Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Violent Liberals

And now for something completely different.

Which means I am going to complain about something else besides the health-care bill.

The D-O-T, which is the affectionate name for the Department of Transportation, has issued a new directive for Airlines. Responding to the demands for a "passenger bill of rights" the DOT has now mandated, compelled, forced and otherwise required all Airlines to return passengers to the terminal when the wait on the tarmac exceeds 3 hours. In addition all airlines must provide food and drink and functioning toilets for passengers on-board on the runway when the wait exceeds two hours. And, in addition, all airlines must devote at least one full-time employee to the business of scheduling in order to try and avoid long delays.

So what's the problem? Isn't this a good thing? Don't these measures have value for consumers?

Sure they do. But, who is going to pay for this? The reflex answer is "the Airlines." The correct answer is "mostly the passengers – you and me, the travelling public - and those who supply the airlines."

Yes, but maybe it's worth it. Says who? Says the DOT. As I never tire of saying, the issue is not "what should be done?"; rather it is "who should decide?"

It is amazing to me that open-minded, open-hearted, "liberals" are so comfortable with coercion. As long as the cause is worthy in their eyes they are happy to tell other people what to do under pain of state-compulsion. They see the state at their instrument for the achievement of the society they want. In this case it is the instrument for forcing the airlines to bend to their will and to punish them for the suffering they have "caused" passengers.

Does it not occur to them that the Airlines themselves intensely dislike the long waits to which they sometimes (not that often) fell compelled to subject their customers? Does it not occur to them that if they could do so cost effectively the Airlines themselves would adopt measures to avoid these onerous delays? Does it not occur to them that maybe the problem is with the air traffic control system and how it allocates places in line to take-off using an antiquated computer system? Does it not occur to them that maybe the problem is insufficient take-off facilities, which is the result of the public ownership of airports? More airports and privatization of the system could bring competition and innovation. This does not occur to them because their mindset is to blame all the world's ills on the large companies that create value for them.

This clumsy, intrusive fix will have unintended consequences. It will cause more onerous delays and increases in already rising ticket prices. If a flight delay goes over three hours by even five minutes the flight will have to return to the terminal and will lose its place in line. The multiplying controls and regulations on air-travel are pushing up prices and this will make it worse.

Fundamentally these liberals are really thugs dressed up in the clothing of the compassionate. They are arrogant and incorrigible, so certain in the righteousness of their cause. And they are coming for you and me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Schadenfreude Masquerades as Moral Action

It’s true that one’s perspective, one’s framework, limits one’s thinking.

For the life of me, I have not been able to understand how the “liberals” – many of them my friends – are not bothered by the exploding of government expenditure, deficits and national debt that we are witnessing. It seems self-evident to me that this is not only economically catastrophic, but also patently immoral. Why do they not share my concern and my moral outrage at the shouldering of future workers and future generations with mountains of debt? What am I missing?

I think it's not only stupidity on my part, it’s basically a lack of imagination. I don’t see things the way they do because I do not share their framework of resentment, their commitment to the notion of “equality of outcomes” – commitment to the eradication of social disparities – of gaps. An editorial in today’s WSJ suggested to me the answer.

Unconsciously or consciously this may be a strategy to increase taxation. First you lead with spending, then you follow with the unavoidable requirement to raise taxes to pay for it. “Don’t worry, government will take care of it. As long as the right people are in charge. They will tax the rich to pay for the these important social programs. Taxing the rich is a good thing!” Where I feel moral outrage, they feel the assuaging of their resentment against wealth. Taxing the rich brings a nice warm feeling. Schadenfreude masquerades as moral action.

It's maddening, but it’s also stupid. The “rich” are the only ones who really create jobs – by creating value. Government creation of jobs is an illusion. Government is a parasite. It cannot exist unless the private sector creates value that can be taxed. Taxation is the manifestation of the parasitic relationship. What happens when the parasite grows too big? Yes, Johnny it kills or debilitates the host. Not rocket science.

The evidence is overwhelming, despite those of you who want to deny it. Those economies with high levels of taxation have low rates or growth, high rates of unemployment, low rates of innovation, high rates of welfare-dependency and poverty, low levels of direct capital inflow, etc. High levels of taxation nearly destroyed the British economy prior to Thatcher and threatens to do so again. High levels of taxation WILL destroy the American economy as we know it. For God’s sake wake up!! This is no small matter.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Its not even Climate Science!

With the gathering of tens of thousands of politically-correct scientists, journalists, politicians, tourists, and other assorted groupies in Copenhagen this week, the relatively new religion of Green (God is Green!) has reached a new peak in ostentation. Even as it does so, however, the struggling voices of heresy and dissent have recently been given an important boost with the publication of emails strongly suggesting that the high priests of Global Warming are more interested in prestige, power and money, than in scientific truth. In the short run this will not deter them. The show must go on – more show than substance! But that is the nature of religion after all – the show is the important part. The established religions are honest about this – ritual is important, is essential. But the Global Warming Greens do not realize that they are part of a religion, so they find themselves acting out a particularly distasteful type of hypocrisy. Mouthing the language of disinterested science, they are really dogmatic believers who refuse to be confused by the facts or by the logic.

And just this week, as if to counter the force of the discovered emails, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared its intention to act on an existing finding of the agency that carbon dioxide is a pollutant. This finding is based on its alleged affect on the global climate. In itself this is a ludicrous idea (see here), but when adopted by the EPA as a basis for action, it portends massive interference in the economy and in the private lives of Americans.

The good news is that the conference is unlikely to come to any far-reaching agreement and the EPA is likely to encounter resistance from Congress when the constituents of the affected states make their indignation known to their representatives. Let us hope so.

In the meantime we should consider once again the basic logic exposing this fa├žade. Its not rocket science, its not even climate science.

In order to make a case for government policy to mitigate Global Warming all of the following questions have to be answered in the affirmative:

  1. Is the global climate warming?
  2. If yes, is this (partially) caused by CO2 emissions?
  3. If yes, is there anything we can do to significantly slow this down or even reverse global warming?
  4. If yes, is it worth the effort?

Ponder these four questions. They are sequential. You cannot move to the next one unless the answer is “yes.” Answer “no” to any one of them and the case for climate activism is dead. The first three have to be addressed by climate experts, but the last is something about which climate scientists have no expertise. This has not deterred them from giving an affirmative answer. They presume not only to divine natural causes and consequence but also to pronounce on their value to those affected. This is typical arrogance – the arrogance of the social engineer promising a better world.

Considered in an economic framework, the policies proffered by the climate gurus are not worth considering; they are outrageously expensive, way beyond the cost of adapting to the climate change. To be sure, such estimates are notoriously difficult to make, mostly because they almost always underestimate the costs involved and the ability of average people to adapt. Given the extent of the interventions proposed, the climate alarmists ought to have to shoulder a very heavy burden of proof, to show that they are right beyond a very small degree of doubt. They propose to interfere in people’s lifestyles on a grand scale and if they are wrong we will have paid a heavy price for nothing. Why are they not being held to account on this?

Regarding the first three questions there is considerable doubt about all of them. There is mounting evidence that the climate may actually not be warming. We certainly can’t be sure. Many qualified observers are not sure. There are also those who doubt the connection between CO2 and global warming. But, most importantly, there is widespread acknowledgement that even if there is global warming and it is caused by CO2 emissions the amount of difference that we humans could actually make is insignificant. In order to make any real difference we would have to dismantle fortunes of productive activities all over the planet. It would be insanity – and even then it might not work. This is not science, it is more like non-science (aka non-sense and other nouns not suitable for polite conversation).

There are so many real problems facing the world, it is almost criminal to focus so much attention on this charade. HIV/AIDS prevention, property rights for water, eradication of malaria, opening markets for developing countries agricultural products, stopping genocide in Africa, the list is long. All of these are causing more certain and more remediable damage than any alleged climate change.

Let's get real.