The Spectre of Math

August 24, 2009

Why be a pragmatic socialist?

Filed under: Economics,Politics — jlebl @ 5:08 pm

Ever since coming back from Brazil, I thought a lot about pragmatic reasons for socialism. Brazil is pretty extreme in the inequalities department. Coming back here to the US, I notice this a lot more. And with the healthcare shoutfest going on in the news, it’s hard not to think about it.

There is a good pragmatic reason why a rich person who doesn’t care about the plight of others might want socialism out of pure selfishness. Walking around Sao Paulo (and even Serra Negra) you could see that those people that have something live behind big walls with barbed wire and electric fences. The fact that there is an inequality of that magnitude means that there is more crime. If there are many people that have nothing, then as a rich person you are far more likely to get robbed, killed, or kidnapped.

The question is: If I have a choice (all else equal) of having say $1 million dollars in the bank and living in a country with very low crime rate, and $5 million dollars in the bank but living in a place with high crime rate, what would I pick. The trouble is of course the “all else equal,” but if those were the choices, I’d rather take the safe country. How much would you give for the safety of your kids?

There is similar thing with health care. See

I would hardly call the CIA to be a bunch of liberal loons, but US is 50th on the list of life expectancy. Right up there with Albania. Even Bosnia is better off, at 43rd place. Canada is on the 8th place, and they live about 3.1 years longer than americans do. Would you pay higher taxes to live 3 years longer? Also, I bet canada can’t do anything about pollution coming from its neighbors, so if the whole world ran like canada, I bet we’d live even longer than that. The 1st place Macau people live more than 6 years longer. Now that’s definitely worth it.

The real point of the above is not if 3.1 years of life is worth the tax money. It is about the notion that american health care system is “the best in the world”. No it is not. By a very objective measurement it is the 50th in the world.

But you say: who cares, that’s all those poor shmucks that don’t live long because they can’t afford health insurance. It doesn’t affect me. Sure it does. when something happens, you go to an overcrowded emergency room. All the people who are sick are not productive and that’s a drain on the economy. All those people who are sick will get even poorer, and then they’ll go and rob you and shoot you.

Another fun stat is the murder rate:

US is not doing terribly good on murder rates either. Rich countries with socialistic tendencies usually are better off. US is wedged between Bulgaria and Armenia. If you live in the US you are about 3 times as likely to get murdered than if you live in canada (to keep picking on the canadians). Only 62 countries were compared. So I guess it is about 3 times safer to be a rich canadian than to be a rich american. Is it worth their taxes?

Anyway, we’re pretty far from being the “number one.” We don’t even have the lowest taxes. Actually our taxes are on the higher end. See In total tax rate we are 102 out of 178 countries. So we pay a lot, but we get diddly squat in return. Wonderful job. Could we at least get some socialism for that price? I mean other countries seem to manage universal health care and lower crime rates with lower taxes. What do we get?

bing vs. google

Filed under: Technology — jlebl @ 4:53 am

So I’ve been told by several people that bing is soooo much better than google. So I figured out I’d try it myself. I out of the hat picked out 4 queries I’d try: “jiri lebl” (yeah I’m that narcissistic) “levi flat hypersurfaces”, “coffee near uiuc”, and finally “where do I buy an australian hat”.

“jiri lebl”: google wins, no contest. If you were feeling lucky then you got one of my webpages (uiuc). The first page contains also my other webpage (, and old webpage I had at ucsd. Overall only 3 crap results on the first page (random posts to mailing lists and such). bing on the other hand has as first 3 pages really crappy results. The first results is some site which lists some pdfs I posted on my webpage some students uploaded somewhere. They are out of date and has no relevant information anymore. The other two results are rather random mailing lists posts. Only then does it hit linked-in and then my webpage. Only one of my webpages made it to the top ten.

“levi flat hypersurfaces”: Again, google wins. Google lists essentially 10 different papers on levi-flat hypersurfaces. It is trying to flatter my by making the top two results be my papers. Bing also tried to flatter me by doing the same thing. However the top ten does contain a bunch of links that only mention levi-flats. It does list my homepage and my thesis in a further attempt to bribe me. It could be that bing does not search subscription only journals and hence is not as useful when in doing scientific research.

“coffee near uiuc”: Again, google delivers more relevant information. Obviously I am trying to buy some coffee. While the results of both engines kind of sucked, google sucked slightly less. bing only provided one result that would seem to help me in my quest, while google provided several (including the same “student life” guide that bing provided). bing seemed to provide bunch of pages at uiuc that mentioned coffee. So google sort of wins by default, but not being as bad as bing.

“where do I buy an australian hat”: Google destroys bing. All top 10 google results are relevant, plus all the results. All point to australian hats and where to buy them. It didn’t find my favorite brand on first glance, but one of the resellers it found might carry them. Bing on the other hand completely screwed up. First page was a hat company that carried no australian hats. Only 2 pages went to something that had anything to do with “australian hats” rest were about hats where australia was mentioned for example as a shipping destination.

I figured maybe I searched wrong. Perhaps I wanted a “cafe near uiuc”. So I tried that too. Now I would say that both provided some links which I could use to find a cafe, but again both sucked quite badly. Bing again contained pages that mentioned all the terms, but had nothing to do with my query really. Both provided some workable results (for some reason google wanted to find hotels for me for both coffee and cafe … I guess you can get coffee at a hotel, but …)

Conclusion: Bing is just another search engine, and it sucks compared to google. Bing seems to provide less relevant results and prioritizes in a strange fashion it seems. Most definitely the “decision engine” crap is just marketing nonsense. It is a search engine, it looks for pages that contain the terms and then presents them in some order. That order seems quite a bit better for google than it is for bing. If anything is more than a simple search engine, it is google. It interpreted my queries better (for example it figured out I want to “buy” an “australian hat”) or that I am looking for a cafe near the university (though then it sent me to hilton, which is not my idea of a cafe, though you can get coffee at hilton).

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