Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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Charlie (Colorado)

Wow. Just wow.

Thank you.


Well done, Charlie!

Sticking my neck out betting (and visualizing) you will continue to have a long and fruitful life,


This really isn't correct. An insurance company will be making thousands or millions of bets at a time, while the person taking out the insurance is only taking out one bet. It would be more correct to state that (for example) a life insurance company is betting that not enough people will die within a given time frame so as to leave the insurance company on the losing side in aggregate.

But even that isn't correct. The insurance company doesn't just take the money and sit on it. The insurance company takes all of these bets and then invests them. It would be more correct to say that the insurance company is really betting that they have the financial and investment accumen to make sufficient money over time with the money invested so as to both cover the bets they will lose and still have money left over. (Also, they're planning to beat inflation in this deal, but I'm taking that as a given.)

All financial transactions are ultimately gambles. This is one of the reasons that every finance major and most business majors love to gamble. They know they're doing it every day anyway, and with games that are usually much more complex than anything in Vegas. The funny thing is that you will run into a fair number of them that will insist they can beat the house at a game like blackjack (almost possible) or even craps. Hope springs eternal, I guess, even in the breasts of people who actually know the math....

(To be fair, most of them when pressed will admit they can't really beat the house. But they usually know at least some of the basics of the games they play and know how to improve their odds. Once they've done that they just think that all they need is a little luck to make a nice killing.)

Also, the branch of gambling called insurance is the specialty of the actuaries. In the retirement business (which I used to be a part of) many actuaries like to think of people dying just a little bit each year, regardless of whether you're actually dead or alive at the end of the year. In aggregate, and from the mathematical point of view, that's what's actually happening. (Retirement finance is really just another branch of life insurance. In THAT case, though, the person getting the retirement benefit is usually betting that they will live long enough to recoup their investment, while whoever is paying out the retirement benefit is betting that you will DIE before getting full value. Remember, folks, life insurance people are betting on you living, and retirement annuity providers are betting on your death!)

Eh, sorry to have rambled on. This is just a topic I sort of knew something about back in the day....

PS If someone invented a cheap immortality drug tomorrow, the day after THAT the financial markets would completely collapse, making the Great Depression look like the boom-boom 90s. There'd be a nuclear war by the end of the week, and so the whole thing would come to naught. Immortality bad. Timely deaths good.


many actuaries like to think of people dying just a little bit each year, regardless of whether you're actually dead or alive at the end of the year. In aggregate, and from the mathematical point of view, that's what's actually happening.

No shit! -- There goes my left knee! (There goes my eyeball, right into your highball . . . )

To be fair to Charlie, I didn't quote the stuff about actuaries and risk pools. I was tempted to quote more but I wanted you to read his post.


We devote the vast majority of our time and money to betting on ourselves. When we get on a plane, we are betting that it will arrive at our destination and not crash. When we plan a vacation for next summer, we are betting we won't be too sick to go. Insurance is merely hedging our bets, so we are not completely wiped out if the bad thing happens.


My belatedly Orthodox cousin never says anything like "See you next month" without adding, "God willing." Another way of hedging bets? or just of reminding oneself that life is a gamble and we're at the mercy of either blind luck or inscrutable intent?

Maxwell James

The insurance company takes all of these bets and then invests them.

That's also the crux of the difference, I think, between single-payer healthcare advocates and those who prefer private insurance. A public entity providing insurance for everyone may very well minimize the costs to society, because the insurer SHOULD require less overhead, and should also have less incentive to externalize its costs onto hospitals - a practice that is famously attributed to HMO's.

But it won't run at a profit, and won't reinvest those profits in the greater economy. It will raise taxes to cover cost increases. And of course, it will force those who don't want to pay into the gamble to do so anyway. And being government, it will still be prone to overhead bloat.

I favor single-payer, but these are some of the better arguments against it.


So, life's a crap shoot? And- then you die.



I was tempted to quote more but I wanted you to read his post.

Aw, heck, I barely had time to read and respond to your post! Besides, I was betting that you had captured all the really good parts....


[I]f you have to pay for the health care that is almost certain to be needed, every year, you’re going to have to charge a little more than that health care will cost.

Yep, that's the crux of the matter. And it only gets worse because as the insurance companies end up paying for many more events, they need much more administrative service, which drives up the rates even further.

Oh, and he's spot on about screwing over the younger workers (again) to pay for the old non-workers in society. But this can be rationalized as an upfront cost that needs to be paid for the breakdown of (the extended family + ever growing population).

These kinds of costs (a) used to be cheaper (there was a lot less that the medicos could do 100 years ago) and (b) were just absorbed by family members of the aged.

(Here's an example of how smaller family size hits the collective pocket book in the old scenario. Assume that each generation has four children that survive to adulthood. So an old grandparent could expect to have 4 children + 16 grandchildren (four for each child) in adulthood when they're old and need help paying the medical bills. That's 20 people to help with the cost, or ten per grandparent if both survive. Now halve the number of expected grown children, making it 2 children and four grandchildren. That's only 6 younger adults to help meet costs, or three per grandparent if both grandparents survive. The difference between 10 and three is really stark, isn't it? It's even worse if you're simply looking to have someone around just to keep an eye on grandma, especially factoring in a highly mobile society these days. These are hidden costs of urbanization, modernization and globalization. I bet Greenspan doesn't mention these in his book....)


Insanely good points, Ice. Now where's my tax break for all the money I'm saving the public treasury . . .


We can't be sure you've saved us anything until you're dead. Get back to us then and we may cut you a check.

(Incidentally, as a middle-aged worker I'm probably paying just the right amount - with a promise of getting my (un)fair share in the near future.)


I mean by caregiving the old fashioned way instead of putting my husband in a nursing home at partial public expense.


Ah, you mean THAT. Then I'll have to think of a rationalization for not paying you later. ;)


"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."

That is a mistranslation:

"There are currents in modern dharma teaching that de-emphasize the importance of the historical discourses. One might say, for example, “Don't we often hear that the Buddha said not to believe texts and traditions?”

Well, he didn't say to reject them out of hand, either. Have you ever noticed how American dharma is like the game of Telephone? Things get passed on from person to person, from one generation of teachers to the next, until the message gets garbled beyond recognition.

I once received a postcard on which the sender had rubber-stamped the message, “‘Don't believe anything outside your own sense of right and wrong.'—The Buddha.” That was apparently meant to be a quote from the Kalama Sutta, but when you actually read the sutta, you find that it says something much more sophisticated than that: You don't believe something just because it's handed down in the texts or taught by your teachers, but you don't accept it just because it seems logical or fits in with your preferences, either. You have to put it to the test, check it in terms of actual cause and effect. If you then find that it leads to harm and is criticized by wise people, you stop doing it. If it's beneficial and praised by wise people, you stick with it. Notice, though, that you don't go solely by your own perception of things. You look for wise people and check your perceptions against theirs. That way you make sure you're not simply siding with your own preconceived notions."


The value of what you are doing for your husband cannot be measured in dollars and cents. It is sacrificial love. It is the stuff of poetry and parables.


It's sort of ironic that it apparently looks like heroic love from the outside when what it feels like is just keeping on keeping on, doing what has to be done, sometimes grudgingly. It's such an altered state of consciousness that it's hard to communicate from in here.


When heroes are interviewed they usually say what they did was nothing special; they just saw what had to be done and did it, what anyone would have done.

In truth, there are a million reasons not to do it. Many shrink away and find solace, but nobility only comes from answering the call.

To do a noble thing is to uncover the best in you, and that is priceless.

Charlie (Colorado)

Richard, if I'm not mistaken I don't attribute my tag line to the Buddha.

Icepick, I grant you that I neither went into into the complexities of underwriting nor the investment part of the whole basic equation of insurance. It was a thousand words, what can I say? But you're getting exactly the point I was after, that "mandating" "insurance" to make insurance "more affordable" is, like it or not, a redistributive tax.


Charlie, after I read the whole thing I had no qualms about it at all. As you say, it was 1,000 words, but they were good words. I was responding to the bit Amba quoted, which was more than a little lazy of me. What can I say? I'm a first generation slacker....


"Richard, if I'm not mistaken I don't attribute my tag line to the Buddha."

My mistake, but it sure sounds like one of the common mistranslations of the Kalama sutta.

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