Monday, January 31, 2005

Lose weight or lose your job...

I saw this article on CNN Money. I can't decide if I like this or if I don't. I don't smoke and I'm only a little overweight. But how this would impact me is not the part that I'm curious about.

Generally speaking, I like the idea. It creates incentives for employees to consider the economic consequences of their lifestyle. By matching the incentives with the employees, the employees are the ones who can decide whether it's worth the cost. Some will lose weight and others won't. Those who don't will either have to pay more or find a new job. Either way it imposes the burden for the additional cost of their lifestyle directly on the employee instead of indirectly through the employer.

The problem with this idea isn't the incentives. It's how this guy's going to deal with labor. If the Angry Economist is right then we already have a high demand for labor, which is evidenced by the increasing cost of labor over time. If this guy is cutting off most of that labor supply, he's going to create an even greater demand for his specialized labor. In other words, he's restricting his supply beyond what's effective for doing the job. I suspect the result of this will be that he won't be able to find people to hire at his current costs. He's already cut off anyone who smokes. Exacerbating this problem could be his definition of "overweight". If he expects people to match their weight to something like Body Mass Index, then average Michigander probably isn't going to fit that bill. I'm assuming that the average Michigander - like the average American - is overweight. If true, this means that he's cutting down again on the number of people who are capable of working for him.

I suspect that the amount that he saves in health care costs, will have to be paid right back out in additional labor costs, since he's incredibly selective about his workforce. The smaller the supply, the higher the cost. This worked for smoking, because most American's don't smoke, while most American's are overweight.

But I hope I'm wrong. I think this is a cool idea. I'm glad he's experimenting with it. It may work out for him. I wonder how well it would work out if used more generally.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Internet Regulation

Econlog reflects on the resignation of Michael Powell from the FCC. One of the commenters said the following:
The Internet requires an International Cop to prosecute Crime--specifically Fraudulent practice. The FCC will retain power only so long as it integrates into a World Police net.
Wow, I hope he's wrong. But he might be right. I only hope because I see the Internet as a fantastic experiment. In this experiment, we're gathering data to see whether or not a medium that has no enforceable borders can effectively exist. This is compared with the real world, in which we do have borders and centralized planning and laws enforced within those borders. Can some semblance of order appear from the anarchy that is the Internet? If not, then it turns out that the central planning and law making model really we have in the real world is probably best. But if the Internet can develop without the need for government, and central planning and laws, then maybe that indicates that how we're doing it in the real world is less efficient than it could be.

Of course, the internet can't definitively answer this question. It can only add a single piece of data that runs counter to someone's argument. I hope that it's not my argument that loses this valuable data point.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

A Eulogy for Grandma Tina

It doesn’t seem real. I mean, today is January 4. Only 7 days ago, I spoke with her on the phone. She called me at my home. She was worried about whether or not we’d received her Christmas card. We had received it that very day. The rest of the conversation was rote and we’d had it a thousand times before. The next thing that happened was she complained about something. The previous complaint was about not being able to drive. The new complaint was about being away from her home. Then, she would dote on my children. That was followed by her saying how much she missed me, and wishing that we lived closer. You could tell the conversation was coming to an end, when it got the point where I was giving her a quick rundown of the next time she’d see us. I promised her that she would see us this summer.

Unfortunately, I can no longer keep that promise.

Last night, at the funeral home, someone said that when they walked into Grandma’s house that the reality just struck them. I don’t want to go there. I’m not ready to face the reality that she’s not there. I don’t want to see the how empty that house will seem without her in it. Instead, I like the image in my head of having her there – possibly complaining about some family member not allowing her to get on a ladder anymore, or complaining about not being able to see. I like the image of her going through her daily routine of getting up at 4:30 in the morning and going to bed at 7pm. And, in between, calling someone and leaving a message on their answering machine (which she hated), and in the message saying how much she hated “this stupid machine”. And I like imagining her hanging up the phone, and sticking another log into the stove in order to heat the room a little more than the chilly 95 degrees it’s at. And her watching Days of our Lives. And anxiously anticipating the arrival of Christmas when all of the family will be there. Except every other year when my family spends Christmas with my wife’s parents, in South Carolina. As was the case this year.

I really I wish I could have known that this was to be Grandma Tina’s last Christmas.

But I don’t want to focus on that reality, yet. I want to remember another time. A time where I was awestruck by her wisdom. Yes, you heard me correctly. I said “wisdom”. Of course, we all know that Grandma Tina could be rather goofy on a fairly regular basis. For example, at my wedding. The video guy was walking around asking for people to leave messages to the bride and groom (my wife and me). Grandma took the microphone and held the round part, that you speak into, up to her ear as if the entire microphone was a telephone, and proceded to start talking into the wrong end. Char helped her figure out which end to talk into, and she left a message as if she were talking into an answering machine – which, of course, was a really short message because she hates those stupid machines.

In any case, I mentioned Grandma’s wisdom. Grandma Tina seemed to be a focal point for people to complain about family politics. For those of you outside our family, I’m sorry to have to break this to you. But we have family politics. I know that this is surprising given how reserved we are with our emotions and how careful we are with our tongues. In any case, this rare occasion took place, and someone wasn’t talking to someone else. (Of course, if the occasion really were that rare, I’d be able to remember the details, but I don’t.) What I do remember is what Grandma Tina said about the situation. Her solution to the problem was simple. She said, “You have to forgive. Life is all about forgiveness. You MUST forgive.” She repeated it over and over.

If there’s one thing completely unique to Christianity, it’s the teaching that it provides on forgiveness. It’s the only major religion that teaches how God loved us so much that he made a way that we can be forgiven. And having been forgiven be able to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Islam, Hindu, Buddhism, and Judaism do not teach this.

This is why I can confidently say that I know where Grandma Tina is right now. She knew forgiveness and she knew it deeply and intensely, as if the truth of it were as obvious as reading the time off a clock. And it’s not because forgiveness came naturally to her. She could carry a grudge as well as anyone. But that day she was a conduit for God’s teaching. She allowed God to use her to teach a lesson in forgiveness. And that day, I was awestruck by her wisdom.

I don’t really know how to end this little talk of mine, except to say this. Grandma, I know that you’re in a better place now. I know that Heaven is greeting you with open arms, and I’d never be so selfish as to take you from it. But I miss you and I want to tell you I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I missed your last Christmas. I’m sorry that we live so far away that you didn’t get to spend more time with my family. I’m sorry that when we were here, that we didn’t spend more time with you. I'm sorry that I can't keep my promise to you. I know that God loves you and I know that he called you home. I also know that he loves me and all of us. And I know that in time, He’ll heal the part of me that misses you. But for today, I miss you. I’m wearing black as a way of saying that my world is a little darker without you in it.

I guess I should end my conversation with her in the same way we ended our phone calls.

I don’t know when I’ll get to see you again Grandma, but I look forward to it. I’d like to promise a time, but I can’t really say, because I don't know... I love you, Grandma Tina... Good bye.