272 posts • joined 20 Aug 2009
What did you expect?
It has been speculated
that as the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere increases, vegetation will grow larger and faster, but have less nutritive value — essentially hollowed out. If the 'men who stare at goats' are correct, then coupled with less nutritive food, we may well be looking at yet another extinction.
You may want to console yourself that the climate isn't changing, and anyway puny man could never do it,* but Pew Oceans said over ten years ago that 92% of large ocean fish were already extinct. Audubon claims 1,300 bird species are facing extinction. According to the World Wildlife Fund's newly released Living Planet Report, based on the Living Planet Index, which is a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London, 52% of all wildlife has been lost since 1970, with 76% loss in rivers and other freshwater systems.
RECOMMENDED READING: The Sixth Extinction
*In case you've forgotten, or are otherwise unaware, the three stages of denial are:
1) It's not happening
2) OK, it's happening but it's not as bad as you say
3) OK, it's happening and it's as bad as you say, but it's somebody else's fault
A more in-depth look
can be found/heard here:
What a confused mess!
First, if utility has no more of a distinct definition than happiness, then either as an economic goal (or is that gaol?) is, in your quaint term, bollocks. "'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean-neither more nor less.' [Lewis Carroll]" Economics, as unscientific as it is, is an attempt to describe what people do and demonstrate their philosophy in action, rather than some stricture we should be guided by.
Second, it's hardly one or the other. One may put oneself in a position where they will be 'unhappy' in order, say, to make money 'utilitarianly' to send back to the family, which will make them 'happy,' or certainly happier than knowing their family is starving...
Lastly, though somewhat anecdotally, let's look at Detroit — that quintessentially rustbelt city — where one can buy a lovely house (architecturally speaking) for $500. Why are people not flocking in droves to move to Detroit? Because they'd be living in Detroit, where crime is rampant, so is unemployment and the city is cutting off people's water because they can't pay the bills and knocking down abandoned properties right and left. They are actively trying to shrink the city.
You can mean your words to mean whatever you want, but the facts on the ground, apparently, don't have to agree...
Re: Declaration of Independence
It is not happiness which is offered but the freedom to pursue it. Still think it's stupid?
PWC, as I remember, was involved in some shady or negligent accounting scandal a while back, but even so, an accounting firm should be exacting and not allow typos in their public statements. To wit,
Mr O’Rourke was employed in one of our infernal firm services offices. The firm terminated his employment after an infernal investigation concluded that Mr O’Rourke violated PwC’s ethical standards and practices, applicable to all of our people. The firm has explicit policies regarding employee conduct, we train our people in those policies, and we enforce them. Mr O’Rourke’s violation of these policies was the sole reason for his termination.
Some quotes to consider in re all of this:
"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else." —Winston Churchill (though you can easily substitute those who rely overmuch on economics for Americans. As a side note, those who relied overmuch on Just In Time process were, when it all went wrong, known as JITheads.)
"In the long run, we are all dead." —John Maynard Keynes
"This gave a cosmetic boost to the economy, but his economic problems otherwise remained immense. Sir Humphrey, having majored in Latin and Greek, did not understand economics. Hacker, having majored in sociology, did not understand anything really. Sir Frank Gordon, the Permanent Secretary of the Treasury, was at an even greater disadvantage in understanding economics, for he was an economist." —Jonathan Lynn and Anthony Jay from Yes Prime Minister, p.390
Re: Rare earth
I disagree. Religion seems to have had an equal bad influence.
However, a couple of things bear mentioning:
We hear here nothing of cost of and standard of living. Raw numbers really tell us very little.
Further, I heard this morning from Naomi Klein that in Ontario, where she lives, "the government passed a really ambitious green energy plan, and there's a requirement that if you want to benefit from the subsidies, you have to produce a certain amount of your solar panels and wind turbines in Ontario. It was successful: 31,000 manufacturing jobs were created, closed down auto plants opened up and were turned into solar production plants; in the green economy that everybody talks about. And then Japan and the European Union took Canada to the WTO and said that this violated our obligations because you're not allowed to favor local industry, and in fact, there have been several trade challenges like this: the U.S. has challenged China, has challenged India, for its subsidies it supports for renewable energy." Bang goes the income for those 31,000 and the thousands or millions similarly afflicted.
That's what makes horse-racing
There are those who think the market is always right. They just may, in the long run*, be correct but many of us will not live that long. One only needs to look at the day-to-day fluctuations to know that on a shorter time frame, valuations may be wrong. Sometimes, the net asset value of an issue is greater than the price. We call that a bargain, and those with patience and perspicacity often benefit.
In the matter turning cash over to shareholders, in a (somewhat) famous court case, Dodge v. Ford Motor Co. (170 N.W. 668 (Mich. 1919)) the plaintiffs complained that Ford was using cash to build it's business (by lowering prices so that sales would grow), when that cash (even that which was only potential, had the prices not dropped) rightfully should be turned over to shareholders as dividends. They won. The ruling enshrined the idea that corporations exist solely for the profit of shareholders.
*I can't help but remember Keynes statement that in the long run, we're all dead.
Ah, yes — semantics
I can't disagree with using words to describe things as they are, rather than as we'd wish them or wish others to believe them to be. My mother always said 'being broke is being out of money; being poor is a state of mind.'
That said, while we certainly have a higher living standard than centuries ago (or even decades ago — things we take for granted today were not available for love nor money; the average man or woman today is richer than the kings or queens of old, even with less money) or in less developed places, that doesn't mean poverty (by the definition offered here) has disappeared. Are there no homeless on the streets of the UK? There certainly are here in the US, though fewer than, say, 30 years ago. Sure, the general rise in public health has increased the standard of living for all; the institution of government programs have helped — even prevented some from being homeless. And so on... If you want to say that in less developed places, people are really poor, whereas we are not, well it's all in the comparison, isn't it?
On a side note, as for China in 1978, I'm told that for the average rural citizen, the standard of living had not changed in centuries. It was once said that the Emperor is very far away (The Mandarins of Imperial China were, by then-current standards, quite wealthy, indeed.). So was the Committee... Such lack of material goods was still rampant, but I remember the barefoot doctors where once there was little or no healthcare, and that may have been largely traditional. It said that in the 1950s the three most-wanted things were a watch, bicycle and a sewing machine. In the '80s, it was a TV set, refrigerator and a washing machine. It was a mobile phone, a computer and an air-conditioner in the 1990s. Today, China ranks sixth in the world in terms of GDP. One cannot say with certainty that there are "three most-wanted" things, but most media agree that housing, automobile and kids education are the three most-wanted in today's Chinese families.
How about us? I'd guess that in the 50s, US families wanted a house, a car and a TV. According to a report this morning, millennials are no longer as interested in large purchases like a house or a car — probably a smart phone is #1.
An excellent article!
Despite the brouhaha (especially from the Worstall crowd and those to the right of him [Not long ago, one of Mr. Worstall's commentards declared me an idiot for saying you can't have infinite growth in a finite system, with which even Mr. Worstall apparently agrees, though he niggles about where the limits are.]), Mr. Watkinson has it just about right, with a few niggles.
That banks create debt is indisputable, but I don't believe it's their sole purpose. They also serve to create and move money (velocity being as important as supply). If I'm a bank and you come to me with $100 (substitute £, if it helps...) for deposit, in this limited example, the money supply is now $100, but then I lend $50 to another party, the money supply is now $150, even though the books balance. And, as one bankster said to me during a small dispute, "I can't sugar coat it: we're a bank — we charge interest!" (Of course, nowadays, they don't pay interest...) Though the movement is largely unidirectional, I suppose, we could say that all money is debt...
As regards GDP, in this brave new world, the idea of GDP being tied solely to resources and the value added thereupon is outdated. A vast amount of our economy is in services. You can strain language to call it value-added, but frankly you're not adding value, but creating value out of nothing, unless you now want to declare such things as creativity a natural resource. To my mind, that's a step beyond.
As a last point, we need to rethink economy in relation to traditional care for the aged (etc.). Just as machinery has replaced human and animal labor, so too we will see it in this field. In fact, it's already starting to happen in Japan. When people live longer (even if healthier longer) and reproduction starts to drop (as in Japan), they cannot rely on a good supply of human caregivers, particularly given the limited space in the country and the traditional antipathy (though that's too strong a word, perhaps) to foreign labor. As a result, there is a push on for mechanization. In Africa, which generally is not as technologically developed, disease (AIDS being a prime example) has cause the loss of a vast swath of the population in the prime of life, leaving the young to be cared for by the old. This presents its own difficulties. War and Ebola are not helping.
A Little Revisionist History
At the time, Apple had a (late, unlamented) plugin known as QuickTime VR [QTVR], initially released in 1994 (if Wikipedia got the date right). It worked both with QuickTime and as a browser plug-in. As i remember, it was best suited for spinning things around...
Re: Parameter error
I suppose ad hominem attacks are not beneath you, so I wonder what is?
That said, 1) you missed the word "if" and 2) the idea that population will rise to 9bn and then fall due to wealth is a) rank speculation and b) not borne out by history. No one will deny that the wealth of the United States has only increased in 200 years, but population has steadily risen. True, poor agrarian families often a) feel the need for more hands to do the chores, so have more children and b) have little or no opportunity or desire for birth control. In such societies, often life expectancy is lower and infant mortality higher. However, in Africa, the main cause of population decline seems to be disease, which by the way is a function (though not sole, by any means) of concentrated populations.
I have watched local populations of shorter-lived species, like squirrels, boom and bust, and there is no reason why humans cannot follow that path. Indeed, no one knows or can know what the human population will be in 2100. Perhaps we'll all stop breeding, à la Children of Men; perhaps we'll all be dead from hubristic actions or disease or perhaps those causes will result in a vastly reduced population. We use math to make some kind of an educated guess, even though the farther you get away from the known, the wider the margin of error.
The point, dear reader, is not the numbers, but that we live in a finite situation, into which we cannot continuously inject more and more demand without limit. Optimism is all well and good, but it is no cure. As Mr. Worstall noted, "starvation is a substitute for food," just not a good one...
Re: Parameter error
My information comes from
Seems to me, just like The Limits to Growth cited (which, admittedly, I haven't read, so I'll go with Mr. Worstall's take), said Tim Worstall makes the same kind of error — when you limit either the information going in or the conclusions you'll allow, you're bound to come up with a crap conclusion. Here, we speak solely of energy and mineral resources (in the general sense). Without trying to make a detailed argument, factor this in:
In 1800, there was one city with a population of 1 million — Beijing. By 1900, the population of the world was about 1 billion, mostly agrarian, with at least ten cities exceeding that population (London the most populous with 6,480,000, followed by New York with 4,242,000). By 2000, the world population was nearing 7 billion, with many cities around 20 million (Tokyo the largest at 26,400,000, followed by Mexico City at 17,900,000. New York, only the fifth most populous had grown to 16,600,000 — approximately a four-fold increase in 100 years). If we are able to survive and maintain that world growth rate, by 2100, there will be 49 billion people on the planet.
Already, and for some time now, we have been having problems with our fisheries. According to Pew, about 10 years ago, 92% of large ocean fish were already extinct! Sure, we're doing fish farming (which is barely taking up the slack, if that, and we can switch to species that were hitherto distasteful, though history shows when we do that, we soon extinct them, too. Witness the Patagonian toothfish a.k.a. Chilean sea bass.
Fisheries are not the only place where we are seeing scarcity. With more and more people, and increasingly those wanting the American lifestyle, the writing is on the wall. (I've heard —but can neither prove nor demonstrate— that if the current population were to live that lifestyle, we'd need four Earths.) However much there is of any given resource, that number is finite. If we do not get off this planet in a big way and find more resources, then there will be consequences that all the economists —of whatever stripe— in the world cannot solve. Other than that, any solution will have to rely on natural systems, whether that means living within the carrying capacity of the Earth or Mathusianism, I cannot say.
I'm not altogether hopeful...
Re: Where do I begin?
"It also creates lucrative opportunities for rent controlled tenants to illegally sublet their apartments to people who pay more-or-less market rate - so the tenant gets the cream for free."
That's illegal, and generally against the terms of the lease — which is not to say people don't do it...
Where do I begin?
While I cannot speak to the UK housing situation, this essay is fraught with error of both fact and ideology.
So, let me start with the latter: plainly, this is written from an economic rather than social point of view. It makes the assumption that the so-called market will find the ideal situation for all concerned. First, let's begin with the fact that there is no such thing as a perfect market. Joseph Stiglitz won his Nobel proving this. People are always trying to 'warp' the market to suit their own desires.
I am familiar with rent control in New York City. This is a very expensive place to live, exceeded by few (I think San Francisco, London and Tokyo are among them, but that's neither here nor there...). Rent control is the only way many can afford to live there (example follows). Strictly speaking, if the essay were right in its assumptions, that there are plenty of places to build in the city, economic constraint would not hinder it — any new construction can be rented at whatever the owner wants. Further, the rules of rent control are called, strictly speaking, vacancy decontrol. Which means that when the occupant departs, rent at whatever desired level may ensue. (Again, really neither here nor there) my father lived in a rent controlled apartment in Manhattan. He was the Creative Director at a smallish advertising firm, belonging to Litton Industries. He was middle class (remember when there was such a thing?) and when he died, he left an estate of only a few thousand dollars. His rent was $300/mo, which he'd been paying since the '60's. At some point, the building went co-op and he had the choice of buying his apartment (for around $30K) but declined, because he "didn't want to be tied to those nuts" — the other owners. God knows what the costs of owning (in taxes, fees, repairs, assessments, etc.) would have been, though... When he died, that one bedroom apartment went for $300K. He (or at least, I) would have been richer had he bought, but he thought like an ordinary human with personal wishes and not like a theoretical economist.
One last issue, and then I'll leave off (though there's more to say): when an insurer pays a claim on your destroyed house, they are paying (ostensibly, at least) the cost of rebuilding less deductible. This does NOT include the land. If your house was worth 10x the insured value on the open market, once the builders are done, you can turn around and sell it for that!
One has to be careful
Years ago, the FCC held such a meeting Boston. Comcast paid people to come off the street and sleep in the seats so there would be vastly limited room for those who wanted to discuss the issue. Just having the meetings isn't enough.
Some years ago...
Apple had a speech command system (which remains today as the Speech preference pane), which put up an avatar that would execute certain canned commands when addressed by name. They based their avatar on TV personality Connie Chung and called her Connie. You'd have to say something like, "Connie, open Word."
When they were initially trialling it at the Boston Apple Center, it didn't quite work. One tester could not get a response and asked an Applenaut, "Is Connie turned on?"
To which, that worthy replied, "That's an awfully personal question!"
someone would let a Siamese wander the neighborhood. In my experience, they're quite subject to catnapping...
I agree, but
one thing typically missing from Cost/Benefit Analysis is often termed 'externalities.' As a crude example, when we look at clearing a section of Amazon rainforest, we'll count the cost of bringing in the people and equipment, reduced by the value of the lumber removed, and then tossing in the value of the jobs created and the cattle raised. Ignored is the value that forest provided in CO2 —> O2 (including carbon sequestration), habitat for the forest denizens and even the potential value of pharmaceuticals that might be developed from the existing flora and fauna.
As Mr. Worstall says, it all hangs on the assumptions you make. People seem inclined to make only those assumptions that benefit themselves in the short run.
that by the time the public document is released, it will be so heavily "redacted" that you could use it as a room-darkening shade.
Not East Texas?
(—Yeah, I know Delaware is corporate-friendly, but E. Texas is more patent troll-friendly!)
"...primary grader Paul Litch said in a release."
Don't you think they could get someone more qualified than a child?
Mine's the one with the attached mittens...
Not that Mr. Worstall
or any of the self-declared Libertarians out there would necessarily agree, but another source of jobs is Government. Of course, Government can generally create only Government jobs, but some them can actually be useful. The secret, as always, is to find the proper balance. When Government listens only to Big Business, the system is thrown out of whack with some of said businesses accepting the good things Government provides (roads, disease control, etc.) but refusing to pay for them by dint of clever tax strategies or even decamping to pastures green. And as Mr. Worstall says, Government then ignores other legs of the figurative table, which are actually holding the whole thing up. Further, when Government sucks up too much of the available resources and becomes bloated, it is like the tail wagging the dog.
On another issue, I submit that growth beyond the needs of the population; growth for the sake of growth; growth to run up the numbers is indistinguishable from inflation.
For any number of reasons
I find this study suspect. It's plain that many people use phones in the car without having accidents. Also plain that people have accidents without using phones. Likewise, attention to driving, skill, conditions of all sorts [including not only road, but inebriation, traffic, light and so forth], amount of enforcement, etc. are all highly variable. The smaller the sample, the less likely it is to be accurate. Add to this, the caveats mentioned herein, and you've got one useless study — which even scientifically cannot be counted on unless replicated.
I wonder who paid for this mess?
Re: re : James 51
Really? In Massachusetts, green means go and red means go...
It seems to me...
it would be next to impossible to get out if parked in a parking lot [car park].
A couple were going at it on the roof of a whorehouse when the action got so frantic, they fell off. A passerby knocked on the door and said to the madam, "Lady, your sign fell down."
A couple were going at it on the roof of a whorehouse when the action got so frantic, they fell off. A passerby knocked on the door and said, "Lady, your sign fell down."
until they're mandatory!
"whom Firedman also credits..."
They SHOULD have filed in Texas. Delaware, (in)famously corporate-friendly, probably won't support this kind of shenanigans...
Re: All Governments are dangerous and can easly end up as criminal gangs
There's more than a whiff of bias here. In the 19th century, banks in the US were private enterprises endowed with the power to create their own currencies. Some of these were even known as 'wildcat banks,' because only wildcats could reach them, making it difficult-to-impossible to redeem the notes. Needless to say, many of these failed, causing MUCH economic hardship. President Jackson lost significant sums on paper money, and thus became a 'hard money man.' US Government banking began with the Civil War, as Lincoln passed the National Banking Act (1863) to fund it. This not only gave us a National Bank, but created for the first time a national currency.
But here's the thing: ALL currency is fiat money. It is a consensual fiction. If you really want to solve these problems, you'll have to replace it. You might have bad names for people who want to do this, though...
SHAMELESS PLUG: You might want to read my book, The Root of All Evil, available for free! at http://books.noisetrade.com/cacohen/the-root-of-all-evil
In 1929, Secretary of State Henry Lewis Stimson shut down the State Department's cryptanalytic office saying, "Gentlemen don't read each other's mail." (Though he later reversed this attitude.)
Re: @Irongut and others
Have you not heard of the 'secret room' at AT&T at 611 Folsom St. in San Francisco outed by former AT&T technician Mark Klein?
Re: Niven has this one covered
I always liked this formulation:
In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there's a great deal of difference.
Was ist das?
Seems to me a semantic argument to foster stage two of the denialist triad*: 'OK, it's happening, but it's not as bad as you say.' Those of you in Blighty may have grown used to constant surveillance, what with the cameras and all, but on this side of the pond we are supposed to have a right to privacy. Today, it was reported on National Public Radio** that your cell phone (mobe, if you prefer) is leaking all kinds of information about you, even if you're not using it!
*The other two are 1) "It's not happening" and 3) "OK, it's happening, but it's somebody else's fault."
Once again, this is them triumph of bias over fact. Here's an example: in one West Virginia town [can't remember which one, but some diligent searching will probably find it], the coal mine ceased operation, due to being "tapped out." All the miners were forced to find other work. Some years later, technology allowed that mine to reopen with better extraction methods. The miners, who had become established in new employment, went back to the mine! There is, apparently, some kind of brotherhood and pride among miners...
On the other hand, 'Obamacare' has relieved what has come to be known as job-lock — people forced to stay in a job to keep their insurance. A significant number are now quitting to start their own businesses (surely, you must applaud such entrepreneurialism), or work in something more to their liking.
Road sweepers and garbage men, here, make a pretty good living (often on a government paycheck).
Truth to tell, I know only one welfare sponger — a former drunken 'tenant' who didn't pay rent and who forced me to take her to court, then kept it going for 20 years!. She had a cell with her name on it at the local police station, due to the frequency of drunk-and-disorderlies. Even she has a job. The experience with immigrants is different here, as they tend to work (illegally) far below the going rate, pissing off those who work and expect a decent day's wage.
One might be required to work for, say 20 years, in order to receive those benefits.
BTW, in a totally unscientific poll I took some years ago among random people I know and met, when asked if they would continue to work if given some base level food, shelter, clothing, medical care, etc., by far the most common answer was, 'yes, but I'd do something else.' My take is, people need to fill their time and like a feeling of accomplishment. The idea that without the threat of starvation and deprivation they would lie on the couch and eat bon-bons or get drunk is more of a bugaboo than a fact.
Speaking as an American
(who, I must admit, has only started reading Piketty's book and has only a generalized knowledge of his argument), I can say that Mr. Worstall's take is completely beside the point. On this side of the pond, income for the masses has been stagnant since about 1974, while prices have continued to rise. Both income and wealth have risen for the top 10% and more so for the top 1%, to the extent that income for some CEOs has been clocked, in at least one instance, at 750x the income of the lowest paid worker in the same company (more commonly being a mere 250—300x). The welfare state here is not nearly so generous here as in the UK or Sweden (or France, for that matter). Medical bills are one the most common causes of bankruptcy. The current attempt to remedy this (which I call the Insurance Industry Protection Act) was a Republican idea now repudiated by said Republicans, because it was passed under a Democratic President. (Admittedly, it's a hot mess that would not have occurred had Mr. Obama lived up to his promise of a 'public option,' but that's an argument for another time.) While coverage is somewhat improved, we are now mandated to pay for it (which the Right and Mr. Worstall no doubt term a tax, and a largely regressive one at that). Of the 45 million uninsured, there are now only some 28 million... But enough of insurance and healthcare.
Even those working today can find it hard to make ends meet. WalMart workers are infamously often on EBT (née Foodstamps) and Medicaid. True, the poor are nowhere near as poor as the poor of past centuries, and that's good, but it's not really the question. (When I lived in Holland in the 70's, they said under the Dutch system you can't soar as high, but you can't fall as far. At this point in the US, you can soar with eagles but you can still be driven into the ground.)
There are two things, to me, that are especially germane: gross societal inequality, where 90% of the assets are in the hands of 10% of the people is a leading cause of economic catastrophe, as in the Great Depression. The other is societal and economic mobility, which except for a few, has all but ceased. This means that top percentiles stay rich, and in a land where by law money equals speech, they take control of the levers of power and warp the nation to their personal ends, which becomes a kind of economic feedback loop. One can see a future where 'wage slave' is not hyperbole.
It's interesting to note
that 'Bing' is Chinese for 'disease.'
What could go wrong?
I'm writing from New Hampshire
Here, you will find geographical pockets of every political persuasion. Famously, New Hampshire is home to rock-ribbed, laconic (even those not from Laconia, NH) Republicans. In the last 20 or 30 years, Massachusetts residents flocked to the southern tier (I'm one of them), for various reasons (not excluding taxes), to the extent that all but one (Sen Kelly Ayotte) of the main offices in the state are held by Democrats and ALL are women. In the last few years, so-called Free Staters (read: Tea Partiers. Our State motto is "Live Free or Die") have tried to move into the state in large numbers with the intent of taking over. They're troublesome, selfish jerks, but so far have had little practical effect. Overall, the state is pretty evenly divided with a leftward predominance.
I remember when I lived in Holland, noted for it's tolerance, driving through a town of religious zealots where there was a sign over the town dock that read, "First there's birth, then there's duty, then there's death. Nothing more." You see the same sort pockets here...
"Buy Jupiter" by Isaac Asimov
What? No Dutch?
Try klote hond
"Over 100 leading technology companies, including Google Inc, Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Amazon.com Inc, have written to U.S. telecom regulators to oppose a new "net neutrality" plan that would regulate how Internet providers manage web traffic."
When faced with denial, just remember this
There are three types of denial, which are often phased:
1) Straight denial — It's not happening
2) Minimization denial — OK, it's happening, but it's not as bad as you say
3) Transference denial — OK, it's happening and it's bad, but it's somebody else's fault
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