[Parentsgroup-list] Re: you're spot on---think about it

jbarnes at fas.harvard.edu jbarnes at fas.harvard.edu
Mon Aug 1 14:01:40 EDT 2005

What's up with infant mortality is very simple.  That so many on the other side
of the political spectrum continue to trot this out when many of them (Krugman
for example) know the truth casts considerable doubt on their credibility in my
mind.  Try these papers for instance:

Howell EM, Blondel B. International infant mortality rates: bias from reporting
differences. Am J Public Health 1994;84:850-2.

Sepkowitz S.,  International rankings of infant mortality and the United States'
vital statistics natality data collecting system--failure and success.  Int J
Epidemiol. 1995 Jun;24(3):583-8.

>From the abstract of the second paper:

"International rankings of infant mortality rates have been consistently lower
for the US than other industrialized countries, and this ranking has been
falling. This study examines the influence of birth registrations among very
low birthweight infants on these international rankings.  Birth rates of
infants weighing < 1500 g (VLBW) reported by Japan, Sweden, the Netherlands,
France, the UK and Canada were compared to the rates of infants of this weight
born in the US, and these rates were correlated with the infant mortality rates
reported by these countries.....Differences in birth registration practices for
infants weighing < 1500 g are primarily responsible for the poor, deteriorating
performance by the US in the international rankings of neonatal mortality

Other interesting research on the topic has investigated how much of the infant
mortality in the U.S. comes from foreigners bringing their children here when
they have severe medical problems.  They may not like the U.S. system, but when
their child's life is on the line (and they can afford it) this is where they
choose to come (as any parent would).

Decreased longevity is hardly a function of medical care.  Longevity is not well
predicted by level of access to medical care and is certainly more a function of
dietary customs and probably genetics.  Or do you really believe the U.S. being
ridiculously overweight is not the variable most responsible for longevity

All this is detail though.  You and I agree, there is a trade-off.  I don't
expect to convince anyone that my view of the relative size of the two sides in
that trade-off are more correct than theirs---that is not my intent.  My point
is that everyone should be careful to conclude that those who see the tradeoff
as not worth it do not care about the consequences.  Preferring the U.S. system
to the European system does not make you evil or imply that you cannot use the
phrase "family values" without being a hypocrite.  It may mean that you simply
believe the tradeoff is larger than someone else.  (By way of example: being
unemployed but with good govt. benefits seems to me much worse than being
employed at a low wage...that is my personal view based on my experience in the
latter situation...you need not share that view, but I don't think you can
conclude I am any more or less "pro-family" for holding it).


Quoting Brandeis McBratney-Owen <mcbratn at fas.harvard.edu>:

> Dear Jesse-
> I think you hit the nail right on the head when you wrote:
> “But policies involve trade-offs, and closing your eyes and
> ignoring them does nothing for the families whose lives are affected by
> them.”
> The US policies do give us the following:  the highest per-capita GDP.  A
> relatively low unemployment rate.  The most advanced medical care in the
> world.
>  And you noted “the average American has roughly 33% more real income than
> the
> average Western European”.  Economically the US is winning.
> US policies also give us these:  the highest infant mortality rate for an
> industrialized nation (think deeply about that one---what is up with that?).
> Access to the most advanced medical care IF you can pay for it.   Decreased
> longevity.   A work ethic in which the majority of US workers don’t take
> their
> full vacation time each year (as if having a holiday makes you less committed
> to your job).  In these areas the US is a loser.
> So as you said, “policies involve trade-offs, and closing your eyes and
> ignoring them does nothing for the families whose lives are affected by
> them.”  The US policies favor economic gain (for some people, not for all).
> They favor less time with your family (via no maternity leave policies, less
> vacation time and a culture that doesn’t support taking time off anyways).
> They favor a lower quality of life in terms of health (infant mortality
> rates,
> heart disease, longevity, diabetes).  Don’t close your eyes to that.
> Most sincerely,
> Brandeis
> P.S. If you are unemployed in other countries, there are better social safety
> nets so your likelihood of living in poverty while unemployed is lower, plus
> your children still have access to good healthcare while you are unemployed.
> Quoting Jesse Garrett Barnes <jbarnes at fas.harvard.edu>:
> > Oppressed families of the U.S., unite!
> >
> > I guess we've given up on the no political discussion stuff?  I do
> > appreciate the actual arguments made below, which, while in my opinion
> > grossly misinformed, are at least elevated beyond the previous epiteths.
> > There are a host of problems with your analysis below, but for brevity
> > I'll just make two points in defense:
> >
> > 1.  The overwhelming majority of American families disagree with you
> > Christine.  In the last election Bush pulled 59% of those with children.
> > Not that Kerry represents the policies you advocate below (Nader maybe?)
> > but it seems strange to me that so many families would vote for someone
> > who represents precisely what is "destroying" them more than anything.
> >
> > 2.  Govt. policies that impose conditions on labor---minimum wage laws,
> > maternity leave laws, etc.---inevitably cause unemployment.  You can close
> > your ears and pretend it isn't true but it is.  Are French families so
> > much better off with an unemployment rate that is currently 10.2% (nearly
> > double the U.S. rate)?  Or German families with 11.7%?  Why do you think
> > it is that U.S. per-capita GDP and consumption dwarf other industrialized
> > nations year after year?  Why do you think the average American has
> > roughly 33% more real income than the average Western European?
> >
> > I'm not taking the position that all welfare programs should be
> > terminated.  But policies involve trade-offs, and closing your eyes and
> > ignoring them does nothing for the families whose lives are affected by
> > them.
> >
> > Oh and one more thing.  I think you must have typed the wrong word in your
> > post below.  You said "dependents have no place in capitalism because they
> > cannot be productive."  Sorry, that's communism, not capitalism.
> > Capitalists favor the rights of all individuals, productive or not, to
> > choose their path in life.  It is "planned" economies (say, China, the
> > former Soviet Union, Romania, etc.) where governments decide the worth of
> > individuals (including dependents) based on their productivity (for
> > dependents either, in the case of China or the Soviet Union, to limit
> > them, or in the case of Romania, to require no limit).
> >
> > Jesse
> >
> > On Sun, 31 Jul 2005, Christine Dianne Wenc wrote:
> >
> > >
> > > I know I'm violating my own new ground rules, but this is the last
> speech,
> > > I promise!!  I am enjoying the conversation.  Just delete if you don't
> > > want to hear it.
> > >
> > > One comment on the military, which is hardly a left-wing
> institution--they
> > > apparently have one of the best child-care services in the United
> > > States--excellent, low-cost care for the kids of servicemen & women.
> > >
> > > And one comment on maternity leaves--This is just one part of the
> > > picture as far as I'm concerned.  I think many more families
> > > could be one-income families if we had a higher minimum wage, were far
> > > more supportive of labor unions, and had national health insurance.  I
> > > don't think many women put their babies in day care after 6 weeks because
> > > they feel empty without their careers--they do it because their families
> > > need the money.  (After all, most working women are
> > > NOT lawyers and radical academics--they are secretaries & retail
> > salespeople.)
> > >
> > > There was an article in the NYT recently about how many
> > > American cities--including Boston--are losing their
> > > children because families cannot afford to live there, only single people
> > > & couples without children.  This seems so absurd and wrong, and to me
> > > epitomizes the outcome of our economic policies that take as their normal
> > > economic unit the individual unencumbered
> > > adult, not families.  Dependents have no place in capitalism because they
> > > cannot be productive, and capitalism wants everyone working to increase
> > producers'
> > > profits (and doesn't give a damn about ANY family structure as far as I
> > > can see).  But this also happens simultanously with a culture that still
> > > has a really hard time with women being something other than stay-at-home
> > > mothers, and a feminist movement which has mostly been concerned with
> > > increasing women's opportunity in our highly individualist economic
> > > system.  (The last serious attempt at getting maternity leaves & child
> > > care was in 1974--shot down by a Nixon veto.)
> > >
> > > So we have no maternity leaves and no child care, because these
> > > support working mothers (conservative p.o.v.) or encourage the
> maternalist
> > > idea that women are essentially mothers (feminist p.o.v.).  But at the
> > > same time, due to our economic policies most families now can't survive
> on
> > > one income, so many women--and some men--work outside the home whether or
> > not
> > > they really want to, and maternity leave/child care policy is set by the
> > > market.  Capitalism is destroying the American family more than anything
> > > else.
> > > _______________________________________________
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> > >
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> >
> --
> Brandeis McBratney-Owen
> Ph.D. Candidate
> Biological Sciences in Dental Medicine
> Harvard School of Dental Medicine
> Department of Oral and Developmental Biology
> 188 Longwood Avenue, 4th floor
> Boston, MA 02115
> 617-432-2366

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