from the world's big
Obamacare Isn't Radical
Earlier this week I argued that the Affordable Care Act should be ruled constitutional. There are genuine reasons to be concerned about the scope of Congress’ commerce power, which has been used to justify the federal laws concerning what appear to be non-commercial issues that could easily be addressed by local laws. Gonzales v. Raich, for example, affirms the federal government’s power to criminalize under the Commerce Clause the growth of marijuana for personal medical use, even in states where it would otherwise be legal. But I argued that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution was intended to give Congress the power it needed to address commercial issues that no state can readily solve on its own. This is what Jack Balkin calls the “interstate externalities principle.”
Nevertheless, Justice Kennedy suggested in oral argument that by creating “an affirmative duty to enter into commerce” the health care mandate is “unprecedented” and “changes the relationship between the federal government and the individual in a very fundamental way.” The health care act would arguably exercise the commerce power in a somewhat new way—Carl Cecere puts the debate in the context of the history of the commerce clause here. But Kennedy is wrong to suggest that it would really be any different from the way the federal government already uses its power.
The health care law doesn’t call for people who don’t get insurance to be thrown in jail. It calls for people who don’t have insurance to pay a fine. As I wrote earlier this week, fining people who don’t have insurance is essentially the same as offering a tax break for people who have insurance. And the federal government already offers tax breaks to encourage an enormous variety of activities, many of which are a lot less valuable than buying health insurance.
Consider that you can deduct the interest on your home mortgage from your federal taxes. Giving people who buy houses a tax break might seem different from penalizing people who don’t buy houses. But giving a tax break to people who have mortgages means relatively higher taxes for people who don’t have mortgages. The economic effect is to redistribute money from people who have outstanding mortgages to people who don’t have them. This effect is exactly the same as fining people who don’t have mortgages. The mortgage tax deduction actually seems a lot more problematic to me than fining people who don’t have health care—why should I pay a penalty for not buying a home? why am I financing homes for people who can’t otherwise afford to buy them? And the mortgage interest deduction is just one of the numerous deductions you can take.
There’s a real debate to be had over whether a health insurance mandate is a good idea. It would push Americans to buy into a free market version of a national insurance program, and have the effect of making those of us who don’t get sick subsidize the medical care of those who do. But let’s not kid ourselves that offering people an economic incentive to behave a certain way is some kind of radical new assault on freedom. That’s just overheated partisan nonsense.
Justice statue image from Shutterstock.com
Ever since we've had the technology, we've looked to the stars in search of alien life. It's assumed that we're looking because we want to find other life in the universe, but what if we're looking to make sure there isn't any?
Here's an equation, and a rather distressing one at that: N = R* × fP × ne × f1 × fi × fc × L. It's the Drake equation, and it describes the number of alien civilizations in our galaxy with whom we might be able to communicate. Its terms correspond to values such as the fraction of stars with planets, the fraction of planets on which life could emerge, the fraction of planets that can support intelligent life, and so on. Using conservative estimates, the minimum result of this equation is 20. There ought to be 20 intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way that we can contact and who can contact us. But there aren't any.
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.