Looters tend to be ingrates

Taken from a review of Tyler Cowen’s Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero

“How is this tweet, from “Dina,” for showing lack of gratitude toward business? “If you think about it. People with glasses are literally paying to use their eyes. Capitalism is a bitch.” Shortly after it was posted, it had accumulated 257,000 likes, surely with more to come.”

It’s both more and less than a lack of gratitude. Big Rock Candy Mountain would not impress her.

I wonder about her reaction should she ever hear of Iron Lungs, or Polio vaccine. Or, for that matter, food stores.

“Dina, here’s a free, live sheep. It’s your food and clothing supplement for the next quarter. Otherwise, you just get subsistence quantities of basic protein paste and three yards of poor quality burlap salvaged from potato sacks.

Other people’s labor supplied the sheep (as well as the protein paste and burlap) so you can learn to how to butcher, preserve meat, tan hides, and sew. And to make your own knives, saws, sewing tools, refrigerator, and electricity. People are literally paying you to learn existentially valuable skills.

After you’ve acquired those skills, you’ll need to work on how to raise sheep. Society can’t afford this gift indefinitely.

After that, you could look into creating a global transportation system to ship any excess sheep to Venezuela. We hear people there would literally pay for them.”

Earth hour

Apparently that’s today. Easy to lose track. Unless you’re in Venezuela or North Korea, where it’s every day.

It’s “A celebration of ignorance, poverty and backwardness.”
-Ross McKitrick.

My lights are all on, and I think I’ll go start my diesel tractor just for a sniff of the fumes. I’ll drive my car 200 feet to the barn.

Compare and contrast

Yesterday, I mentioned Representative Ocasio-Cortez’ happy dance on the bridge she burned to prevent economic aid supplied by Amazon from reaching New York.

Consider parallels to recent activity on the Simon Bolivar International Bridge between Colombia and Venezuela, where Senor Maduro is burning humanitarian aid trucks to prevent starving Venezuelans from eating.

The differences?  Aside from burning figurative bridges instead of actual trucks, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is not in a position to enforce her Green New Deal on the nation.

If she were, the difference would be time.

Propriety tax

In which we can observe the effects of the “Democratic Socialism” Congressgirl Ocasio-Cortez propounds.  She’s tickled pinko that Amazon decided not to locate their 2nd headquarters in New York.

Robert Mujica, New York State Budget Director, has a different view. Worth reading:
Open Letter From New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica Regarding Amazon

The polls showing seventy percent of New Yorkers supported Amazon provided false comfort that the political process would act responsibly and on behalf of all of their constituents, not just the vocal minority. We underestimated the effect of the opposition’s distortions and overestimated the intelligence and integrity of local elected officials…

Make no mistake, at the end of the day we lost $27 billion, 25,000-40,000 jobs and a blow to our reputation of being ‘open for business.’ The union that opposed the project gained nothing and cost other union members 11,000 good, high-paying jobs. The local politicians that catered to the hyper-political opposition hurt their own government colleagues and the economic interest of every constituent in their district. The true local residents who actually supported the project and its benefits for their community are badly hurt. Nothing was gained and much was lost. This should never happen again.

Read the whole thing. It’s devastating. The only things he missed are a reference to Venezuela, and opportunities to use the words “corrupt” and “venal.”

Meanwhile, New York faces a shortfall of $2.3B in tax revenue and blames Washington. New York property tax rates are Donald Trump’s fault, of course; though I, for one, am tired of subsidizing rich New Yorker’s (those whose property attracts taxes of over $10,000) Federal income tax.

Property taxes are a tax on wealth, which the Left is proposing to expand. So, shouldn’t these Progressive, civically minded, wealthy New Yorkers be glad they’re no longer allowed this huge loophole? I guess not, because they are leaving New York when the true cost of New York government is revealed.

Tell you what, raise the standard deduction again (it was just doubled) by a symbolic one dollar and eliminate the property tax deduction entirely. I own property, and I’m good with that.

Rationale to ration

Medical Welfare Programs Look To Price Another Year Of Life

Medicaid and other medical welfare entitlement programs have created expectations that are bigger than the resources available to meet them. As a result, some welfare bureaucracies are looking to ration expensive drugs through a controversial method designed to put a price on the value of a human life.

If a beneficiary of a social welfare program needs a particular drug whose price exceeds a predetermined value of a “quality-adjusted life year” for the individual, under this method, that person would not get the drug. It is already in use in Great Britain’s single-payer health care system and in other nations. Some in the U.S. think it should be used here, too.

When the government pays for something, it gives bureaucrats a taxpayer-based rationale to refuse to pay for it.

See the Green New Deal fantasy: It’s a list of things, including electricity, gasoline, home heating, land use, product design, hourly wages, preferred occupation, food choice, and, yes, health care; all of which will be rationed or regulated. Why? In order to implement their view of “social, economic, racial, regional and gender-based justice and equality

Is it any wonder GND proponents support “some are more equal than others” thugs like Venezuela’s Maduro and Cuba’s Castro?

Which clueless totalitarian are you?

We need a Facebook quiz to find out which Atlas Shrugged character Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is like.

There might not be a match. Ayn Rand’s fiction has been criticized for unidimensional characterization, but even she would find AOC unbelievable.

Here Are The Most Shocking Proposals From Ocasio-Cortez’ “Green New Deal”

Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t provide any insight into how the trillions of dollars in spending will be paid for other than claiming, “The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments and new public banks can be created to extend credit”. But as Ocasio-Cortez says, “the question isn’t how will we pay for it, but what will we do with our new shared prosperity”.

Provide free, mandatory classes for every citizen in speaking ‘Venezuelan?’

(Update, 12:48PM here‘s one estimate of the cost.)

Here’s a snippet from an FAQ document, published by proponents, describing the wonders of the ‘Green New Deal:’

Yes, we are calling for a full transition off fossil fuels and zero greenhouse gases. Anyone who has read the resolution sees that we spell this out through a plan that calls for eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from every sector of the economy. Simply banning fossil fuels immediately won’t build the new economy to replace it – this is the plan to build that new economy and spells out how to do it technically. We do this through a huge mobilization to create the renewable energy economy as fast as possible. We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast, but we think we can ramp up renewable manufacturing and power production, retrofit every building in America, build the smart grid, overhaul transportation and agriculture, plant lots of trees and restore our ecosystem to get to net-zero.

Maybe “our new shared prosperity” will pay for little solar-powered methane suction devices attached to the rear of every cow.  “Methane Disposal,” you ask?  Well, we just inject it into the natural gas supply lines…  Oh wait, natural gas will be banned.

OK.  More likely, the cow problem solves itself when meat and milk are banned.

This manifesto attracted so much ridicule that they tried to disappear it from the internet. They forgot the internet is forever. It is humorous reading.

This great leap forward is on top of universal free college education and medicare for all. So, they desperately need the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, King Midas, and the Pope (for divine intervention).

What they’ve got is Modern Monetary Theory:

MMT Sounds Great In Theory, But…

If you haven’t heard about Modern Monetary Theory your IQ is higher than it would have been if you had. It is really neither modern, nor a theory (it’s not actually testable*); and it misapprehends the meaning of the word ‘monetary.’ However, it could be in your future as a general government policy.

This theory of infinite currency printing does not admit to being limited by inflation. Any excess currency is simply taxed back. Inflation is something that cannot happen with a proper implementation of MMT.

Proper. Implementation. By the ‘best and brightest.’ Like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.

MMT has an obvious attraction for politicians. We’ve been playing at the edges of it for quite some time.

Let’s close with a last word from Ocasio-Cortez on the “Green New Deal”:

“I think one way that the right does try to mischaracterize what we’re doing as though it’s like some kind of massive government takeover. Obviously it’s not that because what we’re trying to do is release the investments from the federal government to mobilize those resources across the country.”

Obviously! Release! Investments! Mobilize! That explains the whole thing: She’s hired a fluent Newspeak expert. ‘Obviously’ means, “If you don’t understand, it’s because you’re stupid.” ‘Release’ means, oh, I don’t know, “the vast Federal budget surplus being held hostage by Trump’s wall proposal?” ‘Investments’ means, “Impossible government spending.” ‘Mobilize’ means, “At gunpoint.”

*Proponents will say, “It is testable, but it’s never been tried.” Well, that’s what they say about Communism, too. But, let’s even ignore the actual workings of an economy and admit that MMT depends on the refined judgment of virtuous politicians zealously balancing currency flow. And if you imagine that can be accomplished, you run into an even bigger problem: To do their job, these paragons also have to possess instant, encyclopedic, perfectly accurate information about every aspect of that economy.

Who decides what’s “fair?”

We’re from the government, we know everything, and we’re here to make international trade “fair.”

From Cafe Hayek:

First, there’s no reason to suppose that even saintly government officials possess, or could possibly obtain, the knowledge necessary to obstruct in welfare-enhancing ways their fellow-citizens’ trade with foreigners.

Second, there’s no reason to suppose that even stupendously well-informed government officials would, when obstructing their fellow-citizens’ trade, act to promote the general welfare rather than to promote the welfare of special-interest groups.

Third, there’s no reason, if government officials are to be trusted with such extensive powers as you desire, to limit the exercise of those powers only to economic change sparked by trade that crosses political borders.

RTWT

See also: A Failure to Adjust, a long, well documented, explanation of the results of assuming complete knowledge, while complaining that “better complete knowledge” would prevent the problems.

Note to Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria,

As a newly elected Congressional Representative, self-described democratic socialist, open borders advocate, Medicare for all proponent, free college education supporter, BDS enthusiast, and CAGW partisan you have your work cut out for you in your new job.

I think it’s possible you’re operating under a few misconceptions that will make that job more difficult. For example:

And so I do think that right now we have this no-holds-barred, Wild West hyper-capitalism. What that means is profit at any cost. Capitalism has not always existed in the world, and it will not always exist in the world. When this country started, we were not a capitalist [nation], we did not operate on a capitalist economy.

Not exactly. There hasn’t been anything resembling hyper-capitalism in world history, and certainly not in the United States since about the time of Woodrow Wilson. We are far from achieving a free market system.  “Profit at any cost” is, in any case, not a charge reasonably leveled at capitalists.  But, you know this, since you have a degree in economics.  Right?

You do seem confused about what socialism is:

When we talk about the word ‘socialism,’ I think what it really means is just democratic participation in our economic dignity and our economic, social, and racial dignity. It is about direct representation and people actually having power and stake over their economic and social wellness, at the end of the day.

To me, what socialism means is to guarantee a basic level of dignity. It’s asserting the value of saying that the America we want and the America that we are proud of is one in which all children can access a dignified education. It’s one in which no person is too poor to have the medicines they need to live.

Noble sentiments, with which few would disagree, but perhaps you should pay more attention to the current example being set in Venezuela, where they’re trying out actual socialism. They’ve run out of medicine and most citizens are on the verge of starvation.  I’m not sure how your concept of dignity squares with the desperation of eating zoo animals, or prostitution for food, or surgery without anesthesia, but it’s at odds with mine.

Venezuela, where you might profitably look for evidence regarding how your intentions translate into reality, is bucking this trend:

“In 1981, the year Ronald Reagan became America’s 40th President, 44.3 percent of the world lived in extreme poverty (i.e., less than $1.90 per person per day). Last year, it was 9.6 percent. That’s a decline of 78 percent.”

…which is causally associated with the capitalist idea of free markets.

Of course, that’s what we would term “current events.” So, a little history, in case you think that the Chavez/Maduro experiment has simply had a run of temporary “bad luck*”: In 2017 (60 years after the revolution) Cubans’ average monthly salary reached a post-revolutionary all time high of 767 pesos, or $28.94 a month. That’s half of the extreme poverty line. Dignity for Cubans might be more easily achieved if fewer of them were very poor, and fewer had been driven to emigrate.  This is hard to achieve, but your ideas make it harder.

*“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

― Robert Heinlein

As you say on your website merchandise page “There is nothing radical about moral clarity.” Perhaps you should check your clarity.  Your good intentions don’t make that clarity moral.

Limits to green growth?

By 2050 solar panels and wind turbines will require around 12 times as much indium as the entire world produces right now, the analysis predicts. Neodymium production will have to grow by more than seven times, and silver will have to grow by nearly three times. And this is just for renewable energy; all of these metals have other uses in other industries, meaning mining will have to ramp up very quickly.

And, will it be sustainable?

Population Bomb, bomb

This is your good news and history lesson for the day.

The Simon Abundance Index: A New Way to Measure Availability of Resources
(Citations omitted below.)

Summary in a sentence: “As population increases, the time-price of most commodities will get cheaper for most people, most of the time. Unfortunately, most people will assume the opposite.

It occurred to me when reading this that the simple bet about the future price of a few commodities, between University of Maryland economist Julian Simon and Stanford University biology professor Paul R. Ehrlich, is unknown to most people today. After all, it was made in 1980 and settled in 1990.

I read Erhlich’s Population Bomb (1968) and The Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth (1972) when they were first published. Erhlich assured us that mass starvation was inevitable and imminent. The Club of Rome predicted a dire future caused by shortages of food, water, and all manner of commodities – because of human population growth.  By 1973 we were experiencing severe oil shortages, leading to President Carter’s “malaise” speech.  By 1976 Greenpeace was fundraising off the (allegedly staged) torture of baby seals in Newfoundland as a demonstration of human environmental rapaciousness.

All this gave me pause: Maybe predictions of economic and social collapse based on running out of “stuff” were plausible. Little could be done quickly, but it was critical to DO SOMETHING NOW. There is a pattern there we see today.

To mitigate, not prevent, mass starvation, Erhlich called on governments world-wide to implement draconian population control.

By 1979 the Chinese had done so, with their “one child” policy. One result was 338 million aborted Chinese babies, the majority of them female. While sex selective abortion was banned in China in 2005, there are still 17% more males born than females. This is triple the natural rate difference, so one might suspect the ban is not totally effective.  There’s another effect from the one child policy; “By 2030, projections suggest that more than 25 percent of Chinese men in their late 30s will never have married.” There are a host of societal woes that will result from that.

China tried Ehrlich’s experiment and it’s turned out badly for them.

So, the ‘the bet’ was important in many ways. It was a test of humanity’s future; and, on one side, a prescription to avoid disaster. That prescription is still proposed.

To it, CAGW promoters have added the idea that preventing destruction of all life on earth depends on massive and economically crippling world-wide government intervention. This would certainly curb population growth and reduce human well-being. Going for the absurd conclusion, radical environmentalists call for human extinction.  Erhlich’s ideas inform both groups.

Like climate modellers whose models don’t work, Professor Erhlich has not given up on his thesis. In 2013 he said:

[Human civilization] is threatened with collapse by an array of environmental problems… . The human predicament is driven by overpopulation, overconsumption of natural resources … and socio-economic-political arrangements to service Homo sapiens’ aggregate consumption.

…but if he is wrong – again – we would be well advised to ignore him.  We would find ourselves far less able to navigate existential threats due to restricted trade, fewer ideas, slower innovation, smaller productive capacity, and less wealth.

When you hear the term “sustainable growth,” that’s what is meant.

The whole Simon Abundance article is worth reading, and I hope to encourage you to do so, even though it’s long. There’s much more there than just the Erhlich/Simon bet. It is worth reflecting on the miracle of human ingenuity, stoked by capitalism: Half the world is now middle class or wealthier. I doubt this would be true if the entire world had adopted Erhlich’s advice in 1975.

Intro to the Simon Abundance article:

Humanity, the latest estimates suggest, is roughly 300,000 years old. For the first 99.9 percent of our time on Earth, Homo sapiens lived a short and difficult life that ended, all too often, in violent death. We roamed the world afraid, cold, hungry, and sick. Remedies to ease our suffering were few. In the past 250 years or so, however, human fortunes dramatically improved. An accumulation of incremental technological, scientific, and ideological advances led to the Industrial Revolution, which ushered in an age of abundance.

That is the trajectory Ehrlich told us was over in 1968.  Simon challenged the idea:

After intellectually sparring with one another in print for most of the 1970s, [University of Maryland economist Julian] Simon finally challenged [Stanford University biology professor Paul R.] Ehrlich to a wager on resource depletion. Ehrlich would choose a “basket” of raw materials that he expected would become less abundant in the coming years and choose a time period of more than a year, during which those raw materials would become more expensive. At the end of that period, the inflation-adjusted price of those materials would be calculated. If the “real” price of the basket was higher at the end of the period than at the beginning, that would indicate the materials had become more precious and Ehrlich would win the wager; if the price was lower, Simon would win. The stakes would be the ultimate price difference of the basket at the beginning and end of the time period.

The positions:
Ehrlich:

The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.

Simon:

There is no physical or economic reason why human resourcefulness and enterprise cannot forever continue to respond to impending shortages and existing problems with new expedients that, after an adjustment period, leave us better off than before the problem arose… . Adding more people will cause [short-run] problems, but at the same time there will be more people to solve these problems and leave us with the bonus of lower costs and less scarcity in the long run… . The ultimate resource is people-skilled, spirited, and hopeful people who will exert their wills and imaginations for their own benefit, and so, inevitably, for the benefit of us all.

Ehrlich chose copper, chromium, nickel, tin, and tungsten. The bet was agreed to on September 29, 1980, with September 29, 1990, being the payoff date. In spite of a population increase of 873 million over those 10 years, Ehrlich lost the wager. All five commodities that he had selected declined in price by an average of 57.6 percent. Ehrlich mailed Simon a check for $576.07.

Since the conclusion of the bet, Ehrlich’s supporters have argued that Simon got lucky: had the bet taken place over a different decade, the outcome might have been different. The debate continues to this day. In 2016, Southern Methodist University economists Michael Cox and Richard Alm revisited the Simon-Ehrlich wager and found that Ehrlich’s metals were 22.4 percent cheaper in 2015 than they had been in 1980.

In an essay titled, “Onward and Upward! Bet on Capitalism-It Works,” Cox and Alm proposed a new methodology to evaluate Simon’s thesis. “The real price of everything,” as Adam Smith pointed out, “is the toil and trouble of acquiring it… . What is bought with money … is purchased by labour.” The cost of human labor, Cox and Alm note, tends to increase faster than inflation. From the perspective of average hourly wages in the United States, therefore, the real price of Ehrlich’s minerals fell by 41.8 percent between 1980 and 2015. According to Cox and Alm, in “work-hour terms, Simon wins The Bet [with Ehrlich] in every year from 1980 to 2015.”

When Jordan Peterson looks around a lecture venue and reminds us of the absolute miracle that the lights always work, the room is warm, and it is safe from wolves; he is speaking about the same thing. When he complains that rejecting the cultural underpinnings of this miracle is thoughtless ingratitude; he is correct.

If we can just keep the government hand on us light, we can continue to enjoy abundance.

Update: 1-Dec-18, 11:59
Prominent Environmentalist Finally Discovers His Religion’s Catch-22

Economic growth is a cancer, in this view. Its bad effects are permanent and cumulative, its blessings are evanescent and ultimately trivial.

Malthusianism is a religious conviction that desperately needs to think of itself as a science. From Thomas Malthus and his mathematical certainties to Paul Ehrlich with his famine timetables and the Club of Rome with its ‘scientific’ predictions of resource exhaustion, Malthusians have made confident predictions about the future and claimed scientific authority for statements that turned out to be contemptibly silly. That is the brutal fate that often awaits people who can’t keep the boundaries between science and religion straight.

The Catch 22 is that “sustainable” economic growth is code for economic decline (links omitted).