Category Archives: Economics

Gruber The Grifter

Why you don’t want to let “intellectuals” anywhere near power:

Unfortunately, contemporary Washington is calibrated to defer to experts who defer to politicians, providing an intellectual Praetorian Guard for the constant growth of a leviathan. As Denver University professor David Ciepley noted, “Starting in the First World War, and much more so during the New Deal and World War II, American social scientists became part of the autonomous state themselves, helping staff the mushrooming government agencies.” The closer that intellectuals get to politicians, the more weaselly they usually become.

Playing off Mr. Gruber’s derision of average Americans, one wag suggested a new acronym — L.I.E. — for Low Information Experts. Mr. Gruber and many other professors have gotten rich by pretending that government is far more competent than it actually is. Economist Robert Skidelsky, writing about the history of modern socialism, observed that “the collectivist belief system existed independently of the facts of modern life.” The same is true of the academic cadre who profit by vindicating endless government interventions that breed chaos and dependency.

I’d like to think that people will take a lesson from this (particularly with regard to climate models), but history doesn’t make me hopeful.

SLS Engines

They still have no idea what they’re going to do after thye run out of SSMEs.

As I noted on Twitter:

[Afternoon update]

The Grubergate Insider Problem

A long but useful essay from Megan McArdle.

We have a similar issue in the space industry. I see all the hype about the upcoming Orion flight, and as an industry analyst (though not quite an insider) I know that it’s nonsense, but it’s hard to get people to realize that NASA officials are often forced to dish nonsense to placate rent-seeking congresspeople; as outsiders, they are still in awe of the government agency that put men on the moon four-and-a-half decades ago.

There is also this:

…when I see journalists saying that Gruber’s revelations don’t matter because he’s just kind of awkwardly saying something that everyone knew, I get a little jittery. I am not “everyone,” and neither are any of those journalists. We’re a tiny group of people with strange preoccupations who get paid to spend our time understanding and explaining this stuff. The fact that we may have mentioned it once to our readers, in the 18th paragraph, does not mean that readers read it and understood what it meant. (In fact, if you actually interact with your readers, you’ll be astonished at how little they remember of what you told them, especially if you didn’t go out of your way to headline it. Their minds are already crammed full of information that they need to, you know, live their lives. So they tend to take away a few big bullet points, not the piddling details.)

I see the same thing when I argue with people on Twitter, or in comments — we often go around in circles because they seem to have forgotten some previous point I’d already made, or read what they wanted to read instead of what I actually wrote. The dismaying thing is that these are often people who love space, but they end up being cheerleaders for things (like SLS/Orion) that are roadblocks rather than enablers.

NASA’s Mission To Nowhere

Francis seems to suffer from a lack of imagination:

Space analysts said planning and executing a manned mission to Mars would take years and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

French wants NASA to head in that direction, and he sees next month’s Orion launch as the inaugural milestone in a long journey.

Still, he’s circumspect.

“Unless we build the rockets and test the spacecraft needed to get into deep space, sending humans to Mars will remain a dream for centuries to come,” French said. “Whether Orion will be the vehicle, and whether it will survive the brutal budgetary cycles of Washington politics for the many years ahead that it will need to be funded, is impossible to say. It’s hard to imagine any other method succeeding.

Space historians often suffer from this malady.

Gruber

Dear Democrats, don’t even think about trying to run away from him.

[Afternoon update]

The epic search of Diogenes for an honest man is over.

[Update a few minutes later]

It gets worse:

I think we’d probably like to get rid of the tax exempt status for health care benefits.

Note that McCain proposed doing just that in the 2008 election. His idea was that we would get rid of this exemption and instead give people an additional tax credit valued at the average cost of health insurance. Thus, people would be held harmless by the change, but we’d get rid of this government-made distortion in how employers pay their employees.

Barack Obama, get this, demagogued that plan and accused McCain of wanting to increase taxes on people.

And meanwhile, he schemed to achieve the same thing, except without that part about giving people an additional tax credit which would offset increased taxes, and, get this, without telling people he was getting rid of the tax exemption.

Once again — subverting democracy by completely destroying the concept of Consent of the Governed.

All in a day’s work.

[Update a while later]

Obama himself was leading the discussion of how to take away the tax benefits.

A Simpler Cheaper Health-Care Policy

It would be a huge improvement over the current mess:

I think that from the libertarian perspective, either of these proposals should be preferable to Obamacare. I’d even argue that they should both be more appealing to progressives. But the administration didn’t want simple, modest and stable; it wanted a massive, transformational legacy. Which is why, four years later, we’re still fighting about it.

Yup.

Changing Junkyards

It’s not the way it used to be.

Longer ago than I care to think about (OK, four decades or so), I regularly visited a place out in Holly, MI to scrounge parts for my British sports cars. Every other time or so, when I’d go out, and come back with the part I needed, the owner (or manager) would ask me if I wanted a job. The last time I did it was in the nineties, when I went to a place on Hawthorne Blvd in Hawthorne to get a distributor for my Honda Accord, whose shaft had sheared off on the 405 in Orange County.

Another Green “Stimulus” Fail

Google and others want a taxpayer bail out for their desert bird roaster.

That looks like a nice bill for the new Congress to make Obama have to sign.

More at (appropriately) Powerline:

The sheer temerity of the request is almost outweighed by the unintended humor of their explanation for the failure of their project: the Sun isn’t shining as much as they thought it would. But I think they’re barking up the wrong tree: rather than ask for your money so they don’t have to use their money, they should ask the guy who said he would make the oceans recede, to order the Sun to stop slacking — rudely continuing to shine as it has for five billion years — and brighten up for Google, NRG, and Obama’s legacy.

What fools these mortals who support this insanity be.

Financial Planning For Life Extension

An interview with Joel Garreau. Not sure I agree with this:

Boomer octogenarians in 2030 have “too many hard miles on their chassis” to fully benefit, but younger people may have trouble imagining the onetime prevalence of sickness and death.

I won’t be quite that old, but I think that there’s a good possibility that even for octo/nonoganerians there will be potential reversal of damage, and rejuvenation by then. And current government policies based on Scenario 1 (i.e., pretty much business as usual) are doomed to bankruptcy.

Peter Thiel And Global Warming

Why he’s skeptical:

“Whenever you can’t have a debate, I often think that’s evidence that there’s a problem,” Thiel said on The Glenn Beck Program. “When people use the word ‘science,’ it’s often a tell, like in poker, that you’re bluffing. It’s like we have ‘social science’ and we have ‘political science,’ [but] we don’t call it ‘physical science’ or ‘chemical science.’ We just call them physics and chemistry because we know they’re right.”

Thiel said no one will be upset if you ask questions about the periodic table, because it is actually science. But referring to man-made climate change as “science” tells you “that people are exaggerating and they’re bluffing a little bit,” Thiel said.

“The weather has not been getting warmer for the last 15 years. The hockey stick that Al Gore predicted in the early 2000s on the climate has not happened,” he remarked. “And I think as this monolithic culture breaks down, you can have more debates.”

Yes.

The Welfare State Of West California

Moving on in our examination of Tim Draper’s six Californias, from Nuevo Colorado (aka Central California), we come to the new state of West California. It’s ironic that it’s shown as green on the map, considering that it will be born into pension and welfare poverty.

Continue reading

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

First California, and now some people in south Florida want to split with Tallahassee. The reason is sort of hilariously stupid, though:

Harris told the commission that Tallahassee isn’t providing South Florida with proper representation or addressing its concerns when it comes to sea-level rising.

“We have to be able to deal directly with this environmental concern and we can’t really get it done in Tallahassee,” Harris said. “I don’t care what people think — it’s not a matter of electing the right people.”

Mayor Philip Stoddard agreed with Harris’ reasoning, saying he’s advocated for secession for the past 15 years but never penned a resolution.

“It’s very apparent that the attitude of the northern part of the state is that they would just love to saw the state in half and just let us float off into the Caribbean,” Stoddard said. “They’ve made that abundantly clear every possible opportunity and I would love to give them the opportunity to do that.”

If there weren’t enough reasons for me to leave Boca, living in a state dominated by south Floridians would seal the deal.

Bootstrapping A Solar-System Civilization

There was an interesting blog post at OSTP last week:

Have ideas for massless exploration and bootstrapping a Solar System civilization? Send your ideas for how the Administration, the private sector, philanthropists, the research community, and storytellers can further these goals at massless@ostp.gov.

Needless to say, I don’t expect this to go anywhere with the current Congressional committees.