Sunday, May 29, 2016

Jeffrey Sachs: Bernie Sanders easily wins the policy debate

Jeffrey D. Sachs is a world-renowned professor of economics, leader in sustainable development, senior UN advisor, bestselling author, and syndicated columnist whose monthly newspaper columns appear in more than 80 countries. This article illustrates why the pronouncements of even World-Renowned Professors of Economics cannot be trusted.

My comments are in bracketed italics.

Mainstream U.S. economists have criticized Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s proposals as unworkable, but these economists betray the status quo bias of their economic models and professional experience. [Your tone suggests emotional bias on your part. Could it be that some of the criticism reflects superior models and professional experience to your own?] It’s been decades since the United States had a progressive economic strategy [thanks to progressive ideas?], and mainstream economists have forgotten what one can deliver [Another unjustified generalization suggesting uncritical thinking on your part.] . In fact, Sanders’s recipes are supported by overwhelming evidence — notably from countries that already follow the policies he advocates. [An unsupported assertion. Where is your evidence?] On health care, growth and income inequality, Sanders wins the policy debate hands down.

On health care, Sanders’s proposal for a single-payer system has been roundly attacked as too expensive. His campaign (for which I briefly served as a foreign policy adviser) is told that his plan will raise taxes and burst the budget. But this attack misses the whole point of his health proposals. While health spending by the government would go up in the Sanders health plan, private insurance payments would disappear, generating huge net savings for the American people. [An unconvincing sound-bite. Is it likely that the Government would provide more efficient health care? What has been experience with respect to Government efficiency? Is it possible to have a huge decrease in cost without a huge decrease in health care provided? Your assertion is not credible.]

Countries such as Canada, Germany, Sweden and Britain all follow something like a single-payer approach and pay much less for health care than the United States does. [You ignore the tradeoffs. Paying less for health care is easy – just don’t provide it. These countries control health care cost, in part, by limiting supply, which is not a benefit. A failure to acknowledge the tradeoffs suggests either ignorance or deception, and justifies questioning your credibility.] While the United States spent 16.4 percent of gross domestic product on health care in 2013, Canada paid only 10.2 percent; Germany, 11 percent; Sweden, 11 percent; and Britain, 8.5 percent. U.S. overspending is about 5 percent of GDP, or nearly $1 trillion as of 2016 [One would expect a positive relationship between health care consumption and real income, since health care has elements of a luxury good. Therefore, your conclusion of “overspending” is not justified by your comparison. More ignorance or deception?], mainly because of the excessive market power of private health insurers and big drug companies [You ignore the differential supply limiting of health care in your comparison. This is a crucial difference. Example: I consume more health care with a low copay and less supply limiting than I do with a lower copay and more supply limiting.]. An authoritative study by the U.S. Institute of Medicine confirms this extent of excess costs, finding losses of about 5 percent of GDP in 2009. Critics of Sanders’s health plan have failed to recognize or acknowledge the huge savings and cost reductions that would accompany a single-payer system. [Even a cursory look at the “authoritative study” shows that it has flaws that make it problematic as justification for your assertions.]

On economic growth, Sanders also easily wins the debate. While President Obama opted for a short-term stimulus that peaked after two years and disappeared by the end of his first term, and Hillary Clinton has proposed a modest infrastructure program over five years, Sanders calls for a much bolder public investment program directed at the skills of young people (through free college tuition) and at modernizing and upgrading America’s infrastructure, with a focus on renewable energy, high-speed rail, safe drinking water and urban public transport. Sanders’s growth strategy would get back to fundamentals: a long-overdue increase in productive investments to underpin good jobs and rising worker productivity. [Who makes investment decisions, the Government or Capitalists? The latter are the source of growth, not Government. What hinders investment by capitalists? Yup, the kind of things that Sanders promises in the direction of Regulation, Equality, higher taxes, and freebees.]

Sanders’s mainstream critics are mostly Keynesians. Their focus is on total spending, whether it’s consumption or investment. Sanders, instead, focuses on investment because long-term growth depends on more rapid capital accumulation (including in skills and technology). [Investment forced by Government is not economically efficient. Government muddling in the economy hurts, not helps. Do we need more inefficient and problematic investment in solar panels, wind, etc.? Crony investment is not what we need.] America’s slow growth is no mystery. The U.S. net investment rate has declined to about 5 percent of GDP, down from about 10 percent of GDP during the 1960s and 1970s. Sanders’s plan would restore a high-investment economy and, with it, a higher growth rate. [An assertion that has no obvious basis in fact.]

On income distribution, Sanders accurately argues that U.S. income inequality is uniquely high among the rich countries. Only the United States has deep poverty alongside soaring wealth. [Why is income inequality bad? More income inequality does not imply a worse standard of living for the less fortunate. Would you prefer, for example and other things equal, the above median income families to have more or less? How about if all families have more but the above median income families have more more? Is that worse than no change? Your focus on inequality as inherently bad suggests more ignorance and deception. Sanders makes the same mistake.] Only the United States tolerates a hedge-fund industry in which poorly performing money managers (not to mention quite a few crooks) take home billions of dollars in pay, backed by unconscionable tax breaks pushed by Democratic and Republican senators who live off of the largesse of Wall Street. [Wow, what a diatribe. Of course, there would be no unconscionable tax code or corruption in a Sanders regime, right?]

Consider the most basic measure of income inequality, the Gini coefficient. [Yeah, yeah, so you know a little math. That does not offset the fact that you use it inappropriately. Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.] This measures the inequality of income among households, with zero signifying complete equality and 1 complete inequality. For high-income countries, a Gini coefficient below 0.3 reflects a low degree of income inequality; between 0.3 and 0.4, a moderate degree; and at 0.4 or above, a high degree. According to the most recent data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. Gini coefficient stood at 0.40, with Canada at 0.32; Germany, 0.29; Sweden, 0.27; and Britain, 0.35. [Have you considered that complete income equality is probably inconsistent with a reasonable standard of living and with freedom? Do you have any idea of what freedom is about?]

What accounts for this striking difference? Most important, U.S. inequality has soared in the past 35 years, since the start of the Reagan era. The U.S. Gini coefficient stood at 0.31 in 1980. [OK, so let me get this right. There is more inequality now, but the poor people have iPhones.] All countries have faced market pressures pushing toward more inequality — especially increased trade with low-wage countries such as China and automation that has claimed the jobs and wages of workers with only high school educations. Yet only in the United States have these pressures turned into massive inequality of income. [Pity the poor, who have iPhones, large screen TVs, etc. Are the poor better off here or in all the countries with lower Gini coefficients? Forgot to address that question, didn’t you - or did you?]

The reasons are clear. The United States unleashed the power of CEOs to enrich themselves with mega-salaries, weakened trade unions and gave massive tax breaks to the super-rich. [Sounds like ideology, not reasoned argument.] Sanders’s policies would go after all of these unconscionable moves, bringing the United States back into line with the rest of the high-income world. He would, in short, end the age of impunity in which the rich and the powerful get their way, while the rest suffer. [Don’t forget about those iPhones, designer clothes, and large TVs. Among the poor, that is.] Sanders’s policies include higher taxes on the rich, strengthening unions, raising the minimum wage, supporting families, providing free tuition at public universities and cracking down on financial crimes. [Wow, raising the minimum wage is a solution!!!! Simply not credible.]

There is nothing magical or utopian about Sanders’s recommendations. He is advocating policies of decency long ago adopted by other prosperous high-income countries. [But not as prosperous as our own.] Our own neighbor, Canada, is a case in point. Canada has lower-cost health care, a life expectancy two years higher than in the United States, much lower college tuition, far lower poverty rates and, not surprisingly, more happiness (ranking sixth in the world in life satisfaction, behind Scandinavia and well ahead of the United States, which is 12th). [All these comparisons leave out too many variables to be credible as justification for you assertions. What are the waiting times for Canadian health care? Does the lower college tuition imply overconsumption of college education? What percentage of Canadians have college degrees? How do you determine “happiness”? Is it relevant for you comparisons? Are people spaced out on weed happier than others?]

Mainstream economists long ago lost the melody line. Their models are oriented to the status quo and underemphasize the benefits of public investment. [Perhaps with reason. Of course, you are the expert, not them – right?] They take America’s bloated health-care costs as a given, not as the result of the influence of the U.S. private health lobby. They treat low growth as natural (“secular stagnation”) rather than as the result of chronic underinvestment. [Simply untrue.] They have come to accept cruelly rising income inequality and rampant impunity for financial crimes. [Simply untrue.] Sanders knows better, based on worldwide experience, an abiding sense of decency and a strong and accurate vision for a brighter economic future.

Where Permissiveness and Progressive Ideology Leads

Violent strikes against labour reforms are causing chaos in France

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The cost of ignoring trade offs

Here is an insightful article by Alex Tabarrok that illustrates how damaging it is to ignore trade offs, about the only thing the media and Government are good at (i.e., ignoring trade offs).

If you comprehend and appreciate this article, you will understand why much regulation is more damaging than helpful, hence why Governments are so dangerous.
Unsafe Cars Can Save Lives

Jalopnik: If seeing that a vehicle has a zero-star safety rating isn’t enough to frighten a person out of his or her mind, seeing said vehicle in a wreck probably is. Five cars designed for India—which has minimal safety requirements for vehicles—just received that number in crash testing…

The tests come from the London-based Global New Car Assessment Program…The group tested seven cars made for the Indian market and handed five of them—the Renault Kwid, Maruti Suzuki Celerio, Maruti Suzuki Eeco, Mahindra Scorpio, and Hyundai Eon, all with no airbags—a rating of zero out of five stars for adult safety…

David Ward, secretary general of Global NCAP told the Wall Street Journal:

Global NCAP strongly believes that no manufacturer anywhere in the world should be developing new models that are so clearly sub-standard,” he said. “Car makers must ensure that their new models pass the UN’s minimum crash test regulations, and support use of an airbag.

Let’s take a closer look. These cars are very inexpensive. A Renault Kwid, for example, can be had for under $4000. In the Indian market these cars are competing against motorcycles. Only 6 percent of Indian households own a car but 47% own a motorcycle. Overall, there are more than five times as many motorcycles as cars in India.

Motorcycles are also much more dangerous than cars.

The [U.S] federal government estimates that per mile traveled in 2013, the number of deaths on motorcycles was over 26 times the number in cars.

Similar ratios are found in the UK and Australia. I can think of several reasons why the ratio might be lower in India–lower speeds, for example, but also several reasons why the ratio might be higher (see picture above).

The GNCAP worries that some Indian cars don’t have airbags but forgets that no Indian motorcycles have airbags. Even a zero-star car is much safer than a motorcycle. Air bags cost about $200-$400 (somewhat older estimates here a, b, c) and are not terribly effective. (Levitt and Porter, for example, calculated that air bags saved 550 lives in 1997 compared to 15,000 lives saved by seatbelts.) At $250, airbags would increase the cost of a $5,000 car by 5%. A higher price for automobiles would reduce the number of relatively safe automobiles and increase the number of relatively dangerous motorcycles and thus an air bag requirement could result in more traffic fatalities.

A broader point is that in India today $250 is about 5% of GDP per capita ($5,700 at PPP) and that’s a high price to pay for the limited protection provided by an air bag. Lots of people in the United States wouldn’t pay $2750–5% of US GDP per capita–for an air bag. Why should Indians be any different? (Mannering and Whinston estimated U.S. willingness to pay was about $500 in the 1990s). As incomes in India rise more people will demand cars and they will demand better and safer cars but forcing people to buy an option before they are willing to pay for it is unlikely to make people better off.

Safety is relative so cars judged unsafe by global standards could save lives in India. The bigger lesson is that it’s always dangerous to impose global standards without taking into account the differing circumstances of time and place.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Commencement Season

Here is a link to a column by Thomas Sowell about commencement speeches.  TS points out how ridiculous they are - and their potential for further exacerbating the damage Government does to most of us.

A snippet.

Two themes seem to dominate Commencement speeches. One is shameless self-advertising by people in government, or in related organizations supported by the taxpayers or donors, saying how nobler it is to be in "public service" than working in business or other "selfish" activities.

In other words, the message is that it is morally superior to be in organizations consuming output produced by others than to be in organizations which produce that output. Moreover, being morally one-up is where it's at.

The second theme of many Commencement speakers, besides flattering themselves that they are in morally superior careers, is to flatter the graduates that they are now equipped to go out into the world as "leaders" who can prescribe how other people should live.

In other words, young people, who in most cases have never had either the sobering responsibility and experience of being self-supporting adults, are to tell other people — who have had that responsibility and that experience for years — how they should live their lives.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Global Warming, the California Drought, the misuse of statistics, and bad science

Here is a link to a nice article by David Henderson and Charles Hooper of the Hoover Institution that puts politicians' and some scientists' misuse of statistics and science in the case of global warming statements in perspective.

A snippet:

The settled science seems to be neither settled nor science.

We have already seen how the claims of President Obama and Governor Brown directly contradict those of:
  • NOAA, which said the California drought wasn’t caused by global warming (“We are saying climate change would have not been a main driver of the precipitation anomalies, which was the fundamental cause of the drought,” said Seager.) 
  • Sheffield, who said that even though the atmosphere has warmed, droughts are no more frequent 
  • And Ljungqvist, who pointed out how warmth does not lead to greater wet/dry extremes 
We have also seen how climate models have been wrong—and how equatorial rain forests, Siberia, and Antarctica defy the linkage between warmth and dryness.

And yet, some scientists, as if to emphasize that the science isn’t settled, are nonetheless linking global warming with the West Coast drought. Lisa Sloan of U.C. Santa Cruz predicted in 2004 that melting Arctic sea ice would significantly decrease precipitation in the American West. Her theory is that global warming results in a rising column of relatively warm air that creates a high-pressure system that blocks the path of storms heading toward the West. Noah Diffenbaugh, a Stanford University climate scientist, concluded that greenhouse gases were likely a factor in California’s drought. His team found that the worst droughts in California's history occurred when conditions were both dry and warm, and asserted that global warming is increasing the probability those two weather patterns will coincide. He claims that this overlap of very dry and very warm years would not have happened without human influence. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council: “Parts of the Western U.S. are already experiencing water crises because of severe dry-spells, but with climate change, the entire country will likely face some level of drought.”

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The story of Government

Every day, an ant arrived at work very early and started work immediately.  She produced a lot very efficiently, and she was happy.  The CEO, a lion, was surprised to see how well the ant was working without supervision.  He thought that if the ant could produce so much without supervision, she would be able to produce even more with supervision.  So, the lion recruited a cockroach who had extensive experience as a supervisor, and who was able to write excellent reports.

The cockroach's first decision was to set up a time clock system.  He also hired a secretary to help him write and type his reports.  He then recruited a spider to manage the archives and monitor all phone calls.

The lion was delighted with the cockroach's reports, and asked him to produce graphs showing production rates and trends, so that the lion could use them for presentations at Board meetings.  The cockroach had to buy a computer and a laser printer to do that.  He also had to hire a fly to set up an IT Department.

The ant, who had once been so productive and relaxed, was faced with a plethora of paperwork and meetings, which used up most of her time.  She became less happy and less efficient at production.

The lion concluded that a Department Head was needed for the ant's department.  He hired a cicada, whose first decision was to buy a carpet and an ergonomic chair for his office.  The cicada also needed a computer and a Personal Assistant to help him prepare a Work and Budget Control Strategic Optimization Plan.

The ant's department became more and more inefficient and less productive.  So, the cicada convinced the lion a climatic study of the environment was necessary.

The lion realized that production and production efficiency were down in the ant's department.  So, he recruited an owl, a prestigious consultant to carry out an audit and provide solutions.  The owl spent three months in the ant's department and then delivered a tremendous report complete with detailed presentations.  The report concluded that the ant's department was overstaffed.

So, the lion fired the ant.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Cumulative Cost of Regulations

Here is a link to a working paper by Cffey, McLaughlin, and Peretto titled "The Cumulative Cost of Regulations".

Here are the key findings, which do not surprise me.

Economic growth in the United States has, on average, been slowed by 0.8 percent per year since 1980 owing to the cumulative effects of regulation:

If regulation had been held constant at levels observed in 1980, the US economy would have been about 25 percent larger than it actually was as of 2012.
This means that in 2012, the economy was $4 trillion smaller than it would have been in the absence of regulatory growth since 1980.
This amounts to a loss of approximately $13,000 per capita, a significant amount of money for most American workers.

Walter Williams: Suffer No Fools

Here is a link to a public television documentary produced by the Free To Choose Network.  It is about Walter William, an economist with common sense, and his perspective on a host of issues that are important to America.  It puts the current clamor you hear about "equality" and "fairness" in its proper perspective - i.e., misguided, unfair, and disastrous for the people who are supposed to benefit.

I recommend the video - watch it and learn something.  Then spread the word.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Rights Versus Wishes

Walter E. Williams, professor of economics at George Mason University, gets it right on rights.  Here is his column.
Here is what presidential aspirant Sen. Bernie Sanders said: “I believe that health care is a right of all people.” President Barack Obama declared that health care “should be a right for every American.” The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: “Every person has a right to adequate health care.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his January 1944 message to Congress, called for “the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.” And it is not just a health care right that people claim. There are rights to decent housing, good food and a decent job, and for senior citizens, there’s a right to prescription drugs. In a free and moral society, do people have these rights? Let’s look at it.

In the standard historical usage of the term, a “right” is something that exists simultaneously among people. As such, a right imposes no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech is something we all possess. My right to free speech imposes no obligation upon another except that of noninterference. Similarly, I have a right to travel freely. Again, that right imposes no obligation upon another except that of noninterference.

Contrast those rights to free speech and travel with the supposed rights to medical care and decent housing. Those supposed rights do impose obligations upon others. We see that by recognizing that there is no Santa Claus or tooth fairy. If one does not have money to pay for a medical service or decent housing and the government provides it, where do you think the government gets the money?

If you agree that there is no Santa Claus or tooth fairy and that Congress does not have any resources of its very own, the only way for Congress to give one American something is to first take it from some other American. In other words, if one person has a right to something he did not earn, it requires another person’s not having a right to something he did earn.

Let’s apply this bogus concept of rights to my right to speak and travel freely. Doing so, in the case of my right to free speech, it might impose obligations on others to supply me with an auditorium, microphone and audience. My right to travel freely might require that others provide me with resources to purchase airplane tickets and hotel accommodations. If I were to demand that others make sacrifices so that I can exercise my free speech and travel rights, I suspect that most Americans would say, “Williams, yes, you have rights to free speech and traveling freely, but I’m not obligated to pay for them!”

As human beings, we all have certain natural rights. Of the rights we possess, we have a right to delegate them to government. For example, we all have a natural right to defend ourselves against predators. Because we possess that right, we can delegate it to government. By contrast, I do not have a right to take one person’s earnings to give to another. Because I have no such right, I cannot delegate it to government. If I did take your earnings to provide medical services for another, it would rightfully be described and condemned as an act of theft. When government does the same, it’s still theft, albeit legalized theft.

If you’re a Christian or a Jew, you should be against these so-called rights. When God gave Moses the eighth commandment — “Thou shalt not steal” — I am sure that he did not mean “thou shalt not steal unless there is a majority vote in Congress.” The bottom line is medical care, housing and decent jobs are not rights at all, at least not in a free society; they are wishes. As such, I would agree with most Americans — because I, too, wish that everyone had good medical care, decent housing and a good job.

Monday, May 09, 2016

China's coming debt crisis

Here is a link to an article in The Economist.

Sounds familiar.

A snippet.

CHINA was right to turn on the credit taps to prop up growth after the global financial crisis. It was wrong not to turn them off again. The country’s debt has increased just as quickly over the past two years as in the two years after the 2008 crunch. Its debt-to-GDP ratio has soared from 150% to nearly 260% over a decade, the kind of surge that is usually followed by a financial bust or an abrupt slowdown.

China will not be an exception to that rule. Problem loans have doubled in two years and, officially, are already 5.5% of banks’ total lending. The reality is grimmer. Roughly two-fifths of new debt is swallowed by interest on existing loans; in 2014, 16% of the 1,000 biggest Chinese firms owed more in interest than they earned before tax. China requires more and more credit to generate less and less growth: it now takes nearly four yuan of new borrowing to generate one yuan of additional GDP, up from just over one yuan of credit before the financial crisis. With the government’s connivance, debt levels can probably keep climbing for a while, perhaps even for a few more years. But not for ever.

Misleading Gender Discrimination Statistics

Here is a link to a nice example about how statistics can be misleading in subtle ways that most people will not think of.  The moral of the story is "Don't jump to conclusions suggested by statistics unless you understand them - and don't jump to the conclusion that you understand them."

A snippet.

To illustrate Simpson’s paradox, I found more detailed data for a similar situation at the University of California in a 1973 gender discrimination case:

               Applications           Successful

Male          8442                       44%
Females     4321                       35%

Because 44% of all male applicants and 35% of all female applicants were accepted to their graduate schools in 1973, gender discrimination seemed rather obvious…until you took a closer look

                          Men             Men           Women        Women
Department      Applicants     Admitted     Applicants     Admitted
     A                  825               62%            108               82%
     B                  560               63%             25                68%
     C                  325               37%            593               34%
     D                  417               33%            375               35%
     E                  191               28%            393               24%
     F                  272                 6%            341                 7%

As you can see, more women applied to more competitive departments. Meanwhile more men competed for spots in departments with high acceptance rates. Combined, these stats conveyed the impression that women experienced discrimination. However, if we consider the relationship between the proportion of female applications and admissions rates the data point us in a different direction.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Barry Goldwater was right

John Cochrane's take down of Brad DeLong

Here is a link to John Cochrane's take down.

A snippet.

Brad Delong posted a response to my oped on growth  in the Wall Street Journal. He took issue with my graph, reproduced here,

by making his own graph, here

He characterizes the difference between our graphs with his usual gentlemanly restraint, 

"Extraordinarily Unprofessional!!:" "total idiocy" The University of Chicago and the Wall Street Journal Have Very Serious Intellectual Quality Control Problems

and so forth.

If you read Brad, you may wonder what skulduggery I used to make the plot. I will now reveal the dark secret. It's a clever Chicago-school mathematical trick:


Yes, I plotted log income vs. ease of doing business index.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Was the Use of the A-Bomb Against Japan Necessary?

Here is an assessment of the pros and cons of the use of the A-Bomb against Japan. The author is:

John R. Powers, B.S. from Columbia University, an M. Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Pennsylvania. John has spent the last 8 years working with DOD and ODNI to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism and with NYC and DC on response plans for a nuclear incident.
This a pernicious question that seems never to go away. The short answer is “no … the use of the A-Bomb was not necessary” but this answer holds only in the context of whether it was the most humane option available.

Let’s, therefore, consider the options:
  • Invade Japan.
  • Send the invasion forces home, move all of our long range bombers and fighter support to the Pacific and continue to bomb Japan until it surrendered.
  • Call a unilateral cease fire and demonstrate an A-Bomb in a remote area.
  • Drop the A-Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The first option was what the Japanese high command anticipated and wanted. This was a part of the culture of “never surrender” that led to horrid losses throughout the Pacific war and horrible treatment of allied prisoners as the Japanese captors felt that they had disgraced themselves by surrendering and deserved such treatment.

The first option was also what some of our military leadership salivated over in the context of “leading men in a desperate battle.” While this is a fictitious characterization articulated in the movie Patton, it was not totally absent in the makeup of some top generals and admirals. The fact that the second option was not at the top of the military discussion at that time gives credence to this hypothesis.

Estimates of US casualties had we adopted the first option are in the range of five hundred thousand to one million dead. The corresponding estimates of Japanese casualties are many times that. These are numbers that dwarf the number of killed, wounded and long term radiation sufferers at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

President Truman understood this and did not hesitate to select the fourth option: drop the A-Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The fact that the Japanese high command did not immediately surrender after Hiroshima or at least send some signal that it was contemplating surrender is evidence of the Japanese leadership’s mindset.

For precisely the same reason, Truman likely rejected the third option: call a unilateral cease fire and demonstrate an A-Bomb in a remote area. It seemed unlikely to have much effect on the Japanese high command’s mindset; certainly far less than the bomb on Hiroshima which, apparently, did not alter their thinking. Demonstrating an A-Bomb does not have the shock value of using one – and the latter was viewed as reducing the loss of life vs. the former.

Truman’s decision is also testament to his rejection of the second option on humanitarian grounds. It is assumed that at least one member of his inner circle had figured out that the second option was infinitely superior to invasion so let’s try to understand in detail what this option would have entailed.

We had adequate airfields in the islands surrounding Japan to house all the bombers and fighters needed for 1000 plus bomber runs over Japan. Following the end of the war in Europe in May 1945 plans were made to transfer some of the B-17/B-24 heavy bomber groups of Eighth Air Force to the Pacific Theater of Operations and upgrade them to B-29 Superfortress bomb groups. Further, Japan's military and civil defenses were unable to stop the Allied attacks. The number of fighter aircraft and anti-aircraft guns assigned to defensive duties in the Japanese home islands were inadequate and most of these aircraft and guns had difficulty reaching the high altitudes at which B-29s often operated. Fuel shortages, inadequate pilot training, and a lack of coordination between units also constrained the effectiveness of its fighter force.

While the invasion of Japan, reportedly, was set for October 1945, if a decision was made not to use the A-Bombs, we could have sent all of our invasion force home signaling to the Japanese high command that we had no intent on invading. We probably would have had to give them access to our bases so that they knew we were serious about not invading. We would also have had to inform their high command so they would know for certain our intent to conduct massive conventional bombing to Japanese cities until Japan surrendered. We could have warned the Japanese people via radio and leaflets of our strategy and intended targets.

If we had adopted this strategy, the number of killed, wounded and displaced would have been unthinkable before the Japanese high command would have finally surrendered. This is the basis of the assertion that the A-Bomb option was the more humane. It was the shock value in the destructiveness of these two bombs that led to the surrender not the number of casualties. We had already inflicted significantly more casualties in the past year through our conventional bombing.