Business Insider and Bayesianism

I’ve used this blog post from economist Bryan Caplan several times to explain Bayesian thinking to people – basically the idea that we should derive our opinions from the sum of information about a topic rather than selected data points (likely chosen because they support our presupposed biases). I recently posted a review of the Business Insider website and pointed out one of the things I enjoy so much are their interest grabbing headlines.

I realized today one of the reasons I like the headlines so much is that they boil what is typically a complex issue down into one definitive assertion. Consider these just from today:

Wall Street’s Brightest Minds Reveal THE MOST IMPORTANT CHARTS IN THE WORLD

The Real Reason Why Market Rallies End

A New Poll Shows Americans Don’t Actually Understand Anything About The Deficit

The most important chart in the world, the real reason rallies end, Americans don’t understand anything about the deficit. I’ll quote Kip Dynamite: “Like anyone could know that.” While fun to read, this one blog post is proof that Business Insider is the least Bayesian website on the Internet. 😉

Affordable Care Act Hurts Young People

http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2013/08/21/obamacare-is-really-really-bad-for-you-especially-if-youre-young/

This is a good article which explains some problems with the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) for young people.

First, the proper observation that the ACA is an explicit transfer of wealth from young to old:

“Preventing health insurers from fully accounting for age will not change the reality that, in general, the older you are, the greater your medical expenses (six times greater, when you compare 64-year-olds to 18-year-olds). These are costs that someone has to pay. If insurers can’t charge those older according to their risk, they have to overcharge those younger to make up the cost. In California, for example, once the new health law’s various rate restrictions and other provisions kick in, 25-year-old non-smoking men will see their premiums at least double.”

Next, is an easy to understand case study in why the Affordable Care Act’s mandate on healthcare expenditures make it harder to achieve:

“Even though Brian judges this to be the best way to manage his medical expenses, under the health law, it’s illegal for insurers to offer him a policy geared to his actual risk. Instead, per government mandate, a portion of the income he earns and intends to use to build his life is channeled into the pockets of others.”

Ned continues to campaign against the market distorting mandates included in the Affordable Care Act.

A Few Thoughts on Web Surfing

The first usage of the term “surfing the Internet” was around 1992, and as one who was surfing around that time I can tell you that the idea that you could surf from page to page with interesting content was a great idea, but in practice rarely happened. Instead, it was more like constant clicking on hyperlinks trying to find anything worth reading. In surfing parlance I guess you could say the Internet was just a bunch of close outs. Wikipedia was a step toward the surfing vision, where at least the content was reasonably good and the hyperlinks had a good chance of being interesting, but I was still in search of the perfect wave.

The wave has arrived, and it’s called Business Insider. The headlines and format are perfectly designed to grab your attention and break down the article content into a specified number of points (“25 hidden gem real estate markets”, “the highest paid player on all 32 teams”), with a picture for each point. Then, at the end of the article, a link to another article, with another catchy headline, that you’re almost guaranteed to like (because they use all the page view data to figure out interest graphs of other people like you). In find myself clicking, and reading, and clicking, and reading and it just seems like the interesting content never ends. Business Insider is the Banzai Pipeline, with a tube that covers you up completely and never breaks.

It took about 20 years, but the Internet surfing dream has finally been realized.

Delta (Effectively) Eliminates Roll-Over Miles

As part of my campaign travels I regularly fly on Delta Airlines, and have achieved “Medallion” status in the past. A few years ago they implemented “roll over miles” which would allow you to roll over the excess miles (over a given Medallion level) towards the next year’s status. Today they rolled out a new policy called “Medallion Qualification Dollars” (MQDs) that require you to not only meet a mileage threshold but a dollar expenditure threshold to achieve elite status. Of course the MQDs cannot be rolled over, and are calculated such that they are effectively eliminating the effect of roll over miles while simultaneously eliminating frequent fliers who travel on the lowest fares. Talk about killing two birds with one stone! While this probably means yours truly will spend even more time sitting in coach, from an economic perspective it makes sense to just move the whole program onto a dollar spent basis. However that will probably not sit well with the masses who make a hobby out of frequent flier mileage arbitrage.

Cost of Climate Change

From http://www.cnbc.com/id/100912062:

The rapidly melting Arctic is an “economic time bomb” likely to cost the world at least $60 trillion, say researchers who have started to calculate the financial consequences of one of the world’s fastest changing climates.

I’m on record with my position on Climate Change which is, essentially, that there is no policy fix for this. But I couldn’t help but notice the fear mongering in this article reminding me of the demands of a certain Doctor…

dr_ned_evil