Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Two anniversaries: Three Mile Island, and the end of money growth data [update 2]

A couple of interesting yet unsung anniversaries this week, both of which are shrouded in much misinformation.

Ouch IT’S JUST THREE YEARS this week since the US Federal Reserve stopped printing the figures showing the growth of the M3 money supply – the “broadest measure” of three standards of measurement.  One can only guess at their motivation…. as Jerry Robinson subtly points out

    it took from 1776 to 1983 to grow the M3 money supply by $2.5 trillion. But the supply increased by $2.5 trillion in the next 14 years. And then from 1997 to 2001 – only four years – it increased by that amount again.
    "While the Federal Reserve has become less transparent in its actions than ever, we do know that right now, the printing presses are rolling and that the Federal Reserve is injecting massive amounts of currency into the U.S. economy” . . .
    The Fed last week took consolation in a slight stock market rise in answer to its announcement about injecting [a further] $1.2 trillion more into the system. However, Robinson points out that rising stock prices don't actually mean increased wealth for those invested in those companies – simply because the dollar is not worth what it was before the infusion of capital into the system.

Fortunately, a few places are trying to take up the slack in reporting the growth in the broad money supply, among them the Mises Institute (though with a significant time lag).

Not incidentally, the growth in M1 money supply – which, for the moment, is still being reported -- is frightening (see above).  That line at the right heading up the page vertically within the greyed ‘recession bar’?  That’s before the recent injections.

250px-Three_Mile_Island_(color)-2 THIS WEEK IS ALSO  the anniversary of the partial meltdown at the American Three Mile Island nuclear power station, the worst civilian nuclear accident in US history, which happened thirty years ago on March 28. 

The very worst accident in the history of nuclear power, Chernobyl, killed 56 people and made 20 square miles of land uninhabitable.   But the Chernobyl accident happened with a Soviet-style RBMK reactor, which had no containment shell and a unique Soviet-only design that ensured that as the reactor got hotter the rate of the nuclear reaction increased - the reverse of what happens in Western reactors. 

By contrast, in the Third Mile Island accident, no one died, and the plant still produces power today.

Nonetheless, the anti-industrialists seized immediately on the accident at Three Mile, and the nuclear industry never truly recovered.  Wikipedia reports (with citations, it should be noted) “The incident was largely publicized. The China Syndrome, a movie about a nuclear meltdown, released just 12 days before the disaster, became a blockbuster hit. Economists and authors Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt claim [with tongues only slightly in their cheeks] claim that the film stoked a widespread panic and blame the end of the nuclear power era on Jane Fonda.”

UPDATE 1: Iain Murray commemorates the anniversary with a more rational reflection on nuclear safety, the nuclear era and the current state of play viz nuclear power: Nuclear Power? Yes Please.

UPDATE 2: On a related note,

    Japan is the only country to have been attacked by atom bombs. The U.S. dropped one on Hiroshima, and one on Nagasaki.
    And Tsutomu Yamaguchi, 93, is the only human known to have survived both atomic attacks.

Says John Enright in wonderment, “Not only did he survive, he's still freaking alive”!


  1. If only Chernobyl was used as effectively as a lesson in the dangers of communism (which it is) as it is as a lesson in the dangers of nuclear power (which it is not).

  2. "Chernobyl, killed 56 people and made 20 square miles of land uninhabitable" - I'm all for nuclear power but I think the correct framing of that particular fact might be in order, 56 people died as a direct consequence of the explosion and fire, how many people have been effected in the long run we will never know. Your attempted trivialization is at least grotesque.

  3. How many people have been affected in the long run by exposure to diesel fumes, poverty and excessive exposure to household chemicals?
    We'll never know that either.
    That's the difference between facts and speculation. :-)

  4. Craig, I'm at a loss to know what "attempted trivialisation" you're talking about Craig.

    Why would I even want to be trivialising a Soviet disaster?


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