Thursday 9 October 2014

Morning roundup

Short notes on the worthies from the open tabs, each of which would merit a full post in an unconstrained world.
  • If this high court ruling holds, expect no new policies to cover full replacement. Justice Whata ruled that Vero must cover the full costs associated with reinstating a Christchurch building, even where some of those costs are due to things like requiring deeper piles than were necessary when the policy was set. I think the insurer is right that it should not be liable for costs that are consequent to changes in Council rules; alternatively, Councils could give free money to each and every person in town by requiring that, post-quake, every house be made of gold and have platinum spouting. I also do not think that Councils should be changing the building requirements for a reasonable interval between an insured event and the completion of earthquake repairs. If the building code isn't good enough, fix it ahead of the event so that insurance pricing can incorporate a better measure of expected repair costs or so owners can insure to a higher value to allow for the higher costs.
  • Remember "Shoot, shovel and shut up"? Property owners have incentive to take defensive action before a costly regulation is put in place, even if that means destroying valuable habitat. I wonder if that's what's happening in this story. A church is bulldozing two houses to put up a parking lot; the street is about to be designated as a "special character area" in the Unitary Plan. Could be that they'd have held onto the houses if they'd reckoned they'd face much much higher costs if they wanted to demolish sometime down the line. I wonder whether other areas about to come under such protections are seeing similar precautionary demolitions.
  • There'd be a billion screaming anti-tobacco activists if tobacco sponsorship of an arts festival resulted in the cancellation of some anti-smoking play. Government anti-tobacco health funding of the West Australian Opera has resulted in the cancellation of Carmen because there would have been on-stage smoking; I've seen outcry from Catallaxy and Crikey. Nothing much otherwise. 
  • Addiction is something most addicts grow out of. I love this quote: 
    So why do so many people still see addiction as hopeless? One reason is a phenomenon known as “the clinician’s error,” which could also be known as the “journalist’s error” because it is so frequently replicated in reporting on drugs. That is, journalists and rehabs tend to see the extremes: Given the expensive and often harsh nature of treatment, if you can quit on your own you probably will. And it will be hard for journalists or treatment providers to find you.
    Similarly, if your only knowledge of alcohol came from working in an ER on Saturday nights, you might start thinking that prohibition is a good idea. All you would see are overdoses, DTs, or car crash, rape or assault victims. You wouldn’t be aware of the patients whose alcohol use wasn’t causing problems. And so, although the overwhelming majority of alcohol users drink responsibly, your “clinical” picture of what the drug does would be distorted by the source of your sample of drinkers.

    Bryan Caplan has similar thoughts

  • Political ignorance remains a major source of political failure. How can we get things right where voters fundamentally fail to understand the basics on the composition of federal spending?

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