British medical care, living in unusual times, dying for chastity, the futures market
and buying gold
(June 15, 2007)
Our U.K. Correspondent
I would like to comment on Michael's comments regarding the UK health care system - as you know I live in the UK. My eldest son was involved in a car accident as a passenger almost exactly a year ago. He was 17 at the time. This necessitated a 30 day stay on his back in hospital, surgery to remove about 1ft of intestine and more surgery to put pins in his back to brace up the spine. All of this was done with reasonable promptness - I can report there there was no 18 week delay. The removal of the intestine was done on the evening of the accident because it was urgent and the pins in the spine put in about a two weeks later. In the case of the spinal surgery, my son got bumped back a couple of days from the scheduled time because another accident occupied the surgical team - hard to complain about that really given how many operations he and the other four lads in the car must have delayed.
So in short, yes there might be an 18 week wait for things like hip replacements. Mostly this is because they are viewed (by the NHS) as delayable and low priority compared to other things to which the surgical team might be usefully employed. The stuff that needs to get done pretty much does get done - at least that was my experience. My son was back in hospital last month to get all of the metal out of his back - operation happened at the scheduled time.
Total cost to me for 30 day hospital stay, 3 serious operations involving full anesthesia, months of physio, drugs and everything else was: £0.00 - somehow I don't mind paying my taxes this year.
In my opinion if a person is unhappy waiting 18 weeks for a free hip replacement then they really ought to meditate a bit on their sense of entitlement.
Yesterday, I began to ponder some of the hostile comments I see posted around the different blogs.
It seems that most folks take an existential short term view of life. By that I mean, all you
have to do is read a little bit of history to find out that in most times and places events don't
play out in the most benign ways. People do not seem to realize that what we have experienced
over the past sixty years or so has been an unusual period of peace and prosperity for many of us
living in the western world. It's really not 'normal'. I think it's one of the reasons that
many are left with an uneasy feeling and cope by turning to bizzare fantasy and sci-fi like
'global warming'. There is the sense that things are not 'normal'. They are not - but I suspect
that reversion to the mean is going to be an uncomfortable experience for the average American,
made all the more chaotic by the lunatics on the political left.
You wouldn't believe the hostility that I found the other day. There is a discussion in the
MIT Technology Review about EEstor. There was, as always, the liberal lunatic fringe with their
constant and unswerving campaign to blame everything on President Bush. On a tech website!!!
Give it a rest already!!! Sure, I accept the idea of ruling elites, nothing new. But come
on, you can't blame everything on President Bush. We know that the real motives here are from
the emotional side - as is always the case in politics. It would be different if the political
ranting and raving adds something to the discussion, but mostly, it's just a tedious bore.
The Bush-bashers just don't have anything new or useful to add to the discussion.
The haters just can't stand the Prez. We already know THAT.
There have been some extraordinary cases lately in the UK where women were
killed by their immediate families for real or imaginary offences against
The latest case had an Iraqi Kurdish woman killed for marrying an Iraqi
Kurd, but not the one her father and uncle wanted her to. In a famous
earlier case a girl was killed by her brother, stabbed many times so that the
walls were covered in blood. Before doing this, he brought in his two young
nieces who were under 10, in order that they should learn from seeing it, what
life is really about. In the latest case the biggest problem the police had
was the resistance of the community and their desire to protect the
perpetrators of the murder.
From an evolutionary point of view, this is an extraordinary cultural
practice. “I’d give my life for two siblings or eight cousins” is one
version of J B S Haldane's famous remark. What her father is basically
saying about the Iraqi Kurdish girl is, that he would rather have no
descendants by her, than the wrong ones. How can this make sense? They
would all carry his genes. He should, from an evolutionary point of view, be
prepared to die for one of her. The brother in the other case similarly.
How can a practice have evolved in which men deliberately kill the chance of
their genes surviving? Inquiring minds want to know. This one is baffled.
The futures markets reason for existing is to transfer risk. When commodity
prices rise, ceteris paribus, we see those prices increases as end users.
And it means we can purchase less of the things we need in effect, changing
our standard of living. Prices can rise due to monetary related issues or
supply/demand issues which can be complex. But for end users it is simple:
they purchase less or substitute.
If you listen to the podcast of the interview of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates,
these guys frequently use the phrase "took the bet". This is what business
is about. Trading is a business and therefore we take bets.
I bet that if fat cattle futures go from 70 to 114, rib eye steaks are going
to cost more at the checkout counter. Why not buy futures to lock in the
price at 70? Currently we hear and see mortgage lenders advertising how
rates are at 40 year lows. We all know they won't stay this low but how many
people are taking action to lock in these rates by shorting bond
futures/options? The inevitable rate rise will change the purchasing plans
of many, but if doesn't have to be this way. Major corporations, banks,
farmers etc..., do this (put on hedges) everyday to protect profits. If we
can convince people to turn off the TV, sit down in their comfy chair, open
a book that will educate them on the business of commodities and how it can
help protect their profits (earnings/purchasing power) while sipping on a
glass of fine wine then, IMHO, our work is done.
I am a firm believer in simple. Hedging with gold is just that, and I do know a little as it is my main hedge. I would offer 2 practical thoughts: always hold your physical, your gold coins, etc., in your own possession, and stay with recognizable assets, e.g. American 1 oz. Gold Eagles.
Depending on your tendencies toward apocalyptic visions holding your own gold will seem somewhere between eccentric and absolutely vital. If you actually own gold, or are considering it, then you are well advanced into the armagedon-camp already. It is only a small step further along to see that owning gold which someone else holds is rife with dangerous possibilities: confiscation, emergency currency controls, failure of the electronic platform, lockdown of safety deposit boxes, and so on.
I own some gold in 1/10 oz. coins; in hard times a smaller coin 'might' buy you a tank of gas and a load of groceries. I say 'might' because we don't live in a culture where gold is seen as money, unlike much of the world where you could go shop with that coin right now. The premium, percent over spot prices which you pay in purchasing, is very high in smaller coins. The one oz. coin, my main holding, is probably the simplest to buy, own and sell. Stick with Eagles as they do not, yet, automatically generate a form 1099 from the buyer to the feds for quantites of under 30 oz. per buyer per year. (might be 33 oz. ?) And they do say USA on them, which might be important in more rural areas, like Alabama. You will see Kruggerands selling for less than Eagles, i.e. a lower premium over spot; don't buy them as their sale does generate that form 1099 to the taxman.
Why do i care about the taxman if I am an honest citizen? Well, he will want to tax me something like 28% of my 'earnings', or profit, when i sell my gold. That is ridiculous! Certifiable idiocy. Gold is money, period, and you don't earn anything from just holding it; you are simply holding it trying to keep even with the feds proclivity for inflating away the value of the fiat dollar in your wallet which they want you to honor as immutably valuable. It ain't; no tax should be due! The feds should not be allowed to charge citizens for having looked ahead and seen the result of government incompetence and malfeasance. This does not, of course, mean they won't try to prosecute you if you end up with more dollars after the sale than you had before. how do we fight criminals when they are doing something 'for our own good'?
From very ancient times the coffee can of gold in the backyard has been the doubter's bank.
I think it is as sound today as when Rome was teetering. An interesting sidelight is that
every currency in the world is devaluing against gold. All are fiat. If better stewards are
in charge of one currency, it will slide in value more slowly. Our stewards are basically
bent on criminal enterprise.
Thank you, readers, for such thoughtful contributions.
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