Category Archives: Economics

Feds Find Something Else To Screwup

There was a story in Wednesday’s USA Today about Congress voting to spend $750 million over five years to build “healthy marriages”. Apparently people are sitting around waiting for a version of FEMA for marriages. The religious conservatives are going to love this proposal, but I don’t. This is a waste of taxpayer money that could be spent on things like the War on Terror and Katrina recovery. In addition, where is the Constitutional justification for such a program?

Also given the Federal government’s trackrecord with programs such as Social Security, the Postal Monopoly, FEMA, HUD, Medicaid, the Department of Energy, NASA, are we sure we want the Federal government taking an increased role in building marriages? The intergration of marriage and state is the biggest threat to marriage. Therefore the solution is to return marriage to the control of religious institutions and allow them to decide who can get married and what marriage is, not funding Federal marriage counseling. Meanwhile, the state should be reserved to performing civil unions to ensure couples get the legal benefits of marriage. Of course we wouldn’t be having the discussion of who gets what benefits if government wasn’t so big.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Responding to a Reader

Stephen, of On Beyond left a comment for me on Elitists and a Society of Fear over on Eric’s Grumbles. In the comments on that post, Stephen holds forth with a few things that I don’t agree with, so I responded with my own comment. I decided that my comment really deserved to be a post of its own, given the length and set of thoughts. But, since I’m now transitioning this sort of writing pretty well entirely to The Liberty Papers, I posted it here. Enjoy. Discuss. Take issue. What have you.

Stephen, pointing out that there is a lack of evidence for someone’s pet theory is not political. It is, actually, an important component of the scientific method. It is perfectly valid to say that global warming is not established fact due to the inconclusive and contradictory evidence. Calling such a position political is an act of politics that plays right into the hands of those who wish to use “global warming” for their own purposes.

Your argument about why there should be intrusive government action taken is part and parcel of the precautionary principle. Check out the link in the main post. The primary problem with this principle is that it is logically inconsistent. The second problem with it is that it creates a stasis, a fear of change, because change might be bad. The worst thing about Kyoto is that it dooms billions of people to poverty and privation permanently. The reality of human society is that change is part and parcel of it. Humans are dynamic. If you try to lock them into an unchanging environment for “their own good” forces far beyond your control will undo your every effort.

I’m always amused when people deny that the media, including newspapers, television, magazines, Hollywood, musical artists, etc. don’t have power. Information is power. The ability to put information in front of people is power. The media, as a group, has an immense amount of power and money both. In fact, Sony, AOL, Comcast, Oprah, Susan Sarandon, NYT, People, and on and on, have at least as much liquid capital as companies like Chevron and GM. Potentially, since many Hollywood artists are worth tens of millions, or more, and under no obligation to share holders to turn a profit, they have more money. And, since they get invited into our living rooms, car stereos, etc. every single day, they wield immense influence. Couple that with lawyers who stand to make enormous amounts of money (and already have) through environmental legislation and litigation. How many lawyers make enormous amounts of money from environmental impact statements every single day? How many lawyers are involved in lobbying to increase environmental regulation and legislation? Why is that? Why is it that the advent of the media and politicians taking environmental issues really seriously coincides almost perfectly with the fall of the Berlin Wall?

By the way, there’s some interesting science to suggest that global warming and increasing CO2 is good, not bad. Consider that the Earth was actually in a minor ice age until the early 19th century. Evidence, almost universally ignored by the mainstream, indicates that emerging from that minor ice age has led to increased agricultural productivity, among other things. Increases in CO2 improves plant growth. Further, the earth has been in a constant state of change since the very beginning of the planet. The reality is that the planet and the various ecologies found on it have changed dramatically over the past 20,000 years, some “natural” and some caused by humans. I’m not sure I understand how humans creating change is not “natural” but beavers causing change is, but that discussion could fill a whole bunch of posts all by itself.

As someone with a background in engineering, which includes substantial training in the scientific method, I have to seriously question investigation and research funded by organizations with serious investment in certain outcomes. I have to question whether evidence is being suppressed when major scientific journals receive funding, through advertising and donations, from those same organizations and when scientists and engineers report that papers casting doubt on the desired outcomes are suppressed. I would argue that your friend is not getting all of the data because the data is being suppressed.

Now, suppose you were Chevron, and your primary source of revenue was being attacked. Would you fund research to find out the validity of the arguments made against you? Yes, you would. Would that be suspect due to conflict of interest? Of course. So, why isn’t the research funded by environmental organizations suspect due to the conflict of interest? The majority of the research being published right now is funded by environmental organizations and the Federal government. Now, interestingly, environmental organizations have three primary sources of funding: Hollywood, the government, and the fossil fuel industry. One has to ask who has less conflict of interest. The oil industry, which is funding all sides of the research, or the environmental organizations, which are not? Just a question to ask yourself. Another question to ask yourself is why the “reputable trade publications” will publish research favorable to the theory of global warming, but not research unfavorable to it?

On your last point, the primary difference between what Crichton (and I) have to say on this topic and what the folks who believe vehemently in global warming has to say is that we are saying that global warming has too many contradictions to accept as proven. We aren’t saying it isn’t happening, or is happening. I would like to see a truly concerted effort made to understand this without the pre-determined outcomes. If you think that can happen with government funding, I would suggest looking at the history of government science, which is not good.

Finally, I don’t choose my science based on my preference for the implications and thus I have no need to be gentle in my judgement of the censorship and suppression of science by religion, whether historically, or occurring today. I don’t like the implications of research into solar and wind generated power (it can’t meet our needs and will be far more expensive than fossil fuel and nuclear power), but I don’t reject it because I don’t like it.

There is a huge difference between my position, which is that the evidence is inconclusive, contradictory and biased and the position you appear to be taking. I should also point out that one of the pluses to true scientific investigation is that any other person with reasonable intelligence, who is willing to invest the time and effort, can recreate the investigation done by someone else and draw conclusions based on that without having to take what someone tells them on faith. When you are being asked to take something on faith (which much of current global warming theory is asking you to do), then it isn’t science.

Finally, the issue of technology and your bank analogy. A bank will lend me a million dollars when I walk through the door if I have a track record that shows I can pay it back. So, is there a track record for science, technology and engineering? There absolutely is. Not only has it kept pace with the population growth of the planet, it has surged far ahead. All humans, in every quarter of the planet, are far better off, by any tangible standard, than they were in 1800. There is less disease, less starvation, fewer childhood diseases, more food, better housing, more leisure time. Every single disaster predicted by doomsayers over the past centuries has been negated by the advance of science and technology. That’s a pretty good track record. If you showed up in my bank with a record of paying off million dollar loans every time one was made, and doing it early, I’d be inclined to lend you a million dollars, knowing full well I was going to make a profit on you. When a claim is made that technology and science can solve these issues, based on the track record, I agree and I’m willing to make the loan.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Elitists and a Society of Fear

I just got done reading Michael Crichton’s “State of Fear“. I was very impressed by the depth of his research (most modern science fiction is long on fiction and short on science) as well as by the story. Like all of his books that I’ve read, the story gripped and entertained. Just as importantly, it is based on solid research and science. The underlying subject that is dealt with is global warming, climate change and the environmental movement. The actual plot line is a conspiracy by eco-terrorists and environmental groups to create a series of climate change disasters in a short period of time to convince people that rapid climate change due to global warming is actually happening.

The story, by itself, is entertaining, well written and enjoyable. Even without the science and research presented throughout the book, it would be a great read. But, using the mechanism of dialogues between the main characters and various folks who are either global warming “true believers” or skeptics, some excellent science is presented to the reader in a manner that doesn’t require a strong background in science to understand. Several key points are made throughout the book. Points that those who value liberty would do well to pay attention to.

  • The “science” that establishes global warming as something that “everyone knows is true” is very shaky. To the point of actually proving the opposite, in some cases.
  • Science has been politicized, primarily due to the presence of money and power
  • Global Climate Change is completely unfounded, there is no evidence whatsoever that weather patterns have gotten worse, or significantly different, in the past 50 years.
  • One of my favorites, proper application of the precautionary principle would actually preclude using the principle to make decisions. I live in a risk based world, and make decisions based on risk. The precautionary principle is the antithesis of risk based decision-making.
  • We live in a state of fear that is preyed upon, magnified and used to manipulate us by the Political-Legal-Media complex, or PLM. The ultimate goal of the PLM is to gain and hold power.

I’ve known for a while, somewhat vaguely, that the science surrounding environmentalism, global warming and climate change is very poor, even distorted or outright lies in some cases. But this book presented evidence that is incontrovertible. And demonstrates clearly why the environmental movement resorts to ad hominem attacks against those who speak out against them. In fact, this is a favorite tactic of a group of people that I will discuss further along in this post. When someone tries to prove you wrong by attacking you, rather than your facts, logic and reasoning, they have implicitly admitted that your position is correct. The next time an environmentalist attacks someone that doesn’t agree with them as a fascist, or right winger, or tool of the corporations, ask yourself why they don’t just prove that the person’s position is wrong. Matter of fact, ask them why.

A few facts about global warming are in order, and very interesting. The first is that, if you use global temperature data from roughly 1930, to today, it indicates a warming trend worldwide, although the amount of the warming trend is hotly debated. Conservative estimates indicate that the line is very nearly flat, less than one degree Centigrade. But, even more interesting, if you start with data in the 1830’s, instead of the 1930’s, the global trend is either flat, or slightly cooling. In fact, based on that evidence, in the 1970’s the environmental movement was preaching about the coming ice age, NOT global warming. Other “evidence” for global warming that also turn out to have very little basis in fact include the supposed melting of glaciers around the world and rising sea levels. It turns out that Antarctica, which contains 90% of the world’s ice, is actually getting colder and the ice packs are actually thickening. Except for one peninsula, which is the most northern portion of the continent, but accounts for less than 1% of the total ice in Antarctica. The overall trend in Antarctica and Iceland (two areas studied extensively) is increased glaciation, not melting. The glaciers in Iceland are actually “surging”, growing at rates far above historical trends. Concurrently, satellite studies of mean ocean sea levels indicates extremely minor rises in sea level, or none. The celebrated case of a village in Vanuatu having to be abandoned due to rising sea levels is not supported by evidence. The South Pacific shows a minor increase in mean sea level, while the North Pacific shows a minor decrease. In other words, local changes are occurring, but not worldwide changes.

None of this is to say that the environment is not impacted by man. Of course it is. And it has been for as long as man has existed. Indians in California, ten thousand years ago, used to set forest fires purposefully, in order to destroy specific types of forestation that didn’t provide an ecology that was conducive to the sort of game they lived on. Which is how the Sequoia and Redwood forests came to exist. Twenty thousand years ago, California was barren and nearly treeless as it came out of the last ice age. Between 14 and 15 thousand years ago, according to archaeological evidence, hunter-gatherer tribes around the world hunted the mastodon to extinction. There are really two different issues here. One is measurable and quantifiable and the other is not. The first issue is the impact that man has locally. We can measure and quantify the impact of dumping industrial waste into a river, for example. The second issue is what impact man may have globally. This is something we have no idea about, although we have a lot of wildly varying suppositions. And, as long as politics is part and parcel of the science involved with climate and ecology, we will not have any idea. Like anything else, when politics, power and money comes into play, the science of the environment, ecology and climate becomes distorted and corrupted.

This is one of the hardest things for those who favor regulation, intervention and “management” to understand. When you regulate something, when you provide money to bureaucrats to manage the regulation, when you associate political power with the thing, you automatically introduce corruption. Corporations, unions and other non-goverment organizations that have a vested interest in either the the thing being regulated, or the regulation itself, bring money and influence to bear to ensure that it works out the way they want it to. I’ve written on the subject before, as have many others. In this entry, We Gave Up Our Market Power, I give some strong reasoning for the fallacy that regulation can solve problems without leading to its own problems of corruption. By introducing tax money and government regulations and involvement into environmental and ecological science, we have brought about a situation where we can’t get at the truth. For the environmental movement, this doesn’t pose a real problem so long as the folks doing the research and publishing the papers give them the results they desire.

What the environmental movement doesn’t seem to understand, or refuses to understand, which isn’t quite clear, is that they have played into the hands of the very folks that most of them detest. Politicians, the media and lawyers, Crichton’s PLM complex, have capitalized on this entire thing to perpetuate a “state of fear”. Not the police state that some claim. This isn’t about secret police and military power and totalitarianism. These folks just want to perpetuate their own power, continue as the ones on the inside of the oligarchy. As far back as the 1890’s (or further, depending), politicians and the media were discovering that there was power and personal profit involved in creating fear. And, unlike the past, with modern methods of disseminating information, they could induce a much larger portion of the population to buy into their fear-mongering. Then they would position themselves as the ones who could “do something about it”. Thus we had fear of the Wobblies and possible communist revolution in the USA that helped bring FDR to power, fear of Japanese-American saboteurs that gave FDR’s government unprecedented (and unconstitutional) power, the Red Scare of McCarthyism, fear of Hippies and anarchy in the 60’s, another Red Scare in the 70’s, a crime scare starting in the 80’s and so forth. Interestingly, the current preoccupation with, and fear of, environmental disaster dates to the fall of 1989.

Which is when the Berlin Wall fell and we all realized the Cold War was over.

While I am not saying there is some huge, secret conspiracy (there isn’t), I am saying that the politico-legal-media grouping began engaging in groupthink, searching for other things they could use to continue to maintain power, prestige and money. And they found two things that would do the trick. One was crime. The other was the environment. Here’s what’s interesting about both of these topics. There is no objective evidence for the thing that we fear.Just the opposite, in fact. There is plenty of objective evidence that the things we fear are bugaboos. There is plenty of objective evidence that politicians have distorted these things to gain power, the media have distorted these things to maintain a very powerful position as purveyors of information and lawyers have distorted these things in order to increase litigation, which ……. gives them power and wealth.

In fact, since 1991 the crime index in the United States has steadily declines, every single year (source: The Disaster Center). When’s the last time you heard that on television or read it in a newspaper or magazine? Or heard a politician tell you that crime is getting better, not worse? During the years of steady increase in criminal behavior in this country, 1960 – 1991, crime was rarely the lead on the evening news or the front page. It was usually the Vietnam War, or the Cold War, or natural disaster or nuclear missiles, or what have you. Since 1991, violent crime has been a major facet of the media’s news, movies and entertainment, much larger than it was prior to then. The same goes for environmental issues. Starting in the late 1980’s, the media, followed by lawyers and politicians began to give environmentalists much more credence than previously. In the 1960’s and 1970’s the environmental movement was treated by the mainstream as a bunch of crackpots, which most of them are, to be honest. Suddenly, they got treated as serious people, talking about real issues, even when their data was completely suspect pseudoscience of the “everyone knows” variety. The exact same people. It’s not like these are different people, we are talking about folks on the extreme of environmental issues, Hollywood weirdos and such. Yes, these days there are a variety of scientists on board with the idea, but they didn’t get on board until their funding began to come from people who had a vested interest in an outcome that showed that global warming was happening. And now it’s on the evening news every night. With no real evidence to back it up.

If you doubt me, read Crichton’s book. He documents every single assertion and piece of data he presents in footnotes and a very extensive bibliography. It’s interesting that the author of “The Day After Tomorrow” didn’t bother with a single footnote or bibliography entry to back up their contentions. Nor was the movie’s science any better. In fact, at least the book tried to make a point of the fact that abrupt climate change happens (if it does, no one is really sure of any of this) regardless of what men do, or don’t do. The movie didn’t make any such attempt.

Now, here’s where things start getting interesting. Why is it that people use things like the precautionary principle, environmentalism to prevent technological advances, fear of crime? What has been the outcome of each of these things, as promoted by the establishment of politicians, lawyers and the media? The single biggest impact has been to add cost to technologies and activities that could dramatically lower cost and improve standards of living for the poor. Not for the wealthy, who, after all, already have sufficient surplus in their life. Better methods of farming, power production and industrialization have been prevented time after time in the name of saving the environment. The wealthy elites of the West have decided that they know best for those poor, ignorant folks in Africa and Asia and South America. Aside from it being about environmentalism these days, it is amazingly similar to the words that came out of the mouths of wealthy Europeans in the 19th century who were going on about the “White Man’s Burden”. That, in fact, was a progressive idea in its day. Now, I suspect that if Hollywood had to live in the same conditions as they are condemning people in Cambodia to live in, they might be a bit more eager to not prevent the use of technologies and products they don’t like. In fact, what’s even worse is the hypocrisy of all of this. Watch what kinds of cars the Hollywood and media elite drive. Are they driving a little hybrid that gets 50 or 60 miles to the gallon? Or a stretch Hummer? When’s the last time they flew anything less than first class? How about their homes? Ten and fifteen thousand square foot monstrosities in the Los Angeles basin that cost thousands of dollars a month to cool and light. When’s the last time Ted Kennedy or Susan Sarandon suggested putting a wind generator on their own property?

This is yet another case of elites who believe they know what is best for you and I. These folks are no different from the men who ran the Soviet Union. They have, in fact, through their arrogance and elitism, condemned hundreds of thousands, even millions, to death, starvation and privation. And they will keep on doing so until you and I wake up and demand some accountability. Until we demand proof for their wild claims that have no basis in real scientific data. Until we demand that the government get out of the business of pushing the agenda of environmental radicals in order to create more power for the politicians. Until we call them on their insane political correctness that doesn’t allow real scientists to point out that the emperor has no clothes for fear that they will lose their livelihoods.

Originally posted at Eric’s Grumbles

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Price Controls: Guaranteed Disaster

Thomas DiLorenzo wrote an excellent article back in November on the consequences of government price controls. There’s an interesting underlying theme here. DiLorenzo catalogs more than 2500 years of government price controls and the disasters they brought about, all the way up to modern times and the energy crisis of California. And the thing that jumped out at me was that we never seem to learn from history. And it isn’t just the things that we think of with history, war, crime, totalitarianism. Those are the issues most people mean when they say that humans don’t learn from history. But, arguably, government controlled economic systems have caused more misery, for more people, throughout history, than anything else humans have done to ourselves.

Listen to this (summarized from DiLorenzo’s article):

  • In the 3rd century B.C. the Egyptian economy and political stability collapsed due to agricultural price fixing. Farmers left their land because of the strangulation caused by price inspection armies, enforcing prices set by fiat.
  • In Babylon, four thousand years ago, the Code of Hammurabi contained a maze of price controls, setting the rate that workmen were to be paid, how much a boat could be hired for, and so forth. This “smothered economic progress in the empire for many centuries”.
  • In the American Revolution, after the Pennsylvania Legislature introduced price controls to support the war effort, Washington’s Continental Army nearly starved to death because of shortages of the very items under price controls. The actual language from the legislation was “those commodities needed for use by the army”.
  • American planners in charge of Germany at the end of WWII instituted incredible central planning and price controls, on par with those found under the Soviets. None other than Hermann Goehring told them “I tried and it failed. Nor can any country do it all the way either. I tried that too and it failed. You are no better planners than we.”

And on and on the list goes. Considering the incredible misery that economic regulation by government has brought about, including the deaths of many millions in Europe, Asia and Africa in the 20th century, you would think we would have learned our lesson by now. But we seem, somehow, to be blithely convinced that we can do it better than those other bums. Never mind that we ended up with brown outs and black outs in California because of price controls on electricity, that we had gasoline shortages in the 70’s because a “conservative” President instituted draconian price fixing on oil. Just ignore the entire black market that existed throughout the country to deal with the price controls and rationing of WWII. Forget about the fact that the Southern slave owners were huge proponents of socialist economics (bet you didn’t know that). It doesn’t matter that Canadians now wait longer to get worse health care than they did before they gave themselves 100% socialized medicine.

Oh, wait, history really does show that government regulation of economic activity fails miserably every time? Oooops. Ignore all that evidence. This time we’ll do it right. And, even if we don’t, you’ll be so busy trying to find some staple that you absolutely have to have that you will not pay attention to the horrible situation government economics have put you in. The USSR banked on that. It worked well for them too.

H/T: Don Lloyd of Catallarchy

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Lessons of Russia’s Gas Attacks

Today in St. Petersburg, Russia attacks using gas IEDs were launched against several hardware stores. Fox News is reporting that the Russians suspect that a rival hardware chain store may have launched the attack as part of a dispute the two businesses were having.

The lesson is that capitalism and the free market cannot exist without a rule of law that applied equally to all. The laws and the judicial system provide a means for entities and individuals to solve disputes peacefully. In Russia, according to the World Bank, Russia has high levels of corruption, respect for the rule of law is low, Russians have a difficult time expressing their opinions and having influence on their government, and the Russian government is unstable among less than ideal conditions for capitalism to thrive. Without the protections of the rule of law and a government whose sole role is to protect life, liberty, and property; anarchy prevails and anarchy, despite what many anarcho-capitalists would like to you to believe, usually leads to the rule of the gun where property rights are non-existant (ie. Somalia). The rule of the gun leads to tyranny as people cry for someone to restore some resemblance of order, such as the Russian people demanded Vladimir Putin restore order after the near-anarcharic rule of Boris Yeltsin. I think we can safely call Putin a dictator.

What Russia must do is combat political corruption and restore the rule of law, not the rule of a tyrant and the mafia in order to combat incidents like today’s gas attack. It also wouldn’t hurt for the Russians to develop a truly free and democratic system of government. Freedom makes people wealthier where as tyranny and anarchy keep people poorer.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
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