Monday, July 16, 2007

Krugmanesque idiocy on American height and health care

A while back, my blogfather Don Luskin noted Krugman's lament of his supposed 5'7" height as evidence of American health care's . The claim was ridiculous then, and it's still ridiculous with the AP's propaganda on Sunday. What's worse, the thing about "Americans aren't the tallest anymore" has been old news for decades now, ever since the Dutch started getting taller after World War II. By the by, the goddamn idiot reporter needs to do his reporter. He was completely, unequivocably wrong in naming the Dutch as the tallest people in the world. The nation with the tallest people is actually now two, the recently separated Serbia and Montenegro. The Netherlands is second. As a region, the people of Montenegro's Dinaric Alps are the tallest.

Don didn't have the space for my full e-mail, where I explained why Krugman's stupidity at falling for the fallacy of "average American height":
Had Krugman bothered to reason things for a minute, he'd have understood why average American height isn't as tall as some: it's all because "American" means the world's most heterogeneous population, from tall Caucasians like you, to those of Mexican and Oriental descent. How about Filipino-Teutonic-Franco-Americans like me? Then when it's said that the Serbian and Dutch peoples are the tallest in the world, respectively, it's because the average is taken of a very specific ethnic group of only several million people, not 300 million.
"American" has no genetic meaning. On the other hand, "Serb," "Dutch" or "Filipino" very much do, and their height surveys are of a relatively very small population with closer genetics than to other ethnic groups. Germans do not consider Turks "German," for instance, not even Turks whose families have lived there for three generations; but "American" means everyone from Shaq to Danny DeVito. Every time an "American" of, say, Mexican genetics (we'll say someone born in the U.S., to filter out the immigrant factor) is counted in an "American" height survey, because people of Mexican genetics are shorter on average than those of European descent, it's highly likely to average down the final "average American height" figure. The same applies for Asian peoples.

Of course, Krugman needs to promote his agenda of socialized medicine, and the AP has at least one useful idiot who will try to spin it like real news. First, he makes a stupid claim:
Many economists would argue that [height] does matter, because height is correlated with numerous measures of a population's well-being.
Actually, any decent economist would recognize that the damn fool reversed cause and effect. Height does not matter, because as the reporter himself explained below, it's a reflection of wealth, so ergo it is wealth that matters.

Yet the reporter just can't stay away from blatant idiocy:
That makes height a good indicator for economists who are interested in measuring how well a nation provides for its citizens during their prime growing years. With one simple, easily collected statistic, economists can essentially measure how well a society prepares its children for life.
What utter nonsense. So by that logic, the Japanese are behind Brazil in terms of "how well [it] prepares its children for life," because the Japanese average a shorter height than Brazilians? The last time I checked, Japan was a far, far wealthier nation than Brazil.

Worth of mention as another damn fool is this Eileen Crimmins, who actually thinks "Maybe we've reached the point where we're going to go backwards in height." According to her USC home page and Wikipedia entry, she's a gerontologist, and she's done some demographics work, although it escapes me what "expert qualifications" or research she has to predict Americans will "maybe" "go backwards in height."

But the greatest stupidity of the whole article is its Krugmanesque degeneration into "Government must fix it!":
[John Komlos'] latest research paper, published in the June issue of Social Science Quarterly, suggests the blame may lie with America's poor diet and its expensive, inequitable health-care system.

"American children might consume more meals prepared outside of the home, more fast food rich in fat, high in energy density and low in essential micronutrients," wrote Komlos and co-author Benjamin E. Lauderdale of Princeton University. "Furthermore, the European welfare states provide a more comprehensive social safety net including universal health care coverage."
It just goes to show that a Ph.D. doesn't mean you'll understand the absurdity of measuring small homogeneous populations against large heterogeneous ones. It also goes to show that a Ph.D. doesn't mean you won't contradict yourself, for Komos found in another study:
In Kansas, for example, white males are about as tall as their European peers; it's big cities like New York, where men are about 1.75 inches shorter than that, that drag America's average down.
Didn't Komos ever consider that Kansas will be a principally heterogeneously Caucasian population, while New York attracts far more genetic types of greatly varying heights?

I had seen another recent article on height, which linked it to Americans' average life span, but presently I can't find it. While it's true Europeans live a little longer than Americans, on average, there are so many other factors at play besides the health care systems and how much money is spent. For one, Americans do tend to make worse dietary choices that contribute to more heart attacks. Let's compare the numbers after specifically factoring out black Americans, who tend to have much higher rates of heart disease.

The most important question about socialized medicine is, even if you'll have others pay for it, do you want the inevitably long waiting periods, because everyone thinks the care is "free" and ripe for consumption? What is the point of living a few more years when, in Europe, you might just have to wait for a few years before getting a life-saving operation -- and quite possible die miserably while waiting in some God-forsaken, overheated hospital. Napoleon had to knock on the gates of Moscow in the middle of winter and go back home before tens of thousands of his men died. Modern France killed 15,000 just by sending their doctors on government-scheduled vacation.

So, that's wonderful your children might, might be a little taller and live a year or two longer, if government socializes the health care system. Your children can tower over the doctors that tell them how long it will be before they can receive a life-saving operation, assuming it will be approved in the first place. Under socialized medicine, your enemy is time, which you cannot buy. In the United States, the enemy is money, and you can at least appeal to fund-raisers and other charities.

Naturally, the article is propaganda to the end
"In some ways it gets to the fundamentals of the American society, namely what is the ideology of the American society and what are the shortcomings of that ideology," Komlos said. "I would argue that to take good care of its children is not part of that ideology."

Whether that's true is debatable; the height gap doesn't measure how much Americans love their children. But at a minimum it does indicate — in raw feet and inches — whether the nation is giving its youngsters what they need to reach their full biological potential, or selling them short.
Well, when is this reporter-propagandist going to make a speech before the Japanese Parliament, accusing them of not giving their young people the same potential as, say, those poorer Brazilians?

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