Category Archives: Economics

The Bells Of Barcelona

toll for Europe:

Catalonia, to be sure, has trampled on the Spanish Constitution. But constitutions depend on the consent of the governed, and Catalonia refuses to be governed by Madrid. Rajoy now faces a political crisis without a clear solution. His minority government depends on the support of a Basque regional party, and the Basques are sympathetic to the Catalans. The governor of the Basque Autonomous Region proposed yesterday that Madrid adopt a British or Canadian solution, allowing the Catalans to vote on secession as did the Scots in 2014. The difference, of course, is that the Scots depend on British subsidies and voted to stay, while the Catalans subsidize the rest of Spain and would vote to leave. The Basques well might follow.

This is an existential crisis for the Spanish state, for reasons I laid out on Sept. 30. Spain is at the cusp of a steep rise in the proportion of elderly dependents (from 25% of the economically-active population to an insupportable 50% by 2050). The question comes down to who will be eaten first in the lifeboat: with the lowest fertility rate of any large European country, Spain cannot support its elderly, and the Catalans want to maintain themselves first.

There is a great deal of speculation about the possible knock-on effects in the rest of Europe. Catalonia is a singularity. The notionally separatist Lombard League has no stomach for a real fight, and no ambitions to create an independent country, as the League-affiliated Mayor of Bergamo explained in an interview yesterday. The Lombards merely want to keep a higher proportion of their tax revenue. The Italian regionalists are playing comedy, while the Catalans are enacting a tragedy: They perceive this moment as one of existential import for their future existence, and will not back down.

The first response of the rest of Europe, to be sure, will be to ask the Catalans as well as the Rajoy government to put the genie back into the bottle. We are well past that point. After demonstrating that mass civil disobedience could defeat the heavy-handed efforts of the national government to suppress them, the Catalans will not turn back. Nor should they. Europe’s infertility leaves the more productive regions of Europe with the choice of impugning their own future by picking up the retirement bill for the continent’s dead beats, or going their own way.

Something that cannot continue will eventually stop.


Dick Eagleson writes that it’s about to eat its young.

Elon’s Mars Plans

He’s going to announce changes from last year’s plans tonight at 21:30 PDT (tomorrow afternoon in Adelaide). It will be streamed.

[Update early afternoon]

The liberating effects of retiring from NASA: Former astronaut Terry Virts is criticizing Deep Space Gateway and SLS/Orion. Combined with Elon’s pending announcement, Marshall (and Shelby) can’t be happy.

[Update a few minutes later]

Chris Bergin:

[Update mid-afternoon]

Bob Zimmerman has some thoughts on Lockheed Martin’s DSG and Mars plans:

All these public relations announcements suggest to me that the Trump administration is getting close to unveiling its own future space policy, and they all suggest that this policy will be to build a space station around the Moon. My guess is that Lockheed Martin and SpaceX are vying for a piece of that pie in their announcements today.

Let me also note that Lockheed Martin’s concept above illustrates nicely what a lie Orion is and has always been. They have been touting it for years as the vehicle that will get Americans to Mars, but now admit that it can only really be a small part of a much larger interplanetary ship, and will be there mostly to be the descent capsule when astronauts want to come home. They also admit in the video at the first link that their proposal for getting to Mars is only a concept. To build it would require many billions of dollars. I wonder will it as much as Orion and SLS ($43 billion plus) and take as long (18 years plus) to build? If so, it is a bad purchase. We can do this faster, and for less.

But there are insufficient opportunities for graft in that.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Lockmart reveals its refuelable reusable lander. Looks like initial plan is to fuel in orbit, though, not on the surface. And of course:

While it is unclear whether NASA’s Deep Space Gateway mission will include landing on the moon, Lockheed Martin said its lander would also be capable of a lunar mission if required.

It’s a dessert topping and a floor wax.

[Update a few minutes later]

Watch the Lockmart presentation live, when it starts in a few minutes.

[Friday-morning update]

OK, so I guess the big news is that he thinks he can pay for it with point-to-point rocket trips. Briefly (for now), I’m skeptical.

[Update a while later]

Here‘s Eric Berger’s take on it. Yes, he’s recognizing that the near-term government market is more likely to be the moon than Mars.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here‘s Jeff Foust’s report from Adelaide.

[Update a while later]

Clark Lindsey has videos.

[Update mid morning]

Ken Chang and Adam Baidawi say that the financials are “murky.” Well, yeah. As is the regulatory situation.

[Update a few more minutes later]

Loren Grush’s take.

[Update a while later]

Scott Manley analyzes it.

[Update a few more minutes later]

Bob Zimmerman, in response to Chris Gebhart’s write up, says that BFR is an affordable version of SLS. Except that it doesn’t satisfy the primary requirement of SLS, which is to keep Huntsville and the Cape rolling in taxpayer dough.

[Monday-morning update]

The non-technical hurdles for Elon’s plans.


Global Warming

…may be happening more slowly than the models predicted.

You don’t say. But those of us who were appropriately skeptical about the models at the time were called “deniers” and worse.

[via Iain Murray]

[Update a few minutes later]

Tim Ball: Climate models can’t even approximate reality. The hubris of these people who think they can model climate with any confidence whatsoever is astounding.