December 20, 2006 12:12 PM
In a world were geriatric actor Kirk Douglas can say to "America's young people":
"THE WORLD IS IN A MESS and you are inheriting it...Generation Y, you are on the cusp. You are the group facing many problems: abject poverty, global warming, genocide, Aids, and suicide bombers to name a few. These problems exist, and the world is silent. We have done very little to solve these problems. Now, we leave it to you. You have to fix it because the situation is intolerable."
It is nice to be reminded, politically unacceptable though it might be, that THE WORLD IS A LOT LESS MESSIER NOW THAN EVER BEFORE. Long-time friend of CEI Dr. Indur Goklany has written a book that shouts this from the rooftops. Here's what Allister Heath of the UK's Spectator magazine has to say about it:
For billions of people around the world, these are the best of times to be alive. From Beijing to Bratislava, more of us are living longer, healthier and more comfortable lives than at any time in history; fewer of us are suffering from poverty, hunger or illiteracy. Pestilence, famine, death and even war, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, are in retreat, thanks to the liberating forces of capitalism and technology...
December 20, 2006 12:10 PM
Robert Whaples of Wake Forest University has the answer. He polled American economists and found:
The results show that most economists are not alarmed by the likelihood of continued carbon dioxide emissions. The Great Depression of 1929 to 1933 caused inflation-adjusted GDP to fall a numbing 27%. Few economists think that rising GHGs will have anywhere near this impact - only one in eight predict that GDP will fall by more than 10 percent. Almost twice as many believe that rising greenhouse gas levels will cause the economy to grow. The most popular response is that rising greenhouse gas levels will have virtually no impact on income per person (less than 1 percent lower or higher). The vast majority (73.2%) predict that the impact will be less than 5 percent one way or the other. (Here are the complete responses: a) more than 10 percent lower = 12.5%; b) about 5 to 10 percent lower = 7.1%; c) about 1 to 5 percent lower = 21.4%; d) less than 1 percent lower or higher = 35.7%; e) about 1 to 5 percent higher = 16.1%; f) more than 5 percent higher = 7.1%.)
Assuming that "more than 10" = 15, "more than 5" = 10, and taking the midpoint of the other intervals, this averages to -1.86%. Since the end of World War II, inflation-adjusted GDP has risen by about 2 percent per year on average. Thus, the collective wisdom of these economists is that greenhouse gas emissions will shave about one year of economic growth off the economy over the next century.
Huh? How does this square with the tales of catastrophe we hear every day?
December 20, 2006 12:08 PM
Myron wrote earlier about how the Senate Democrats are showing no urgency to tackle global warming, otherwise known as The Greatest Threat Facing the Planet (TM - Al Gore). I challenged them to show their commitment to Saving the Planet by bringing Kyoto to the floor for ratification, even if that meant (gasp!) changing procedural rules. No dice.
Now, Stuart Eizenstat, who negotiated Kyoto for the Clinton-Gore team, admits that the Democrats won't do anything to faced down The Greatest Threat Facing the Planet:
"In the United States there is growing interest and growing concern but no chance of joining Kyoto," he told Reuters by telephone. "The word is radioactive."
Of course, the article blames this all on evil obstructionists. I contend that the issue is just too good an issue to solve. The perverse incentives of electoral cycles mean that it is more useful to have a stick to beat your electoral opponents with than to make the stick illegal. I therefore make a bold prediction. By this time next year, Congress will not have passed any meaningful legislation to do with global warming -- by which I mean any cap-and-trade plans or carbon taxes. Note I say nothing about a Presidential veto -- I don't believe it will even reach the President's desk. If I'm wrong, I will gladly offset my carbon use for the year...
December 20, 2006 12:06 PM
The Washington, D.C. Council voted 10 to 2 yesterday to ban employers from considering criminal records in housing, hiring or employment, if the criminal's probation or parole officer thinks he has achieved "a degree of rehabilitation." The bill was sponsored by convicted felon Marion Barry.
So if a couple with small children doesn't want to rent a room in their duplex to a sex offender who is supposedly "rehabilitated," it can be sued for punitive damages. And if a supposedly reformed bank robber wants to work for a bank, the bank has to ignore his criminal record.
The only paper to cover the bill's passage was the D.C. Examiner, which buried the story deep in an inside page that few people will read, and which is available only in a PDF version of the entire page. (See second story under "News in Brief").
Oddly, while The Washington Post editorialized against the bill yesterday, calling it a threat to public safety, its news staff did not report on its passage. (Ironically, the Post's editorial page is more moderate than its supposedly unbiased news coverage, which often has a liberal slant).
Requiring employers to ignore criminal records is bad for Washington, D.C.'s business climate. It may also infringe on the First Amendment rights of certain nonprofits. Groups that exist to express a viewpoint have the right to choose spokespeople who share, and embody, that viewpoint.
December 20, 2006 12:03 PM
It's almost cliched now to say that free market advocates expecting Republicans to control the growth of government shows the triumph of hope over experience, but the Bush Administration doesn't seem to even pretend to fight. Today, the President said that he would support a hike in the federal minimum wage, from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour, in exchange for "targeted tax and regulatory relief" for small businesses.
Yes, the minimum wage hike is popular and enjoys political momentum. It's bad policy, but it's a great issue for left-liberals to grandstand on because its costs are hidden -- there is no organized political pressure group of people who would have occupied jobs that an increased minimum wage kept from coming into being. So President Bush is trying to make the best of a bad situation. But it's very bad strategy to announce what you're willing to go along with before negotiations have even started.
What could the President gain politically from outright opposition to the minimum wage hike? First, he would appear bold and principled, willing to spend political capital to oppose bad policy. Second, he could use this fight as an educational opportunity to tell the American people about the job losses that a higher minimum wage would create -- a move that would help Bush regain considerable support among his party's conservative base.
December 19, 2006 4:58 PM
Last year, a British MP calculated that Santa Claus' annual trip round the world was environmentally damaging:
It has been calculated that Santa's team of nine reindeer would emit methane with a global warming impact equivalent to more than 40,600 tonnes of greenhouse gases on the 122 million mile Christmas Eve dash to deliver presents around the world.
That would make his marathon sleigh ride almost as environmentally damaging as an aircraft, which would produce approximately 41,500 tonnes of on the Christmas Eve trip.
The MP of course had some sanctimonious advice for Father Christmas:
The methane calculations were made by Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Tom Brake.
He said the best Christmas present for the environment would be if Santa took the bus, which would keep his total emissions output down to just 10,980 tonnes of - although he admitted the annual trip might take a bit longer than usual.
Mr Brake said: "Boys and girls up and down the country will be eagerly waiting for Father Christmas to arrive with their presents on Christmas morning. What they may not realise however is that Santa would be better off taking public transport."
But he conceded: "At least he isn't taking the plane, which would be worse than the reindeer."
He added: "We realise that it might be a bit late to change things for this year, but hope that Santa will take this research into account when he plans next year's trip."
It looks like Old Saint Nick has done what most people do when confronted with finger wagging paternalism and ignored the professional butt-inski. That's a good counterstrike against the politicization of Christmas...
December 19, 2006 4:57 PM
Al Gore exposed!
December 19, 2006 2:31 PM
When I was a young lad in northern England, there was much distress as the Thatcher government swallowed the bitter pill and proceeded to shut down or privatize loss-generating nationalized industries that existed primarily as "make work" programs. The Specials' 1981 hit "Ghost Town" was an early cry of outrage. The lines "No job to be found in this country" and "People gettin' angry" sum up the reaction of many thousands, an attitude that survives to this day in the North of England.
Today, economist Don Boudreaux explains just why scarcity of jobs is never a problem and why government attempts to make work are misguided shots at the wrong target.
December 19, 2006 12:31 PM
Excellent article from Ryan Meyer of the Center for Science, Policy and Outcomes at the University of Arizona on the inadequacies of models that purport to assess the damages of global warming. Read the whole thing, but two specific points are well worth excerpting:
The a priori assumption that global climate change is the only global change problem we need to deal with is misguided. Starting with climate change as the central problem, and then building a model around variables that plausibly can be linked to climate change, will of course yield a picture of the future in which climate change is the dominant problem. If one insists on framing problems in global terms, climate should be just one of many changes important to the future of humans on Earth. The broad perspective of global change may provide a far more useful (and balanced) context for specific global problems like climate change.
A bottom-up approach to identifying and quantifying potential climate impacts is crucial to understanding the importance of climate change in socio-ecological systems. The marginal social cost of one ton of carbon emitted into the atmosphere - a number actively debated among environmental economists (e.g. Richard 1999, Clarkson and Deyes 2002, Pearce 2003, Guo et al. 2006) — is no more useful to the rural farmer in Zimbabwe than the knowledge that the global average temperature might rise by a few degrees. Local dynamics must be incorporated into any realistic and usable account of climate impacts.
December 19, 2006 12:31 PM
I missed reading the Financial Times yesterday (Fred stole it), so missed until today Lucy Kellaway's riotous column where she gives business jargon awards for the year. Don't miss it yourself. You'll also get a chance to hear one of her winners in the category “Company Song So Awful I Was Positive It Was a Spoof.”
Here's what Lucy has to say about this special award:
The outstanding winner in this category is Shell. Its song is called "Growing and Winning" and is set to "We Are the World". "We have moved on, growing day by day/Sharing strengths, we practise what is best/We are all a part of Shell's global family/Doing work aligned with everyone." It is a haunting mixture of pyschobabble, sentimentality and business jargon.
(Tip from B. Rippel)