Category Archives: Economics

Broken Government

Laws have gotten far too detailed:

Until recent decades, law based on principles was the structure of most public law. The Constitution is 10 pages long and provides basic precepts—say, the Fourth Amendment prohibition on “unreasonable searches and seizures”—without trying to define every situation. The recent Volcker Rule regulating proprietary trading, by contrast, is 950 pages, and, in the words of one banker, is “incoherent any way you look at it.”

Legal principles have the supreme virtue of activating individual responsibility. Law is still supreme. The goals of law are centralized, but implementation is decentralized. Every successful regulatory program works this way. New airplanes, for example, must be certified as “airworthy” by the FAA. There are no detailed regulations that set forth how many rivets per square foot are required. It’s up to the judgment of FAA officials. This system works pretty well. Which would you trust more, a plane approved by experts at the FAA or a plane that was allowed to fly merely because it satisfied a bunch of rules, many outdated?

The health-care law exemplifies this problem.

“Marching Against Climate Change”

The most futile march ever:

It was the usual post-communist leftie march. That is, it was a petit-bourgeois re-enactment of meaningless ritual that passes for serious politics among those too inexperienced, too emotionally excited or too poorly read and too unpracticed at self-reflection or political analysis to know or perhaps care how futile and tired the conventional march has become. Crazed grouplets of anti-capitalist movements trying to fan the embers of Marxism back to life, gender and transgender groups with their own spin on climate, earnest eco-warriors, publicity-seeking hucksters, adrenalin junkies, college kids wanting a taste of the venerable tradition of public protest, and, as always, a great many people who don’t think that burning marijuana adds to the world’s CO2 load, marched down Manhattan’s streets. The chants echoed through the skyscraper canyons, the drums rolled, participants were caught up in a sense of unity and togetherness that some of them had never known. It was almost like politics, almost like the epochal marches that have toppled governments and changed history ever since the Paris mob stormed the Bastille.

Almost. Except street marches today are to real politics what street mime is to Shakespeare. This was an ersatz event: no laws will change, no political balance will tip, no UN delegate will have a change of heart. The world will roll on as if this march had never happened. And the marchers would have emitted less carbon and done more good for the world if they had all stayed home and studied books on economics, politics, science, religion and law. Marches like this create an illusion of politics and an illusion of meaningful activity to fill the void of postmodern life; the tribal ritual matters more than the political result.

The Climate Science

…is not settled:

…the crucial, unsettled scientific question for policy is, “How will the climate change over the next century under both natural and human influences?” Answers to that question at the global and regional levels, as well as to equally complex questions of how ecosystems and human activities will be affected, should inform our choices about energy and infrastructure.

But—here’s the catch—those questions are the hardest ones to answer. They challenge, in a fundamental way, what science can tell us about future climates.

Yup. The 97% “nonsensus” is multiple strawmen, because all it ever meant, to the degree that it wasn’t just BS, was that scientists agree that there is a greenhouse effect and that therefore human-generated carbon emissions can affect climate. Beyond that, there is no consensus.

Taylor Dinerman’s Take On Commercial Crew

Over at National Review. I obviously take issue with this:

Boeing has walked away with the biggest share ($4.2 billion) of the money, as its design was further along than that of the SpaceX proposal and, in the opinion of NASA’s leadership, has the best chance of meeting the schedule.

I’ve sent them a response. If they don’t run it, I’ll do it myself at Ricochet.

[Update a while later]

OK, my response is up at The Corner.

The Inspector General’s Report On ISS

I’m reading it now. It starts out with a nice brief history of space stations in general and of the ISS itself. Apparently it says that commercial crew will cost more than Soyuz. I want to see the basis of that statement.

[Update a while later]

“Although the risks involved in space exploration are apparent and subject to mitigation,
NASA cannot fully eliminate them.”

Someone should write a book about that. Oh, wait.

Giant Solid Rockets

Yes, let’s keep using them:

In this case, the DM series motors passed all of ATK’s and NASA’s inspections and test firings. It wasn’t until ATK was proceeding toward QM series motor segments that NASA requested more thorough inspections of the QM series motors to determine whether the switch to non-asbestos containing insulation liners was having a previously unseen effect.

“The beauty of the solid rocket motor inspection system is that defects will be found and solutions reached to ensure the motors delivered will perform with the highest reliability,” said Reed. “This is a requirement to ensure SLS is a safe and reliable system for human exploration of deep space.”

Yeah. Right.

[Update a few minutes later]

Republicans And The Economy

This is a pretty strong correlation.

[Update a few minutes later]

Yes, I know that Republicans didn’t take control of Congress in 2010. The point is that the removed control of it from the Dems. That was all that was necessary. But it will also help to oust Harry Reid in November.

The SLS Frenzy

So apparently, the SLF fanbois (and fangirls) going crazy over a giant welder on Twitter.

Anyway, I was rereading this essay I wrote half a decade ago. It was depressing. Here’s how little of some of it I’d have to change to keep it relevant to today.

Continue reading

Ivy League Undergrads

They’re apparently not selected for high quality:

I am interested in Roman history, and had a discussion with someone with a background in classics and history at one of the Ivies. They kept quoting garbled and watered down versions of Peter Brown, rather than expressing their own original thoughts and ideas, in relation to the concept of material decline (a la Bryan Ward-Perkins). My impression was that this individual was somewhat taken aback that someone with a science background from a state school wasn’t impressed by the bluffing, and actually knew some of the literature in this area. They didn’t seem to comprehend that my goal wasn’t to seem smart, but to mine them for more information and insight. I came back empty in that regard.

The purpose of an Ivy League education is less about knowledge, and more about credentialing and building networks.

Here‘s Pinker’s TNR piece, which prompted Razib’s blog post.

[Update a few minutes later]

Definitely read the Pinker piece:

…why are elite universities, of all institutions, perpetuating the destructive stereotype that smart people are one-dimensional dweebs? It would be an occasion for hilarity if anyone suggested that Harvard pick its graduate students, faculty, or president for their prowess in athletics or music, yet these people are certainly no shallower than our undergraduates. In any case, the stereotype is provably false. Camilla Benbow and David Lubinski have tracked a large sample of precocious teenagers identified solely by high performance on the SAT, and found that when they grew up, they not only excelled in academia, technology, medicine, and business, but won outsize recognition for their novels, plays, poems, paintings, sculptures, and productions in dance, music, and theater. A comparison to a Harvard freshman class would be like a match between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals.

What about the rationalization that charitable extracurricular activities teach kids important lessons of moral engagement? There are reasons to be skeptical. A skilled professional I know had to turn down an important freelance assignment because of a recurring commitment to chauffeur her son to a resumé-building “social action” assignment required by his high school. This involved driving the boy for 45 minutes to a community center, cooling her heels while he sorted used clothing for charity, and driving him back—forgoing income which, judiciously donated, could have fed, clothed, and inoculated an African village. The dubious “lessons” of this forced labor as an overqualified ragpicker are that children are entitled to treat their mothers’ time as worth nothing, that you can make the world a better place by destroying economic value, and that the moral worth of an action should be measured by the conspicuousness of the sacrifice rather than the gain to the beneficiary.

Yes. It’s quite insidious, really.