Saturday, August 29, 2009

Google Books

There is an interesting furor that has been building over the past six months about the Google settlement with authors/publishers, which gives them the rights to digitize and make available books on the web. Then we have the Open Content Alliance that is "against" this process. They complain that it is giving Google some kind of monopoly over online books.

Google went through a long lawsuit and then paid a settlement to receive those rights. Why is the OCA is complaining? Why don't they just pay the same license? Why don't they just set up their own online book system?

Pah. That would be too easy. Instead, they want to complain and drag back the one company who is trying to advance online works.

They should step up, not hold back.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I Don't Believe in Obamacare

For a while now, I've been having issues with the idea of "Big Government" and it taking part in the health industry. There are lots of problems with health in the United States, but government bureaucracy is never a solution.

Consider the simple economic question of "how do we pay for this?" The answer has been various taxes on different entities. But that does not create value, it merely redistributes it. And any process of redistribution has overhead costs, and experience further tells us that government is quite inefficient doing this.

In short, we're simply talking about a productivity hit. Where is the additional value?

At a town hall meeting in Philadelphia, a woman had this to say:
I look at this health care plan and I see nothing that is about health or about care. What I see is a bureaucratic nightmare, senator. Medicaid is broke, Medicare is broke, Social Security is broke and you want us to believe that a government that can't even run a cash for clunkers program is going to run one-seventh of our U.S. economy? No sir, no.
She sums it up quite well. Our government has shown that it does not run programs well. The health industry is a huge part of our economy. I certainly do not trust it with the government.

I believe much of the problem in the health industry is in the supply chain. Huge markups exist at all points along the chain, and those costs are passed along to the insurance companies (not people!). Further, these supply chains and the resulting use and treatments are opaque, and (thus) resistant to careful analysis.

Many years ago, when I was not employed and had no health insurance, I was going to be billed $1500 by a hospital for a treatment. When the doctor found that I was uninsured, it was dropped to $1200. What does that tell us? There are costs in the chain of treatment that exist specifically to be paid by insurers. Rooting out inefficiencies like this would go a long ways to improving our health system today.