29 Apr 2015

Potpourri

Potpourri, Shameless Self-Promotion 66 Comments

==> Benjamin Zycher has an interesting reaction to a (pro-)carbon tax event that some of his colleagues at AEI recently hosted.

==> My colleagues at IER put together this interesting post on oil and gas production on federal versus other lands.

==> Phil Magness on the alleged misrepresentation of the “Austrian” School.

==> At Mises CA I take on the claim that labor unions gave us the weekend.

==> A man has been released after decades in prison when it turns out the FBI confused a dog hair at the crime scene with his hair.

==> Tom Woods and I talk carbon taxes.

26 Apr 2015

Johnny Cash “When the Man Comes Around”

Religious 7 Comments

An interesting take on the book of Revelation (last book in the Bible). What’s funny is most people think “apocalypse = awful” but in the Biblical sense, it eventually ushers in eternal paradise. But it’s definitely hardcore, don’t get me wrong.

24 Apr 2015

UN Pushes for Global Bureaucracy to Allegedly Fight Climate Change

Climate Change, Conspiracy, Shameless Self-Promotion 53 Comments

It’s fashionable among “respectable” libertarians and other small-government types to make fun of their more extreme brethren, especially when it comes to the United Nations. And yet the UN’s “Negotiating Text”–draft language containing options for the delegates who will meet in Paris in December–doesn’t need any wild imagination to appear sinister. We can just quote from the thing.

I give a more comprehensive explanation in my post for the Institute for Energy Research, but for our purposes here let me give you some of the highlights. Again, these are all quotes taken from the suggested text that the UN has released:

5.1. Option (a): Ensuring significant global greenhouse gas emission reductions over the next few decades or a 40–70 per cent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions below 2010 levels by 2050 and near-zero emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other long-lived greenhouse gases by the end of the century… [UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Negotiating Text, p. 5]

92. [Scale of resources provided by developed country Parties shall be based on a percentage of their GNP of at least (X per cent) taking into consideration the following:
a. The provision of finance to be based on a floor of USD 100 billion per year, and shall take into account the different assessment of climate-related finance needs prepared by the secretariat and reports by other international organizations;
b. Based on an ex ante process to commit quantified support relative to the required effort and in line with developing countries’ needs…
[UNFCCC Negotiating Text, p. 43]

[Stressing that all actions to address climate change and all the processes established under this agreement should ensure [a gender-responsive approach][gender equality and intergenerational equity], take into account [environmental integrity][the protection of the integrity of Mother Earth], and respect human rights, the right to development and the rights of [youth and] indigenous peoples, [as well as ensure a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work, in accordance with nationally defined development priorities and strategies,]] [UNFCCC Negotiating Text, p. 4]

One does not need a tinfoil hat to see that the treaty that some want to come out of the December meetings will establish a giant international bureaucracy, beyond the control of any one national State, with the ability to disburse more than $100 billion, and to pass judgment on every manner of human life, but particularly operations in the energy sector. Moreover, the goals of this organization will not be limited to the projections of climate change shooting out of computer models, but will also involve traditional social reforms favored by anti-capitalist Leftists.

This isn’t a conspiracy theory, these are the simple facts for anyone who wants to click the UN document and begin skimming.

22 Apr 2015

Potpourri

karaoke, Potpourri, Shameless Self-Promotion 24 Comments

==> An article I just saw on Facebook (from last month) talking about a new theory of how life formed on Earth. Naturally everyone in the comments is very civil when discussing the religious implications.

==> I have my first click-baity title for an article at FEE: “The Economics of Karaoke (and Other Necessities).”

==> Max Borders has a good Earth Day post summarizing the climate change debate. My favorite part is his crystallization of what the “consensus” case relies upon, matter-of-factly:

* The earth is warming.

* The earth is warming primarily due to the influence of human beings engaged in production and energy use.

* Scientists are able to limn most of the important phenomena associated with a warming climate, disentangling the human from the natural influence, extending backward well into the past.
Scientists are able then to simulate most of the phenomena associated with a warming earth and make reasonable predictions, within the range of a degree or two, into the future about 100 years.

* Other kinds of scientists are able to repackage this information and make certain kinds of global predictions about the dangers a couple of degrees will make over that hundred years.

* Economists are able to repackage those predictions and make yet further predictions about the economic costs and benefits that accompany those global predictions.

* Other economists then make further predictions based on what the world might be like if the first set of economists is right in its predictions (which were based on the other scientists’ predictions, and so on) — and then they propose what the world might look like if certain policies were implemented.

* Policymakers are able to take those economists’ predictions and set policies that will ensure what is best for the people and the planet on net.

* Those policies are implemented in such a way that they work. They have global unanimity, no defections, no corruption, and a lessoning of carbon-dioxide output that has a real effect on the rate of climate change — enough to pull the world out of danger.

*Those policies are worth the costs they will impose on the peoples of the world, especially the poorest.

20 Apr 2015

Potpourri

Economics, Noah Smith, Piketty, Potpourri, Shameless Self-Promotion, Tyler Cowen 21 Comments

==> Blimey Cow on “there should be a law.”

==> A new Fraser Institute collection (edited by Don Boudreaux) on (the decline of) economic freedom and entrepreneurship in the US.

==> I liked this post by Bryan Caplan, on how “econ melts your brain” (and not in a good way–he doesn’t mean, “It’ll blow your mind!”). I had a similar experience when I taught Intro in Hillsdale. I asked some really basic question on a mid-term, trying to get students to illustrate the answer with the cost curves we had to learn. A bunch got the basic answer wrong. I know if I had asked them the general question at the start of the semester, their common sense would’ve given them the answer. So I (teaching standard micro) had provided negative value to those students.

==> Columbia econoimst Kopczuk has a new paper out commenting on Piketty. A man of wisdom, he does not cite my paper with Phil Magness.

==> Tyler Cowen loves my new book.

==> Troll hard or go home.

==> I find the good in Noah Smith’s blogging.

19 Apr 2015

That’s My King!

Religious 33 Comments

The more I study the Bible the more wisdom I discover. History itself revolves around one man.

16 Apr 2015

Myyy Kind of Town

All Posts No Comments

Sorry for the late notice, but I don’t think I yet posted this? On Friday I will be in Chicago with Nelson Nash for a seminar put on by National Private Client Group. Details here. Karaoke after (of course).

14 Apr 2015

Is There Anybody Out There?

Evolution, Intelligent Design, Religious 108 Comments

Sorry for the sporadic blogging; I’ve been traveling a lot. I missed Sunday’s post, but this one–though related to current events science news–will have obvious religious overtones.

On Facebook Daniel Kuehn shared this HuffPo article about a recent NASA panel telling the general public about the search for extraterrestrial life. Here is the opening of the piece (but the actual hour-long presentation is at the link too):

NASA’s top scientist predicts that we’ll find signs of alien life by 2025, with even stronger evidence for extraterrestrials in the years that follow.

“I think we’re going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we’re going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years,” NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan said Tuesday during a panel event on water in the universe.

“We know where to look. We know how to look,” Stofan added. “In most cases we have the technology, and we’re on a path to implementing it. And so I think we’re definitely on the road.”

Others at the panel agreed.

“It’s definitely not an if, it’s a when,” said Jeffery Newmark, NASA’s interim director of heliophysics.

When we do find evidence of life, however, it’s likely it won’t be signs of alien civilization but rather something much, much smaller.

“We are not talking about little green men,” Stofan said. “We are talking about little microbes.”

I only watched about half of the video, but here are my quick reactions:

==> They actually don’t have a shred of direct evidence of life outside of Earth, so it’s a bit odd that they think they’re creeping ever closer, and Newmark’s assertions is really odd.

==> What is happening is that these scientists are absolutely confident that life arose on Earth billions of years ago because the necessary ingredients were in place, and this somehow–in a process not nearly understood–yielded the first proto-cell capable of reproduction. That abiogenesis then set in motion standard Darwinian evolution.

==> Because the scientists are sure that that’s how life started on Earth, arising from purely natural causes, they think that when those initial conditions are also present on other planets in the universe, that surely life must arise on them too. So what they are discovering is not actual evidence of life, but evidence of water, numerous planets around distant stars, etc.

==> Obviously this is not my field, but my understanding is that biologists have a lot of evidence to support the claim that “all life on Earth today sure seems like they are descended from a common ancestor.” (Of course people who believe in Biblical creationism would reject even that–but I’m trying to just referee the dispute here.) However, I don’t think there is a good theory at all about abiogenesis–about how that first bona fide life form arose on Earth from the pre-biotic soup. I think most scientists are “sure” that it happened that way, because that’s really the only option they have. (Though some were intellectually honest enough to bite the bullet and posit that aliens seeded life on Earth.)

==> Don’t forget Fermi’s paradox: If the universe is actually teeming with life–as the standard models predict–then why aren’t we being bombarded with radio messages from advanced aliens? It’s weird that NASA scientists are confident they’ll discover the existence of microbes within 20 years, and yet the SETI programs continue to search the heavens for any hint of intelligence.

==> It is typical for atheists to mock Christians for having their self-esteem deflated in the wake of the heliocentric model of the solar system and of course Darwin. “Oh, boo hoo, you poor babies aren’t so special after all! You’re not the center of the universe and you’re no more significant than a slug. Deal with it, Bible thumper.” And yet, I have noticed that many atheists are also very concerned with programs to prolong the human lifespan and who would be devastated if it turns out that humans are really alone in the universe. I won’t bother explaining why this might be, since it’s so obvious.

==> Strictly speaking, even fundamentalist Christians who believe the Bible is the literal word of God do not have a uniform position on alien life. Some are agnostic (“Genesis doesn’t mention it, but it doesn’t explicitly rule it out either”) while others think certain odd passages in the Old Testament refer to aliens. So if the NASA scientists turn out to be correct, that actually wouldn’t matter for Bible believing Christians (despite the haughty comments at that HuffPo article). However, suppose 20 years roll by and there still is no evidence of ET life? Will more and more scientists around the world say, “Maybe our theory of terrestrial abiogenesis is wrong, since the predictions we confidently gleaned from it were falsified?” I doubt it.