Thursday, February 19, 2015

The ethics of execution, euthanasia, and abortion

Drug maker Akorn bans the use of their sedative in executions. Possibly based upon their interpretation of The Hippocratic Oath. Though this raises the question: What of abortions? What of euthanasia?

The Hippocratic Oath

5th BCE Greek Text, attributed to the physician Hippocrates (called the father of western medicine), that specifies a code of conduct for those engaged in the healing arts (physicians and physician assistants). In summary, it requires the following:
  • Devise appropriate diet for the sick
  • Cause no hurt, suffering, or damage
  • Never administer poison
  • Never administer medicine that aborts a child
  • Confidentiality: Never share secrets or knowledge obtained when healing or visiting the sick
What is not specifically stated: the popular phrase "do no harm," commonly thought to be part of the Hippocratic Oath, which is instead attributed to the 19th CE surgeon Thomas Inman. Though the words "hurt," "suffering," and "damage" seem equivalent.

In the 1960s, the oath was changed to "utmost respect for human life from its beginning," a more secular version.

The Osteopathic Oath, pledged by osteopathic medical professionals, requires confidentiality, evidence based medicine, nonmaleficence (forbidding intentional harm), forbids euthanasia, but is mute about abortion.

Brief historical look at US unemployment rate

What is unemployment? Who is considered unemployed? As is often the case, it's a matter of definition. Economists and the government considered someone unemployed if he or she is:
  • Age 16 or older
  • Seeking employment
  • Not currently employed.
So a person under 16 can never be unemployed according to this definition. Nor can someone with a job who is looking for a better or different job. And a person who is over 16, not working, but not actively looking for work is not considered unemployed. This might include:
  • Retired
  • Disabled
  • Military
  • Institutionalized
  • Spouse/homemaker
  • Tired of looking for a job, which might include e.g. a spouse (of employed person) who would like to find a job, a homeless person, a student, a middle age person living with his parents, etc..
How has unemployment changed through the years?: From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Wikipedia has a nice chart of US unemployment going back to 1890:

This show how high (20%) unemployment became in during the years of the Great Depression. The so-called Great Recession, caused by the financial crash in 2008, is much smaller in comparison, comparable to the unemployment rate of the early 1980s recession (10% unemployment rate).

Brief look at historical immigration levels

From 1820 to 1990:

Note the decline starting around 1900 and the absolute low around 1930, around the time that many Jews were trying to escape Germany and the regions around it. At the time they needed a place to go, the US had largely closed its doors.

Here we see the total number of foreign born citizens living in the US from 1850 to 2009 (bars) and their percent makeup of the total population.

Two view of US population growth

For later reference.  The population of the US over time.  A few different views:

1790 to 2000:

1990 to present:

Each year, the population would change (in most cases increase) due to:
  • births
  • deaths
  • immigration (into the country)
  • emigration (out of the country)
It would be interesting to see what part of the country's growth is due to immigration. (I imagine the emigration part is rather small and insignificant.)

The population of the US derived form the 2010 census is 308.7 million.  The estimated population as of this moment (19-Feb-2015) is 320.4 million according to the Census Population Clock.

Labor Force Participation Rate

The Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) represents the percentage of the employable population, age 16 and over, who are currently employed. From the Wikipedia page, it seems to be computed as follows:
  • Start with the entire population of the country.
  • Remove all children (ages 15 and younger)
  • Remove all individuals in institutions (prisons, mental hospitals, homes for the aged)
  • Remove all active duty military personnel
What is left: the members of the population who are considered available to work.

A few complaints: It appears that the disabled are included in this population of the employable. Which seems odd to me. A middle age quadriplegic living with his parents, or someone with a severe mental disability similarly living with his parents, seems to be included in the workforce. That doesn't make sense. That person can't work. That person is not employable. Also, a 90 year-old-woman with severe arthritis, living in an apartment on social security, is still considered part of the labor force. As long as one understands this, everything's ok. But many people don't understand this.

Here's the problem with the definition: as the baby boom ages, one will expect the LPFR to decrease. There are more retired people who aren't seeking work but are still considered employable according to the definition of LPFR. But we can just keep this in mind. The employable population by definition includes some people we would not expect to work, in particular the disabled and the retired, so we will never expect it to reach 100 percent.

The LFPR can be is available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Two important observations:

  • A rise between the 1960s and 2000. During this period, many women entered the workforce. The LFPR rose from around 58% to 67.5%. This is an increase of 10% over 35 years.
  • A drop from 2000 to present, from 67.5% to 62.5%. This is a decrease of 5% over 15 years. This is much debate about the source of this drop.
Economists are studying the dropping LFPR. There are several sources:

  • Retirement. The baby boom has reached retirement age. It includes those born between 1946 and 1964. So the oldest are around 69. They are considered part of the employable workforce, but they are retired, collecting social security (or other forms of retirement), and therefore not seeking employment.
  • Disability. The availability of social security disability insurance, and a changing conception of what constitutes disability, may have increased the number or people not seeking work.
  • Education. An increasing number of people, given the changing nature of the workplace, may be returning to school (e.g. after a layoff).
  • Technology: The changing nature of work itself, automation, may have reduced demand for employees, thus causing a larger number to simply give up looking for work, to perhaps move back home with the folks.
I'll look into some of these arguments in a follow-on post. I'll also consider the relationship between the employment rate and the LFPR.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Road rage ends in death of mother

A woman and her daughter are driving. Another car races up to and perhaps around them. Driving recklessly in the daughter's mind. She reaches over and honks at him while her mother drives. The speeder pulls in front of them, forcing them to stop, and then gets out of his car to exchange harsh words. Then leaves. The mother drives home, drops off her daughter, and picks up her son, who is armed, to look for the offending car. They find and tail it for a while. Then give up, go home. The speeding car soon shows up at their home and both sides exchange gunfire. Mother is dead. Lesson: Just ignore idiots. There are too many of them, you won't change them, and they're often so stupid (and sociopathic) that they'll kill you for almost no reason. Not worth it.

So why do you suppose the mother pursued someone who offended her? There seem to be four reasons:
  • A sense of saving face: She looks bad in the eyes of others, e.g. the public, family, or even in the eyes of the offender. She's been shamed. And she must now shame the other person.
  • A sense of revenge: The other person wronged you. This wrong must be avenged.
  • A sense of justice: Similar to revenge, but with a more cosmic sense. The offender did something wrong and the universe must right this wrong.
  • A sense of enjoyment: Some people enjoy confrontations and fighting.
Enlightened people deescalate confrontations. This woman did the opposite. When someone acts the fool, why let them drag you down to their level? Rise above.