14 Aug 2014

You Might Be in Serfdom

Big Brother, Shameless Self-Promotion 178 Comments

With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, my latest LibertyChat article. Lots of pictures! An excerpt:

* If the FAA imposes a no-fly zone above Ferguson “to provide a safe environment for law enforcement activities,” then you might be in serfdom.

* When the police start arresting peaceful journalists covering the story, then you just might be in serfdom.

* When the same two political parties have controlled the White House since the Pierce Administration in 1853, you might be in serfdom.

14 Aug 2014


Potpourri 7 Comments

==> Various reactions to Robin Williams; I am not endorsing anything in here (except Norm MacDonald’s): An Objectivist, someone who wants to “normalize” suicide, and Matt Walsh in his controversial post that I actually don’t think was as bad as people claimed. This guy talks about why funny people often suffer from depression. If I weren’t so bogged down with the Night of Clarity I would pontificate myself on all of this. In any event, I have literally lost social media “friendships” over the reaction to Robin Williams. So there ya go.

==> Scott Sumner on a kinda sorta Krugman Kontradiction.

==> I was skeptical at first, but this article argues that the Michael Keaton (Tim Burton) Batman was better than the more recent reboot.

13 Aug 2014

Oil Production: We’re #1! We’re #1! USA USA!

Oil, Shameless Self-Promotion 32 Comments

When I was growing up, we had it constantly drilled into our heads how awful the 1970s had been because the U.S. was “dependent on foreign oil.” That was the (ostensible) reason for the energy conservation campaigns and government policies to encourage the switch to non-fossil fuels. I remember seeing statistics talking about how the world and/or U.S. (depending on the stat) only had “x years of oil left” at current rates of consumption.

I walk through the economics of this faulty mindset in the beginning of this speech on energy issues at the recent Mises University conference. But also check out this Bloomberg article from last month:

The U.S. will remain the world’s biggest oil producer this year after overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia as extraction of energy from shale rock spurs the nation’s economic recovery, Bank of America Corp. said.

U.S. production of crude oil, along with liquids separated from natural gas, surpassed all other countries this year with daily output exceeding 11 million barrels in the first quarter, the bank said in a report today. The country became the world’s largest natural gas producer in 2010. The International Energy Agency said in June that the U.S. was the biggest producer of oil and natural gas liquids.

Oil extraction is soaring at shale formations in Texas and North Dakota as companies split rocks using high-pressure liquid, a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The surge in supply combined with restrictions on exporting crude is curbing the price of West Texas Intermediate, America’s oil benchmark…

U.S. oil output will surge to 13.1 million barrels a day in 2019 and plateau thereafter, according to the IEA, a Paris-based adviser to 29 nations. The country will lose its top-producer ranking at the start of the 2030s, the agency said in its World Energy Outlook in November.

Here is EIA data on historical U.S. crude output, but be careful this just focuses on “crude” and not the broader category including all liquids:

US crude historical

Back in 1984, if someone had said that in 30 years the U.S. would be the world’s leader in crude production, why that would have been as ridiculous as claiming that the New York Times would talk about the president’s “secret kill list” without causing a revolution.

11 Aug 2014

Robin Williams on Golf

Humor 3 Comments

Lots of naughty words, proceed with caution.

11 Aug 2014

More on “Risky Business”

Climate Change, Shameless Self-Promotion 4 Comments

Part 2 at IER of my commentary on “Risky Business,” the climate change analysis co-chaired by Michael Bloomberg, Hank Paulson, and Thomas Steyer. An excerpt:

Thus we see the fundamental flip-flop: Rubin’s long quotation from page 44 can only make sense if the Report is urging a globally-coordinated government crackdown on carbon emissions. Yet on the very next page, Snowe claims that “we” (which presumably means the Americans reading the report, which focuses on regional U.S. impacts) have the power to avert this catastrophe.

These two claims do not fit together. Even if policymakers took Rubin’s advice to “act now” and immediately halted all further U.S. carbon dioxide emissions forever, this draconian move would only make global temperaturesone-tenth of a degree Celsius cooler in the year 2100 than they would otherwise be, if the U.S. government took no action.

Incidentally, here is the video compilation I made the graphics guy at IER assemble, in response to Paulson saying he knows about risk management and that’s why we should take him seriously as he lectures us on climate change:


10 Aug 2014

The Importance of Willpower and Wisdom

Religious 19 Comments

My son and I were discussing spiritual matters and came up with these observations, which may interest some of you:

==> If you give your soul to the Lord, you may suffer greatly in this life (look what happened to Jesus, who obeyed His Father perfectly), but you will receive eternal bliss.

==> If you give your soul to the Devil, you may bask luxuriantly in this life (we can’t know, but probably some members of the Bilderberg Group come to mind), but you will receive eternal torment.

As I told my son: “Not everyone believes in this stuff, but suppose for the moment that that really is the tradeoff: What’s the wise choice?”

Now, for those of you who don’t “believe in this stuff,” notice that it still serves a useful metaphorical role. People talk about “selling your soul” all the time, even atheists; this is a real thing.

09 Aug 2014

A Question on Computer Chess

All Posts 23 Comments

My son and I were discussing how computers can play certain games. I explained that a computer can easily “solve” Tic Tac Toe–meaning it can consider every possible future state of the board before making a move, and hence will never make a mistake.

However, with chess this is not possible (at least yet). I admitted I didn’t know for sure, but speculated that the computer relies on standard opening sequences, then in the mid-game relies on heuristics involving the “point” system (1 for pawn, 3 for knight, etc.). It was only near the end where the computer could once again revert to brute force and generate its (flawless) moves in an acceptable time.

Does anyone know if that’s right so far? If so, is it right to say that as computing power increases, the earlier in the game that “switch to brute force” becomes possible? In the limit, once that boundary had been extended to the very first move, then the computer would have solved chess. Any computer programmers and/or chess enthusiasts who can add specificity to my BS’ing would be greatly appreciated.

Also, since I was on a roll and just makin’ stuff up, I went this route with it: I speculated that in the middle game, the computer probably relied on a mixture of brute force and “common sense” wisdom from humans’ chess experience. So for example, when considering the various permutations following a particular move, maybe the computer wouldn’t bother chasing down the paths in which the opponent does something apparently “stupid,” like give up his Queen in exchange for a Pawn (with no checkmate imminent). So the computer doesn’t bother exploring those paths too deeply, in which case it might be vulnerable to a big sacrifice that leads to checkmate several moves later. Thoughts?

08 Aug 2014


Potpourri 29 Comments

==> Tom Woods had some great guests on for his “World War I” week. (Tom was against.) You can browse the full archives of his show, but don’t miss the interview with David R. Henderson. Also check out Anthony Gregory talking with Tom about how awful George W. Bush was.

==> I don’t know what else to say about this: The head of the Executive Branch recently admitted that he thought American government officials had engaged in torture. He acted as if this were an open-and-shut case. Well, the United States government passed the “War Crimes Act of 1996,” which specifically lists “torture” as a war crime. So…when’s the grand jury? I guess the hold-up is that Obama has assigned a task force to assemble jurors who’ve never heard of Dick Cheney?

==> By FAR–it’s not even close–the most Shares I’ve gotten on Facebook is when I linked to this Salon article about a new meaning of “literally” going into the dictionary. Is this something worth arguing about? Yes, I understand that we no longer talk as Shakespeare did, but on the other hand if my son says “I goed to the store” I’m going to correct him and say the proper word is “went.”

==> Oh man, I don’t have time to deal with this right now. But David Glasner is talking Hayek/Sraffa debate again, and he’s defending the Austrians while I would defend Sraffa. Weird? We’re in a liquidity trap, everything’s upside down.

==> Michael Tontchev not only read my hard-hitting analysis of the Nordhaus “DICE” model, but Michael pushed it further. Some really cool stuff he found.

==> Bryan Caplan faces off against Scott Sumner.

==> I’m not going to blog separately about this, since I’ve been hitting Krugman too much lately on the issue of inflation, but here ya go. Let me know if you agree that this guy has found damning Krugman textbook quotes, or if this is silly.

==> Pamela J. Stubbart needs her swooning couch, she is so shocked by our sexualized culture. But seriously, I think she makes some great points about the difference between legal permission and social approval.