Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Me, Me, Pick Me

I'm guessing that Samuelson doesn't really want an answer - especially since he gave a pretty convincing one in his screed against capitalism (traders generate $4 Trillion per year - how does that not point to providing as much or more value than a doctor?) But I'm going to take a shot anyway.
Just why investment bankers and traders out-earn, say, doctors or computer engineers is a question I've never heard convincingly answered. Are they smarter? Unlikely. Do they contribute more to the economy? Questionable.
The difference is easy to explain - being an investment banker or trader is RISKY. These are very smart people that could probably be doctors or executives or any number of other highly paid profession.

But they wanted a shot at the big time, but that shot comes at a risk, make a mistake and you are ruined - probably forever. A doctor, on the other hand, has a pretty good idea what he will make simply by choosing his specialty, the risk isn't all or nothing - it's very good or fabulously good depending on his skill.

It reminds of an old joke:
"What do you call a doctor that got straight Ds in med-school?"


HatTip to A Stitch in Haste & Rolling Doughnut

The Germans Are Outraged

And they have ever right to be. Just at a different source and for very different reasons:
Upset over the loss of 2,300 jobs in Germany, 15,000 local residents have staged a street demonstration over Nokia's plans to shut down a factory and move production to budget-wise Romania. A boycott is possible, and government leaders claim Finnish-based Nokia should now give back the considerable amount of subsidy money it's gotten from Germany.
It is quite easy to identify why a manufacturer would choose Romania over Germany. All of those laws that "protect workers" like generous pensions, restrictive laws against firing employees, and short work weeks do quite the opposite - they put workers at risk of not having any jobs at all.

Additionally, the burdensome regulation in the EU - Germany especially - make doing business in the country at all a trying endevour.

The Germans should be outraged - at their politicians, who should know that all of these regulations impose a very real cost, yet decided to do it anyway. And this is only the seen cost - there are countless unseen costs, inventions not created, business not begun, innovations not realized - all because the politicians were more interested in pandering than governing.

The only bright spot in all of this is that globalization and the liberalization of the Soviet bloc, make true competition between nations possible. The Germans are paying the price for poor decisions, lets hope that this new world of governmental competition brings about true liberalization and better government instead of further protectionism that will only harm the German worker more.

All Authoritarians Are Dictators

Dictators frequently rise to power by convincing the masses that they are, alone, capable of handling some crisis.
Liberal democracy is sweet and addictive and indeed in the most extreme case, the USA, unbridled individual liberty overwhelms many of the collective needs of the citizens. . .

There must be open minds to look critically at liberal democracy. Reform must involve the adoption of structures to act quickly regardless of some perceived liberties. . .

We are going to have to look how authoritarian decisions based on consensus science can be implemented to contain greenhouse emissions.


[T]he authors conclude that an authoritarian form of government is necessary, but this will be governance by experts and not by those who seek power.

It is no coincidence that the authors propose that the reins of power be handed over to people like themselves - after all, every advocate of central planning envisions themselves as the central planner.

But this is nothing other than a naked power grab - you cannot separate power from the experts. You already see scientists making public statements about climate that are much less uncertain than their scientific claims. And what does science tell us about the impact of those policy decisions? Science doesn't really have anything to say does it?

Why should I trust a climatologist to weigh the costs and benefits of eliminating emissions? Wouldn't I need an economist to make those types of distinctions?

But doesn't economics tell us that only an individual can truly weigh those costs and benefits by using their own preferences? So the Gaea loving worshiper of nature may prize the "natural "state above any economic cost, but the middle class suburbanite - or the impoverished Indian that is on the cusp of middle class life - may rather live with a couple degrees of warmth in order to gain a level of comfort that would be destroyed otherwise.

Then there is the question of consensus - what does consensus really mean in science? Isn't it an irrelevant concept? Once upon a time scientific consensus was the world was flat and the Earth was the center of the universe and that men couldn't fly and ...

In short, any attempt to solve this problem by turning to authoritarian measures will leave us with a dictatorship and can anyone point to a dictatorship that was pleasant for those that were not in power?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Public Service Announcement

Just a friendly reminder. This is what you get:
The school boards of eight Florida counties have passed resolutions insisting that evolution be presented alongside alternative theories of organismal origin and development.
When you let politicians run schools; less science, more pandering.
HatTip: Cato@Liberty

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Question for Atheists

Before I actually get to the question, let me tell you that I am best described as agnostic. I don't hold with any particular religion and couldn't tell you whether or not God exists.

For those of you that are atheists - how do you know that God does not exist? For those of you that point to science for your beliefs - isn't the best you can do as be agnostic abut the existence of god?

It seems to me that denying the existence of god takes as much faith as believing in god. One counter example "how do you know that dragons don't exist" or some such doesn't hold water. Dragons exist (or purport to exist) in the observable world. Man has explored so much of the observable world that the likelihood that dragons (or other mythological creatures) actually exist approaches very close to zero.

God, on the other hand, doesn't exist (or purport to exist) in the observable world so there is basis for a lack of belief.

At least that's the way that I see it - what say you?

Less Than Clever

This piece is interesting in so many ways.

First, there is a certain amount of joy in pointing out the hypocrisy of Chancellor that forbids political advocacy except when its advocacy that he agrees with.

Second, the policy positions that he is advocating are fighting against each other in so many ways as to be confused.
Place a tax on each ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) embodied in fossil fuels. Set the tax high enough to initially stabilize nationwide emissions, and then have the tax rise over time, generating steady cuts in pollution. Use tax revenue to (1) compensate lower income Americans for higher energy prices, and (2) to assist impacted workers, especially in coal mining.
Why do they think redistributing taxes to the poor will offset higher energy prices? Higher energy prices would potentially make everything more expensive. It is the height of ignorance to think that you can accurately predict what effect such taxes would have on the economy as a whole. And why is "fighting global warming" more important than raising the poor out of poverty?
To the extent that coal use is unavoidable, only allow coal plants that capture and permanently sequester their emissions in geologic formations.
Do they understand the impact that such a policy would have? What ecological impact will pumping CO2 into oceans have - will we be over "fighting global warming" in 50 years and blathering about "fighting ocean carbonation" instead?
By 2030, require by law that all new buildings in the US be "carbon neutral" (no net emissions of global warming pollution from fossil fuel combustion).
Will such measures include second and third level effects? Or will be simply moving CO2 creation outside the home or outside the borders like the UK has done?

It also looks like this group knows the most efficient replacement for gasoline as well:
Set the emerging biofuels sector on a sustainable basis through: (1) A Low Carbon Fuel Standard that sets a goal for reducing carbon intensity in the total light and heavy duty vehicles fuels mix by10 percent by 2020, and (2) Mount a major effort to research, develop, demonstrate and deploy sustainable biofuels feedstocks and technologies.
I'm impressed that they know that this is the best option available - they should be in the energy business instead of the business of other people's energy. Will they be subsidizing ethanol to counteract the poorer gas mileage? Will all of those tax dollars from taxing pollution go far enough? Do you think that they have accounted for all of the impacts of switching to biofuels?

Something tells me no.
Prevent CO2 emissions and remove atmospheric CO2 through forest conservation, management and restoration. Include forests in cap & auction system, allowing the trade of forest emissions reductions that are real, additional, verifiable, and permanent.
Focusing on biofuels destroys forests, just not forests at home. Would they be so infatuated with biofuels is they destroyed forests? What is more important - biofuels or forests?

As is typical, political advocate go for the quick, pleasantly sounding answers as opposed to really thinking about the ramifications of their preferred policies - why am I not surprised?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I Think I Made Up My Mind

Moments ago I said that I thought I opposed REAL ID. Well, I think I just made up my mind. Yep, I oppose it:
DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy Stewart Baker called today for national ID checks when Americans buy prescription drugs. This is yet another in a growing list of activities that federal authorities would bring within their control should the national ID system created by the REAL ID Act be implemented.
Drivers licenses are too close to "show me your papers please" for me as it is - at least there are 50 of them. Can you imagine the shenanigans if the fed got ahold of the records?

Or maybe I'm being too naive and they already do.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Noble Politician

Something funny is going on. The government is proposing turning driver's licenses into a national ID card - or at least I think that it what REAL ID is about.

My initial gut reaction is to oppose such an attempt, which typically means that I should expect to be disappointed. But states are resisting:

State Rep. Scott Lansley, R-Sabattus, said the state won’t back down in their refusal to participate in the REAL ID Act.

Lansley sponsored the resolution barring Maine from participating in the REAL ID Act. It passed under the gavel in June. Sixteen other states passed similar resolutions.

Part of me wants to hope that states are standing up to a growingly overbearing federal government - but that never happens. Are states just looking for a handout? Are they pissed because Congress isn't handling out fat cash in exchange for decreasing our liberties?

The political ramifications are quite severe if they really decide to enforce requiring REAL ID or a passport to fly. Why are state legislatures willing to take this heat?

Keep in mind that I am glad that they are (at least I think so) but they aren't doing it for noble reasons, I would put money on it - so why are they?

I'm Confused

Can someone explain to me the difference between these two concepts?
Yet some Web sites are growing obsessed with beating the competition, when they should be obsessing instead over meeting the needs of customers, the analyst said.
Is it possible to compete without trying to meet the needs of the customer?


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Random Thoughts

I had my second class last night and I'll dig into some details about that soon. But for now I thought I'd share some random thoughts.

  • My advisor/professor is way out there - she spent some time in the Alaskan bush; no (prepared) food, no electricity, no heat, no thank you.
  • Queer Studies at a Catholic University? There is a conflict in there somewhere, I'm certain.
  • I think the students in my class can be separated into three distinct groups:
    • Professionals finally finishing what they should have done some time ago.
    • Divorced, middle aged women (all went to Catholic school no less).
    • People that think getting a college degree is going to make everything magically better.
  • Whether I am in the first or third group remains to be seen.
  • I'm glad I haven't been actively blogging or I would have likely jumped on the Ron Paul bandwagon and would be forced into a mea culpa.
  • How 'bout them Packers?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Educated Man

You can define an educated person in a number of different ways. An education person could be someone that has completed some level of formal schooling. An educated person could also be someone that has specific knowledge in a particular area. How one defines an educated person is going to depend greatly on context and experience.

My definition an education person is someone that is cognizant of what they do not know. I do not view a person with decades of schooling pontificating on areas outside their areas of expertise to be well educated, but the humble farmer that can speak confidently about the quality of soil, but defers to others on topics outside his experience to be well educated.

I believe that a well educated person understand that the world is an immensely complicated place that is unable to be comprehended by a single person. An educated person is comfortable saying I don’t know or I am not sure.

Most importantly an educated person acknowledges that the world is an uncertain place and feels comfortable admitting that they may be wrong, even on their firmest held beliefs.