Matt Ridley has another excellent post, which I like especially for the facts it conveys. However I do disagree with him on two counts:
He writes that people are not "wrong to resent inequality in income or wealth".
Well, they are.
The other passage that I object to is the below one, in which he seems to present the common aversion toward inequality as an unalterable genetic feature:
... surely we always have and always will care more about relative than absolute differences. This is no surprise to evolutionary biologists. The reproductive rewards went not to the peacock with a good enough tail, but to the one with the best tail. A few thousand years ago, the bloke with one more cow than the other bloke got the girl, and it would have cut little ice to try to reassure the loser by pointing out that he had more cows than his grandfather, that they were better cows, or that he had more than enough cows to feed himself anyway. What mattered was that he had fewer cows.
I think he's wrong. The matter is amenable to cultural evolution, i.e. learning and unlearning. No less than slavery, matriarchy, or the habit not to let women acquire a driver's license. Unfortunately people are constantly made to learn that inequality is outrageous. Tell them a different story, and they will come to their senses.
However, the ritual of protesting inequality serves as a lever for the attainment of ulterior political motives. It is one of those problems that don't exist unless politicians create them. And in this manner they create demands of the many over the few which can be easily accommodated and translated into political success/survival (i.e. reelection and more resources for the state in its capacity as a the tool for politicians).
Like global warming and other surrogate problems that are made up to call for more political power and to attract money and other rents, people don't think much about inequality, let alone in an intellectually serious manner; instead they are being told about inequality's scandalous nature over and over and over again, until they have been disarmed intellectually to the point of being convenient parrots.
One of the subliminal functions of the rhetoric of inequality is to keep alive the most fundamental anti-capitalist myth, according to which inequality is a matter of injustice: the rich being rich because they exploit the poor. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The fact of the matter is: it is impossible to give a principled account of the need for equality, nor does equality serve a desirable economic function.
The call for equality is just a rhetorical slight of hand used to re-baptise under a nice sounding name the good old-fashioned practices of expropriation, discrimination and self-enrichment by special rights. To achieve equality one needs to practice glaring inequality - in the name of those who happen to be stronger than their victims.
The demand for equality is the robbers' new excuse for their age-old business. Equality is the motto of the greedy.
Depending on the subject matter, benefit-cost analysis (bca) may come more or less close to the precision insinuated by its numeric results - like the benefit-cost ratio of 50 : 1 (or even higher) estimated in the below bca concerning CO2 emissions.
Irrespective of its numerical precision, the one great virtue of bca is that it forces you to look at the vital issues of a project and attempt to determine to what degree of precision and confidence benefits and costs are ascertainable. It requires one to make his assumptions explicit and gives others a chance to acquaint themselves with these assumptions and probe into them.
In a word, if properly done, bca is a commendable auxiliary for a realistic, comprehensive and fair look at a project. It can be the basis for a critical discourse. For that reason, I tend to think, it is an important means to ensure transparent government decisions. We should ask of government agencies to disclose the bca underlying their proposals or decisions.
Bezden and Driessen demonstrate what a critical look at government bca can bring to light.
The IWG process hypothesizes almost every conceivable carbon “cost” – including costs to agriculture, forestry, water resources, forced migration, human health and disease, coastal cities, ecosystems and wetlands. Yet it fails to estimate any carbon benefits. Even more incredibly, the agencies have done this in complete disregard of EO 12866 and a recent OMB declaration that careful consideration of both costs and benefits is important in determining whether a regulation is worth implementing at all.
Bezden and Driessen conclude:
Prodigious amounts of fossil fuels will be required to sustain future economic growth, especially in the non-OECD nations. If the world is serious about lessening the need for human, animal, wood and dung energy, maintaining and increasing economic growth, reducing energy deprivation and human poverty, improving human and civil rights, and increasing standards of living, health and longevity in the non-OECD nations – then massive fossil fuel utilization will be required, for decades to come.
Achieving these benefits for billions of poor people worldwide – while also maintaining them for American, European and other developed nation families – translates into a simple fact: the benefits of fossil fuels far outweigh any conceivable costs, and will continue to do so for decades to come.
Similarly, the benefits of carbon dioxide emitted in the process of producing this energy also overwhelmingly outweigh the claimed and estimated costs associated with that CO2 – no matter which SCC estimates or assumptions are used. In fact, compared to the benefits of carbon dioxide for forest, grassland and food crop growth, the SCC cost estimates are relatively so small as to be in the statistical noise of the estimated CO2 benefits.
In this context, there is also a critical need far more a balanced, broad-based and honest assessment of “dangerous manmade climate change” claims. Literally thousands of scientists do not agree that human carbon dioxide emissions are a primary cause of climate change, or that any changes in our weather or climate are bound to be harmful, dangerous or even catastrophic. However, their views have been deliberately and systematically ignored and taken out of the policy-making process, because the process has unfortunately become political and ideological, rather than science-based and analytical.
These facts must be used to inform energy, environmental, and regulatory policies. Otherwise, the regulations will continue to be far worse than the harms they supposedly redress. For the Interagency Working Group, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior and other Federal agencies to continue ignoring the true costs and benefits, the requirements of law under EO 12866, and sixty years of informed benefit-cost protocols and practices, is illegal, unethical and contrary to the best interests of our nation, its citizens and all humans.
I don't have as high an opinion of Joe Stiglitz as does Peter Boettke. I seem to have caught Stiglitz out on rather facile, indeed irresponsible errors committed in his eagerness to convince us of a world abounding with market failure. However, I'm not going into greater detail on this issue now. Rather I'd like to draw your attention to what I think is a very perceptive point made by Boettke:
Since 2008, and before, [Stiglitz, G.T.] has been constantly complaining about neo-liberal policy and how its lack of attention to the appropriate regulatory framework and disregard for fundamental policy priorities has produced the mess we are in. In fact, he made the argument very simply even while he was in positions of tremendous political power in the Clinton administration and at the World Bank --- if only the world would listen to me, and engage in the appropriate interventions then the mess would be avoided. But who were the so-called neo-liberals that weren't listening to him? What neo-liberal thinker had the same powerful positions that he held? Did F. A. Hayek or Milton Friedman actually come back from the grave to serve as head of the CEA or as Chief Economist at the World Bank? Or did all this disruptive inequality and global imbalance happen on the watch of other thinkers.
The current mess in the US is six decades in the making ... The promisory politics that exploded after WWII ... rests completely with [...] Keynesianism [...]
Stiglitz is right to stress that bad ideas result in bad public policy which in turn results in bad economic, political and social outcomes. But, Stiglitz has misidentified what the bad ideas are, and his narrative mischaracterizes the nature of public policy for the past 6 decades and in particular the last 2 decades. We have not experienced a period of neo-liberal neglect and arrogance, but instead a waffling back and forth between conservative and liberal Keynesianism [...]
This has been the public policy hegemony for the past 60+ years. It is time that this alternative narrative be listened to, rather than the same old story that emerged from the Keynesian follies so many decades ago.
Reading Michael Oakeshott acquainted me with the baffling proposition that the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel - known to me from secondary sources as the worst deifier of the State - was actually a supporter of a liberal society.
Lacking time to pursue by my own research efforts the intriguing thesis of the trusted authority that Oakeshott is to me, I'm pleased to share with our readers an article that lends further support to that radically different view of Hegel.
Reviewing a book by Lisa Herzog, Nicholas Capaldi commends her for
rescuing [Hegel] from the authoritarians of both the left and of the right who have for so long buried the insights of the Philosophy of Right. Popper is rightly taken to task and even Taylor [presumably Hegels biographer, G.T.] is criticized for making “individuals nothing but vehicles” of Geist (p. 48n). It should come as no surprise that Kant who proclaimed ‘unsocial sociability’ and Hegel who relished the ‘cunning of reason’ had both read and been influenced by Smith, especially the metaphor of the ‘invisible hand’.
Anyone who understands what Hegel meant by ‘dialectic’ should not be surprised to find that he endorsed the notion that a market was a perfect example of the logic of competition and cooperation. More importantly, Hegel looked upon individualism in the form of modern subjective freedom as the final stage of history [a notion made popular by Fukuyama]. Hegel’s system “comprises numerous liberal elements, such as” private property, “the rule of law, free choice of profession, extensive religious toleration and liberty of conscience, and freedom of opinion and of the press.” (p. 51). Like Smith, Hegel overcomes the individual vs. community debate by arguing for how individual freedom is best realized in a certain kind of community (Sittlichkeit) involving what we would now call the intermediate associations of Tocqueville or civil society. Individual autonomy was as important to Hegel as it was to Smith (p. 121).
I think it is important to acknowledge a continental tradition of liberty, a tradition expressed in the writings of Constant, Kant, Hegel, Guizot, and Tocqueville – however much this tradition may have languished. Serious scholars need not concede the greatest philosophers of the 18th and 19th-centuries to the political left.
Giants causeway is one of the nicest places I ever visited, maybe because the weather was felicifically sun-drenched, and I had a lovely trip on a warm September day from beautiful Donegal, through martially fortified Strabane, on the world's best roads, oddly to be found in Northern Ireland, to the lushly verdant, surprisingly small world wonder.
Kevin Vallier has a readable piece on a debate between an atheistic evolutionist and a creationist.
I tried to resist, but I must admit to having watched the “Ham on Nye” debate in full. I find debates between creationists and atheist evolutionists tiring and deeply upsetting because I, as a theistic evolutionist, feel completely excluded and silenced while two groups of people I regard as deeply misinformed about the nature of the world beat up on each other. I argue here that the debate reinforces this dichotomy, one which pretty much everyone has reason to resist. I will also score the debate (Nye won, big time – and 92% of voters at Christian Today thought so too).
Despite being a Christian, I find the creationists far more off-putting, in part because they frequently imply that theistic evolutionists are imperfect Christians and that they’re the real Christians.
Make sure to read the entire article at the source.
It's a mild, rainy, at times blustery, all in all pleasantly atmospheric Saturday over here. My home team have won. I'm having a lovely cup of tea. Birds chirping like in spring. Outside temperature is 10°C (50 °F). I'm working at my desk with the window open. It's almost impossible to imagine that my friends in America are freezing in a country more than two thirds of whose surface is covered in snow.
By contrast, we haven't really had a winter this year, in the western parts of Germany - it's been more like an extended autumn.
The global warming hype is a prime example of how bad politics is necessarily anti-ecological, and so is politicised science.
(I don't believe that the opposite of and the solutions to bad politics is no politics, but goodpolitics).
Ecological systems are complex, their intricate manner of functioning does not lend itself to sensational story telling with mass impact. Hence, demagogic politics will almost certainly reduce genuinely ecological issues to simple, improperly mechanistic formulae. Our social democratic age - based on a denial of the ecological nature of modern human civilization - is of a distinctly unecological spirit.
Having discovered "the visible hand", i.e. self-generating order, the philosophy of freedom is asking us to treat human society as an ecological order. Inconveniently, however, orders of the self-generatig kind are counter-intuitive, hard to understand and hard to "sell". This is the root cause why liberty is generally rather unpopular, often laughed at or even despised. People like simple stories. People like to think about society, the economy, in fact, everything the way they think about most matters that concern them in their daily lives: that is, they expect simple causal relations easily mapped by ordinary deductive reasoning.
Thus, the greens - communists who've forgotten their origins - will tell the ordinary propaganda consumer that CO2 emissions, temperatures, and industrialisation have increased in tandem, insinuating a simple story line: capitalism creates catastrophic warming.
By contrast, consider some of the key facts that strip the thesis of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming of its credibility:
CO2 is following global temperatures, now and consistently since several hundred of thousand years.
96% of CO2 emissions are of non anthropogenic origin (volcanoes, animals, rotting vegetation, and especially oceans). Why should the tiny contingent of CO2 generated by humans be the culprit?
Most of the warming occurred well before industrial emissions began to skyrocket in the 1940s, after which temperatures, in fact, fell for 4 consecutive decades, starting to climb again only when global recession set in in the 1970s.
Most CO2 emissions are registered in areas without human populations or industrial activities - especially the oceans.
In the past, world climate has been much hotter with substantially more CO2 in the atmosphere than today. These much higher levels have elicited no catastrophic results - polar bears had a good time as well as the vikings who at the time had good grounds to call a certain land mass Greenland.
We still live in an ice age that has been in decline, i.e. warming, since the 1800s. The present warming trend is part of a perfectly normal climate cycle.
Only 1% of all species live in the Arctic zones - creatures thrive under warmer conditions.
Higher temperatures and more CO2 are beneficial to life on earth, not only to human life.
Science changed dramatically in the 1970s, when the reward structure in the profession began to revolve around the acquisition of massive amounts of taxpayer funding that was external to the normal budgets of the universities and federal laboratories. In climate science, this meant portraying the issue in dire terms, often in alliance with environmental advocacy organizations. Predictably, scientists (and their institutions) became addicted to the wealth, fame, and travel in the front of the airplane (quoting Garth Paltridge, one of the world’s most respected atmospheric scientists):
“A new and rewarding research lifestyle emerged which involved the giving of advice to all types and levels of government, the broadcasting of unchallengeable opinion to the general public, and easy justification for attendance at international conferences—this last in some luxury by normal scientific experience, and at a frequency previously unheard of.”
Every incentive reinforced this behavior, as the self-selected community of climate boffins now began to speak for both science and in the service of drastic regulatory policies.