Category Archives: Economics

Red-Pill Economics

Welcome to the Paradise of the Real:

The Nation yesterday published a hilariously illiterate essay by Raúl Carrillo, who is a graduate student at Columbia, a Harvard graduate, and an organizer of something called the Modern Money Network, “an interdisciplinary educational initiative for understanding money, finance, law, and the economy.” All three of those institutions should be embarrassed. Mr. Carrillo is the sort of man who thinks that 40 pieces of candy can be divided and recombined in such a way as to arrive at a number greater than 40. His essay, “Your Government Owes You a Job,” argues that the federal government should create a guaranteed-job program, “becoming our employer of last resort.” Mr. Carrillo’s middle-school-quality prose must be read to be appreciated — “Would jobs for all skyrocket wages and prices, spurring inflation? Such unfounded belief holds the jobless hostage to hysteria” — but his thinking is positively elementary. It does, however, almost perfectly sum up the symbolism-over-literal-substance progressive worldview: “You need dollars to eat,” he writes, “and unless you steal the dollars, you generally have to earn them.”

But you do not need dollars to eat. You need food to eat. Experiment: Spend six months locked in room with nothing other than a very large pile of dollars; measure subsequent weight loss.

Mr. Carrillo’s intellectual failure is catastrophic, but it is basic to the progressive approach. Mr. Carrillo argues that a guaranteed-job program would “pay for itself,” mitigate deficits, empower women, strengthen communities, liberate us from Walmart and McDonald’s — I half expected him to claim that it would turn a sandwich into a banquet. But the question he never quite gets his head around is: Jobs doing what? Americans in guaranteed government jobs “needn’t construct trains or solar panels,” he writes. Instead, they could be employed in “non-capital intensive” sectors such as “child-care, eldercare, and” — focus in here, kids — “community gardening.” Experiment: Offer for sale at a price of $250 a voucher entitling its bearer to one year’s worth of meals at McDonald’s, one year’s worth of groceries at Walmart, or one year’s worth of produce from your local community garden; compare sales figures.

Read the whole thing.

California’s Bullet-Train Boondoggle

continues to collapse:

A lawyer familiar with the case mocked this argument as amounting to, “Damn the legal niceties, this mean judge is getting in our way.” – See more at: http://calwatchdog.com/2014/04/22/gov-browns-legal-strategy-to-prop-up-bullet-train-faltering/#sthash.Na3IFURm.dpuf

This is a problem that won’t be solved until California gets an intelligent electorate.

The Climate Abolitionists

Chris Hayes is going down a dangerous road:

“It’s a bit tricky to put an exact price tag on how much money all that unexcavated carbon would be worth, but one financial analyst puts the price at somewhere in the ballpark of $20 trillion,” Hayes writes. “So in order to preserve a roughly habitable planet, we somehow need to convince or coerce the world’s most profitable corporations and the nations that partner with them to walk away from $20 trillion of wealth.”

Note the phrase: “convince or coerce.” If persuasion were to fail, coercion — presumably by the federal government or some very, very powerful entity — could be pretty rough. Certainly by writing that the “climate justice movement” should be known as the “new abolitionism,” Hayes makes an uneasy comparison to a 19th century conflict over slavery that was settled only by a huge and costly war — a real war, not a metaphorical one. Is that how environmentalists plan to save the planet from warming?

They have to destroy humanity to save the planet.

The Pacific Salmon Are Back

…and of course, the environmentalists hate it:

The point deserves emphasis. The advent of higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere has been a great boon for the terrestrial biosphere, accelerating the rate of growth of both wild and domestic plants and thereby expanding the food base supporting humans and land animals of every type. Ignoring this, the carbophobes point to the ocean instead, saying that increased levels of carbon dioxide not exploited by biology could lead to acidification. By making the currently barren oceans fertile, however, mariculture would transform this putative problem into an extraordinary opportunity.

Which is precisely why those demanding restraints on carbon emissions and restrictions on fisheries hate mariculture. They hate it for the same reason those demanding constraints in the name of allegedly limited energy resources hate nuclear power. They hate it because it solves a problem they need unsolved.

I hope this means a lot of cheap fresh wild salmon in the stores this summer.

Base Camps

Derek Webber writes that in order to advance into the solar system NASA needs to take some lessons from Everest climbers.

Not to mention be willing to lose folks occasionally.

[Update a few minutes later]

Jeff Foust notes that there seems to be an emerging consensus that Mars is the goal, though none on how to do it.

Meanwhile, John Strickland says we need an integrated approach, with robots and humans. to get to Mars. He seems to be focusing on Mars surface water, though. I think we need to trade that with manufacturing propellants at Phobos or Deimos.

My take, as always, is that destinations are less important than capabilities. Put an off-planet space-transportation infrastructure in place, and the entire solar system (including Europa and Enceladus) is opened up to us. But Congress would rather build big rockets.

The Middle Class

Stop favoring speculators and investors over them.

That applies to both parties. The Republicans could make this an electorally popular strategy, but too many of their donors would object.

I would note, though, that if you’re going to tax capital gains more, you need to provide a way to factor out inflation, because a devaluation of the currency doesn’t provide a true capital “gain.”

3-D Printed Guns

Should we be afraid of them?

…should we be afraid to live in a world where anyone can afford the equipment to manufacture a gun in his or her basement? I hope not—because that’s the world we live in now. Guns are comparatively simple devices. In fact, plenty of custom firearms are manufactured today using equipment that wouldn’t be out of place in a basement. Just as the sets of “plastic guns” and “3D-printed guns” are not identical, the sets of “3D-printed guns” and “homemade guns” are not identical. At the moment, virtually every homemade gun is constructed using some technology other than 3D printing.

Yes, as with most hoplophobia, this is silly.

Climate Change

What we don’t know:

We shouldn’t worry, we should just accept that this will happen and we should adapt to it and regard it as a business opportunity.

Its arrogant to assume that climate will remain static.

The whole language of climate change is designed to confuse the public and policy makers

Bob Carter says the IPCC has accomplished the inversion of the null hypothesis, where the onus is now on disproving dangerous anthropogenic climate change

We should focus on protecting people from natural hazards, and not worrying about what is causing them

It makes sense to encourage alternative energy and see what happens.

Bob Carter closed with this: no scientist can tell you whether it will be warmer or cooler in 2020, so we should prepare for both.

Yes. We don’t know much more than we do know.

And as she notes, the people speaking sensibly are independent or retired, not those receiving government funding.

The Civil War On The Left

Couldn’t happen to a nastier political movement:

the better evidence of how the Democratic Party could come to blows comes from California, which right now rivals China for one-party control. Never mind the three Democratic state senators all heading for the hoosegow for corruption: the bigger story is how Democratic ethnic factions are viciously turning on one another.

So it’s a race war! What a surprise (not really, considering what racists these people are).

Plus, for lagniappe, there’s their war against tech, even when it’s leftie tech.

I guess some people tip cows, others tip cars. When they’re not p00ping on them.

Space Tourism

Six reasons it matters.

As I often point out, people who complain about “joy rides for the wealthy” shouldn’t watch media devices like Blu-Ray players, because they were once just “toys for the wealthy.” As were the computers on which they type such complaints. I do think that, that some people, and particularly Virgin, overhype point to point. And it’s not clear what Virgin’s path is to either that or orbit with their current vehicle design. It doesn’t scale well with velocity.

Rethinking Fat

Even NPR is starting to figure it out.

But note, that, as with climate “science,” dissenters have trouble getting published when they have actual science in opposition to the “settled” science in nutrition:

“Fat was really the villain,” says Walter Willett, who is chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. And, by default, people “had to load up on carbohydrates.”

But, by the mid-1990s, Willett says, there were already signs that the high-carb, low-fat approach might not lead to fewer heart attacks and strokes. He had a long-term study underway that was aimed at evaluating the effects of diet and lifestyle on health.

“We were finding that if people seemed to replace saturated fat — the kind of fat found in cheese, eggs, meat, butter — with carbohydrate, there was no reduction in heart disease,” Willett says.

Willett submitted his data to a top medical journal, but he says the editors would not publish his findings. His paper was turned down.

“There was a lot of resistance to anything that would question the low-fat guidelines,” Willett says, especially the guidelines on saturated fat.

Willett’s paper was eventually published by a British medical journal, the BMJ, in 1996.

And that was almost twenty years ago, and the junk-science FDA guidelines that probably killed my father in the seventies remain pretty much in place.

Asteroid Strikes

New sensor data indicates that they’re from three to ten times more common than previously thought:

“The fact that none of these asteroid impacts shown in the video was detected in advance is proof that the only thing preventing a catastrophe from a ‘city-killer’-sized asteroid is blind luck.”

…The Sentinel Infrared Space Telescope Mission is currently due for launch in mid-2018, with an estimated mission cost of $400 million.

But we spend billions in trying to reduce the amount of plant food in the atmosphere.

Steve Goddard Explains

Why I do this”:

I have been an active environmentalist for almost my entire life. At age 16 I testified before a Congressional hearing in support of a proposed wilderness area in Utah. I worked to get the Clean Air Act passed, and worked for two summers as a wilderness ranger in New Mexico. I do all of my local transport and shopping by bicycle, and buy almost exclusively organic and free range food.

The reason I blog is because catastrophic global warming is junk science, used by unscrupulous people for unscrupulous political and financial purposes. It keeps environmentalists from doing anything useful, and provides progressives an excuse to push toward totalitarianism.

The global warming scam needs to be stopped. It has spiraled completely out of control, and no longer has any pretense of science behind the lies.

Pretty much, yeah.

Venezuela

It wants to spread the suffering:

As with the old lady and the fly, Venezuela’s government may be running out of encores. It can crack down on black-market activity, but that won’t make the shortages go away. It might redistribute the suffering a bit, but that’s not all it will do. The black market is often a sort of release valve for bad policy; shut it down, and you turn the formerly annoying into the totally intolerable.

There is, as Adam Smith once observed, “a lot of ruin in a nation.” President Nicolas Maduro seems determined to find out exactly how much Venezuela has left.

This is always how socialism ends. They’ve run out of other peoples’ money down there.

Those 7M “Sign Ups”

Why yesterday’s champagne-cork popping in the Rose Garden was meaningless propaganda.

[Update a few minutes later]

Want medical insurance? Get in line:

The first thing we thought of when we saw the pictures was the photos we’ve recently seen on Twitter of Venezuelans waiting in bread lines. Waiting in line to purchase necessities is a characteristic not of a prosperous free society but of command economies under repressive regimes. Closer to home, one doubts even the Transportation Security Administration would be so tone-deaf as to advertise long airport lines as an indication it’s doing a great job.

So what in the world could the White House have been thinking? Here’s a guess: They look at the ObamaCare lines and think not of communist subjects queuing up for bread or toilet paper, or Americans for driver’s licenses, but something more like the lines of consumers eager to be the first to get the new iPhone or the latest Harry Potter book. Affluent people often wait in line for things about which they have a particular enthusiasm–or for special experiences, like an amusement park ride, concert or meal at a favorite restaurant.

One obvious difference is that whereas the iPhone and Harry Potter queuers are eager to get the new thing first, the ObamaCare ones are presumably anxious not to miss the deadline (even if it’s not rigorously enforced). ObamaCare lines might have been impressive if they’d begun to form in the last days of September. At the end of open enrollment, the White House boast is akin to the IRS’s citing a “surge” in filing of tax returns two weeks from now as evidence that the income tax system is popular and well designed.

Command economies under repressive regimes seems to be the goal.

Crowdfunding Is Not A Scam

It’s market research. She makes a good point, that it’s a quick, inexpensive way to identify products with no market, relative to actually putting them in the market. On the other hand, sometimes products that don’t do well in the market as their primary function find some other killer app that no one anticipated. If it dies in crowdfunding, no one would get the chance to discover that sort of thing.

The Democrats’ Scandals

They’re all rooted in the evil of unlimited government:

Adam Smith’s formula for prosperity — “peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice” — is the very modest ambition that conservatives aim for. Limited government is the tool by which government can be made to do good without necessarily being good, or being composed of good men.

The progressive state, on the other hand, is a state infused with moral purpose. If politics is to be a jihad, then the state must be invested with extraordinary power to achieve its moral mission. There is no way to invest the state with extraordinary power without also investing those powers in the men who hold its offices and staff its bureaucracies, which hold ever more nearly absolute power over our property and our lives. (And given that the Obama administration has made a policy of assassinating U.S. citizens without legal process, we might as well call that power “absolute.”) But if those elective offices and regulatory fortresses are to be staffed with men who are corrupt and corruptible, then the progressive vision of the morality-infused state must falter.

And they — we — are all corruptible.

Lord Acton was right, once again, about the power of power to corrupt.