Thursday, 30 June 2022

"True, governments can reduce the rate of interest in the short run..."


"The cyclical fluctuations of business are not an occurrence originating in the sphere of the unhampered market, but a product of government interference with business conditions designed to lower the rate of interest below the height at which the free market would have fixed it....
    "The wavelike movement effecting the economic system, the recurrence of periods of boom which are followed by periods of depression is the unavoidable outcome of the attempts, repeated again and again, to lower the gross market rate of interest by means of credit expansion....
    "True, governments can reduce the rate of interest in the short run. They can issue additional paper money. They can open the way to credit expansion by the banks. They can thus create an artificial boom and the appearance of prosperity. But such a boom is bound to collapse soon or late and to bring about a depression....
    "The ultimate cause, therefore, of the phenomenon of wave after wave of economic ups and downs is ideological in character. The cycles will not disappear so long as people believe that the rate of interest may be reduced, not through the accumulation of capital, but by banking policy."

~ Ludwig Von Mises on the Business Cycle, compiled quote from his books Human Action, Omnipotent Government, and article 'On the Manipulation of Money and Credit.'


Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Churchill - "Without him England was lost for a certainty, and with him England has been on the verge of disaster time and again."

 

 "...3/4 of the population of the world imagine that Winston Churchill is one of the Strategists of History, a second Marlborough, and the other 1/4 have no conception what a public menace he is and has been throughout this war! It is far better that the world should never know, and never suspect the feet of clay of that otherwise superhuman being. Without him England was lost for a certainty, and with him England has been on the verge of disaster time and again."

~ Field Marshall Lord Alanbrooke, Chief of Churchill's Imperial General Staff, diary entry 10 September, 1944

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

"The anti-abortionists’ claim to being 'pro-life' is a classic Big Lie."


'Flaming June' by Frederick Leighton

"[Nearly [fif]ty years after Roe V. Wade, no one defends the right to abortion in fundamental, moral terms, which is why the pro-abortion rights forces are on the defensive.
    "Abortion-rights advocates should not cede the terms 'pro-life' and 'right to life' to the anti-abortionists. It is a woman’s right to her life that gives her the right to terminate her pregnancy.
    "Nor should abortion-rights advocates keep hiding behind the phrase 'a woman’s right to choose'” Does she have the right to choose murder? That’s what abortion would be, if the fetus were a person.
    "The status of the embryo in the first trimester is the basic issue that cannot be sidestepped. The embryo is clearly pre-human; only the mystical notions of religious dogma treat this clump of cells as constituting a person.
    "We must not confuse potentiality with actuality.... That tiny growth, that mass of protoplasm, exists as a part of a woman’s body. It is not an independently existing, biologically formed organism, let alone a person. That which lives within the body of another can claim no right against its host. Rights belong only to individuals, not to collectives or to parts of an individual.
    "('Independent' does not mean self-supporting–a child who depends on its parents for food, shelter, and clothing, has rights because it is an actual, separate human being.)
    "'Rights,' in Ayn Rand’s words, 'do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born.'
    "It is only on this base that we can support the woman’s political right to do what she chooses in this issue. No other person–not even her husband–has the right to dictate what she may do with her own body. That is a fundamental principle of freedom....
    "Abortions are private affairs and often involve painfully difficult decisions with life-long consequences. But, tragically, the lives of the parents are completely ignored by the anti-abortionists. Yet that is the essential issue. In any conflict it’s the actual, living persons who count, not the mere potential of the embryo....
    "The anti-abortionists’ attitude, however, is: 'The actual life of the parents be damned! Give up your life, liberty, property and the pursuit of your own happiness.
    "Sentencing a woman to sacrifice her life to an embryo is not upholding the 'right-to-life.'
    "The anti-abortionists’ claim to being 'pro-life' is a classic Big Lie. You cannot be in favour of life and yet demand the sacrifice of an actual, living individual to a clump of tissue.
    "Anti-abortionists are not lovers of life–lovers of tissue, maybe. But their stand marks them as haters of real human beings."
          ~ philosopher Leonard Peikoff, from his article 'Abortion Rights are Pro-Life'


Monday, 27 June 2022

"Decades of being able to point to 'Roe v. Wade' and declare the matter settled has made the left ideologically complacent and unable to defend the philosophical basis of their stand on abortion"


"The abortion debate is America’s great testing ground for the theory that you can win an argument, not on its actual merits, but merely by manipulating the language to 'frame' the issue in your favour. So the defenders of abortion don’t call themselves anything so crude as defenders of abortion. They call themselves 'pro-choice,' because who wants to be against choice? And the opponents of abortion call themselves 'pro-life,' because who wants to be against life?
    "... Decades of being able to point to 'Roe v. Wade' and declare the matter settled has made the left ideologically complacent and unable to defend the philosophical basis of their stand on abortion ... [yet] abortion is an issue that uniquely calls upon a deep philosophical perspective.... the abortion issue won’t let you get away with vague invocations of 'freedom.' It requires that you have a specific philosophical view on what is the source of individual rights.... [yet] in a way, both sides have abandoned the field of proper philosophical argument, on an issue that really requires it.
    "It is important to fill that gap, to know where we stand philosophically, and to clearly define our principles, because this debate is just getting started....
    "Put simply, if you think rights are granted by society, as the left does, that leads to one particular view of abortion. If you think that rights are given to us by God, that tends to support a different view. And if you believe that rights have a secular, non-collectivist foundation, as I do, that leads to yet another approach to the question ... a third possibility: that they come from nature...."
          ~ Robert Tracinski, from his 2013 article 'The Philosophy of Gosnell'

"Accumulated savings..."


"Accumulated savings consist of the entire stock of existing capital goods and partially finished goods. We might also add stockpiled partially consumed final goods such as houses and cars as savings. Production processes use up some capital goods and cause capital goods to wear out, which is the consumption of savings.
    "The consumption of savings is a real process. Savings are consumed as stockpiles are used up, energy is burned, and capital goods wear out. These processes are not directly comparable to quantities of cash used in transactions. Because the production of capital goods and the movement of goods to market uses up real resources, these processes can only be funded by savings...
    "Accumulated cash balances are not accumulated savings."

          ~ Robert Blumen, from his article 'Did Real Bills Enable the Growth of Trade'


Friday, 24 June 2022

"They beg for more oil and coal for themselves while telling developing lands to rely on unreliable solar and wind."


"The developed world’s response to the global energy crisis has put its hypocritical attitude toward fossil fuels on display. Wealthy countries admonish developing ones to use renewable energy. Last month the Group of Seven went so far as to announce they would no longer fund fossil-fuel development abroad. Meanwhile, Europe and the U.S. are begging Arab nations to expand oil production. Germany is reopening coal power plants, and Spain and Italy are spending big on African gas production. So many European countries have asked Botswana to mine more coal that the nation will more than double its exports....
    "They beg for more oil and coal for themselves while telling developing lands to rely on [unreliable] solar and wind."

~ Bjorn Lomborg, from his op-ed 'The Rich World’s Climate Hypocrisy' [hat tip Samizdata]

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Abuse


"When [legal] power is given which may be easily abused, we ought always to presume that it will be abused, and although it is possible that great precautions will be taken at first, those precautions are likely to be relaxed in time. We ought not to give powers liable to very great abuse, and easily abused, and then presume that those powers will not be abused."
~ John Stuart Mill, from his Testimony on the 1871 Contagious Diseases Act [hat tip Stephen Hicks]

 

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

"There is no surer way to infect mankind with hatred — brute, blind, virulent hatred — than by splitting it into ethnic groups or tribes."


"Tribalism has moved from the fringes of society to the mainstream. We live in what’s becoming a tribal age.
    "What does that bode for our future? ...
    "Take a look at societies where tribalism is deeply enmeshed in the culture. Look at the unending tribal conflicts of the Balkans; the hundreds of thousands of corpses that piled up during the eruption of tribal conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda; the sectarian wars that pervade the Middle East....
    "'There is no surer way to infect mankind with hatred — brute, blind, virulent hatred — than by splitting it into ethnic groups or tribes. If a man believes that his own character is determined at birth in some unknown, ineffable way, and that the characters of all strangers are determined in the same way — then no communication, no understanding, no persuasion is possible among them, only mutual fear, suspicion and hatred'....
    "The spread of tribalism, [Ayn] Rand continued, 'is an enormously anti-intellectual evil.' There’s no bargaining with tribalism, no accommodation, no compromise to be found with it. Tribalism can, and must, be marginalised and eliminated.The antidote for tribalism — the positive to aim at — is the ideal of individualism, which animates Rand’s philosophic thought and novels.... The source of [her characters'] virtue lies in their choice to think for themselves.
    "For Rand, that path is open to every single one of us, if we choose it....
    "It’s this fundamental commitment to reason and facts that enables you to pursue your own goals and happiness in life; to find the people you rightly choose to associate with and to love.
    "And, on Rand’s account, it is this fundamental orientation to reality, rather than some collective, that inoculates the individual from the virulent pull of tribalism."

          ~ Elan Journo, from his article 'The Virulent Pull of Tribalism'


Tuesday, 21 June 2022

"The British Empire was something that people should celebrate..."


"[Britain's new] Attorney General is proud of the British Empire for what it brought to the world in terms of language, culture and the industrial revolution. Suella Braverman says ... 'the Left is 'ashamed' and 'fearful' of Britain’s history when in fact it should celebrate 'the ingenuity and the genius of the British people'.... The British Empire was something that people should celebrate...
    "[Suella Braverman, the Attorney General] said her parents - who emigrated to the UK in the 1960s from Mauritius and Kenya- 'were born under the British Empire in the 1940s, and they have nothing but good things to tell me about the mother country. I am proud of the British Empire. I am informed by the experience of my parents.'
    “Not least the fact that it was Britain that gave them opportunity and safety when they were young adults.' ...
    "[In] Mauritius “the legal system, the language, some of the educational norms - are all influenced heavily by the British Empire. In Kenya, the administration, the civil service, the infrastructure, ports, railways, roads brought by the British - the British Empire was a force for good. That is not to deny the awful things as well that went on because of the time period and cultural norms at that time'...
    "‘What Britain brought to their countries… was remarkable. And I am very saddened by this apology and shame promulgated by the left and ... the collective guilt ... that permeates our society.”
    "Ms Braverman, MP for Fareham, added that she was 'very frustrated with left-wing activists who want to decolonise our curriculum and cancel our culture and take down statues'....  
    "'A small view of Britain [is] that we are somehow insignificant and wrongdoers rather than [the] generous view of Britain in terms of what we’ve brought to the world, in terms of language, culture and the industrial revolution'."

 


Monday, 20 June 2022

"One of the methods used by statists to destroy capitalism ..."


"One of the methods used by statists to destroy capitalism consists in establishing controls that tie a given industry hand and foot, making it unable to solve its problems, then declaring that freedom has failed and stronger controls are necessary.”
          ~ Ayn Rand, from her 1975 essay 'The Lessons of Vietnam'

Saturday, 18 June 2022

"Endemic isn't harmless"


"Instead of attenuating until it is no worse than the flu or - like a miracle - disappearing, Covid-19 is here to stay. It will join the roster of infectious diseases that we grapple with on a regular basis, like measles, RSV and influenza. But the threat it poses to the health system and its ability to kill [at a rate 8 times more than seasonal flu] and cause Long Covid put it somewhat closer to those older diseases [polio, smallpox] we have since put behind us.
    "'There's a fair chance it's going to sit in this tricky space where it is more serious than the flu but it's not the existential threat that it was in 2020,' University of Canterbury mathematician and Covid-19 modeller Michael Plank said.
    "For more than two years, people have looked forward to Covid-19 exiting a pandemic state and becoming endemic, as if that marks the end of our struggle with the virus. In truth, this is just the beginning...
    "'Covid-19, another highly transmissible infection [like polio] with long-term consequences for health, may well end up in that same basket of diseases that are simply too infectious and too harmful to tolerate ongoing high levels of community transmission.'
    "And without any other interventions, high levels of community transmission are what we're destined to get. The Covid-19 pandemic may be coming to an end, but our fight against the virus is just beginning."

~ Marc Daalder, from his article 'Covid isn’t over, it’s just getting started' [hat tip Eric Crampton]


Friday, 17 June 2022

Beer O’Clock Tribute: All Hail Pale Ale


Way back in the mists of time, i.e., about 14-55 years or so BC*, back when craft beer was just something talked about on obscure blogs by large oft-bearded men wearing Hawaiian shirts, the late and much-lamented beer writer and raconteur Neil Miller was one of the two main contributors to our (ir)regular Friday afternoon Beer O'Clock column here at NOT PC -- in which in his own entertaining fashion he introduced most of us to just what was going on with this weird new stuff that frequently tasted of something called hops.

So in tribute to his good self, I'm going to just as (ir)regularly post some of those columns that you might remember -- this one, for example, in which he introduced us to something we'd never heard of, something called Pale Ale...

Beer O’Clock: All Hail Pale Ale

From 2007: in which Neil celebrated one of his favourite beer styles – Pale Ales ...

I’m a great believer that beer needs to be drunk in the proper context. Ordering a jug of Speight’s at the excellent Leuven Belgian Beer Café is very poor form. Conversely, drinking 8.5 per cent Duvel at the cricket will have you completely trumpeted by tea time.

The quest for proper context was my excuse at least for eating gourmet hot dogs and watching the opening match of the NFL while sampling the first bottle of Emerson’s American Pale Ale (6 per cent). The star-spangled label would outrage Nick Kelly and Keith Locke - always a huge bonus. It pours a deep burnished gold which would not be out of place in Fort Knox.

This is a big, strong and independent beer delivering plenty of rich orange and grapefruit notes – like snogging a Californian fruit salad - before a unilaterally firm finish. The day this beer is released each September should be a public holiday. No one would really miss Labour Day.

American Pale Ales (APA) are the boisterous new cousins of the traditional English style pale ales. Historically, pale ales are firm, fruity, nutty and relatively bitter. A fine example is the Croucher Pale Ale (5 per cent) from Rotorua. The brewer, Paul Croucher, is a reformed university lecturer who is fiercely passionate about food and beer.

His Pale Ale throws a punchy malt nose with lashings of stone fruit. In the glass, it has a full, biscuity body with pronounced orange and caramel notes. A lingering dry finish leaves the drinker immediately ready for the next taste.

One of the popular beer genres is India Pale Ale. This style of beer was developed when Britain still ruled the Raj. The troops – heaven forbid – would not drink local brews, so barrels of good old English pale ale (pip! pip!) were shipped in from Portsmouth.

Given that beer does not like heat or movement, the rough, steamy ship journeys tended to see the beer arrive in an undrinkable state. Long before refrigeration, the brewers turned to their two main weapons against infection – alcohol and hops (a natural preservative). The result was a strong, bitter style known as India Pale Ale (IPA) which, ironically, has still never been made in India.

Made from authentic ingredients and true to style, Tuatara IPA (5 per cent) is a luxuriant beer with a deep spicy nose, mellow marmalade body and a long, imperial finish. It is great to see this beer appearing in supermarkets around town.

Another university lecturer who went on to gainful employment is the effervescent Dr Ralph Bungard who runs the boutique Three Boys microbrewery in Christchurch. He says his Three Boys IPA (5.2 per cent) is unique because it uses a selection of New Zealand-grown hops which produce similar aromas and flavours to modern IPAs and APAs, “but extends those styles in a genuinely New Zealand direction.”

His golden beer has a herbal and citrus nose, a well balanced body with lashings of grapefruit and a cleansing finish. Another magnificent beer and one more reason to All Hail Pale Ale!

Cheers, Neil
* BC = Before Covid

Markets Must Have Their Day of Reckoning



Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne,
Public Domain, via Wikimedia

The American Federal Reserve Bank governors all thought they could avoid a day of reckoning post-2008, but all they've done is delay it -- and as Dan Sanchez outlines in this Guest Post, the longer it has been postponed, the worse it is going to be...

Markets Must Have Their Day of Reckoning

Guest Post by Dan Sanchez

A worse-than-expected inflation report released last Friday spooked U.S. Federal Reserve officials into contemplating on Monday steeper-than-expected interest rate hikes.

That in turn spooked traders into a stock sell-off, driving the S&P 500 into a bear market that same day.

And that in turn is spooking everyone about the prospect of an imminent recession.

And the Fed just confirmed investor fears about this when it approved an interest-rate increase of 75 basis points, the largest interest rate increase since 1994, and then "signalled it would continue lifting rates this year at the most rapid pace in decades.”

Scary as the prospect may be, the economy is long overdue for a crash. And the more we postpone that Day of Reckoning, the worse it will be.

Indeed, in a sense, a “reckoning” is exactly what an economic “bust” is. And understanding why can help us understand what (and who) drives the boom/bust business cycle.

In the Christian tradition, the “Day of Reckoning” refers to the Last Judgment: a prophesied time when everyone’s good deeds and misdeeds in life will be accounted for, with eternal reward and punishment apportioned accordingly.

The phrase is also a literary application of a financial term. To “reckon” is to count, to calculate, or to estimate a quantity. And historically, a “reckoning” meant a settling of financial accounts.

In the boom/bust business cycle, an economic “bust” or “recession” is a “reckoning” in that it is a correction of the distortions of the preceding “boom” or “bubble”: a mass recalculation of profit and loss that reconciles the markets with economic reality.

In Objectivist terms, you can evade economic reality (as 'The Fed' has been trying to), but you cannot evade the consequences of that evasion. It is those chickens that are now coming home to roost.

Fed lending inflated the bubble that is now beginning to burst. The process is destructively simple: In the American economy, the distortions of the boom/bubble are the result of the Fed creating new money and dumping it into the loan and capital markets in order to “stimulate” the economy.

The new money bids up the prices of capital goods—and future financial flows in general—relative to the prices of present consumption goods and services.

This is manifested in a drop in the interest rate, and it misleads entrepreneurs into investing more resources into production without a commensurate decrease in present consumption of resources (in other words, without a commensurate increase in saving).

This means the economy’s scarce resources are over-committed, so there is not enough for all the boom-time production projects to actually be completed. [We can see this here in NZ with reports of supply and skilled-labour shortages that are more than just Covid-related.]

This overextended, artificially “stimulated” economy may be pleasant for the present (for investors, workers, consumers, and the government), but it will inevitably incur great pain down the road.

Ludwig von Mises, the great Austrian economist who first described this process, compared the situation to a housebuilder with an inflated inventory of building materials. Perhaps he only has enough resources to build a bungalow, but misled by his falsified figures, he lays the groundwork for a mansion.

Inevitably, the builder’s plans must collide with reality. At some point in the building process, he must realize that his project is unsustainable; he must “take stock” and come to a “reckoning” of how much he really has.

It will be a rude awakening, to be sure. But the sooner it happens, the fewer resources the builder will squander: not only his labour and those of his team, but any materials that can’t be salvaged from the partially-built mansion. If his Day of Reckoning is delayed too long, by the time he course-corrects, his malinvestments may have impoverished him so much that he no longer has enough to build a bungalow and must settle for a shed.

Similarly, an economy “stimulated” by interest rates being driven down, not by an increase in saving, but by the Fed’s money-pumping, must inevitably collide with the limits of scarcity. Economic reality can be evaded, but it cannot be defied. At some point, the economy’s entrepreneurs must realise that not all of their projects can be completed with the saved resources available.

This realisation generally happens when the Fed finally eases up on the money-pumping (as it has started to do recently), allowing relative prices (and thus, interest rates) to recalibrate to better reflect the actual rate of saving. The more realistic pricing paradigm brings about a reckoning: a massive do-over of profit-and-loss accounting. Projected profits turn to losses on a mass scale, revealing malinvestments for what they are. That is what is known as a crash, bust, recession, or depression.

A recession is a revelation of economic truth. It is a painful revelation, to be sure. But, just as with Mises’s housebuilder, the sooner it is allowed to fully happen, the better. The longer the Fed postpones the economy’s Day of Reckoning by continuing to falsify economic calculation with its money-pumping, the more resources will be squandered, the more civilisation will be impoverished, and the more excruciating the inevitable reckoning will be.

We must eventually reckon with economic reality anyway. So there is no better day to start than today.

* * * * 

Dan Sanchez is the Director of Content at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and the editor-in chief of FEE.org, where a version of his post first appeared.



Thursday, 16 June 2022

"There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion."


"The recurrence of periods of boom which are followed by periods of depression, is the unavoidable outcome of the attempts, repeated again and again, to lower the gross market rate of interest by means of credit expansion. There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved."
~ Ludwig Von Mises, from the chapter 'The Monetary or Circulation-Credit Theory of the Trade Cycle' in his book Human Action


Wednesday, 15 June 2022

"New Zealand does very well in amplifying its homegrown gang problem"


"Lately there’s a lot of noise over the deported 501s and their contribution to escalating gang and gun violence.
    "But New Zealand does very well in amplifying its homegrown [gang] problem through strong welfare incentives and weak child protection services....
    "Over an examined twenty-one year period 92 percent of gang members received a benefit at some point with the average duration of receipt at 8.9 years.
    "Their rents are often paid through the accommodation supplement if not through income-related rents and emergency housing in motels etc. And their food is often paid for through hardship grants.
    "Gang partners are also paid single parent benefits and child tax credits. Their weekly ‘package’ can amass more than $1,000.... it is important to gang members to father children, and they do it more frequently than non-gang members - 2,337 gang members had benefit spells that included 7,075 dependent children."

~ Lindsay Mitchell, from her post 'Why Luxon Can't Win the War on Gangs.' She notes that in 2014 there were 3,960 adult gang members known to police; 5,343 at the end of 2017; and as of June 30 last year there were 8,061! As I said back in 2016, 'Don’t like gangs? Then legalise cannabis.'

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

The modern educational science of victimology


"The primary function of teachers today is no longer to be the transmitters of knowledge but to serve as agents of social and political change. This is what they are taught to be in the teacher-training institutions....
    "['Educators' there have] invested enormous time and resources in pushing the ideology and agenda of what is often called cultural Marxism and what is more narrowly known as 'Critical Theory' ... now dominated by two offshoots of Critical Theory known as Critical Gender Theory and Critical Race Theory. Developed in America’s [teachers colleges] and law schools, Critical Gender Theory and Critical Race Theory seek to deconstruct and reinvent all traditional gender categories and racial relationships. The primary delivery mechanism for inciting this social revolution is [the] government school system...
    "The principal aim of CT was and is, first, to deconstruct the forms of domination and hierarchy (i.e., the power relations) found in traditional or bourgeois societies, and, second, to reconstruct society toward what it calls 'real' or 'true' democracy, which is a neologism for socialism. Critical theory seeks to liberate any and all 'victim' groups based on their inferior and subjugated social status in capitalist societies (e.g., non-whites, women, and LGBTQ+ persons, etc.)....
    "The overweening goal of Critical Theory was and is the theoretical and practical delegitimisation of all Western moral, social, cultural, religious, legal, political, and economic institutions. Critical Theory is less a philosophy and more of a weapon used in a never-ending critique of Western civilisation. The point, however, was not to destroy the West’s institutions through armed revolution and violence as with traditional Marxist-Leninists but rather to infiltrate, undermine, and silently reconstruct those institutions from within. Eventually, the Frankfurters broadened the universal conflict from that between proletariat and bourgeoisie to oppressors (fill in the blank) and oppressed (fill in the blank)....
    "The specific political goal is to create a new class of the 'oppressed.' From this new class of victims will come the new revolutionaries who will keep the revolution alive and move it to the next stage of development. This is the ultimate means by which capitalism is to be dismantled and the State is to become the final arbiter of the principle, 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need'."

Monday, 13 June 2022

"The purpose of a gang..."


"It has often been thought that by many who analyse gang membership that belonging to a gang offers young people the family experience that they have been deprived of.... If this were true, everyone who lives in an impoverished, decaying or otherwise brutal environment would join a gang....
    "The purpose of a gang is not to provide a stable, nurturing, caring, family environment. It is ... a group of warriors who ruthlessly pursue their objectives, and who readily dispense with anyone who betrays them. In the family of gangs, anyone is expendable."
          ~ Stanton Samenow, from his book Inside the Criminal Mind



Friday, 10 June 2022

Why do we hear increasing calls for censorship in the market for ideas?



Why is free speech so frequently disparaged today -- dismissed as "freeze peach" by the commentariat -- by those who, yesterday, were in the forefront of the battles to defend it? As Peter Jacobsen explains in this Guest Post, a 1974 paper by Nobel Prize-winner Ronald Coase (below) has a convincing answer.



Why do we hear increasing calls for censorship in the market for ideas?

by Peter Jacobsen

After Elon Musk’s offer to purchase Twitter was accepted, the Department of Homeland Security unveiled plans for a “disinformation” governance board. Musk’s purchase is not final, and the governance board is now paused, but the reaction to these events has been telling.

One might expect professionals in the market for ideas would be concerned by a government agency policing speech. Curiously, many groups who historically have defended free speech against interference seem slow (or absent) in response.

Members of the journalism industry have reacted negatively to Musk’s vocal support of free speech. His purchase is “dangerous,” and his commitment to free speech will lead to people being “silenced.”

Meanwhile, the Associated Press attacked Musk for wanting free speech, claiming that this desire was inconsistent with the fact that he has criticised people in the past.


This claim by the AP is terribly confused since, as most sane people understand, criticism is obviously compatible with free speech.

Time magazine voiced opposition to Musk from another angle, trying to disparage what they called his “tech bro” obsession with free speech." 

Meanwhile, CNN writers crafted the suggestive headline, “Twitter has been focused on 'healthy conversations.' Elon Musk could change that.”

And over at The Conversation, Filippo Menczer, a professor of informatics and computer science at Indiana University, argues John Milton’s idea of the uncensored marketplace of ideas is outdated and calls for “refereeing” of social media. And of course, this refereeing isn’t at all what we'd call censorship. Why would you think that?

Another professor writing for The Conversation, Jaigris Hudson, argues Elon Musk’s free-speech push will make speech less free because if harsh language is allowed some people will apparently just stop talking. This article when set next to this Washington Post piece and the AP tweet underscores a consistent theme of mistaking free speech for freedom from criticism.

Head bureaucrat of the government’s “paused” disinformation board, Nina Jankowicz, also wishes Twitter would move in another direction. Jankowicz wonders, why not allow verified accounts to edit the Tweets of people using free speech too dangerously?

Although it isn’t uncommon for high level military bureaucrats like Jankowicz to desire censorship, academics and journalists have long been stalwart defenders of the importance of an uncensored marketplace for ideas. For a long time, universities and newspapers were seen as places where controversial means and ends could be debated publicly. The common final defence of these institutions against calls for censorship was “the truth will out.” No longer.

But this once-common defence of the marketplace of ideas was so universal among the professional intellectual class that it inspired Nobel Prize-winning economist Ronald Coase (1910-2013) to write a paper trying to explain why this was so. And, using this same paper, we can see Coase implicitly predicted the increasing favourability of censorship among the professional intellectual class.

The Market for Goods vs. the Market for Ideas


In a 1974 paper, Coase, the Clifton R. Musser Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Law School, mused over an interesting puzzle. Professional intellectuals focus tremendous effort in highlighting why the market for goods and services requires regulation. Meanwhile, those same intellectuals often argued that the market for ideas should be free from regulation.

So, why the asymmetry?

To answer this puzzle, Coase first dismissed two popular but wrong explanations for this paradox.

The first explanation is that markets for goods and services can have so-called 'market failures.' For example, if gasoline buyers and sellers don’t have to pay for the pollution gasoline generates, they will buy and sell too much at the expense of those who experience pollution. (Coase's solution was to ensure all such costs were internalised.)

However, the problem with this explanation is obvious. There can also be failures in the market for ideas. Even if it’s correct that the best idea will win, it’s obvious that the best idea won’t always win immediately. Pollution in the market for ideas, such as disinformation, is also possible.

In other words, the market for ideas also has market failures. On this criteria, either both types of markets should be regulated–or neither.

The second wrong explanation for why professional intellectuals defend the market for ideas from regulation is that unregulated speech is necessary for a functioning democracy. This explanation sounds okay at first, so what’s wrong with it?

Well, the market for goods and services is also necessary for a functioning democracy. As Coase puts it,
For most people in most countries (and perhaps in all countries), the provision of food, clothing, and shelter is a good deal more important than the provision of the “right ideas,” even if it is assumed that we know what they are.
So good ideas being necessary for a functioning democracy can’t be an explanation for why the market for ideas should be unregulated, since professional intellectuals favour regulation for goods and services which are also necessary for a functioning democracy.

The asymmetry remains.

Coase finishes his 1974 essay by solving the paradox. Why do professional intellectuals defend the market for ideas against regulation but not the market for goods and services?
The market for ideas is the market in which the intellectual conducts his trade. The explanation of the paradox is self-interest and self-esteem. Self-esteem leads the intellectuals to magnify the importance of their own market. That others should be regulated seems natural, particularly as many of the intellectuals see themselves as doing the regulating.
So, the market for goods and services is one over which the intellectuals would like to exercise control. Whereas the market for ideas is, in 1974 at least, the market already controlled by the intellectuals. And they see their market as a higher and more important calling. The market for goods and services, in their view, is both less important and more corrupted.

The Masses Take Over the Market for Ideas


So how does Coase’s explanation here predict the increasing calls for censorship in the market for ideas?

Remember the explanation Coase gave. Professional intellectuals considered the market for ideas as above regulation because they controlled the market.

But times have changed since Coase wrote his article in 1974.

The internet has revolutionised the landscape of the market for ideas. It’s no longer the case that the well credentialed have the most sway in the ideas market. Recent years have been characterized by creators on YouTube, podcasts, and, most recently, Substack dominating the market for ideas.

Now that the market for ideas is no longer dominated by academia and the journalism industry, and some of those places in which they do hang out intellectually look to be controlled by what they see as out-of-control billionaires, members of those groups no longer have the same incentives to stop industry regulation.

In fact, as in many industries, it may be in incumbents’ best interest to regulate competition. After all, if people get their new commentary from Joe Rogan and not CNN, that hurts CNN’s bottom line.

So, although Coase did not foresee in his piece the decentralisation of the market of ideas, the logic of his paper gives a clear prediction. If the ones who hold the reins to the market for ideas lose their grip, calls for regulation are sure to follow. And this is exactly what we’re seeing.



* * * *

Peter Jacobsen is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Ottawa University and the Gwartney Professor of Economic Education and Research at the Gwartney Institute. He received his PhD in economics from George Mason University, and obtained his BS from Southeast Missouri State University. His research interest is at the intersection of political economy, development economics, and population economics. His website can be found here.
His post previously appeared at the blog for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).


Thursday, 9 June 2022

Beware the Allure of Simple ‘Solutions’


What's 'not seen' by social engineers is generally even more important than what is, explains Don Boudreaux in this Guest Post. Social engineers see only a relatively few surface phenomena, he observes, and remain blind to the astonishing complexity that is ever-churning beneath the surface that goes to create those surface phenomena. They need to turn off their tendency to push their simple coercive solutions at the expense of the freedom that would otherwise solve them.

'Turn off that tendency to coerce,' says Don Boudreaux

Beware the Allure of Simple ‘Solutions’

by Don Boudreaux

The attitudes and opinions of today’s so-called “elite” – those public-opinion formers who Deirdre McCloskey calls “the clerisy” – are childish. And not in a good way. Most journalists and writers working for most premier media and entertainment companies, along with most professors and public intellectuals, think, talk, and write about society with less insight than the average toddler.

This sad truth is masked by the one feature that does distinguish the clerisy from young children: verbal virtuosity. Yet beneath the fine words, beautiful phrases, arresting metaphors, and affected allusions lies a notable immaturity of thought. Every social and economic problem is believed to have a solution, and that solution is almost always superficial.

Unlike children, adults understand that living life well begins with accepting the inescapability of trade-offs. Contrary to what you might have heard, you cannot “have it all.” You cannot have more of this thing unless you’re willing to have less of that other thing. And what’s true for you as an individual is true for any group of individuals. We cannot support governments artificially raising the cost of producing and using carbon fuels, for example, unless we are willing to pay higher prices at the pump and, thus, have less income to spend on acquiring other goods and services. Equally, we cannot use money creation to ease the pain today of COVID lockdowns without enduring the greater pain tomorrow of inflation.

While children stomp their little feet in protest when confronted with the need to make trade-offs, adults accept the necessity of trade-offs. Except, of course, for those childish adults who are paid-up members of the clerisy.

No less importantly, adults -- real adults, those who understand this point -- are not beguiled by the superficial. They understand that not everything immediate noticeable is always important, and that -- all too frequently -- it's the things we don't see that are more important. Especially when the latter cause the former.

Pay close attention to how the clerisy (who are mostly, although not exclusively, Progressives) propose to ‘solve’ almost any problem, real or imaginary. You’ll discover that the proposed ‘solution’ is superficial; it’s rooted in the naïve assumption that social reality beyond what is immediately observable either doesn’t exist or is unaffected by attempts to rearrange surface phenomena. In the clerisy’s view, the only reality that matters is the reality that is easily seen and seemingly easily manipulated -- and manipulated, always and everywhere, with coercion. The clerisy’s proposed ‘solutions,’ therefore, involve simply rearranging, or attempting to rearrange, surface phenomena by means of the government's guns.

  • Do some people use their own guns to murder other people? Yes, sadly. The clerisy’s superficial ‘solution’ to this real problem is to outlaw private guns (which ignores that this tends to leave guns in the hands of outlaws). 
  • Do some people have substantially higher net financial worths than other people? Yes. The clerisy’s juvenile ‘solution’ to this fake problem is to heavily tax the rich and transfer the proceeds to the less rich (ignoring that there are too few rich to make the coercive transfer worthwhile, while reducing incentives for the less rich to get rich themselves). 
  • Are some workers paid wages that are too low to support a modern family? Yes. The clerisy’s simplistic ‘solution’ to this fake problem – “fake” because most workers earning such low wages are not heads of households – is to have government prohibit the payment of wages below some stipulated minimum (ignoring that this tends to price marginal workers out of all employment altogether).
  • Do some people suffer substantial property damage, or even loss of life, because of hurricanes, droughts, and other bouts of severe weather? Yes. The clerisy’s lazy ‘solution’ to this real problem focuses on changing the weather by reducing the emissions of an element, carbon, that is now (a bit too simplistically) believed to heavily determine the weather.

I could go on ... and I will.

  • Do prices of many ‘essential’ goods and services rise significantly in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters? Yes. The clerisy’s counterproductive ‘solution’ to this fake problem (“counterproductive” and “fake” because these high prices accurately reflect and signal underlying economic realities) is to prohibit the charging and payment of these high prices. 
  • When real inflationary pressures build up because of excessive monetary growth, are these pressures vented in the form of rising prices? Yes indeed. The clerisy’s infantile ‘solution’ to the very real problem of inflation is to blame it on greed while raising taxes on profits.
  • Is the SARS-CoV-2 virus contagious and potentially dangerous to humans? Yes. The clerisy’s simple-minded ‘solution’ to this real problem is to forcibly prevent people from mingling with each other.
  • Do many youngsters still not receive schooling of minimum acceptable quality? Yes. The clerisy’s lazy ‘solution’ to this real problem is to give pay raises to teachers and spend more money on school administrators.
  • Do some American workers lose jobs when American consumers buy more imports? Yes. The clerisy’s ‘solution’ is to obstruct consumers’ ability to buy imports. Are some people bigoted and beset with irrational dislike or fear of blacks, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals? Yes. The clerisy’s ‘solution’ to this real problem is to outlaw “hate” and to compel bigoted persons to behave as if they aren’t bigoted.
  • Do many persons who are eligible to vote in political elections refrain from voting? Yes. The ‘solution’ favoured by at least some of the clerisy to this fake problem – “fake” because in a free society each person has a right to refrain from participating in politics – is to make voting mandatory.

The above list of simplistic and superficial ‘solutions’ to problems real and imaginary can easily be expanded.

The clerisy, mistaking words for realities, assumes that success at verbally describing realities more to their liking proves that these imagined realities can be made real by merely rearranging the relevant surface phenomena. Members of the clerisy ignore unintended consequences. And they overlook the fact that many of the social and economic realities that they abhor are the result, not of villainy or of correctible imperfections, but of complex trade-offs made by countless individuals.

Social engineering appears doable only to those persons who, seeing only a relatively few surface phenomena, are blind to the astonishing complexity that is ever-churning beneath the surface to create those surface phenomena. To such persons, social reality appears as it does to a simple child: simple and easily manipulated to achieve whatever are the desires that motivate the manipulators.

The clerisy’s ranks are filled overwhelmingly with simple-minded people who mistake their felicity with words and their good intentions for serious thinking. They convey to each other, and to the unsuspecting public, the appearance of being deep thinkers while seldom thinking with more sophistication and nuance than is on display in every classroom of toddlers today.

* * * * 

Don Boudreaux is a senior fellow with American Institute for Economic Research and with the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; a Mercatus Center Board Member; and a professor of economics and former economics-department chair at George Mason University. He is the author of the books The Essential Hayek, Globalization, Hypocrites & Half-Wits, and his articles appear in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, US News & World Report as well as numerous scholarly journals. 
He writes a blog called Cafe Hayek and a regular column on economics for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Boudreaux earned a PhD in economics from Auburn University and a law degree from the University of Virginia.
A version of his post first appeared at the American Institute for Economic Research blog.

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

"Russia’s War Is the End of Climate Policy as We Know It"


"In the decades following the end of the Cold War, global stability and easy access to energy led many of us to forget the degree to which abundant energy is existential for modern societies....
    "Virtually overnight, the war in Ukraine has brought the post-Cold War era to a close, not just by ending Europe’s long era of peace, but by bringing basic questions of energy access back to the fore. A new era, marked by geopolitically driven energy insecurity and resource competition, is moving climate concerns down on the list of priorities....
    "Much of the climate commentariat—politicians and policymakers, academics and think tank analysts, journalists and activists—appears shellshocked by the violent return of energy geopolitics and fossil fuel shortages.... Europe’s headlong rush to shut down fossil fuel production and shift to renewable energy over the last decade substantially increased its dependence on Russian oil and gas ... [and] most of the world’s solar panel and battery production is controlled by another dictator—Chinese President Xi Jinping ... 
The idea that the crisis might be resolved by choosing Western dependence on Chinese solar panels and batteries over Western dependence on Russian oil and gas reveals just how unserious the environmental movement’s pretensions to justice, human rights, and democracy really are....
    "If recent months have demonstrated anything, it is that war, insecurity, and economic crisis are merciless teachers. Climate advocates and their political allies have often engaged in the policy equivalent of smoking one’s own supply: They have confused the subsidy-driven growth of renewable energy with evidence that the world is ready to rapidly transition off fossil fuels. Hence, they discouraged the production of oil and gas wherever they could and chronically underinvested in other sources of clean energy, such as nuclear power. But while there has been technological progress, the global economy is still very far away from fully replacing fossil fuels.
    "The confluence of war in Europe with a global energy security crisis reminds us that the West is not so different from the rest of the world. For better or worse, energy development and security remain the coin of the realm. Any global strategy to build a bulwark against ethnonationalist authoritarianism, achieve economic stability, and transition toward a low-carbon future will need to accommodate itself to that reality."

~ self-described "ecomodernist" Ted Nordhaus, from his article 'Russia’s War Is the End of Climate Policy as We Know It'

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

"Arguments about [American] gun rights ... remain a mess"



"To see why it is proper for a government to regulate weapons and to understand the principles by which it should, we need to go back to some fundamental principles of moral philosophy, political philosophy, different kinds of rights, and the nature of government... 
    "You have a natural right to defend yourself against an attack, using unlimited force if necessary. But it still might rightly be illegal for you to own or carry a gun...
    "Remember, the proper question is not, 'Why can the government restrict my access to guns?' The proper question is, 'What share of its legal monopoly on the use of force should the government share with its citizens?' The proper answer is, 'Whatever is needed for those citizens to protect themselves when the government cannot.'
    "Unfortunately, this principle is not articulated in the [US] Constitution and we are stuck twisting the Second Amendment into service. Things would be better if we didn't have to....




    "The current situation in the US is a moral mess. The plainest constitutional defense for a right to own and carry a gun is no longer relevant. The main defense hangs by the thread of a 5–4 Supreme Court ruling weakened by its own caveat. The argument by economists and social scientists is morally empty. And the one possibly valid moral argument doesn’t appeal to any principle that is explicitly in the Constitution or that American politicians are sworn to uphold or, sadly, that people much believe in anymore.
    "Those wanting a morally strong argument for gun ownership should demand, primarily, protection of the natural right to self-defence and not of the civil rights of the Second Amendment. Those who want to help potential victims of murder, assault, and rape should not demand that those victims also surrender their natural right to defend themselves against such threats. Those social scientists honestly trying to determine social effects of particular gun laws should not propose that those determinations qualify as moral arguments, one way or the other. And those who believe a government’s job is to protect citizens’ natural rights should recognise that a government legitimately possesses a monopoly on force and with it a responsibility to regulate weapons.
    "Until we again recognise the difference between—and the relations between—civil rights and natural rights, and until we learn to again ground legislation in the protection of citizens’ natural rights and not on social statistics, arguments about gun rights will remain a mess."
~ John McCaskey, from his 2016 post 'Natural Rights, Civil Rights, and Guns'

Friday, 3 June 2022

Q: Is our Reserve Bank any better?


"[S]ince its inception in 1913, [the US Federal Reserve Bank] has given us one Great Depression, a bunch of recessions and a currency worth maybe 1/20th of its 1913 value. 'The Fed' is an inflation factory, stumbling and fumbling from one self-inflicted crisis after another."
~ Larry Reed, from his article 'How the United States Conquered Inflation After the Civil War'

Thursday, 2 June 2022

Sloth...


"Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something."
~ author Robert Heinlein, from his 'Notebooks of Lazarus Long' in the novel Time Enough for Love

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Who is really responsible for getting inflation under control?


"[N]obody should be under any illusion: the Government’s ongoing stimulatory fiscal policy is contributing to the need for the Reserve Bank to increase interest rates, something which the Treasury warned the Minister just weeks before the Budget when the Minister decided he wanted to dole out some cash sweeteners....
    "It’s like a car being driven with one foot on the brake and the other on the accelerator – the more the Government stimulates the economy with fiscal policy, the harder the Reserve Bank will need to apply the brakes of higher interest rates."

~ Don Brash, from his op-ed 'Who is really responsible for getting [price] inflation under control?' [link fixed]

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

"We hurtle down the road to 'net zero' without any idea how it is going to work."


"As I’ve been pointing out now for a couple of years, the obvious gap in the plans of our betters for a carbon-free 'net zero' energy future is the problem of massive-scale energy storage. How exactly is New York City (for example) going to provide its citizens with power for a long and dark full-week period in the winter, with calm winds, long nights, and overcast days, after everyone has been required to change over to electric heat and electric cars — and all the electricity is supposed to come from the wind and sun, which are neither blowing nor shining for these extended periods? Can someone please calculate how much energy storage will be needed to cover a worst-case solar/wind drought, what it will consist of, how long it has to last, how much it will cost, and whether it is economically feasible? Nearly all descriptions by advocates of the supposed path to 'net zero' — including the ambitious plans of the states of New York and California — completely gloss over this issue and/or deal with it in a way demonstrating total incompetence and failure to comprehend the problem....
    "[The hope is that government]s will 'support research' into 'novel technologies,' of course using the infinite money pile, and the technology will magically appear. And what exactly is the technology that will then emerge to rescue us? They have no idea....
    "Well, how about just using that ubiquitous element hydrogen, easily available through the electrolysis of water? ... Funny that private investors aren’t putting any real money into this “hydrogen economy” thing. That’s because to get hydrogen out of water is extremely costly, and once you have it, it is inferior to natural gas in every way as a source of energy for the people. It’s less dense, more dangerous, and more difficult to transport and store. But again, throw in some of the infinite pile of federal money and it will all magically work....
    "Bottom line: I’m not trusting anybody’s so-called 'model' to prove that this gigantic energy transformation is going to work. Show me the demonstration project that actually works.
    "They won’t. Indeed, there is not even an attempt to put such a thing together, even as we hurtle down the road to 'net zero' without any idea how it is going to work."
~ Francis Menton, from his post 'MIT Weighs in on Energy Storage'

Monday, 30 May 2022

"The brilliant blatancy of the Russians..."


"What forces itself on one's attention is the degree to which everything favours the evildoer, if he is blatant enough. Any honest Government fights (in peacetime) with two hands tied behind its back. The brilliant blatancy of the Russians is something that we can admire but cannot emulate. It gives them a great advantage."
~ Alexander Cadogan, the first Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations, said to Winston Churchill in 1946

 

Sunday, 29 May 2022

"Why are America’s adolescent boys so angry, and why are they expressing their anger through mindless acts of violence?" [update 2]


Source: Statista
"The [latest] tragic school shooting ... forces us to ask once again: What is going on in [American] schools? ...
    "The shootings have one thing in common: they all took place at school. The boys didn’t kill on the weekend, they didn’t kill after school, and they didn’t shoot up the local Dairy Queen.
     "So what’s happening? Why are America’s adolescent boys so angry, and why are they expressing their anger through mindless acts of violence?
    "That they all killed at school is a fact worth pondering. The explanation for all these shootings might very well be found in the destruction of the minds and souls of America’s young people by an education establishment bent on using our children as guinea pigs for their bizarre experiments in schooling. The fact of the matter is that most of our public schools today are intellectual and moral wastelands....
    "The crisis in our schools is at heart a philosophical issue. The precipitous rise in school violence over the course of the last decade runs directly parallel with the rise of 'Progressive' theories of education....
    "Dissuaded from making moral distinctions, fed a daily diet of an 'I’m okay, you’re okay' philosophy, denied logic, knowledge, and truth, and driven by unknown fears and anxieties, today’s young people are left with nothing but their untutored 'feelings' and 'emotions' as their guides through the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Thus we should not be surprised when they respond with outbursts of rage and acts of violence when things don’t go their way.
    "The education establishment has responded to this crisis by turning our schools into something more akin to prisons than places of learning.... A good many schools in this country are simply providing day-care for teenagers and in the worst schools, they are providing incarceration. Class time is more like a prison lockup.
    "If Americans want to stop school-yard violence and address the social pathologies that increasingly afflict our young, if they want to turn our schools into serious places of learning, they should abandon their deadly experiment in Progressive education and restore a curriculum that emphasises reason over emotions, knowledge over feelings, moral judgment over moral agnosticism, and self-control over self-expression."

~ author C. Bradley Thompson, from his 2001 op-ed 'Why [American] Schools are Becoming Killing Fields'

UPDATE 1
: Thompson has updated his own earlier op-ed with new thinking and fresh writing, posting, at his blog, a new piece Our Killing Schools, Part 1. A slice:
"Your typical teenage thug is not on his school’s honor roll, does not sob uncontrollably immediately after committing an act of violence, nor does he commit suicide. What most Americans first saw in the scared faces of these adolescent killers was not so much an evil monster but rather the 'boy next door.'
    "Understandably, then, we secretly worry that these boys are not freakish aberrations but bellwethers. We worry that many more are just waiting in the wings ready for that last tumbler to fall into place activating their fateful plunge into the abyss.
    "My interest in this subject was initially inspired by my experiences as a college professor. Every year I meet hundreds of recently graduated high school students, and I am most often struck by four things: first, that students are poorly educated; second, that they hated their high school experience; third, that they are unwilling to make moral judgments; and finally, that they have inflated opinions of their level of knowledge and they are not open to criticism.The result is an often-explosive mixture of ignorance, resentment, nihilism, and narcissism. Thus, the crisis of our schools is a philosophical issue, and to understand that crisis we must know what Progressive education is and the ways in which it has affected America’s children....
    "In the next essay in this three-part series, I will examine how Progressive education has corrupted the cognitive, moral, and psychological attributes and abilities of America’s children."
(About the author: Bradley Thompson is a Professor of Political Science at Clemson University, where he teaches political philosophy. He is also the Executive Director of the Clemson Institute for the Study Capitalism and the founder of the Lyceum Scholars Program. 
    During his academic career, he has also been the Garwood Family Professor in the James Madison Program at Princeton University, a John Adams Fellow at the Institute of United States Studies (University of London), and a fellow of the Program in Constitutional Studies at Harvard University.)

UPDATE 2: Philosopher Stephen Hicks considers three hypotheses to answer the two questions that are possibly even more important than simple questions about guns and "gun control": 
  • Why are young males doing this? 
  • And why schools in particular? 
These killers are not targeting people at the mall or a music concert or others places where lots of potential targets are concentrated. So: What is special to the killers about schools?
Let’s start with a statistic: “Over the course of the last 25 years, sixteen teenage boys have committed a mass murder at an American elementary or high school.”* Additionally, many other teenage males were planning to kill but were discovered and prevented. So: Why so many (a) young (b) men desiring to (c) kill in (d) schools? ...
First hypothesis considers the motivation -- rule out the obvious, and you're left with hatred.
Think of spousal killing and the statistic that most domestic murders are one spouse killing the other. The relationship is close — hours and hours, days and days together constantly — but it has becomes toxic: they come to dislike and then to despise and then to hate each other. Then one kills the other.

School is a toxic place for many students. Being there is slow poison over hours and days and weeks and months — and they come to hate the place and the individuals in it. As in the toxic marriage, they want to kill the other.

So Hypothesis 1: Unlike shopping malls and concert halls, schools are toxic places for these students, and the same dislike/despise/hate dynamic of toxic marriages is operative in them. [Emphasis mine.]
Second hypothesis considers that it's not specific people the young men are killing -- it's more that the school itself is a symbol of something.
Yet there is an impersonal element in the school shootings, unlike the toxic marriages, so it’s more complicated. The murdered students and teachers very often have no personal connection to the shooter....  
So Hypothesis 2: To school shooters, School stands in his mind as a hated symbol in the same way Jew stands in the mind of an anti-Semite or Banker stands in the mind of an anti-capitalist or Politician stands in the mind of an anarchist, and the destruction of the individuals involved is generic and impersonal.

Third hypothesis considers the fact that few of these shooters expect to emerge alive. What does that tell us? And it's not just that they want to destroy themselves, it's like they want to bring down the whole temple with them:

So there’s a powerful self-destructive phenomenon at work too, something nihilistic. Yet rather than simply subsiding into insignificant lives or quietly committing suicide, they plan and execute a negative act they know will get much attention. They want to destroy themselves, and they want to cause as much destruction to others as they can when doing so.  
So Hypothesis 3: The school shooters are near-but not-quite total nihilists who feel empty except for despair and hate and a need for their lives to have at least one act of significance to define it.
Tragic. But I think Professors Hicks and Thompson are close to the answers here.


Friday, 27 May 2022

Putin v Zelensky?

 

"In war the character and personality of the leader is decisive of events much more than minor questions of material."

~ C.S. Forester from his novel The Good Shepherd (made into a recent film called The Greyhound)

 

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Ban guns?


"To ban guns because criminals use them is to tell the law abiding that their rights and liberties depend not on their own conduct, but on the conduct of the guilty and the lawless." 
          ~ attrib. Lysander Spooner

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

42 Inconvenient Truths on the "New Energy Economy" [updated]



A lot of people 'know' a lot of bullshit stories when it comes to energy and the advent of what they call the "new energy economy." In this guest post, Mark Mills explodes 41 of the stupidest -- including several that you probably hold yourself, dear reader. Well, you and at least one other person...


"Hmmm, I didn't know that..."
Image Credit: Anders Hellberg [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]


41 Inconvenient Truths on the "New Energy Economy"

Guest post by Mark Mills

A week doesn’t pass without a mayor, activist, policymaker or pundit joining the rush to demand (or predict) an energy future that is entirely based on wind/solar and batteries, freed from the “burden” of the hydrocarbons that have fuelled societies for centuries. Only last week, the certifiable James Shaw, Minister for Climate Hysteria, told us we need to "supercharge decarbonisation and transform the energy system." 

Regardless of one’s opinion about whether, or why, an energy “transformation” is called for, the physics and economics of energy combined with scale realities make it clear that there is no possibility of anything resembling a radically “new energy economy” in the foreseeable future. Stopping the use of fossil fuels in the time talked about is simply fantasy. The alternatives are nowhere ready now, no more than they are likely to be when James Shaw thinks they will be.

It's not a matter of your opinion or mine, it's a matter of basic reality -- about the maths and physics of energy demand. For all the talk of solar or wind energy being "free," converting any energy source into useful power always requires capital-intensive hardware. And that hardware is neither cheap, nor omnipresent.

Bill Gates has said that when it comes to understanding energy realities “we need to bring maths to the problem.” So, in my recent Manhattan Institute report, The New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magical Thinking, I did just that.

Herein, then, is a summary of some of the bottom-line realities from the underlying maths and physics. (See the full report for explanations, documentation, and citations.)

Realities About the Scale of Energy Demand


1. Hydrocarbons supply over 80 percent of world energy: If all that were in the form of oil, the barrels would line up from Sydney to Perth, and that entire line would grow every week by the height of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

2. The small percentage-point decline in the hydrocarbon share of world energy use required over $2 trillion in cumulative global spending on 'alternative energy' -- popular visuals of fields festooned with windmills, and rooftops laden with solar cells, don’t change the fact that these two energy sources today provide less than 2% of the global energy supply.

3. When the world’s four billion poor people increase energy use to just one-third of Europe’s per capita level, global demand rises by an amount equal to twice America’s total consumption.

4. A 100x growth in the number of electric vehicles to 400 million on the roads by 2040 would displace just five percent of global oil demand.

5. To replace global hydrocarbons in two decades (which is what James Shaw et al appear to believe), renewable energy use would have to expand 90-fold. Yet it took half a century for global petroleum production to expand “only” ten-fold.

6. Replacing U.S. hydrocarbon-based electric generation over the next 30 years would require a construction programme building out the grid at a rate 14-fold greater than any time in history.

7. Eliminating the use of hydrocarbons to make U.S. electricity (impossible soon, infeasible for decades) would leave untouched the other 70 percent of reasons Americans use hydrocarbons —and Americans uses 16 percent of world energy.

8. Efficiency increases energy demand ... by making products & services cheaper: since 1990, global energy efficiency improved 33 percent, the economy grew 80 percent and global energy use is up 40 percent.

9. Efficiency increases energy demand  ... by making products & services cheaper: since 1995, aviation fuel use/passenger-mile is down 70 percent, yet air traffic rose more than 10-fold, and global aviation fuel use rose over 50 percent.

10. Efficiency increases energy demand .. by making products & services cheapersince 1995, energy used per byte is down about 10,000-fold, but global data traffic rose about a million-fold; global electricity used for computing soared.

11. Since 1995, total world energy use rose by 50 percent, an amount equal to adding two entire United States’ worth of demand.

12. For security and reliability, an average of two months of national demand for hydrocarbons are in storage at any time. Today, however, barely two hours of national electricity demand can be stored in all utility-scale batteries, plus all the batteries in America's one million electric cars.

13. Batteries produced annually by the Tesla Gigafactory (allegedly the world’s biggest battery factory) can store only three minutes worth of annual U.S. electric demand.

14. To make enough batteries to store two day's worth of U.S. electricity demand would require 1,000 years of production by the Gigafactory (world’s biggest battery factory).

15. Every $1 billion in planes that are produced leads to some $5 billion in aviation fuel consumed over the following two decades to operate them. Global spending on new jets is currently more than $50 billion a year—and rising.

16. Every $1 billion spent on data centres leads to $7 billion in electricity consumed over the following two decades. Global spending on data centres is currently more than $100 billion a year—and rising.

Realities about Energy Economics


17. Over a 30-year period, $1 million worth of utility-scale solar or wind produces 40 million and 55 million kWh respectively of intermittent power; by contrast, $1 million worth of shale well produces enough natural gas to generate 300 million kWh of continuous-output power over 30 years.

18. It costs about the same to build one shale well or two wind turbines: the latter, combined, produces 0.7 barrels of oil (equivalent energy) per hour; by contrast, the shale rig averages 10 barrels of oil per hour.

19. It costs less than $0.50 to store a barrel of oil, or its equivalent in natural gas, but it costs $200 to store the equivalent energy of a barrel of oil in batteries.

20. Cost models for wind and solar assume, respectively, 41 percent and 29 percent capacity factors (i.e., how often they produce electricity). Real-world data reveal as much as ten percentage points less for both (i.e., wind turbines and solar arrays are not "on" anywhere near as much as people think they are). That translates into $3 million less energy produced than assumed over a 20-year life of a 2-MW $3 million wind turbine.

21. In order to compensate for "episodic" wind/solar output, utilities use backup generators, i.e., oil- and gas-burning reciprocating engines (big cruise-ship-like diesels), three times as many of which have been added to the U.S. grid since 2000 as in the 50 years prior to that. (Just one way solar and wind sit on the back of hydrocarbons.)

22. Wind-farm capacity factors have improved at about 0.7 percent per year; this small gain comes mainly from reducing the number of turbines per acre leading to a 50 percent increase in average land used to produce a wind-kilowatt-hour.

23. Over 90 percent of America’s electricity (60 percent of NZ's), and 99 percent of the power used in transportation, comes from sources that can easily supply energy to the economy any time the market demands it.

24. By contrast, wind and solar machines produce energy an average of only 25 to 30 percent of the time, and only when nature permits. Conventional power plants can operate nearly continuously and are available when needed.

25. The world-wide shale revolution collapsed the prices of natural gas & coal, the two fuels that produce 70 percent of U.S. electricity (and still 28% in NZ). But electric rates haven’t gone down, rising instead by 20 percent since 2008. Direct and indirect subsidies for solar and wind consumed those savings (the NZ government, for example, has established a $400 million Green Investment Fund, a $27 million National New Energy Development Centre, and multiple renewable energy investments via the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund and $200 million Regional Strategic Growth Fund. And in NZ new gas exploration has been shuttered)

Energy Physics… Inconvenient Realities


26. Politicians and pundits like to invoke “moonshot” language. But transforming the energy economy is not like putting a few people on the moon a few times. It is like putting all of humanity on the moon—permanently.

27. The common cliché: an energy tech disruption will echo the digital tech disruption. But information-producing machines and energy-producing machines involve profoundly different physics; the cliché is sillier than comparing apples to bowling balls. Only someone profoundly ignorant of physics could believe it.

28. If solar power scaled like computer-tech, a single postage-stamp-size solar array would power the Empire State Building. That only happens in comic books.

29. If batteries scaled like digital tech, a battery the size of a book, costing three cents, could power a jetliner to Asia. That only happens in comic books.

30. If combustion engines scaled like computers, a car engine would shrink to the size of an ant and produce a thousand-fold more horsepower; actual ant-sized engines produce 100,000 times less power.

31. No digital-like 10x gains exist for solar tech. Physics limit for solar cells (the Shockley-Queisser limit) is a max conversion of about 33 percent of photons into electrons; commercial cells today are already at 26 percent.

32. No digital-like 10x gains exist for wind tech. Physics limit for wind turbines (the Betz limit) is a max capture of 60 percent of energy in moving air; commercial turbines already achieve 45 percent.

33. No digital-like 10x gains exist for batteries: maximum theoretical energy in a kilogram of oil is 1,500 percent greater than max theoretical energy in the best kilogram of battery chemicals.

34. About 60 kilograms of batteries are needed to store the energy equivalent of one kilogram of hydrocarbons.

35. For every kilogram of battery that is fabricated, at least 100 kilograms of materials are mined, moved and processed. (So for every kilogram-equivalent of energy, around 6000 kilogram of material is mined, moved or processed .... not to produce it, just to store it.)

36. Storing the energy equivalent of one barrel of oil, which weighs 130 kilograms, requires 10,000 kilograms of Tesla batteries ($200,000 worth).

37. Carrying the energy equivalent of the aviation fuel used by an aircraft flying to Asia would require $60 million worth of Tesla-type batteries weighing five times more than that aircraft!

38. It takes the energy equivalent of 100 barrels of oil to fabricate a quantity of batteries that can store the energy equivalent of a single barrel of oil.

39. A battery-centric grid and car world would mean mining gigatons more of the earth to access lithium, copper, nickel, graphite, rare earths, cobalt, etc.—and using millions of tons of oil and coal both in mining and to fabricate metals and concrete. (Another way solar and wind sit on the back of hydrocarbons.)

40. China dominates global battery production with its grid 70 percent coal-fueled: EVs using Chinese batteries will create more carbon-dioxide than saved by replacing oil-burning engines.

41. One would no more use helicopters for regular trans-Atlantic travel—doable with elaborately expensive logistics—than employ a nuclear reactor to power a train or photovoltaic systems to power a nation.

* * * * * 

Mark P. Mills is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a McCormick School of Engineering Faculty Fellow at Northwestern University, and author of Work in the Age of Robots, published by Encounter Books.

This article first appeared at Economics 21, and is republished from Foundation from Economic Education.

UPDATE: 
Some more inconvenient maths here for New Zealand, courtesy of Professor Emeritus Michael Kelly, of Cambridge University, that puts James Shaw's so-called "NET ZERO" into perspective for New Zealand [hat tip Kiwiwit]:

42. Just to replace NZ's vehicle fleet and industrial heating with electricity, NZ would need to increase electricity production to 2.7 times its current output, at a cost of $550 billion! That's around 26,300MW. Currently under construction are just 3 power stations, with projected capacity of barely 290MW -- around 90 times too little!