Outhouses and Flush Toilets

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 17th, 2013

Technology 101

An Exceptional Builder of Outhouses will have the Door Swing Into the Outhouse

Before there was modern plumbing going to the bathroom often involved putting on a pair of boots and a coat.  And a short walk outside.  To a little outbuilding called an outhouse.  Which was a small shack over a hole in the ground.  With a bench with a hole in it to sit on.  Crude by today’s standards but it was living large a couple of centuries ago.  For it sure beat squatting on your haunches on a rainy day somewhere out in Mother Nature.

We’ve became very skilled in building outhouses.  Today you will see elaborate things in state parks sitting on a cement pit.  When it fills up they bring in a truck to pump it out.  So these could be rather permanent structures.  But we didn’t pump out our first outhouses.  When the hole underneath filled up we dug a new hole.  Moved the outhouse over on top of the new hole.  Cover the old hole.  Which required the outhouse to be more lightweight and portable.  Because we would move it every time the hole underneath filled up.

Now there was a certain science to building a good outhouse.  Certain considerations to take into account.  Such as where we dug the hole.  As they tended to stink having them as far away as possible from the home kept the air more enjoyable to breathe.  But it also meant longer treks during snowstorms when nature was calling.  So you didn’t want it too far.  But you didn’t want it too close.  And you especially didn’t want it anywhere near your well.  Unless you enjoyed bouts of dysentery and cholera.  And if you were making a trek through a foot or two of snow you appreciated what an exceptional builder of outhouses did for you.  He made the door open inward.  So you didn’t have to dig away a snowdrift to open the door to get inside.  Also, because they were rather lightweight, a heavy wind could blow them over.  If it fell forward onto its door you could find yourself trapped.  If the door opened inward, though, you would be able to open the door.  Get your feet onto terra firma.  And stand up and lift the outhouse upright.  Something you couldn’t do if the door opened outward.

The Flush Toilet has few Moving Parts and Operates with only Two Sources of Energy to Make it Work

Building a good outhouse required skill and experience.  Done right these wonderful things of low-tech provided years of reliable service.  Today we use another marvel of low-tech.  Allowing us to avoid a trek outdoors in a driving snowstorm when nature calls.  This marvel of engineering has brought that part of our life into the comfort and safety of our house.  A special room with a flush toilet.  Secured, heated and safe to walk to barefoot, the flush toilet has revolutionized taking care of nature’s business.  That special room inside our homes where we do more than take a bath.

What is truly amazing that people don’t even think about is that you can sit on the toilet while drawing a glass of drinking water.  We may not do this.  But we can.  (We don’t recommend this.  For flushing the toilet with the lid up could splash fecal material onto/into a drinking glass on your bathroom sink.  So if you like to drink while sitting on the toilet be sure to flush when sitting down or with the lid down).  Because of a fresh water system coming from one source.  And a sanitary sewer system going to a different destination.  Yet they come together in our bathroom.  With little chance of cross contamination.  So you could literally fill a glass of water and drink it while sitting on the toilet.  Perhaps even more incredible is that the flush toilet is the only thing in our home that is connected to both our fresh water system and our sanitary sewer system.  And still there is little risk of cross contamination.  Even an outhouse built 100 feet from the house could still contaminate your drinking water if the contents of the pit leeched into the ground water.  And came up your well.

The amazing flush toilet has few moving parts.  And operates with only two sources of energy to make it work.  The water pressure of city water.  And the human operation of the flush lever or button.  The city water fastens to the bottom of the water tank.  A water float opens and closes a water fill valve.  When the tank is full the float is at its highest, closing this valve.  When the water level in the tank drops it opens this valve and city water pressure forces water into the tank.  In case the valve sticks open there is an overflow tube to drain the excess water into the toilet bowl so it doesn’t flood the bathroom.  The tank sits on the toilet bowl.  Water enters the bowl from the tank through a 2-3″ drain hole.  A flapper valve covers this drain hole.  The weight of the water in the tank seals this watertight.  A chain runs from this flapper valve to the flush lever.  Most of the water enters the bowl via a small hole opposite a larger hole.  Where the water leaves the bowl and enters the sanitary sewer system.  The siphon.  While some of it flows out through the holes just under the rim.  The siphon curves up and then turns 180 degrees down.  The water in the bowl is at the same level as the bottom of the 180-degree turn in the siphon.  Creating a vapor lock so sewer gas can’t vent into the bathroom.

A Successful Toilet Flush requires Water to Fill the Siphon Completely and Form an Airtight Seal

Have you ever siphoned anything with a hose?  If you haven’t you can do a little experiment.  The next time you do your laundry plug the drain in the sink before the final rinse.  Get a short length of garden hose.  Place your thump over one end of the hose and fill the other end with water (you may need some help).  Once the hose is full of water place your other thumb over the other end.  Then place one end under the water level in the laundry tub.  And the other end near the floor drain (there should be one near your laundry tub).  The end of the hose at the drain will be lower than the end in the tub.  Now remove your thumbs from the ends of the hose.  You will see water run out of the hose onto the floor near the drain.  And as water leaves the hose it will pull more water into the hose from the laundry tub.  This is a siphon.  And it will keep siphoning water from the laundry tub until the water level falls below the open end of the hose in the tub.  Either when the tub is almost empty.  Or if you lift the hose out of the water.  Letting air into the hose.  Breaking the siphon.

This is how a flush toilet operates.  When you flush the toilet the chain lifts the flapper valve which will float upright as a couple of gallons of water pours into the bowl.  This rush of water will fill and seal the siphon.  As this water drains out of the siphon it will pull the water from the bowl.  As the tank drains into the bowl the siphon pulls it out, flushing it clean.  The water supply valve is open during this adding more water to this flushing action.  When the tank empties the flapper valve falls back over the drain hole.  And the tank refills with water.  When the volume of water flowing into the bowl reduces air enters the siphon.  Which, of course, breaks the siphon.  Ending the flushing cycle.  The water in the bowl settles at the height of the bottom of the 180-degree turn in the siphon.

The key for a successful flush is a large volume of water.  For unless the water fills the siphon completely and forms an airtight seal there will be no siphon.  And the toilet bowl won’t empty.  You can see this by pouring water into the bowl slowly.  When you do the water level doesn’t change.  And the toilet doesn’t flush.  The water just spills over the 180-degree turn in the siphon and into the sanitary drain pipe.  Only when there is a large volume of water flowing into the bowl will enough water flow into the siphon to form that airtight seal.  Allowing us to do our business without getting dressed and trudging outside through 2-foot snowdrifts in the middle of January.  Without worrying the building won’t blow over while we’re sitting inside doing our business.  Like they sometimes once did.  Despite how state of the art they were at one time.

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Drilling Rig, Drill String, Rotary Table, Kelly, Drill Collars, Drilling Mud, Blowout Preventers, Casing, Fracking and Sucker-Rod Pump

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 19th, 2012

Technology 101

The Kelly is the Section of the Drill Pipe the Rotary Table Grips to Spin the Tool

There are places where oil oozes out of the ground.  All by itself.  Because of the great weight of that dirt and rock pressing down on it from above.  But there’s a lot more oil underground crushed by the weight of the earth.  That only needs a pathway up to the surface.  And because we like oil so much we provide that pathway.  By drilling deep holes into the ground.  And when we do that oil will come to the surface all by itself.  Making oil extraction rather simple and straight forward.  But getting to that point is a whole other story.

The drilling rig.  This is where it all starts.  The tall, tapered steel derrick that we see in the movies.  Even in Bugs Bunny cartoons.  This is a lot taller than your average drill because the drill bit is a lot longer.  Or, more accurately, the drill string.  A bunch of 30-foot sections, or joints, of hollow pipe screwed together.  As the drill makes its way underground they stop drilling, pull another joint up the derrick, screw it into the drill string and continue drilling.  Hence the tall height of the steel derrick.

At the end of the drill string is the bit, or tool, that does the actual drilling.  Which they spin with a rotary table back up on the rig platform.  Where the roughnecks work.  Manhandling together joints with giant pipe wrenches called tongs.  They break apart the drill pipe.  Hoist a joint up the derrick.  Screw it together to the drill string.  Then reattach the kelly to the drill string.  The kelly is the section of the drill pipe the rotary table grips to spin the tool.  As the table spins the kelly it slowly lowers through the hole in the rotary table.  Pulled down by a heavy section of pipe just above the tool.  Called drill collars.  That weighs about 10 times as much as a joint.

To get the Oil to Flow up through the Well and not into the Soil on the way up they Place a Casing in the Well

There’s a reason why the drill string is hollow.  Because something flows through it.  And, no, it’s not oil.  It’s mud.  A special kind of mud that they pump down from the rig to the drill bit.  Like oil used during drilling on a drill press this drilling mud provides lubrication for the cutting surface.  And being a thick fluid it does two other things.  Chunks of rock will stay suspended in the mud.  So it will rise up with the mud instead of settling at the bottom of the hole.  And it resists other fluids from seeping into the drill hole.  The pressure of the mud pumping down inside the drill pipe forces it back up the drill hole in the space around the drill pipe. As it exits the drill hole up top they examine the mud to see what’s happening at the bottom of the hole.

Below the rig platform are blowout preventers.  For unlike in the movies they want to prevent any gushers of oil (or anything else for that matter) out of the hole.  Because that would be dangerous.  And costly.  So to prevent a blowout they have a series of valves mounted to the wellhead that exits the ground.  At any sign of a back pressure that could blow out of the well they close these valves.  To continue drilling they make the drilling mud thicker.  Thick enough to hold back the back pressure from blowing out around the drill pipe.

To get the oil to flow up through the hole and not into the soil on the way up they place a casing in the hole.   Which is a steel pipe they line the hole with after they’re done drilling.  They pump cement down into the casing and mud behind it.  Forcing the cement out of the casing and up through the space between the casing and the wall of the earthen hole.  When the cement comes out at the top it fills the void between the casing and the hole.  Surrounding the casing in cement.  Which then sets and bonds the casing to the earthen walls of the well.  Providing a clean pathway down from the surface to the rock containing the oil.

Over Time the Pressure pushing the Oil up to the Surface dissipates as the Oil leaves Voids in the Rock

Yes, rock.  There isn’t a big underground lake of oil underground.  The oil is in the pours of rock.  Like a sponge holding a liquid.  One hole in the rock isn’t going to bring a lot of oil to the surface.  So they bust open some of that rock.  With explosions.  Chemicals.  Or high pressure water.  Once they crack open the rock they hold the cracks open by pumping in some porous material that can withstand the crushing weight of the earth above.  We call this fracking.  Short for fracturing.  Which allows the oil to accumulate around the well.  Where the weight of the earth above will push it up through the well casing to the surface.

This completes the drilling process.  They put a stack of valves on top of the wellhead.  Called the Christmas tree.  They close all the valves and break down the drilling derrick.  Pack everything up and leave the drilling site.  Leaving nothing behind but the wellhead with the Christmas tree on top.  Open a valve and the oil flows.  For awhile, at least.  Over time the pressure pushing the oil up to the surface dissipates as the pumped oil leaves voids in the rock.  Which eventually lowers the pressure to the point it no longer reaches the surface.  So to keep the well working they install a pump.

The pump they use has a rocking beam that is pushed up and down on one side.  The other end has cables draped over what looks like a horse’s head.  These cables attach to a string of sucker rods that enter the well and reach all the way to the bottom of the well.  Hence the name sucker-rod pump.  At the bottom of the well is a cylindrical chamber.  When the beam rocks down over the wellhead the sucker rods descend into the well.  At the same time a valve opens and the cylindrical chamber fills with oil.  When the beam pulls up one valve closes and another opens.  And pulls up the sucker rods.  Drawing up some oil into the well casing.   Forcing the oil further up the well with each pump cycle.  Until it reaches the surface.  Then it’s on to a refinery.  And into our car.

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Shell New Zealand spending Hundreds of Millions of Dollars looking for Something in the Great South Basin to Sell

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 6th, 2012

Week in Review

Bringing fossil fuels to market is expensive.  People look at the profits these oil and natural gas companies make and cry foul.  But few look at the cost side.  Which is very, very steep (see Shell NZ takes control of exploration in Great South Basin by ALAN WOOD posted 5/4/2012 on Stuff.co.nz).

Shell New Zealand has taken over control of a joint venture exploration in the Great South Basin, saying there are good indications of natural gas after $100 million of exploration in the “frontier” area.

However, to push into full development the explorer would need to find a field of a similar size to Maui off Taranaki, given that it would be need to spend $10 billion-plus on a processing facility if gas was found, the chairman of the Shell companies in New Zealand, Rob Jager, said…

Shell has assumed operatorship of the New Zealand exploration licence PEP 50119 in the Great South Basin from joint venture partner OMV New Zealand. The venture partners had spent about $100m exploring the area, including $50m early on, then another $50m on a just-completed seismic survey…

The cost of drilling a single offshore well in New Zealand was in the order of $200m given the expense of bringing a specialised rig from somewhere like the Gulf of Mexico…

“Certainly we would hope that we would be in a position to start seriously thinking about looking for and contracting a rig in the next six to 12 months … so you’re not looking at drilling realistically until the summer of 2014/15.”

Let’s add up the numbers.  Just to explore cost Shell New Zealand $100 million.  Drilling a single well will cost another $200 million.  And then the special natural gas processing equipment is another $10 billion.  All of this spent, of course, before they earn a dime of revenue off of this field.  That’s a lot of money. 

When you look at profit as percentage of revenue the oil companies aren’t as profitable as some other companies.  Such as Apple or Microsoft who are by far more profitable.  Yet we attack the rich oil companies as being too rich.  Who have to risk hundreds of millions of dollars JUST to see if there is a CHANCE that there may be something down there they can sell.

Despite all of this once they find something down there to sell they can bring it to market to sell in less than a year.  And that includes that $10 billion processing facility.  Incredible.  Compare that to the ‘smart’ green energy of the future.  That the Obama administration invested heavily into.  Only to see a string of failures.  And lost taxpayer money.  Just look at what the oil companies can do without any help from the government.  Some would even say while fighting the government’s attacks on their industry.  While the ‘smart’ green energy of the future has been working on government money for close to 4 years with NOTHING to show for it.

Perhaps it’s time to stop attacking the oil companies who are giving us the oil and natural gas we crave and need without the government subsidizing it.  And turn some of our anger on all that wasted taxpayer money on the ‘smart’ green energy of the future which is proving NOT to be the smart investment.

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Wells, Cesspools, Night Soil, 1854 Broad Street Cholera Outbreak, Fresh Water, Sanitation, 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 10th, 2012

History 101

Overflowing Cesspools in 1854 London led to a Cholera Outbreak along Broad Street

People eat and drink.  And, as a consequence, they poop and pee.  This made moving into cities a little more complicated than living in the country.  Or on a farm.  Where you drilled a well for your drinking water.  And built an outhouse (or privy) to do your business in.  Basically a small structure over a hole in the ground to provide a little privacy while you contemplated world affairs.  You kept the two separated so your business didn’t seep into the water table that fed your well.  As people moved into cities they brought their poop and pee with them.  Obviously.  And before plumbing and sanitary sewer systems people used chamber pots and dumped them out of their windows after using them.  Or built cesspits (or cesspools) to store their human waste.  Under their houses.  Where the liquid would leach into the ground.  While the solids broke down.  As the pile of the remaining solid waste grew men came around at night to remove this ‘night soil’.  Which they turned into fertilizer.

There were drawbacks with this, though.  For human waste is full of disease-causing pathogens.  Which made it a little risky to use as fertilizer.  Worse were these disease-causing pathogens leaching into our drinking water.  Which it did in London.  In 1854.  In the Soho district of London.  Where the new sanitary sewers did not yet reach.  On Broad Street.  That ran along the River Thames.  Where the water table is relatively high.  So when you drill a well you don’t have to go too deep.  Or you could get your water directly from the River Thames.  As the city’s population grew more and more people packed into houses.  Greatly increasing the production of human waste.  Quickly filling the cesspools beneath their homes.  And as they filled to capacity they overflowed.  And leached into that high water table.  And into the River Thames.   Which took in this burgeoning growth of disease-causing pathogens.

But then people start getting sick.  A lot of them even dying.  From a nasty outbreak of cholera.  Spread by disease-causing pathogens.  Back then people thought ‘bad air’ caused cholera to spread.  As well as other diseases.  Something John Snow refused to believe.  So he studied the pattern of deaths.  And he found a common factor.  The people who were dying drew their water from the public pump on Broad Street.  Determining that the source of the cholera outbreak wasn’t ‘bad air’.  But bad water.  Coming from that pump.  Contaminated from those overflowing cesspools.  Such that people were drinking their own waste.  This marked a new beginning in public health.  And public sanitation.  Perhaps the greatest of public goods that allows people to live in crowded cities.

The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami took out the Systems that kept Wastewater from Contaminating Fresh Drinking Water 

As cities and regions became more populated this balancing act of fresh water and sanitation became more critical.  Where fresh water flowed into our homes and wastewater flowed out and into the sanitary sewer system.  And on to the wastewater treatment plant.  Where treatment made the water safe to reenter the ecosystem.  And our drinking water supplies.  If all the pieces worked well the water flowed in only one direction.  Towards the wastewater treatment plant.  But if something should happen to interrupt or reverse that flow the wastewater would contaminate our drinking water.  And, sadly, something often happens.  Events that damage the infrastructure that manages that flow.  Such as war.  Earthquakes.  And tsunamis.

An earthquake in the Indian Ocean on Sunday, December 26, 2004, created a massive tsunami.  Sending walls of water as high as 50 feet crashing into Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and other coastal regions surrounding the Indian Ocean.  The damage these waves caused was devastating.   The advancing water just swept away communities on the shore.  After the waves receded more than 150,000 were dead or missing.  Millions were homeless.  In a hot and humid climate.  Where corpses everywhere began to decompose.  And injured people with open wounds invited infection.  As bad as the horror of that day was there might be worse yet to come.  For the conditions were perfect for pandemic disease.  For included in that destruction was the infrastructure that managed that water flow to wastewater treatment plants.

This was the greatest fear.  The tsunami waves wiped out the electrical grids that powered the pumps that maintained that water flow.  So the wastewater backed up into the drinking water.  Dense populations in tropical conditions with no fresh drinking water available to drink and with raw sewage backing up into the streets spelled a world of trouble.  Because people need to eat and drink.  And, as a consequence, they poop and pee.  But when the infrastructure is gone that separates the one from the other humans can’t live for long.  Because their waste is full of disease-causing pathogens.  Especially when the prevailing weather conditions create a natural incubator for these diseases.

In America’s most Populated Cities you can Turn On Any Water Tap and Drink the Water without Worrying about Cholera

Thankfully those areas hit by the 2004 tsunami did not suffer greater population losses due to outbreaks of cholera, diphtheria, dysentery, typhoid or hepatitis A and B.  Thanks to a fast-acting international community.  Providing some $14 billion in humanitarian aid.  Delivered in large part by the U.S. Navy and other military forces.  Who possessed the resources to move that aid inland to where the people needed it.  Chief among that aid was fresh drinking water.  And sanitation facilities.  To prevent the spread of disease.

It took some time to understand the connection between clean drinking water and public health.  But people did have some understanding.  Which is why a lot of people drank beer in early communities.  Because the brewing process killed the pathogens in the water.  Perhaps our first water treatment process.  They may not have known this.  They may just have correlated drinking beer to healthier living.  A good a reason as any to drink and be merry.  For those who drank beer did not suffer some of the same diseases that befell others.  As in the cholera outbreak in 1854 London.  Where the monks in a monastery adjacent to the outbreak area escaped the pandemic.  Why?  Because they only drank the beer they brewed.

Americans travelling to Mexico are careful about what they drink.  Drinking only bottled water.  Or beer and liquor.  To escape an unpleasant condition that can result from drinking the local water which is not as ‘treated’ as it is in the U.S.  Emphasizing a point few appreciate in America’s most populated cities.  Where you can turn on any water tap and drink the water that comes out of it without ever worrying about cholera, diphtheria, dysentery, typhoid or hepatitis A and B.  Which we’ve only been able to do for about a century or so in America.  While poor and developing countries are still struggling to do this even to this day.

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Public Goods

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 9th, 2012

Economics 101

You can’t put a Price Tag on Units of National Defense or Sanitary Sewers and Wastewater Treatment Plants

The free market works because people only trade when buyers and sellers agree on price.  Those agreed upon prices are fair to both.  For the sellers place a higher value on the money they receive than the things they’re selling.  And the buyers place a higher value on the things they’re buying than the money they’re spending.  And because of property rights this can happen.  After these transactions the buyers have exclusive use of what they just bought.  And the sellers have exclusive use of the money they just received.  And this holds true whenever we’re buying and selling private goods.  Things people own and use exclusively.  And have the right to buy and sell.  Thanks to property rights.

There are things, though, in our everyday lives that we don’t use exclusively.  Or own exclusively.  Things that we can’t exclude others from using even if they don’t pay to use these things.  Such as the military.  You can’t put a price tag on units of national defense that people can buy.  Some people don’t like the military and would never buy units of national defense.  If the country was under attack, though, our military couldn’t exclude these people from the common defense they provide.  Because there is no way to exclude them. 

You have another problem with sanitary sewers.  Those pipes under our roads that pipe our toilets to a wastewater treatment plant.  We have to pay for our toilets and the pipes running from our houses to the common sanitary line in the street.  But developers built that common line in the street long before someone built our house.  As they built the wastewater treatment plant long before they built our house.  These go in before they build neighborhoods.  But we still have to pay for these long after we build them.  And once our streets are paved you can’t expect new homeowners to install new sewer lines from their newly built homes to the wastewater treatment plant.  And you can’t build new wastewater treatment plants for each new house built.  They tend to take up a lot of real estate.   And need a place to discharge the treated water.  Usually into a river, lake or ocean.  So it just doesn’t make any economic sense to build more than one sewer system and treatment plant in a given geographic region.

Government Typically provides Public Goods because there are no Viable Private Sector Alternatives 

The military is a public good.  Sanitary sewers and wastewater treatment plants are public goods.  Public goods share two characteristics that make them public goods.  They are non-excludable.  Like the military.  Where it’s impossible to exclude people from the common defense while providing the common defense.  Because it’s common.  Everyone benefits from our warships that protect our shores from invasion.  Whether they pay for them or not.  And public goods are non-rival.  Like sanitary sewers and wastewater treatment plants.  When my neighbor flushers his or her toilet it doesn’t prevent me from flushing my toilet.  That is, their use of the good doesn’t reduce my use of the good.

Because public goods are non-excludable and non-rival it is impossible to put a price tag on them for individual units of use.  This is why we pay for public goods with taxes.  Because we need these public goods and everyone benefits from these public goods we force people to pay for them with taxes.  Something only the government has the power to do.  So government typically provides public goods.  Because there are no viable private sector alternatives. 

There is an option to a public sanitary sewer system, though.  And we use them all the time.  For houses in the country.  Where they pipe their toilets to a septic tank that collects much of the solid waste.  The septic tank then drains the residual wastewater into a septic field.  Where it leaches back into the water table.  But if we don’t connect a house to a public wastewater system we typically don’t connect it to a public water system.  Meaning these people draw their water from a well.  That draws water from the water table.  So septic fields and wells can’t be too close together.  So you don’t end up drinking your wastewater.  Which limits how close you can build homes together.  Not a problem in the country.  But a problem in the city.  Which we can’t build without city water and sanitary sewer systems.  Public goods.  That we pay for with a water meter on every house.  That charges for each unit of water we use.  And each unit we use includes a cost for our sanitary waste.  Because all wastewater starts off being clean city water.

Health Care is NOT a Public Good because there are Viable Private Sector Alternatives

Charities can provide some goods that can appear to be public goods.  Like feeding the hungry.  Housing the homeless.  Or leaving an endowment to a university or a hospital.  But charity doesn’t pay for warships or wastewater treatment plants.  So we generally think of public goods as government-provided goods.  But not all government-provided goods are public goods.  Because they aren’t both non-excludable and non-rival.  Such as feeding the hungry.  And housing the homeless.  Charities were doing these long before government stepped in to provide them.  And continue to do so today.  Soup kitchens and homeless shelters clearly show that these aren’t true public goods.  Because there are viable private sector alternatives.

Government welfare, then, is not a public good.  But the government has taken over welfare from those who have historically provided for them.  Charities.  Churches.  And rich people wanting to give back to the country that was so generous to them.  Andrew Carnegie had a passion for knowledge and built public libraries.  John D. Rockefeller had a passion for education and public health and poured his wealth into these.  John Hopkins built hospitals.  They did these things, and others, out of the goodness of their hearts.  Becoming philanthropists after making their wealth.  To help other people.  Rich people are still doing so today.  After creating great wealth Bill Gates is planning to give pretty much all of it away through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Like other great philanthropists before him.

And speaking of health care, health care is not a public good.  Because it is NOT non-excludable.  Your health care is exclusively yours.  There is a direct relationship between patient and health care services.  You consume hospital stays, medicines, rehabilitation, etc.  If you’re not a patient that treatment doesn’t happen.  Unlike a warship protecting our coast.  And health care is NOT non-rival.  When people consume health care services other people can’t consume those same services.  An MRI can only scan one person at a time.  A radiologist can only look at one x-ray at a time.  Hospitals can only transfer someone out of the emergency room when a bed is available elsewhere.  So when people consume these services it reduces the amount available for others to consume.  Which makes health care NOT a public good.  And one the government shouldn’t be providing.  Because there are viable private sector alternatives.

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