Monday, 16 December 2019

"Progress does not happen automatically, it must be made to happen." #QotD


"Each generation has to fight the same old battles afresh in their own unique way. Unless they live up to this duty, improvement is impossible and decline almost inevitable. Progress does not happen automatically, it must be made to happen."
~ historian Tom Brooking summarising the "historicism" of Benedetto Croce
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Friday, 13 December 2019

Volcker: "Central banks are not exactly the harbingers of free market economies ... central banks were created as a means of financing the government." #QotD


"Central banks are not exactly the harbingers of free market economies... not at the cutting edge of a market economy; they were Johnny-come-latelies. ... Central banking is almost entirely a phenomenon of the twentieth century.... central banks were looked upon and created as a means of financing the government, which I do not think people have in mind when thinking about central banking today.”
~ Paul Volcker (Federal Reserve Chairman from 1979 to 1987) who died this week, speaking in 1990 on 'The Role of Central Banks'
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Thursday, 12 December 2019

"'Outside Germany, many still think the Nazis’ strength depended on illiterate mobs. In fact, the highest proportion of Nazi Party members came from the educated classes.' And note that in our generation, the thug types from far left/right are coming out of universities ready to rumble." #QotD



"A reminder: to defeat alt-rightists, neo-fascists, and neo-Nazis we need to get our philosophical game on. That’s the implication of my 2010 book 'Nietzsche and the Nazis.' Support for that thesis from a new book by philosopher Susan Neiman:
    'Outside Germany, many still think the Nazis’ strength depended on illiterate mobs, a view unfortunately reinforced by the dreadful book and subsequent movie 'The Reader.' In fact, the highest proportion of Nazi Party members came from the educated classes.'

    "And note that in our generation, the thug types from far left/right are coming out of universities ready to rumble."

        ~ Stephen Hicks, from his post 'How Nazi-Types are Manufactured'
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Wednesday, 11 December 2019

"All men are born free and independent, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights, among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness." #QotD


"All men are born free and independent, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights, among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness."
          ~ John Adams
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Tuesday, 10 December 2019

"To force people to pay other people’s expenses through government taxes is a moral abomination. To justify the moral abomination through collectivist sloganeering—like 'paying back to society' or 'That is what a society does'—just adds a healthy dose of dishonesty to the moral abomination." #QotD


"There is no no society to 'pay back' to. Society doesn’t 'do' anything. 'Society' is an abstraction denoting a number of individuals. Only individuals think, learn, work, and trade. The premise behind catchphrases like 'paying back to society' is that some people must be forced to hand their money over to the state, so that some politically connected others can use the gun-backed machinery of government to legally force their values on unwilling individuals...
    "Collectivism is a great moral escape hatch. It serves as a semi-plausible justification for running roughshod over others. But there is no moral justification for forcing some individual members of society to pay the expenses of other members...
    "To force people to pay other people’s expenses through government taxes is a moral abomination. To justify the moral abomination through collectivist sloganeering—like 'paying back to society' or 'That is what a society does'—just adds a healthy dose of dishonesty to the moral abomination."

      ~ Mike LaFerrara, from his post 'There is No Society to 'Pay Back' To'
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Monday, 9 December 2019

"There are no more markets really, or investors, because central banks have killed off the markets... You can see this every time a Fed chief opens their mouth and every single person involved in the fake markets hangs on their lips." #QotD


"I’ve said multiple times before that there are no more markets really, or investors, because central banks have killed off the markets. There are still 'contraptions' that look like them, like the real thing, but they’re fake. You can see this every time a Federal Reserve Bank* chief opens their mouth and every single person involved in the fake markets hangs on their lips." 
~ Raúl Ilargi Meijer, from his post 'The Fed Detests Free Markets (Part 2)'
* "And when I say the Federal Reserve Bank, that also means the European Central Bank and the  Bank of Japan, and all the western central banks. I won’t get into the PBOC here, but they’re not far behind..."
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Saturday, 7 December 2019

"Children's schooling is now compulsory, enforced by the police and controlled by the State. The inevitable result is to postpone a child's growing-up. His actual situation does not require him to develop self-reliance, self-discipline and responsibility; that is, he has no actual experience of freedom in his youth." #QotD


"[Children's] schooling is now compulsory, enforced by the police and controlled by the State (that is, by the politicians in office) and paid for by compulsory taxes. The inevitable result is to postpone a child's growing-up. He passes from the authority of his parents to the authority of the police. He has no control of his time and no responsibility for its use until he is sixteen years old. His actual situation does not require him to develop self-reliance, self-discipline and responsibility; that is, he has no actual experience of freedom in his youth."
          ~ Rose Wilder Lane, from her 1943 book The Discovery of Freedom.

Friday, 6 December 2019

Incoherent


New Zealand has a government that aims to raise petrol prices with new taxes (to fight global warming, they say) while at the same time aiming to lower petrol prices (to stop New Zealanders being "fleeced," they say).

Do you think, perhaps, they haven't thought their position through?

Does that explain why their overall position on petrol prices is incoherent?

If we are being fleeced, it's by these idiots. Fleeced, and at the same time taken for idiots.




[Hat tip Home Paddock]
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“The first job of an economist is to tell governments what they cannot do.” #QotD


“The first job of an economist is to tell governments what they cannot do.”
          ~ Ludwig Von Mises
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Thursday, 5 December 2019

"People such as Trump, Sanders, Rubio, & Warren – and those who are enchanted by the sorts of things that such people say and write – are ignorant of what percolates and hums so productively beneath what the eyes of such myopic people perceive" #QotD



"People such as Trump, Sanders, Rubio, and Warren – or Gabriel Zucman, Oren Cass, George Monbiot, and Tucker Carlson – and those who are enchanted by the sorts of things that such people say and write, are utterly ignorant of what percolates and hums so productively beneath what the eyes of such myopic people perceive...
    "The portion of an iceberg looming silently beneath the surface of the water is nothing as compared to the portion of the market economy that is beneath the economy’s ‘surface’ – the supply chains, the financial flows, the incredible specialization, the engineering talent, the marketing skills, the management genius, the gumption and drive and determination of ordinary men and women. And the complexity of the iceberg is non-existent compared to the complexity of the modern economy."
          ~ Don Boudreaux, from his post 'If I Could Draw...'  
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Tuesday, 3 December 2019

A Quiz on Wind Energy


Matt Ridley poses a question:
Here’s a quiz; no conferring. To the nearest whole number, what percentage of the world’s energy consumption was supplied by wind power in 2014, the last year for which there are reliable figures? Was it 20 per cent, 10 per cent or 5 per cent?
Quick, write down your own response before reading the answer. Because the answer is...
None of the above: it was 0 per cent. That is to say, to the nearest whole number, there is still no wind power on Earth.
To the nearest whole number? None at all!? How can that possibly be true?
You may have got the impression from announcements [about 54 gigawatts of clean renewable wind power installed across the global market last year], and from the obligatory pictures of wind turbines in any BBC story or airport advert about energy, that wind power is making a big contribution to world energy today. You would be wrong. Its contribution is still, after decades — nay centuries — of development, trivial to the point of irrelevance...
    Even put together, wind and photovoltaic solar are supplying less than 1 per cent of global energy demand. From the International Energy Agency’s 2016 Key Renewables Trends, we can see that wind provided 0.46 per cent of global energy consumption in 2014, and solar and tide combined provided 0.35 per cent. Remember this is total energy, not just electricity, which is less than a fifth of all final energy, the rest being the solid, gaseous, and liquid fuels that do the heavy lifting for heat, transport and industry.
    Such numbers are not hard to find, but they don’t figure prominently in reports on energy derived from the unreliables lobby (solar and wind).
Fact is, says Ridley, there are a great many barriers to wind power ever being a significant contribution to world energy production: 
  • wind turbines are already near maximum efficiency, offering few upsides for technology improvement
  • wind energy in general offers only low output per unit, requiring many turbines for any real return, and many, many more turbines to deliver any kind of real increase in energy output -- up to 350,000 new turbines worldwide, at roughly 1 acre of land needed per megawatt, just to keep up with growing energy demand
  • the mining of rare-earth metals to produce the turbine's magnets is strictly finite, and belies the "clean energy" claims for the technology.
And finally,
  • every turbine needs "about 200 times as much material per unit of capacity as a modern combined cycle gas turbine. Steel is made with coal, not just to provide the heat for smelting ore, but to supply the carbon in the alloy. Cement is also often made using coal. The machinery of ‘clean’ renewables is the output of the fossil fuel economy, and largely the coal economy."
And, if wind energy in this form were ever to be a significant contributor to energy production, then not just a minor part of of the coal economy, but utterly reliant upon it...
A two-megawatt wind turbine weighs about 250 tonnes, including the tower, nacelle, rotor and blades. Globally, it takes about half a tonne of coal to make a tonne of steel. Add another 25 tonnes of coal for making the cement and you’re talking 150 tonnes of coal per turbine. Now if we are to build 350,000 wind turbines a year (or a smaller number of bigger ones), just to keep up with increasing energy demand, that will require 50 million tonnes of coal a year. That’s about half the EU’s hard coal–mining output.
Ridley's conclusion should cause folk in Taranaki to sit up:
The truth is, if you want to power civilisation with fewer greenhouse gas emissions, then you should focus on shifting power generation, heat and transport to natural gas, the economically recoverable reserves of which — thanks to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — are much more abundant than we dreamed they ever could be. It is also the lowest-emitting of the fossil fuels, so the emissions intensity of our wealth creation can actually fall while our wealth continues to increase. Good.
Gas. Not wind.

Perhaps the Prime Minister knows much less about this than she thinks.
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"This is a race to the bottom. Companies that can’t effectively price and promote the advantages of their products sometimes decide not to make them in the first place. The drug they don’t develop and the drug you aren’t administered might have been the one that got you out of the hospital a day earlier or even saved your life." #QotD


"When Americans [and those who rely upon American pharmaceutical research] talk about drug prices, the conversation is dominated by the eye-popping sticker prices of certain new drugs. We’re all aware of how sky-high prices can make it hard for some patients to afford the drugs they need. Yet few appreciate how patients also lose access to treatments when prices are too low.
    "The U.S. federal government’s attempts to keep prices low have created a chain of unintended consequences...
    "Because both the 340B program and the Medicaid best price law keep prices low, drug companies underinvest in the next generation of hospital outpatient drugs.
    "Another set of regulations further discourages hospitals from offering some drugs. For drugs administered in a hospital setting ... hospitals’ retail price remains pegged to the industrywide average, potentially forcing them to sell the drug at a loss...
    "In the drug arena, government is an 800-pound gorilla. Health-care providers and pharmaceutical companies are paying attention. The drug they don’t develop and the drug you aren’t administered might have been the one that got you out of the hospital a day earlier or even saved your life...
    "This is a race to the bottom. Companies that can’t effectively price and promote the advantages of their products sometimes decide not to make them in the first place. Americans [and the rest of the world] are being denied needed drugs because some prices are too low."

~ David R. Henderson and Charles L. Hooper from their post 'Henderson and Hooper on Why Some Drug Prices Are Too Low'
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Monday, 2 December 2019

"Lincoln would now see government not of, by, and for all the people but of, by, and for some kinds of people. It is government 'of the Busy (political activists), by the Bossy (government managers), for the Bully (lobbying activists)'.” #QotD


"Government is now very different from the one based on the common people that Lincoln thought would prevail [i.e., 'of the people, by the people, for the people']. Although his vision is still the most common encyclopedia definition of 'democracy' Lincoln cannot now be claimed as the father of our 20th-21st-century form of democracy.
    "Lincoln would now see government not of, by, and for all the people but of, by, and for some kinds of people. He would see it not as of all the people but as of the political activists. He would see government not as by the people but as managed by the politicians and their officials. And he would see government not as for the ordinary people but as for the organised in well-run, well-financed, and influential business organisations, professional associations, and trade unions. It is government 'of the Busy (political activists), by the Bossy (government managers), for the Bully (lobbying activists)'.”

~ Arthur Seldon, from his introduction to Gordon Tullock's book Government Failure: A Primer in Public Choice.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

"If poverty is now measured by household income less than 60% below median then no poverty alleviation attempt which has no effect upon household income relieves poverty, does it?" #QotD


"But poverty is on the political agenda, and has still not been completely eradicated, so what to do about it? ... He argues that Labour has a plan ‘to tackle the root causes of child poverty’' ... The problem though is that ... none of those things would change child poverty. For the measurement today is incomes below median.'
    "If poverty is now measured by household income less than 60% below median then no poverty alleviation attempt which has no effect upon household income relieves poverty, does it? But we can only claim that we’ve got poverty if we use the income-below-median method."

          ~ Tim Worstall from his post 'The problem with how we measure poverty'
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Saturday, 30 November 2019

"‘Ideas create wealth’. Not gold, oil, silicon or hard work. Thought is primary. Not always understood." #QotD



“A preoccupation with pursuing growth—or some modified version of the growth ideal—therefore means a preoccupation with ideas, a preoccupation with cultivating human reason, and a preoccupation with the notion that man should realize, perfect, and extend his nature as a generator of powerful ideas that can change the world.’’
    "‘Ideas create wealth’. Not gold, oil, silicon or hard work. Thought is primary. Not always understood."

~ Tyler Cowen, from his book Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals
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Friday, 29 November 2019

"We still need a lot of progress... Progress itself is understudied... We believe that it deserves a dedicated field of study. We suggest inaugurating the discipline of 'Progress Studies'.” #QotD


"We still need a lot of progress. We haven’t yet cured all diseases; we don’t yet know how to solve climate change; we’re still a very long way from enabling most of the world’s population to live as comfortably as the wealthiest people do today; we don’t yet understand how best to predict or mitigate all kinds of natural disasters; we aren’t yet able to travel as cheaply and quickly as we’d like; we could be far better than we are at educating young people. The list of opportunities for improvement is still extremely long...
    "Progress itself is understudied. By 'progress,' we mean the combination of economic, technological, scientific, cultural, and organizational advancement that has transformed our lives and raised standards of living over the past couple of centuries. For a number of reasons, there is no broad-based intellectual movement focused on understanding the dynamics of progress, or targeting the deeper goal of speeding it up. We believe that it deserves a dedicated field of study. We suggest inaugurating the discipline of 'Progress Studies'.”
~ Tyler Cowen & Patrick Collison, from their article 'We Need a New Science of Progress'
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Thursday, 28 November 2019

"Why do so many [people] across most of the ideological space equate freedom with democracy? Do these [people] not see that oppression by a majority of one’s fellow citizens is oppression no less than is oppression by a minority of one’s fellow citizens?" #QotD


"Why do so many [people] across most of the ideological space equate freedom with democracy? Do these [people] not see that oppression by a majority of one’s fellow citizens is oppression no less than is oppression by a minority of one’s fellow citizens?"
          ~ Don Boudreaux asking 'Why?'
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Wednesday, 27 November 2019

"To whom do you award the right to decide which speech is harmful or who is the harmful speaker? ... To whom would you delegate the task of deciding for you what you could read?"


"To whom do you award the right to decide which speech is harmful or who is the harmful speaker? ... To whom would you delegate the task of deciding for you what you could read?" 
          ~ Christopher Hitchens speaking 'On Free Speech'
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Tuesday, 26 November 2019

"Reason, freedom and the pursuit of personal profit — if we can learn to embrace these three ideas as ideals, a magnificent future awaits." #QotD


"Ask someone on the street to name a moral hero; if he isn’t at a loss, he’ll likely name someone like Jesus Christ or Mother Teresa. Why? Because they’re regarded as people of faith who shunned personal profit for the sake of other people. No one would dream of naming Galileo, Darwin, Edison or Rockefeller.
Yet we should. It is they at their intellectual and productive best, not the Mother Teresas of the world, that we should strive to be like and teach our kids to admire.
    "If morality is judgment to discern the truth and courage to act on it by making something of and for your own life, then these individuals, in their capacity as great creators, are moral exemplars. Put another way, if morality is a guide in the quest to achieve your own happiness by creating the values of mind and body that make a successful life, then morality is about personal profit, spiritual and material, not its renunciation....
    "Reason, freedom and the pursuit of personal profit — if we can learn to embrace these three ideas as ideals, a magnificent future awaits."

    ~ Onkhar Ghate and Yaron Brook, from their op-ed 'Our Moral Code Is Out of Date'
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"When I was growing up, we were taught the stories of people whose inventions and scientific discoveries had expanded the lives of millions of other people. Today, students are being taught to admire those who complain, denounce and demand." #QotD


"When I was growing up, we were taught the stories of people whose inventions and scientific discoveries had expanded the lives of millions of other people. Today, students are being taught to admire those who complain, denounce and demand."
          ~ Thomas Sowell
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Monday, 25 November 2019

The Brightest Future Depends on Market Chaos






Guest poster Maciek Chawolski reminds us that letting market chaos reign makes us and future generations richer and better off beyond our dreams.


Recently, a colleague disparaged my reliance on "market magic” over his activist preference to use the government and its tax power to impose changes to technology and society. He berated me for believing that entrepreneurs professionals are (and should be) at the forefront of changes that make lives better for fellow citizens. He derisively repeated the joke, how many capitalists does it take to change a light bulb None. If the government would just leave it alone, it would screw itself in.
What he fails to see is all the activity that happens when government does leave things alone: which is all the things that make us and future generations richer.

Market Chaos

Here is a little thought experiment to support my views: Imagine a hot July day in 1900. You are standing on a street corner in Manhattan looking at horse manure-covered streets while flies are buzzing around your head and spreading various diseases. You are 60 years old, and you were born in 1840 in Western Europe to a father who was born in 1810. All your life, you lived in pre-modern, agrarian, and feudal societies. The technologies that surround you are primitive. The question is: What would have been the smartest and fastest way to get the society from 1900 to 2020 levels? Activists like my colleague using tax dollars or the unplanned chaos of self-interested tinkerers and dreamers in the marketplace?

Consider how hard it would have been in 1900 to decide on the best future technologies and trajectories to get there. Back then, 4,192 cars were accounted for in the United States, 40 percent of which were steam-propelled. Air conditioning would be invented two years later by Willis Carrier. The first controlled little puddle jump flight was three years out. A tractor would be invented in 1904. Penicillin would happen in 1928. Something as simple as a shipping container would wait until 1956. The structure of atoms and DNA were still mysteries. There would be many decades until widespread water fluoridation. It would take the imaginations of many insightful people to build the future.

Fast-forward to 2020, and let’s repeat the same exercise. You are standing on a street corner in Manhattan with your smartphone and watching Uber and Amazon delivery trucks. You just checked on your house because someone knocked on your door. A few minutes earlier, you spoke with your daughter who is studying in Europe, and so on; we can continue listing our civilization’s conveniences. If the trend continues, and at a vastly accelerated pace, another 120 years out, in 2140, our descendants will be living stepped-up lives much different than the distance between 1900 and 2020. The same question stands: “what is the smartest and fastest way between 2020 and 2140 amazing future?”

When comparing 1900 to 2020, we recognise the enormity of revolutionary and transformative changes to everything around us that has gotten us here. For example, the heart treatments, kidney transplants, smartphones, modern aeroplanes, and inexhaustible entertainment options that are common today required numerous inventions over many decades to eventually enable today’s products and services. These inventions happened mostly by happenstance and a great deal of imagination—not as a result of conscious planning. It would have been a fantasy for someone in 1900 to draw a plan for the smartphone market release in 2007 and decide what should have been done in each decade between then and now and by whom to come up with a smartphone.

The Effects of Economic Freedom

Still not sure? Thirty years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, East and West Germany are still different. They are the same people, but the West has been much richer and better off due to economic freedoms.

Even technology predictions about short-term events are rarely accurate. Just ask people who recently shorted the Tesla stock waiting for it to collapse because they doubted the technology readiness. In late October, they must have felt silly when Tesla stock price shot up from $254 to $328 per share. Why do we expect an activist or a government planner to be more successful than people betting their own money?

The problem with my colleague is that he does not recognise how technologically primitive our world will be to those in 2140. He does not have skin the game. He is not investing his money and does not consider trade-offs and alternatives. His blind spot is that while the single-technology focus may accelerate it, it is impossible to correctly optimise the economy with thousands of products and services over even a few years.

Notice how many economic activities, investments, and trials happen out there. These are people who use their resources or for which they are responsible to investors at their risk. Some win, some fail—but they all learn. The "chaos" out there is entrepreneurs trying, and learning, and often succeeding -- sometimes spectacularly! However, it is unacceptable when the government taxes us so that unspecialised activists with no accountability decide which technologies should be funded. These people waste money on rear-view mirror ideas instead of building the future. They have good intentions and itch to do “something,” but the something they do is to destroy wealth.

In 2020, as was the case in 1900, there will be no virtual signposts for technologies to focus on, but there will be thousands of haphazard, "chaotic" and necessary discoveries that will happen in the meantime. From the perspective of 2140, what should professionals in 2020 be doing? Using their own (or investor) resources and relying on the chaos and unpredictability of the market to take us there. If we let activists take our money, we will end up much poorer and reach 2140 in 2240 instead.

Society is better off with visionaries and dreamers using their money to test and try whatever they fancy without any country plan whatsoever. Let the market chaos reign to make us and future generations richer and better off beyond our wildest dreams.
                                                                    * * * * *
 
Maciek Chwalowski is a Washington, DC-based international business consultant focused on improving performance outcomes. He is an adventurer and a world-traveller (126 countries visited). This post first appeared at the Foundation for Economic Education blog.




Sunday, 24 November 2019

Did you know ... ?


Did you know that "despite claims that we are destroying the planet, Earth has been becoming a better and better place to live."

How is this possible? One reason is the increasing global penetration of markets, and contract law. The other is that "low-cost, reliable energy has enabled us to use high-powered machines to transform our naturally deficient and dangerous planet into an abundant and safe planet...Here are some actual statistics about the rapidly improving world we live in":
And what is the lowest-cost, most reliable energy source? "Fossil fuels are the only energy production process that can provide low-cost, reliable energy for the billions that have it and the billions that don’t."

Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress reckons these are "undeniable but little-known truths."

I think he's right on both counts. 
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Saturday, 23 November 2019

“Large parts of the mainstream media have stopped pretending to strive for objectivity in their reporting. On the climate issue, many outlets and reporters are now publicly boasting about the fact that they are promoting their own prejudices" #QotD


“Large parts of the mainstream media* have stopped pretending to strive for objectivity in their reporting. On the climate issue, many outlets and reporters are now publicly boasting about the fact that they are promoting their own prejudices on the grounds that increasing global energy poverty is a noble cause.”
    “This is nothing more than what used to be known as ‘civic journalism’ … or propaganda for the left dressed up as news reporting.”

          ~ Myron Ebell and Steve Milloy, quoted in the post 'Inside the media conspiracy to promote Greta Thunberg'

* NIWA: "In New Zealand that includes Stuff, the NZ Herald, TVNZ, Newsroom and The Spinoff..."
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Friday, 22 November 2019

Thursday, 21 November 2019

"I invited a scientist in to explain the risk of climate change to our company ... "


Can't say I was ever much of a fan of the 'Dilbert' cartoons. But these are amusing ....


* * * * *


[Hat tip Fred Weiss and Louise LaMontagne]
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Wednesday, 20 November 2019

"Open Borders Are a Trillion-Dollar Idea"




In his new comic book Open Borders, best-selling author and economist Bryan Caplan argues that "tearing down all barriers to migration isn’t crazy—it’s an opportunity for a global boom."

To ignore the opportunity, he says, is like failing to pick up a trillion-dollar note you see sitting on the footpath.
To see the massive missed opportunity of which I speak, consider the migration of a low-skilled Haitian from Port-au-Prince to Miami. In Haiti, he would earn about $1,000 per year. In Miami, he could easily earn $25,000 per year. How is such upward mobility possible? Simply put: Human beings are much more productive in Florida than in Haiti—thanks to better government policies, better management, better technology, and much more. The main reason Haitians suffer in poverty is not because they are from Haiti but because they are in Haiti. If you were stuck in Haiti, you, too, would probably be destitute.
    But borders aren’t just a missed opportunity for those stuck on the wrong side on them. If the walls come down, almost everyone benefits because immigrants sell the new wealth they create—and the inhabitants of their new country are their top customers. As long as Haitians remain in Haiti, they produce next to nothing—and therefore do next to nothing to enrich the rest of the world. When they move, their productivity skyrockets—and so does their contribution to their new customers. When you see a Haitian restaurant in Miami, you shouldn’t picture the relocation of a restaurant from Port-au-Prince; you should picture the creation of a restaurant that otherwise would never have existed—not even in Haiti itself.

    The central function of existing immigration laws is to prevent this wealth creation from happening—to trap human talent in low-productivity countries. Out of all the destructive economic policies known to man, nothing on Earth is worse. I’m not joking. Standard estimates say open borders would ultimately double humanity’s wealth production. How is this possible? Because immigration sharply increases workers’ productivity—and the world contains many hundreds of millions of would-be immigrants. Multiply a massive gain per person by a massive number of people and you end up with what the economist Michael Clemens calls “trillion-dollar bills on the sidewalk.”
But, but, we'll be overwhelmed!
Even the largest countries cannot absorb hundreds of millions of immigrants overnight. True enough, but no reasonable person expects hundreds of millions to come overnight, either. Instead, immigration usually begins slowly and then snowballs. Puerto Ricans have been legally allowed to move to the United States since 1904, but it took almost a century before Puerto Ricans in the United States came to outnumber the population left on the island. Wasn’t the European migration crisis an unmanageable flood of humanity? Hardly. Despite media outcry, total arrivals from 2014 to 2018 came to less than 1 percent of the population of the European Union. Many European countries—most notably West Germany during the Cold War—have swiftly absorbed much larger inflows in the past.

But, but, East Germans weren't really foreigners were they!
While West Germans welcomed millions of East German migrants, a much lower dose of Middle Eastern and African migration has made the whole EU shiver. Aren’t economists who dwell on economic gains just missing the point? ...
    Let’s start with readily measurable cultural and political effects. In the United States, the most common cultural complaint is probably that—in contrast to the days of Ellis Island—today’s immigrants fail to learn English. The real story, though, is that few first-generation immigrants have ever become fluent in adulthood; it’s just too hard. German and Dutch immigrants in the 19th century maintained their stubborn accents and linguistic isolation all their lives; New York’s Yiddish newspapers were a fixture for decades. For their sons and daughters, however, acquiring fluency is child’s play—even for groups like Asians and Hispanics that are often accused of not learning English.
But, but, they'll all vote for [insert whichever party which the objector is opposed]!
Who knows how vast numbers of new immigrants would vote? Indeed, shouldn’t we expect people from dysfunctional polities to bring dysfunctional politics with them?
These are fine questions, but the answers are not alarming. At least in the United States, the main political division between the native- and foreign-born is engagement.   Even immigrants legally able to vote are markedly less likely than native-born citizens to exercise this right. In the 2012 U.S. presidential election, for example, 72 percent of eligible native-born citizens voted versus just 48 percent of eligible immigrants.  Wherever they politically stand, then, immigrants’ opinions are relatively inert.
    In any case, immigrants’ political opinions don’t actually stand out. On average, they’re a little more economically liberal and a little more socially conservative, and that’s about it. Yes, low-skilled immigrants’ economic liberalism and social conservatism are more pronounced, but their turnout is low; in 2012, only 27 percent of those eligible to vote opted to do so. So while it would not be alarmist to think that immigration will slightly tilt policy in an economically liberal, socially conservative direction, warning that “immigrants will vote to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs” is paranoid.
All these arguments and many more have for a long time been addressed in my own fumbling way here at this blog, and in almost point-by-point detail by Jason Krupp at the New Zealand Institute and Alex Nowrestah at the Cato Institute. Caplan's main point is the positive one: that allowing peaceful people to cross borders and work freely for whichever employer wants them, wherever that employer might be, is ultimately good all round.
This is ultimately how I see the case for open borders. Denying human beings the right to rent an apartment from a willing landlord or accept a job offer from a willing employer is a serious harm. How much would someone have to pay the average American to spend the rest of his or her life in Haiti or Syria? To morally justify such harm, we need a clear and present danger, not gloomy speculation. Yet when we patiently and calmly study immigration, the main thing we observe is: people moving from places where their talent goes to waste to places where they can realize their potential. What we see, in short, is immigrants enriching themselves by enriching the world.
What else does he talk about? Almost everything. The answer to all the following is "YES!"
5. Do you talk about global apartheid?
6. Do you talk about the level of illegal immigration?
7. Do you talk about human smuggling?
8. Do you talk about the effectiveness of immigration law at preventing and deterring illegal immigration?
9. Do you talk about immigration as a civil right?
10. Do you talk about whether the plight of the immigrant is our problem?
11. Do you talk about whether there is a right to immigrate?
12. Do you talk about whether this right is absolute?
19. Do you talk about the benefits of immigration for immigrants?
20. Do you talk about the benefits of immigration for natives?
21. Do you talk about how much immigration actually helps immigrants?
22. Do you talk about why immigration helps immigrants?
23. Do you talk about how much a trillion dollars of gains really buys?
29. Do you talk about what open borders would really look like?
34. Do you talk about brain drain?
35. Do you talk about what good for places versus what’s good for people?
36. Do you talk about zombie economies?
37. Do you talk about how immigration’s fiscal effects vary by immigrant skill?
38. Do you talk about whether open borders and the welfare state are compatible?
40. Do you talk about how welfare states prioritise the old versus the poor?
41. Do you talk about the cost of educating immigrants’ children?
42. Do you talk about the effect of immigration on the sustainability of retirement systems?
51. Do you talk about the value of Western civilisation? 
69. Do you talk about the cultural benefits of immigration?
70. Do you talk about immigrants’ desire for freedom?
71. Do you talk about immigrants’ disdain for freedom?
72. Do you talk about the danger that immigrants will vote to “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs”?
84. Do you talk about the effect of immigration on national IQ?
85. Do you talk about whether you’re virtue signalling?
92. Do you talk about restricting immigrants’ eligibility for government benefits?
93. Do you talk about requiring immigrants to learn English?
94. Do you talk about requiring immigrants to acquire cultural literacy?
Answer to all the above: "YES!"

There are answers for everyone, even for the antediluvians:
52. Do you talk about the cultural dangers of admitting non-Western immigrants?
53. Do you talk about terrorism, mass rape, human trafficking, Sharia, and the decline of English?
95. Do you talk about the dangers of Islam?
96. Do you talk about Muslim bans?
97. Do you talk about keyhole solutions for the dangers of Islam?
Answer: Yes.

Q: What's a "keyhole solution" for the dangers of Islam?
A: Read the damn book.  Or this summary. Or listen to a podcast interview here.

Q: Do you need to embrace every answer?
A: "No," says the author. "My immediate goal is more modest: I’d like to convince you that open borders aren’t crazy. While we take draconian regulation of migration for granted, the central goal of this regulation is to trap valuable labour in unproductive regions of the world. This sounds cruel and misguided. Shouldn’t we at least double-check our work to make sure we’re not missing a massive opportunity for ourselves and humanity?"

He has a point. And it's a good one.
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"Keynesian economics was once only about getting an economy out of a recession. Now it’s about massive and permanent deficits coupled with massive and permanent forms of public waste" #QotD


"There are economic idiots everywhere, but the biggest ones are the ones who think government infrastructure projects like this are good for the economy. Even the Premier is beginning to see what a black hole this is. Construction everywhere you turn in the City, whole city blocks turned into construction sites, billions of dollars being spent, and not a dollar’s worth of actual value-adding output anywhere to be seen. We are looking here at immense costs, for which there will NEVER be a single cent of profit ever earned...which means [these projects] will never ever repay [their] costs in the benefits [they] provide.
    "Keynesian economics was once only about getting an economy out of a recession. Now it’s about massive and permanent deficits coupled with massive and permanent forms of public waste...
    "Modern economic theory is a disaster for anyone whose government believes any and all of it. Public spending has its role, but is a drain on an economy’s productivity. Oddly because of the Keynesian nature of the National Accounts, all of this will show up as growth in GDP even though it is nothing of the kind. And there will be many people employed, except not employed on projects that will add to the economy’s net level of real production. They are not value adding. They may create a dollar’s worth of value, but for each dollar of value created it will cost much much more than a dollar. Why does this make sense to anyone?"

          ~ Steven Kates, from his post 'Ever wonder why real wages are falling?'
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Tuesday, 19 November 2019

"Tenancy regulation will not build more houses. If you really care about protecting tenants, you need to have massive increases in housing supply. You need to have landlords competing for tenants. You need to have the run-down, damp, grotty dungers left vacant because people have other places that they can afford to live instead." Bonus #QotD


"Tenancy regulation will not build more houses. It can only address some of the current symptoms of a fundamentally broken housing market. 
    "Worse, it is the kind of move that makes the most sense if the Government is pessimistic about its chances of fixing the real underlying problem – making it easier to get new housing built...  
  "If you really care about protecting tenants, you need to have massive increases in housing supply. You need to have landlords competing for tenants. You need to have the run-down, damp, grotty dungers left vacant because people have other places that they can afford to live instead. When you're in a massive housing shortage and the alternative to a crappy house is a garage or a car, crappy houses get rented out. If we instead had a surplus of housing, those places would be left vacant and their owners would have to decide whether to refurbish or tear down... 
          ~ Eric Crampton, from his post 'Really protecting tenants'
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"In Ancient Greece private property was recognised and protected by the State as the basis of society..." #QotD


"Nineteenth-century historians, committed to the theory of primitive communism [i.e., that society had evolved into private property out of a situation of communal "ownership"] assumed, without examining the data or else misinterpreting them to suit their preconceptions, that ancient Greece knew only communal property in land...
    "[Yet] in the words of Jules Toutain, "If we adhere to Homer and Hesiod, we find that all ownership is private, so far as arable land is concerned .... The Anglo-American historian of antiquity Moses Finley concurs: 'In the Homeric poems, the property regime, in particular, was already fully established ... The regime that we see in the poems was, above all, one of private ownership ...
    "According to Finley, the Homeric world knew 'no feudal, or capably conditional tenures.' In Ancient Greece 'private property [was] recognised and protected by the State as the basis of society' and the state very rarely interfered with the 'free play of economic forces and economic initiative.' It is precisely because private property was prevalent in classical Greece that Plato and Aristotle devoted to much attention to it."

          ~ Richard Pipes, from his book Property and Freedom.