29 Jan 2015


Potpourri 26 Comments

==> At IER, I discuss the refreshing honesty from James Hansen.

==> My colleagues at IER assembled a fact sheet on ANWR.

==> I don’t think I linked this here yet? Anyway Matt Ridley’s recent post on why he’s a climate “lukewarmer” is really good. He sounds like the epitome of a reasonable guy. Naturally people went nuts on him.

==> This story is really interesting about someone flipping the discriminatory baker thing around when he was denied service after requesting a cake with offensive words. However, I would feel a lot better about it if we were certain the guy was doing it purely to make a point. I had people assuring me on FB that that’s what it was, but I dunno… (To try to help keep the discussion in the comments on point: It is certainly true that the Old Testament has strong prohibitions against homosexuality. But that doesn’t mean “God hates gays” unless you think God hates every single human besides Jesus.)

==> UPDATE: I originally thought this Mark Perry piece was saying something else. Texas was not the only state to add net jobs since the recession began. Rather, it is showing that Texas added more net jobs than the U.S. as a whole. I.e. the net jobs created in some of the other 49 states were more than offset by the net job losses in some of the 49 other states. (Don’t judge me, I had the flu a few days ago and haven’t gotten enough sleep.)

26 Responses to “Potpourri”

  1. Tel says:

    Just to visit a completely new topic, and not wanting to rub salt in wounds:


    The debate on wages and labour market flexibility needs to be framed around the fact that higher minimum wages increase workforce participation and when set with an eye to prevailing economic conditions, they increase the employment to population ratio.

    Indeed, Australia’s recent economic history in the period around 2008 to 2010 shows that the high point for participation and the employment to population ratio coincided with high wages growth and exceptionally low unemployment. Minimum wages were not a deterrent to the unemployment rate hitting 4 per cent or the employment to population ratio hitting a record high of 62.9 per cent.

    To try to make his point, Berg wondered what would happen if the minimum wage were $168.70 an hour and not the current $16.87. He said, correctly, that demand for labour would be very limited, but he ignored the prospect of many people who had been outside the labour force (retirement or study for example) offering to supply their labour services for that sort of pay. The participation rate would boom, even if most of the new entrants to the workforce would be unemployed. I mention this to emphasise that the supply and demand dynamics of the labour market cut both ways.

    … by the way background information here is that Australia has both generous government unemployment payments (by world standards) and a higher than average minimum wage (actually a complex system called the “Modern Awards” that have all sorts of minimum wages, depending on the industry, the “level” of the worker, the time of day, day of the week, as well as a basic minimum wage).

  2. guest says:

    “But that doesn’t mean “God hates gays” unless you think God hates every single human besides Jesus.”

    No Homo LYRICS The Lonely Island


  3. Harold says:

    there is a difference between not baking a cake you find offensive and not baking a cake for someone you find offensive.

    Despite Bill Jack actually asking for a cake with the word “hate” on it – a “hate cake” if you will, the baker was quite happy to serve him, just not to write the message. She offered to give him the icing and bag if he wanted to put it on himself.

    Contrast with Masterpiece Cakeshop, who refused to sell a cake to a couple for a same sex marriage.

    In one case it is the cake, in the other it is the customer.

    • Josiah says:


      No, the bakery in the original case was happy to make a cake for a gay couple, just not for a gay wedding.

      • Harold says:

        It is still the people, not the cake.

        • Josiah says:

          It’s not the customer; it’s the event.

          • Harold says:

            Still different from the cake.

            • integral says:

              But the difference no longer matters, per your original comment.

    • Matt S says:

      Wrong, if it was the customer they would refuse to serve them at all. Which is not what they did.

    • JimS says:

      Would you eat a cake, or anything else, that was made under duress?

      Who cares why the guy doesn’t want to do something, right or wrong? How can you be sure if he is forced to do it he will do his best job? Think of the Jews in forced labor making munitions for the Nazis; those munitions had a high failure rate.

      I had a mechanic who grew angry at me when I criticized him for not doing the work I hired him to do. Given his demeanor, it was safer to pay him and take it to someone else.

    • Tel says:

      Contrast with Masterpiece Cakeshop, who refused to sell a cake to a couple for a same sex marriage.

      They were happy for the same couple to buy anything on display in the shop.

  4. Josiah says:

    Hansen also has some reasonable things to say about nuclear power and the limitations of renewable energy.

  5. Harold says:

    Say a baker is happy to make a cake for a wedding. All sorted, but then finds out the cake is intended for a same-sex wedding, so withdraws his offer to supply the cake. Is it to weddings he objects? No. Is it the cake? No. Is it because the people are the same sex? Yes.

    Contrast with the other case. Is it bigots to whom he objects? No. Is it the cake? Yes. Clearly different

    To be more comparable, you would need to order a cake for, say, a white supremacist rally and be refused.*

    I can understand the arguments that the baker should be allowed to sell to whom he wants, but the two cases are different.

    *Even here we can construct a case that the situations are different. White supremacists actively preach against others, whereas a gay wedding affects no-one else.

    • Josiah Neeley says:

      To be more comparable, you would need to order a cake for, say, a white supremacist rally and be refused.*

      Unless you think that it would be outrageous for a baker to refuse to make a cake for a white supremacist rally, this seems like a distinction without a difference.

      • Harold says:

        Ok. Case 1 – Bill Jack. Case 2- Masterpiece Cakeshop. Hypothetical case 3- “ordinary” cake which will be eaten at a supremacist rally. Hypothetical case 4- Cake for Fred Bloggs with a burning cross, “I hate blacks” and “Death to the black scum” as the decoration.

        Can you see a distinction between case 3 and case 4? And the same distinction between case 1 and case 2?

        I am not here arguing that any particular action is correct or incorrect, but pointing out the situations are different.

        There is a good case that the baker may be justified to refuse all cakes except case 2. Another case can be made that he is justified in refusing only 1 and 4. Yet another that he is justified in refusing any or all he wants. Since different cases can be made, there must be differences in the situations.

  6. Daniel Kuehn says:

    Who went nuts on Ridley?

    • Levi Russell says:

      It’s actually “who *goes* nuts on Ridely?” and the answer is Bob Ward, policy and communications director at LSE. Ridley mentions this in the article and cites a few examples.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      I don’t have names handy Daniel but I saw people mocking him on Twitter for this latest piece, I’m pretty sure.

    • Carl says:

      “My middle-of-the-road position is considered not just wrong, but disgraceful, shameful, verging on scandalous. I am subjected to torrents of online abuse for holding it, very little of it from sceptics.”

      I suppose we’ll just take him at his word. Or maybe he has a persecution complex!

      • Scott D says:


        Google is your friend. Go on, I dare you.

  7. Harold says:

    Ridley cites doubts about the hockey stick as important in forming his luke-warm opinions, citing National Academy of Sciences as finding “are heavily reliant on dubious sets of tree rings and use inappropriate statistical filters that exaggerate any 20th-century upturns.” I think anyone reading this would conclude that the Academy of Sciences rejects the findings of Mann 98. However, this is not true. The National research Council of the National Academies published a report in 2006 that concluded “with a high level of confidence that global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries.” From Wiki: It broadly agreed with the basic findings of the original MBH studies which had subsequently been supported by other reconstructions and proxy records, while emphasising uncertainties over earlier periods. The contested principal component analysis methodology had a small tendency to bias results so was not recommended, but it had little influence on the final reconstructions, and other methods produced similar results.

    So despite finding some statistical problems, the overall conclusions were not significantly altered.

    Don’t see why this should have led Ridley to change his views.

    Mackintyre and McKitrick has itself been shown to be flawed.

    • Tel says:

      … with a high level of confidence that global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries.

      Nice try, but Mann’s hockey stick graph went back more than four centuries. Mann tried to claim that the modern temperature is higher than even the highest uncertainty estimate, at any time for the preceding thousand years.

      Going back four centuries puts you in the middle of the “Little Ice Age” so no surprise it was cooler… going back a thousand years puts you into the “the Medieval Warm Period”. A period where the harvests across Europe were notably better than usual, population grew, art, culture and religion flourished, many European cathedrals were built during this time. Productive English vineyards were catalogued in the Domesday book.

      Vikings settled Greenland and Iceland around the same time and sustained themselves as herdsmen, they also found travel by boat easier because of reduced Arctic sea ice.

  8. Josiah says:


    Since you’ve praised the clarity and eloquences of my comments when I agree with you, let me say that I thought Kinsella’s critique of your tax article was totally dumb.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Although Matt Ridley’s article is generally very good, he offers speculative, unproven claims as scientific truths, so people have a right to go nuts, without being “unreasonable”.

    Ridley: I am a climate lukewarmer. That means I think recent global warming is real, mostly man-made and will continue but I no longer think it is likely to be dangerous and I think its slow and erratic progress so far is what we should expect in the future. That last year was the warmest yet, in some data sets, but only by a smidgen more than 2005, is precisely in line with such lukewarm thinking.”

    First the straw man. Who denies that there has been some warming recently, in the period 1975-2000? No serious sceptic I know off does.

    Second, the claim that it is mostly man-made is a unproven speculation. It may or it may not be true. It could be right if climate sensitivty is higher, it could be wrong if it is really low. Nobody knows how high is climate sensitivity.

    Third, the last year was warmest just in one or two data sets, based on a very peculiar system of massaging and adjusting the thermometer data. And this is made by the same people whom Ridley rightly castigates as responsible for the Hockey Stick fiasco and other forms of scientific malpractice. This should had given him pause. On the other hand, The satellite data (two of them, independently analysed) show that 2014 was not warmest. Not by a long shot. RSS says it was SIXTH warmest since 1979, UAH says it was FOURTH warmest since 1979.

  10. anon says:

    From Ridley’s article: “Also, I soon realised that all the mathematical models predicting rapid warming assume big amplifying feedbacks in the atmosphere, mainly from water vapour; carbon dioxide is merely the primer, responsible for about a third of the predicted warming. When this penny dropped, so did my confidence in predictions of future alarm: the amplifiers are highly uncertain.”

    The key word is “uncertain,” which should be drilled into the heads of climate scientists and (excuse me for stepping on toes) economists the minute they don their climatologist or economist hats along with “humility” and “graciousness.” And not just in the case of the amplifying feedback of water vapor or monetary policy.

    The Freudian in me says that human beings are driven to reduce anxiety in whatever way they can: they make crazy, unfounded predictions about what happens after death, they say with great certainty that exploding populations will lead to mass starvation, they claim to know what monetary inflation will do to price inflation (not in the hypothetical ceteris paribus, but in the real world), and they claim a significant ability to understand the effects of carbon emissions on the atmosphere and animal/human populations when the past quarter century has demonstrated exactly the opposite.

    The common factor in these is that the anxiety produced by uncertainty is much greater than the anxiety created by the false certainty that is the byproduct of social & tribal interaction and consensus. Intellectuals can bear many hardships–the promise of the earth turning into Venus or hundreds of millions starving to death due to unsustainable populations or billions going to hell are all unfortunate, but provide an opportunity to Do Something to prevent them–but they have have no talent for shouldering any amount of uncertainty.

  11. oolalaa says:

    Yeh, Matt Ridley is an eminently reasonable guy. He doesn’t have a clue about banking (he, of course, was chairman of Northern Rock, one of the British banks to go under during the ’08 crash), and is shaky on the macro sphere in general (his prognoses – ‘asset markets prone to bubbles because of irrational optimism’ – are distressingly keynesian), but he’s phenomenal in the micro sphere. His book ‘The Rational Optimist’ is an endlessly insightful exposition of a simple libertarian thesis..

    “Exchange is to cultural evolution as sex is to biological evolution.. If culture consisted simply of learning habits from others, it would soon stagnate. For culture to turn cumulative, ideas needed to meet and mate.”

    There’s some radical stuff in there..

    “Throughout history, empires start as trade areas before they become the playthings of military plunderers from within or without.. Uruk, Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, neo-Assyrian, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman (briefly, under Trajan), Parthian, Abbasid, Mongol, Timurid, Ottoman , British , Saddamite, Bushite Each empire was the product of trading wealth and was itself the eventual cause of that wealth’s destruction. Merchants and craftsmen make prosperity; chiefs, priests and thieves fritter it away.”

    Tom Woods ought to have him on his show.

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