Tax revenues as % of US, British, Canadian and Australian GDPs since 1965


Data extracted on 23 Feb 2016 07:08 UTC (GMT) from OECD.Stat


Two Brothers Heaped Insults On Judge After She Gives Them Suspended Sentences . . . Judge Calls Them Back and Sends Them To Jail For Two Years


Daniel and Samuel Sledden have again shown how the combination of a demonstrably low intellect and access to social media can be a terrible combination. The two drug dealing brothers were pulled back into court in England by Judge Beverley Lunt after they posted abusive remarks — mocking her for giving them only probation.

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Jewish Woman Sues El Al After Being Pressured To Move To Accommodate Ultra Orthodox Man


El_Al_Israel_Airlines_Boeing_737-700_4X-EKE_AMS_2014-02-16Logo_of_El_Al_Israel_Airlines.svgRenee Rabinowitz, a retired lawyer with a Ph.D. in educational psychology who lives in Jerusalem, has finally had enough with having to deal with sexist rules imposed by Orthodox men. The 81-year-old woman has filed a discrimination lawsuit against Israeli airline El Al after she was allegedly forced to move seats after an Ultra-Orthodox man complained about having to sit next to a woman. As have previously discussed such cases where religious men have forced delays and movement of women without penalty from El Al — requiring everyone else to accommodate their extreme religious views. Even Delta airlines did nothing after ultra orthodox men prevented a flight from taking off until women were moved from the seats that they rightfully purchased.

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MIT Study Shows Wind Power Can NEVER Compete with Conventional Sources



In their sillier moments, the wind industry, its parasites and spruikers pitch the line that their pointless product is not only getting cheaper all the time, but go so far as to claim that wind power is already cheaper than gas and coal-fired power. Risible PR antics aside, the wind industry has always had a troubled relationship with the facts.

Now, coming to their aid in that regard is a study pulled together by the heavy-hitters hailing from the hallowed halls of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

When pressed on the facts, the wind-cultist resorts to personal attacks on their challenger’s academic cred. Up against the best and brightest that America has to offer, STT is not so sure that strategy will offer any hope to the wind industry’s already panicked spin kings in resisting the bleeding obvious.

MIT: Green Energy Can’t Work Unless You Tax Everything

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On playing God at Pharmac

I unsuccessfully tried to get a list of all the drugs that had a stronger case for funding than Keytruda. The Labor Party wants that to be given priority – jump the queue.

I asked for the cost of each drug that is above Keytruda and the cut-off point for PHARMAC funding of drugs in the last four years. The first part about the cost of drugs was refused on commercial in confidence grounds.

My inquiries about a list of drugs queued up for funding that will get funding as soon as money becomes available lead to an intriguing answer by Pharmac in their response to my Official Information Act request:

For the second part of your request, PHARMAC makes its funding decisions based on its legislative objective, ‘to secure…the best health outcomes that can reasonably be achieved from pharmaceutical treatment and from within the amount of funding. Therefore, there is no cut-off value, threshold or other criteria relating to a fixed point.

This lack of a queue or cut-off point lead me to ponder how funding is allocated between life-saving and other medications, between painkillers and routine medications that are not about relieving suffering.

Source: Pharmac Making Funding Decisions factsheet.

So at the bottom of it all a certain amount of funding is available for different types of drugs ranging for miracle drugs to routine medications. Cost benefit analysis cannot really help you with that because all would tell you is to spend all your money on the life-saving drugs but we live our lives out in pain as few other drugs are available to us. At bottom, someone must play God and say that a certain amount of the budget is available to save lives.

That philosopher God King must first decide how big the health budget is and then how big the Pharmac budget is. Within the Pharmac budget, certain rather arbitrary decisions must be made as to how much is spent on life-saving drugs. Peter Singer had one of his good days when he said:

Governments implicitly place a dollar value on a human life when they decide how much is to be spent on health care programs and how much on other public goods that are not directed toward saving lives.

The task of health care bureaucrats is then to get the best value for the resources they have been allocated. It is the familiar comparative exercise of getting the most bang for your buck. Sometimes that can be relatively easy to decide. If two drugs offer the same benefits and have similar risks of side effects, but one is much more expensive than the other, only the cheaper one should be provided by the public health care program. That the benefits and the risks of side effects are similar is a scientific matter for experts to decide after calling for submissions and examining them. That is the bread-and-butter work of units like NICE.

But the benefits may vary in ways that defy straightforward comparison. We need a common unit for measuring the goods achieved by health care. Since we are talking about comparing different goods, the choice of unit is not merely a scientific or economic question but an ethical one.

Singer then goes on to talk about quality adjusted life years as the measure economists use. Still very subjective because people have enough trouble working out the value of a life saved – the value of the statistical life.

Quantifying the quality of life is even bigger leap for bureaucrats. That is not to belittle their effort. At least it is an attempt to be upfront about making difficult choices in medical rationing.

Health care does more than save lives: it also reduces pain and suffering. Tragic choices must be made as only so much spending is on saving lives; the rest will be spent on relieving pain and suffering.

We should be upfront about that so we are not captured by the identifiable victim effect. Giving money to an identifiable victim is money taken from many other health budget purposes that also save lives and relieve suffering.

Almost everyone is working less.

@NZGreens are so polite on Twitter @MaramaDavidson @RusselNorman @greencatherine

Utopia, you are standing in it!

One of the first things I noticed when feuding on Twitter with Green MPs was how polite they were. Twitter is not normally known for that characteristic and that is before considering the limitations of 144 characters. People who are good friends and work together will go to war over email without any space limitations for the making an email polite and friendly. Imagine how easy it is to misconstrue the meaning and motivations of tweets that can only be 144 characters.

The New Zealand Green MPs in their replies on Twitter make good points and ask penetrating questions that explain their position well and makes you think more deeply about your own. Knowledge grows through critical discussion, not by consensus and agreement.

Cass Sunstein made some astute observations in 2.0 about how the blogosphere forms into information cocoons and echo chambers. People can avoid the news and opinions…

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February ’16 – NZ blogs sitemeter ranking

Up six places to 7th.

Open Parachute


Image credit:Isabella Bannerman.

There are about 300 blogs on the list, although I am weeding out those which are no longer active or have removed public access to sitemeters. (Let me know if I weed out yours by mistake or get your stats wrong).

Every month I get queries from people wanting their own blog included. I encourage and am happy to respond to queries but have prepared a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) people can check out. Have a look at NZ Blog Rankings FAQ. This is particularly helpful to those wondering how to set up sitemeters. Please note, the system is automatic and relies on blogs having sitemeters which allow public access to the stats.

Here are the rankings of New Zealand blogs with publicly available statistics for February 2016. Ranking is by visit numbers – and there is a little more room at the top…

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Yezhov’s ratio as the inspiration for modern witch-hunts

Nikolai Ivanovich Yezhov was head of the NKVD from 1936 to 1938, during the deadliest period of Stalin’s Great Purge.

The cycling community is rather intolerant of criticism @JKruppster

My blog post on bicycles must go at night attracted a fair degree of personal abuse from the cycling sub-reddit. Another local economist is going where angels fear to tread.

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The truth about the great wind power fraud

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