Tuesday, June 30, 2009

If Global Warming is Real, Freedom is the Solution

Beth at Wealth Is Not the Problem has published two posts here and here related to the issue of science versus politics. She makes the crucial point, rarely ever made, that the science of global warming does not imply anything politically. In other words, even if one could prove human-caused global warming, it does not imply that the state must pass certain types of legislation, e.g., a cap-and-trade bill that will destroy the American economy. I think it is often assumed, certainly by environmentalists, that if global warming can be proved, this fact alone implies some sort of statist takeover of the American economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if global warming is real, it would be cause for more economic freedom - not less. The economics of this argument were dealt with brilliantly by Dr. George Reisman in this post. He writes:
Even if you are absolutely convinced that human activities are responsible for global warming and, if nothing is done, will ultimately result in an intolerable rise in temperature, there is a very simple test that you need to apply. Pretend, for just a moment, that that same global warming is coming about independently of human activities, that it is strictly the product of natural forces. Then ask yourself, what would be the best fundamental method of coping with it? Maintaining a free market or establishing a centrally planned socialist system?

More fundamentally, what is the appropriate method for Man to use in dealing with Nature in general? Is it the motivated and coordinated human intelligence of all individual market participants that is provided by a free market and its price system? Or is it the unmotivated, discoordinated chaos in which one man, the Supreme Dictator, or a handful of men, the Supreme Dictator and his fellow members of the Central Planning Board, claim a monopoly on human intelligence and on the right to make fundamental decisions?
I can't help quoting one more passage:
The answer to the question of how best to cope with intolerable global warming caused by Nature is obviously the maintenance of the free market, not its replacement by Socialist central planning. Indeed, the answer is to make the free market freer than it now is—as much freer as is humanly possible. This is because while the primary reason for advocating a free market is the greater prosperity and enjoyment it brings to everyone in the course of his normal, everyday life, a major, secondary reason is to have the greatest possible industrial base available for coping with catastrophic events, whether those events be war, plague, meteors from outer space, intolerable global warming, or a new ice age.

In effect, what the environmentalists would have us do as the means of preparing for coping with a coming global warming is analogous to the imaginary absurdity of the United States in the 1930s having reduced its economy to the level, say, of Poland’s economy. Then, when World War II came, our country would have had to fight the war with horses instead of tanks and planes. In the same way, the environmentalists would have us cope with global warming by waving little fans instead of using air conditioners, refrigerators, and freezers....

Monday, June 29, 2009

Some Clarity on the Honduran "Coup"

If you are like me and confused about the "coup" in Honduras this is a great post over at The New Clarion. The MSM led me to believe something sinister had occured and Obama and Hillary have taken the position that this was an illegal usurpation of power. In addition to learning that Obama opposed the coup, once I heard that Chavez opposed the coup, I immediately supported the coup not knowing anything else. This instinct appears to have been right.

There is a major struggle going on in Latin America between the forces of Marxism and oppression represented by Chavez' Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua among others and various groups that are struggling to oppose them. Naturally, the American government could quickly put an end to Chavez and his ilk by vigorously opposing their activities and countering their absurd rhetoric. However, given El Presidente Obama's pragmatism (lack of principles) and his default ideology of Christian Marxism (the primary ideology of leftists in Latin America) he is more likely to directly and indirectly provide them support as we are seeing in his latest proclamation regarding Honduras, his kowtowing to Chavez last month, and his reversal of policy on Cuba.

Obama's Department of Agitation and Propaganda

A few months ago, a colleague sent me this ABC blog post by Jake Tapper titled "Do You Want Your OTV" regarding an event at the White House in which the White House press corp was banned.

After the event, President Obama went to the White House basketball court to shoot hoop with the Lady Huskies. The White House press corps was not allowed to attend.
At first, the idea that the President was spending time with the Lady Huskies without the press seemed rather innocous to me, but Tapper then realized why they were banned:

...Obama White House officials decided to do their own media report on the visit, complete with cuts, interviews, and chyrons identifying who's speaking. Also, just like a network, they have their own little logo!
If you watch the video, you will see their logo appear as if it is an actual network.

This story came on the heels of the New York flyover incident in which Obama had an Air Force One 747 flyover New York to get pictures of it with the Statue of Liberty in the background - an incident which caused a panic in lower Manhattan.

Then, I read an excellent post titled "Feast of Fools: Washington Style" at The Dougout where the author, Grant Jones, links to a You Tube video of the White House Congressional picnic in which Obama invited guests to playfully dunk his senior advisers. If you notice, the video once again has the mysterious logo which means that it was created and produced by this White House media network. Jones' post is excellent and I will only add that the video is propaganda at its finest. My favorite is the heavily cut scene where Obama throws a ball like a girl from point blank range to the hearty laughs of all who attended. They cut his throwing motion quickly so you only have a split second to see it. Let me add that given the context, the background music is horribly unnerving.

Of course, we now know that ABC ignited an "ethical firestorm" by broadcasting a phony "townhall" type meeting from inside the White House to cheer lead socialized medicine in which opposing voices were not allowed.

Apparently, America now has its own Department of Agitation and Propaganda or Agitprop as it was known under the Soviets.

Cheese Caves, Offsets Integrity Advisory Board, and the Adjustment to the Adjustment Act

From the year 2013, Bill Frezza writes this startling piece related to "dozens of competing bills [that] are making their way through Congress seeking to reform the controversial 'American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.'"

Among others, he discusses "The 'Strategic Biofuels Reserve Reform Act' [which] attempts to cap the amount of excess ethanol the Agriculture Department is allowed to purchase and withhold from the market each year", "the 'Promote Green Driving While Creating or Saving Jobs Act' [which] promises a $20,000 rebate to qualified purchasers of any of the 4.7 million unsold electric vehicles piling up on GM dealers' lots, and writes that "in an effort to keep the last of the nation's oil refineries from closing, the 'Save or Create Domestic Refinery Jobs Act' seeks to normalize the carbon penalty differential between domestically refined gasoline and imported gasoline."

Probably my favorites are a "bill intended to restart the stalled Cape Wind project [which] met stiff resistance from friends and family of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, claiming that erecting windmills near the coast of Cape Cod where Kennedy's ashes were spread would represent sacrilege" and "Waxman-Markey payments to low-income households designed to offset the higher cost of everything from transportation to home heating [which] were the subject of another bill titled the 'Adjustment to the Adjustment Act.'"

His conclusion: "Finally, meteorologists are projecting one of the coolest summers in years as average global temperatures continue to decline after remaining flat for over a decade despite rising greenhouse gas concentrations. Computer models indicating that the world should have ended by now are being checked for errors."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Lethal Exposure

"Good News for People Who Love Bad News". The title of this Modest Mouse album was the first thing I thought of when I heard the news that the House narrowly passed the global warming bill. Practically, this bill even turned many Democrats off, and it will face severe resistance in the Senate so there is still hope that this economy crushing, rights violating, power grab by the left can be stopped. Secondly, and more importantly, I think there might be a silver lining.

In a previous post, I attempted to explain why I think Americans are so easily taken in by the apocalyptic prophecies and pseudo-science of the environmentalist movement. This movement, which relies on guilt and the veneer of science, combines together every ideological ingredient necessary to take full advantage of a culture steeped in altruism and intellectually disarmed by modern philosophy's assault on reason and objectivity. While these philosophical factors have ripened the American populace to be led into fascism, there is a large element of the population that is anti-intellectual but reachable.

By that, I mean that there are Americans who, despite warnings from writers like myself that the environmentalists are profoundly anti-human, may have dismissed Al Gore and the environmentalist left as "well-intentioned" but "impractical". There are Americans who may have thought there was some validity to the concerns expressed by this movement but who did not fully appreciate their philosophical premises, and therefore, remained unable to abstractly grasp the deathly implications of the environmental movement's ideology. While these ideas remained in the abstract it was possible for this type to dismiss them. Not anymore. The left and particularly the environmental movement has finally been exposed.

In the midst of massive scientific uncertainty and in fact a seeming scientific revolt against the global warming orthodoxy, can there be any doubt about the motives of politicians and intellectuals who rush through a bill that threatens to impose "the highest tax in American history" to decrease carbon emissions? Is there any doubt about the "intentions" of politicians and intellectuals who denigrate oil companies and threaten energy producers with punitive regulations and "windfall profit" taxes as energy prices rose last year but who then pass a bill that will directly cause energy prices and thus the cost of everything to rise? Is there any doubt about the motives of politicians who in the middle of the worst economic crisis in 80 years pass a bill that will burden industry with draconian regulations, higher costs, and cause Americans to pay exorbitant prices for the lifeblood of American prosperity: energy?

Are these people really "well intentioned"?

(Incidentally, I have heard the Democrats make the argument that this bill will actually result in an increase of "jobs" allegedly in the alternative energy industry or some such thing. This is like saying that a bill which forces doctors, engineers, and businessmen to quit their jobs to take up ditch digging and collecting rocks is a value because they will have "jobs". It is like arguing that cavemen were better off than modern man because they were all "employed" hunting squirrels and evading predators in caves. Is it better that people are employed finding cures for cancer and inventing spaceships or devoting time to monitoring ethanol regulations and assembling windmills? This argument completely drops the context and ignores the most fundamental principles of economics which I explained in this post. )

Defenders of freedom have a historic opportunity. The environmental movement and the larger aims of the left can no longer be dismissed as ivory tower idealism. The practical consequences of the their deadly ideas are coming to fruition for all to see. Our job has been made easier in that now, all we have to do is point. If Americans still can not grasp this, then maybe they will finally grasp it when they are herded into a rail car and shipped to a Green Re-Education Camp. Then again, maybe not.

Beautiful Minds

Here is an article about the late Farrah Fawcett's relationship with Ayn Rand. (HT to Rob Reynolds of OActivists).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Repost: Why don't Government make someone pay for me?

I re-read this post from July 2007, and I thought it was apropos so I am reposting it below:

Why don't Government make someone pay for me?

I'm really mad because I don't feel well, and I went to doctor who knows lots of stuff, and he wanted to know how I was going to pay and stuff. And just because he knows about medicines and how the body works and stuff that's no fair. Why won't he just tell me what to do? Why won't someone just give him the money for me? What about those insurance companies? Why don't they just send him the money because they got a lot of it? They're just mean because they won't give me the money. They should care about me more. Or what about the rich people? Why don't they just send him the money for me otherwise its no fair. The doctor will tell the rich people what to do all the time because they will give him the money but the doctor won't tell me nothing until someone pays him for me. I don't get it. Why does the doctor want the money? He already has a lot so why don't he just tell me stuff I need to know about me. Why doesn't Government just pay for me. They have a lot of money somewhere. Can't Government just pay the doctor then he will tell me stuff. Or can't Government just make doctor tell me what he knows. That'll show doctor he can't keep stuff from me. He make Government mad. Or Government tell insurance company they got to pay for me because otherwise no fair and that's mean.

And then if he tells me what pills to get then I have to go to the place to get them and they want money too. But you see, this place already has a lot of pills so can't they just give me a few? The guy there wanted money for them. Can't someone just give me the money? My neighbors won't give me the money but maybe Government can make them give me the money. What about the pill companies. They must have a lot of pills. Can't they just give me a couple when I need them? That's no fair either. They already know what pills work so why don't they just give them to me or give the recipe to someone who can make them for me? The people in Canada make them for cheaper because Government makes them make the pills cheaper so can't Government here just make the pill company make them cheaper? No fair. All these guys learn a lot about these pills but now they know which ones work so can't they just tell me how to make them or give me some?

And Government even takes care of prisoners and stuff and they don't kill them or let them die but then Government don't give the money to the doctor for the free people. No fair.

So here my answer. People should just go to the guys who know stuff about medicine and know how to make the pills and they should just tell us what to do and if they want pay then Government should make someone else pay them for me or Government put them in jail for not paying for me. That's fair.

Monday, June 22, 2009

To Know Capitalism Is to Love Capitalism

The premise behind virtually every government intervention into the economy is that "capitalism" or the free market has failed and government must step in to "fix" the alleged problem. Such a notion has wide ranging political implications. If it is true that capitalism has failed or can not "work" in principle, then isn't the government justified in intervening into every aspect of the economy? After all, what is the justification for the public education system, public roads, publicly regulated utilities, the Federal Reserves printing of public money, public transportation, public housing, public parks and waterways, public mail, public garbage dumps, and our latest government wonders: public automobile companies and soon to be public health care? For some reason we are told, in these particular areas of the economy, the free market just does not "work" and we need the helping hand of the state to "provide" these services which somehow is able to provide them.

The argument that capitalism is to blame for various crises is rampant and seems to appear in every possible context today. I have blogged about it quoting other excellent essays and video's on the topic demonstrating that it is not capitalism but socialism which is to blame for the current crisis and explaining why the modern Right is incapable of defending capitalism. Of course, that capitalism would take the blame for the consequences of governmental policies based on socialism is a monumental injustice. Yet, the argument that capitalism has somehow failed is, as C. August wrote in this post at Titanic Deck Chairs, "seemingly impossible to kill". I do not want to rehash the economic argument for capitalism vs. socialism which has been made countless times by brilliant scholars more lucidly and in more detail than I ever could. Also, my linked post already touched on the ethical argument for capitalism. Instead, I want to focus on another important reason why I think this argument seems "impossible to kill" so that we can work towards killing it.

A primary reason why this argument is difficult to "kill" is that the meaning of capitalism has become completely blurred by modern academics who do not think in principles or essentials. For example, I would say that most intellectuals implicitly define capitalism as "anything America does or has done". So, for example, if the United States had slavery, then that is an example of "capitalism". If the United States authorizes a Federal Reserve Bank to print money endlessly causing credit expansion, malinvestment predicated on the illusion of profits, and a boom-bust economic cycle then that is an example of "capitalism." If the federal government encourages employer sponsored health insurance through its manipulation of the tax code and then offers health care entitlements to a third of the of the population thus exploding health care costs it is an example of "capitalism". Another popular definition of capitalism seems to be "government favors to business". In other words, any time the government offers some preferential treatment to business owners it is regarded as an example of "capitalism".

Consider for example, the most recent Newsweek whose cover is titled "The Capitalist Manifesto" referring to an essay by Fareed Zakaria. To have a clue as to the nature of this piece you only have to know that the sub-title is "Greed is Good (To a Point)". Nowhere in this piece does the author ever define capitalism. It is obvious from context, however, that his definition of capitalism is of the "anything America does" variety. He therefore regards anything America has done in the last 20 years to be examples of capitalism and ends up blaming the "ethics" of businessmen rather than the statist economic polices of the government for the current crisis.

In all of these instances, the concept of capitalism is implicitly being defined in terms of non-essentials. Such definitions blur the essential distinguishing characteristics of capitalism and have the effect of packaging the concept of capitalism together with concepts that represent its antithesis. In these cases, because capitalism is defined improperly, it is literally regarded as its opposite and held accountable for the deleterious effects of its opposite. Therefore, before arguing over capitalism versus socialism one should understand and clarify what exactly capitalism is.

I personally have had the experience of arguing with someone over capitalism when the term is not properly defined. These kinds of opponents of "capitalism" are usually all over the place blaming it for slavery, pollution, Indian genocide, price increases due to monopolies which hurts consumers, price decreases due to competition which hurts labor, etc. Again, it is because they associate capitalism with "anything America has done" or some other non-essential definition that they can not even make a coherent argument and it is virtually impossible to answer them.

The first step is to define capitalism by means of essentials. Ayn Rand defined capitalism as "a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned." This is a definition by essentials and rests on a prior definition of individual rights. A proper argument for Individual rights rests on rational principles of morality all of which rest on rational epistemological and metaphysical principles. When capitalism is defined properly and put into the larger context of individual rights, freedom, and an egoistic ethics, it is apparent that to know capitalism, i.e., to define capitalism by essentials, is to love capitalism. It is also apparent that defenders of capitalism are fighting for something that has never existed.

As we can see from the Newsweek piece which is evidently supposed to be an argument for capitalism, it is obvious that we are not fighting the Left - we are fighting the Right. We know what the Left stands for. The problem has been that the alleged defenders of capitalism have not provided a solid intellectual foundation for a proper defense of capitalism. That is why we are losing. We must fight for a proper conception of capitalism and make it clear that we are fighting for something that has never truly existed - a complete separation of economics and state. I think an efficient approach is to constantly argue for more general fundamental principles like individual rights, property rights, and to cast political issues into arguments over these principles. This approach necessitates translating the political issue into a more general context. Arguing over the minutia of various policies can be useful in certain contexts but translating the political into a more philosophical, ethical framework has the power of appealing to people morally at the same time more clearly defining the real issues.

Properly defining capitalism and refuting the "capitalism is to blame" argument should be a high priority for those who value freedom. We can never overestimate the value of refuting this argument (or in the positive sense, making the argument for freedom) no matter how obvious it seems.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Meta Post: "Clumsy but Swift"

One of the consequences of not posting for over two weeks (due to a move...) is that I have dozens of posts in the works fueled by my horror and outrage over what is occurring in this country. It appears that Obama’s overt strategy is to overwhelm his opposition by rapidly attempting to take total control over virtually every aspect of our lives. I will give him credit for explicitly or implicitly following one of Sun Tzu’s great principles elucidated in his famed Art of War:

When doing battle, seek a quick victory.

A protracted battle will blunt weapons and dampen ardor.

If troops lay siege to a walled city, their strength will be exhausted.

If the army is exposed to a prolonged campaign, the nation's resources will not suffice.

When weapons are blunted, and ardor dampened, strength exhausted, and resources depleted, the neighboring rulers will take advantage of these complications.

Then even the wisest of counsels would not be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.

Therefore, I have heard of military campaigns that were clumsy but swift, but I have never seen military campaigns that were skilled but protracted.

No nation has ever benefited from protracted warfare.

His team clearly understands the value of a "clumsy but swift" campaign.

The sheer volume of potential commentary related to Obama's madness and the state of world affairs is so large that I am somewhat overwhelmed and do not know quite where to start. When overwhelmed you must prioritize, so I have formulated a few principles for dealing with this.

One is to try and stay general and tend to act more as an “intellectual wholesaler” rather than retailer. Two is to only dissect concrete issues that have pedagogic value in clarifying these general principles or that involve life threatening political issues that must be defeated (like socialized medicine). Three, where possible, seek the entertainment value of facetiously attacking this insanity because it is fun.

Here are a few of the posts I am working on:

* The importance of refuting the argument that "capitalism" is to blame for the current crisis

* How to stop socialized medicine without doing anything

* Context part II: Towards a theory of induction

* The pragmatist virtue of complexity

* Obama changing U.S. from paper tiger to just paper

* How prices can go down under inflation - update on Fed

* Obama's pragmatism: pattern of stating outright contradictions and meaning it

* Examples of Anthem like economic regression - are we in a depression?

* Follow up: why houses are not investments

* Comment on The Reith Lectures

* Update on the religious left

* Follow up: "the fatigue of central planning"

Anyway, I am back on the job and if anyone yearns for a post on one of these topics let me know and be sure that if no one yearns I will write about it anyway. Hopefully you will continue to find that although this blog is free, it is worth every penny.

More to come...

Friday, June 5, 2009

"Written in Disgust of Vulgar Superstition"

"We have received from Divine Providence the supreme favour of being relieved from all error."

-Constantine, Letter to the Church of Alexandria, c.330AD

Concerning the end of the world, as a youth I heard a sermon in a church in Paris that as soon as the number of a thousand years should come, the Antichrist would come, and not long thereafter, the Last Judgment would follow; which preaching I resisted with all my strength from the Evangels and the Apocalypse and the book of Daniel.

Abbo of Fleury 996 AD

The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.

1798 Thomas Malthus

“I believe that the second coming of Jesus Christ is near, even at the door, even within twenty-one years,—on or before 1843

William Miller, 1822

[Christ will return on] “the tenth day of the seventh month of the present year, 1844"

Samuel Snow

"Sometimes I really regret that I did not live in those times when there was still so much that was new; to be sure enough much is yet unknown, but I do not think that it will be possible to discover anything easily nowadays that would lead us to revise our entire outlook as radically as was possible in the days when telescopes and microscopes were still new."

- Heinrich Hertz as a physics student, 1875

"We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy."

- Simon Newcomb, early American astronomer, 1888

"The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote.... Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals."

- Albert. A. Michelson, speech at the dedication of Ryerson Physics Lab, U. of Chicago 1894

"There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement"

- Lord Kelvin, 1900

"During the last 20-30 years, world temperature has fallen, irregularly at first but more sharply over the last decade...The cause of the cooling trend is not known with certainty. But there is increasing concern that man himself may be implicated, not only in the recent cooling trend but also in the warming temperatures over the last century".

National Science Board report, 1972

"we do not have a good quantitative understanding of our climate machine and what determines its course. Without the fundamental understanding, it does not seem possible to predict climate...The climates of the earth have always been changing, and they will doubtless continue to do so in the future. How large these future changes will be, and where and how rapidly they will occur, we do not know.."

National Academy of Science report, 1975

"ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change" [due to a] "a drop of half a degree [Fahrenheit] in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968."..."The evidence in support of these predictions [of global cooling] has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it."..."what causes the onset of major and minor ice ages remains a mystery"... "not only are the basic scientific questions largely unanswered, but in many cases we do not yet know enough to pose the key questions."...."melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting Arctic rivers" ..."But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies...The longer the planners (politicians) delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality." The "resulting famines could be catastrophic", "drought and desolation," "the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded", "droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons," "impossible for starving peoples to migrate," "the present decline has taken the planet about a sixth of the way toward the Ice Age."

"The Cooling World", Newsweek, 1975

"I think the main question is, How does the sun [in general] act on climate? What are the processes that are going on in the Earth's atmosphere?"

Simi Solanki, Max Planck Institute, National Geographic, September 2006

Mars Melt Hints at Solar, Not Human, Cause for Warming, Scientist Says

Now, Canadian scientists are seeking additional funding for more and better "eyes" with which to observe our sun, which has a bigger impact on Earth's climate than all the tailpipes and smokestacks on our planet combined.And they're worried about global cooling, not warming.

IBD, February 2008

Last year, it was expected that it would have been hotting up after a quiet spell. But instead it hit a 50-year low in solar wind pressure, a 55-year low in radio emissions, and a 100-year low in sunspot activity.

According to Prof Louise Hara of University College London, it is unclear why this is happening or when the Sun is likely to become more active again.

BBC, April 2009

No-one knows how the centuries-long waxing and waning of the Sun works. However, astronomers now have space telescopes studying the Sun in detail.

"This is very exciting because as astronomers we've never seen anything like this before in our lifetimes," he said.

"We have spacecraft up there to study the Sun in phenomenal detail. With these telescopes we can study this minimum of activity in a way that we could not have done so in the past."

BBC, April 2009

The rapid temperature increase of 1°C over mainland Europe since 1980 is considerably larger than the temperature rise expected from anthropogenic greenhouse gas increases. ...The measurements show a decline in aerosol concentration of up to 60%, which have led to a statistically significant increase of solar irradiance under cloud-free skies since the 1980s. The measurements confirm solar brightening and show that the direct aerosol effect had an approximately five times larger impact on climate forcing than the indirect aerosol and other cloud effects. The overall aerosol and cloud induced surface climate forcing is +1 W m−2 dec−1 and has most probably strongly contributed to the recent rapid warming in Europe.

Geophysical Research Letters, June 2008

"Global warming is pushing northwards diseases more commonly found in developing countries, posing a risk to the financial and physical health of rich nations, the head of a livestock herders' charity said. Steve Sloan, chief executive of GALVmed, said on Friday insect-borne diseases were increasingly moving north, such as the viral infection bluetongue that has hit cattle and sheep in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany."

Yahoo News, 2007

"On Disko Bay in western Greenland, where a number of prominent world leaders have visited in recent years to get a first-hand impression of climate change, temperatures have dropped so drastically that the water has frozen over for the first time in a decade."

Copenhagen Post, 2008

"The real reasons for climate changes are uneven solar radiation, terrestrial precession (that is, axis gyration), instability of oceanic currents, regular salinity fluctuations of the Arctic Ocean surface waters, etc. There is another, principal reason—solar activity and luminosity. The greater they are the warmer is our climate. "

Dr. Oleg Sorokhtin, RIA Novosti, March 2008

The effect that our meat addiction is having on the climate is truly staggering. In fact, in its recent report “Livestock’s Long Shadow—Environmental Issues and Options,” the United Nations determined that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.

Drudge Report, 2007

A detailed analysis of black carbon -- the residue of burned organic matter -- in computer climate models suggests that those models may be overestimating global warming predictions.

The findings are significant because soils are by far the world's largest source of carbon dioxide, producing 10 times more carbon dioxide each year than all the carbon dioxide emissions from human activities combined. Small changes in how carbon emissions from soils are estimated, therefore, can have a large impact."We know from measurements that climate change today is worse than people have predicted," said Lehmann. "But this particular aspect, black carbon's stability in soil, if incorporated in climate models, would actually decrease climate predictions."

Cornell University Chronicle, November 2008

Scientists quoted in a past DailyTech article link the cooling to reduced solar activity which they claim is a much larger driver of climate change than man-made greenhouse gases. The dramatic cooling seen in just 12 months time seems to bear that out. While the data doesn't itself disprove that carbon dioxide is acting to warm the planet, it does demonstrate clearly that more powerful factors are now cooling it.

Michael Asher, Daily Tech, 2008

Patterson said much of the up-to-date research indicates that "changes in the brightness of the sun" are almost certainly the primary cause of the warming trend since the end of the "Little Ice Age" in the late 19th century. Human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas of concern in most plans to curb climate change, appear to have little effect on global climate, he said.

Standard Freeholder, 2007

During the last 10,000 years climate has been seesawing between the North and South Atlantic Oceans. As revealed by findings presented by Quaternary scientists at Lund University, Sweden, cold periods in the north have corresponded to warmth in the south and vice verse. These results imply that Europe may face a slightly cooler future than predicted by IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Science Daily, 2007

"Brothel owners in Bulgaria are blaming global warming for staff shortages."

Metro UK, 2007

"Violence within and between communities and between nation states, we must accept, could possibly increase, because the precedents are all around." He [Sir Crispin Tickell] cited Rwanda and Sudan's Darfur region as two examples where drought and overpopulation, relative to scarce resources, had helped to fuel deadly conflicts. "Experts at the conference hosted by the Royal United Services Institute said it was likely that global warming would create huge flows of refugees as people tried to escape areas swamped by rising sea levels or rendered uninhabitable by desertification. Tickell said terrorists were likely to seek to exploit the tensions created."

Yahoo News, 2007

"any attempt by countries to build fortress walls to keep out climate change refugees -- what he called the 'barbarians at the gate' mentality -- was doomed to fail."

Paul Rogers, Professor of "Peace Studies", 2007, Yahoo News, 2007

Global warming possibly linked to an enhanced risk of suicide: Data from Italy, 1974–2003, Journal of Affective Disorders, In Press, Corrected Proof,
Available online 17 January 2007, A. Preti, G. Lentini and M. Maugeri

"The debate on the science is over, but the science is now telling us that action is urgent".

Peter Cosier, Group of Concerned Scientists, October 2007

“Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.”

Dr. Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe, 2007

Experts say over the next hundred years the "perfect storm" of population growth, resource depletion and climate change could converge with catastrophic results.

ABC News, Earth 2100

(For a list of apocalyptic predictions from 2800 B.C. to present see this.)

These quotes not only show the uncertain state of modern climate science, they demonstrate that the hysterical doomsday predictions of the modern environmental movement increasingly resemble the apocalyptic rantings of ancient mystics. Even their method of chastising and proselytizing the "non-believers" has taken on a religious tone. But what is the connection between biblical prophecy and modern scientific warnings about the end of civilization due to "global cooling", "global warming", or "climate change"? When observing the spectacularly absurd predictions of Malthus in 1798, lamentations about the end of discovery in the 1800's, or Newsweek's dire warnings of global cooling in the 1970's, and in light of overwhelming evidence that modern climate scientists do not fully grasp, uh, well, climate - how can someone like Peter Cosier claim that the "science is over" and that "urgent action" is required?

Furthermore, do these notoriously wrong predictions show that man can never be certain of anything and that knowledge is impossible, and would that imply that man's only choice is between the arbitrary prophecies of mystics or the skepticism of modern philosophers? (On a related note, why is it that Ayn Rand's work is continually prophetic on a scale that would make Nostradamus followers blush yet modern economists can't tell us for sure if fascism is "bad" for the economy?)

The answers to these questions are essential to understand why America is collapsing. The reason they are essential is that these questions relate to how we determine what individuals regard as "true" and therefore relate to what people consider to be "true". If people largely accept the prophecies or theories of the Pope or the Bible it would have enormous implications as the Dark Ages showed. If people largely regard truth as impossible and turn to subjectivism it would have enormous implications as modern culture demonstrates. In general, to the extent that intellectuals can not properly validate concepts or theories, people's ideas will tend toward a bastardized mixture of religion or pseudo-science and subjectivism - a state which will lead to the collapse of civilization itself as we are already witnessing today.

Modern culture is infected by two sides of a false alternative: the religious mystics who claim that knowledge is revealed by God and the subjectivist intellectuals who claim that knowledge is impossible. Where do the global warming scientists fit in? Afterall, religious prophecy overtly rejects evidence in favor of faith and scientists supposedly rely on observation of actual data and logic.

What unites overt mystics and these particular scientists is that both camps reject rational epistemological methods, i.e., both do not understand or overtly reject a rational approach to validating knowledge - although they default in different ways. With respect to both camps it can be said: junk in - junk out, i.e., if one does not properly validate a theory or concept then any prediction based on that theory will be flawed. It is therefore not surprising that the claims of the modern climate scientists resemble the prophecies of ancient mystics.

What is different is that religion is not as powerful as it once was and physical scientists still retain the mantle of "experts" in our society. However, the public at large has largely been disarmed by the modern philosophers assault on reason. If modern climate scientists are considered to be "experts" by a public that does not have the ability to discern truth, scientists take on the same authoritarian role as the priest once did. In other words, rather than evaluate scientific claims independently and objectively, the public accepts the claims of scientists as epistemologically equivalent to the word of God. If scientists say so, it must be true because they are scientists just as whatever the Pope said was once regarded as the word of God. To the extent that a scientist relies on an argument from authority rather than objectivity, he should be regarded on the same level as a religious mystic.

Why do scientists "reject" or fail to understand rational methods of validating ideas and what is the proper method? The root cause of the false alternative between dogma and subjectivism is the modern philsophical assault on reason and the utter default by intellectuals to provide rational methods of validating concepts. The solution is not to throw away the possibility of knowledge nor is it to turn to mysticism. The solution is an objective theory of concepts. Such a theory exists and without it, we are doomed.

In Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, protagonist John Galt states:

No concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of his knowledge.

In its most basic form, I submit that this one simple sentence is the solution to the world's problems. This essential principle is the principle of context. What does the contextual nature of knowledge mean? It means taking into account everything you know and don't know when stating a conclusion.

For example, say it is observed that temperature is increasing somewhere over a certain period of time. Understanding the causes that give rise to this fact could be incredibly difficult. Varying temperatures across the globe made under different conditions at different times with different instruments makes just the act of observation difficult and subject to error. To then go forward and understand the relationship of solar variation with the earth’s atmosphere taking into account solar cycles, the earth's precession, levels of certain gases in the atmosphere affected by such diverse factors as aerosol concentrations, animal emissions, black carbon in the soil, fossil fuel emissions, volcanic activity, oceanic variation, and further grasping that there are factors of which one is not aware makes this process difficult.

Every day, scientists make new observations which enhance their current understanding. The contextual nature of knowledge is not grounds to invalidate reason and knowledge, it is crucial to understanding the human method of cognition. In other words, the fact that scientists make new observations which add to their knowledge is simply a recognition that man is not omniscient, i.e., we don’t and can’t know everything. It is vital that the scientist understand this fact as well. Pronouncements by scientists that “the science is over” or “physics is over” or we are close to “the theory of everything” is spectacularly misguided. Scientists should just state what they know. That means stating a conclusion within a context.

The best current sources on rational epistemology are Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology and Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. One of the best writers on this topic today is David Harriman. In an excellent piece titled Errors in Inductive Reasoning in the Winter 2008 issue of The Objective Standard, David Harriman analyzes notorious errors committed by scientists and explains how each case represents an instance of a failure to properly use the method of induction. In the introduction, he states:

In contrast to perception, thinking is a fallible process. This fact gives rise to our need for the method of logic.

Logic, when properly applied, enables us to arrive at true conclusions. But it comes with no guarantee that we will apply the method correctly. The laws of deduction were identified by Aristotle more than two millennia ago, and yet people still commit deductive fallacies. If one remains attentive to the evidence, however, further use of logic leads to the correction of these errors. The same is true of false generalizations reached by induction. Although even the best thinkers can commit inductive errors, such errors wither and die in the light shed by continued application of observation and logic.

During the past century, however, many philosophers have rejected the validity of induction and argued that every generalization is an error. For example, Karl Popper claimed that all the laws of Kepler, Galileo, and Newton have been “falsified”; in his view, no laws or generalizations have ever been or can ever be proven true. By demanding that a true generalization must apply with unlimited precision to an unlimited domain, Popper upheld a mystical view of “truth” that is forever outside the reach of man and accessible only to an omniscient god. In the end, he was left with two types of generalizations: those that have been proven false and those that will be proven false. He was then accused by later philosophers of being too optimistic; they insisted that nothing can be proven, not even a generalization’s falsehood.

Such skeptics commit—on a grand scale—the fallacy of dropping context. The meaning of our generalizations is determined by the context that gives rise to them; to claim that a generalization is true is to claim that it applies within a specific context. The data subsumed by that context are necessarily limited in both range and precision.

Harriman further discusses the role of context in forming a generalization:

A true generalization states a causal relationship that has been induced from observational data and integrated within the whole of one’s knowledge (which, in terms of essentials, spans the range of facts subsumed by the generalization). A scientist makes an error when he asserts a generalization without achieving such an integration. In such cases, the supporting evidence is insufficient, and often the scientist has overlooked counterevidence.

Good science includes understanding the nature of knowledge, i.e., that knowledge is contextual and forming generalizations accordingly. In this sense, the statement that "the science is over" as it relates to climate science is an egregious fallacy. When one understands the contextual nature of knowledge it can be seen at a fundamental level that unless human knowledge is over, the science is never over and as it relates to climate science, in particular, as one can see from the above quotes - it is not even close.

Scientists should understand the limits of their knowledge and be ruthlessly objective with respect to stating or accepting conclusions. Applying induction properly to validate theories is extremely difficult. The modern philosophic assault on reason and induction has resulted in this sorry state of science where many dismiss the pursuit of knowledge as impossible and those left pursuing have no concrete epistemological tools with which to work. If the intellectuals and the scientists have no clue how to validate theories properly, then is it any wonder that the public at large is routinely taken in by apocalyptic forecasts made by "the experts"? Is it surprising that intellectuals within academia and the media are so easily able to exploit the ignorance of the public to advance their own political agenda?

Modern civilization is founded upon the recognition and celebration of the power of the free and independent human mind to discover, create, and build. The Dark Ages and any dictatorship is a consequence of the rejection of the efficacy of the individual mind in favor of revelation and faith in mystic, supernatural forces conveyed to the ragged masses by self-anointed "experts" able to divine real Truth or the will of God. You choose which world you wish to live in.

I came across this poem which inspired this post and I think it eloquently captures the essence and suffocating sense of life of the mystic or in modern times - the crusading environmental pseudo-scientist.

Written in Disgust of Vulgar Superstition

The church bells toll a melancholy round,
Calling the people to some other prayers,
Some other gloominess, more dreadful cares,
More harkening to the sermon's horrid sound.
Surely the mind of man is closely bound
In some black spell; seeing that each one tears
Himself from fireside joys, and Lydian airs,
And converse high of those with glory crown'd
Still, still they too, and I should feel a damp, -
A chill as from a tomb, did I not know
That they are dying like an outburnt lamp;
That 'tis their sighing, wailing ere they go
Into oblivion; - that fresh flowers will grow,
And many glories of immortal stamp.

John Keats, posthumous

Monday, June 1, 2009

Reality Check II: The Cost of Gas vs. The Cost of Government

Below is an updated version of a post from May 2008.

Amidst all the hysteria related to rising gas prices including Congressional "investigations" of the oil companies and threats of additional taxes on their profits consider the following.

If you drive 15,000 miles per year and get 18 miles to the gallon you will consume 833 gallons of gas per year. This means that if gas prices rise $1 per gallon it will cost an extra $833 per year and if they were to rise another $2 per gallon it would cost an extra $1666 per year. Of course, no one wants to pay more, but consider the value you obtain from driving an automobile. It is an almost indispensable part of most of our lives and adds tremendous value in terms of our ability to travel and work. Consider that oil companies are delivering fuel to the consumer at about $2.50 per gallon despite regulations preventing domestic drilling which forces them to rely on hostile foreign governments, regulations that have prevented any new domestic refineries in the last 30 years, and TAXES on the production and sale of gasoline.

Now, if you make $40,000 per year in income, which is about the average yearly income in the United States, consider this back of the envelope calculation of the taxes you must pay the government:

Sales Tax on a 2010 Toyota Prius Hybrid: 6%*$24,000 = $1,440
Income Tax, say 15% = $6,000
Social Security Tax, 7.5% = $3,000
Employer Match (which could be yours) , 7.5% = $3,000
Medicare, 1.45% = $580
State Income Tax, average 5% = $2,000
Sales Taxes (say you spend $10,000 per year at 5%) = $500
Gas Tax (0.40c per gallon at 833 gallons per year) = $333
Property Tax (say you own a $150,000 house at 1.5%) = $2,250

TOTAL = $19,103 or 48% of yearly income, and were not done!

Consider the hidden taxes one pays, which I will not even attempt to quantify. For example, consider that taxes on businesses get passed on to consumers and make the price of goods and services higher than otherwise. Consider that government caused inflation and regulations drive up the cost of everything on the order of 3% to 6% per year as well as having the effect of destroying capital and reducing the productivity of labor which further reduces real wages. Consider the lost return on money you could be saving that instead went to Social Security. Consider the cost of simply filing a tax return which often requires the assistance of a trained accountant if you itemize deductions or own a business. Consider the lost productivity due to the fact that legions of highly intelligent people, viz. accountants and tax attorneys, which could be doing something valuable, are instead employed in the preparation and understanding of the 70,000 page tax code. Consider the cost of health care which is generally deducted from an employees salary as part of an employer sponsored program which reflects the high costs caused by government intervention into medicine and the insurance market. I could go on, but I think I have made my point.

Perhaps most importantly, consider that if you don't like the price of gas then you do not have to buy it! You could simply choose not to purchase it or drive less. The oil companies don't put a gun to your head and demand you buy their product. They offer a product that is of the utmost value and people are voluntarily willing to pay the price. On the other hand, if you don't pay the government you will end up in jail, i.e., the government takes your money under the threat of physical force. This represents the difference between "economic power" and "political power", i.e., the voluntary exchange of value for value versus the point of a gun.

To top it off, consider this recent article which states that
Taxpayers are on the hook for an extra $55,000 a household to cover rising federal commitments made just in the past year for retirement benefits, the national debt and other government promises, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The 12% rise in red ink in 2008 stems from an explosion of federal borrowing during the recession, plus an aging population driving up the costs of Medicare and Social Security.

That's the biggest leap in the long-term burden on taxpayers since a Medicare prescription drug benefit was added in 2003.

The latest increase raises federal obligations to a record $546,668 per household in 2008, according to the USA TODAY analysis. That's quadruple what the average U.S. household owes for all mortgages, car loans, credit cards and other debt combined.

In summary, consider that the government takes roughly 50% of what you earn in a given year through income and various taxes, impedes productivity and capital formation, and then saddles each household with an additional $546,668 in debt to be paid for out of future taxes including interest. If the government takes 50% of what you make, is it a surprise that both parents must now work to support a household despite massive increases in productivity over the past 100 years? Consider this crushing tax burden in relation to the fact that when gas went from $2 to $3 per gallon it cost the average person an extra $833 per year.

Why are we investigating the oil companies and not our own government?