Quotulatiousness

July 14, 2017

Operation Beach Party – Mustard Gas Unleashed I THE GREAT WAR Week 155

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 13 Jul 2017

British Commander Sir Douglas Haig is still convinced of his coming offensive in Flanders. But the Germans now that something is afoot and launch a spoiling attack at the Yser River – the name of the operation is Strandfest or Beach Party. They use blue cross gas for the first time there and two days later also use another new chemical agent which will be known as mustard gas.

The Peltzman Effect

Filed under: Economics, Government, Health, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The odd situation where increasing the safety of an activity by adding protective gear is offset by greater risk-taking by the participants:

In the 1960s, the Federal Government — in its infinite wisdom — thought that cars were too unsafe for the general public. In response, it passed automobile safety legislation, requiring that seat belts, padded dashboards, and other safety measures be put in every automobile.

Although well-intended, auto accidents actually increased after the legislation was passed and enforced. Why? As [Professor of Economics Steven E.] Lansburg explains, “the threat of being killed in an accident is a powerful incentive to drive carefully.”

In other words, the high price (certain death from an accident) of an activity (reckless driving) reduced the likelihood of that activity. The safety features reduced the price of reckless driving by making cars safer. For example, seatbelts reduced the likelihood of a driver being hurt if he drove recklessly and got into an accident. Because of this, drivers were more likely to drive recklessly.

The benefit of the policy was that it reduced the number of deaths per accident. The cost of the policy was that it increased the number of accidents, thus canceling the benefit. Or at least, that is the conclusion of University of Chicago’s Sam Peltzman, who found the two effects canceled each other.

His work has led to a theory called “The Peltzman Effect,” also known as risk compensation. Risk compensation says that safety requirements incentivize people to increase risky behavior in response to the lower price of that behavior.

Risk compensation can be applied to almost every behavior involving risk where a choice must be made. Economics tells us that individuals make choices at the margin. This means that the incentive in question may lead the individual to do a little more or a little less of something.

[…]

The fact that incentives reduce or increase behavior is an economic law: Landsburg posits that “the literature of economics contains tens of thousands of empirical studies verifying this proposition and not one that convincingly refutes it.” Incentives change the effectiveness of government policy and shape day-to-day life.

The Bronze Age Collapse – III: Fire and Sword – Extra History

Filed under: History, Middle East — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on Jul 8, 2017

At last, we have the Sea People: marauders who swept into Bronze Age cities and ground them into dust. But while they’re often blamed for the Bronze Age Collapse, were they really its cause? What else must have been going on to cause such illustrious civilizations to crumble?

Brace yourself for the next round of Obamacare [repeal | reform | tweaking | posturing]

Filed under: Health, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Megan McArdle doesn’t view this latest attempt to “fix” Obamacare with any great optimism:

Mitch McConnell is once again announcing that the Senate is going to come out with a new health-care bill and try to hold a vote next week. That exhaustion you feel is the same despair that seeps over you when a pair of ill-matched friends announce for the 17th time that they’re getting back together.

As with those friends (we all have them, don’t we?) there seems to be no set of mutual goals upon which a durable partnership can be built. Many Republican legislators want Obamacare to die. Others would probably attend the funeral with ill-concealed delight, but they don’t want a reputation for having killed it. Still others would like to be able to tell voters that they “did something” about Obamacare, even though in reality they are loath to actually, you know, do something — because their states would lose money, or voters would lose insurance.

[Wearily] So what can be done here? Realistically.

As an exercise on paper, the answer is easy:

  1. Stop trying to make this a tax-cut bill, and focus on reforms that can pave the way to fiscal stability, and dismantling many of the perverse incentives that have so distorted our health-care system.
  2. Leave Obamacare’s taxes intact. (Yes, even the dumb ones, of which there are many.)
  3. Turn Medicaid into a fixed grant rather than an open-ended entitlement, either by making it a block grant, or switching to a flat per-beneficiary payout — but don’t try to make block grants a confusing cover for very deep cuts to the program.
  4. Provide generous funding to stabilize the individual health-insurance exchanges, but demand in return very wide latitude for states to decide how they stabilize their insurance markets — including jettisoning any of the Obamacare regulations they think are getting in the way.
  5. Meanwhile, move the system more aggressively toward health-savings accounts plus catastrophic insurance — and get Democrats on board by offering to have the government fund some portion of those health savings accounts for low-income citizens.

Is that my ideal health-care system? No. But it gives Republicans some of what they want (a more consumer-driven, pro-market program in the individual market, and a big start toward reforming the bloated and byzantine mess that is the Medicaid program). It gives Democrats some of what they want (money for people who don’t have very much of it, plus they don’t get splattered by the fallout of Obamacare exchanges melting down). In theory, it could pass.

And in theory, I could play third base for the Yankees, if Joe Girardi were willing to hire me. The truth is that after years of complaining about obstructionism, Democrats have developed a sudden taste for the stuff; there’s a substantial faction of both politicians and voters who want the Democrats to stand by and do nothing, nothing, that Republicans might like. And even among those who think they want bipartisan compromise — well, I spend a lot of time listening to those folks, and when you get down to it, frequently their idea of a “compromise” is that they get a huge government program that costs hundreds of billions of dollars, and Republicans get trivial increases in the size of health-savings accounts, and maybe to twiddle with a few of the outer decimal points on growth rates. In other words, what they think is a vision of compromise is too often actually a vision of America ca. 1992, when Republicans were a minority party who had to come begging for crumbs.

Canadian Experimental Lightweight No4 Enfield

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 20 Mar 2017

Sold for $25,300 – http://jamesdjulia.com/item/1659-396/

In 1943 the need for a lighter and handier version of the Lee Enfield rifle became clear throughout the British Commonwealth, and experimentation began in Canada, Britain, and Australia. The work in Britain would culminate in the No5 Mk1 rifle, but the Canadian arsenal at Long Branch would try some different ideas first. Several different experimental prototypes were made with varying features, but they all shared the idea of substantially lightening the rifle without shortening it very much. This was done by removing metal anywhere possible, most obviously including the elimination of the stock socket and the use of a single piece stock in place of the traditional two piece Enfield stock.

These modifications, also including an aluminum alloy trigger guard, were able to cut 25% of the weight from the rifle, and do so without a significant loss in accuracy. However, I suspect the resulting rifle would have proven far too fragile for combat use had it been adopted. The stock is surprisingly light and thin at the wrist, and it feels like it would not take much force to crack it. In addition, lightening cuts down the length of the hand guard made it quite susceptible to warping with heat and humidity changes.

Ultimately the Long Branch Lee Enfield carbine experiments would be abandoned as the No5 “Jungle Carbine” was adopted instead.

QotD: Did the Holocaust Undermine the German War Effort?

Filed under: Economics, Europe, History, Military, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

One of the great paradoxes of the Second World War is that while German troops on the Eastern Front were starving and freezing to death for lack of supplies, the rail transport of Jews to the death camps proceeded with uninterrupted Teutonic efficiency. The explanation is found in a profound insight by the historian Gerhard Weinberg (born 1928); that for the Nazis the extermination of Europe’s Jews was the purpose of the war, not a distraction or a side show. A complication was that this “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” was a state secret, even though it might have been the worst-kept secret in history.

Yaron Pasher is a young Israeli historian who studied under Weinberg. In this book he sets out to explore how the implementation of the Holocaust fatally undermined the German war effort between 1941 and the final collapse in May 1945. Unfortunately Pasher is simply out of his depth trying to write military history from the perspective of logistics (admittedly, one of the hardest things that any historian can attempt!).

Much of the text is a mish-mash of rehashed secondary sources about the course of operations on the Eastern and Western fronts. The reader bogs down, like a Panzer division in the Spring thaw, in a welter of inconsistently transliterated Slavic place names. The narrative is interspersed with glimpses of the progress of the Final Solution repeatedly hammering home the same assertion: if all those trains that carried Jews to the death camps had been used to carry supplies and reinforcements to the Front, the Wehrmacht might have performed better against the Russians.

Yaron Pasher, “Holocaust versus Wehrmacht: How Hitler’s “Final Solution” Undermined the German War Effort”, Strategy Page, 2015-09-02.

Powered by WordPress