Some thoughts on technological unemployment.
Steven Squyres is concerned.
Here’s what I wrote in the book on that topic:
It should be noted that NASA currently plans only two flights for the SLS — one in 2017 to demonstrate the 70-ton capability, and one with a crew in 2021, to… somewhere. They have said that, when operational, it may only fly every couple of years. What are the implications of that, in terms of both cost and safety?
Cost wise, it means that each flight will cost several billion dollars, at least for those first two flights. If, once in operation, it has a two- or three-billion-dollar annual budget (a reasonable guess based on Shuttle history), and it only flies every couple of years, that means that each subsequent flight will cost anywhere from four to six billion dollars.
From a safety standpoint, it means that its operating tempo will be far too slow, and its flights far too infrequent, to safely and reliably operate the system. The launch crews will be sitting around for months with little to do, and by the time the next launch occurs they’ll have forgotten how to do it, if they haven’t left from sheer boredom to seek another job.
As a last-ditch effort to try to preserve the Shuttle in 2010, some suggested that it be maintained until we had a replacement, but to fly it only once per year to save money. The worst part of such a proposal would have been the degree to which the system would have been even less safe, given that it was designed for a launch rate of at least four flights per year. It was unsafe to fly it too often (as NASA learned in the 80s as it ramped up the flight rate before Challenger), and it would be equally so to fly it too rarely. NASA’s nominal plans for SLS compound this folly, which is magnified by the fact that both internal NASA studies and independent industry ones have demonstrated that there is no need for such a vehicle to explore beyond earth orbit (existing launchers could do that job just fine, with orbital mating and operations), and it is eating up all the funding for systems, such as landers and orbital propellant storage facilities, that are necessary. All of this is just more indication that actually accomplishing things in space is the lowest priority for Congress (and unfortunately, the space agency itself, otherwise, the administrator would be more honest with the appropriators on the Hill).
More people need to point this out.
And, since we will run out of oil anyway, why risk the future of all life on Earth simply to delay sustainable energy?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 24, 2013
I don’t have time to respond right now — I’m getting ready to go down to La Jolla for the ISDC. I may write something on Sunday. Anyway, feel free to discuss in comments.
[Update a while later]
FWIW, I retweeted to Elon with this link.
…is it taking effect?
the Obama administration is openly admitting that their health law won’t work without the willing cooperation of people who can expect to be harmed by the law — including young people, doctors, and health industry workers.
As author Ayn Rand’s noted in her novel Atlas Shrugged:
A viler evil than to murder a man, is to sell him suicide as an act of virtue. A viler evil than to throw a man into a sacrificial furnace, is to demand that he leap in, of his own will, and that he build the furnace, besides.
That’s what is happening with Obamacare.
But this also means that Americans have a powerful weapon — their ability to say “no.” If the Obama administration needs our willing cooperation for their law to work, we can fight back by withdrawing that cooperation. As Dr. Megan Edison recently wrote in response to the call for her and her fellow pediatricians to funnel more patients into ObamaCare, “Primum non nocere. I will not comply.”
Nor should any of us tolerate this tyranny, particularly in light of recent events.
How do we best maintain the fish population?
I’m hoping that we can soon come up with palatable and healthy substitutes in the lab. Fish is a very healthy source of omega 3s.
The real one, not the ones being promulgated by leftist journalists ignorant of the law:
The real scandal is that all these complicated tax rules exist. If we would just eliminate the corporate income tax, then people could organize groups, or not, just as they please. And the IRS would not be in the position of deciding what counts as excessive political activity.
Yes. The corporate income tax is an abomination, on many levels, and one of the causes of slowed economic growth.
I suspect that as the administration’s credibility continues to unravel from all of the scandals, its signature achievement will be viewed even more skeptically, and be more amenable to simply being repealed, along with the rest of its misbegotten “achievements.”
…is scaring the daylights out of some small business owners.
I’m sure worried about it, as someone who is self employed. All I want is a simple catastrophic policy, but I may not be able to afford it, if it’s even available at all.
I’m suspecting that a lot of Democrats are going to come to regret, sooner than later, making the IRS a central player in #ObamaCare.
[Update a few minutes later]
The Tea Party handed Obama a historical ass kicking in 2010 and he decided to weaponize the IRS against them because of it. Simple as that
— S.M (@redsteeze) May 12, 2013
[Update a while later]\
OK, you wanted a link? Here‘s a link to several.
I like this:
Government investigators have found that the Internal Revenue Service scrutinized conservative groups for raising political concerns over government spending, debt and taxes or even for advocating making America a better place to live, according to new details likely to inflame a widening IRS controversy.
How subversive. They are history’s monsters.
How government wrecked it:
I’m pretty alert to such problems these days. Soap doesn’t work. Toilets don’t flush. Clothes washers don’t clean. Light bulbs don’t illuminate. Refrigerators break too soon. Paint discolors. Lawnmowers have to be hacked. It’s all caused by idiotic government regulations that are wrecking our lives one consumer product at a time, all in ways we hardly notice.
It’s like the barbarian invasions that wrecked Rome, taking away the gains we’ve made in bettering our lives. It’s the bureaucrats’ way of reminding market producers and consumers who is in charge.
At some point, in ways large and small, people will revolt.
We treat technological progress as though it were a natural process, and we speak of Moore’s law — computers’ processing power doubles every two years — as though it were one of the laws of thermodynamics. But it is not an inevitable, natural process. It is the outcome of a particular social order.
Which reminds me of the Heinlein quote:
Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as “bad luck.”
Kevin’s new book just came out this week.
You could do more for real cost control by requiring hospitals to publish fixed prices for most procedures than from any amount of bureaucratic fiddling — though such an approach would provide disappointingly few opportunities for graft.
When I got my hernia fixed last year, I didn’t just shop doctors, I shopped surgery facilities and even anesthesiologists. Because I was paying for it.
A lot of people, including me, have accused the administration (and the Congress, when Democrats were in charge) of waging a war on business, but it’s really a war on small business and startups:
…what’s to blame for this change? A lot of things, probably. One reason, I suspect, for a job market that looks more like Europe is a regulatory and legal environment that looks more like Europe’s. High regulatory loads — the product of ObamaCare and numerous other laws — systematically harm small businesses, which can’t afford the personnel needed for compliance, to the benefit of large corporations, which can.
Likewise, higher taxes reduce the rewards for success, making people less likely to invest their money (or time) into new businesses. And local regulatory bodies, too, make starting new businesses harder.
But I wonder if the biggest problem isn’t cultural. Since 2008, this country hasn’t celebrated achievement or entrepreneurialism. Instead, we’ve heard talk about the evils of the “1%” ” about the rapaciousness of capitalism, and the importance of spreading the wealth around. We’ve even heard that work in the public sector is somehow nobler than work in the private sector.
Countries where those attitudes prevail tend not to produce as much entrepreneurialism, so it’s perhaps no surprise that as those attitudes have gained ascendance among America’s political class and media elite, we’ve seen less entrepreneurialism here.
It doesn’t bode well for the future.
…and it’s going to be awesome:
…government-dominated systems are inherently defective. Not because the people who run them aren’t smart and well-intentioned — though they are by no means universally smart and well-intentioned — but because it is the nature of political institutions to be insulated from the information-feedback that characterizes marketplace activity.
Simply put, when Coca-Cola introduces New Coke or McDonald’s introduces the McGratin Croquette (shrimp, mashed potatoes and deep-fried macaroni) and hordes of people don’t show up to buy them, those products go away, and if a company makes enough such unwanted products, it goes away, too. But if you live in The Bronx and your local elementary school is terrible, it does not go bankrupt, and you probably don’t have even 20 other options, though there are 900 kinds of shampoo on the shelves. There are many good ways to invest 12% of your income for retirement, but that’s harder to do when you first have to put 12% into a bad investment, Social Security.
The decline or dismantling of these programs will prevent us from pouring a great deal of good money into bad investments. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and related entitlements make up the largest part of federal spending; combine those with national defense and interest on the debt, and you are talking about nearly the entire federal budget — about 81%, with the rest of it comprising that piddling non-defense discretionary spending that President Obama goes on about.
But where we’re not going to be putting our money is not nearly as important as where we are going to be putting it: into productive enterprises, into the creation of actual goods and services in the real economy.
Here’s the new book, which comes out today.
Why it should change our thinking about health insurance and health care:
A bunch of people sarcastically asked whether I was planning to drop my health insurance. The answer is no, because my employer pays for it. But if the question is “Has this caused you to revise downward your estimate of the value of health insurance?” the answer has to obviously be yes. Anyone who answers differently is looking deep into their intestinal loops, not the Oregon study. You don’t have to revise the estimate to zero, or even a low number. But if you’d asked folks before the results dropped what we’d expect to see if insurance made people a lot healthier, they’d have said “statistically significant improvement on basic markers for the most common chronic diseases. The fact that we didn’t see that means that we should now say that health insurance, or at least Medicaid, probably doesn’t make as big a difference in health as we thought.
Certainly, this bolsters my belief that health insurance should provide financial protection from catastrophic events, not wrap-around first-dollar coverage. Those who used to read me on The Atlantic may recall that the McArdle Plan for Healthcare involved the government picking up the tab for any medical expenses above 15-20% of income: simple, progressive, and aimed at the actual problem we know health insurance can fix. Unfortunaely, Obamacare made that sort of coverage functionally illegal.
And that was the kind of coverage I’ve always purchased for myself. That is, true health insurance, not what the moron Sibelius thinks is health insurance. And they want to make it impossible for me to get it.
Gun control isn’t about guns — it’s about control. And health care isn’t about health — it’s about control. The thing is never about the thing.
…by New York State:
You can’t make major changes like these in a state like New York without attracting lots of free attention and publicity. Do the job well and you won’t have to spend a penny on publicity. If New York state became a genuine leader in business-friendly reform, headlines everywhere would blare the news out for free. Every sentient business leader in America would know that New York state was open for business again.
But other states have nothing to worry about. The corruptocrats in Albany and in the City aren’t going to change their ways any time soon.
…and American exceptionalism:
American exceptionalism — to the extent it remains — is not the product of some sort of genetic superiority. The settlers who made something of Jamestown after Dale’s reforms were the same ones who were bowling in the streets instead of working when he arrived.
What is exceptional about America — at least, what’s been exceptional up to now — is the extent to which individuals were allowed to keep the fruits of their own labor instead of having them seized by people in power for their own purposes. The insight behind American exceptionalism is that people work harder and better for themselves, as free people, than they do as servants for some alleged communal good.
But maybe Shapiro’s right, and this insight isn’t as exceptional as I make out. After all, it’s also contained in a West African proverb, to the effect that “The goat owned in common dies of hunger.”
Human nature isn’t so different, whether you’re in 17th century North America, 19th century Africa or the 21st century United States.
What’s striking isn’t that human nature is the same, but that so many want to pretend that it’s not.
The primary project of the left, since Rousseau, has been about the denial of human nature or, if they conceded that it exists, to force it into a different Procrustean mold, and build the New Soviet Man. All in the name of fairness and compassion, of course.
If I were an employer, I wouldn’t want “free” labor of that nature, because it can consume too many resources just trying to manage it, when you’d have no authority because it could just walk away with no penalty. It’s the same problem that people have with volunteer organizations.
I have a better, and slightly less controversial proposal. Just let the market work, and eliminate the minimum wage. It would do wonders for youth unemployment in the inner city.
The new green energy:
…as profits from wind, solar, biofuels and other alternatives consistently fell short of expectations — and as the fossil fuel business boomed — things got complicated. Venture capitalists and other investment funds started stretching the definition of clean technology almost beyond recognition in an effort to make money while clinging to their environmental ideals.
Today, clean technology investment funds are not trying to replace the fossil fuel industry, they’re trying to help it by financing companies that can make mining and drilling less dirty. The people running these funds acknowledge the apparent hypocrisy, but defend a more liberal definition of clean technology.
“Oil and gas will be with us for a long time. If we can clean that up we will do the world a great service,” says Wal van Lierop, CEO of Chrysalix, a Vancouver, Canada-based venture capital firm founded in 2001.
Shat a shock, that profits “consistently fell short of expectations.” Perhaps, like the president and his campaign-donating cronies, they had unrealistic expectations. Or more likely for the latter, they just expected the taxpayer to make up the difference.
50 to 1 cuts across all the noise and fury surrounding the ‘climate debate’ and gets right to the point: Even if the IPCC is right, and even if climate change IS happening and it IS caused by man, we are STILL better off adapting to it as it happens than we are trying to ‘stop’ it. ‘Action’ is 50 times more expensive than ‘adaptation’, and that’s a conclusion which is derived directly from the IPCC’s own predictions and formulae!
Here’s a link to the Indiegogo site.
Well, to be fair, he could be just lying.
[Update a while later]
Unravel it, and you get a train wreck.
Actually, you get a train wreck just in trying to implement it:
Baucus isn’t the only Capitol Hill Democrat worried about a “train wreck,” according to The Hill. Even those not yet on Capitol Hill have distanced themselves from the unpopular program. Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a Democrat running for a House seat in a South Carolina special election, called the ACA “extremely problematic.”
As 2014 draws ever closer, and the true scale of the problems of ObamaCare become apparent, expect more Democratic incumbents to commiserate with their constituents about the “extremely problematic” “train wreck” they imposed on them. They had better not expect the voters to let them off the hook, however, no matter how many times Obama tells them they have nothing to worry about.
Everyone running next year against an opponent who voted for this monstrosity should make it a focus of their campaign. Even if the opponent renounces their own vote to attempt to save their seat (that’s the polite word…), their judgment should be called into question.
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