Category Archives: Economics

A New Class Of Cholesterol Drugs

I wish I had more confidence that they’re not just treating a symptom:

As for the efficacy of the drugs, it is not yet proved that very low LDL levels produced by drugs lead to sharp reductions in heart attacks, strokes and deaths from cardiovascular disease, as researchers have seen in people with the naturally inactive PCSK9 gene.

Many cardiologists, though, are persuaded by a large body of evidence supporting the idea that the lower the LDL, the lower the risk.

“I believe lower is better and do not believe that a very low LDL is harmful,” said Dr. Daniel Rader, a cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Others, like Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at Yale, urge caution. “We are in a period of exuberant enthusiasm about these drugs,” he said. “We could just be performing cosmetic surgery on a lab value.”

If it were certain that the PCSK9 inhibitors were safe and effective in preventing heart attacks and deaths there would be no need for clinical trials, he noted.

$14,000/year is a lot of money for a treatment for which we have no idea whether or not it’s effective. I think improving diets would be much more cost effective.

[Update Tuesday morning]

Here’s a longer piece about the new drugs and the issues. Note: 1) It is assumed that the goal is to lower cholesterol, and that this will in turn result in lower mortality and 2) No mention of diet as a potential solution. Of course, it’s hard to get people to change their diets. But I suspect that to the degree that doctors are telling people to do so, they’re still telling them to cut out sat fat and cholesterol, despite all the actual science, and probably still telling them to follow FDA food-pyramic advice, which is junk science.


Growing Metal Structure

like a tree:

Modumetal uses nanotechnology — manipulation of matter at the molecular level — to micromanage at a very small scale to better control the conditions and substances through which electroplating occurs. Basically, the company grows metal on a surface in a way that makes it easier to shape and tinker with the material’s characteristics. Lomasney says it’s similar to how nature controls the environment related to a tree’s growth— sunlight, soil, location, temperature—and then creates a tree that is a product those conditions.

This is the sort of thing that Eric talked about in Engines of Creation almost thirty years ago. It’s one of the reasons that any plans NASA has for Mars missions decades from now are already obsolete.

Income Inequality And Poverty

No, they’re not the same thing. And Glenn makes a good point: “Notice how little we hear about ‘wealth inequality.’ There’s a lot of untaxed wealth in foundations, university endowments, family trusts, etc. A populist who wanted to put Democrats on the spot might propose taxing that. You know, for the common good. Only working stiffs have more income than wealth.”

[Update a few minutes later]

The plan to further enrich the wealthy left at the expense of the middle class.

And yes, there probably is nothing more corrupt, both in the US and internationally, than the environmental movement.

Silicon Valley

…is headed for disaster:

America will always plant crops and need chemicals to service those crops. And it will always need payment, delivery and data services. But will it always need Facebook and Twitter? Cisco runs a large proportion of the Internet; Facebook hosts your grandma’s pictures. You do the math.

There won’t be any suicides in Silicon Valley – the most dangerous thing to happen in northern California occurred last month when an angel investor’s Birkenstocks got caught in the BART elevator – but the whole edifice on which the delicate San Francisco ecosystem is based is about to come crashing down all over again.

If so, I won’t shed a tear, after all the damage those people have done to the state of California and the country.

California’s Poverty Problem

It continues to get worse, and as Victor Davis Hanson noted, it’s a tale of (at least) two states:

For decades, California’s housing costs have been racing ahead of incomes, as counties and local governments have imposed restrictive land-use regulations that drove up the price of land and dwellings. This has been documented by both Dartmouth economist William A Fischel and the state Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Middle income households have been forced to accept lower standards of living while less fortunate have been driven into poverty by the high cost of housing. Housing costs have risen in some markets compared to others that the federal government now publishes alternative poverty estimates (the Supplemental Poverty Measure), because the official poverty measure used for decades does not capture the resulting differentials. The latest figures, for 2013, show California’s housing cost adjusted poverty rate to be 23.4 percent, nearly half again as high as the national average of 15.9 percent.

Back in the years when the nation had a “California Dream,” it would have been inconceivable for things to have gotten so bad — particularly amidst what is widely hailed as a spectacular recovery. The 2013 data shows California to have the worst housing cost adjusted poverty rate among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. But it gets worse. California’s poverty rate is now more than 50 percent higher than Mississippi, which long has set the standard for extreme poverty in the United States (Figure 1).

Those kinds of regulations are a luxury good, that the elites who impose them can afford. The poor get subsidized or, in much of the state, the regulations aren’t enforced on them, particularly if they’re undocumented. But the middle class gets hammered.

But as Glenn notes re the reference to Missiippi: “that was before Mississippi was taken over by Republicans, and California was taken over by Democrats.”