Bill O'Reilly on Life Expectancy: Dumbest Man on Earth?

Jul 28 2009 Published by under Bad Economics, Bad Statistics

An alert reader just sent me, via "Media Matters", the single dumbest real-life
video clip that I have ever seen. In case you've been living under a rock, Bill O'Reilly is
a conservative radio and TV talk-show host. He's known for doing a lot of really obnoxious
things, ranging from sexually harassing at least one female employee, to sending some of
his employees to stalk people who he doesn't like, to shutting off the microphones of
guests on his show if he's losing an argument. In short, he's a loudmouthed asshole who
gets off on bullying people.

But that's just background. As a conservative commentator, he's been going off on
the evils of Obama's supposedly socialist healthcare reform. That's frequently
taken the form of talking about how horrible medical care is under Canada's
socialized health system. One of his viewers wrote in to him about this. And
the insanity follows.

The question came from a viewer named Peter from Victoria, BC, who asked: "Has anyone noticed
that life expectancy in Canada under our health system is higher than the USA?"

Bill's response:" Well, that's to be expected Peter, because we have 10 times
as many people as you do. That translates to 10 times as many accidents,
crimes, down the line." Delivered, of course, in BillO's trademark patronizing
style.

You know, you can, intelligently, make arguments against the Canadian
health system. For example, in many parts of Canada, there are serious
problems due to a shortage of medical professionals - Doctors, nurses, even
pharmacists are in short supply. You could make the argument that
that's caused by the Canadian health system, because by eliminating the
profit motive, there's no motivation for a newly minted professional to
set up an office in the middle of nowhere. That's a reasonable argument.

But when it comes the stuff spewing from the pie-holes of people like
BillO, we don't hear the intelligent arguments. Instead, we hear idiocy
like this mind-killing bullshit. I've really got to wonder whether he's
dumb enough to actually believe that that makes sense. I've always thought
that he was evil, rather than dumb. But watching this, I've really got to
wonder - who does he think he's fooling? Does he really think so little
of his viewers? Or does he actually believe that this argument makes sense?

Unfortunately, I think he probably does actually believe this.
Based on other things I've heard him say, I think
that while he's not actually stupid, he is incredibly, willfully ignorant, and
absolutely determined to stay that way. I think that he doesn't actually
understand what "life expectancy" means, and given his usual "If I don't
know it, it's not worth knowing" attitude, actually looking at a definition
to see if it means what he thinks it means is beneath him.

See, if you were talking about a statistic that was "number of deaths
per year", then his argument would make sense. Death rates are pretty much
constant; the number of deaths is roughly proportional to the population size. So ten times more people implies
ten times more people dying per year.

But that's not what life expectancy means. Life expectancy is the
mean age of death calculated over a population.

Suppose that you've got a population of 50 people, of uniformly
distributed ages. Over time, 20 of them die. Their ages at death are
1/4, 2, 9, 17, 18, 18, 19, 27, 34, 35, 40, 49, 58, 58, 59,
60, 63, 64, 80, 98. In the remaining 30 people, you'd say that their
life expectancy was around 40 years.

Now, suppose you've got 100 people, of uniformly distributed ages.
Over time, 40 of them die, with the same age distribution as the
example above. What's the life expectancy of the people in the larger
group? Exactly the same.

Let's look at it a different way. Suppose that the average
life expectancy of people was significantly dependent on
population. What would that mean? In increasing order of
stupidity:

  1. People living in NYC (population 8.3 million people as of 2007) would
    have dramatically lower life expectancies than people living in
    Toledo Ohio (population around 700,000 in 2007).
  2. People living in the suburbs have drastically different
    life expectancies, depending on whether you count them as part
    of the population of a cities metropolitan area, or as populations of
    separate towns that just happen to be close to the city.

  3. If you calculated the life expectancies of people in the US, Canada,
    and Mexico separately, and then calculated the life expectancy
    of people in North America (excluding Central America), the life expectancy
    of people in North America would be lower than the life expectancy of any
    of the individual countries.

Sure, there are some ways of dying that become more likely in a
densely populated area. NYC has a higher per-capita crime rate than East Podunk, NY.
And that does have some effect. High population areas tend to have more pollution,
which can lead to reduced life expectancies. But on the other hand, high-population
areas tend to have better hospitals, more skilled doctors, and shorter time-to-hospital
in emergencies, which can all have the opposite effect - increasing life expectancy.
As usual in things like this, working out the total effects of population size on
life expectancy isn't at all straightforward. In fact, if you look at
a map of life expectancy in cities of different sizes in developed countries, you'll find that
there's no strong relationship. (For example, in NYC in the year 2000, the average life expectancy
was 78.6 years - 6 years longer than the overall American average. Population
certainly isn't hurting NYC. But if you look at life expectancy over time in NYC,
plotted against population, you'll see a mess with no correlation.)

Of course, people like BillO don't like it when things are complicated. Much
better to just make shit up, spout nonsensical garbage, and shout really loud
whenever anyone tries to tell you that you're wrong.

70 responses so far

  • Tom says:

    Nice post Mark thanks. First, you are absolutely dead right that BillO is a jackass. But you made a little boo-boo, which I point out because, as you know, accuracy and precision of language are important to the conveying of ideas. You wrote "death rates are pretty much proportional to the population size." Not really. I think you meant to say "number of deaths" is proportional etc.

  • razib says:

    not even stupid.

  • DKH says:

    Heh. Certainly there's a lack of knowledge present in the health care debate. A post at RealClearPolitics covers some more myths:
    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/07/23/health_care_mythology_97552.html
    Thanks for combatting the lack of knowledge about statistics. I think Americans and people in general would be better served by being more knowledgeable of what statistics say and don't say and how they are calculated.
    I don't understand why you include a lot of unsubstantiated attacks in your posts on various subjects. Stating your opinion of someone would be fine, but you provide no basis for your assertions (true in this post and a post about chaos that include comments about Michael Crichton). Why? This weakens the writing style and probably shrinks your audience.

  • mdb says:

    Not to defend bill, but the effects of murder rate (much higher in the US), accidental death rate (higher in the US), car accidents (US drives more) and on and on - do affect the life expectancy of united states citizens. A straight comparison of life expectancy between the two countries is moronic. A black man's life expectancy is dramatically lower in DC as compared to NYC - is that due to health care differences or murder rate?
    I don't know if Bill was trying to make that point, but the person writing the letter was just as dumb.

  • xebecs says:

    In my experience, dumb and evil go together more often than not. Granted, it's the banal sort of evil, but, well, there's a book about that.
    Of course, it is the "evil but not dumb" crowd that wreaks the most havoc, but that is neither here nor there.

  • _Arthur says:

    Why is Canada's excellent health care relevant to the current debate, since the proposal on the table is NOTHING LIKE the Canadian health system ?

  • JRQ says:

    The man is paid to emit conservative rhetoric back into the right-wing echo chamber. He's not paid to think. He has no incentive to think. O'Reilly is, quite simply, a brainless mouth, and that's about it. It is not even meaningful to call him evil -- it is the system that creates him and grants him power and popularity that is evil.

  • Tim G says:

    Does anyone remember that commercial for Mighty Dog food in which they say that pound-for-pound small dogs use more energy than dogs TWICE their size (emphasis theirs)?

  • Vince says:

    It seems to me that it is possible to have constant death rate across two societies, but different life expectancies if the age distributions differ. Assuming the death rate affects all age segments of society equally, a random person that dies in a younger population is more likely to be young, which impacts life expectancy calculations. Clearly though the equal death rate (across age groups) assumption is drastically unrealistic.
    Is this right?

  • Seth Manapio says:

    A straight comparison of life expectancy between the two countries is moronic.
    ----
    It isn't moronic at all. Bill O'Reilly maintains that the Health Care system in Canada is not merely bad, it is disastrously bad. If that doesn't show up in a simple metric (mortality rate) it is reasonable to ask why. Now, it might be that a deeper understanding of the issues involved would reveal factors other than health care that lead to shorter US life expectancies. But the question itself isn't stupid.
    The answer was. Bill revealed that he lacks even a surface understanding of statistics. Any 8-year-old with a passion for sports could explain to Bill why he was wrong.
    The difference is that the letter writer didn't have domain specific knowledge of a complicated subject, and Bill O'Reilly didn't have even rudimentary knowledge of a fundamental tool--and misused it with confidence and stupidity in equal amounts.

  • G DeWolf Shaw says:

    Go to Wikipedia: Life Expectantcies By Country
    CIA Handbook 2008. Canada # 14, USA #45, Canadian live 2 + years longer than Americans
    QED.

  • O'Reilly brags he has a Master's Degree from Harvard. Must have either flunked Stats 101 or he was just testing to get his ratings up from the shirt tearers' outcry.

  • Timothy says:

    There are many legitimate arguments against the sort of plans being floated. Heck, life expectancy is an imperfect metric to begin with. But, that doesn't imply that O'Reilly knows what he's talking about (he doesn't).
    US life expectancy is affected by all kinds of factors that may or may not have anything to do with health care: like our high rate of violent crime, say. But fools like O'Reilly do those of us who are opposed to current plans a major disservice with their total ignorance.

  • Kaleberg says:

    If you look at English politics before WWII, you'd see a nation run by twits, just like the ones portrayed in various Monty Python sketches. George Orwell argued that the aristocracy once argued that they were chosen by God to run the country. Then, they punted that and argued that they were at least brave in battle and would fight for their country. Then, they punted that and simply argued that they were so stupid they couldn't think of a better way of running things.
    I think we've gotten to the twit stage.

  • D says:

    I have a strong distaste for Mr. O'Reilly, but I feel the need to correct what I feel is a factual error within this article. The author stated that O'Reilly was "known for doing a lot of really obnoxious things, ranging from sexually harassing at least one female employee...".
    In America, individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. While there is a mass of evidence supporting the belief that harassment took place, the matter was settled out of court (for an undisclosed sum), meaning that guilt was never formally established.

  • descartes says:

    RE: Comment #15
    The case might have been settled out of court but there is a recording of Bill'O Reilly (which was posted on Youtube) harassing the female subordinate by saying that he would use a falafel as a dildo on her (How unconventionally kinky for a republican :D). That recording is proof of his guilt. The fact that he settled out of court is a different matter.

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    Re #15:
    In America, individuals are presumed innocent by the criminal justice system, until they're proven guilty.
    But I'm not part of the criminal justice system.
    He may have settled out of court, but for goodness sakes, there are tapes of what he said to the woman in the case. The guy may have been able to use his money to weasel out of any legal judgements, but that doesn't change the fact that he did it, and he got caught on tape doing it. The transcript of him doing it is part of the lawsuit documents, which you can see at http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/1013043mackris16.html

  • Schnike in Canada says:

    Just shaking my head. There are dumb people all over the world, but what frightens me is that so many people watch Bill O and take his word as gospel. That occuring in a country which does have as much influence on the world stage as the US is frightening. At a certain level I think that the US has to take their influence and affect on the world far more seriously than say, Mauritania (no disrespect to Mauritanians). How can this jack ass be taken so seriously by so many people. Why isn't he marginalized?

  • jim says:

    mdb at #4. You are missing the point. BillO said the US has 10 times the population and has 10 times the accidents and murders compared to Canada. That argument means the death rates are identical and the life expectancies would be identical. He did NOT make the argument that you were making, ie. that death rates are higher from murder so life expectancy would be lower.
    Anyway, I would dispute your argument. Murder accounts for 0.7% of all US deaths. Heart disease, cancer and other disease account for over 80%. Death by murder is such a small portion of the overall death rate, that I doubt it effects overall life expectancy by much. Murder makes the headlines, but diseases kill many more, and those causes of death are directly effected by health care.

  • j a higginbotham says:

    #19 is missing the point. In terms of life expectancy, a murder death at age 19 is going to offset a lot of cancer deaths at 72.

  • regan says:

    @#3
    That whole article is just insane rambling. He never actually makes a point, and then goes off saying Canada is a parasite on the good ole USofA, compares socialized health care to the gulag(?) and then he's out of the fucking part ranting about the super awesome freedom of the US and how free they are to freely be free, something about the "Socialists" trying to dismantle "our liberties", some more bullshit about freedom that's again totally irrelevant, and at that point I realized that he's touting the achievements of the "producers" in a very Randian way. At that point I became afraid that people actually believe this bullshit.

  • JThompson says:

    Wait, BillO spoke out against our murder rate vs Canada's? I knew he couldn't be trusted! BillO wants to take our guns!
    Judging by "accidents" being included, he wants to take our cars too.
    At least that's what he meant if we apply the same standard of journalism to him that he does to everyone else.

  • Wouter Lievens says:

    Attribute not to stupidity what can easily be attributed to bile, hatred and malice.

  • This is going to be one of those extremely rare times when I actually agree with Rush Limbaugh, whom I generally think of as at least as evil as O'Reilly; quoting from a much-quoted New York Times piece:

    At dinner the night before, Bill O’Reilly’s name came up, and Limbaugh expressed his opinion of the Fox cable king. He hadn’t been sure at the time that he wanted it on the record. But on second thought, “somebody’s got to say it,” he told me. “The man is Ted Baxter.”

    Now, I'm pretty sure O'Reilly is reading off cue cards the entire time that he's on the air - if nothing else, he's got to coordinate his remarks with the people creating the various graphics that appear behind him. (I suppose those could all be done after filming unrehearsed improvisation, but I doubt it) This means that at least one other person saw what Bill was going to read on the air and didn't correct it. Either the willful statistical stupidity goes further than BillO, or his staff doesn't care that he looks like an idiot.
    I almost wonder if - given his reputation for not being the best of bosses - someone wrote this idiotic argument as a last act before quitting, just to see what kind of idiocy they could get him to say on air.

  • Reinier Post says:

    Obviously, he just found a nice quip to use and included it for that reason, he knows well enough that people watch him for his style, not the soundness of his arguments.

  • TomS says:

    Why do you compare not knowing about this person to "living under a rock"?

  • Jim says:

    " In terms of life expectancy, a murder death at age 19 is going to offset a lot of cancer deaths at 72."
    True, but it will not offset so many cancer/heart/ diabetes/disease deaths that occur in the 40s and 50s, Many of which would be preventable or delayed by proper medical care.
    It would be interesting to see some solid numbers applied to this issue. I've google searched a little, but didn't find details that relate cause of death to life expectancy. Perhaps someone knows where to find the data?

  • Buyaah says:

    What I've seen and heard so far, from the mouth of Bill O'reilly, he's a typical American way freedom of speech champion.
    You can say what you want, as long as it is what i want to hear.
    Anyone saying something he doesn't want to hear, he sneers at or gives these loco speaches like this one.

  • Paul says:

    I agree it was a dumb thing to say but doesn't the fact you need to explain it suggest that you think your audience is just as dumb as Bill?

  • mijnheer says:

    MarkCC writes: "...in many parts of Canada, there are serious problems due to a shortage of medical professionals - Doctors, nurses, even pharmacists are in short supply. You could make the argument that that's caused by the Canadian health system, because by eliminating the profit motive, there's no motivation for a newly minted professional to set up an office in the middle of nowhere."
    Doctors in Canada are typically in private practice and most are paid (by the provincial health authority) on a fee-for-service basis, though there are alternative payment methods in effect too. Most doctors are reluctant to set up shop "in the middle of nowhere" for the same reason that most other people don't want to live and work in the middle of nowhere. It's the middle of nowhere! Also, because there aren't many doctors in the middle of nowhere, the few who are there tend to get overworked (even in the middle of nowhere!) and burn out and move back to an urban area, thus making the situation for the remaining doctors in the middle of nowhere even worse. I don't think this has much to do with "eliminating the profit motive".

  • Returning Tarzan says:

    My palm hit my face before he finished that last sentence, but having it spelled out in a lengthy article is a little obnoxious, too. 😉

  • QrazyQat says:

    He may have settled out of court, but for goodness sakes, there are tapes of what he said to the woman in the case.
    Also the timeline incriminates him: first he says he'll fight it to the end, the next day or so she says BTW I've got tapes of the conversations, and a few days after that BO pays a multi-million dollar settlement.

  • George says:

    While such an inane argument could well be directed at the ignorant in his audience (likely a high ratio), sadly I doubt Bill is that quick witted and actually thought his argument made some sense.

  • David says:

    The US seems to have more dumb people than Canada. At least 1 more. Does that impact the statistics?

  • WolfPax says:

    As a financial planner (yeah, don't get on my case about THAT right now...)and instructor of financial planners my "favorite" misconception about life expectancy is when other planners, students or clients reach retirement age, determine their life expectancy and then plan finances to last for that length of time. What's wrong with this? Well, life expectancy tells you the age by which 50% of a group of people will die before and 50% will live beyond. For example, a 65 year old with a life expectancy of 79 years old has a 50% chance (or rather, a group of 65 year olds) of living beyond this age. So planning finances to last ONLY to age 79 is building a financial plan that, if repeated with enough clients, will have a built-in failure rate of 50% (as 50% of the people will run out of money before they run out of heartbeats).
    I, for the life of me, can't figure out how this guy reached the conclusion concerning life expectancy calculations he did (except to agree with your assessment of him - "...he's a loudmouthed asshole who gets off on bullying people"). Two master's degrees (Broadcast Journalism and Public Administration) and he can't do common-sense calculations, never mind simple math.
    That being said, there are so many factors that go into life expectancy that I do not see how any one factor, such as government run health care, could ever be satisfactorily "peeled out" to a statistically significant degree as a leading cause of it (although I sure would love to see the calculations and methodology).

  • Fred Hsu says:

    Great catch, sadly millions probably saw that response and then though "hey that makes sense"

  • Jeff says:

    Hey mdb ...
    "Not to defend bill, but the effects of murder rate (much higher in the US), accidental death rate (higher in the US), car accidents (US drives more) and on and on - do affect the life expectancy of united states citizens."
    True on almost all accounts but your only looking at half the story. Canada has a significant native population with a life expectancy that is frighteningly low. We also have 3 to 4 times the suicide rate. When you add suicide, murder, and drunk driving stats the two countries come out near equal.
    Next the US doesn't have the vast empty wilderness of Canada. An avalanche out west took the life of our former PM's son a couple of years back. When you travel in many northern areas you are required to carry a gun because of the sheer number of people we loose each year to wildlife.
    I'm not saying the Canadian system is best or the one to copy or even a plausible concept in the US. But we spend almost a third less than you do and seem to get the same end results.

  • bill r says:

    This is way to subtle for O'Reilly, but if one sample from a population is 10x larger than another sample from the same population, then the sample mean from the smaller sample is likely to be further away in absolute distance from the true mean than the sample mean from the larger population. can't forget that sqrt(n) in the denominator of the standard error.
    See "Belief in the law of small numbers" by Tversky and Kahneman for further discussion of fallacies about sample means.

  • jjsocrates says:

    "#19 is missing the point. In terms of life expectancy, a murder death at age 19 is going to offset a lot of cancer deaths at 72."
    Really? If the number of deaths from heart disease, cancer, strokes, etc. is approximately 100 (80%/0.7% actually around 114) times greater than the number of deaths from murder, then how much exactly IS that offset?
    Well, the mean of 100 people of age 72 is 72. And the mean of 99 people of age 72 and 1 of age 19 is about 71.5. That's not an insignificant difference, but hardly the offset that one would expect.

  • mdb says:

    #39
    Per the wikipedia stats, a 0.5 year difference would account for 25% of the difference between US and Canada. That is just the murder rate.

  • KeithB says:

    "For example, a 65 year old with a life expectancy of 79 years old has a 50% chance (or rather, a group of 65 year olds) of living beyond this age. "
    Not to mention that life expectancy starts at *birth*. Once you get past age 5 or so, you have a better chance of beating the expectancy number.

  • pough says:

    When you travel in many northern areas you are required to carry a gun because of the sheer number of people we loose each year to wildlife.

    That's a very funny typo!
    BTW, I'm not trying to make fun of you. It just made me laugh. Lose/loose is a very common misspelling. It sounds like you're saying Canadians set people free into wildlife and so a gun is required to protect yourself against the freed humans.

  • Travis says:

    Ugh, that was a painful thing to watch.
    Leaving aside any discussion of the effects of murder rates etc. on life expectancy, his comments were obviously very silly.
    Also, I often wonder if people like him think that Canadians are complete idiots for being okay having this sort of system, and that no one thinks about the problems. There are some Canadians who have an overly inflated idea about how good the system is but most Canadians have lots of criticisms about it. In fact I think complaining about healthcare is one of our favorite passtimes. That said, the only people I have ever met who totally wanted to get rid of the system and the idea of universal coverage were simply ideologically opposed to the idea.

  • D says:

    (Not the same D as above)
    To paraphrase Charles Babbage, it is almost impossible to fathom the depth of confusion of concepts that might provoke so idiotic an opinion.

  • Ken says:

    Off topic--fortunately. Just got off the phone with an NYC actor/director friend who mentioned in passing that in an area we'd passed through in Central Park during a recent visit to the city a large branch fell of a tree and hit a guy--injured him so seriously he was in a coma. Asked him if it was anybody he knew.
    He replied no, it was somebody who was a software engineer at Google.
    As a fairly regular visitor to this blog, I immediately googled the news story--relieved to find out it wasn't you, but sorry for the man and his family. Was this Sasha Blair-Goldensohn someone you worked with? Hope it all works out OK for him.
    Ken

  • Rob says:

    Well Canada is a parasite of the US. It is economically dependent upon the US and the bretton-woods british-influenced american system and coupled with the Monroe doctrine this benefits Canada greatly. This leaves Canada in an enviable position, where they since post WW2 and the dissolution of the British empire don't have to give any support troops (to NATO) or have an influential military (the Queen is technically the Commander-in-chief). Yet they are protected by the US and NORAD at the same time, LOL many Canadians have they nerve to mock the US but when it comes down to international relations and dealing with Russia in the Arctic, who do they come running to?.... the US. Canada is like a spoiled rich offspring that trys to act stout, but when it comes down to the bottom line or when they are in trouble they go running to Daddy (the US) or in the past Mommy (the Queen). That is a different story altogether though, but Obama's plan has nothing to do with the Canadian system.

  • rpsms says:

    Did you really just try to say Canada gives no support to NATO?
    FAIL

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    Re #45:
    Yes, I know Sasha. I actually know him more from IBM than from Google. He was a summer intern who worked with my wife, and she was a member of his dissertation committee for his PhD. Until a couple of weeks ago, his desk was about 10 feet away from mine.
    I don't know anything about the accident or how he's doing except what I've read in the NYT. He's a really good guy. According to the NYT, he's not out of the woods yet, but he's doing well considering how badly he was hurt. It's really scary, the idea that you could just be walking through the park, and without any warning, a giant tree-branch falls on your head.

  • qma says:

    According to BillO's reasoning, hey, I’ll have to move to Vatican City, the country (is it a country?) with the smallest population. I just want to live a bit longer.

  • "without any warning, a giant tree-branch falls on your head" -- the kind of combinatorial tree-pruning algorithm we don't want.

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    Re #50:
    Jonathan: That was *very* inappropriate. It's not a joking matter. We're talking about a person who was walking in the park, and was hit by a tree branch, had his skull and spine broken, and a lung punctured. According to the latest report I've seen in the paper, it's still not clear whether he'll even survive the incident. It's *not* funny.

  • Jesse says:

    Re #51:
    It's not fair to ask every person to see every situation with the same emotions you do. It's also not fair to ask a person to respect your emotions on a subject unless the person is actively trying to hurt you.
    He wasn't trying to hurt you and that was a good show of wit.

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    Re #52:
    You know what? I don't *care* what you think about it. It's my blog, I get to make the rules.
    There are some things that I don't think are funny. There are some things that I don't think are appropriate. And when someone crosses a line that I think shouldn't be crossed, I'll call them on it.
    I'm not banning him, or doing anything other than saying that I think that it was in incredibly poor taste.

  • Jesse says:

    Re #53:
    I don't see what you're trying to accomplish. You think he should care what you think but you make a point of telling me you don't care what I think?
    It's my blog, I get to make the rules.
    Spare me.

  • Jirka Daněk says:

    Ok, so given the definition of life expectancy, can I say, that the probability for me of living at least up to the life expectancy is about 50 %?

  • Rob says:

    RE #47:
    LOL, That's a good one. Canada doesn't give any meaningful support to NATO they are a parsite of it, even their own defences are coordinated by the US.

  • Rob says:

    *parasite

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    Are there not Canadian troops going in harm's way in Afganistan?
    Some time back I encountered the same sort of answer, on a forum, when I was discussing mutation rates. From a guy who ran and taught about nuclear reactors. I suppose it is not brain surgery.

  • A1tx says:

    The amount of productive resources poored into NATO and the overall directives are US dominated. Canada barely makes a dent in terms of relevance, Canada doesn't even have any nuclear warheads it falls under the US umbrella. Canada is fortunate enough to have been given a free ride with a relatively peaceful climate and above average living standards by first under the (dominant power of its time ) British Empire and then under (another dominant power its time) America.

  • echidna says:

    Mark,
    That comment at #50 does not have the same inappropriate tone to me as it does to you. I hear it as the sort of droll wit that would be used as a way of dealing with a bad situation in some places outside of the US (like Australia, for instance).
    If you parse what he said, it was basically that it's the type of accident that you don't want to happen. There was nothing inappropriate about it at that level. I gather that you took offense because a serious situation was the occasion of wit - I just want to (gently) remind you that this is a very human response, and not necessarily offensive, unless there is a hidden jibe (which I fail to detect).

  • Vorlath says:

    There are some shortages of people in the medical profession in Canada, but it's not due to the Health Care system. I can tell you right now that there's a backlog of at least 5 years if someone wants to get into Nursing at the local University here. You have to apply when you're Junior High, or get a recommendation to be bumped up on the list. And doctors and pharmacists make a good penny. If there's a shortage, it's certainly not because the wages are low.
    I wish these ridiculous claims against the Canadian Health system were done away with. Yes, there are problems. But most of those have to do with external causes.
    Take for example, the legal system. No one will operate on you if you're a smoker and have a heart problem. They'll wait until your situation can't get any worse. That way, you're gonna die anyways and they won't be liable for operating on someone who's high risk. So you end up with HUGE waiting lines and people who have money will go to the States. When the hospital does rake up huge legal bills, because doctors are humans and they'll want to save lives, the hospital will lose money that should go to better use and their budget actually gets cut.
    So there's a whole host of problems that crop up that have nothing to do with the Health system. It's a great system and the world would be lucky to have health care like we do in Canada.

  • Pat Cahalan says:

    @ Jim (#27)
    You can find reams of information regarding death rates and causes of death at the CDC and FBI web sites (disease/accident for the first and nefariousness at the second).

  • Alex says:

    Unfortunately, I think your criticism of Mr. O'Reilly's comments are biased and not well founded in mathematics. Specifically with respect to combined probability. If death resulting from automobile collisions or violent crime did not require at least two parties, your analysis might have some teeth, but since the chance of these sorts of human-caused deaths requires the interaction of at least two parties, combined probability comes into play.
    And, in those circumstances, higher population and more densely concentrated population leads to a disproportionately higher (non-linear) increase in the occurrence of premature death.
    What neither of you seemed to mention is the role that obesity plays in premature deaths in the United States. These sort of deaths are a result of poor lifestyle choices, not the effectiveness of our medical facilities.
    As much as I regret your error, I truly regret the *manner* in which you erred in the post above--I think it a mark of some hypocrisy that you would indulge in your clear hatred for Mr. O'Reilly even though the facts in this particular argument are on his side and are orthogonal to previous lapses of judgment on his part. We become what we hate, don't we? I think that you can do more to improve the signal to noise ratio on future critical posts.

  • "... the role that obesity plays in premature deaths in the United States." Is Alex suggesting that obesity causes car accidents, car accidents cause obesity, or obesity causes Rush Limbaugh but being a hypocritical narcotics addict helps to lose weight? Woe is us, when Bad Math intersects Bad Politics and Bad Religion.

  • ian says:

    On the face of it, Bill O'Reilly's statistical analysis is pure nonsense. Delving into the matter and dredging up stats on higher murder rate, higher rate of alcohol-related automobile fatalities, higher rate of obesity, is completely irrelevant because it was not the argument O'Reilly was making. Simply put, he was being fatuous and deceitful in his analysis. And to the justifications aforementioned we might rebut that the Canadian health care system fashions a more caring society which by its nature and example leads to lower rates of destructive behaviors such as murder, alcoholism, and obesity.

  • Jim says:

    O'Reilly attributed the lower life expectancy in America not to the differences in lifestyles, but to our larger population. If lifestyles were the same amongst Canadians and Americans (i.e., same driving practices, comparable crime rates, obesity, etc.), then the population of America or Canada will not matter at all.
    I wouldn't expect anything less from Bill, him and Glenn are the true voices of America. "This is NOT the America I KNOW!!!" I want change, yes we can?

  • Yuri says:

    Hi, I'm a new reader and I love this blog.
    What Bill O'Reilly should have said (and nobody has yet mentioned) is that life expectancy is not actually a good indicator of health care. Economists don't use it, or if they do, they use it as part of a basket of other indicators. The reason is that life expectancy includes infant mortalities, which completely screw up the numbers and must be removed from any life expectancy calculation before it even becomes economics data.
    Even so, there are so many preventative factors that lead to changes in life expectancy, which are not indicative of health care. For instance, the Japanese have a phenomenal life expectancy, but what is that to say they have better health care. Of course, their health care could be better, but my guess is their diet and exercise regimen is just better on average than ours is.

  • Aaron says:

    So where is this guy's evidence that Canada's health system is any better than the U.S.? Is it because it's FREE? Or is it simply because it's Canadian rather than American? Somehow I think those reasons pretty much say it all.
    And where's this guy's evidence that people are living longer in Canada? Don't bore me w/ fraudulent statistics. I don't buy that crap! The numbers depend on who's writing them and what kind of a bigot they are.
    If people really ARE living longer in Canada it's probably b/c they're less concerned with getting their dicks clipped (e.g. circumcision or "healthcare" as it's currently practiced) and learning how to take care of themselves w/o depending on some certified jackass who'll give ya three years to live when you've actually got 90.

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    @69:
    You want evidence that the Canadian healthcare system is better than the American one.. But, you don't want statistics.
    How can you possibly compare the quality of the two systems *without* statistics?
    You've clearly made up your mind about what the *right* answer is, and you'll just reflexively discard anything that doesn't immediately confirm your decision.
    Just as a closing thing... I'm not the one who said that the average lifespan under Canada's healthcare system is better than the US. In fact, the guy who said that was Bill O'Reilly - i.e., Mr. know-it-all fox news conservative commentator. (Personally, I don't think that comparing Canada and the US healthcare systems really makes a lot of sense; there are too many confounding issues to be able to really get a good comparison.)

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