Triage vs Surge pricing

Sarah Hoyt’s site has an interesting article entitled The Free Market versus Death Panels. I recommend it in general but it misses one point that I think deserves some examination. There is one exception to the market rule that is so embedded in our social mores that both market and non-market advocates alike pass over it. They shouldn’t. It’s called triage.

I have never met a free market advocate of medicine who does not recognize and accept non-market allocation in terms of emergency care, specifically when medical treatment systems and personnel are overloaded. When you have 10 operating theaters and 50 people who need surgery, who gets in first and who gets in last? The market would institute surge pricing and let the ill or their care circles sort out how much they can wait. Triage orders it so that the fewest number of people die.

It’s an important footnote to recognize triage and to explain *why* that limited exception is ok, properly fenced off with limiting principles so the exception doesn’t swallow the rule, and what is the reason we’re all generally ok with triage causing more suffering and against surge pricing.

First is to note that triage causes excess suffering because it is designed, and functions well at minimizing loss of life at the cost of extending suffering for those condemned to delays in treatment by the triage system. We’ve all made a moral decision that some non-fatal suffering is an acceptable payoff for a reduced fatality count when medical systems are overwhelmed and resources have to be quickly, efficiently deployed to reduce fatalities.

It’s important to cover these things because they take away all the central planner’s best arguments away from them when you reconcile the free market with triage. Solidarity, the common good, human decency, these are the heartstring appeals of the statists who falsely claim that free market medicine will cause wicked outcomes because the market has no sense of solidarity, the common good, or human decency.

These statists are wrong. But they have to be shown wrong. Examining triage is a very good way to do it.

The Pause

Since Trump was elected it seems that anyone I’m speaking with who wants to bring politics into a conversation, and who doesn’t know me well, and who (I’m guessing) doesn’t like Trump, will make a remark about “these days” or “the situation” or something along those lines, and expect to continue (or not) the conversation in a political direction based on my response. At least that’s how it seems to me in my purplish part of the country. I don’t react when this happens. There may be a brief pause in the conversation. We continue with our nonpolitical topic or move on to another one.

I’d bet that many of the readers of this blog have had similar experiences. My question is whether this type of experience is the inverse of what politically left-of-center people experienced when Obama was president. Is it?


Jordan Peterson: 12 Principles for a 21st Century Conservatism

If you are not familiar with the videos of Dr. Jordan Peterson, you should acquaint yourself with them, and him, forthwith.

This one is a good introduction to the style and substance of the man.

Peterson starts talking about 18 minutes in, after a lengthy and rambling introduction which you should skip.

If two hours is too much here are shorter snippets:

The consequence of trying to build imaginary utopias out of real human beings.

Stop saying things that make you weak.

Proven differences between men and women.

Go out and make something of yourself.

The temptation of victim identity.

Clean your room.

Peterson on starting an online humanities university.

The twelve principles from the video are as follows:

1. The fundamental assumptions of Western civilization are valid.
2. Peaceful social being is preferable to isolation and to war. In consequence, it justly and rightly demands some sacrifice of individual impulse and idiosyncrasy.
3. Hierarchies of competence are desirable and should be promoted.
4. Borders are reasonable. Likewise, limits on immigration are reasonable. Furthermore, it should not be assumed that citizens of societies that have not evolved functional individual-rights predicated polities will hold values in keeping with such polities.
5. People should be paid so that they are able and willing to perform socially useful and desirable duties.
6. Citizens have the inalienable right to benefit from the result of their own honest labor.
7. It is more noble to teach young people about responsibilities than about rights.
8. It is better to do what everyone has always done, unless you have some extraordinarily valid reason to do otherwise.
9. Radical change should be viewed with suspicion, particularly in a time of radical change.
10. The government, local and distal, should leave people to their own devices as much as possible.
11. Intact heterosexual two-parent families constitute the necessary bedrock for a stable polity.
12. We should judge our political system in comparison to other actual political systems and not to hypothetical utopias.

Robot Emeritus


Ninety years ago this month, the first Centralized Traffic Control system was placed in operation, on a 40-mile stretch of railroad belonging to the New York Central. From a central console, the Dispatcher was able to control switches and signals anywhere in the territory.  The positions of individual trains were displayed via lights on the panel. Interlocking logic at the remote locations ensure that neither dispatcher errors nor communication problems could set up potentially-dangerous conflicts.

In today’s terminology, it was a geographically-distributed robotics system, with a strong flavor of what is now being called the Internet of Things–although the communications links in the system were not provided by the Internet, obviously, the concept of devices announcing their status via telecommunications and receiving commands the same way was quite similar.

To railroad men of the time, the new system seemed almost magical:

The dispatcher was there and he was just filled up with enthusiasm on this new gadget called centralized traffic control… Along about 10 o’clock, he just yelled right out loud, ‘Here comes a non-stop meet.’ We all gathered around the machine and watched the lights that you know all about, watched the lights come towards each other and pass each other without stopping. That, to me… was history on American railroads, the first non-stop meet on single track without train orders… and you never saw such enthusiasm in your life as was in the minds and hearts of that crew.

CTC technology caught on quickly, and by the mid-1930s, stretches of track up to 100 miles long were regularly being operated under CTC control.  In principal, there was no limit to how far away the operator could be  from the controlled railroad territory.

I post items like this because they provide needed perspective in our present “age of automation” when there is so much media focus of robotics, artificial intelligence, and ‘the Internet of Things,’ but not a whole lot of understanding for how these fit on the historical technology growth trajectory.

Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI Mini Tripod

The Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI Mini Tripod is the official mini tripod of the Chicago Boyz blog.
These things are great: bigger than those cheesy little mini tripods with bendable arms, yet still easily portable, faster to use and stable with even DSLR-sized cameras. I keep one in my briefcase with a compact mirrorless camera. You can easily carry one in a jeans pocket if you’re going out with photography in mind.

UPDATE: Add a cellphone mount and you have an excellent setup for video calls.