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Phil's Rambling Rants

September 30th, 2008

September 30th, 2008
10:54 am


An economist on the radio as I'm half listening just said something about markets being self-regulating.

Self-regulating markets are just like self-documenting code.

To expand that beyond a cute quip -- as a programmer with 30 years of experience, I have learned that there is no such thing as self-documenting code.  There are plenty of people who think code is self-documenting, but code without documentation is always less well understood, less correct, and causes more problems than the people who claimed it was self-documenting tell us we can expect.  I say that as, I believe I can legitimately say, a qualified expert.  I can't claim to be an expert on finance or economics, but I think that markets without regulation will always prove to be less well understood, less functional, and in the long run more trouble-prone than the proponents espouse.  To continue the analogy, it is possible (even common) for documentation to be wrong, and when it is, it can definitely cause trouble, but the solution is to document correctly, not to stop documenting at all.  Regulation can also be wrong, and I think a lot of the regulation we have today is, but it is foolish to expect good results if we remove all the regulation.

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12:52 pm


McCain's "health care plan" is a scam
Our disintegrating health care system is second only to energy as the most important issue in the current election.  Almost everyone is worried about the economy in a personal way right now, and if the biggest reason you're worried about your own personal financial situation right now isn't whether you'll continue to have health care you can pay for, you're either very wealthy or you have your head in the sand.  Both candidates are campaigning on this issue; they both say it's important and they say they have a plan for dealing with it.  I actually gave McCain some credit for what he said about his health plan.  The McCain plan, as I understood it, was this:  health benefits from a job would become taxable.  Everyone, with employer provided insurance, insurance they got on their own, or no insurance, gets a $5000 refundable tax credit.  And all health plans are opened up to everyone, and we all shop for the best deal.  The centerpiece of this plan, without which it is worthless, is a guarantee that insurance companies would have to take everybody with no pre-existing condition limits.

Well, this morning I heard the McCain plan explained a little more completely.  There IS no guarantee that real health plans would actually have to cover anyone who actually needs medical services.  Instead, there's an explicit arrangement where "high risk" patients get to be in a special pool, where it's as certain as the sun coming up tomorrow that the coverage will stink, the premiums will be astronomical, and the bureaucratic hurdles will be high.  All the healthy people get to have lower health care costs because all the sick people have to get together and take care of themselves.

If that sounds like a good idea to you, you must not know anybody with actual health problems.

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07:21 pm


Book review: Magic Bites
Today's book review is Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews.

This is a post-apocalyptic modern fantasy.  Extreme violence, adult themes, but no explicit sex.  It tells a complete episode, but it's strongly implied that there's more to come.

I disliked the first few chapters of this book so much that I nearly stopped reading.  The world is ugly, the protagonist is a thoroughly dislikeable bitch, and some proofreading errors stuck in my craw. I did stick with it, and I came to appreciate that the world is original and there is a logic to both the chaos in the world and the character of the protagonist.  What started out seeming like arbitrary nastiness is, at least, consistent and directed nastiness.  It remains an ugly world.  In modern fantasy, I do of course expect the supernatural elements added to the world to have a down side, but in this one there's pretty much nothing positive about it at all.  Once I managed to get through that, it's a fast-paced story and has a little bit to say about responsibility and commitment.  After the rough start, it held my attention.  I even ended up kind of liking it.

7 out of 10.

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