Monday, January 26, 2009

Fighting against cynicism

All this fuss! What's it all about?

If it is the prerogative of the mature in years to be cynical, it is probably also their duty, for the sake of the young, to fight against that cynicism. For surely we cynics also love our children.

So here we are with the first black president of the U.S.A. ever – well actually he is most decidedly mixed-race, having a very white mother. But, since he is widely perceived as black and was elected anyway, there is ample cause for celebration. I do believe that is true. Such a thing would not have been possible forty years ago. Great strides have been made. Race, though maybe a barrier in some situations, and actually an advantage in others, is less of a factor in most of American life. I am indeed very happy about that. One million Americans, of all colors, shapes and sizes, could congregate in Washington and celebrate for America – and be proud of being American, proud of the freedom it stands for. Cause for celebration indeed.

I am also gratified by the fact that President Obama is surely a very talented and (seemingly) intelligent man. It will be refreshing to have an intelligent president, one that can make a good speech and understand what he is saying. I am told he even writes much of his speeches himself. He has the insight and understanding to make important decisions. Dare we hope he will make the right ones?

The unknown factor is the character of Mr. Obama – what makes him tick? What does he really believe? His campaign rhetoric contained something for everyone: but is he a populist, a radical, or a moderate? Really? (see my earlier blog "the hope and the terror") My friend Stan Liebowitz thinks he is a conciliator, a believer in compromise and "making nice" for everyone concerned. All sides give a little and we agree to differ but live happily ever after. As a master of rhetoric he can make miracles happen. Everyone thinks they have gained something.

Maybe he is right. But there definitely seems to be another side to him. He seems to have a definite agenda. So in his remarks to the press today he spoke of some environmental regulations that he will impose. He will allow each state to establish its own auto emissions standards, thus ensuring that auto-manufacturers will have to adhere to the most stringent – the costs of producing different cars for different states being uneconomical. He also announced that by "encouraging" the production of energy efficient cars and other measures, he would move America away from dependence on foreign energy and, in the process, "create millions of jobs." And he boldly proclaimed that his administration will be one that "pays attention to facts," referring to the "facts" of global warming; in reaction to which he plans to introduce significant industrial emissions standards.

"Create millions of jobs"? Is he really that stupid? How is producing unprofitable cars going to create jobs? To exist these jobs will require fat subsidies. Whence the money for these subsidies? From taxes paid by income or profit earners who would otherwise spend this money to do what? To create jobs, silly. So we take money from profitable ventures and spend it on unprofitable ventures and claim to be "creating jobs." What a neat trick? Does he really believe this? Then he is stupid. Does he not? Then he is deceitful. Not a great choice. Am I being cynical?

And what about the "facts" of global warming. Again, is he stupid or deceitful, or maybe uninformed? The facts? What are the facts? Well, depending on which period you choose to look at, it can be shown that the average temperature of planet earth has gone up a bit. In the broad sweep of the multi-billion year history of the earth, this is a very small swing. Huge climate changes have been occurring throughout its existence and will continue to do so. So there may be a global warming trend. Let us stipulate this as a fact. What else? Is it a fact that this warming is being caused by emission of Co2 to produce a greenhouse effect? The answer is – Maybe. Maybe is not a fact. It is a theory. We are told there is a "scientific consensus" on this. Is that a fact? Actually it is an exaggeration. There are a large number of reputable scientists who disagree.

What else? Let us assume that this warming is the result of Co2 emissions, is it a fact that we are causing it? Simple answer: No. There is ample assertion to this effect, and many computer simulations, but no "facts." Lets say we are responsible for some of it, are we responsible for a lot of it? The answer: We don't know. Lets say we bear some responsibility, does it follow that if we impose massive restrictions on emissions, necessary for normal production in the developed countries and absolutely crucial for economic development elsewhere, that we will arrest the global warming trend. The answer: Absolutely not! It cannot be shown that we could make a real difference even at great cost, even at prohibitive cost. That is a fact. From which it follows that the assertion by a "scientist" quoted today by the BBC that President Obama's measures will certainly have a significant beneficial effect on climate change is, quite simply, a lie.

For many years now (more than ten) I have been telling my students that the environmentalists are very dangerous. Next to radical Islam, theirs is the most dangerous religion we face. The big difference is that most of us at least vaguely realize that radical Islam can be dangerous to our lives, our economy and our freedom. News flash! The environmentalists are poised to destroy our lives, our economy and our freedom as well. They use the mantel of science, with a capital S. But they are not really concerned about the facts. They have a strong, implicit faith in what they see as the imperative of "preservation." They, and the vast numbers who listen to them, fail to understand that there is nothing mystical about the use of resources. As long as we want to live productive, creative lives, we shall have to use resources (transform matter from one form into another). The real and important question is not "how shall we use our resources?" No, that is not the important question. The important question is: "Who shall decide this – who shall decide how resources are used?" The environmentalists are sure that they, and they alone, should be the ones to decide – not through the market, but by government fiat, by coercion. That is why they are incredibly dangerous. They lust after power, the power to be the ones to decide what may be produced and how. They need little excuse to impose their heavy will upon us – a mere suspicion that we may be "causing" a warming trend is sufficient for them to cripple industries and destroy jobs. And now they have a champion in the White House!

When the President says "create jobs" and "pay attention to the facts" and this really means "destroy jobs" and "ignore the facts we don't like", how can one not be cynical?


Anonymous said...

funny what the general public does not know (or seek out) and scary what the public is willing to believe. My fear is that many of the uneducated people who vote for their president based on race, popularity contests, etc are going to be easily persuaded by Obama due to some of the very reasons you mention in your blog. I worry that most will rely on his "intelligence" and turn it into gospel. The country and its citizens are in a very fragile state making most citizens impressionable. Big job cuts are being announced daily just like big private equity deals used to be announced. Although both eliminate jobs, the former erodes confidence and turns people away from capitalism. Another thing that erodes confidence and drives away capital is a government that changes the rules (no shorting this stock or we will do this with TARP money....oh nevermind we will do that..etc.) and crowds out private capital. Who wants to invest in the financial institiutons only to be diluted by Uncle Sam? Why does the government look to make the popular decision instead of allow capitalism to create the solution. The country and most citizens treated leverage like a restaurant meal. There eyes were bigger than their stomach so they took on more than they can swallow. What happens when you gain too much weight (read take on too much leverage)? You go on a diet. We need to go on a debt diet. I am just ranting now so I should stop. I do think Obama is scary and like you think he has an agenda yet to be revealed. I fear the worst so I can be happy when I am proved wrong.

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