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Our Wellbeing and GDP At Threat – Support to Real Artists and Real Art

In yet another interesting edition of Arts Nation: An Overview of Australian Arts, 2015 Ed., prepared by the Australian Council for the Arts, great insight was presented as to the current state of the industry and the direction forward. The proceeding discusses the results and implications of the current situation from the Australian Council for the Arts findings.Firstly to note, in what was extremely pleasing to read, was that nearly every Australian engaged in some form of arts culture at least once in 2013. Whether this be in the form of live events, art galleries or reading of literature; 94% is something to be proud of for our great country. Compare this to America where Artnet News notes a steady decline in American attendance in their benchmark arts activities (jazz events, classical music performances, opera, musical plays, non-musical plays, ballet, and art museums or galleries) since 1992. In that year 41% of Americans attended at least one form of these benchmark art activities, however fast forward to 2012 and this rate has dropped to 33.4% [2].This is an alarming trend based on the evidence from internationally recognised subjective wellbeing analysis techniques which consider emotional, social and cognitive factors. These techniques help calculate the value of intangibles and has backing from people such as the Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman [3] saying that economists can, and should measure individual and social wellbeing directly to understand the true value of people’s activities.85% of Australians are in consensus that the arts make for a richer and more meaningful life, and nearly all Australians engage in at least one form the arts each year. Hence it would be feasible to deduce that with an increasing arts interaction in which Australia has an already admirable position, a higher life satisfaction is likely outcome with all other factors being equal. This situation is directed in a vastly different direction for America with their declining arts interaction at ratios around one third that of Australia’s.Given the position Australia is in with regards to the arts interaction and the obvious benefits to the public, it is little wonder that the Australian government continues to contribute approximately $7 billion dollars per year between culture and the core arts. This sector generates around $50 billion dollars to Australia’s GDP each year. A GDP share that is comparable to that of America.Contributing to this GDP value is the number of tourist coming to Australia and also engaging in our culture and arts. A figure which is trending upward by 20% over the last three years and now at 2.4 million tourists / visitors who undertake Australian arts activities whilst visiting. This represents 38% of visitors who come to Australia, who engage in our arts. Needless to say this shows a great deal of insight into the quality of the artists in Australia. Further substantiated by the strong representation of Australian artists nominated for international awards. From a selection of 16 major international arts events, the artists shortlisted for international arts award was made up by 1.6% Australians. Very admirable and proof of the quality of Australian arts based on the Australian population only making up around 0.33% of the world population.These talented artists, though achieving great things nationally and internationally are still scarce in number and on a plateau. In addition to the 109,000 students currently undertaking creative arts qualifications at a tertiary level, there is around 44,000 professional artists in Australia. Of these 44,000 professional artists only around 17% are working full time on their creative practice. A mear 7,500 professional artists working on their own works. A country which derives $50 billion in GDP from culture and the arts and has a $7 billion dollar a year contribution from the government. An industry that is recognised to improve our quality and fulfilment of our lives. So it brings wonder as to why this is, and it is so very clear in the Australian Council for the Arts report. It is here it is noted that the average income for these professional artists who commit their full work time to their own creative practice is $22,500 per year. This represents nearly a quarter of the annual Australian wage of $81,000 [4] for the twelve months to June 2013.Even with $7 billion dollars contributed annually by the Australian government in addition to the $221 million raised from the private sector by arts organisations, the professional artists are in need of support. Real artists needing support to keep being able to create work for an industry which nearly every Australian interacts with each year. An industry that aids our life satisfaction and general happiness.With no question to the benefits of constant technological advances in basically all facets of our modern lives, there exists businesses focused on taking away such purpose from the before discussed artists. The printing of canvas paintings for example, creating mass produced and commercialised images in minutes. Taking away from any uniqueness and honesty of the artwork because a machine has executed the file. This also discards the skill set and talent that an artist creates with a handmade piece of art. Then as the domino effect goes, leaves less artists able to focus full time on their own creative works. Eventually a trend of this nature will leave real artists as an endangered species. With the 44,000 professional artists plateau since 2001, the occupation share that the artist profession has, thus must be declining at the same rate as the Australian population growth. Around 29% since 2001 (18,607,584) [5] to the time of writing this article (23,946,356) based upon the Australian Bureau of Statistics historical population data and Australian population projection clock [6]. A sad and worrying trend for an industry so important to our country in both economical and social terms.It has already been stated that the vast majority of Australians (85%) agree that arts make for a richer and more meaningful life. So it needs to be recognised that in order to retain and continue to benefit from that which the arts giveth, we must continue to support real artists doing real work, or the benefits will be taketh from us all.Please support real art and real artists.References[1] Arts Nation: An Overview of Australian Arts, 2015 Ed., prepared by the Australian Council for the Arts[2] Alexander Forbes – Artnet News, 2015[3] Layard R 2005, Happiness: Lessons from a New Science. Stiglitz J A, Sen A and Fitoussi JP 2009, Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. O’Donnell G, Deaton A, Durand M, Halpern D and Layard R 2014 Wellbeing and Policy[4] SEEK’s Annual Salary Review, 2013[5] Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014, 3105.0.65.001 – Australian Historical Population Statistics, 2014, Table 1.2[6] Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2015

How Did Health Care Costs Get So High?

First, let’s get a little historical perspective on American health care. To do that, let’s turn to the American civil war era. In that war, dated tactics and the carnage inflicted by modern weapons of the era combined to cause terrible results. Most of the deaths on both sides of that war were not the result of actual combat but to what happened after a battlefield wound was inflicted. To begin with, evacuation of the wounded moved at a snail’s pace in most instances causing severe delays in treatment of the wounded. Secondly, most wounds were subjected to wound related surgeries and amputations and this often resulted in massive infection. So you might survive a battle wound only to die at the hands of medical care providers whose good intentioned interventions were often quite lethal. High death tolls can also be ascribed to everyday sicknesses and diseases in a time when no antibiotics existed. In total something like 600,000 deaths occurred from all causes, over 2% of the U.S. population at the time!Let’s skip to the first half of the 20th century for some additional perspective and to bring us up to more modern times. After the civil war there were steady improvements in American medicine in both the understanding and treatment of certain diseases, new surgical techniques and in physician education and training. But for the most part the best that doctors could offer their patients was a “wait and see” approach. Medicine could handle bone fractures and perform risky surgeries and the like (now increasingly practiced in sterile surgical environments) but medicines were not yet available to handle serious illnesses. The majority of deaths remained the result of untreatable conditions such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, scarlet fever and measles and/or related complications. Doctors were increasingly aware of heart and vascular conditions, and cancer but they had almost nothing with which to treat these conditions.This very basic understanding of American medical history helps us to understand that until quite recently (around the 1950′s) we had virtually no technologies with which to treat serious or even minor ailments. Nothing to treat you with means that visits to the doctor if at all were relegated to emergencies so in that scenario costs were obviously minuscule. A second factor that has become a key driver of today’s health care costs is that medical treatments that were provided were paid for out-of-pocket. There was no health insurance and certainly not health insurance paid by someone else like an employer. Costs were the responsibility of the individual and perhaps a few charities that among other things supported charity hospitals for the poor and destitute.What does health care insurance have to do with health care costs? Its impact on health care costs is enormous. When health insurance for individuals and families emerged as a means for corporations to escape wage freezes and to attract and retain employees after World War II, almost overnight there was a great pool of money available for health care. Money, as a result of the availability of billions of dollars from health insurance pools, encouraged an innovative America to increase medical research efforts. As more and more Americans became insured not only through private, employer sponsored health insurance but through increased government funding that created Medicare, Medicaid and expanded veteran health care benefits, finding a cure for almost anything has become very lucrative. This is also the primary reason for the vast array of treatments we have available today. I do not wish to convey that this is a bad thing. Think of the tens of millions of lives that have been saved, extended and made more productive as a result. But with a funding source grown to its current magnitude (hundreds of billions of dollars annually) upward pressure on health care costs are inevitable. Doctor’s offer and most of us demand and get access to the latest available health care technology, pharmaceuticals and surgical interventions. So there is more health care to spend our money on and until very recently most of us were insured and the costs were largely covered by a third-party (government, employers). This is the “perfect storm” for higher and higher health care costs and by and large, the storm is intensifying.At this point, let’s turn to a key question. Is the current trajectory of U.S. health care spending sustainable? Can America maintain its world competitiveness when 16%, heading for 20% of our gross national product is being spent on health care? What are the other industrialized countries spending on health care and is it even close to these numbers? Add politics and an election year and the whole issue gets badly muddled and misrepresented.I believe that we need a revolutionary change in the way we think about health care, its availability, its costs and who pays for it. And if you think I am about to say we should arbitrarily and drastically reduce spending on health care you would be wrong. Here it is fellow citizens – health care spending needs to be preserved and protected for those who need it. And to free up these dollars those of us who don’t need it or can delay it or avoid it need to act. First, we need to convince our politicians that this country needs sustained public education with regard to the value of preventive health strategies. This should be a top priority and it has worked to reduce the number of U.S. smokers for example. If prevention were to take hold, it is reasonable to assume that those needing health care for the myriad of life style engendered chronic diseases would decrease dramatically. Millions of Americans are experiencing these diseases far earlier than in decades past and much of this is due to poor life style choices. This change alone would free up plenty of money to handle the health care costs of those in dire need of treatment, whether due to an acute emergency or chronic condition.Let’s go deeper on the first issue. Most of us refuse do something about implementing basic wellness strategies into our daily lives. We don’t exercise but we offer a lot of excuses. We don’t eat right but we offer a lot of excuses. We smoke and/or drink alcohol to excess and we offer a lot of excuses as to why we can’t do anything about it. We don’t take advantage of preventive health check-ups that look at blood pressure, cholesterol readings and body weight but we offer a lot of excuses. In short we neglect these things and the result is that we succumb much earlier than necessary to chronic diseases like heart problems, diabetes and high blood pressure. We wind up accessing doctors for these and more routine matters because “health care is there” and somehow we think we have no responsibility for reducing our demand on it.It is difficult for us to listen to these truths but easy to blame the sick. Maybe they should take better care of themselves! Well, that might be true or maybe they have a genetic condition and they have become among the unfortunate through absolutely no fault of their own. But the point is that you and I can implement personalized preventive disease measures as a way of dramatically improving health care access for others while reducing its costs. It is far better to be productive by doing something we can control then shifting the blame.There are a huge number of free web sites available that can steer us to a more healthful life style. “Google” “preventive health care strategies”, look up your local hospital’s web site and you will find more than enough help to get you started. Let’s go America – we can do this!

Tesla Motors – The Full Story – Part 1

The Tesla Roadster could very well be the most influential and revolutionary sports car ever created. In an automotive world governed by oil and oil interested the Tesla Roadster had some of the industries largest players vying for its electric motor technology even before a single Roadster had been made. It sounds a crazy story, but it is one I am lucky to be able to let.The Roadster came very close to never existing. Never mind that for years, decades even anyone tried to take on the problem of an electric vehicle was met with hostility by the industry. Their inventive spirit would crumble under a barrage of insults, “it can’t be done”, “it’s not viable”And for a large part in it’s early years around 2007, Tesla motors was succeeding in proving the critics right. With over 100 million dollars of investors money, Martin Eberhard the companies CEO and one of its founders and only succeeded in proving that they could produce a vehicle that when expected to retail as $109.000 cost $140.000 to make, and still didn’t have a working transmission, air conditioning and inferior seat linings.The one thing they did have however was a battery and in truth they had succeed in the hardest part of all, the battery was the answer to the power problem everything else was just fine tuning, getting all the components on car to work with this new power source.The battery park was the hardest design feat in the whole car and they had succeed in creating a powerful and strong and most importantly safe battery pack. Running off Lithium Ion batteries much like in a Laptop the power pack could produce 200 Kilowatts, translated into the road in the form of over 280 horse power and 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds.And though the car and Tesla’s finances were in trouble the future was here in the shape of that batteryIn the next two parts I will explain how the roadster was saved and how that battery technology has found it way into some unlikely places.