Economists are modern day Utopians

Economists tell us that the free market solves problems. Some have recently even argued that price gouging in times of emergencies by your neighborhood store and gas station is the best solution as it prevents hoarding. Modern economic principles are built on the assumption that all players are rational agents, with the proper rationality being what is in one’s best (economic; sic) interest. Economists get it wrong. Humans are not rational agents. We have petty expectations like greed, revenge, stubbornly holding onto beliefs unbecoming the economic principles. If we were all rational agents, we would need no regulation or government, we would need no taxes since we would selfishly and selflessly see the need to pay money for the common good, not just ones own.

In reality our modern free market economy is mostly regulated such that trading in goods and money benefits all, not the least the government which is a self governing body that invests in common goods that no single individual, no matter how rich, could achieve on their own.

And as for the price gouging, the solution in emergency situations is rationing, not increasing prices to the highest bidder. Our American health care system is in permanent emergency crisis, where price gouging is normal. Most people want to believe that health care is a market place, but it is not so for two reasons. First, it is already highly regulated. To work in the health profession you need a license that is hard to achieve. You need to accept and treat anyone coming to your doors, no matter if the individual can pay or not. You can demand payment later, or from the tax payer. Second, unless for preventive care, no one goes to the doctor unless it is an emergency, which is exactly why we are held hostage to price gouging by the hospital and insurance industry. We are not customers. We have no time or ability to choose treatment, doctor or hospital when lying in an ambulance. And even if we get to the plan included hospital, they can still higher out of plan doctors which allows them to charge extra for their service.

So let’s get rid of the fantasy of the rational agent in economics and come up with more complex model that include real world agents driven by emotional outcomes, not only economic optimal outcome.

Why Trump’s Travel Ban is Obsolete

When originally ordered, the travel ban for citizens from multiple middle eastern and north African Muslim majority countries, including then Iraq, was touted as temporary measure to give the intelligence community and DHS time to evaluate the effectiveness of vetting travelers, including refugees. The ban was ordered to last 90 days. The ban was quickly challenged and suspended and during the last four months, has lingered in the courts. The constitutional merits of the ban are now heading to the Supreme Court.

While this evaluation is still important, it seems obvious to me that the originally requested 90 time black out period has long passed and thus reinstating any ban, absence new evidence that current vetting procedures are inadequate, are merit less. One would assume that John Kelley’s DHS has done its review and come to a conclusion. I have not heard of any such activity or outcome, or why we need an extended period and go ahead with a 90 day travel ban.

Thus the Supreme Court must hear the case and judge on the constitutionality of the ban, both the original and ‘watered down’ version. But it must also rule on usefulness of allowing a ban to go into effect, in in effect the original proposed time period has passed, and there is not reasonable argument why DHS has not used the time to do its evaluation. Just to impose a temporary ban now would be simply a matter of wanting to be tough for toughness sake instead of finding the correct balance between freedom and safety.

Gorsuch and Judicial Politics

Supreme Court Associate Judge Neil Gorsuch is taking his oath of office today.

During the hearing, he claimed that there are no Republican judges, and no Democratic judges, only judges. He sees himself as an Originalist like Scalia, which is a self-applauding way of saying ‘I have no biases, I only follow the law’. But all the cases that come before the Supreme Court are there because they do not fall neatly into existing law, because they can be considered both right and wrong, acceptable or unacceptable behavior, but is the behavior at issue legal? The situation is new, the public’s view of what is OK and what is not OK is shifting. Consider interracial marriage, same sex marriage, a woman’s right to vote. Is the formerly unacceptable behavior, now seen as acceptable, constitutional? Can it still be outlawed? What would the framers of the Constitution think? That is where Gorsuch comes in and makes his incredulous claim of being just a judge. A judge of what, one might ask, of religious law, of secular law, of sexual mores?

Well, he now has a chance to proof his ‘I am not a Democrat, I am not a Republican’ and explain every time he sides with big corporation and conservative policy, that he is just interpreting the Constitution, and not the moral Universe he grew up in and lives with.

The wrong-headed, wrong-hearted approach to immigration

Sometimes, what is lawful can be the wrong thing to do, and what is ‘illegal’ is demonstrably good.

So it is with undocumented immigrants who live and work in the US for years, often decades. They came mostly from Mexico and Central America, and are now at imminent risk of having their families torn apart. Many clearly do not have the legal right to work or live here, yet have done so for decades, worked, raised families and payed taxes. They have been able to do so with the implicit and complicit acknowledgment of US businesses and citizens who hire them for work on farms, in their homes, at the restaurants where they eat. They are willing to do manual labor that most Americans refuse to do. But this is the story, the history of immigrants, that you work hard, not play hard.

Now, the Trump administration is widening the net of deporting undocumented aliens, tearing families apart. It is now a heartless policy unbalanced by sensible immigration reform that gives long standing aliens the opportunity to get their residency papers in order. They have worked here and deserve to continue their American dream. Trump cynically pledged a big heart for DACA kids, yet has now decided to go after their parents, imprisoning and deporting them, yet again tearing families apart.

It does not have to be this way. In the 1980s undocumented Irish have been rewarded with a green-card lottery system to become resident aliens (full disclosure: I benefited from this program as a Swiss immigrant in the 90s). Where are the Democrats and Republicans who oppose today’s mass deportation approach? Where are the good-hearted politicians? We need them as much as the good-headed ones. For one thing must be clear, this across the board deportation policy is just the beginning of a shift away from facts and rule of law, and towards a rule of lies.

Our Country, its Constitution, and hard working immigrants deserve better.