Actual vs expected

One of the actuarial profession’s valuable contributions to the management of long term financial risks in the field of life insurance has been the development of credible models of human mortality. The humble life table.  Over the years (going back several hundred), the techniques have resulted in this fundamental component of fair and equitable pricing and reserving for mortality risk. The table’s contribution to the welfare and advancement of people has been important. But have these techniques been forgotten or ignored by climate change zealots?

The actuary is pragmatic. Theoretical mathematical models of mortality have been developed but they have only ever been able of giving a guiding picture. Human mortality patterns do not slavishly follow a mathematical model. The established method of updating life tables has been to periodically collect data about deaths and recalculate the rates of mortality then re-graduate the raw results into a credible and smooth table. Continue reading

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Peak oil?

I have always been interested in cars. Ever since I was a youngster, I was climbing into, out of, on and around my parents’ cars. Going for a drive out into the country roads was a treat, and roads that wound their way through the glens of Antrim, between narrow hedgerows, or up to a high spot to look over the sea to Scotland were a favourite. I tinkered in the garage, held spanners and fetched things for the men. I was driving before I could see properly over the dashboard and before I could reach the pedals to fully depress the clutch without sliding down in the seat to reach it. I drove on backroads at night, when other car lights could be seen at some distance, giving enough time to quickly swap seats with an indulgent parent in case the passing car may contain a police officer. Police officers are not known for their humour or indulgence when having stopped a vehicle they peer in through the driver’s window to find a 10 year old.

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SS America

She was launched in 1940 as the SS America. At the time, she was the world’s fastest ocean liner.

NY

But the second world war had broken out. By December 1941, the US joined the war effort explicitly as a result of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. The SS America was converted to a troop carrier.

After the war, she returned to the Atlantic route, with  speed; and society; and glamour.

atlantic

In 1964, she was sold to a Greek shipping company and spent the next 15 years circling the world: England to Australia and back to England. This was an emigrant’s route, not a cruise route. If the Suez Canal was open the route was Southampton, Crete, Port Said, Djibouti, Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney on the way out.  Then Auckland, Panama, Florida Keys, Southampton on the return. Under the ownership of the Greek shipper Chandris Lines, the ship was renamed the SS Australis.

Here she is at Crete, February 1976. I was on that southern outbound trip. Crete was the first stop out of Southampton.

crete

 

Eventually, she would arrive at Station Pier, Melbourne.

sp

Before the final outward bound stopover in Sydney.

syd

The emigration route came to a natural end in the late 1970s. By this time, the ship was 40 years old. She deteriorated under various subsequent owners. Plans amounted to nothing. She had spent years at dock in Italy before being sold again to a venture that was to turn her into a floating hotel in Thailand. She never made it.

SS America was to be towed from Italy to Thailand, via the Atlantic in 1993. A storm off the Canary Islands intervened.

nearing the end

And there she remained.

final

#Shark attacks, bee stings and #fake news

Has anyone else noticed that there have been a number of media reports about shark sightings closing beaches in Victoria this summer? More than usual? The NSW coast, the Eyre peninsula and waters off Cape Leeuwin are more typically the favoured locations for sharks and subsequent attacks on swimmers and surfers. Victorian waters feature far less frequently – until now. This activity generates a buzz in the media offices as journalists have something to write about at a time when usually not much else is happening. Continue reading

The intolerant left

In 1949, the monumental economic treatise ‘Human Action’ was published, written by Ludwig von Mises. The book remains of immense significance. It is undoubtedly a tough read. Murray Rothbard produced his own magnum opus ‘Man, Economy and State’ a few years later that similarly was an economic treatise built from the ground up. Rothbard and von Mises had similar understandings. Rothbard’s work was a little more accessible for the reader. But von Mises was the grand master. If you question the relevance of a book written over 60 years ago, consider this quotation*:

“The rigid dogmatism peculiar to religious groups and to Marxism results only in irreconciliable conflict. It condemns beforehand all dissenters as evildoers, it calls into question their good faith, it asks them to surrender unconditionally. No social cooperation is possible where such an attitude prevails.”

That quotation is as true, relevant and topical today as it ever was. Today’s Marxists, greens and the totalitarian left are just as vicious as their predecessors.

* Human Action, Ludwig von Mises, Scholar’s edition 1998, p185