Gongol.com Archives: February 2013
Brian Gongol

February 6, 2013

Health Sioux City school district will look at getting bulletproof glass
As always, the first question ought to be: If we are intent upon spending this money in order to achieve a particular goal, is this the most efficient and rational expenditure? Suppose it turns out that bulletproof glass in all of the school buildings would cost $1 million. If the real objective is to make the children safer, would that $1 million be better spent improving, say, school bus safety? ■ School shootings are scary and headline-grabbing, to be sure, but accidents kill far more kids than homicides, and a pre-teen is more likely to commit suicide than to be killed by someone else. Perhaps mental-health, counseling, and anti-bullying efforts would be a better investment in junior high schools than bulletproof glass. ■ A kid in elementary school is more likely to die of cancer than to be murdered; perhaps free blood tests to screen for cancer would save more lives in elementary schools than new glass. It's important that we use our limited resources in the most sensible way to achieve the most good, not just in ways that make for good publicity. ■ That is not to say that we shouldn't examine the costs and benefits of things like replacing window glass, but it does mean we shouldn't rush to spend money on something that happens to be a current hot topic, rather than on what would really make a difference. And where events reveal that we have glaring omissions in security that can and should be redeemed, we should take action. There may be obvious steps that could improve safety and security at little or no cost. ■ It should be noted that, counting all age groups, more Americans commit suicide than are killed by others, and by a large margin. That doesn't mean we shouldn't seek to reduce homicides, but it does mean we need to think rationally about what we really could be doing better to save lives from human-inflicted harm.

Business and Finance Wishing doesn't make things so
Paul Krugman writes, "What is the evidence that fiscal uncertainty -- as opposed to overall lack of demand -- is the reason corporations are sitting on cash? There isn't any." ■ That Krugman doesn't know anyone in business well enough to recognize or acknowledge their fears doesn't mean those people don't exist. Absence of evidence isn't necessarily evidence of absence. If Krugman had friends in the private sector who could speak to him candidly (without fear of being accused of corruption or knavery), he might well learn that there are, in fact, plenty of businesses that look to Washington with profound uncertainty and concern. And some will admit right out loud that the uncertainty is is causing them to behave with greater caution than they would under more business-friendly conditions. ■ Again, just because Krugman doesn't know these people doesn't mean they don't exist. His bravado is not a substitute for real understanding of the microeconomic effects of macroeconomic policies.

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