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October 3, 2017

1. Are States Really More Efficient than the Federal Government?

Not so, according to a contrarian take in the Atlantic:

…despite its reputation for bureaucracy and incompetence, the federal government runs pretty well, and where it runs poorly it tends to be stifled by outdated rules and regulations. “The underlying argument is that the federal government is unwieldy and inefficient,’ said Kettl. “That’s not true.”

In other words, government only works poorly when its stifled by government. The article goes on to equate the efficiency of the Social Security Administration with its low rate of error and slim operating budget relative to the amount of money it redistributes. The efficiency of the agency is not the issue. If the U.S. can’t come up with a much cheaper way to take care of old people, it will eventually become insolvent.

Republicans want to put more entitlement spending decisions in the hands of state governments. I was just in New Mexico, and made a passing comment to a friend who lives there about the possible benefits of decentralizing health care spending. She said that the state – the 2nd poorest in the Union – would be devastated by this.

In the short term, increasing competition usually creates winners and losers. Long term, it generates innovation that benefits everyone. The challenge is to either bargain with the losers, or convince enough people that the group benefits (delayed and largely unseen) outweigh the costs to the losers. Can the crisis be averted by transferring the job of mailing of welfare checks to the states? Certainly not. However, as long as the Federal Government sets the norms for what counts as effective health care – i.e., what’s worthy of subsidy – we won’t see real change.

2. Ask a Tahitian: “What is seasteading?”, Marc Collins interviewed on The Big Think.

Two things I did not know:

  1. Submarine cables put Tahiti on the Internet’s backbone.
  2. There have *only* been 2 hurricanes in the last 100 years that have caused casualties (better still be prepared).

3. Michele Goldberg says we’ve entered “Tyranny of the Minority” in her debut NY Times column.

Our Constitution has always had a small-state bias, but the effects have become more pronounced as the population discrepancy between the smallest states and the largest states has grown. …

… America is now two countries, eyeing each other across a chasm of distrust and contempt. One is urban, diverse and outward-looking. This is the America that’s growing. The other is white, provincial and culturally revanchist. This is the America that’s in charge.

She quotes Governor Jerry Brown speculating that the country could rip apart if there are more elections like 2016. That would be bad, since this division is centered upon a warped mirror, causing both sides to identify in terms of their opposition to the other. Let’s return to the original thought experiment behind this blog: what would the world look like if it had two countries, versus 200 (roughly the current number), versus 2,000? What would the U.S. look like if it had two main identities, versus 50+?

4. Studies Find Ketogenic Diets “Have Profound Effect on Brain Health”

A question for future exploration: why does interest in ketogenic diets correlate with an interest in competitive governance?

Does eating a lot of fat promote cognitive liberty? Or, does a certain strand of contrarianism cause one to accept ideas outside of the mainstream with large potential upsides, and a small downside in the event of a failed experiment?

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