Monday, March 29, 2021

Give Children Votes

Demeny voting is giving children votes to be used by their parents, until the children reach voting age. The interests of children are not always represented well in democracies and giving their interest some weight might lead to better policies.

Older people vote more often. And thus their policy preferences are more likely to be followed than those held by young people. No one under 18 votes so their policy preferences get very little attention.

You could argue that because children know so little and don't work we should not get their opinion on policies. Giving their votes to their parents gets away from this objection though. 

But why would you think parents know what policies are best for their children? We trust parents to pick food, bedtime, schools, clothes etc for children and in comparison to them picking a political candidate occasionally is minor. 

If giving children votes would result in more money for schools, less money for pensions etc then the people who want less money for schools and more money for pensions will stop it happening. Which means we should argue on the morality of giving them votes not the particular policies that are likely. Women supported alcohol prohibition more than men did. But women's voting was still the right thing to do even if some policy choices they initially supported were wrong.

The Irish birth rate is 1.75 kids per child. Below the replacement rate of 2.1. The extra .1 is because some small number of people won't make it to the age of having kids. No country that has ever dropped below 2.1 replacement level has ever risen back up again. Extra parental leave, free childcare, increase children support, free children medical care and loads of other things have been tried but none seem to have increased birth rate much. And they are all much more expensive than votes for kids.

Needle Phobia and Covid Vaccinations

Between 10-20% of adults are really scared of needles. Anti Vax people are really hard to persuade. But anti needle people might be easier. And a fair number of people claiming to be vaccine skeptics might just be shy to admit a fear of needles is a big factor.

"Avoidance of influenza vaccination because of needle fear occurred in 16% of adult patients"  Soon we will have enough vaccines for all adults but if 10-20% of them do not get vaccinated due to Trypanophobia thats a lot of unnecessary deaths and it makes reaching community immunity levels impossible.

Trypanophobia is classed as a phobia with a known process of medical treatment. The steps to get over it seem to be three types
1. Cognitive behavioural therapy, hypnotherapy and other psychological techniques 
2. Nice relaxing location. comfy seats etc for where the injections happen.
3. Topical cream to reduce pain on the injection site.
These are described here, here and here.

Tech people think there should be an app for everything. But in this case it might work. A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) app that gradually helped people get over their fear of needles might really help increase uptake of the vaccine. There are loads of CBT apps out there. If you know a good one that deals with needle phobia please comment.

There will be vaccinations for covid that do not need needles in the medium term. But for the moment getting people over their fear is needed. 

The needle phobia apps I can find I can find are aimed at kids to explain to injections to them. Rather than steps to get adults over a fear of needles.

The vaccinations created and tested in under a year are amazing. And we are going to get a lot more of them soon. Helping people get over the common fear of needles is an important step if we want to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Road Deaths in 2020

 During the pandemic people drive less. I would expect that to mean fewer deaths caused by driving. But that didn't happen in the US or IReland.

In the US deaths per KM are up significantly

For the first time since 2007, preliminary data from the National Safety Council show that as many as 42,060 people are estimated to have died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020. That marks an 8% increase over 2019 in a year where people drove significantly less frequently because of the pandemic. The preliminary estimated rate of death on the roads last year spiked 24% over the previous 12-month period, despite miles driven dropping 13%. The increase in the rate of death is the highest estimated year-over-year jump that NSC has calculated since 1924 – 96 years.

In Ireland 

In the period January - December 2020 there were 137 fatal collisions resulting in 148 fatalities on Irish roads. This represents eight more fatal collisions and eight more deaths (+6%) compared to provisional Garda data for the full year of 2019

There is an in depth comparison between 2019 and 2020 here but nothing in it jumps out as obviously hugely different to me. It could be the low total number of deaths in Ireland means this was just unlucky. "There were 1,407 fewer serious and minor injury collisions recorded in 2020," This 25% decrease in accidents implies the increase in deaths was unlucky.

But other countries do seem to have reduced deaths. 

There were 1,580 reported road deaths, a decrease of 14% compared to the previous year. There were 131,220 casualties of all severities, a decrease of 16%. The reduction in casualties is broadly in line with the fall in motor vehicle traffic of 14% over the same period

France had the expected reductions

A total of 2,550 people died on the roads of mainland France, a drop of 21.4 percent from 2019...

Overall car deaths fell by more than average in 2020, which the agency said was due to motorists aged over 75 cutting down on trips more than the rest of the population. 

In 2020, 2,724 people died in road traffic accidents in Germany. Based on provisional figures, the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) also reports that this was a decline of 322, or 10.6%, on 2019 (3,046 fatalities).
The number of people dying in 2020 from car accidents fell by 870, or 21%
It looks like most countries did have drops in traffic deaths. The low numbers in Ireland mean that random events change the total more easily. The American increase is still quite strange though.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Rewild Irish Hills

We should not pay to keep sheep on the high hills of Ireland. 

Hill sheep are not very good money earners by themselves. The wool is more expensive to shear than its worth. The sheep have quite a hard life. And their meat is already not worth much. Hill sheep is kept going by subsidies and causes environmental harm. The subsidies are about 10 euro per sheep. The number of sheep increased after 1973 when we joined the EEC. If we paid the farmers not to keep the sheep the hillsides would rewild. Larger trees and bushes would regrow which would absorb carbon.

Friday, February 26, 2021

The Success Sequence and Happiness

 There is an interesting series of posts by Bryan Caplan here about how the success sequence helps avoid poverty. This sequence is

1. Finish high school.

2. Get a full-time job once you finish school.

3. Get married before you have children.

Helps you avoid poverty. "97% of Millennials who follow what has been called the “success sequence”—that is, who get at least a high school degree, work, and then marry before having any children, in that order—are not poor by the time they reach their prime young adult years (ages 28-34)."

The posts argue if the sequence is cause or effect, really something that can be advised and other things. 
But what struck me about it was how these three also correlate with happiness. Telling people how to avoid poverty might seem like a conspiracy by the Capitialist Man. Telling people how to get happy seems less sinister. Though of course there are all sorts of cause and effect stuff here. And poverty and happiness are really closely related so it could be that it is just the same thing being measured and the only difference is the framing.

Would these three mean you were happier even apart from the poverty effect?

Full time job: "Many studies have tried to quantify the adverse effect of unemployment on well-being using survey data on life satisfaction. For example, the raw difference in average life satisfaction between unemployed and employed workers aged 20–60 years in the German Socio-Economic Panel for 1984–2011 amounts to 1.3 points on a 0–10 scale." 

Finish high school: People who finish secondary education are happier.

Too Educated to be Happy? An investigation into the relationship between education and subjective well-being by Erich Striessnig this paper goes into how married people are happier as well.

Get married before you have children:
'The difference in quality of life between the lowest and highest education group is as big as the difference between someone being married compared to being single.' from the paper above. 
longitudinal observational study conducted in Germany between the years of 1984 and 2000 showed more conclusive results, where people who married eventually were generally happier and more satisfied than people who remained single.

The success sequence seems a pretty good way to be happy.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Zero Covid Ireland and Trips Abroad

 It might not be possible to have zero covid Ireland because too many people have to come into and out of the country. How many trips into and out of the country are necessary? This is an attempt to get some figures together because I have found no figures being actually argued just people saying 'Ireland is not New Zealand'

Irish born people living abroad coming home for sick relatives, funerals etc. Close to a million people born here live abroad. Say 10% have to return in a year that would be 100K.

Foreign born people having to go home for sick relatives, funerals etc. CSO data on Foreign born people is at Total is 393,959 people. 400K say. How many would have to travel? Say 10% a year or 40K.

Lorry Drivers About 150K Lorry journeys take place into Ireland each year. How many individual drivers? Say 10k I'll ignore drivers for the moment but they are an issue.

Border travel. About 25K people cross the border to work. But I will assume an all island approach for the moment. I did some NI calculations in this post

No quarantine or vaccine is going to be 100% effective. But it does not have to be just the number of cases coming in has to be kept low. For argument's sake say 1 per day can come into the country (not just a hotel) and later develop symptoms.  150K people having to come into Ireland per year. Or about 400 a day. 10 day quarantine means you'd need 4000 hotel spaces. Even after 14 days in quarantine about 5% of those infected could still develop symptoms later. At 400 per day where 1% of people carried an infection would be 4 people. 5% of those would be one person every 5 days would do quarantine and still have an infection after it finished. Requiring those coming in to be vaccinated might change these odds significantly to the better but not in an easy to calculate way yet.

New Zealand has a high foreign born population. 1.27 million live there who were born outside NZ. They also have a lot of people born there abroad who might need to come home about 14% which is only slightly lower than Ireland.

Back of the envelope if 10% of people have to go home per year. And we have a long quarantine that is enforced. We could keep cases introduced to quite a low number. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Zero Covid Ireland Possibilities for Northern Ireland

Setting up a border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is really difficult. The length of the border and number of crossings is huge. 23,000 to 30,000 people commute across the Irish border to work.

But if a border on the island is not possible there are alternatives.

1. Quarantine for all people coming into the island.

2. Quarantine for all people coming onto the island from outside the UK. Scotland seem to be moving toward this option.

3. People coming into NI have to be vaccinated. The UK is vaccinating very fast and by the time this lockdown ends they could have enough people vaccinated that this sort of restriction becomes possible. Vaccination is not as effective as 14 days of quarantine. But even that is not 100% effective. 

Zero covid does not mean stopping every case it just means keeping levels low enough that outbreaks can be shut down quickly. These options might not be as effective as full quarantine but they could be effective enough. And at that time NI might have enough vaccinated that outbreaks are easier to control.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Things I got wrong

 Here are some of the things I predicted or asked for on this blog and I was wrong about

1. I thought Covid combined with flu this year would be really bad. It turns out everyone is so careful about covid that there is very little flu. I still think the flu shot should be free for all though in normal years.

Ireland should make the Flu Vaccine Free for All 

2. I was suspicious Manna drone delivery did not have realistic demonstration videos. But now they do 

Drone Food Delivery 

3. I thought in 2011 we would have self driving cars by now

How much would a driverless taxi cost?

4. I thought DIY ventilators would help in a pandemic (in 2006). But stopping disease spread is actually the important thing

Homemade ventilator

There are loads more I got wrong but those ones jump out at me now.