More On Rationing Confusion

(Dr.) Paul Hsieh: The free market is not another form of rationing:

Supporters of the free market should not allow opponents to characterize the marketplace as a form of rationing, let alone an unjust one. Instead, supporters should defend the free market as morally just because it respects individual rights.

Respect for individual rights is in pretty short supply in Washington these days.

No Mea Culpa?

David Brooks describes the president’s (well earned) plight:

The number of Americans who trust President Obama to make the right decisions has fallen by roughly 17 percentage points. Obama’s job approval is down to about 50 percent. All presidents fall from their honeymoon highs, but in the history of polling, no newly elected American president has fallen this far this fast.

Anxiety is now pervasive. Trust in government rose when Obama took office. It has fallen back to historic lows. Fifty-nine percent of Americans now think the country is headed in the wrong direction.

What he doesn’t describe is the fact that he was one of the people who had deluded himself, and was telling us a year ago that this guy was a “moderate.” He’s part of the problem, and it will be hard for me to take him seriously until I see some explanation and contrition (not that I’ve ever paid much attention to him).

And then there’s this:

President Obama is now firmly between a rock and a hard place. Democrats want a strong healthcare reform bill with a public option. Republicans and more conservative Democrats do not agree. If Obama fails to get a bill that his base supporters want, the entire Democratic Party risks alienating them; especially 18-29-year-old First GlobalsTM, who could very quickly become disenchanted with politics. Obama needs to enter the fray in a very public way, which may mean knocking heads with both wings of his own party.

Just where I want him, and just where he deserves to be.

[Update late morning]

Jonah Goldberg isn’t impressed with Brooks’ analysis, either:

According to Brooks, the reason why Obama is falling apart is that he’s married himself to the very liberal Democratic leadership. Brooks thinks this was a horrible tactical and strategic mistake and, he’s right! But why did he make it? Brooks ends his column with this partial explanation: “Events have pushed Barack Obama off to the left. Time to rebalance.”

Oh those horrible events! They make criminals rob liquor stores. John Edwards cheated on his cancer-stricken wife even as he was using her as a campaign issue because of “events.” Larry Craig was driven to that bathroom stall by “events.” I am overserved at open bars because those pernicious events won’t leave me alone.

Maybe, just maybe, Barack Obama wasn’t driven to the left by events but, rather, he was driving them thataway?

Brooks, it seems to me, is still holding out hope for the possibility that if we “let Obama be Obama” he’ll tack to the center because he really is that bipartisan, moderate, Niebuhr-grocking 21st century man that caused so many otherwise sensible conservatives to go off their feed.

That seems highly implausible to me. Obama has been Obama, and that’s why he’s in the predicament he’s in. He is the author of these events, not a victim of them.

Exactly. And David Brooks remains a naif.

[Update a few minutes later]

Camille Paglia remains deluded about and in love with (for all that she’s a lesbian) Obama as well:

Paglia has compiled a veritable not-to-do list, providing convincing reasons to cashier this president ASAP. And yet, as we have seen, she does not suffer “buyer’s remorse,” and indeed claims at the outset that she “will continue to support him.” How to make even a modicum of sense of this species of cognitive dissonance?

Like Dershowitz, Paglia cannot give up on her man, who has clearly charmed the gold threads from her moonbeamish access of adoration. Even though she states that Obama is implicated in the moral collapse of the Democratic Party, the drift of her article adroitly suggests that he is really not to blame for the debacle. It is the “White House apparatus” that she craftily targets. Obama is “surrounded by juvenile tinhorns, bungling mediocrities, and crass bully boys,” who are obviously responsible for the ethical morass in which he finds himself.

The fact that Obama himself chose this gang of mountebanks — Timothy Geithner, Van Jones, David Axelrod, John Holdren, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, Janet Napolitano, George Mitchell, John Brennan, James Messina, Linda Douglass, Robert Gibbs, Cass Sunstein, Kenneth Feinberg, Steven Chu, the Emanuelim (Rahm and Ezekiel), and the rest of, to use a phrase from Thomas Pynchon, “the whole sick crew” — does not for a moment impinge upon her waking consciousness. They are one and all either professional incompetents, ambitious parvenus, or moral defectives, yet Paglia cannot admit that each of these impostors has been vetted, approved, and anointed by The One.

Moreover, it is the Obama administration and not Obama himself that solicited the American people to report on fishy, casual conversations, as if Barack Obama was too busy soberly and deliberatively carrying out his foreign policy initiatives to pay attention. Similarly, it is Congress that is doing the dirty work, throwing the American people “to the wolves.” Obama’s error is one of omission rather than commission, residing in his leniency, presumably, for permitting Congress to sabotage the public welfare when he should have been more hands-on, better at managing the congressional process. Has Paglia not listened to the president’s speeches on radio and television or twigged to his town hall marching orders? Has she not picked up on the spirit of aggression that exudes from many of his pronouncements? But she stubbornly refuses to be disabused.

I recall coming across a wonderful New Yorker cartoon some years ago, depicting a buxom young princess in the afterglow of satisfaction lying against the bolster of an elegant, richly ornamented bed. Beside her reclines a frog, his little hands clasped snugly behind his head, his legs crossed at the knee, an expression of roguish triumph on his face. “I lied,” he says. But people like Camille Paglia will persist in seeing a prince when they are presented with nothing more than a canny amphibian. There was never a transformation, only a deception.

Just more of those darned “events.”

RIP, General Bond

I don’t know if he was the last Flying Tiger, but if he isn’t, there can’t be many left:

In September 1941, he left the Army Air Forces to volunteer for service in China as part of a secret program, the American Volunteer Group, nicknamed the Flying Tigers, under Gen. Claire Chenault. Made up of about 400 pilots and ground personnel and based in Burma, the Flying Tigers protected military supply routes between China and Burma and helped to get supplies to Chinese forces fighting the Japanese.

The group’s exploits became legend. Flying the P-40 aircraft, their fuselages painted with a toothsome tiger, the Flying Tigers were credited with shooting down 299 enemy planes and destroying 200 on the ground, even though the Japanese at times outnumbered Chenault’s group 15 to 1. On one day in late February 1942, the Flying Tigers downed 28 Japanese planes while losing none.

During one of the 1942 engagements, Gen. Bond destroyed three Japanese I-97 planes while piloting his P-40B. He was credited with nine kills in all.

Gen . Bond was shot down twice himself. On May 4, 1942, three Japanese fighters zeroed in on his plane over Pao-shan, China, and his plane and his clothing caught fire. Parachuting into a cemetery, he ran to a creek and was able to douse the flames. After spending a few weeks in a hospital, he returned to combat and was shot down again June 12, 1942. Despite head injuries — and shrapnel that he carried in his head the rest of his life — he was back in action a week later.

They probably still make them like that, but the opportunities to show it may be fewer. When I was a kid, I read Robert Scott’s God Is My Co-Pilot, and built models of Curtiss P-40s, and wanted to be an Air Force pilot, something precluded by my vision. Most kids today wouldn’t know what it was.

Also, I’ve never been in a serious physical altercation in my life, and don’t know if I would have the physical courage to march into a battle. When I read accounts of warfare (particularly the Civil War or WW I) I recoil, and can’t imagine how they did it. I’m glad that we have people who do, though.

But I could always imagine strapping myself into an airplane and shooting down other airplanes. Getting shot down myself…not so much.

That Laissez-Faire Herbert Hoover

One of the nutty myths of the left is that the “right” reveres Herbert Hoover because he was pro-business, and didn’t interfere in the economy. They fantasize that these supposed policies caused the Great Depression, which was rectified by their savior, Franklin Roosevelt. Well, they’re wrong on both counts. I don’t know any conservative or libertarian who defends Hoover, and the reason is that they agree that he caused the depression. The nutty part is that he did it with statist policies, not just by signing Smoot-Hawley and raising taxes, but by indulging in devastating pro-labor interference in the market:

“These findings suggest that the recession was three times worse — at a minimum — than it would otherwise have been, because of Hoover,” said Lee E. Ohanian, a UCLA professor of economics.

The policies, which included both propping up wages and encouraging job-sharing, also accounted for more than two-thirds of the precipitous decline in hours worked in the manufacturing sector, which was much harder hit initially than the agricultural sector, according to Ohanian.

“By keeping industrial wages too high, Hoover sharply depressed employment beyond where it otherwise would have been, and that act drove down the overall gross national product,” Ohanian said. “His policy was the single most important event in precipitating the Great Depression.”

Expect the leftist myths to continue, though. They have decades of intellectual and emotional investment in them.

Six Questions

…for Jim Manzi. An interesting interview over at the Economist:

The current UN IPCC consensus forecast is that, under fairly reasonable assumptions for world population and economic growth, anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is expected to cause economic costs of about 3% global GDP in a much wealthier world more than 100 years from now. This is pretty far from the rhetoric of imminent global destruction.

Because (not “though”) the science is uncertain, the rational concern is that impacts could be worse than expected. This has been the subject of intense scientific research for decades, and the IPCC has published probability distributions for various levels of projected warming over the next century. There is no such projected level of warming with materially non-zero probability for typical economic scenarios that would justify what I would estimate to be the actual costs of an emissions mitigation regime, and there is certainly no odds-adjusted case (ie, in which we handicap the odds of more and less severe possible impacts) which could justify such costs.

The only real argument for rapid, aggressive emissions abatement boils down to the point that you can’t prove a negative. If it turns out that even the outer edge of the probability distribution of our predictions for global-warming impacts is enormously conservative, and disaster looms if we don’t change our ways radically and this instant, then we really should start shutting down power plants and confiscating cars tomorrow morning. We have no good evidence that such a disaster scenario is imminent, but nobody can conceivably prove it to be impossible. Once you get past the table-pounding, any rationale for rapid emissions abatement that confronts the facts in evidence is really a more or less sophisticated restatement of the precautionary principle: the somewhat grandiosely named idea that the downside possibilities are so bad that we should pay almost any price to avoid almost any chance of their occurrence.

But if you want to use this rationale to justify large economic costs, what non-arbitrary stopping condition will you choose for how much we should limit emissions? Assume for the moment that we could have a perfectly implemented global carbon tax. If we introduced a tax high enough to keep atmospheric carbon concentration to no more than 1.5x its current level (assuming we could get the whole world to go along), we would expect to spend about $17 trillion more than the benefits that we would achieve in the expected case. That’s a heck of an insurance premium for an event so low-probability that it is literally outside of a probability distribution. Of course, I can find scientists who say that level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is too dangerous. Al Gore has a more aggressive proposal that if implemented through an optimal carbon tax (again, assuming we can get the whole word to go along) would cost more like $23 trillion in excess of benefits in the expected case. Of course, this wouldn’t eliminate all uncertainty, and I can find scientists who say we need to reduce emissions even faster. Once we leave the world of odds and handicapping and enter the world of the precautionary principle, there is really no principled stopping point. We would be chasing an endlessly receding horizon of zero risk.

To put a fine point on it, replace “global warming” in your question with “planet-killing asteroid impact”. Earth-impact asteroids are a non-imaginary threat, and there is already significant government expenditure devoted to this problem. They hold the potential to all but exterminate the human species. By the logic of your question, why would you not invest, say, 2% of global GDP per year into perpetuity (roughly equal to about $1 trillion, or the total annual collections from the US income tax), to develop and deploy an interdiction system for earth-impact asteroids? If not, how do you distinguish between your fear of climate change impacts beyond the consensus scientific forecast, and a fear of asteroids?

In fact, we face lots of other unquantifiable threats of at least comparable realism and severity. In addition to asteroids, a regional nuclear war in Central Asia, a global pandemic triggered by a modified version of HIV, or a rogue state weaponising genetic-engineering technology all come immediately to mind. Any of these could kill hundreds of millions of people. In the face of massive uncertainty on multiple fronts the best strategy is almost always to hedge your bets and keep your options open. Wealth and technology are raw materials for options. The loss of economic and technological development that would be required to eliminate all hypothetical climate change risk would cripple our ability to deal with virtually every other foreseeable and unforeseeable risk, not to mention our ability to lead productive and interesting lives in the meantime. The precautionary principle is a bottomless well of anxieties, but our resources are finite—it’s possible to buy so much flood insurance that you can’t afford fire insurance.

Bold emphasis mine. It’s crazy to pauperize ourselves now for potential economic benefits decades from now. Particularly when the actions don’t even address the problem (e.g., the current cap’n’tax bill that passed the House).

This is really an issue that cries out for a rational, regret analysis.

More Thoughts On “Right-Wing” Nazis

…and on Michael Tomasky’s schizophrenia on the subject:

…in what conceivable universe is this a “right-wing” program in the Anglo-American sense? Sure, Hitler hates the Bolsheviks, but that’s like saying because the Crips hate the Bloods, they’re on the side of law and order.

Hitler’s party may have been considered “right-wing” within the universe of radical-socialist parties at the time—especially in Soviet parlance because as Hitler notes, Trotsky has ordered the KPD to ally with the Social Democrats to stop the NSDAP at this point—but this is entirely relative and to a great degree a product of Soviet black propaganda. Hitler’s own taxonomy of the NSDAP (later in that speech, for example), placing the Center Party as an arm of World Bolshevism, is just hyperbolic demonization of everyone not him, not a rational construction of a political spectrum anyone should accept.

To imply, as Tomasky does, that the economic program of a socialist, authoritarian, corporatist party is analogous to that of the Anglo-American, small-government, rule-of-law, economic-liberty “right wing” is lunacy. (Especially when the American “Progressive” “left wing” has recently attempted to socialize the medical system, opined that it’d like its opponents to “shut up,” and effectively corporatized most of the auto industry.)

As Goldberg pointed out in his book, fascism was considered glamorous, Progressive, and modern, and a close cousin of Communism, just without the latter’s fetish for state ownership of the means of production. These ideas—and the emotions upon which they’re based—have deep roots in human nature.

Yes. Collectivism is the oldest game in the world, because it appeals to human nature, while simultaneously denying it. It is that “right wing” individual liberty that is the upstart ideology, and truly progressive.

[Afternoon update]

This is pretty funny (the latest in a series): Hitler finds out that Americans are calling each other Nazis.

Just Send Money

This FL Today piece supports the ongoing mythology that there’s nothing wrong with NASA that adequate budgets won’t fix, and that the current debacle is all the fault of the Bush administration because they wouldn’t fund their own vision:

NASA last went through an overhaul shortly after former President George W. Bush outlined his “Vision for Space Exploration” in a January 2004 speech.

His plan to send Americans back to the moon and ultimately to Mars has since been widely criticized because he consistently failed to finance it.

There is no discussion of the impact of decisions and choices made by NASA management that contributed to the fiasco. I agree that the Bush administration was at fault, but not because it didn’t fund the program properly. It was at fault because it essentially ignored NASA after hiring Mike Griffin, and refused to rein him in when he completely ignored the Aldridge recommendations and set off on the disastrous Constellation path. Marburger apparently saw what was happening, but didn’t have the clout within the White House to do anything about it.

But you never see anything about that in the papers, even the ones that are supposed to cover this stuff closely, like FL Today. The narrative is always about the money.

[Update a few minutes later]

I’ve added the link, which comes via Clark Lindsey.

[Afternoon update]

Will McLean points out in comments an interview by Eric Berger of Mark Sirengelo of Sierra Nevada and Larry Williams of SpaceX on prospects for commercial support of exploration.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!