The “Plain Jane” timing GPS is real

The GPS with my magic modification that makes it into a 1ms-accurate time source over USB arrived here last week. And…wow. It works. Not only is it delivering 1PPS where I can see it, it’s the best GPS I’ve ever handled on a couple other axes as well, including superb indoor performance. Despite the fact that it’s been sitting on my desk five feet from a window blocked by large trees, it acquired sat lock in seconds and (judging by the steadily blinking LED) doesn’t appear to have lost it even transiently at any time since.

(Fun fact about that blinking LED on your GPS – that’s actually being lit up by the 1PPS pulse! Yes, the dumb flashing LED telling you your GPS has a fix is actually marking top-of-second with 50ns atomic-clock accuracy – kind of like using an F16 to deliver junk mail.)

I’m kind of boggled, actually. This device, my very first hardware hack, went from from mad gleam in my eye to shipping for production in less than ten weeks. No, you can’t easily buy one yet, but that’ll change within a few weeks when the first U.S. retailer lands a shipment.

Um, so maybe I really am Manfred Macx after all? I have spent an awful lot of time pulling people into agalmic positive-sum games, and the hypervelocity hack of the market I’ve just done (make a bunch of other people rich and empowered with a simple idea and some connective juice) is very much the same sort of thing Manfred does all through Charles Stross’s novel Accelerando. The guys on the thumbgps-devel list think this is hilarious and have talked the Chinese into nicknaming the device the Macx-1. Two of them are now addressing me as ‘Manfred’ in a ha-ha-only-serious way; I am not sure I approve of this.

The Chinese we’re dealing with (the company is Navisys) seem to be enjoying all this. Of course they make agreeable noises at customers as a matter of commercial reflex, and it’s not easy to be sure through the slightly stiff Chinglish they speak, but…I think they actually like us. I think they’re not used to having customers that are interesting and know their engineering and make jokes at the same time. It seems to have been a fun ride for all parties involved.

The non-Plain-Jane concept designs that the thumbgps list was kicking around haven’t completely died as topics of discussion, but the existence of real hardware for cheap does tend to concentrate minds on it. The other company I was talking with, UniTraq, hasn’t been heard from in a couple of weeks; perhaps they lost interest after we downchecked the CP2101 USB adapter in their prototypes.

Dunno what the quantity-one retail price in the U.S. will be yet, but a little birdie tells me Navisys is quoting less than $30 qty 100, so make your own guess about retailer markup. No, it’s not on the Navisys website yet, but they are taking bulk orders. Ask for the Macx-1 by name – formally it’s a revision of the GR601W, but they had to shift from a dongle to a mouse enclosure for the prototypes at least and it’s unknown to me whether the older designation will survive. I suspect the Chinese are still thinking out how exactly to market this thing.

There’s an opportunity here for anyone in the retail consumer-electronics biz. This is a great product – inexpensive, well designed, almost uniquely capable, My opinion of uBlox (the GPS chip’s vendor) has gone way, way up; this beats the snot out of the SiRF-II- and SiRf-III-based designs I’m used to even if you ignore the timing-source use.

It’s pretty hard to see how this project could gone better, actually. Now it’s time for phase II, where we use a hundred or so copies of the Macx-1 to build the Cosmic Background Bufferbloat Detector and fix the Internet.

203 thoughts on “The “Plain Jane” timing GPS is real

  1. Keep us posted on retail sellers: I have some uses in mind, and I’m sure Nova Labs will want one as well.

  2. Could you post a comment (or edit the post) to include one of two or four pictures of the gizmo? I am curious as to its looks. I imagine others are as well.

  3. > “This device, my very first hardware hack, went from from mad gleam in my eye to shipping for production in less than ten weeks.”

    Something that could never happen with an American company. You might ask yourself why.

    The usual suspects explain away the flexibility and fast response of Chinese manufacturing as due to capitalistic oppression of the masses, for which we should boycott the evil Chinese, but clearly that is not the reason in this case, therefore is unlikely to be the reason in all the other cases either.

    Although computer mediated communications and transactions should disaggregate the firm, firms in the west are aggregating due to regulatory costs. The ever expanding human resources and accounting parts of firms (which exercise ever greater and more disruptive and destructive power over the portions of firms that actually produce stuff) exist primarily to interface with government regulation, and to provide government enforced makework jobs for women.

    There are large diseconomies of scale in aggregating the firm, but large economies of scale in the firm dealing the government that force western firms to aggregate, resulting in Soviet style inflexibility, red tape, large long term corporate plans distant from reality.

    And, as in the soviet union, the firms are burdened by being instruments of government welfare – the human resources department being, among other things, yet another a welfare program for women.

  4. I’d love to try one and see whether it makes a less problematic stratum-1 timesource.

  5. @James A. Donald

    If only you had left out the “welfare program for women” part.

    My takeaway from the articles about Apple’s manufacturing iDevices in China was the speedy turnaround.

    One article in the NYT talked about hiring 15,000 engineers overnight. The author claimed that you can’t do that in the USA because there aren’t 15,000 available engineers. I think that’s only partially true.

    You can’t hire one engineer overnight in most companies in the USA. The background checks and HR setup take at least a week, often two. The delay is because of the regulatory and legal environment.

    I think that the employment of mostly women in the HR and accounting departments is a side effect.

  6. >Raspberry Pi ran into trouble distributing their mini-board as they did not have a FCC and CE certification.

    On the GR601 case: CE/FCC/ROHS certification.

  7. >I’d love to try one and see whether it makes a less problematic stratum-1 timesource.

    Less problematic than what?

    We have NTP devs on the thumbgps list that are extremely interested in this device for Stratum 1.

  8. Ditto Craig.

    Tell us where to buy one retail online and I’m all over that, at any reasonable market (ie, under $50 shipped).

  9. >> “This device, my very first hardware hack, went from from mad gleam in my eye to shipping for production in less than ten weeks.”
    >
    >Something that could never happen with an American company. You might ask yourself why.

    Yeah, it’s fashionable to bash US companies these days for being mired in bureaucratic goo, etc. But there certainly are agile companies around, and in some market segments, I suspect they’re on the increase.
    See Limor Fried on the Mintyboost project:

    This page details how I went through the process of coming up with the idea, hardware, design, etc. for this project. It’s not 100% correct but it’s pretty close. Since this project only took 2 days (on & off) to design/test/release …

    I would not be surprised at very short time-to-market from Sparkfun. There are quite a few players in this space.

  10. @esr:
    “Um, so maybe I really am Manfred Macx after all?”

    That would explain why Sugar seems to be immortal…

  11. Bob on Friday, May 11 2012 at 10:53 am said:
    > I think that the employment of mostly women in the HR and accounting departments is a side effect.

    If so, it is a side effect of a great many government interventions.

    All government policies coincidentally have the effect of increasing the proportion of the electorate that vote for more government. Women in the workplace vote for more government than woman who look after their kids and keep the house.

    Divorce and custody laws can be similarly explained, as can the fact that it is illegal for an illegal immigrant to get a job, yet they are vigorously encouraged to get welfare, and the government is particularly and exceptionally eager to provide support for illegal immigrants spawning anchor babies.

    Thus the government elects a new people.

    Western businesses are inflexible in part because it takes a couple of weeks to hire an engineer. The process that makes it takes a couple of weeks to hire an engineer provides women with something to do in the workplace, which provides votes for the government that enforces the process.

  12. If you could skip HR procedures, would that even be beneficial? Admittedly I’ve never been on the hiring end of these things. But it seems to me that if you can hire 15000 people overnight thanks to a lack of mandatory HR processes, it’s still not necessarily a net win because a significant percentage of them will be dumbasses in engineer’s clothing.

    Hypothesis assumes that said percentage is reduced by interviewing and vetting, and that interviewing and vetting takes a comparable or greater time period to paper pushing. I don’t know if either of those are true but it feels like they should be.

  13. > But it seems to me that if you can hire 15000 people overnight thanks to a lack of mandatory HR processes, it’s still not necessarily a net win because a significant percentage of them will be dumbasses in engineer’s clothing.

    HR is notoriously incapable of telling the difference between a good engineer and a bad engineer, and frequently indifferent to the difference. The way to filter in good engineers and filter out bad engineers is to ask engineers about engineers.

    If you leave it to HR, they will filter by computer science degree and keywords on the resume, which is notoriously unreliable.

  14. I’d like to point out that the ublox-6 has a LOT of potential hacks that could be made to it.

    Getting them into the hands of geeks will hopefully result in some interesting apps.

    Of course I can’t find the manual all that unused functionality was documented in right now, but…

  15. I like Charlie Stross’s novels, especially Accelerando, but his blog can be infuriating. He’s a smart guy who gets certain ideas about markets and the state completely wrong. A commenter on Samizdata argued that when he writes about libertarian, transhumanist worlds, he is parodying them. Meanwhile we lap it up and say “yes please!”.

  16. I’ve worked on projects designing electronics and software together (though I am definitely not an EE.) I’ve seen what it takes and to go from concept to finished product, including EMI certs. What you have acheived is, in my opinion, miraculous. 90% done is easy, 100% done is really, really hard.

    Congratulations. When you started, I said you were crazy to ever try. You have totally proved me wrong. I don’t need one, but I’m going to buy one anyway!!

  17. “…a significant percentage of them will be dumbasses in engineer’s clothing.”

    Yep. What that says is that the company really needed 7,500 engineers, so they hired 15,000, gave them a year, and fired the deadheads.

    At (roughly) a week each to research and vet the hires, 7,500 weeks comes to a little under a century and a half — even if the vetting was done on relevant characteristics, rather than how well the applicants do in including keywords HR can search on. That’s a moderately efficient procedure, methinks.

  18. “HR is notoriously incapable of telling the difference between a good engineer and a bad engineer, and frequently indifferent to the difference. The way to filter in good engineers and filter out bad engineers is to ask engineers about engineers.”

    I think I wasn’t clear. What I was getting at is that the “Asking engineers about engineers” part is (I think?) the dominant factor in time-to-hire if you’re doing it right, so that eliminating HR regulatory-compliance processes wouldn’t make a significant difference. A bit like optimizing the outside of a double loop instead of the inside; saving a week on paperwork doesn’t help much if it takes two months for your engineers to find someone they think is worth hiring.

    But point 2 follows only if point 1 is true, and I don’t know if point 1 is true.

    [Ontopic: While I have no personal use for the device mentioned in the original post, it's still impressive how it turned out.]

  19. Oh, and on topic, sorta — it doesn’t surprise me that a NaviSys GPS performs well. The ones I got to play with in my former life were all superior products, with really excellent signal processing on the receiver side that resulted in short acquisition times and reliable reception in fair-to-poor environments, including indoors. They do break and suffer from infant mortality, a consequence of the hurryup manufacturing/assembly environment, but that can be said of many (most?) gadgets in that price range.

  20. “At (roughly) a week each to research and vet the hires, 7,500 weeks comes to a little under a century and a half — even if the vetting was done on relevant characteristics, rather than how well the applicants do in including keywords HR can search on. That’s a moderately efficient procedure, methinks.”

    Didn’t see this before my post — sounds like a fair point though. Perhaps hiring right doesn’t scale.

  21. A on Saturday, May 12 2012 at 12:57 pm said:
    > “Asking engineers about engineers” part is (I think?) the dominant factor in time-to-hire if you’re doing it right

    Possibly, but what then does HR do all day? Work on their makeup?

    Supposing that HR is not a significant obstacle in hiring and firing, the existence of a large and powerful team of bureaucrats within the firm with little knowledge and understanding of the business is going to slow things down and foul things up somewhere along the line.

    Suppose you want to create a high status job for someone. Now a job can be high status because the job is to do something valuable, thus doctors are high status, though oddly, whores are not.

    Or it can be high status because other people have to ask the holder of that job permission to do something valuable.

    It is a lot easier to create high status jobs of the second kind than of the first, and since government has an ever larger crowd of hangers on with absolutely no useful skills clamoring for high status jobs, the natural inclination of government is to ensure that everything requires more and more permissions, so that it can create more and more permission givers.

    Thus, government creates more and more rules for hiring, firing, employing, buying, and selling, which creates a need for more and more people to ensure compliance with these rules. Thus, HR, among other institutions.

  22. which creates a need for more and more people to ensure compliance with these rules.

    These sherpas become part of the ecosystem that grows up around the laws and programs, a constituency that resists any effort to eliminate or make any substantive reform to the government edifices in question. They see the direct benefit to them of being paid to do a job unlikely to exist if the law is changed, and may not see how every one of these laws, regulations, and programs imposes a cost on us all that collectively outstrips even that direct benefit.

    So all the barriers to getting a project like this out the door in a country with a large regulatory regime accrete without end.

  23. > Also 40% of Chinese engineers are women:
    > http://www.paristechreview.com/2010/09/29/why-more-women-engineers/

    And to the extent that they work as engineers, they mostly work in the still communist sector of the Chinese economy, which does not appear to be producing any of the engineering value that China is producing.

    The same thing tends to happen in the west, where female engineers disproportionately “work” for the government, in so far as any government employees can be said to work.

  24. @esr:

    Beautiful story. One correction:
    It’s “Chingrish” (with an “r”) not “Chinglish”

  25. @JAD
    “And to the extent that they work as engineers, they mostly work in the still communist sector of the Chinese economy, which does not appear to be producing any of the engineering value that China is producing.”

    Numbers and sources needed, not “just so stories” and handwaving.

    @JAD
    “The process that makes it takes a couple of weeks to hire an engineer provides women with something to do in the workplace, which provides votes for the government that enforces the process.”

    Actually, the Chinese do not vote, so their women are employed to be productive. China shows that to be competitive, a country needs to employ more women. And to produce more female engineers, obviously.

    Applying to your own arguments about productivity, the USA lost competitiveness because people like you kept the most productive part of the population underemployed.

  26. > Numbers and sources needed, not “just so stories” and handwaving.

    There are of course no numbers and sources, since they would be politically incorrect, but in my dealings with China I only encountered one female who was supposedly an engineer, in that she gave her schooling as engineering, and it sort of looked as if her current job was engineering, while I have encountered a reasonable number of male engineers actually doing engineering.

    So it looks to me that China has lots of female engineers in much the same way that computer science classes in the US graduate lots of females, yet, somehow, strangely, despite graduating lots of females …

    From which I conjecture that in China, as in the US, all these female engineers are in the more political parts of the economy, which westerners seldom encounter, because they do not actually produce anything.

    I cannot give you any statistics for what happens to all those US female computer science graduates either, because those statistics also would be horribly politically incorrect.

    Similarly, you cannot get a breakdown of mortgage defaults by race. You can get everything else about mortgages broken down by race – Hispanics got X amount of money at Y amount of interest, but defaults, strange to report …

  27. @JAD
    “From which I conjecture that in China, as in the US, all these female engineers are in the more political parts of the economy,”

    So just hand waving. The Chinese state sector includes public transport, all the utilities (water, power), road building, banking etc. That is, a lot of the commercial hot stuff in the USA is (semi-)state owned in China. So your conjectures are comparing apples and things that might not even be fruits.

    Your “pseudo-explanation” of China’s flexibility and USA’s stifling is off by miles.

  28. Winter on Monday, May 14 2012 at 5:41 am said:
    > So just hand waving

    Well it is hard to observe what is happening in China if you don’t want to observe it, and it is politically incorrect hence officially not happening.

    However, a lot easier to observe what is happening in the USA, where large numbers of girls are getting BScs in Computer Science, and yet, somehow, strange to report ….

  29. @JAD
    “Well it is hard to observe what is happening in China if you don’t want to observe it,”

    You do not seem to heed your own advice. There is a centuries long tradition of fantasizing about what happens in China while having never been there nor speaking the language.

    Your claims about what happens in China and why it happens are not better informed than those of Jean-Jacques Rousseau from the 18th century. You simply project your own prejudices.

    As expected, you really have no idea why China is competitive, but make things up to criticize your compatriots.

  30. @Winter

    JAD does have his hobbyhorses.

    The fact remains that turnaround times are much shorter when dealing with Chinese companies. (I think Eric was actually working with a Taiwanese company. Same Difference.) Time-to-hire looks like one reason.

    Until very recently the USA had a similar advantage over most of Europe.

  31. @Bob
    “Time-to-hire looks like one reason.”

    Certainly. And that is related to the number of applicants. Given the “overproduction” of technical people in China, there is ample supply. And time to hire is also related to time to fire. There is little “workplace protection” of any kind in China.

    @Bob
    “JAD does have his hobbyhorses.”

    I know. They have a rather uncanny resemblance to ideas prevalent in medieval Europe, or modern day Salafis.

  32. @Winter

    And time to hire is also related to time to fire. There is little “workplace protection” of any kind in China.

    “workplace protection” means hiring inhibition. People are more reluctant to hire when mistakes are more expensive. It’s a tradeoff. People who have jobs may favor “workplace protection”. People who don’t have a job may not.

    What is the youth unemployment rate in Western Europe, again?

  33. @Winter

    “JAD does have his hobbyhorses.”

    I know. They have a rather uncanny resemblance to ideas prevalent in medieval Europe, or modern day Salafis.

    Larry Niven: “There is no cause so noble that it won’t attract fuggheads.”

    Bob’s corolary: “It is a poor cause indeed that has no valid arguments.”
    Bob’s other corolary: “Many a brilliant analysis is accompanied by an idiotic policy prescription.”

  34. @Bob
    That was my point.

    Youth unemployment is comparatively low in the Netherlands and very high in Spain. So it depends. On temp jobs, that is.

  35. @Winter

    How low is comparably? Comparably to what?

    In the USA before the current recession youth unemployment tracked the the rest of the population for most job sectors. In right-to-work states for some skilled trades youth unemployment was lower, because the training was more current and wages were lower for starting workers. The unionized workforces like the auto industry and mining kept young people out and in fact shed younger workers as they were laid off in reverse seniority.

  36. The “American has no idea what’s actually going on overseas, imagines that the other country is doing what he thinks the US should, and holds out his imaginary vision as a model for the US” thing gets really funny at times.

    (For example, when I was told in 2006 that we should fight terrorism “more like the French”. Upon inquiry, I discovered that he didn’t actually mean arresting and holding people on charges of “association with wrong-doers involved in a terrorist enterprise” and interrogating them without allowing a lawyer to be present or advising them of a right to remain silent.)

  37. On the pseudo-political/comparative engineering topic, I’ve heard many times from people involved, and people critically responding to the press releases and government hype (on both sides, both the “yay us!” and “o gno we’re falling behind and Something Must Be Done!”) that one problem with the factoids about Engineer graduation and employment rates in China and India is that Engineer doesn’t mean the same thing, necessarily.

    In the US, an EE or CS grad is a defined thing, and we call the former an Engineer, and the latter is more or less an equivalent; a trained computer specialist with a serious four-year degree.

    It is said (see first paragraph; as a normal human being I have no way to confirm it, but it fits all the incentives I know exist at the bureaucratic level) that many of the Chinese and Indian graduates called “engineers” in boosting press releases and wailing complaints are people with the equivalent of a Community College technical degree.

    There’s nothing wrong with that (I have one in Graphic Design, myself) – but it ain’t the same thing as the other.

    Likewise there’s nothing wrong with the students or their knowledge – it’s just that they’re not Electrical Engineers meaning the same thing as an American or Canadian or German graduate with an EE is. They know less, because they’ve essentially got an Associate’s degree. Which, again, is fine – as long as we know that and treat it as what it is, not as if it was a Bachelor’s.

    (An “Electical Engineering Technologist” – as the first hit I found put it – might be a thing, and might teach you useful things, but it’s not an Electrical Engineering degree, and it doesn’t teach you the same things.)

  38. Winter
    > there is a centuries long tradition of fantasizing about what happens in China while having never been there nor speaking the language.

    Now that they are open for business, they are speaking our language, and it is undeniable that they are doing something right that we are doing wrong.

    Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are also doing this something right, and if China is doing something right it may well be that they have allowed their large portions of their economy to be managed from Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

  39. Winter on Monday, May 14 2012 at 10:20 am said:
    > Given the “overproduction” of technical people in China, there is ample supply

    Whosoever complains that China is overproducing technical people, will in the same breath condemn China for over employing them. Whosoever emphasizes that China is still substantially socialist will in the same breath complain about their capitalism.

    You hate China like a jilted lover because they have stopped practicing mass murder, artificial famine, and slavery.

  40. @Bob
    “How low is comparably? Comparably to what?”

    Comparable is the overall unemployment rate in the US.

    Youth unemployment is 8.5% in the Netherlands, 8.3% in Germany, close to 50% in Spain and Greece.
    http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Unemployment_statistics

    We have a lot of temp work in the Netherlands. I have colleges (with PhD) who are entering retirement from their last temp project. Almost all high-school kids (16+) and students I know work small jobs while enrolled in school.

  41. @JAD
    “Now that they are open for business, they are speaking our language, and it is undeniable that they are doing something right that we are doing wrong. ”

    If you want to do business in China, you should speak Mandarin. They are doing a lot of things right and others wrong. Many of which are only right or wrong in the context of China. Economic development is more than a single silver bullet.

    @JAD
    “But, of course, there is no “overproduction of technical people in China”. ”

    Yeah, sure that link nails it. How about broadening your search?

    “Graduation means unemployment”, say youth in China
    http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2010/03/graduation-means-unemployment-say-youth-in-china/

    Almost 9% unemployed six months on from graduation
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/jul/15/graduate-unemployment-statistics

    Graduate unemployment levels on a par with school leavers
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2012/feb/22/graduates-unemployment-levels-school-leavers

  42. Winter on Tuesday, May 15 2012 at 3:15 am said:
    > “Graduation means unemployment”, say youth in China
    Almost 9% unemployed six months on from graduation
    > http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/jul/15/graduate-unemployment-statistics

    That happens to be English, not Chinese, unemployment. So by your reasoning English tech companies should be really flexible.

    You just make up shit about China because you feel jilted now that they have stopped enslaving everyone and murdering millions.

  43. @JAD

    Sorry, wrong link. I had to select from dozens of reports, and then picked the wrong one. Here are some recent ones.

    College Graduates: Too Many in China, Not Enough in America?
    http://www.econmatters.com/2011/07/college-graduates-too-many-in-china-not.html

    There are more than 1 million “ants” living in China’s big cities, about 46% spend more than they earn, and 80% have no savings, according to another survey in the 2010 Annual Report on the Development of Chinese Talent, released by the Social Sciences Academic Press in June.

    China’s unemployment rate expected to rise further
    http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/economicnews/view/1200186/1/.html

    Across the country, the unemployment situation is described as bleak as millions of college graduates scramble to look for work. And the situation is hardly better for millions of rural unskilled migrant workers.

    An estimated 25 million people will join the workforce this year, half of whom will be college graduates.

    Despite better educations, ‘ants’ still struggling
    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2010-12/14/content_11696624.htm

    A survey in [Lian Si’s sequel] “Ant Tribe II” found nearly 30% of “ants” are graduates of prestigious universities – almost triple last year’s proportion. Most had degrees in popular majors, such as medicine, engineering, economics and management….In addition, 7.2% of “ants” have at least a master’s degree compared to 1.6% in 2009. An “ant’s” average monthly salary is 1,904 yuan ($286), with about 64% of them earning fewer than 2,000 yuan a month.

    @JAD
    “You just make up shit about China because you feel jilted now that they have stopped enslaving everyone and murdering millions.”

    You are projecting your own phantasies.

  44. Winter:
    > found nearly 30% of “ants” are graduates of prestigious universities – almost triple last year’s proportion. Most had degrees in popular majors, such as medicine, engineering, economics and management

    Reading through your links, I found three specific examples of poverty stricken graduates: One was a computer programmer who had given up work for further studies. Another had a very simple lifestyle because he was saving to buy a house. A third had a business administration degree from a low status rural university and, surprise surprise, could not get a job administering a business in Peking in competition with people with high status Peking business administration degrees.

    Only the third example constitutes a social problem, and you can find a great pile of similar cases at any occupy protest in the US.

  45. @JAD
    “Only the third example constitutes a social problem, and you can find a great pile of similar cases at any occupy protest in the US.”

    Contrary to your obsessive writing, I do not think about the US when I write about China, or any other topic. So whether or not the US has the same problems is immaterial for this discussion.

    You claimed: “But, of course, there is no “overproduction of technical people in China”.” And I show with half a dozen articles that graduate unemployment is seen as a huge problem in China. I never mentioned that they are starving.

    If you had done your homework, you would have known that the number of unemployed graduates is steadily falling. And that the Chinese government is working on closing college majors that do not pay.

    http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2011/11/23/china-to-cancel-college-majors-that-dont-pay/

    Nonetheless, the glut of graduates that cannot find suitable jobs is real. Which leaves companies a choice of applicants. Which was my initial point.

    Btw, anyone who thinks of moving to China for a shiny job. Be aware that fluent Mandarin is obligatory, and that the Chinese get by with much, much, lower wages. Unless you make your boss a fortune, you will not get paid much.

  46. Eric – off-topic – but in this interview you note that 16:9 displays are stretched horizontally too annoyingly. Have you tried putting your monitor in portrait mode? I do this at work and it makes everything ridiculously better: everything I look at (web page, email, terminal, spreadsheet, gVim window) is a document sorta thing, so is so much more usable in portrait. The one thing landscape is better for is movies, which I don’t watch at work. Try it, you won’t go back.

  47. Winter:
    > Contrary to your obsessive writing, I do not think about the US when I write about China, or any other topic.

    The question at issue is why is Chinese business more flexible and faster to react than US business: The US, not China, is the issue we are discussing.

    Is it because China’s unregulated capitalism allows the evil capitalist overlords to oppress And exploit the masses, (your story) or is it because they are less weighed down by a statist bureaucracy that thrusts its tentacles deep into every orifice of every business, as manifested by HR among others (my story – for which the peculiar sex ratio of HR is compelling evidence)

    Everything you write rests on the position that our ruling elite is wise benevolent and constructive, except that they should have more power and more wealth so that they can be more benevolent and constructive.

    Hence you are outraged by the fact that a Chinese graduate with an undergraduate degree in business administration from a low status rural university cannot get a job administering business in Peking, due to competition from people with high status degrees from Peking universities, and consider that it illustrates the fact that Chinese flexibility is attained by exploiting and oppressing the masses, while mass murder, artificial famine, and near universal slavery did not trouble you at all.

  48. @JAD
    “The question at issue is why is Chinese business more flexible and faster to react than US business: The US, not China, is the issue we are discussing.”

    OK. I was discussing China, but if you want, I will lay down my over-simplistic “One size fits all” analysis of the USA economy.

    I think the USA is losing business to China for two reasons.

    1) Americans are too expensive.
    Chinese factory workers earn $100-200 a month. And those are the lucky ones. They can actually live off this pittance (it is an enormous improvement over what they earned only a decade ago). You can have outdoor lunch in China for $1 (I did for less). You can cook a healthy diner for $1. For that money, you literally starve in the US. Therefore, Chinese companies can produce many products much cheaper than US ones.

    There are good reasons for this difference. One is, much more money is spend to raise a US American in terms of education, health care, food safety, building quality and safety, law enforcement etc. An American simply has to earn much more to repay for all this investment.

    Trying to reduce wages and living standards in the USA to those of China to try to compete on their terms is ridiculous. The solution is to raise productivity to levels that would make the USA competitive again.

    This brings us to the next factor:

    2) The USA did not invest in higher productivity
    Germany invested heavily in moving to producing high-tech, high-value products by improving education, technology research, and innovation. As a result, the Chinese produce all these cheap products using German machinery and German tools. The USA spend all that money on increasing consumption (and the Matthew effect). As a result, too many US companies compete head-on with China on price. With the above result.

    As I have heard no one in the US, whatever political views, addressing these two factors, I think these US developments happened with near unanimous support in the USA.

  49. @JAD
    “Everything you write rests on the position that our ruling elite is wise benevolent and constructive, except that they should have more power and more wealth so that they can be more benevolent and constructive.”
    … and much more along these lines

    You are so funny. You seem to be unable to read and will only project your own troubled thoughts onto whomever you argue with. Your writings give us a good view on your mind. And it is a true horror story.

    I think the ruling elite of the USA is best described as a mix of hyenas and vultures (btw, most elites are like that), but somehow, the population they rule seem to see them as role models. The rest of the argument goes downhill from this.

    Try to find the places where I wrote anything about China and the Chinese that would justify your accusations.

  50. Winter
    > Chinese factory workers earn $100-200 a month. And those are the lucky ones.

    Minimum wage in Shanghai is $194 a month, and most people earn above the minimum, so if someone is earning $200 a month, he is one of the unlucky ones, at least in Shanghai.

    But you have a point, even though you exaggerate. Chinese wages are low, though rising fast.

    This may well explain them assembling stuff cheaply. It does not explain the fact that China is moving up the value chain, exporting stuff whose main ingredients are not cheap labor. Your argument can explain where they are at. It fails to explain how they got to where they are at, or where they are going to from where they are at. Your explanation fails to explain cars on the streets and air conditioned buildings. It explains all those people on bicycles living in tiny little rooms, but fails to explain the rapidly increasing number of people in cars.

    And it fails to explain how Eric got the best GPS he has seen in two weeks from design to product on his desk.

  51. @JAD
    “Minimum wage in Shanghai is $194 a month, and most people earn above the minimum, so if someone is earning $200 a month, he is one of the unlucky ones, at least in Shanghai.”

    My numbers were quoted two years back, and they were not for the coastal region, but more inland. So, I guess they will be higher in current day Shanghai.

    @JAD
    “Your argument can explain where they are at. It fails to explain how they got to where they are at, or where they are going to from where they are at. ”

    Oh, that is simple and complex at the same time. The Chinese kept productivity rising faster than wages. They raised productivity by channeling capital into improved machinery, education, and infrastructure (I was told a new power station was brought online every week). They kept wages low by controlling work migration, always making sure there were more workers than work.

    The USA did the wages thing, by letting a continuous stream of immigrant workers into the USA to increase labor competition. The USA botched the productivity raising thing, big time.

    The Chinese keep going up the value chain by forcing existing companies to compete with ever more new upstart companies in more rural areas where wages are always lower than at the coast. And by reinvesting money to improve productivity and quality. Moving up the value chain is actual government policy.

    @JAD
    “Your explanation fails to explain cars on the streets and air conditioned buildings.”

    The upper 1% of the Chinese is 15 million people. The upper 10% is 150 million people. That is an awful lot of cars and luxury goods.

    @JAD
    “And it fails to explain how Eric got the best GPS he has seen in two weeks from design to product on his desk.”

    Fast companies? That is 1980′s Japanese stuff.

    Channel high volume exports through big, global players who can bargain. But let them be supplied by local (very) small shops. And do not take long term contracts. Most of the German industrial export is from medium sized (~5000) companies no one has ever heard of.

    Maybe US firms are organized differently? It is difficult to milk many small companies for cash/shareholder value/bonuses, so that might be a motivation to coagulate them?

    And, obviously, Chinese engineers are well educated and willing to work for their customers. I saw the same approach in Germany. But I also have met badly educated people who only wanted to get my money, preferably without doing anything in return.

    Which approach is stimulated in the USA? I know the UK have bet on the financial industry for economic growth, at the detriment of the whole world.

  52. @JAD “… did not trouble you at all.”

    You keep using that word ["you"]. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  53. @Winter

    It is not only the US worker productivity. It’s the US worker productivity relative to overhead. One of the points in the NY Times articles about iDevice manufacturing is how small the labor costs are relative to the price of the device. American wages wouldn’t make that much of a difference. The problem is the American overhead.

    The federal bureacracy in the USA is so large and so byzantine that it gets in its own way, let alone in ordinary citizens’ way. It adds compliance costs and taxes to each individual worker that are above a low wage worker’s marginal utility to his employer.

    European bureacracy is probably not as complex, and it is certainly not to the same scale. No country in Europe has 300+ million people. The management chains are not nearly as long. Decision makers are much closer to the consequences of their actions.

    It is conceivable for a Swede to visit an agency headquarters to get help with his problem.

    The dykes in the Netherlands are maintained properly because everybody involved knows somebody who will be affected if they are not.

    The USA is on a whole ‘nother scale.

    That’s why the USA had a federal government structure. Most of the things European national governments do were supposed to be handled at the state level. In addition to allowing experimentation it kept government closer to the governed. We’ve lost that advantage.

  54. @Bob
    Possible. I once read “the death of common sence. It described how US law tried to get rid of human judgement. It did not work.

  55. It might help if foreign observers actually took the different conditions here into account. Foreign opinions have a huge effect on the chattering classes, and on people in government here.

    Take High Speed Rail. Please. It’s not economic here. We’re too spread out. The ratio of capital investment to return is much higher for rail here. Freight is worth it. Passenger not so much.

    Take broadband. We’ll never get the penetration of western Europe, Japan, or Korea. Same reason.

    The tradeoffs are different here.

    California may be too big for a European style government, especially with emigration to the rest of the USA so easy. When In-and-Out Burger opened here in North Texas they were mobbed by refugees from the People’s Republic of California who were pining for a taste of home.

  56. Take High Speed Rail. Please. It’s not economic here. We’re too spread out. The ratio of capital investment to return is much higher for rail here. Freight is worth it. Passenger not so much.

    Take broadband. We’ll never get the penetration of western Europe, Japan, or Korea. Same reason.

    Errrrh, wrong.

    The reason why we don’t see high-speed rail — or decent, affordable broadband — is simply because Americans aren’t terribly motivated to build out infrastructure. The way business works here in Murka is to charge as much for as little service as you possibly can get away with. In service-oriented industries like broadband internet (and health care), this means introducing market segmentation, tiered pricing, “premium services”, and charging extra for offering more than a small fraction of your theoretical cruising capacity. Accordingly, it’s possible to get high-speed broadband from Comcast over the exact same cable lines — but it’ll cost you an arm and a leg per month. See also: $30/month tethering surcharges on cellphone data plans to use the same data connection with a computer; game “DLC” which comes already on the disc; virtually any decent health coverage.

    There are regulations in Europe against this sort of thing. European ISPs must therefore compete more aggressively on features and price. (This is actually a recent development, btw, and not really true in the days of European telco monopolies which ended just a decade or so ago.)

    Funny that, how socialist Europe actually promotes the engine of capitalism — competition — with its eeeeeevil business regulations. Libertarians tend to fall into this sort of trap all the time; it’s why I stopped being one.

  57. Winter on Wednesday, May 16 2012 at 6:30 am said:
    > The Chinese kept productivity rising faster than wages. They raised productivity by channeling capital into improved machinery, education, and infrastructure (I was told a new power station was brought online every week). They kept wages low by controlling work migration, always making sure there were more workers than work

    But these are all things that the communists did or attempted to do, and, in addition, the communist kept wages low by shooting those disinclined to work as directed. Nor do any of these things explain why esr can get a design change on a two week turnaround.

    Somehow, you left out what makes today’s China different from yesterday’s China and what makes today’s China different from today’s America.

    Obviously esr could not have gotten a design change on GPS to provide global simultaneity from the earlier Chinese regime, nor from today’s America.

    You are seeing like a state, seeing only the good things the state does, but not what individual people do, and not seeing the harm the state causes by stopping people from doing stuff.

    In the US, women doing high status jobs acts as a tracer, revealing the heavy hand of state intervention. Following this tracer, which esr does not dare to follow, we can see what stops US corporations from being flexible.

  58. Random832 on Wednesday, May 16 2012 at 8:43 am said:
    > You keep using that word ["you"]. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    The politically correct speak with but a single voice, a thousand loudspeakers all controlled by one microphone. There is no diversity among the politically correct.

  59. Of course there’s not, because if there were, you would not call those other voices “the politically correct”. But some of those loudspeakers only repeat some of the inputs of the microphone, some of them were not plugged in or even built thirty years ago, and some that existed then have since been unplugged or broken down.

  60. @JAD
    “But these are all things that the communists did or attempted to do”

    The aim of the communists was not to sell stuff. The switch came with Deng Xiaoping (as leader of a faction of the party), who decided that a market economy was more productive. Then his faction grounded the first Special Economic zones and started the channeling of capital and people into the market economy.

    @JAD
    “you left out what makes today’s China different from yesterday’s China and what makes today’s China different from today’s America.”

    A mixed market economy? All the way back down to the old discussion in Salt and Iron (Han dynasty), Chinese society and policy was officially against trade.

    What makes China different from the USA?

    The same what makes Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Germany different from the USA and other failures like Russia: A determination to compete on an open, global, market. All these competing countries take different measures to achieve that goal of global competitiveness, but they all do take action and make all changes that are necessary to their companies and policies.

    It seems to me the USA is thinking in terms of competing on imports and increasing consumption, while the rest of the world is competing in exports and increasing productivity.

    @JAD
    “but not what individual people do, and not seeing the harm the state causes by stopping people from doing stuff.”

    People are doing the ideas and work, states are doing the infrastructure, like education, roads, laws, and power stations. There is more to it, but that would take too long. But in history, there has been no (industrial) economic development without a state (in many cases, there was no development with a state either). Your theories about economic development are hare brained and utopian, actually, they are dystopian.

    @JAD
    “The politically correct speak with but a single voice, a thousand loudspeakers all controlled by one microphone.”

    This is the perfect example of why the USA cannot compete in a global market.

    There are 6 billion people in the world. But here is JAD really believing that they all think according to the party lines of WASP Americans. And you wonder why US firms will not react fast?

    It has been said many times before: political discourse in the world outside of the USA, and therefore, political correctness, is diverse and utterly alien to that inside the USA and on this blog. In almost every other country in the world, there are actual socialist/communist parties participating in real government. There is general health care and social security at various levels of effectiveness, and there is a sense that there are other countries where you have to sell stuff at their, foreign, terms.

    Your parochial stance seems to pervade large swats of the American population. The mission statement in US corporate culture also seems to be “My way or the highway”.

    @JAD
    “There is no diversity among the politically correct.”

    As the Spanish say: There is no one so blind as a person who does not want to see.

  61. It seems my comments are getting eaten. All but the first can be deleted, if they are still there.

  62. Winter
    >What makes China different from the USA?
    >
    > The same what makes Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Germany different from the USA and other failures like Russia: A determination to compete on an open, global, market. All these competing countries take different measures to achieve that goal of global competitiveness, but they all do take action and make all changes that are necessary to their companies and policies.

    Your totalitarianism is showing. Supposedly, according to you, the differences between these states are due to different wise and good policies aimed at promoting wealth and prosperity – but there is no government policy for fast turnaround of GPS designs. Supposedly this prosperity derives not from individuals, but from their rulers.

    Rather, the differences are due to differences in the ways that wealth is destroyed, and liberty crushed.

  63. @JAD
    “Your totalitarianism is showing. Supposedly, according to you, the differences between these states are due to different wise and good policies aimed at promoting wealth and prosperity ”

    As I wrote above, no man so blind…

    But, maybe my writing is not so clear for certain readers from the USA. I have my own silent preconceptions and prejudices which can get in the way of clarity.

    In the countries I pointed out, the population is convinced of the need to compete internationally. They know, personally, they need to sell stuff to aliens that are different from them. So, at all levels, they will press employers and politicians to increase competitiveness. And many of them will personally try to adapt their manners to the needs of their foreign customers. For instance, they will try to learn a foreign language to do business with foreign partners, or just so they understand them better.

    Not a mind set I encounter often in USA publications and people.

    See, state follows population here. German politicians will do the things German voters want. Which is, make Germany export better stuff to make them all richer. No need for “wise” rulers and a totalitarian state.

    But, JAD, you use some kind of plural you which indicates not me, the writer of this comment, but instead addresses me as one of countless non-thinking mouth pieces of some anonymous Stalinist entity. Anything I write you will force onto the procrustus bed of your parochial WASP ideology.

    As a result, you are utterly unable to comprehend how all those aliens are able to organize their societies, each in their own way, to become more productive and actually prosper.

  64. ESR;
    You said: “On the GR601 case: CE/FCC/ROHS certification.”

    When I were in Baghdad the power strip under my desk had CE and UL labels on it. And it said Made In China.

    Let me rephrase that. The power *strips* had CE and UL labels on it. And the desk above them had scorch marks.

    Apparently having those logos put on a piece of electronic equipment coming out of mainland China doesn’t, you know, mean they actually comply.

    YMMV.

  65. @Jeff Read

    The reason why we don’t see high-speed rail — or decent, affordable broadband — is simply because Americans aren’t terribly motivated to build out infrastructure.

    That sounds to me uncomfortably like an insufficient revolutionary zeal argument. That is, people who for their own reasons choose not to do something are accused of wrong thinking.

    As a matter of fact the numbers don’t work.The longer distances and the lower population density mean the revenue would’t pay for the investment. Airports are much cheaper.

  66. @Jeff Read
    More like Americans are not motivated to invest in public goods.

    Wrt high speed trains. The US east coast has a comparable population density to France or Germany. Both have high speed services, the US has not.

  67. The Northeast Corridor has as practical a high-speed rail system as is going to exist; the Acela, paralleling I-95. Where it is not high speed is due to legacy rail that cannot be economically upgraded, or in some cases cannot be upgraded at all. This part of Amtrak runs at a notional profit, subsidizing the rest of the system.

  68. > But, JAD, you use some kind of plural you which indicates not me, the writer of this comment, but instead addresses me as one of countless non-thinking mouth pieces of some anonymous Stalinist entity.

    Because you will not deviate from any point of a thousand points of the progressive doctrine, even on those points where it is outrageously silly or obviously false, and even though progressive doctrine is subject to abrupt and frequent change. After each abrupt change, you deny that the doctrine was ever different. Not only do you believe the current doctrine, you believe that you always believed the current doctrine, at that all the major voices of orthodoxy, such as the Economist and The New York Times, always believed the current doctrine, notwithstanding documentary evidence to the contrary. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

    Back before China so enraged you by freeing its slaves and ceasing to murder them, the doctrine on China was:

    “In the final reckoning, Mao must be accepted as one of history’s great achievers: for devising a peasant-centered revolutionary strategy which enabled China’s Communist Party to seize power, against Marx’s prescriptions, from bases in the countryside; for directing the transformation of China from a feudal society, wracked by war and bled by corruption, into a unified, egalitarian state where nobody starves; and for reviving national pride and confidence so that China could, in Mao’s words, ‘stand up’ among the great powers.”

    I know you believed that, because that is what The Economist said, and you would never deviate from what The Economist said, even though what The Economist says one day is apt to abruptly differ from what The Economist says another day.

    And not only do you now believe what The Economist says today, you believe that you and the Economist always said what it now says today.

    When confronted with the difference that the line has changed, you will argue that there is no difference, that there is a difference but it was reasonable for the Economist to be mistaken at the time, and that there is a difference but the old version was true at the time, while the new version is true now. When arguing any one of these mutually contradictory positions you will carefully avoid denying the other two, since to contradict any one of them is politically incorrect.

    And, to get back on topic, the topic being the ability to turn a design change into a product in two weeks, the reason for Chinese flexibility is small firm size, and the reason for small firm size is that a firm does not have to support a swollen army of useless parasitic women who supervise the firm for compliance with a vast pile of regulation, in particular, that they lack a large, meddlesome, and alarmingly powerful human resources department.

    Compliance is a fixed cost that afflicts small firms more severely than large firms, making American tech firms unnaturally and artificially larger than Chinese tech firms, thus creating firms that are larger than the optimal size for getting anything complicated done,

  69. @JAD
    The word [*you*] seems to have a very peculiary meaning in your religious/political declaration of believe.

    I fail to see a connection with any of my comments. So I guess you are addressing some one else?

  70. @JAD
    “the reason for Chinese flexibility is small firm size, and the reason for small firm size is that a firm does not have to support a swollen army of useless parasitic women who supervise the firm for compliance with a vast pile of regulation,”

    Germany has working women, a female chancellor, a big state, high taxes, and proverbial strong regulations. They also have a lot of small firms and can compete with the Chinese. Even better, they build the machinery the Chinese use to produce their stuff.

    One difference between the USA and Germany is that power is much less concentrated in Germany. No one in Germany has the power of a US president, senator, or CEO.

  71. @JAD
    > > “the reason for Chinese flexibility is small firm size, and the reason for small firm size is that a firm does not have to support a swollen army of useless parasitic women who supervise the firm for compliance with a vast pile of regulation,”

    > Germany has working women, a female chancellor, a big state, high taxes, and proverbial strong regulations.

    And German industry has even less flexibility than the US. The fact that we were discussing is that a Chinese firm could go from a design change to a product in a couple of weeks. A German firm is considerably less capable of that than a US firm.

    You are making a particular case of the general argument: “Look, Europe is even more statist than the US, and they are doing fine”. They are not doing fine, and today the US is about as statist as most of Europe.

  72. @JAD
    German industry is competitive. You obviously have no clue why. Their export is carried by an army of mid sized family businesses.

    The Chinese buy their tools and high tech in Germany.

    But that is reality, something you have lost connection with.

  73. Winter on Saturday, May 19 2012 at 4:40 pm said:
    > German industry is competitive. You obviously have no clue why. Their export is carried by an army of mid sized family businesses.

    esr discovered alibaba.com a few weeks ago. I have been on alibaba.com for years.

    You can tell where the small businesses are by looking at who is listed on alibaba.com. I don’t see too many germans on alibaba.com

  74. I’m not sure why I’m bothering to respond to JAD, but I’ll do it once.

    @JAD:
    “I cannot give you any statistics for what happens to all those US female computer science graduates either, because those statistics also would be horribly politically incorrect.”

    Eric already discussed this right here. And he is right on the money; this is why I walked away from engineering. Too many death marches, high expectations that all engineers will work significant overtime, too many old-boy networks, no work-life balance.

    I chose not to “eat shit”, to use Eric’s phrase, and walked away. Now I make more money working less hours, and I add significant value to my (private-sector) employer. No government intervention needed.

  75. @JAD
    Germans export tools and (heavy) machinery. The waver steppers making Eric’s chip sets were most likely constructed in Eindhoven by a company with 5000 employees. The air treatment inn their chip plant was likely build and installed from Stuttgard by some family owned shop, just as the cars of their management were build by Germany’s biggest industrial conglomerate, headed in Stuttgard..

    Anyhow, company size statistics are available. Just look for them.

  76. > Eric already discussed this right here. And he is right on the money; this is why I walked away from engineering.

    What is interesting is that there is no statistical information on the discrepancy between the large number of females graduated from computer science, and the small number actually programming computers, just as there are no statistics on the proportion of mortgage defaults by non asian minorities, although statistics on every other aspect of borrowing and lending are broken down by race.

    It is clear that most of the defaults were defaults by non asian minorities, and clear that most female computer science graduates were somehow graduated despite being unable to program computers, (present company excepted of course, you probably would not be on this blog if you could not program) and if I cannot produce statistics showing either one, it is striking that no one can produce statistics at all, and that demands for the statistics under freedom of information are unfailing stonewalled.

  77. @JAD

    http://www.bmwi.de/English/Navigation/Economic-policy/small-business-policy.html

    Small and medium-sized businesses: the backbone of the German economy
    One of the main hallmarks of Germany's economy is the roughly 3.7 million small and medium-sized businesses and self-employed professionals active in the skilled crafts, industry, retail, tourism, and general and professional services. Because of the prominence of Germany's SME sector, the government's SME policy affects the interests of the majority of people involved in economic activity.
    
    Small and medium-sized companies in Germany
    
        represent 99.7% of all businesses,
        produce 38% of taxable turnover,
        account for nearly 49% of total net value added by companies, and
        provide roughly 60% of all jobs requiring social insurance contributions
    

    Germany’s Mittelstand
    Beating China
    German family firms are outdoing their Chinese rivals. Can they keep it up?

    http://www.economist.com/node/21524922

    But I know you do not like facts. They always get in the way of your theory.

  78. > “Small and medium sized businesses represent 99.7% of all German businesses”

    This implies an unusual definition of “small and medium”

    > But I know you do not like facts. They always get in the way of your theory.

    The missing fact, that does not appear in the sources you link to, is how small is “small and medium”.

    The fact that this fact is missing, would suggest that “small and medium” corresponds to what I would call gigantic and humungous.

    I searched long and hard for the definition of “small and middle”, using google translate, was unable to find it. If a fact is that hard to find, it is usually horribly politically incorrect.

  79. If a significant number of “small and middle sized” german firms were actually small and middle sized, they would be on alibaba.com. They are not.

  80. @JAD

    This implies an unusual definition of “small and medium”

    The missing fact, that does not appear in the sources you link to, is how small is “small and medium”.

    Facts, just say no!

    Come on, you can do better than such a lame excuse. They even give a definition of SMEs in a table. Basically, up to 499 employees and up to 50 million annual turnover.

    @JAD

    If a significant number of “small and middle sized” german firms were actually small and middle sized, they would be on alibaba.com. They are not.

    That seems to be another example of the US mind-set: You are only famous if I know you. It is very entertaining how every discussion with you ends in you arguing that there is no proof the sky is blue.

    German SMEs are very visible to anyone driving around in Germany. You wanting to argue such a highly visible and well attested simple fact is again proof of your disconnect with reality.

  81. Wrt high speed trains. The US east coast has a comparable population density to France or Germany. Both have high speed services, the US has not.

    Your info is out-of-date. Amtrak Acela trains run from Boston to Washington and reach max speeds of 240 km/h. Not quite a TGV, but not bad; the service has proven extremely popular for commuters.

  82. > So there is stiil hope for the US?

    Yes. Hopefully we will avoid wasting money on high speed rail.

    Packet switched networks rule! That means cars and planes. If you like the freedom of the internet, please generalize! Freedom isn’t only for information. People also want to be free.

    Yours,
    Tom

  83. Well, the Acela competes against air travel, and does so pretty well. But, the circumstances to support the Acela don’t exist outside of the BosWash corridor.

  84. @Tom DeGisi
    “Hopefully we will avoid wasting money on high speed rail.”

    In dense areas, public transport is competitive. The positive externalities are large. Especially if space is at a premium. And upto 500 km, high speed rail can actually be faster door-to-door than air travel.

    The difference between the US and Europe/East Asia is that the positive externalities (public goods) of public transport seem to be more difficult to incorporate in the decision in the US.

  85. >The difference between the US and Europe/East Asia is that the positive externalities (public goods) of public transport seem to be more difficult to incorporate in the decision in the US.

    No, that’s not it at all. The problem is land area and population density. Below a certain critical population density, which most of the U.S. (heck, basically all of it outside the Boswash megalopolis) fails to achieve, passenger rail is a loser. A white elephant, a subsidy sink. So expensive that it doesn’t compete well with short-hop airlines.

  86. @esr
    “Below a certain critical population density, which most of the U.S. (heck, basically all of it outside the Boswash megalopolis) fails to achieve, passenger rail is a loser.”

    Indeed. I know. But I understood even there public transport is “suboptimal”. My idea was that if the US are not able to sustain fast rail in such a densely populated area, things must be very wrong. But they are not, I hear.

    I would like to point out one externality of public transport: Higher population densities and shorter travel distances.

    European cities have around 30% of their area devoted to transport (roads, parking spaces) versus 50% in US cities. I am not sure how accurate these stats are, but if I compare cities like Tokyo, Beijing, Paris, London, and Berlin with US cities I visited and saw on screen, they seem not far off.

  87. In regards high-speed rail, in understand that the bolt buses ate a nice alternative to the Northeast corridor trains, if not as fast as Acela. Interesting because they are more “packetized” than a train, I regards scheduling of departures etc. I’m beginning to think that present trainee ate going to go the way of most circuit-switched transport paths, killed by packet-switched networks for most applications. This is not a new observation in this thread, of course.

  88. @Winter

    But I understood even there public transport is “suboptimal”.

    How many European HSR projects cross national borders? In the USA most would cross state borders. This adds a level of complexity, which is one argument for doing things at the federal level. Unfortunately doing things at the federal level has its own drawbacks.

  89. @Bob
    “How many European HSR projects cross national borders?”

    Both the French TGV and the German ICE travel to Amsterdam and Brussels. I will admit immediately that the Dutch railways are still not up to high speed. But with a big city every 30 km, it is rather difficult to speed up.

  90. Winter:

    The difference between the US and Europe/East Asia is that the positive externalities (public goods) of public transport seem to be more difficult to incorporate in the decision in the US.

    There are also the negative externalities associated with cars: greater pollution, greater CO2 emission, greater fuel depletion, etc. Those weren’t incorporated in the decision either.

    The main rule for policy decisions in the U.S. is: FOLLOW THE MONEY. Which politically well-connected interest groups stand to benefit financially from a given policy decision? For example, it is known that after WWII, the U.S. decided to focus on building interstate highways rather than rail systems under heavy lobbying from the automotive industry. General Motors also had a hand in the systematic dismantlement of local urban light rail systems in favor of buses (google “Great American Streetcar Conspiracy”).

  91. > In dense areas, public transport is competitive.

    Then why is it so heavily subsidized and politically protected?

    Yours,
    Tom

  92. @Winter: “The difference between the US and Europe/East Asia is that the positive externalities (public goods) of public transport seem to be more difficult to incorporate in the decision in the US.”

    @ESR: “No, that’s not it at all. The problem is land area and population density. Below a certain critical population density, which most of the U.S. (heck, basically all of it outside the Boswash megalopolis) fails to achieve, passenger rail is a loser. A white elephant, a subsidy sink. So expensive that it doesn’t compete well with short-hop airlines.”

    Canada is the logical test case. It’s political and economic mindset looks more like Europe, while it’s population distribution and density looks more like that of the U.S.

    I don’t think high-speed rail has made any real impact in Canada.

  93. >I don’t think high-speed rail has made any real impact in Canada.

    And never will. Even Lower Canada, the relatively densely populated portion cradled by the Great Lakes and below 45N, doesn’t have the population density to sustain high-speed rail.

  94. “systematic dismantlement of local urban light rail systems in favor of buses (google “Great American Streetcar Conspiracy”)”

    Uh, no. I’m probably the only reader of this blog old enough to have actually ridden on Brooklyn’s streetcars. I used to love it; they were big and noisey and made a nice bump at every rail joint. Just the things that small boys loved, and grownups hated. They also featured overhead wires that would come down frequently, endangering the public. They could not pull up to the the curb to make boarding easy and safe. If one broke down, the whole line got stopped until the heavy-duty tow truck arrived. If there was a traffic blockage for any other reason, it had the same result; you can’t reroute a streetcar. The rails they rode on needed maintenance, and if a route needed changing because the population shifted, it was just too bad.

    It is a fact that buses simply had too many advantages over the streetcar. Their decline was a perfectly natural consequence of creative destruction. GM was not the cause of their demise, though they probably thought that they were helping it along.

  95. >It is a fact that buses simply had too many advantages over the streetcar.

    Yes, and you missed the biggest one. The Achilles heel of all forms of rail is that building new trackage is expensive, so responding to changes in demand patterns is expensive. Buses and cars don’t have this problem; they can adapt faster. It’s why they win.

  96. @Tom DeGisi
    “Then why is [public transport] so heavily subsidized and politically protected?”

    Because it is a public good. The positive externalities cannot be captured in the ticket price.

    Look at Paris or London. Without public transport, these cities would have to thin out their build-up area and increase their surface area by 50% or more. Travel times would increase massively. Essentially, almost all of the economic activity would have to translocate to the outskirts of the cities. Around Paris and London, land prices are simply too high. So everyone is better off by paying for the public good than paying for increased city prices.

    In France, there is a beautiful example. Shopping groceries and food can not realistically be done with public transport. Commuting can. So big cities do have office buildings, factories etc. But all the super markets have moved out of town to hypermarches (Malls).

    In Amsterdam, we see something like that, where real economic activity has moved out of the (16th century) center to the parallel highway and railway in the south of the city. This axis can easily be reached by car, bus, and train.

    Btw, trains are best between cities and as a subway in town, as they are much faster than buses. Buses do the spokes, transporting to and from railway stations. I commute daily by public transport, and it is faster than by car, and cheaper (to me). Our public transport system requires at around 150 euro per head a year in subsidies (buses). Trains run roughly even. Note that our government spends somewhat more on roads.

  97. @esr
    “The Achilles heel of all forms of rail is that building new trackage is expensive, so responding to changes in demand patterns is expensive. Buses and cars don’t have this problem; they can adapt faster. It’s why they win.”

    Yes, but rail transport is faster, cheaper, and has higher capacity than buses. That is why new tracks are still laid down over here.

    There are not that many new cities build on pristine land anymore, so the connections between the cities are very stable.

  98. > it is a public good. The positive externalities cannot be captured in the ticket price.
    >
    > Look at Paris or London. Without public transport, these cities would have to thin out their build-up area and increase their surface area by 50% or more. Travel times would increase massively

    I took google street view to the center of LA. Then I took google streetview to the center of London. Looks like LA, without public transport, has much taller buildings, hence higher density, than London with public transport.

    On that evidence, the main thing public transport does for London is obstruct traffic.

  99. @JAD
    “On that evidence, the main thing public transport does for London is obstruct traffic.”

    This must be the funniest use of the word evidence I have heard. You should try your procedure in Hong Kong or Beijing. Or you might get some, *gasp*, statistics on population density. Google does a good service:

    LA (per square mile)
    http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/neighborhoods/population/density/neighborhood/list/
    HighestKoreatown pop 124,281 density 42,611/sqmi ~ 18938/sq km

    London (per square km)
    http://www.demographia.com/dm-lon31.htm
    Highest Inner London pop 2,765,975 density 23,460 /sq km

    See also:
    http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/346821/London/13489/Population-density

    sudo /etc/init.d/Reality stop
    /bin/bash ~/Fantasy

  100. “Yes, and you missed the biggest one. The Achilles heel of all forms of rail is that building new trackage is expensive, so responding to changes in demand patterns is expensive. Buses and cars don’t have this problem; they can adapt faster. It’s why they win.”

    Well, I did mention the problem of changing routes when the population shifted, but I’ll go on to also mention that a streetcar company had the burden of maintaining its rails and overhead wires, while the bus companies simply used the streets maintained by the municipality.

  101. Winter:
    > This must be the funniest use of the word evidence I have heard. You should try your procedure in Hong Kong or Beijing

    The claim was that Central London is proof of the virtues of public transport, in that public transport enables high density. But Google Earth street view shows that Central London is low density as central cities go – indeed all of Europe’s major cities have low density centers as central cities go.

    Singapore, having only the land that Raffles stole from the Sultan, is unavoidably high density. It has one hell of a tax on cars, intended to capture all externalities and then some. All roads are toll roads, every single one. Similarly, all parking costs its full cost. So the driver pays for the road, and he pays for his parking space. It also has a heavily subsidized public transport system – which is languishing as people prefer to choose cars.

    The benefit of public transport is similar to the benefit provided by cattle trucks as a means of transporting cattle. It is efficient if someone else decides where those being transported are going to go.

  102. @JAD
    “The claim was that Central London is proof of the virtues of public transport, in that public transport enables high density. But Google Earth street view shows that Central London is low density as central cities go – indeed all of Europe’s major cities have low density centers as central cities go. ”

    Facts. Just say no!

    You are dodging the question again. Google Earth streetview is not a measure of population density.

    The statistics are simple, Inner London with over two million inhabitants has a much higher population density than the densest part of LA, Koreatown, which has less than 150,000 inhabitants.

    But you claimed:

    I took google street view to the center of LA. Then I took google streetview to the center of London. Looks like LA, without public transport, has much taller buildings, hence higher density, than London with public transport.

    It is obvious, that you are completely and utterly wrong about that. And that this shows that Google streetview does not show you which city has a higher population density.

    If you want to argue that private cars could improve transportation over public transport in Inner London, or Inner Paris, or Inner Amsterdam, at a lower cost, you obviously never tried to drive and park there.

    In short, you have shown again that you have no clue about the subject at hand. But you are perfectly willing to ignore any facts or the experiences of eye witnesses.

    @JAD

    The benefit of public transport is similar to the benefit provided by cattle trucks as a means of transporting cattle. It is efficient if someone else decides where those being transported are going to go.

    You obviously do not travel with public transport.

    @JAD

    [Singapore] also has a heavily subsidized public transport system – which is languishing as people prefer to choose cars.

    I have used public transport in many big European cities, as well as in, e.g., Sidney, Tokyo, Beijing, Chongqing, and Hongkong. They were all pretty heavily used. Which makes your interpretation of Singapore the odd one out.

  103. > The statistics are simple, Inner London with over two million inhabitants has a much higher population density than the densest part of LA, Koreatown, which has less than 150,000 inhabitants.

    So I should believe statistics rather than my lying eyes?

  104. @JAD
    “So I should believe statistics rather than my lying eyes?”

    This really is funny.

    You believe pictures, at your age? You really think you can extract population densities from looking at a few house fronts? And you think everybody else must lie every word they say?

    Population density is simply the people who live there, divided by the area where they live. For 2 million people living next to the main resources in a country, that should not be too difficult. But that is a statistic you cannot bring yourself to believe.

    Every time I think you cannot get more disconnected from reality, you surprise me again.

  105. Winter:
    > You really think you can extract population densities from looking at a few house fronts? And you think everybody else must lie every word they say?

    We are not looking at house fronts.

    We are asking the effectiveness of public transport, hence population densities are irrelevant. What is relevant is the employment density where people work, not the residential density where they live – which density is quite obviously higher in the center of LA with no public transport than in the center of most European cities. I would expect the “population density” at the center of LA to be near zero, and indeed it is.

    And if I was looking at population densities, which I am not, because they are irrelevant, I would confidently trust my eyes above government statistics, which are usually massive wrong through both casual error and political falsification. (Compare government accounts with private business accounts)

  106. @JAD
    People do not work in inner London? The mind boggles.

    But you are again arguing that I cannot prove to your satisfaction that the sky is blue. All pictures I show are obvious fabrications.

  107. Winter on Saturday, May 26 2012 at 2:44 am said:
    > People do not work in inner London? The mind boggles.

    Re-read.

    What I said was that very few people live in central LA – they drive there to work – demonstrating that cars work better than public transport for to support a high relatively high density city core.

  108. @JAD
    But LA city core is not high density compared to any European or big East Asian city. Most certainly not compared to London and Paris.

    The word is Sprawling I heard. With more than 50% of surface area dedicated to cars and transport compared to 30% in Europe.

  109. @JAD
    “hat I said was that very few people live in central LA – they drive there to work – demonstrating that cars work better than public transport for to support a high relatively high density city core.”

    Point is, there is less room in and around London to drive around on tall fly overs and 12 lane highways. Nor to build up sprawling suburbs 50 miles around. Which was my point to start with.

  110. Winter on Saturday, May 26 2012 at 3:56 am said:
    > But LA city core is not high density compared to any European or big East Asian city. Most certainly not compared to London and Paris.

    Take a look. Type Los Angeles into google earth. It will fly you to above the city center. Then take google earth street view. Do similarly with London and so forth. The LA city core is obviously higher density than London or Paris.

    LA as a whole is lower density, since people like to live in low density. Hence “the population density” is lower But they like to work in high density. Private cars allow them to live in low density and to work in high density,so the office buildings are generally higher than Paris or London, and the homes and apartment buildings are lower.

    Bottom line is that private cars get people from where they are to where they want to be more effectively than public transport does, enabling higher density where people work, that being what they want, and lower density where they live, that also being what they want.

  111. @JAD
    The whole point of the argument is that there simply is too little room in Western Europe to live in low density and work far away commuting over fast highways. The same holds in East Asia.

    People in most of the world simply have to live close together and commute by public transport.

    QED

  112. On a cubic-per-person basis, residents of the US are incredibly rich compared to other countries. Much of this is enabled by the automobile; and that brings you to the chicken-and-egg. The BosWash megalopolis got it’s start with pre-mechanical transport cities, but compared to Europe, the horse and wheeled conveyances were much more prevalent, and the railroad came along much earlier in the growth of the core cities. Otside of BosWash, the automobile came along during the development phase of the cities; and the planners adopted them into their designs. So, did the relatively earlier arrival of the automobile, and it’s relatively greater availability and usefulness to Americans drive the suburban sprawl, or did suburban sprawl drive the adoption of the automobile. A little of both, I would think, in a positive feedback loop.

    I’ve personally used the various rail options in the northeast, and find them, all other things being equal, to be a useful option to consider. The last time I went to Boston I drove, and in hindsight I wish I had taken the train. But when I went to Pittsburgh in 2011, I rode with friends, because the cost per seat was cheaper for the 3 of us to rent a car, and so we did.

  113. @Ian Argent
    In Europe, the competition is between houses, offices, and agriculture (food).

    Even new cities cannot afford US low densities.

  114. James A Donald,

    In Europe the residential areas and business are closer together. That’s becoming the trend in modern urban design in the US too — so-called “walkable communities” with commerce taking place not far from people’s homes.

    These layouts are more energy-efficient — if you have to take a car X miles to work every day that’s more fossil fuel burned and more warming CO2 in the atmosphere than if your workplace were reachable on foot or by public transport.

  115. > That’s becoming the trend in modern urban design in the US too — so-called “walkable communities” with commerce taking place not far from people’s homes.

    The elite is imposing that on the public. The public is pretty comfortable with small corner shops within walking distance, but as for anything more than that, I observe that the “walkable communities” have no children, except sometimes underclass children sectioned eight into them, it being easier to impose the will of the elite on the underclass.

  116. @Ian Argent
    Almost all our neighborhoods are walkable.

    To be more precise, in my neighborhood, children can walk to primary school, and to the supermarket. High schools and center of the city are in cycling distances over cycling paths. Buses drive over bus lanes and have complete coverage of the city. Every house is within walking distance of a bus stop.

    Note that we have no real nature. All surfaces of my country are either build up, agricultural land, parks, or water.

  117. Winter on Monday, May 28 2012 at 3:44 am said:
    > in my neighborhood, children can walk to primary school, and to the supermarket.

    Such children as there are. What is the marriage rate, average age of marriage, and fertility rate in your neighborhood?

  118. Pingback: Adding PPS to a cheap USB GPS stick | Brendan's Radio Blog

  119. This project caused me to explore the possibly of doing a ‘Blue wire’ mod on a GPS USB stick I had here.
    It uses a PL-2303hx chipset and the end results were good and I am impressed with how well PPS over USB works.
    I fully agree that blue wire mods don’t scale but they are fun.
    I wrote it up a little on my blog
    http://ei6iz.com/?p=108

    .brendan

  120. @JAD
    Wrong neighborhood.

    9 out of ten families here have children. Most have 2 children. The whole neighborhood for two mile around is less than 20 years old.

    But average age when bearing first child will ne close to 30.

  121. And what happens when the demographic changes? In the US there is unparalleled mobility – people just plain move around several times in their lives. And there’s no guarantee that the influx is going to be exactly demographically balanced with the outflow. Then you have the problem of the people who do stay behind are going to change.

    Plus, we’re not done with the internet revolution. We don’t have any idea what the land-use patterns are going to look like if Amazon, etc become the usual source for durable goods, taking over from the stores that killed Sears, Roebuck’s catalog operation…

  122. Sorry, somwhere after 1200. 1100 was Sloten a village next to Amsterdam. Anyhow, cities rend to be rather stable.

  123. @Ian
    Our first rail tracks were laid between Amsterdam and Haarlem (both from medieval times). The route is still in use.

    But indeed, quite some railway routes have been decommisioned. But as we have cities founded by the Romans and Frankish kings, population centers change only very slowly.

  124. I happened to be drawing an explicit contrast between Europe and the US, and making some attempt to explain some reasons why that might be.

    (For the record, I spent a bare minority of my minority, 8 years of 18, living outside of the US; though I never did live in Europe – I am well aware that they do things differently outside the US).

  125. Ian Argent,

    Perhaps Americans are too attached to their mobility? People in Europe seem to be getting along just fine — the poor being quite a bit better off than the poor in America — while moving about and availing themselves of cars much less.

  126. @Ian Argent
    I do understand the difference. With lots of space at low prices, people will disperse. Which requires cars. With little space at high prices, people will move together. Which makes public transport more efficient than cars. See Tokyo.

    The Netherlands has an average population density of 440 heads per square km (1100/sq mile). And most of the eastern half of the country is agricultural land (there is around one cow per ten people, somewhat more pigs than humans, and 5 times as many chicken). Things have organized differently from what is customary in, eg, West Coast USA.

    For one thing, I do not own a car, and can get around pretty well.

  127. >Perhaps Americans are too attached to their mobility?

    Mobility is freedom.

    >People in Europe seem to be getting along just fine — the poor being quite a bit better off than the poor in America

    I’ve seen what ‘poverty’ is in both places, having lived for years in both the U.S. and Europe, and this is nonsense. In fact, the putatively poor in the U.S. are better off than most of the European middle class – they have more living space, spend less for food of equal or better quality, have higher rates of automobile and home ownership, and routinely own many goods that would be considered luxuries in Europe. (Home air conditioning is but one example.)

    See also Mobilizing the poor and other delusions

  128. @esr
    “I’ve seen what ‘poverty’ is in both places,..”

    Poverty is such a nice concept with as many definitions as ideologies. People high on stuff but low on health(-care) and close to bankruptcy might consider themselves rich. Which other people never would aspire.

    But lets get in the statistics:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Poverty_Index

    And also life expectancy (correlated highly and negatively with poverty):
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy

    None of these statistics seem to favor the USA over the EU.

    Also, the USA has a high GDP/capita, but also one of the highest income inequalities, meaning the GDP does not say much:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_inequality_in_the_United_States

    And there are other perks in the EU. Health care, pensions, cost of education etc, also do not get people to favor the USA over the majority of the EU.

    The EU is big (400M people), so it is difficult to generalize. But I know from personal experience that chronicaly poor people in my country can get really top health care for chronic conditions, send their children to top universities, and live long on a decent pension. And that is in countries with a better government balance than the USA.

  129. Those are either political statistics (income inequality) or impossible to directly compare due to differences in measurement methodology (life expectancy numbers will be skewed by infant mortality numbers, which are known to be recorded very differently in the US than in other countries.) In this case I will believe my eyes (as with our host, I have been to see the rest of the world) and the expressed preferences of all the immigrants into the US. Smaller living spaces, smaller cars and appliances, less of both, &c.
    The relevant statistics fall under the maxim of “lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

  130. @Ian Argent,
    “The relevant statistics fall under the maxim of “lies, damned lies, and statistics.””

    There is a migration from USA to EU, which is rather invisible.

    Just disclaiming all numbers that do not suit you on vague hand waving about “lies” is the mark of the loser. I show empirical numbers, you only your very incomplete experiences. I can equally valid say that I saw appalling poverty when I visited the USA, worse than in Europe. So, why should my experiences be less “true” than yours?

    As I said, at least I have empirical numbers.

    Developed countries everywhere have good life expectancy statistics. And these statistics hold if you use the CIA fact book, which has no reasonable incentive to improve the numbers of the EU countries.

    Then another statistic: The probability of getting murdered in the USA is five times that of getting murdered in Germany/Netherlands. You have to get to outskirts like Estonia, Ukraine, and Turkmenistan to get USA like homicide statistics. Any argument of “in my circles it is more like your average”, can be countered by the fact that in my circles it is much less than average, and still way better than in your circles.
    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_mur_percap-crime-murders-per-capita

    I need more compelling evidence for claims the poor in the USA are better off than the poor in the EU.

  131. In this case I will believe my eyes (as with our host, I have been to see the rest of the world) and the expressed preferences of all the immigrants into the US.

    As Winter said in another thread: killall -9 Reality ; ~/Fantasy &

    For every European who immigrates to the U.S., how many decide to just stay home? It’s not like it was in the old “Give me your tired, your poor” days. Europe takes care of her own poor better than America ever could; a newly jobless American would find himself without health insurance (or having to pay through the nose for COBRA). God forbid he — or worse, his child — develop a severe life-threatening or chronic illness.

    Anyway, these days, because of the unnecessary paperwork involved in immigration to the U.S. (thanks in no small part to a proto-teabagger, “DEY TOOK ERRR JERRRBZ!!!!” mentality), Canada is a much more attractive immigration target for Europeans and other First Worlders. Toronto is exploding with cultural and ethnic diversity these days.

  132. >Europe takes care of her own poor better than America ever could

    This is the fantasy. Even the European middle class -let alone the European poor – doesn’t live as well as the American ‘poor’. Differential consumption statistics back up what my own eyes told me from living in both places.

  133. @Esr
    Numbers please.

    Just consuming hardware is not the same as wealth. Dept, pensions and other development indices count too.

    And we are discussing the poor, not the middle class.

  134. @Winter

    There is a migration from USA to EU, which is rather invisible.

    We’re in a recession. There is quite a bit of repatriation of employees stationed overseas going on. Do you see more than that? Do you see U.S. citizens coming to work in the EU?

  135. @bob
    “Do you see U.S. citizens coming to work in the EU?”

    I have met around as many people who migrated to the USA or planned to do so as I met Americans who migrated to the EU. And in both directions the numbers are low.

    In neither direction were these “poor and destitute”.

    I do not claim the poor in the USA are worse of than those in the EU. I think so, but I have little evidence to prove it. I have simply too little knowledge of the USA to say so. It is Eric who claims the poor in the EU are worse of than those in the USA. But that seems to be based on the assumption that in some ways “consumption” equals “wealth”. And then it is consumption of “stuff”.

    Another statistic:
    Americans lock up the troubling poor in man-made hells called “prisons” where they are raped and tortured with the full knowledge of all Americans. At any one time, some 1% of the males are locked up. In the EU these poor get some kind of support. In the richer countries of the EU the troubling poor get a lot of support.

  136. Winter on Tuesday, May 29 2012 at 11:57 am said:
    > Just consuming hardware is not the same as wealth. Dept, pensions and other development indices count too.

    Ah, “development indices”.

    Cuba has wonderful development indices. So did Ceylon during a civil war in which both sides used routinely used massive terror against women and children. In Africa, Ethiopia had what were, by African standards, wonderful development indices while they were under a totalitarian terrorist communist regime engaged in a democidal civil war against the peasants and various ethnic minorities, employing artificial famine as their major weapon.

    When the Ethiopian government fell, peace more or less returned, and famine mostly ended, Naturally their development indices immediately fell back to normal African levels, for example the literacy rate dropped overnight. Did all those people who had learned how to read thanks to the wonderful benefits of communism, mass murder, and artificial famine, suddenly forget how to read?

  137. >It is Eric who claims the poor in the EU are worse of than those in the USA.

    Actually my claim is much stronger; it’s that even the European middle class is worse off than the U.S. poor. Only the wealthy in Europe live as well as the U.S’s middle class.

    This difference is robust across many, many measures. Rates of home and automobile ownership. Square feet of living space per person. Percentages of households equipped with air conditioning. Access to MRIs and other leading-edge medical equipment. Survival times after diagnosed cancer and heart disease. Availability of high-quality meat and fresh produce. Frequency of air travel. Ownership rates of personal computers, DVRs, and other consumer electronics.

    In all these respects, and many more, the consumption patterns of the U.S.’s middle class and ‘poor’ resemble those of the unusually well-off in Europe (elites living in major cities). There is also, in general, much less difference between the consumption patterns of the U.S.’s middle class and its putative poor than there is in Europe.

    The explanation is simple: most consumer goods in the U.S. (from food to houses to automobiles to electronics) are almost ridiculously inexpensive by European standards. Thus, ready access to them reaches further down the SES, and being wealthy buys you less differentiation from what your neighbors have.

  138. @JAD
    “Ah, “development indices”. ”

    This is about poverty. It is not about peace, freedom, justice, nor happiness. In some ways, Cubans are not poor. Unfree and unhappy, but not in dire need.

  139. @esr
    “This difference is robust across many, many measures. ”
    Meaningless measures

    Rates of home and automobile ownership.
    I can afford several cars at the same time, but I have no need for even one. I rent one when needed. Am I poor?

    Renting a house is actually at the moment the cheaper option. But there are not enough houses for rent. Most Germans rather rent a house than buy it, as you get more house for the money and risk.

    Square feet of living space per person.
    Which means the Japanese must be the poorest of the poor. Space is at a premium here.

    Percentages of households equipped with air conditioning.
    A meaningless piece of junk in North-West/East Europe. We need heating more than 6 (often 8) months a year. An air conditioner only a few days a year.

    Access to MRIs and other leading-edge medical equipment.
    That is an interesting one. The Netherlands are rather low on the scale on number of MRI’s per 100,000. But I know from experience that everyone who needs an MRI gets one. And with more than 1000 heads per square mile, it is not far to travel.

    Survival times after diagnosed cancer and heart disease.
    There were actually studies on this and you might have a point:
    http://www.nhs.uk/news/2009/03March/Pages/Cancersurvivalrates.aspx
    “Cases of cancer identified from death certificates or discovered at autopsy were excluded from the analyses. ”

    There is more criticism:
    http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/120412/cancer-survival-study-sparks-controversy

    But there are problems with the data, at least for the Netherlands. What could have been the cause? Access to doctors and specialists is “free”. Medical training is high quality. There is ample access to medication and treatment, even the newest of the newest. Treatment regimes are in line with the latest in the literature. Hospitals participate in the newest studies. And where I looked deeper into the numbers, prognosis was as good in the Netherlands as in the USA. And I have spoken quite a number of doctors working in Cancer treatment and research. They were all internationally active, and had no complaints over the Dutch situation.

    So, how could the Netherlands have worse survival rates than the USA? Criticism are leveled against ignoring undiagnosed cancers at death, and using survival times after diagnosis io death rates.

    Availability of high-quality meat and fresh produce.
    That is an odd one, given the amount of meat and vegetables I see on display. But it is well known that Europeans eat less meat overall than Americans, even when it is free. As the Netherlands is a major exporter of fresh produce and meat, my experience might not be unbiased for Europe as a whole.

    Frequency of air travel.
    A 200M people live within 500 miles of me. That includes Paris, London, Berlin, Copenhagen, Dublin, Glasgow, and Bern. It is 1500 miles from me to Gibraltar, Murmansk, or Istanbul. Most travel can be done without being air born.

    Ownership rates of personal computers, DVRs, and other consumer electronics.
    Everyone I know owns a computer, often several. Even those on welfare. We lag, probably. But for that we have better broadband and cell phones at lower prices. Every primary school kid owns a cell phone and has access to a computer on broadband. We lack things like netflicks etc. But we have cable with quite a number of channels, including international ones running from BBC1-4 to French TV5 and German channels 1-3, and CCTV, Spain, Belgium 1+2. We even get Al Jazeera. And that is the cheap subscription.

    Somehow, it does not feel very disadvantaged. It might be that Americans have a lot of the things they want, just as the Europeans have a lot of the things they want.

    Thus, ready access to them reaches further down the SES, and being wealthy buys you less differentiation from what your neighbors have.

    Differences in many parts of Europe are smaller anyway.

  140. >Meaningless measures

    Wealthy Europeans (that is, those well above you in the European SES) don’t think so. As they get richer, their consumption patterns converge to more closely resemble those of the American middle class – house ownership, larger houses, cars, more air travel, central air conditioning and heating (common in U.S. residences, still very unusual in Europe), more meat and fresh vegetables in their diet.

    Your report is what I’d expect of someone living in Holland – a small urbanized country with a wealth level well above the European or even Western European average. You need to get out more – my guess is that you’ve seen much less of Europe than I have, and mostly in its wealthier northern tier. You’d find travelling in smaller towns and rural areas of the Italian mezzogiorno, or Greece, or Spain, or even southern France quite instructive.

  141. @esr
    “You need to get out more – my guess is that you’ve seen much less of Europe than I have, and mostly in its wealthier northern tier. You’d find travelling in smaller towns and rural areas of the Italian mezzogiorno, or Greece, or Spain, or even southern France quite instructive.”

    Yes I know. Eastern Europe, especially Rumania and Bulgaria, and rural (South) Italy and Greece are very poor.

    But, The wealthy North Europeans (Germany, France, UK, assorted small countries) make up over 250 million of the 400 million EU citizens. You could well include Northern Italy and Urban Spain in this (before the crisis). So my observations handle the poor in well over half the EU.

    In Europe, much more of the growth in the last two decades has entered the purses of the poor than in the US. Things have changed a lot in rural France, Northern Italy, and eastern Germany. Let alone in Poland and the Czech republic.

    People might aspire to own a big house. Calling someone who has a (rented) small house poor is rather silly. Then almost everyone living in Tokyo or Paris is poor.

    @esr
    “more meat and fresh vegetables in their diet.”

    That is a cultural thing too. For instance, Italian, French, and Dutch people eat much less meat than Americans, even if it is free. Traditionally, the Dutch eat a lot of (fresh) vegetables. When American restaurants serve steaks with more meat than I eat in a week, then that is not because I cannot afford more meat, but because I do not want it. Vegetarianism is rife too.

    All these observations are complicated by structural differences between the EU and USA.

    How can we compare poor people in Rumania, where almost everyone is poor by Dutch standards, to the poor in California, where many are rich by Dutch standards? And Rumania is a sovereign country which entered the EU only a decade or so ago and has much looser ties to the rest of Europe than any state in the USA with the rest. And how should we treat Albania, which is not a member of the EU, but is a European country?

    Ideally, we would like to rank US states by wealth and compare them by EU countries of comparable wealth. I have no idea how to do that. That is why I would not dare to say the US poor are worse off than the European (which States vs which European?). But if you claim the poor in Europe are worse off, and then point to eg, Rumania, that is not sensible neither.

  142. I was going to let you pass on this, because you were saying “US vs EU.” But now you’re comparing single countries in the EU to the entire US, and that’s not at all valid. If you want to do that comparison, use individual American states.

  143. @Ian Argent
    “But now you’re comparing single countries in the EU to the entire US, and that’s not at all valid. If you want to do that comparison, use individual American states.”

    My point. I do not know what to compare. Average EU versus Average USA?

    But Eric’s point is that there is something in EU versus USA politics that makes the European poor worse off than American poor.

    So, if this comes down to “Rumanians are poor and worse off than American poor”, yes, indeed. No one will argue with that. But Rumanians are not average Europeans. No one is.

    But you cannot blame Rumanian poverty on German or EU tax or economic policies. On the contrary.

    If you want to blame politics for poverty, then you must compare the poor that live under the policy. Not blame poverty in Rumania on UK or German tax and social policies.

  144. The states of the United States are mostly sovereign governments; particularly in the economic sphere. And the state governments have rather different policies on poverty and health care. The recent national healthcare act will change that, if it is asked to stand, but whether it will be allowed to stand is an open question. The tax rates, business climate, &c, are mostly under the control of the state governments.

  145. @Ian Argent
    “The tax rates, business climate, &c, are mostly under the control of the state governments.”

    Sorry, but EU countries have their own armies, languages, and law enforcement. We cannot even use “mostly under the control of the state governments”. All of tax and social policy and the law is under state control.

    Rumania is different from Germany in almost every way countries can be different.

  146. >Ideally, we would like to rank US states by wealth and compare them by EU countries of comparable wealth.

    You wouldn’t like those results either. Some years ago, a Swedish think tank associated with one of their less left-wing parties caused a bit of a stir by publishing some comparisons of consumption and average personal wealth statistics between Sweden and states of the U.S. They found that Sweden came in below Alabama. Alabama, which is a joke for poverty and backwardness in the U.S. At that even I was surprised.

  147. >Rumania is different from Germany in almost every way countries can be different.

    Yes, but so what? Nominally ‘poor’ Americans have easier and cheaper access to a huge variety of consumer goods and services than middle-class Germans. Rumania might as well be another planet.

  148. Rumania and Germany aren’t that different: they have functional civil societies and operate mostly under the rule of law and respect of property, via a representative form of government. That makes them pretty close, historically speaking, and even in modern times, that’s still reasonably close. Perhaps not as close as New Jersey and Louisiana, but but that far off.

  149. @Ian
    You might want to visit Rumania first.

    @Esr
    We are now comparing gadgets versus pensions, education, and health care. Not very convincing.

  150. >We are now comparing gadgets versus pensions, education, and health care. Not very convincing.

    Food and clothing are hardly gadgets. The U.S. ‘poor’ spend a lower fraction of their income to get better quality than is generally available to the European middle class.

    I in fact did compare health care using two important metrics – cancer and heart disease survival times and access to advanced medical equipment such as MRIs. The American ‘poor’ have better outcomes here than the European middle class.

    Pensions? Ask a Greek, Spaniard, or Irishman what pension he thinks is going to get. Public pension systems are teetering on the brink of collapse in both the U.S. and most of Europe, and even the putatively sound ones are doomed by demographics as the dependent-to-worker ratio rises. We could only compare promises sure to be broken.

    Education? The U.S.’s secondary education system is so good that only a handful of elite universities outside the U.S. compete even with our second- and third-tier inexpensive schools. We can know this because there are good statistics on where international students go and what they pay.

  151. I in fact did compare health care using two important metrics – cancer and heart disease survival times and access to advanced medical equipment such as MRIs. The American ‘poor’ have better outcomes here than the European middle class.

    Did you also compare medical bill debt after the treatment that enabled them to survive heart disease or cancer?

    Education? The U.S.’s secondary education system is so good that only a handful of elite universities outside the U.S. compete even with our second- and third-tier inexpensive schools. We can know this because there are good statistics on where international students go and what they pay.

    Too bad K-12 is completely naff.

  152. @esr
    “Ask a Greek, Spaniard, or Irishman what pension he thinks is going to get.”

    Now you are blaming Greek pension problems on Swedish and Dutch policies. The Swedes and Dutch have less problems than the USA.

    @esr
    “I in fact did compare health care using two important metrics – cancer and heart disease survival times and access to advanced medical equipment such as MRIs.”

    Yes, and there are problems with these measures as the life expectancies in these countries are as high or higher than in the USA. And I have yet to see a study that tells me North West Europeans are short of MRI’s.

    @esr
    “Education? The U.S.’s secondary education system is so good that only a handful of elite universities outside the U.S. compete even with our second- and third-tier inexpensive schools. ”

    The UK has 32, Netherlands and Germany each have 12 universities in the top 200 of the Times top 400. Even Sweden has 5. MIT alone has a larger budget than all Dutch Universities combined.
    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2011-2012/top-400.html

    Point is, every child can enter any university. No need to pay $30k a year.

  153. @Winter

    I think you are still struggling with U.S. federalism. If you want to compare the USA to the EU, you have to include the entire EU. Even then many things won’t match. We divide responsibilities differently between the levels of government.

    You compare Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands to Alabama, Mississippi, New York, and the People’s Republic of California. Then you complain when we point out Greece and Romania.

    The USA, particularly at the federal level, has problems of scale. Our states avoid debt problems by shifting them to the federal government. I blame Nixon’s “revenue sharing”.

    Many of our states are doing well financially and even economically. Those that aren’t have been acting more nearly like European nations than the others.

  154. >Now you are blaming Greek pension problems on Swedish and Dutch policies.

    I haven’t assigned any blame at all. I’m simply pointing out facts.

    >life expectancies in these countries are as high or higher than in the USA

    Surprise! The apparent difference reverses once you account for differences in how infant mortality is counted. It’s not that European adults live longer than American adults. Quite the reverse, actually, which is exactly what you’d expect from the survival-time statistics on old-age diseases, which tilt heavily in the U.S.’s favor. It’s that European jurisdictions, for reasons I don’t fully understand, don’t count immediate-post-birth deaths in their official mortality statistics. Americans do. The effect is to skew European life-expectency stats upward and infant-mortality stats downward.

    This, by the way, is best confirmed by ignoring official statistics and comparing the actuarial tables used by insurance companies. Look especially at the shape of the right-hand tail. A cynical person would suppose that European statistics are deliberately distorted to make the outcomes look better, but years ago I read somewhere that the difference in reporting practices is not the invention of a modern bureaucrat but a historical accident that goes back a couple of centuries.

    >Point is, every child can enter any university. No need to pay $30k a year.

    The U.S. has “free” state colleges, too. Ours are better than anything comparably priced outside the U.S. – we know this, again, because there is good data on international student flows. The Economist ran a very informative report on this earlier this year; you might be able to find the actual numbers on their website.

    While politics enters into these differences at some level, the first level of explanation for them is differences in capital stock and average personal wealth. The U.S.’s capital stock is immense by European standards – as one example, our food is cheaper and better because we have both more farmland under cultivation and lower costs per mile of transport due to better-developed infrastructure. U.S. average personal wealth is also far higher – a much larger percentage of our population, extending down into the nominally poor, owns real estate and stocks.

    The combination of higher average wealth and lower cost of goods due to accumulated capital stock is why ‘poor’ people in the U.S. have a living standard middle-class Europeans would envy if they fully understood the differences. They manifest in lots of little ways, goods that are luxuries in Europe being taken for granted in the U.S. One that I’ve pointed out before on this blog is fresh as opposed to frozen orange juice – ubiquitous and cheap in the U.S., unusual and expensive in Europe. Another: you can get seafood or steak as good as any mid-market American restaurant serves in Europe, but only by going to an expensive gourmet place.

    But it’s not just food. The U.S.’s immense, homogenous domestic market means producers can capture economies of scale and distribution that no firm in Europe can match; this translates into lower prices relative to wages for thousands of mundane items like furniture, refrigerators and lawnmowers.

  155. years ago I read somewhere that the difference in reporting practices is not the invention of a modern bureaucrat but a historical accident that goes back a couple of centuries.

    Shudder. I just imagined some morbid semantic gerrymandering of “infant mortality” based on when the soul supposedly enters the body or somesuch.

    (In some very poor communities of very Catholic Brazil, infanticide by abandonment of sickly children is justified on similar grounds. Which is another reason why anti-abortionists are speaking from a position of ignorance: affording to keep effectively every baby conceived is a luxury that only became commonly available very recently.)

  156. I tried to subtly make the infant mortality point earlier in the thread. Almost all sociological measurements end up like that, where the American number includes data points doomed to fail.

  157. Winter on Wednesday, May 30 2012 at 6:38 am said:
    > This is about poverty. It is not about peace, freedom, justice, nor happiness. In some ways, Cubans are not poor. Unfree and unhappy, but not in dire need.

    I was there, most recently in 1992. Cubans are, or were when I was there, desperately poor and in dire need. Anyone who visited the place and failed to see it displayed a brutal and depraved indifference to human life. Official rations provided adequate calories but were nutritionally inadequate, resulting desperate hunger for good foods, and frequent nutritionally related diseases, in particular, blindness.

  158. Probably the correct comparison would be USA versus the Euro zone. Population and size are comparable.

    On purchasing power parity, the average income in the USA is around 47,000 and in the Euro zone 34,000. So people in the USA are around 30% richer on average. This can indeed be explained by better economic efficiency due to a true single market, currency, language, and legal system. And there are some historical reasons. There is a reason the Euro was coined.

    However, according to every single measure of poverty (look it up on wikipedia or Google), the USA has more poverty than either the Eurozone or the original 15 country core EU (the East European additions have still not been integrated well).

    Every developing index puts the Eurozone above the USA.

    So, except for some anecdotes, I have not seen any evidence that would show the bottom 10%, or 20%, in the USA are really better off than their counterparts in the Euro zone. And please, refrain from canards about Swedes not being able to buy air conditioners, French who cannot afford red meat, or Dutch who should buy more and bigger cars.

    @esr
    Our children can go to any top national university, irrespective of parental income. Every university in the Netherlands is in the world top 200. Every student in the EU can study there for the same low tuition fee. Master courses are taught in English.

    And University rankings can be deceptive. German research is top of the world, but it is not done in the Universities, but in the Max Planck Institutes that are comparable with Graduate Institutes. So German universities tend to rank low on international rankings.

  159. Winter on Thursday, May 31 2012 at 3:57 am said:
    > Every developing index puts the Eurozone above the USA.

    Just about every developing index puts Cuba above the USA, not withstanding that fact that it is a poverty stricken hellhole.

    Similarly, when Ethiopia had mass murder, artificial famine, civil war, and a totalitarian terrorist government, just about every developing index showed it to be one of the best countries in subsaharan Africa – which indices, strange to report, dropped back to normal African levels when war, terror, mass murder, and artificial famine ended in Ethiopia.

    Winter on Thursday, May 31 2012 at 3:57 am said:
    > However, according to every single measure of poverty (look it up on wikipedia or Google), the USA has more poverty than either the Eurozone or the original 15 country core EU

    And yet, strange to report, the poor in the US have larger houses, larger cars, better air conditioning, and so on and so forth.

  160. @JAD
    “When I hear these highly scientific, high status, and authoritative statistics on how wonderful Europe is, compared to the USA,”

    I was responding to claims that the poor in the USA were better off than those in Europe. You have statistics that shows this to be true?

    But we all know you never, ever believe statistics, or facts, you didn’t write yourself, or eye witnesses, or other people, any people. So, why should we think this time it would be different?

    @JAD
    “the poor in the US have larger houses, larger cars, better air conditioning, and so on and so forth.”

    Yes, we all know Tokyo is inhabited by the poorest of the poor. And those destitute Scandinavians who have to live without air conditioning. How do they survive.

  161. Americans of almost all income levels have personal, individual access to cheaper, better, labor-saving devices than their equivalents in other nations, and have more room to store them. That’s a force-multiplier. The thing about force multipliers is that they don’t work by themselves, and they can be
    surrendered or misused.

  162. >Every developing index puts the Eurozone above the USA.

    This is one time that JAD is right. “Development indices” are, in general, politicized bullshit. If you want to know how to rank-order countries by “development”, look at immigration statistics – that is, where the poor people want to get to.

    In one notorious recent case, a study trumpeted as showing U.S. health care to be inferior to Europeans turned out to be based on a formula that weighted heavily how socialized the payment of medical costs is. It wasn’t measuring actual outcomes so much as it was the authors’ beliefs about how the delivery system should be designed. So many “development indices” are like this that I’ve given up on them.

  163. Winter:
    > we all know you never, ever believe statistics, or facts, you didn’t write yourself, or eye witness

    But you are not producing eyewitness accounts. You are producing statistics which contradict what my eyes tell me, and which come from sources that have been caught lying over and over and over again. The same evidence that Europeans are better off, is also evidence that Ethiopians were better off under Mengistu, and that the Soviet Union was growing faster than the US. If the one statistic is highly scientific, respectable, and authoritative, so are the others.

  164. > This is one time that JAD is right.

    I’ve noticed this happens fairly often. Hmmm.

    Yours,
    Tom

  165. @esr
    ““Development indices” are, in general, politicized bullshit. If you want to know how to rank-order countries by “development”,”

    But you filled this thread with your own “development index”: Square feet housing, cars, air-conditioners, meat, etc.

    The funny thing is, you stick with consumer products that make no sense outside of the US. Living space and cars do not translate to Tokyo or Amsterdam, or even inner London. Air-conditioners are useless junk in Scandinavia, or even in North-West Europe. Many people eat less meat for non-economic reasons. We could go on and on.

    But what is absent from your list are public goods. Things that are desirable, scarce, and cost money.

    You claim the best education in the world, but you do not factor in the price tag and accessibility to the poor. Give me statistics on how many poor parents can send their children to the top 10 universities? Give me statistics that show the quality of primary and secondary education for the poor is better in the US. Give me statistics that show literacy and numeracy, and science understanding under poor people are better in the US than in the Euro zone. Give me statistics that show more poor people get better University training than poor people from the Euro zone.

    The same with health care. You come up with only a single study that uses a very particular methodology (eg, the biggest complaint against HMOs seem to be they refuse to diagnose costly diseases). And that study does not square with other studies nor life expectancy, which you then dismiss with claims Europeans simply never count live born children. And here I really do have personal experience from at least one country in the EU. And I discussed the literature with practicing experts. That study does not square with what I have seen.

    @esr
    ” look at immigration statistics – that is, where the poor people want to get to.”

    Poor Europeans migrating to the USA? That is very limited. You will not find many North/Western European poor migrating to the USA. People with high qualifications, yes, but the school drop outs or even blue collar workers? I do not see that here. But, there will be statistics on that matter. Say, Greeks, Italians, or Irish peasants and school drop outs migrating to the US. Show me these poor people prefer to migrate to the US instead of Northern Europe.

    @JAD
    “which come from sources that have been caught lying over and over and over again.”

    Show me evidence that Eurostat lied over and over again on these matters. Or the OECD for that matter.
    http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/eurostat/home/

  166. @Winter: Bringing up air conditioners in Scandanavia is a strawman. It’s just one of the MANY MANY labor-saving and comfort-enhancing devices. Try dishwashing machines, en-suite washer/dryers, or things like that. Also, these are all objectively measurable.

  167. @Ian Argent
    “Bringing up air conditioners in Scandanavia is a strawman.”

    I did not bring them up. But I still have not seen real evidence that the poor in the Euro zone are worse off than the poor in the USA. Not even a definition of “poor” that would allow such a comparison. Let alone what “worse” should mean. Level of personal material consumption seems to be the only yard stick people want to use.

  168. ESR brought up air conditioner availability in the context of the EU as a whole, not just in climates where their use is inappropriate.
    I bring up consumption as a yardstick of well-being because it can be measured without needing interpretation, and, as ESR noted, almost all income levels in the US have consumption patterns that resemble that of the wealthy in Europe.
    From my own experience, I would say that the poor in Europe are better off than the poor in almost all of the rest of the world, basically all of it excepting the Anglosphere and possibly Japan.
    My point is that exclusive of the very fringe poor, all Americans have effective access to more and better labor-saving and time-saving products and services, more and better food, clothing, and shelter, and more and better recreational products and services, at a lower cost, than anywhere else in the world. These are all objectively measurable. Average life span at birth is not, due to the differing ways by which countries report child mortality statistics. Likewise the ready of the subjective “quality of life” measures. Even “access to college” statistic you like to throw around is a bogus one, as someone can get an excellent education at most American state colleges. The “top-tier” colleges are more about prestige than education.

  169. @Winter

    Everybody rations healthcare. Some countries ration it based on ability to pay. Some countries ration it on how politically well connected you are. Some officially ration it based on when you got in line. All countries in reality use a mix. Those who can pay cash will always get care, perhaps not in their home country.

    If the government runs the health care finance system, over time an increasingly large proportion of the budget will be devoted to structure. We see this with the NHS in the UK. We see it in the USA, too, with the health plan companies.

    In the USA, though, at some point doctors will discount routine care paid for in cash, if it has not been made illegal. As I understand it such things are illegal in many systems of nationalized healthcare. That’s why many Canadians who can pay cash come south to avoid the wait.

    It’s really difficult to prune the government. Too often pruning requires drastic measures.

  170. As for other consumption pattern differences, many consumption patterns in the EU result from government policy. For example, gasoline is taxed to the moon in most EU countries. Automobiles are taxed according to their fuel consumption. This subsidises small cars sold in Europe.

  171. “If the government runs the health care finance system, over time an increasingly large proportion of the budget will be devoted to structure. We see this with the NHS in the UK. We see it in the USA, too, with the health plan companies.”

    “It’s really difficult to prune the government. Too often pruning requires drastic measures.”

    Yes and yes. Unfortunately, we’re in for more of this, not less. As more jobs get automated, a smaller and smaller fraction of the population is able to provide for society’s needs, hence the proliferation of assorted drones, empty-suiters and other ‘employed’ hangers-on. There’s also the issue of the remaining, necessary, jobs requiring people with ever-increasing levels of training and intelligence. It’s like we’re headed for a Cyril Kornbluth future without the morons.
    Either we will have to come up with a more equitable job-sharing method, or we’re going to have to put up with the socialogical surplusage.

  172. Bob on Friday, June 1 2012 at 11:20 am said:
    > Everybody rations healthcare.

    Some forms of rationing are more evil than others. Government that pretend to provide all needed healthcare for everyone employ extremely evil forms of rationing – they murder people who show up with ailments that are apt to result in indefinite hospital stays. Thus, for example, if an old person turns up at a British hospital with breathing difficulties he gets indefinite deep sedation with benzodiazepines – which will reliably kill most people within a few days.

    In Australia, however, they ration people by putting them on a waiting list that never gets any shorter and sending them home. While at home they get home care, so though they may die, they will die in their own bed with clean sheets. This more or less open failure to treat is a lot better than keeping them hanging around in hospital and pretending to treat everyone, because if you keep people hanging around in hospital, you run out of beds, and pretty soon break out the benzodiazepines to clear a few beds.

    Approximately ten percent of deaths in Netherlands are “under deep sedation” – in other words, murdered by the state.

    Government medicine, like all governmental and quasi governmental activities, accumulates ever growing bureaucracy. Thus medical operations that need to be done quickly are not done in a timely manner. Thus, for example, everyone in the UK who has retinal detachment is absolutely guaranteed by law and regulation to get their retinas swiftly re-attached. Retinal detachment is an emergency, and gets “emergency” treatment. Unfortunately, “swiftly” in this case means two weeks or so, by which time there is no point in bothering with the reattachment.

  173. @LS

    Yes and yes. Unfortunately, we’re in for more of this, not less. As more jobs get automated, a smaller and smaller fraction of the population is able to provide for society’s needs,…

    That’s not necessarily true. Until we get sentient machines, which will present their own problems, there will be no substitute for the self-programming robot that takes 9 months to assemble by unskilled labor and 18 years to program.

    We have artificially increased labor costs at the low end beyond the value to the employer. If we can get rid of that overhead there will be much less low/semi skilled unemployment. They may get paid chickenfeed but their cost of living will be ultra low too.

    The US underclass is growing at least partly because the work they can do isn’t available in the formal economy.

    “You have no idea how smart a moron is, until you try to program a robot to replace him.”

  174. Winter:
    > Show me evidence that Eurostat lied over and over again on these matters. Or the OECD for that matter.

    I don’t see Eurostat providing data that would enable you to compare the US and Europe. To compare the US and Europe, you need UN data, and the UN data is bogus.

    I suspect that Eurostat data is just as bogus as UN data, but they don’t have genocides and artificial famines in Europe, thus if they are cooking the books, it is harder to prove than with UN data.

    Checking their health statistics, I notice a curious omission: They have deaths from this, and deaths from that, but no “deaths under deep sedation”, aka murder by government – not exactly a lie, but parsimonious with the truth.

  175. @JAD
    “but no “deaths under deep sedation”, aka murder by government – not exactly a lie, but parsimonious with the truth.”

    ???

    Or are you referring to euthanasia? If I want to die, that is nobodies business. But I see you do believe statistics. They only have to be false and support your views.

  176. @JAD
    “Approximately ten percent of deaths in Netherlands are “under deep sedation” – in other words, murdered by the state.”

    Nope. Totally bogus. But, you as a badly informed person far away would think you know better than me, who life here. And there really is no involvement of the state, at all.

    There are people who want to die before their body stops working the hard way. But these are only a thousand a year or so.

    If you want to enjoy terminal cancer fully tot he end, you are welcome. No one will stop you.

    For those who think “enough is enough” at some point, you can ask doctors either to stop treatment (which they are required by law to obey). Or you can ask them to actively terminate your life, which they do not have to obey. You will have to look for a doctor that wants to help you. As usual, relatives can stop euthanasia after the patient becomes unconscious (but they cannot ask for it to be performed).

    And, there obviously comes a point in your life where further treatment becomes pointless. Sedation is then still necessary and human.

    Note that such decisions are made in every hospital in the world. It is called differently, but it is still done. Legally or Illegally

    Note that the 10% number comes from some religious nuts in the USA, who has no clue at all about Europe, let alone the Netherlands.

  177. >Or you can ask them to actively terminate your life, which they do not have to obey.

    I know this is how it’s supposed to work. And I’m not buying JAD’s 10% figure, not without evidence. I will however note that over the last decade I have seen a steady trickle of news stories out of the Netherlands (and the U.K.) suggesting that nurses and doctors have been quietly deciding to euthanize a significant number of elderly patents without their consent, and that the governments who are legally speaking supposed to prevent this have been averting their eyes.

    The evidence does not suggest to me any sort of actual state conspiracy to euthanize the elderly on a mass scale. But it does hint that medical personnel under state-controlled single-payer systems are behaving as the economic incentives predict agents of such a system would behave, in order to lower its terminal-patient costs so money can be spent on younger patients who will be net tax contributors.

    While JAD sounds paranoid and overheated, you are on shaky ground here. The logic of any medical system where costs are shifted from the patient creates a slippery slope towards involuntary euthanasia. I think it is highly unlikely that any nurse or doctor is actually killing patients with the intent to change the cost picture, but I do suspect that rationalizing lethal “deep sedation” with non-economic reasons is becoming steadily and stealthily more common in your country. And I think we’ll see the same trend here if the U.S. system becomes single-payer.

  178. @Esr
    We are not the UK. There is no single payer, but many insurrance companies. And medical personel is independend of the insurrance.

  179. esr
    > And I’m not buying JAD’s 10% figure, not without evidence.

    Anyone who dies in a hospital bed under deep prolonged phenothiazine sedation is being murdered, for under such treatment you stop breathing in a week or so, and ten percent of hospital deaths in the Netherlands occur under prolonged deep phenothiazine sedation.

    This involved “limited use of palliative consultation”: that is to say, the patients were not told that they were being given a palliative treatment that would reliably kill them.

    Phenothiazine are not to prevent pain, but to prevent the patient from making a fuss about his medical treatment, or making a fuss about dying – or from making a fuss about lack of medical treatment, lack of food, and lack of water, hence given with IV, but without clicker.

    There are legitimate medical uses of barbiturates and phenothiazine, typically to keep patients from making trouble when the doctor is giving them an examination that is painful and embarrassing, for example a colonoscopy. But there are seldom legitimate reasons to give barbiturates to a patient lying in a hospital bed, and there are never legitimate reasons for a patient to die “under deep sedation” while lying in bed. Yet somehow quite a lot European patients do die “under deep sedation”.

    The usual procedure for extreme pain control is to give the patient a clicker, whereby the patient directly controls the level of morphine or fentanyl, up to a limit. If no limit, this also gives the patient the option of voluntary euthanasia, by clicking hard enough.

    “Sedation” means barbiturates, or phenothiazines which are much the same thing, which means not controlling the patients pain, but rather controlling the patient, and that deep sedation with either one requires the patient be watched continuously for cessation of breathing – unless cessation of breathing is the objective.

    These barbiturates are applied through the IV, without the patients knowledge, consent, or control, thus death during deep sedation is involuntary euthanasia: murder of the inconvenient and unwanted.

    If the patient is dead with a lethal quantity of fentanyl inside him, and fentanyl clicker in his dead hand, obviously voluntary euthanasia or death by misadventure.

    If the patient is dead with a lethal quantity of barbiturates inside him, the barbiturates administered by IV with no barbiturate clicker, obviously involuntary euthanasia: murder.

  180. Winter on Saturday, June 2 2012 at 8:05 am said:
    > There is no single payer, but many insurrance companies. And medical personel is independend of the insurrance.

    If a hospital discharges a patient who lingers on for years sucking up lots of expensive services outside the hospital, the hospital is penalized by the government. If, however, the potentially expensive patient should conveniently croak while in hospital …

  181. I wrote:
    > If a hospital discharges a patient who lingers on for years sucking up lots of expensive services outside the hospital, the hospital is penalized by the government. If, however, the potentially expensive patient should conveniently croak while in hospital …

    In this case, “croak” is both literal and metaphorical, for a patient dying under prolonged deep sedation makes characteristic and disturbing sounds. He does not quietly stop breathing all at once, but rather makes increasingly alarming gasps at ever increasing intervals. The sounds are not all that loud, but are readily recognizable as the sounds of someone dying in great distress.

  182. @JAD
    This is all about religious, fact-free, non-sense. This has nothing to do with the public transport we were discussing, nor with the relative well-being of the poor.

    You are simply trying to divert attention from the fact that you have no insights, facts, nor statistics to prove Europeans are living in a man made hell in eternal poverty. So you jump on to the next wild goose chase: A Dutch holocaust. Ready to jump to yet another wild goose hunt when your ignorance and prejudice leaves you empty handed again.

    So just one last reply for the passing readers.

    JAD From your link
    “Patients nearing death often experience distressing symptoms.Many patients and physicians are confronted with complex decisions about practices surrounding end of life care that can affect the mode of dying. As an option of last resort, sedating drugs can be used.”

    So, how do doctors in the US handle the last week of the dying? Do patients have a choice? Or do they simply discharge the penniless ill as shown in Sicko? Isn’t deep sedation the “Euthanasia alternative” proclaimed by assorted religious fundamentalists?

    @JAD
    “If a hospital discharges a patient who lingers on for years sucking up lots of expensive services outside the hospital, the hospital is penalized by the government.”

    How penalized, and by whom exactly?

    After discharge, the costs of medical care falls back top private insurers. The long time care to either family or nursing home.

    Nursing homes are paid out of yet another fund. And a bed in a nursing home will be occupied. If one occupant dies, another moves in. So for the nursing home, there is no financial incentive for one occupant over the other. And doctors are not employed by the insurers. The insurers simply have to pay up for whatever treatment the patient gets.

    You obviously do not have any idea of how medical care&cure is organized in the Netherlands. You simply claim our doctors are state employed mass murderers. No evidence, just repeating the ideas of some religious nutcases.

  183. Winter
    > This is all about religious, fact-free, non-sense. This has nothing to do with the public transport we were discussing, nor with the relative well-being of the poor.

    That the poor are apt to be murdered to conceal the fact that the state does not and cannot perform its promises is a fact, an undeniable fact, a fact that is both evidence about the well being of the poor, and casts doubt on official truths about the official well being of the poor.

    To you, “facts” are whatever officialdom says they are. I have a different definition of “fact”, so by my definition of fact, your stuff is religious and fact free.

  184. > So, how do doctors in the US handle the last week of the dying?

    The question presumes that someone under prolonged deep sedation would have died in a week or so anyway, which is improbable.

    Before Obamacare, if a patient died under it, this would in the US result in murder charges. The AMA has recently issued a new opinion authorizing prolonged deep sedation, but until about a year or so ago, death by cessation of breathing under deep sedation without immediate heroic measures to restore breathing was murder, manslaughter, or wrongful death, was prosecuted as such in the US, as was deep sedation without a 24/7 watch over the patients breathing. A famous recent case of death under deep sedation was Michael Jackson.

    In practice, prolonged deep sedation is usually applied in cases where the patient would probably linger for many years, as for example old people who show up at a UK hospital with breathing difficulties. Breathing difficulties in an old person seldom indicate the end is nigh.

  185. I wrote:
    > Breathing difficulties in an old person seldom indicate the end is nigh.

    Unless, of course, you are subject to Britain’s national healthcare.

    The recent AMA opinion hints that under obamacare respiratory distress in the elderly may well in the US be far more swiftly deadly than formerly.

  186. “When I were in Baghdad the power strip under my desk had CE and UL labels on it. And it said Made In China.

    Let me rephrase that. The power *strips* had CE and UL labels on it. And the desk above them had scorch marks.

    Apparently having those logos put on a piece of electronic equipment coming out of mainland China doesn’t, you know, mean they actually comply.”

    It’s worth paying attention to the difference between the “Conformité Européenne” mark and the “China Export” mark. The former has the C and the E spaced apart from each other, so that the continued curve of the C exactly intersects the curve of the E. The latter does not, and while sufficiently similar to fool the average consumer, is apparently sufficiently different to not count as fraudulent use of a trademark. I assume this is only because the China Export mark is also somehow registered as a trademark.

    It is doubtless still possible to find equipment that fraudulently displays the Conformité Européenne mark, but it is much less likely in Europe, where trademark violations are taken seriously. In Baghdad… caveat emptor.

  187. I just ordered one of these direct from Navigis. It was totally painless if you don’t count parting with $77 (including shipping). The people I emailed back and forth with were a delight to work with. It should be here in about 10 days.

    My intent is to bring up a stratum 1 NTP server with it, using a tiny little single board computer. This is just for fun at the moment, but I might go somewhere with it, who knows? I see some discussion on the thumbgps group about Linux NTP configuration, but does anyone here know of any?

  188. After waiting `14 months to pick this up I just went ahead and ordered a small pile of these. If anyone wants a few I’ll let them go for $45/ea. inc. shipping.

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