.html]
"RepairPal gives you independent and unbiased repair estimates, user ratings and reviews, plus advice you can't get anywhere else."
repair  cars  money  finance  household  howto  comparison  consumer  maintenance  mechanics  prices  repairing 
june 2008 by robertogreco
WNYC - Crowdsourcing Map: Are You Being Gouged?
"Our latest "crowdsourcing" project asks listeners to go to their local grocery store and find out the price of three goods: milk, lettuce and beer. We've mapped the results below. Click on a tab above the map to see results for that item."
nyc  maps  mapping  crowdsourcing  food  prices  activism  journalism  shopping  googlemaps  media  pricing  via:hrheingold 
february 2008 by robertogreco

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