Health Care Economics

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 20th, 2014

Economics 101

Because Obamacare Insurance pays for everything Under the Sun it is anything but Insurance

Do you know what the problem is with health care?  Insurance plans that give away free flu shots.  Not that flu shots are bad.  They’re not.  And it’s a good thing for everyone to get one every year at the onset of the flu season.  For it does seem to limit the spread of the flu virus.  It’s because we get a flu shot every year is why insurance shouldn’t pay for it.  Because we know about this expense.  And we can budget for it.  Just like we can budget for our monthly cellular bill.  Which is in most cases more than ten times the cost of one annual flu shot.

When Lloyds of London started selling marine insurance at that coffee shop they were selling insurance.  Not welfare.  Losing a ship at sea caused a huge financial loss.  And shippers wanted to mitigate that risk.  So every shipper paid a SMALL premium to protect against a LARGE loss.  A POTENTIAL sinking and loss of cargo.  Not every ship sank, though.  In fact, most ships did not.  Which is why that little bit from everyone was able to pay the financial loss of the few shippers that lost their ship and cargo.  But that’s all that Lloyd’s of London paid for.  They didn’t pay a dime to shippers whose ships didn’t sink.  No, those shippers paid every cent they incurred (crew, food, rum, etc.) to ship things across those perilous oceans.  Because they could expect those costs.  And they could budget for them.

This is how insurance works.  Which isn’t how our current health insurance system works.  No.  Today people don’t want to pay for anything out-of-pocket.  Not the unexpected catastrophic costs.  Or the EXPECTED small costs that everyone can budget for in their personal lives.  Like an annual flu shot.  Childhood vaccinations.  Annual checkups.  Childbirth.  Etc.  Even the unexpected things that aren’t that expensive.  Like the stitches required when a child falls off of a bike.  Things that would cost less than someone’s monthly cellular bill.  Or things that people can plan and save for.  Like a house.  A car.  Or a child.  Which is why Obamacare insurance is not insurance.  It pays for way too many expected costs that we can budget for.  And because it does it only increases the cost of our health insurance policies.  Which are now anything but insurance.

Free Market Forces and Insurance for Catastrophic Costs will Fix any Problems in our Health Care System

When we pay these things out-of-pocket there are market forces in play.  For a doctor is not going to charge someone they’ve been seeing for years as much as he will charge a faceless insurance company.  Even today some doctors will waive some fees to help some of their long-time patients during a time of financial hardship.  Because there is a relationship between doctor and patient.  And they want to help.  Which is why they sometimes overcharge insurance companies to recover costs they can’t recover in full from other patients.  (Which is why insurance companies are vigilant in denying overbillings).  Especially those things government pays for.  Medicaid.  And Medicare.  Which the government discounts.  Leaving health care providers little choice but to overbill others to pay for what the government does not.

When we pay out-of-pocket doctors can’t charge as much.  Because they need patients.  If they charge too much their patients may find another good doctor that charges a little less.  Perhaps a younger one trying to establish a practice.  These are market forces.  Just like there are everywhere else in the economy.  Even a cancer patient requiring an expensive miracle drug benefits from market forces.  If there was true insurance in our health care system, that is.  Cancer is an unexpected and catastrophic cost.  But not everyone gets cancer.  Just as every ship does not sink.  Everyone would pay a small fee to insure against a financial loss that can result from cancer.  Where that little bit from everyone buying a catastrophic health insurance policy was able to pay the financial loss of the unfortunate few that require cancer treatment.  Even one including a costly miracle drug.  Because only a few from a large pool would incur these financial losses insurers would compete against other insurers for this business.  Just like they do to insure houses.  And ships crossing perilous oceans.

Health care would work better in the free market.  It doesn’t today because government changed that.  Starting with FDR putting a ceiling on wages.  Which forced employers to offer generous benefits to get the best workers to work for them when they couldn’t offer them more pay.  This was the beginning.  Now the health insurance industry is so bastardized that it doesn’t even resemble insurance anymore.  It’s just a massive cost transfer from one group of people to another.  Instead of a pooling of money to insure against financial risk.  For the few unexpected and catastrophic costs we cannot afford or budget for to pay out-of-pocket.

Because our Health Care System is the Most Expensive in the World it is the Best in the World

The American health care system is the finest in the world.  When you have a serious health care issue and you have the wherewithal there’s only one place you’re going for your medical care.  The United States.  And the best costs.  And it’s because it is so costly that people enter into the health care industry to do wonderful things.  Such as pharmaceutical companies.  Who many rail against for charging so much for the miracle drugs only they produce.  It’s a free country.  Anyone could have created that miracle drug.  All they had to do was to spend a boatload of money for years on other drugs that were losers.  Until they finally found one that wasn’t a loser.  That’s all you had to do.  Yet few do it.  Why?

Because creating miracle drugs is an extremely expensive and often futile endeavor.  Which is why we award patents to the few who do.  Which is the only reason they pour hundreds of millions of dollars into research and development and pay massive liability insurance premiums for taking a huge risk to put a drug onto the market that may harm or kill people.  They do this on the CHANCE that they may develop at least one successful drug that will pay for all of the costs incurred to develop this one drug, the costs for the countless drugs that failed AND provide a profit for their investors.  Who took a huge risk in paying their employees over the many years it took to come up with at least one drug that wasn’t a loser.  Their investors do this only because of the CHANCE that this pharmaceutical will develop that miracle drug that everyone wants.  But most don’t.  And investors just lose their investment.  But it’s the only way miracle drugs become available to us.  Because of rich investors who were willing to risk losing huge amounts of money.

This is what the profit incentive gives us.  The best health care system in the world.  Why the countries based on free market capitalism have the finest health care systems in the world.  And why North Korea, Cuba, the former East Germany, the former Soviet Union, Venezuela, etc., have never given us miracle drugs.  There never was an economic incentive throughout the economy to do so.  Like there is in countries with free market capitalism.  Where everyone at every level pursues profits that result overall in a pharmaceutical industry that produces these miracle drugs.

There is an expression that says you get what you pay for.  Our health care system is the most expensive in the world.  And because it is it is the best in the world.  Trying to inhibit the profit incentive for research and development and forcing medical providers to work for less (steeper Medicaid, Medicare and now Obamacare discounts) will change that.  Because you do get what you pay for.  And those who live/have lived in North Korea, Cuba, the former East Germany, the former Soviet Union, Venezuela, etc., can attest to.

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The Greatest Threat to an Oppressive Dictatorship is Free Market Capitalism

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 22nd, 2013

Week in Review

When people enter economic exchanges voluntarily everybody wins.  For example, let’s say one person has a hundred dollars of spare cash.  And another person owns a mountain bicycle that sells for $350 new.  The one with the money wants to buy a mountain bicycle.  The one with the mountain bicycle needs cash and wants to sell the bike. These two people meet.  And exchange the $100 for the bicycle.  And both walk away with something they valued more.  The person originally with the $100 valued the bicycle more than the $100.  And the person originally with the bicycle valued the $100 more than the bicycle.  Each person wins in this voluntary economic exchange.

Now contrast that to a managed economy.  Where a few decide for everyone else.  Such as in socialism.  Or communism.  Say, in the former Soviet Union.  Where the economic planners decide to make more tractor parts and less toilet paper and laundry detergent.  Resulting in shelves full of tractor parts no one wanted to buy.  And empty shelves where there was once toilet paper and laundry detergent.  As you can see, when you have forced economic exchanges no one wins.

Countries with economic systems based on free market capitalism where people enter economic exchanges voluntarily have historically had the highest standards of living.  Whereas countries with managed economic systems have had the lowest standards of living.  Liberty and prosperity are synonymous with the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong.  Which were once all part of the British Empire.  Which ruled the world and kept the peace for a hundred years or so.  The Pax Britannica.  She was able to do this because of her wealth.  Generated from free market capitalism.  The rule of law.  Representative government.  Sound money.  And free trade.  Things that today give these nations immigration problems.  Because everyone wants to go to these nations for a better life.

In capitalist nations people live better because there is a profit incentive.  Whereas the countries these immigrants left typically put people before profits.  Where instead of letting market forces set prices and allocate limited resources that have alternative uses the government decides.  Like they did in the former Soviet Union.  And the more government interferes with these market forces the more these economic decisions become political.  Where friends of the ruling power get those limited resources first and at favorable prices.  Allowing them and the ruling powers to profit handsomely from this political favoritism.  At the expense of the people who have to do with less.

The profit incentive puts people first.  Because in free market capitalism market forces are the people.  Hundreds of millions of people coming together to make voluntary economic exchanges.  Where each individual person looks out for his or her best interests.  But when a ‘caring’ government manages the economy to put the people first that government interferes with those market forces.  And goes against the will of the people.  Making the people worse off.  Which is why immigration is always from a country where there is less free market capitalism to a country where there is more free market capitalism.  Because the quality of life increases with increasing amounts of capitalism.  So we should be careful what we ask for when we ask to put people first.  Even when the Pope joins the ‘put the people first’ choir (see Pope condemns idolatry of cash in capitalism by Lizzy Davies posted 9/22/2013 on theguardian).

Pope Francis has called for a global economic system that puts people and not “an idol called money” at its heart, drawing on the hardship of his immigrant family as he sympathised with unemployed workers in a part of Italy that has suffered greatly from the recession…

“Where there is no work, there is no dignity,” he said, in ad-libbed remarks after listening to three locals, including an unemployed worker who spoke of how joblessness “weakens the spirit”. But the problem went far beyond the Italian island, said Francis, who has called for wholesale reform of the financial system…

Sardinia, one of Italy’s autonomous regions with a population of 1.6 million, has suffered particularly badly during the economic crisis, with an unemployment rate of 20%, eight points higher than the national average, and youth unemployment of 51%.

Last summer the island’s hardship became national news when Stefano Meletti, a 49-year-old miner, slashed his wrists on television during a protest aimed at keeping the Carbosulcis coal mine open.

There was one other thing these nations born of the British Empire shared.  Judeo-Christian values.  They lived by the Ten Commandments.  And the Golden Rule.  The good Christians of the British Empire followed the teachings of Christ.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  These Judeo-Christian values went hand-in-hand with free market capitalism.  It’s what made us choose to live by the rule of law.  To honor the contracts we made with one another.  To voluntarily enter economic exchanges instead of just stealing and pillaging our neighbors.

Money doesn’t have value.  It’s a temporary storage of value.  It is our human capital that has value.  Our ability to create things that have value.  Things that other people will voluntarily enter into economic exchanges to trade for with things of value they created.  Whether it be a physical good.  Or money from a paycheck they earned creating value for an employer who uses it to produce a service or good.

Capitalists don’t worship money.  For money only makes those economic exchanges more efficient.  By eliminating the search costs of the barter system.  It’s human capital that capitalists are interested in.  This is what they worship.  People.  Unlocking the latent talent in all of us.  To bring incredible things into existence.  Sanitation.  Waste water treatment plants.  New farming advancements.  Coal-fired power plants.  Things that allowed greater groups of people to live together in growing cities.  Where we have food, clean water and shelter.  Things we take for granted in capitalists nations.  Things that are luxuries in North Korea.  An anti-capitalist country that puts people before profits.  Where people worship the ruling dictator (primarily to avoid imprisonment, torture and death).  And the only people that do well are those close to the ruling power.

We don’t need a new financial system.  We just need to return to what it was before governments intervened into the free market economy to put people first.  Before we completely forget the Ten Commandments.  And the Golden Rule.  For once we use the power of government to nullify contracts to help their crony friends we no longer have a nation of laws.  But one of political favors.  Where the friends of power do well.  While those with no power live at the mercy of those in power.

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The Profit Incentive has made Air Travel Safe and Crashes Rare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 7th, 2013

Week in Review

During the height of the Cold War people feared the might of the Soviet Union.  And nuclear war.  As those were scary days.  For the Soviet Union had some awesome military power.  And was the only nation that could threaten the United States.  But you know what was even scarier?  Flying on a Soviet jetliner.

The Soviet Union lost the Cold War because communism is a terrible economic system.  The Soviets couldn’t feed their people.  Or keep enough toilet paper and soap on store shelves.  As their command economy did such a horrible job in allocating scarce resources that have alternative uses.  So you never had the best of anything in the Soviet Union.  Which is why people from the West dreaded flying into the Soviet Union on Soviet jetliners.  For they had a tendency to crash.  The Soviets stole as much technology from the West to improve their technology as they could.  And many of their aircraft designs looked similar to those in the West.  But they were Soviet made.  And Soviet maintained.  In the same economic system that couldn’t keep toilet paper or soap on store shelves.

The problem with the Soviet Union was that there was no profit incentive.  When money is at stake everything is better.  Like in the West.  But when you don’t have profits you don’t have to please customers.  And you don’t.  Everything is like standing in line waiting to renew your driver’s license.  And if a plane crashes it doesn’t change anything.  Planes will keep flying as they were before.  And everyone’s pay will be the same as before.  So everyone will do the minimum.  Just enough to avoid punishment.  This is why Soviet air travel was among the most dangerous air travel in the world.

This past Saturday there was an Asiana Air 777 that crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport.  Of the approximate 300 on board 2 people died.  Some were injured.  While many were able to walk away from the crash.  Cable television has been covering this nearly 24/7 since the crash.  Even though only two people died (a terrible tragedy but a tragedy that could have been far worse).  And one of them may have been accidentally driven over by the first responders arriving on scene.  Why the intense media coverage?  Because accidents like this are so rare these days.  Especially when they involve big airplanes.  And the 777 is about as big as they come.

In the aftermath of this crash we can see why flying has become so safe under a profit incentive.  Unlike in the former Soviet Union (see Asiana Air Crash May Bring New Safety Regulations in Korea by Kyunghee Park posted 7/7/2013 on Bloomberg).

“Asiana’s accident is going to damage the image of not just Asiana, but all Korean airlines,” said Um Kyung A, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities Co. in Seoul. “It only takes one incident to undermine years of work Korean airlines have made to get a solid, accident-free record. This will prompt the government to call for stricter safety measures…”

Shares of Asiana, South Korea’s second-largest airline, slumped to the lowest level in more than three years in Seoul trading today. The stock plunged as much as 9.6 percent to 4,630 won, the lowest price since April 2010…

All South Korean airlines, including budget carriers, were ordered to ensure safety, the transport ministry said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. The country had no fatal air crashes between December 1999 and July 2011, when an Asiana freighter crashed, the ministry said…

A Korean Air 747-200 cargo plane crashed in December 1999 shortly after taking off from London’s Stansted Airport, killing three of its four crew members on board. That was eight months after the airline’s MD-11 freighter crashed in Shanghai in April and killed eight people, including those on the ground.

The accidents prompted the government to tighten safety standards at Korean airlines, as well as foreign ones flying into the country. It also strengthened regulations on pilot and maintenance licenses.

Pilots were required to be trained and evaluated at an international center, and airlines were required to fly more hours on domestic routes before obtaining a license to fly overseas. The government also strengthened safety regulations at domestic airports.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration downgraded South Korea to Category 2 safety rating in August 2001 following the accidents. The rating was restored to Category 1, which allowed Korean carriers to open new routes in the U.S. and resume marketing alliances with American carriers, in December that year.

In the Soviet Union there was no profit incentive as they put people before profits.  Which made Soviet air travel among the most dangerous in the world.  But look at what happens when there is a connection between safety and profits.  After a series of crashes and a downgrade by the U.S. to Category 2 South Korea tightened safety standards.  To improve their safety record.  For the fewer accidents you have the more profitable you will be.  A very strong incentive to be safe.  Which is why South Korea enjoys a better safety record than the Soviet Union ever had.

When people say that we need government to keep us safe from the greed of corporations all we need to do is look at the former Soviet Union.  And how their government failed to keep their flying public as safe as in countries that use a profit incentive.  For no corporation wants to see their stock price fall 9.6 percent.  Have a nation block them from opening new routes into their country.  Or have people perceive that their planes are not safe.  Things the former Soviet Union did not have to worry about.  As the Soviet people had no other alternative but to fly on those dangerous planes.  But there are many airlines flying between Asia and the United States.  And if one has a poor safety record people will book their flight with another airline.  This is what the profit system gives people.  Choice.  Where people can choose not to fly on an unsafe airline.  Something the Soviets couldn’t do.  Because there were no profits in the Soviet Union.

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North Korea turning to Free Markets to End Famine and Abject Poverty

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 2nd, 2013

Week in Review

Our public schools are teaching our children that capitalism is evil and unfair.  That government is needed to prevent business owners from making too much profit at the people’s expense.  Our public schools teach our kids this because the left controls our public schools.  And the left hates capitalism.  They would love to replace capitalism with socialism.  An egalitarian system that puts people before profits.  Because putting people before profits is the only way to truly increase the quality of life.  Unless you actually live in a place where they put people before profits (see NKorean farmers planting rice with profits in mind by AP posted 5/31/2013 on Yahoo! News).

Farmers say they have begun working under the new policies, which are designed to boost production by giving managers and workers financial incentives. Foreign analysts say the moves to spur North Korea’s moribund economy suggest Pyongyang is taking cues from Beijing on how to incorporate free market ideas within its rigid socialist system…

Impoverished North Korea suffers chronic food and power shortages and has not released economic data for decades. South Korea’s central bank estimates the North’s gross national income, an indicator of the average standard of living, was $1,250 per person in 2011 compared with $23,400 in South Korea.

In the past, the North Korean state set workers’ salaries. Under new measures announced April 1, the managers of farms, factories and other enterprises have been given leeway to set salaries and offer raises to workers who help drive up production…

Beijing dismantled its centrally planned economy slowly. In the 1970s, it began allowing farmers to keep more of their harvests, giving them an incentive to grow more to sell on newly permitted free markets. Food production soared.

In the mid-’80s, the government gave state enterprises the authority to link bonuses and salaries to better performance. Those changes were mostly aimed at managers, but they cracked a communist-era preference for egalitarianism.

New rules in the early 1990s gave state enterprises full flexibility to set wages, widening the use of performance incentives. In that decade, China truly broke away from its centralized “iron rice bowl” system of guaranteed employment and state-set incomes…

At the Tongbong farm in the eastern city of Hamhung, farmers are in the midst of a busy rice planting season after a long, cold winter.

A long, cold winter?  Guess there’s no global warming in North Korea.

North Korea’s “rigid socialist system” has impoverished and starved her people.  As well as left them in the dark as they don’t have the energy to light up the night.  This is egalitarianism.  Everyone’s life is equally miserable.  This is what socialism gets you.  Countries like North Korea, Cuba, the former Soviet Union and China under Mao.  Countries notable for their abject poverty.  And occasional famine.  This is what the left wants America to be.  Egalitarian.  Where we put people before profits.  Where no one has any incentive to do anything.  Because working harder than the next guy doesn’t improve your lot in life.  So you don’t work harder.  You do the minimum.  Because why work harder when the outcome is always the same?  Misery.

No doubt the American left disapproves of North Korea’s introduction of market forces.  And the profit incentive.  For it puts profits before people.  They’d rather see another layer of bureaucracy.  And another 5-year plan.  Where brilliant government elites think brilliantly to solve the nation’s problems.  Instead of leaving it to the chaos of the free markets.  For what did the chaos of the free markets ever do for the people?  Other than give them an obesity problem while socialism gives her people famine.  Free markets give her people smartphones and the Internet.  While Socialism can’t even light up the night.  And free markets give her people peace and happiness.  While socialism gives her people fear and intimidation.

Of course, the American left doesn’t have a problem giving fear and intimidation to some people.  As the IRS persecution of conservatives shows.  Which is perhaps why the American left admires socialism so much.  Why they insist that we put people before profits.  Because when we do we move closer to a police state like they have in North Korea.  Something the American left no doubt would like.  For it would make it easier for them to persecute their political enemies.

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The Swedes reintroduce the Profit Incentive into the Health Care Equation to fix their National Health Care

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 19th, 2013

Week in Review

Obamacare will transform American health care into a more top-down national health care system.  Because the American left always wanted national health care.  For the power over the economy it will give them.  Not so much for the quality of health care.  For the quality of national health care has not been historically as good as the quality of private health care.  But the left doesn’t care.  Because it’s not about the quality of health care.  It’s about having power over one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

But they tell us it’s about providing high-quality health care to everyone.  Not just for the rich people who can afford it.  Which they can do if they take out the profit incentive from the health care equation.  For that’s what is driving up health care costs.  Greedy doctors and hospitals.  Who are profiting on sick people.  Which is just immoral to those on the left.  No.  The only way to fix health care is by removing the profit incentive from the health care equation.  Like they’ve done in Sweden.  The model of socialism the left so wants to see in the United States (see A hospital case posted 5/18/2013 on The Economist).

SAINT GORAN’S hospital is one of the glories of the Swedish welfare state. It is also a laboratory for applying business principles to the public sector. The hospital is run by a private company, Capio, which in turn is run by a consortium of private-equity funds, including Nordic Capital and Apax Partners. The doctors and nurses are Capio employees, answerable to a boss and a board…

Welcome to health care in post-ideological Sweden. From the patient’s point of view, St Goran’s is no different from any other public hospital. Treatment is free, after a nominal charge which is universal in Sweden…

Staff used to waste precious time looking for defibrillator machines and the like. Then someone suggested marking a spot on the floor with yellow tape and insisting that the machines were always kept there…

St Goran’s is the medical equivalent of a budget airline. There are four to six patients to a room. The decor is institutional. Everything is done to “maximise throughput”. The aim is to give taxpayers value for money. Hospitals should not be in the hotel business, the argument goes…

Spreading efficiency will not be easy, however. Europeans instinctively recoil from private companies making money from health care. British placards protest against modest reforms with pictures of fat cats helping the health minister to disembowel a patient labelled “NHS” (National Health Service). Even in Sweden, the mood has grown more hostile since some private-equity companies were embroiled in scandals at nursing homes…

Private health-care companies have several advantages over public organisations. They have more incentive to make services more efficient, since they typically keep some of the savings. They are better at persuading their employees to adopt new ideas. And they are better at spreading new ideas across borders. Europe should be proud of its public-health services. But if it wants them still to be affordable in the future, it should allow more private companies into the mix.

Hmmm.  The model socialism that the left so admires is using the profit incentive to fix their national health care.  Which means it must have been broken.  Just to show the differences in the way bureaucrats and ‘for profit’ people think consider the tape ‘X’ on the floor to mark the spot where a defibrillator should be stored.  The centralized authority couldn’t make that happen.  The top-down bureaucracy couldn’t figure a way to make people spend less time looking for a defibrillator.  Just something else to look forward to as Obamacare begins to reorganize American health care from the top down.

Maximizing throughput?  That’s a business term.  An alien concept to those in government.  And to their friends in labor unions.  Which will descend on the health care system under Obamacare.  Who will represent health care workers.  Not patients.  And their answer to everything will be more people working fewer hours.  Which will increase the cost of health care.  Just as it increased costs in American manufacturing.  Chasing it out of the country.  So there will be no maximizing throughput under a government/union controlled health care system.  Just more of what the Swedes are trying to get away from by reintroducing the profit incentive into the health care equation.

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The Soldiers in North Korea are Busy…helping the Farmers with the Spring Planting in Hopes of Avoiding another Famine

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 27th, 2013

Week in Review

The Sixties radicals hated capitalism.  And the profit incentive.  They sang songs about love.  And revered communist leaders.  For they wanted to replace capitalism in America with communism.  Where no one owned anything.  But everyone owned everything.  It would be utopia.  This is what the Sixties radicals believed.  And what they wanted in the United States.  A system where they put people before profits.  So it would be like in that John Lennon Song.  Imagine.

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

The Sixties radicals loved the former Soviet Union.  Because the Soviets hated capitalism.  And embraced socialism.  Putting people before profits.  These radicals loved Che Guevara.  One of Fidel Castro’s trusted lieutenants.  Who wanted the Soviets to launch their nuclear weapons on America.  (Remember this the next time you see a college student wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with his image.)  They liked Chairman Mao in China.  And Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam.  And every communist leader in Central America and South America.  For these communist leaders hated capitalism.  And put people before profits.  Just like in North Korea.  Who unlike the former Soviet Union (now Russia) and China, did not lose the faith and embrace capitalism.  No.  In North Korea they still put people before profits (see NKorean soldiers put down arms to help plant crops by JEAN H. LEE, Associated Press, posted 4/24/2013 on Yahoo! News).

The North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone is a hive of activity — not of fighting, but of farming.

Beyond the barbed wire, ruddy-faced North Korean soldiers put down their rifles Wednesday and stood shoulder to shoulder with farmers as they turned their focus to another battle: the spring planting.

As neighboring nations remain on guard for a missile launch or nuclear test that South Korean and U.S officials say could take place at any time, the focus north of the border is on planting rice, cabbage and soybeans. In hamlets all along the DMZ, soldiers were knee-deep in mud and water as they helped farmers with the spring planting…

Last month, Kim Jong Un enshrined the pursuit of nuclear weapons, along with building the economy, as key goals for the nation.

Col. Kim, at the lookout point along the DMZ, called nuclear weapons “the lifeblood” of North Korea. “If we don’t have nuclear weapons, we’ll continue to be threatened by outside forces.”

For the moment, however, the labor of many North Korean soldiers is turned to the land. Spring is arriving slowly this year in North Korea, pushing back the crucial planting season by a month. Impoverished North Korea struggles to feed its 24 million people, with the U.N. estimating that two-thirds of the population cope with chronic food shortages.

Farmers in Panmunjom-ri, the North Korean village inside the DMZ, were busy planting rice, cabbage, soybeans and radish in fields surrounded by barbed wire and anti-tank barriers.

Elsewhere, faces flushed and still in their uniforms, men and women soldiers waded into muddy paddies and bent down with fistfuls of spinach to plant.

Around them, red banners fluttered in the wind. One read, “At a breath,” a phrase urging North Koreans to work hard. The other read, “Defend to the death.”

This is what you get when you put people before profits.  A nation with nuclear weapons.  And recurring famine.  Where the army has to pitch in during the planting season.  Because they are still farming in North Korea the way they were a hundred years ago.  By hand.  Meanwhile the United States grows so much food that they use some of it to make ethanol to put into their cars.  This is what you get when you put profits before people.  So much food that you can use it for fuel.  And where even the poorest people suffer from obesity problems.

You see, when you put profits before people you are putting people first.  For to earn a profit you have to please the people.  You can’t order them to buy your products.  Like the North Koreans can order their army to plant food.  You have to make a product the people want to buy.  And only when you please the customer can a business make a profit.  While the ruling regime in North Korea can kill hundreds of thousands of their people in a famine and they still live the good life.  Because when you put people before profits you can do pretty much anything you want to do.  Because the only people that truly matter are the people with the army to enforce their rule.

But south of the border it’s different.  In South Korea life is good.  And they suffer no famines.  Because they embrace capitalism.  Some people live better than others.  Such as those in Gangnam.   The area of three districts in Seoul, South Korea.  Immortalized in the video Gangnam Style.  A lifestyle that simply does not exist in North Korea.  Unless you’re high up in the ruling regime.  Because when you put people before profits only those with an army behind them can afford to live the good life.

So if you want to see the difference between capitalism and socialism/communism look to the Korean peninsula.  Where you will see a vibrant South Korea full of happy people.  And an Orwellian North Korea where the people live in fear and are often cold and hungry.  Because they put people before profits.  Where it’s easy to imagine they have no possessions.  Because they have little.  Well, the people don’t.  But the ruling elite certainly lives Gangnam style.  Like all dictators do.

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Capitalism puts People First while Socialism puts the State First

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 20th, 2013

Week in Review

SeaWorld is going public.  In the initial public offering (IPO) filing they discuss the unpleasant business of their animals potentially killing people.  Which has happened in the past.  Of course, they don’t want their animals to kill people.  For it will adversely impact the bottom line (see SeaWorld: Our Investors Should Know That It’s Bad For Business When Our Killer Whales Kill People by Matthew Boesler posted 4/18/2013 on Business Insider).

This incident and similar events that may occur in the future may harm our reputation, reduce attendance and negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.

A lot of people think that if government doesn’t regulate businesses they will wantonly put their customers at risk.  Even killing them with dangerous products or unsafe conditions.  People in government believe this with every fiber of their body.  So they can keep growing the size of government.  Creating ever more government jobs.  And they try to scare people whenever anyone talks about cutting the funding of government.  Saying people will die from these ruthless businesses putting profits before people if they are not there to regulate them.  Which is preposterous.

The SeaWorld’s IPO shows that if you harm your customers you will lose your customers.  And if you lose your customers you will make fewer profits.  Which means the profit incentive makes customers safe.  Because a business knows the more customers they have the more profits they can make.  So they have a financial incentive not to hurt their customers.  Something they didn’t have in the state-owned business of the former Soviet Union.

There was no fear of losing customers in the former Soviet Union if they killed their customers with faulty products.  Because there was no competition.  Just layer upon layer of bureaucrats.  And no one sued the ruling communists in the Soviet Union.  They may sacrifice the occasional bureaucrat if the outside world was aware of some incident.  But it was just another tragedy in the Soviet Union and life went on.  The people just had to put up with substandard quality.  And accept the occasional deaths.

Why?  Because in socialism where they put people before profits they actually put the state before the people.  Where bureaucrats protect themselves.  And other bureaucrats.  Because their state jobs are all that matter.  While in a country where there is capitalism the profit incentive puts people before the state.  Because any person felt mistreated by a business could simply take their business elsewhere.  Which forces businesses to bend over backward to please their customers.  Something you just don’t experience while renewing your driver’s license.

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FT165: “Republicans vote as responsible adults while Democrats vote as selfish children programmed to hate and fear Republicans.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 12th, 2013

Fundamental Truth

Our Public Schools teach our Children that Capitalism is Bad and Government is Good

The Democrats want some form of national childcare.  President Obama just said that he wanted 4 year olds in preschool.  Some political operative just made a video saying that we need to destroy the notion that children belong to their parents.  And get people thinking more collectively about their children.  That they belong to the community.  Not to their parents.  So why this push to take children away from their parents and place them into institutions more controlled by the state?  For one reason.  To make them think ‘correctly’.

Our public schools teach our children at an early age about global warming.  Why?  There’s nothing children can do about it.  And it’s likely not man-made.  For the glaciers moved their farthest before man ever put warming emissions into the atmosphere.  So why scare them of an impending global warming apocalypse?  Filling their heads with things to give them nightmares?  Because it is useful to make them fear global warming.  Useful how?  Well, who is it that is supposedly causing global warming?  Businesses.  Corporations.  In general, capitalism.  In particular, unfettered capitalism.  Which teaches children what?  That if left to its own devises unfettered capitalism will destroy the world.  So we need government to act like cops.  To protect these children, their families and the world from these evil and greedy corporations that are trying to kill people with global warming.  Just so they can make a buck.

This is what they’re teaching our children in the public schools.  That unfettered capitalism is unfair.  Cruel.  And will kill us to make a buck.  So our children learn the evils of the profit incentive.  And the goodness of government.  They teach our children how FDR, LBJ and President Obama made the country better.  By preventing the evil corporations from running wild in pursuit of profits.  They don’t teach them how America became the world’s number one economy with the greatest liberty and highest standard of liberty because of unfettered capitalism.  Or why this was the reason people immigrated to the United States.  No.  Instead they teach them to fear corporations.  And support unions.  Because unions like government stop the evil corporations from hurting people to make a buck.  They’ll even hold picket signs for their teachers when they go on strike.  Teachers repeat this lesson over and over again.  Corporations bad.  Capitalism bad.  Unions good.  Government good.  So when they start voting they will vote ‘correctly’.

Someone has to Teach People to have Negative Views of Republicans because they’re not Born with Them

So this is why the Democrats want to take children away from their parents.  So they can start teaching them how to think ‘correctly’.  So they will vote ‘correctly’.  And when our kids get to college they take it up a notch.  Back in the Sixties radicals protested at college campuses.  Protested the Vietnam War.  Wearing shirts with pictures of communist icons like Chairman Mao and Chez Guevara.  They wanted to establish communism in the United States.  They hated the profit-incentive.  And corporate America.  They wanted to abolish private property.  Make everything communal.  They even lived in communes.  Just like the communists they so admired.  Even though the communist utopias in the Soviet Union and The People’s Republic of China oppressed and killed their people if they didn’t think ‘correctly’.

They wanted a world where everyone had whatever they needed without having to work for the man.  So they could spend their days the way they believed people should pass their days.  Getting high, engaging in free love and singing songs about love.  These radicals then changed their tactics.  Instead of fighting the system from the outside they began fighting it from the inside.  By becoming college professors.  Now they are teaching our kids.  And writing the curriculum.  Even those who went to jail for acts of domestic terrorism are joining the faculty at our colleges.  And those who avoided jail on a technicality.  Liberal Democrats revere these people.  And the students they’re programming to become good liberal Democrats love them.  For they, too, want to enjoy a life full of drugs and sex.  They see these radical professors as enlightened.  For they find nothing wrong with enjoying the moment.  Instead of sacrificing for the future.  Like their parents did.  Who always frowned on their having a good time.  Most colleges today lean left.  And the radical Left keeps out the riff raff.  Conservatives.  Who are just too much like these students’ parents.  And bestows tenure on those who think as radically as they do.  While denying it to those who don’t.  Those conservatives.

Conservative students have recorded some of these classes.  Where we can hear liberal professors telling their captive audience that Republicans are all racist white men.  And are the most inflexible in their thinking.  Stubborn.  And mean spirited.  That they hate minorities, the poor and women.  Even want to prevent them from voting.  They want to put blacks back at the back of the bus.  And women back into the Fifties where they’re barefoot and pregnant.  Are these isolated incidents?  Or is this what they teach all of our children?  Well, if you watch the Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, most any television sitcom, most any Hollywood movie or watch the network news you have to believe this teaching is pervasive.  As no one is born with political views someone had to teach these people to have these negative views of Republicans.  And who teaches our kids?  Our public schools.  And our colleges.

Liberal Democrats don’t Engage in Debate but Instead Lie and Launch Personal Attacks

The liberal viewpoint is a minority viewpoint.  Only about 21% of the people identify themselves as liberal.  While 35% identify themselves as moderate.  And 40% identify themselves as conservative (see Conservatives Remain the Largest Ideological Group in U.S. on Gallup).  So those wishing to implement a liberal agenda have their work cut out for them.  Because about 75% of the people don’t think like they do.  That is, not yet.

This is why the president wants to get 4 year olds into state-paid childcare.  And why liberals want to take our children away so the state can raise them.  So the liberals can get them while they’re young.  And diminish the influence of their parents.  Especially when those parents are conservatives.  Who resist the liberal indoctrination of their children.  And undo some of the hard work they’ve done in getting these children to think ‘correctly’.  Which is a big problem for liberal Democrats.  Because they can’t win on the merits of their policies.  Not when 75% of the people don’t think like they do.

So liberal Democrats teach our kids to fear and hate those who don’t think like they do.  And they mock, belittle, disparage, demean, deride, etc., these people who don’t think like they do.  They don’t engage in debate.  They lie.  And launch personal attacks.  Which our high school and college kids find so entertaining.  They fill the audience at the Daily Show and the Late Show with David Lettermen.  They may not understand the issues.  But they know that they should laugh.  And how they should vote.  For they know that corporations are bad.  Capitalism is bad.  While unions are good.  And government is good.  The cool people they admire so much are liberal Democrats.  So they, too, are liberal Democrats.  And until they learn from age and experience to vote like adults they will continue to vote as self-indulgent children.  Living to maximize the pleasure of the moment.  No matter the long-term consequence of their actions.

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Thomas Edison, Patents, Intellectual Property Rights, Nikola Tesla, George Westinghouse, DC, AC and the War of Currents

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 27th, 2012

History 101

Thomas Edison protected his Intellectual Property Rights with over 1,000 Patents

Thomas Edison was a great inventor.  A great entrepreneur.  But he wasn’t a great scientist or engineer.  He was home-schooled by his mom.  And didn’t go to college.  But he read a lot.  And loved to tinker.  He grew up in Port Huron, Michigan.  At one end of the train line that ran between Port Huron and Detroit.  Where he sold newspapers and other things to commuters during the Civil War.  Then he saved the life of some kid.  Pulled him out of the way of a runaway boxcar.  The kid’s dad ran the train station.  Out of gratitude for saving his son’s life he taught the young Edison Morse Code.  And trained him to be a telegraph operator.  He mastered it so well that Edison invented a better telegraph machine.  The Quadruplex telegraph.  Because he liked to tinker.

What made him a great entrepreneur and not a great scientist or engineer is that his inventions had a commercial purpose.  He didn’t invent to solve life’s great mysteries.  He invented to make money.  By creating things so great that people would want them.  And pay money for them.  He also had an eye on production costs.  So he could build these things the people wanted at affordable prices.  For if they were too expensive the people couldn’t buy them.  And make him rich.  So his inventions used technology to keep production costs down while keeping consumer interest high.  Because of the profit incentive.  But the POSSIBILITY of profits wasn’t enough to push Edison to set up his invention lab.  Where he employed a team of inventors to work full time inventing things.  And figuring out how to mass-produce inventions that made everyone’s life better.  He needed something else.  Something that GUARANTEED Edison could profit from his inventions.  The patent.  That gave the patent holder exclusive rights to profit from their invention.

Inventors and entrepreneurs spend a lot of money inventing things.  They do this because they know that they can file a patent when they invent something that people will buy.  Protecting their intellectual property rights.  So they alone can profit from the fruit of all their labors.  And Edison was one of these inventors.  One of the most prolific inventors of all time.  Filing over 1,000 patents.  Including one on the incandescent light bulb.  Which was going to replace gas lamps and candles.  And provided a need for another new invention.  Electric power distribution.  Something else he spent a lot of time tinkering with.  Producing electrical generators.  And an electric power distribution system.  Which was going to make him an even richer man.  As he held the patents for a lot of the technology involved.  However, he was not to become as rich as he had hoped on his electric power distribution system.  Not for any patent infringements.  But because of a mistreated former employee who had a better idea.

Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse battled each other in the War of Currents

Nikola Tesla was a brilliant electrical engineer.  But not a great entrepreneur.  So he worked for someone who was.  Thomas Edison.  Until Edison broke a promise.  He offered a substantial bonus to Tesla if he could improve Edison’s electric power generating plants.  He did.  And when he asked for his bonus Edison reneged on his promise.  Telling the immigrant Tesla that he didn’t understand American humor.  Angry, Tesla resigned and eventually began working for George Westinghouse.  An Edison competitor.  Who appreciated the genius of Tesla.  And his work.  Especially his work on polyphase electrical systems.  Using an alternating current (AC).  Unlike Edison’s direct current (DC).  Bringing Edison and Tesla back together again.  In war.

Direct current had some limitations.  The chief being that DC didn’t work with transformers.  While AC did.  With transformers you could change the voltage of AC systems.  You could step the voltage up.  And step it back down.  This gave AC a huge advantage over DC.  Because power equals current multiplied by voltage (P=I*E).  To distribute large amounts of power you needed to generate a high current.  Or a high voltage.  Something both DC and AC power can do.  However, there is an advantage to using high voltages instead of high currents.  Because high currents need thicker wires.  And we make wires out of copper or aluminum.  Which are expensive.  And the DC wires have to get thicker the farther away they get from the generator plant.  Meaning that a DC generating plant could only serve a small area.  Requiring numerous DC power plants to meet the power requirements of a single city.  Whereas AC power could travel across states.  Making AC the current of choice for anyone paying the bill to install an electric distribution system.

So the ability to change voltages is very beneficial.  And that’s something DC power just couldn’t do.  What the generator generated is what you got.  Not the case with AC power.  You can step it up to a higher voltage for distribution.  Then you can step it down for use inside your house.  Which meant a big problem for Edison.  For anyone basing their decision on price alone would choose AC.  So he declared war on AC power.  Saying that it was too dangerous to bring inside anyone’s house.  And he proved it by electrocuting animals.  Including an elephant.  And to show just how lethal it was Edison pushed for its use to replace the hangman’s noose.  Saying that anything as deadly as what states used to put prisoners to death was just too deadly to bring into anyone’s house.  But not even the electric chair could save Edison’s DC power.  And he lost the War of Currents.  For Tesla’s AC power was just too superior to Edison’s DC power not to use. 

Nikola Tesla was a Brilliant Engineer who Preferred Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe over Business

George Westinghouse would get rich on electrical distribution.  Thanks to Nikola Tesla.  And the patents for the inventions he could have created for Thomas Edison.  If he only recognized his genius.  Which he lamented near death as his greatest mistake.  Not appreciating Tesla.  Or his work.  But Edison did well.  As did Westinghouse.  They both died rich.  Unlike Tesla.

Westinghouse could have made Tesla a very rich man.  But his work in high voltage, high frequency, wireless power led him away from Westinghouse.  For he wanted to provide the world with free electric power.  By creating power transmitters.  That could transmit power wirelessly.  Where an electric device would have an antenna to receive this wireless power.  He demonstrated it to some potential investors.  He impressed them.  But lost their funding when they asked one question.  Where does the electric meter go?  Free electric power was a noble idea.  But nothing is truly free.  Even free power.  Because someone had to generate that power.  And if you didn’t charge those using that power how were you going to pay those generating that power?

Edison and Westinghouse were great entrepreneurs.  Whereas Tesla was a brilliant engineer.  He preferred unraveling the mysteries of the universe over business.  Tesla probably suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Think of the character Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory television sitcom.  He was a lot like that character.  Brilliant.  Odd.  And interested in little else but his work.  He lived alone.  And died alone.  A bachelor.  Living in a two-room hotel room in the last decade of his life.  Despite his inventions that changed the world.  And the fortunes he made for others.  Sadly, Tesla did not die a rich man.  Like Edison and Westinghouse.  But he did live a long life.  And few men or women changed the world like he did.  A brilliant mind that comes around but once in a millennium.

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The Space Shuttle versus the Airbus A380, an Economics Lesson

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 29th, 2011

The Space Shuttle, a Public Sector Failure

People like to point to the Apollo Program as the ultimate example of the American ‘can do’ attitude.  Apollo put men on the moon and retuned them safely.  If we can do that we should be able to do anything.  Even cure the common cold.  If only we attacked our greatest problems today the same way we solved the moon problem.  With a great big government program.  That marshaled a vast network of private contractors.  Where cost was no object.

But that was the problem with Apollo.  Cost.  It cost in excess of $20 billion dollars in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Today that would exceed $130 billion.  At the peak of the program spending consumed nearly 5% of all federal spending.  We’ve come close to shutting down government over lesser amounts in budget disputes.  The numbers are huge.  In comparison, the big three of federal outlays are Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and Defense, each consuming about 20% of all federal spending.  Imagine the fireworks if any of these were reduced to 15% (a 25% reduction in spending) to pay for another Apollo Program.  Suffice it to say it’s not going to happen.

This is why we don’t have more ‘Apollo’ programs to solve our problems.  We simply can’t afford to.  And in case you hadn’t noticed, NASA discontinued the Apollo Program, cancelling three moon landings.  Because of costs.  These cost savings help fund Skylab and the next big project.  The Space Shuttle.  Which was going to fix the cost problem.  By paying for itself.  Based on the private sector model.  The reusable vehicle was going to shuttle payload to space for paying customers and earn a profit.  The program, then, would pay for itself once launched.  And consume no tax dollars.  That was the plan, at least. 

But the Space Shuttle had its problems.  For one it was very dangerous.  And it turns out that the first manned mission was likely to be a disaster (see Shuttle Debuted Amid Unknown Dangers by Irene Klotz posted 6/29/2011 on Discovery News).

What NASA didn’t know at the time was that there was only a 1-in-9 chance the astronauts would make it back alive. Managers put the odds of losing the shuttle and its crew at 1-in-100,000.

Safety upgrades, including those initiated after two fatal accidents, have made the shuttle 10 times safer than it was in its early years, but the odds of a catastrophic accident are still high — about 1 in 90.

That is the largely unspoken part about why NASA is retiring its shuttle fleet after a final cargo run to the space station next month.

The Space Shuttle was just too complex a machine to meet any of its original goals.  Two shuttles were lost.  And the Space Shuttle Program never turned a profit.  The program that was going to pay for itself along the private sector model didn’t.  It required tax dollars.  A lot of them.

… preparing the shuttles for flight is extremely labor-intensive, which drives its $4 billion-a-year operating expense.

This is why we shouldn’t ask for any more great big government programs.  Because they’re typically abject failures.  Few companies in the private sector can fail as grandly.  Missing their profitability goal in excess of $4 billion dollars?  Year after year?  Only government can do this.  For only in government can a failed business model survive.  Because only government can tax, borrow and print money.

The Airbus A380, a Private Sector Success Story

This doesn’t happen in the private sector.  Where such gross mismanagement would put companies out of business.  Because they can’t tax, borrow or print.  Well, they can borrow.  But not at the low rates the government can.  Such failure would force them into junk territory.  And with a proven track record of losing billions year after year, even that wouldn’t be an option.  No, the private sector has to do it the old fashioned way.  They have to earn it.  You don’t have to be perfect.  You just have to be profitable (see Damaged Qantas A380 Refurbishment Underway by Guy Norris posted 6/29/2011 on Aviation Week).

Work to return to service the Qantas Airbus A380 damaged in last November’s uncontained engine failure is underway in Singapore.

The aircraft, which was substantially damaged when the number two Rolls-Royce Trent 900 shed a turbine disc, is about to be placed on stress jacks for major repairs to the wing and fuselage. Work will likely include replacement or repairs to the number one engine nacelle adjacent to the number two engine which was destroyed. The number two engine and nacelle is also being replaced…

The start of repair work, covered under an Aus $135 million insurance claim, puts a final end to speculation that the A380 would be written off. Airbus meanwhile declines to comment on the implications for possible longer term redesign as a result of lessons learned from the incident.

The Airbus A380 is a complex machine.  It’s expensive to build.  And to operate.  But it packs in a lot of people.  So the airlines can recover their costs through normal passenger service.  By offering passengers tickets at affordable prices.  With a little left over.  So Airbus can afford to sell these expensive airplanes at affordable prices, covering their costs with a little left over.  So their suppliers can sell components at affordable prices, covering their costs with a little left over.  Companies make profits everywhere in the process.  To return to their investors.  To reinvest in their operations.  Or to cover large, unexpected cost hits.  Like Airbus and Rolls Royce did to keep Qantas a satisfied customer.

A380 product marketing director Richard Carcaillet says “the two preliminary reports so far have focused on the engine event. However if there are any lessons for systems and procedures then we will take action. But with the co-operation of Rolls-Royce we have put a line of defense into the Fadec (full authority digital engine control), so that in the event of detecting a similar condition it will shut down quickly,” he adds.

Rolls has “now inspected and modified the whole fleet,” says Carcallet. For the moment the fix is the revised Fadec software, though longer term design changes are also underway to the engine, he adds.

The updated software commands an engine shut down if it detects the threat of an intermediate high pressure turbine overspeed occurring. Rolls is meanwhile working on a longer-term redesign of the Trent 900 oil system, a fire in which triggered the event.

Rolls-Royce has also agreed to pay (US) $100.5 million compensation to Qantas.

This is how the private sector works.  The profit incentive makes everyone do what is necessary to please and retain customers.  And improve safety.  Because airplanes falling apart in flight do not encourage anyone to buy a ticket.

Bigger Programs only mean Bigger Failures

There’s a reason that the Shuttle Program is no more but there are A380s flying and making money.  The difference between the Shuttle Program and the A380 is that one was in the public sector and the other is in the private sector.  And guess which one is the success story?  The one in the private sector.  Of course.  This despite the A380 having far more competition in Boeing (in particular the Boeing 747-400 and 747-8) than the Space Shuttle ever had.

Moral of the story?  Keep government programs small.  Because bigger programs only mean bigger failures.  And more tax dollars pulled from the private sector to pay for these failures.

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