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Archive for August, 2011

Is it worth going to university? Part I (via CMPO Viewpoint)

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Matt Dickson So, you’ve got your A-level results and are now having to decide whether or not to go to university. On the one hand a degree should lead to higher wages throughout your lifetime but on the other there is the issue of having £27,000+ of student debts to pay off. So the big question: is it actually worth it? Economics studies that have addressed this directly suggest that, on average, a university degree is a worthwhile investment wit … Read More

via CMPO Viewpoint

Is it worth going to university? Part II (via CMPO Viewpoint)

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Matt Dickson The debate around the costs and benefits of attending university is, at present, very narrowly focused on expected earnings over the working lifetime (see my previous blog-post for example). However this debate needs to be broadened out. The returns to education in general and university in particular may be far wider than the private financial returns that are the focus of so much of the economics literature. For a start, to compare … Read More

via CMPO Viewpoint

Kelly says cost of mortgage forgiveness ‘not enormous’ – The Irish Times – Fri, Aug 19, 2011

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Kelly says cost of mortgage forgiveness ‘not enormous’ – The Irish Times – Fri, Aug 19, 2011.

GENEVIEVE CARBERY

A DEBT forgiveness scheme to relieve homeowners in mortgage distress would cost “in the region of €5-€6 billion”, UCD professor of economics Morgan Kelly has said.

In a keynote address to the Irish Society of New Economists in Dublin yesterday, Prof Kelly delivered what he described as some “good news”.

“We are talking sums in the region of €5 billion to €6 billion which would be necessary to spend on mortgage forgiveness, which by our standards are not very large,” he said.

You read it here first, folks!

Where did it all go so badly wrong? (Part V – Language)

February 11, 2011

(V)

Language has the important property of ‘framing’ arguments and discussions.

The crime debate in the UK was dominated by the phrase ‘short, sharp, shock’, which relied on the folk theory that quick and severe punishment would shock teenagers out of criminal tendencies. (The pleasing alliteration of the successive sibilants was an important, but useless, selling point too). Short, sharp shocks, of course, predictably have no such effect, but why let data from the psychology of punishment and from criminology influence debate?

The phrase ‘cut and run’ was used to forestall debate about the palpably-failing US military strategy in Iraq, until empirical reality forced a change of direction.

The debate in Ireland over privatisation uses phrases designed to prevent discussion, such as ‘selling off the family silver ware’* or, much less analytically, that privatisation is ‘stupid’ (Ex-Minister Ryan). Who wants to be stupid? O course silver plates aren’t much good if you don’t have the food to eat from them. In the UK, the privatisation debate is about how a ‘war chest’ can be created for stimulus purposes. The consequences of the language used about privatisation frames very different outcomes. Unless one believes that the current configuration of Government ownership of assets is exactly optimal (an unfalsifiable position), then privatisation is reasonable to consider. It is our capital after all, and can be used to solve problems. By some estimates, the ESB is worth about €7.5 B**; there are perhaps 750,000 mortgages in the country. Privatisation would allow the quick writing down of these mortgages by €100,000 a piece, relieving enormous and growing distress, and giving the banks additional working capital to relieve other logjams in the economy. I am sure there are a thousand good reasons why this policy can’t be enacted, but there are 750,000 reasons why it could. And it is our money anyway, isn’t it?!

*This remark is in comment  # 1, not the article itself, which makes a good argument against privatisations. However, things have changed a bit since August 3rd.

**I can’t find where I read this estimate, but there are relevant numbers here.

The full series is available as an article:  Where did it all go wrong article in pdf.

Funding for scientific research holding – Forfás – The Irish Times – Tue, Aug 16, 2011

August 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Funding for scientific research holding – Forfás – The Irish Times – Tue, Aug 16, 2011.

Funding for scientific research holding – Forfás

DICK AHLSTROM, Science Editor

STATE FUNDING for scientific research has held up well in spite of the recession, the head of Forfás has said.

Forfás, the policy advisory board for enterprise and science, has released the latest figures for State sector research funding, with detailed returns for 2009 and estimated figures for 2010.

Report available here.

Irish health system is ‘most efficient’ in world

August 14, 2011 1 comment

Here’s a remarkable story, via The Guardian. It seems to have not been reported in the press here at all (at least I haven’t found a reference to it).  I wonder why the HSE hasn’t been all over it?

The NHS is one of the most cost-effective health systems in the developed world, according to a study (pdf) published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

The “surprising” findings show the NHS saving more lives for each pound spent as a proportion of national wealth than any other country apart from Ireland over 25 years. Among the 17 countries considered, the United States healthcare system was among the least efficient and effective. [emphasis added]

Here’s the paper. And below is the abstract:

Comparing the USA, UK and 17 Western countries’ efficiency and effectiveness in reducing mortality

Colin Pritchard1 and Mark S Wallace2

1School of Health & Social Care, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK
2Department of Economics, Latymer School, London, UK

Correspondence to: Colin Pritchard. Email: cpritchard@bournemouth.ac.uk

Abstract

Objectives To test the hypothesis that the USA healthcare system was superior to the NHS and 17 other Western countries in reducing feasible mortality rates over the period 1979–2005.

Design Economic inputs into healthcare, GDP health expenditure (GDPHE) were compared with clinical outputs, i.e. total ‘adult’ (15–74 years) and ‘older’ (55–74 years) mortality rates based upon three-year average mortality rates for 1979–81 vs. 2003–2005. A cost-effective ratio was calculated by dividing average GDPHE into reduced mortality rates over the period.

Setting Nineteen Western countries’ mortality rates compared between 1979–2005.

Participants Mortality of people by age and gender.

Main outcome measures A cost-effective ratio to measure efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare systems in reducing mortality rates. Chi-square tested any differences between the USA, UK and other Western countries.

Results Input: The USA had the highest current and average GDPHE; the UK was 10th highest but joint 16th overall, still below the Western countries’ average. Output: Every country’s mortality rate fell substantially; but 15 countries reduced their mortality rates significantly more than the US, while UK ‘adult’ and ‘older’ mortality rates fell significantly more than 12 other countries. Cost-effectiveness: The USA GDPHE: mortality rate ratio was 1:205 for ‘adults’ and 1:515 for ‘older’ people, 16 Western countries having bigger ratios than the US; the UK had second greatest ratios at 1:593 and 1:1595, respectively. The UK ratios were >20% larger than 14 other countries.

Conclusions In cost-effective terms, i.e. economic input versus clinical output, the USA healthcare system was one of the least cost-effective in reducing mortality rates whereas the UK was one of the most cost-effective over the period.

© 2011 Royal Society of Medicine Press

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The brain melting internet (via Mind Hacks)

August 8, 2011 Leave a comment

The brain melting internet Susan Greenfield has been wibbling to the media again about how the internet is melting the brains of young children. Quite frankly, I've become fed up with discussing the evidence that refutes such outlandish claims but The Lay Scientist has a brilliant parody that manages to catch the main thrust behind her argument. I thought I caught my brain melting when reading it but it turns out I had actually wet myself. That's why science is so hard you … Read More

via Mind Hacks

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On the utter fatuity of rational man — Crooked Timber (or why Matt Damon is brilliant)

August 6, 2011 Leave a comment

On the utter fatuity of rational man — Crooked Timber.

Here is a comment from Maria at Crooked Timber, on a great piece of commentary on education and teacher performance by Matt Damon, no less, via Pharyngula:

Maybe that’s what happened to the girl from Reason.tv. In this video clip (spotted on BoingBoing a couple of days ago) Matt Damon responds to her assertion that he works hard because acting is insecure, therefore teachers would be better if their ‘incentives’ were similar. Coz it’s in their interest to, see?

Asking a man who financially never needs to work again to agree that the fear of not having a job is what motivates him/teachers is head-scratchingly silly.

By the by, in the BoingBoing comments, Cory Doctorow also makes a beautiful case for education as a public good:

Education is a public good. It is best supplied and paid for by the group as a whole, because no individual or small collective can produce the overall social benefit that the nation can provision collectively.

Education doesn’t respond well to market forces because many of the social goods that arise from education—socialization, a grounding in civics, historical context, rational and systematic reasoning—are not goods or services demanded by a market, but rather they are the underlying substrate that allows people to intelligently conduct transactions in a marketplace as well as establishing and maintaining good governance.

There is a long and wide body of evidence that people with wide, solid educational foundations that transcend mere vocational skills produce societies that are more prosperous, more transparent, healthier, more democratic—that attain, in short, all the things we hope markets will attain for us.

… But functional democracies require that all people—not just those who are already wealthy—are given the foundational knowledge that allows them to prosper and participate in the full range of social activities that make nations great.

Blogging has been very slow here, but I thought this was so nicely expressed it was worth reposting. This is certainly true of first and second level – but the best University system in the world (the US) has a mixed private and public provision model based on astonishing diversity of options.