Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Road We've Traveled

Let's start with a basic fact that is too-seldom discussed. Nearly all of world development, since WWII,  has been financed by American purchasing power ... us buying countless trillions of $ worth of crap we never needed.  US consumer purchases -- uplift via Wal*Mart -- has lifted more people out of poverty than all the "aid" given by all nations, across all of time. (See: How Americans spent themselves into ruin...but saved the world.)

If we set aside (temporarily) concerns about labor practices, corruption and eco-side-effects, the creation of a nascent world middle class has been one of the greatest achievements of Pax Americana, fully on a par with toppling Hitler and staunching the fever that was communism. By one light, our trade deficits have been sacred and noble things.

Find that boggling?  Compare Japan and Europe in 1945 to now. Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Malaysia, Brazil... and today, as we speak, even in a recession, we are lifting the economies of China AND India... at the same time.

But how have we afforded to do this?  Every decade, dour pundits predicted that calamity would result, but it never happened.... that is, till now.

The reason is simple.  HALF of all GDP growth - since WWII - occurred because of scientific and technological advances.  Jets, satellites, pharmaceuticals, copiers, computers, the Internet... you name it.  We dealt with IP theft by creating new patents faster than others could steal them!

This is why the right's endless rants against both science and labor unions are monstrously stupid and self-defeating.  The solution is not to drive working Americans into penury.  Nor is it to hate the smart people who kept us dining on the 'golden eggs' of new discoveries and inventions. These were the folks who kept the rising tide that lifted all boats, and allowed the US to stay ahead, and able to pay for it all.

But today we are seeing the result of the Bushite War Against Science.  Ronald Reagan shifted R&D from Carter's energy program (which would have taken us off of the Middle-East oil teat, by now) and onto frantic overdrive in developing things we prayed that we would never use!  But, even still, at least in those days, Republicans liked technology!  And some science.

Reagan's version of the War on Science was mild. He funded some research and listened to OSTA, now and then.  In contrast to the neoconservatives, who trashed the OTSA as their very first order of business, I miss Reagan, terribly.  At least he would negotiate.  He called liberals foolish.  He had no truck with labeling his fellow citizens as satanic beings.

The dawn of the 21st century saw the first US leadership that directly and deliberately undermined the basic source of our power and strength, as well as the health of the Middle Class.  The font from which we took IN so much wealth that we were able to uplift the world, through trade.

Can we believe this? Whether this parsimonious explanation is true -- that it was done deliberately -- or else the preposterous story that is believed by nearly everybody -- that such a perfect record of harm to the United States was wreaked unintentionally, out of staggeringly uniform and manic stupidity -- either way, the harm has been grievous. And it is ongoing.

The relentless campaign of propaganda that manifests on Fox News and in the Tea Party Movement has one common them... Hatred of All Smartypants.  Fuming, smoking spite toward America's "creative minority" --

-- the same minority of smart folks that the great historian Arnold Toynbee once called the core to any great nation's success.  The same segment of society that Rush Limbaugh recently spewed venom toward, in openly-declared hatred and in extremely clear, general terms.

Let us be plain.  They want us to cook the goose that laid all those golden eggs.  And serve it to a conniving oligarchy that is almost as profoundly short-sighted and stupid as it thinks itself smart.

An afterthought... preventing this realization is probably the reason that many of the puppeteers have inflicted on us the treason of subsidized culture war.  By deliberately fostering populist, know-nothing confederate hatred of urban/science/blue America and a million other distractions, they get enough political clout to prevent any populist reaction against aristocratism in Congress.

And finally... I repeat it everywhere.  Liberals, get off your butts and RECLAIM THE FIRST LIBERAL!  Adam Smith. The theoretician who despised conniving oligarchs far more than any other enemy of competitive enterprise.

Read Smith!  Don't take the word of doofus right wingers who proclaim that Smith wanted "laissez-faire" to run roughshod over the poor.  In fact, in his fervent support for public education, social mobility, transparency, open competition and the creation of power centers that can hold the oligarchy in check, Smith provides a litany of neocon-demolishing quotations!

Moreover, by reclaiming Adam Smith, we:

1- emphasize liberalism's roots in pushing social justice, not just because it is "nice" but because it is totally pragmatic to maximize the number of capable, competitors!

2- anti-monopoly sentiment is fizzing, just below the surface.  Harness it!

3- It is political jiu jitsu!  BE the party of enterprise!  It is about time that competitive markets got a champion, after the Republican Party has spent a generation demolishing them.

==While Defending Sanity on Saturday - Bring Along (Decent & Smart) Capitalism==

Folks may be curious how I can avow to be a libertarian (albeit a heretical one who despises Ayn Rand) and an admirer of Adam Smith... while urging everybody in sight to attend the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rallies, this coming Saturday and to "think blue" on election day.

For starters, because contradictions don't bother "Contrary Brin"... in fact, they're part of the fun in life! Also because most are illusory contradictions.  (Have you actually read Adam Smith? Today he'd be a democrat.  It's clear on almost every page.)

One commonly-used crutch that I've long denounced is the hoary-stupid so-called "left-right political axis" -- a monstrous metaphor that lobotomizes all who use it. It should be abandoned because it's puerile, misleading, illogical... and because it's French! (;-)

Seriously, if you'd like to probe everything from several dozen fresh perspectives, that I guarantee you've never thought of before, then have a look at this essay series I wrote for a group that wants to transform libertarianism from a fringe-of-flakes into a real force for pragmatic freedom in American life.  I wish them luck! (Though I won't hold my breath.)

Will the comedians rescue us? To those of you heading for the Stewart-Colbert rallies, October 30 in DC... thank you, heroes! And if you cannot attend the main event in Washington? Then find a satellite rally at !

Is American Civilization in a steep decline? So you'd think from dyspeptic ads running on Fox.  But for a broader perspective, historian and diplomat Joseph Nye gives us the 30,000-foot (TED-talk) view of the shifts in power between China and the US, and the global implications as economic, political and "soft" power shifts and moves around the globe.

Me? I am appalled that 99% of American are unaware of what we have accomplished.  And how simple it would be for the United States to remain the rich and influential and respected leader of the world.


RandyB said...

When reading Adam Smith, keep in mind that "corporations" back then were state-sanctioned monopolies. They were nothing like the business corporations we have nowadays. Those weren't even legal until much later.

Ian said...

For starters, America could launch a massive program to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from energy generation.

Zero Carbon Australia has run the numbers on such a campaign here:

When there are massive underutilized resources - like unemployed people and the estimated $1 trillion in cash being held by US companies - it makes perfect sense to increase public investment in infrastructure.

With a combination of energy efficiency, fuel switching
from gas and oil to electrified energy services, then using
a combination of commercially available renewable energy
technologies, Australia’s energy needs can be met with 100%
renewables. Wind and Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST)
with Molten Salt Storage are the two primary technologies
used, with minimal contingency backup from biomass and
existing hydro. Modelling on a half-hourly timescale shows
that this combination can ensure 100% reliable supply.
Implementing the proposed renewable infrastructure over
a ten-year timescale would require a small percentage of
Australia’s industrial capacity, in terms of resources and
labour force. The required investment of $37 Billion/year
is the equivalent of 3% of GDP. Estimated funding cost,
including generation and grid upgrades, would be equivalent
to an additional 6.5cents/kWh on delivered electricity.

The equivalent US cost would be significantly lower since the US uses less power per capita and already gets a lot of power from
nuclear energy.

What would be required is either a carbon tax or a cap and trade system together with tax concessions and direct subsidies for investment in non-carbon energy sources.

That and the political will to do it.

RandyB said...

BTW: I just watched that headstomping incident at the Rand Paul rally.

Here's the other side of the story:

But even in your link's tiny video clip, note that one of the men holding the woman down is asking for someone to call the police. They clearly thought she was a threat.

Tony Fisk said...

Liberals, get off your butts and RECLAIM THE FIRST LIBERAL! Adam Smith.

Michael Schermer wrote an interesting article in Scientific American last year comparing Adam Smith's economic theories with those practised by... pirates!!?

(It was a serious article, with a great flag, me hearties! It would look great on a tee-shirt with that badge I suggested earlier!)

(OK! OK! Read 'Wealth of Nations'..!)

Ian, while I am generally supportive of the BZE plan (I went to the Melbourne launch and got the book!), I'm also watching the negative response on Barry Brook's pro-nuclear site 'Brave New Climate'. (Their critique is worth replying to, which Matt hasn't done yet. Mind you, while I think Brooks is worthy of respect, the associated discussion certainly has an element of sneer and smug insistence that nuclear is the *only* option which is annoying and off-putting, to say the least, and leads one to question BNC motives)

John Kurman said...

This anti-knowledge anti-intellectual anti-science trend in America is a peculiar one, and I suspect it stems from a strange melding of attitudes from different sides of the issue of being a "gentleman".

Keep in mind, the republicanism of the founding fathers held that those elites were best to serve in public office. There was definitely a heirarchy going on there, which, until the Revolution was taken for granted as almost a Confucian type of ordered universe. Quite simply, gentlemen did not labor. Those that did, the unpropertied, the artisans, tradesmen, laborers, those with the "dirty fingernails" were looked down upon. Why even Ben Franklin, once he got rich, lived the gentleman's life. Here you have one part of the anti-smarts sentiment, I think.

Once the Revolution destroyed all the old social and family ties, and the new (yes, new) sentiment of universal suffrage imbued the country, various "demagogues" were successful in painting the gentlemen as useless aristocrats. Why the need for that fancy liberal science education when sturdy yeomen could generate just as much "common sense"? this is by far the larger part of the anit-smart sentiment.

And so, funnily enough, a little revisionist history was in order to paint gentlemen like Washington, Jefferson, etc. as hard-working laborers and useful members of society - in a supervisory fashion. Washington was up on his horse from dawn to dusk, managing his slaves, er, uh, interests.

John Kurman said...


So, the standard (Kentucky? Conservative? RandPaulian?) procedure, once you determine someone is a threat, and subdued, and helpless on the ground, is stomp on their head a little, just to be sure.

Spare me the weasel argument.

rewinn said...

"....They clearly thought she was a threat."

Yes, she had words on paper. That's always a threat.

I mean, let's be serious and look at the allegedly exculpatory video. She was handing a piece of paper to a political candidate. Both of her hands were in view at all times; she was not armed or a threat in any way ... except for her ideas.

The right of the people to petition public officials is pretty basic, even when the officials' thugs don't like the petition.

The thugs offer the excuse that they got overexcited, which may be true, but then again ... so did O.J. Being upset at what other people do or say is no license for assault and battery, especially when it comes to political speech.

That AMERICANS! should seek to justify Miller's thugs cuffing a journalist and Paul's thugs stomping a protester makes me sad for our nation. But even worse is that neither of those two "men" swiftly and squarely addressed the wrongfulness of their partisans conduct.

RandyB said...

John Kurman and rewin,

Read carefully. I did not say it was okay. In the link I gave, the blogger wrote: "This does not excuse the foot to the shoulders after the fact". My point is that she was provocative.

It might not have occurred to you that not everyone has the training to hold down a wildly disruptive protester. Even the guy with the foot let go after a brief moment's thought.

This would be lot less interesting if not for the comparison to Kenneth Gladney.

rewinn said...

@RandyB"... My point is that she was provocative."

Well, this is going to go no-where fast.



Given current political and economic realities (and the power of the carbon industry), how might the political will be formed?

Rob Perkins said...

@John -- Whether or not she was provocative is a red herring. You don't use your feet to further subdue an already subdued woman.

Plus, it can't escape notice that this was precisely the outcome she wanted, and why she rushed the car in the first place. So, y'know, foot, meet gunshot.

Rob Perkins said...

Whoops! Meant @RandyB, not @John.

John Kurman said...

Rob Perkins,

Oh, you had to go and provoke me. Now I have to stomp you with my foot.

Hey, found a fun website with a contrary theme: Government is Good!

Anonymous said...

@Rob Perkins

I don't excuse the foot on her head. I don't even excuse the rough handling.

I only note that: 1) she was provocative; 2) most of the sane opponents to Rand Paul are just as worried as his supporters that Paul might be harmed by some nutcase; and 3) the man with the foot on her head probably didn't have any police training. She was subdued more harshly than necessary, but not beaten.

I'll take it more seriously when they take the Kennedy Gladney beating seriously.

RandyB said...

That last "Anonymous" was me.

Tony Fisk said...

Ooh! We get diagrams too?

troft: the region near the axis origin

Travc said...

A question/observation to chew on:

What does "business friendly" really mean?

Policies which are actually generally good for businesses are not all that controversial. The contentious stuff is only good for *some* businesses, and costly to others. Of course that makes perfect sense, since businesses are competing with each other.

Remember the "wall street vs main street" framing. It is a good one. What is good for mega-corps and high finance is almost certainly harmful to most businesses. That isn't being 'business friendly'.

Ian said...

Lots of great stuff here.

To add to john Kurman's comments, when Ben Franklin made his pre-revolution trip to Britain to try and work out a resolution to the disputes with England to of his key proposals were for new royal charters to be issued for new colonies in the Ohio Valley complete with new aristocratic "proprietors"; a unified Parliament for the British colonies modeled closely on the British model including a hereditary House of lords and a number of leading colonists to be appointed to the British house of lords at Westminister.

That last group was to include Washington and Jefferson as well as Franklin himself.

Of course to some extent these proposals may have simply reflected what Franklin thought the British government would be willing to accept.

Ian said...


Well first I think you need to make the proposal source-neutral, by which I mean nuclear energy is allowed to compete for support on an equal footing with other non-carbon sources. That should bring the nuclear lobby onside and also avoid some of the usual infighting.

Secondly, I'd point out to people that environmental subsidies are one of the few forms of government subsidies that are legal under WTO rules and that china amongst others are already heavily subsidising their domestic green energy industries which gives their firms an advantage in competing in third markets.

Third, I'd tackle the misleading claims about costs put out by the Republicans head on. Point out to people that Germany which has the largest solar energy program on the planet just recorded its lowest unemployment rate since reunification and its economy is one of the fastest growing in the developed world.

Thirdly, acknowledge that their will be costs - that West Virginia in particular will lose a lot of coal mining jobs. Have a plan to compensate those people - like tax holidays for new manufacturing investment in the coal-producing states.

(Point out too that coal will continue to be used for iron-making and industrial heating applications. Set up a new National Laboratory in Kentucky to focus on innovative uses for coal - not just so-called clean coal but, for example, using gasified coal as an industrial feedstock fro making plastic and other chemicals.)

Fourth, point out to people the costs of coal power -not just the mining accidents; the fly ash landslides; the environmental damage from mountain-top removal but the health costs.

I think the latest figure for deaths directly attributed to air pollution from coal power in the US is 17,000 people per year. There's also evidence linking mercury from coal plants ot autism and other developmental problems in children.

It should be possible - although it's certainly proving a hard sell here - but given the recent behaviour of the Republican Party I doubt we can expect them to contribute constructively.

Ian said...

"What does "business friendly" really mean?

Policies which are actually generally good for businesses are not all that controversial. The contentious stuff is only good for *some* businesses, and costly to others. Of course that makes perfect sense, since businesses are competing with each other."

A tangentially related point - just as unions are frequently accused of advancing the interests of union bosses over the interests of members, industry associations typically work to advance their interests not those of their members.

Since association is usually voluntary, the industry associations need a constant series of scare stories to justify their existence.

Government proposals which are quite harmless get distorted and misreported to scare the members into sending in their dues, every union is an association of dangerous radicals whose contract proposals will bankrupt every single company in the business.

Industry associations are also frequently near-perfect examples of managerial capture, beneath the board level it's actually quite rare in my experience to find people with much actual experience in the industry they claim to represent.

I remember having to explain to a senior staffer of the Queensland Mining Council - a lawyer - the difference between steaming coal and coking coal.

RandyB said...


"Point out to people that Germany which has the largest solar energy program on the planet just recorded its lowest unemployment rate since reunification and its economy is one of the fastest growing in the developed world."

Germany's economic growth has absolutely nothing to do with their work in solar.

According to:, solar is not a significant source of energy in Germany. They still rely mainly on oil, coal, lignite, natural gas, nuclear, etc.

Yes, coal is first.

Solar just isn't economically practical yet, although I do think it will be in a few years.

RandyB said...

Sorry, I slipped up. I meant to say "oil" is first.

We'll be needing oil for a very, very long time.

LarryHart said...

Haven't had time to read the new posting yet this morning, but I did want to share this great observation on today's entry at

I've long suspected (and even argued) that something like this was the only way voter anger was directed at Republicans, but it's nice to see someone putting it out there so succinctly:

Many people are so unhappy with the state of the nation that they just want to get rid of the people in power. This poll agrees with many others that show people angry with the Democrats and prepared to vote for the Republicans--even though they hate the Republicans even more than they hate the Democrats. It is not very logical but shows that many voters are so angry at Washington that they are willing to try anything, even things they have tried before and know don't work.

[emphasis mine]

Ian Gould said...

Randy my point is that the world's largest subsidy program for renewable energy hasn't significantly harmed the German economy.

Also while it currently produces less than 1% of German power, solar is increasing 50% annually (project that rate of compound growth ahead even a few years) and the subsidies for domestic solar have underwritten German exports of solar power equipment.

Tony Fisk said...

According to that source, wind and 'other' alternate energy sources account for ~9-10% of Germany's consumption.

According to this source the figure is more like 16% (including *domestic* consumption)

It is the nature of cynicism to be obedient to the status quo. To say that oil and coal will be with us for a very ,very long time is to restate accepted 'wisdom' without question and, no doubt unconsciously, help propagate the meme.

However, the Zero Carbon Australia report shows it is feasible for Australia to be wholly independent of fossil fuels for its stationary power needs in ten years. One can question its political realism and likelihood. The real take away message is that it shows that the conversion to renewables is not as difficult as certain groups keep trying to make it out to be. That is of paramount importance, and will help to break down the resistance to change.

I'd also point out that the renewable energy sector is more labour intensive than fossil fuel (ie potentially more jobs in W Virginia)

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin said (in the last posting):

They do NOT go down with us, if we go down the way we are going down, right now... into silliness, culture war, superstition and penury, bickering and spending into THEIR pockets.

But see what I mean guys? No one... not even YOU guys!... will even try it on for size. They are Rupert's partners and GW Bush's god-uncles. But nobody will even LOOK at the possibility that what we see was actually somebody's desire.

I'm still not sure whether most of us here are refusing to consider this possibility, or if we've internalized the fact of it as too obvious for words.

The problem is that if one accepts the premise, what course of action does that suggest as a countermeasure? As long as the conservative/Republican base either doesn't credit the premise or doesn't mind, as long as the Congress and the court system back them up, all we can do is prepare to say "I told you so!" real loud when the America these red-staters claim to love (more than we do) falls to pieces and they find themselves "scratching dirt to support those who kill."

(Like the way I got a "Postman" quote in there?)

My problem with your theory isn't that I don't believe it, but that it puts me (us?) in the position of looking at a chessboard and REALIZING that our opponent WILL win in five moves. My optimistic buddies still think I might win, but I KNOW I can't unless my opponent really fucks up really soon.

And the only way the real life opponents you propose might conceivably fuck up is by somehow letting the mask slip to the extent that the nativists and True-capitalists among the Republican base wake up in time to join the resistance.

Or in "Foundation" terms, the only way for Terminus to beat the Inclosure is for Siwenna to revolt behind the lines.

Heck, at this rate, if I'm all alone out here, I might as well admit it. If I can't fight em, I might as well look for a good job with them.

Oh, God, no! Not that I begrudge you and your family a living in the new world order, but please.

Then again, I have a hard time imagining you throwing away your "I belong to a civilization" button, which would be the first thing your new masters would require.

Tony Fisk said...

Oh I've looked the r'oil theory over, and can certainly imagine someone trying to make it so.

Probably my main criticism of it is that it seems such a perfectly orchestrated plan to have come from a bunch of 'nihilistic royals'. (Then again, there are any number of tales woven around machiavellian court intrigues...)

RandyB said...


You're quite right that solar will be significant in the future. Ray Kurzweil says it can provide 100% of our energy needs in 20 years.

I just don't think Germany's efforts have been enough to prove or disprove anything immediate. It's not as though they've risked enough capital that it could effect their economic numbers.

Nor do I think anyone will have a hard time convincing energy companies to jump on the bandwagon the moment it starts to make economic sense.

rewinn said...

"... the moment it starts to make economic sense."

Problem is, POV is a big factor in "economic sense". Carbon barons (and/or carbon sheikhs) may not calculate economic sense the same way American consumers do, for the same reason vampires and surgeons value blood banks in different ways.

While I don't necessarily subscribe to a theory that a Wahabist conspiracy lead to Oceania's current bogging down in a war with EastAsia, it *does* seem to be dreadfully convenient that the biggest rival to the Saudis *and* to the mullahs of Teheran was eliminated at zero cost to them, courtesy of American armed forces under the command of civilians allied to Saudi & Iranian Great Houses. But no doubt that is coincidence.

As @Ian helpfully points out, there are reasonable approaches to forming the political will to getting off carbon. But reason is too often mugged by fear and/or self-interest.

Perhaps my mental journey toward accepting nuclear fission as a power source may be instructive. Since the 1970s, I was (and remain) very sceptical of nuclear fission; I can still rehearse the contrary arguments with complete sincerity and fervor. However, in my mind the urgency of anthropogenic global warming (in particular, as analyzed in Dr. Hansen's most recent book) overwhelmed those concerns. It's not that they have gone away, it's just that as grown-ups we must prioritize. And, having prioritized, I should be embarrassed to admit that the issues of coal ash, mercury etc have a greater resonance; I'm not proud of this "reasoning" procedure, but it may be how minds are changed: not by renouncing previously held positions, but by offsetting them with newer and more urgent concerns.


In this context, y'all may enjoy the last part of this Gerry Trudeau interview

"Obama's very tough for business. The contradictory characterizations of him as fascist or socialist only serve to confirm the truth—he's a raging moderate. And satirists don't do well with moderates, especially thoughtful ones. In addition, Obama rarely makes gaffes and has no salient physical or temperamental features. And sinking popularity isn't a critique. Even SNL's main rap on him is his unflappability, hardly a vice in a world leader."

RandyB said...


I don't worry about AGW (even if true, I just don't think it can be tackled without crippling the economy until we have better technology), but regardless, I do think it's getting too late to push nuclear beyond whatever market forces naturally allow it.

Oil companies cannot prevent solar any more than IBM could prevent personal computing.

Garry Trudeau calling President Obama a moderate merely conforms that he's firmly left of center.

Blight said...

I believe we should attend and support the upcoming sanity event. And we should (in most instances) support progressive policies and politicians. Unfortunately, I don't see "Adam Smith" as a rallying cry that will accomplish anything. Most people will wonder if he's Will Smith's father. Years ago this country could have set the world standard for fair labor and environmental standards, but big corporations wanted outsourcing and no environmental rules. Today mega-corporations and huge lobbying money rule with the Supreme Court's blessing. And for nonstarter starters, big socialist mega-projects like eliminating carbon dioxide is fantasy thinking (where's the big lobby money to support such an idea?). Old ways of thinking and doing business will not solve our nation's problems. We need a true Nexialist (sic) to save us like in Van Vogt's Voyage of the Space Beagle.

David Brin said...

Ian, Franklin tried hard to work within the British system. They did us the huge favor of rejecting all logic or justice... then hauling him into the Privy Council and doing the greatest thing anyone ever did to guarantee American independence - berating and humiliating Benjamin Franklin in public.

Ooooh big mistake. The greatest genius in 200 years (or more) was isntantly converted into a full-pitch enemy of the Crown. The only man to sign all three of the documents that established the United States and the keystone figure of the French alliance. We named our first born after him.

Larry, I do not expect Republicans to parse the possibility that their side is being manipulated by enemies of the republic. What astonishes me is that on one on the other side will contemplate it, even as a concept for a thriller movie! In which case, what chance have we, of seeing our paid protectors -- in this case the counter-espionage divisions of the CIA etc -- invoking the standard subornation protocols and doing the basic checks that could determine if the theory has any plausibility?

It won't happen. The CIA guys I know have all drunk the Koolaid... that the R'oil House is made up entirely of nervous coward playboys who are terrified of Iran and who don't believe a single word of the virulently anti-western, romantic-irredentist propaganda that they were raised under and that they infuse, daily, into their own children. Even though the ones you meet are among the most confident, self-assured, cool and brilliant men on the planet, with every motive, means and opportunity, and plenty of money-trail evidence that they are doing exactly what I describe.

Ah but there's a silver lining. The fact that nobody at all is listening to me is probably the reason I am still alive.

You think I'm joking?
Well... yeah...!
About the whole thing. Just messin' with you all. Really I am. Contrary Brin.

Hey I write stories. Maybe someday I'll do it for the Caliph, blessings be upon him.

Blight said...

What would a Nexialist do (and to whom or with whom would he do it). This would be the first question that would enter my mind if I had read my response advocating a Nexialist approach to our dire situation. First, a Nexialist would holistically analyze the present situation and would determine the least-action series of actions to take (one or no actions being the least-action favorites). In the present context, he would not merely join but become a leader of the Tea Party. He(in this case myself)began this process by producing the following Youtube video:
After airing the video (which would be stifled by less than a complete airing), 2 different Tea Party leaders wished to join and follow my leadership. My next Nexialist step should be obvious to anyone familiar with the tenants of the Nexislist ethos. If you can determine what I did next to save our nation, I will either affirm or dis-affirm your understanding of the science of sciences. Let me remind you, it saved the Space Beagle from the 3 most dangerous alien menaces in the universe, and it darn well can save us.

Carl M. said...

Methinks if Adam Smith were alive today, he'd be teaching at George Mason University and not deigning to participate in party politics at all. Neither major party has a Smithian vision. Both have their rent-seeking parasites and both participate in the grand subsidy to the rich.

Smith would have no truck with stimulus packages or thinly disguised price controls. And he'd attack parasitical academics as much as David Horowitz does. (He complained about the lack of accountability of professors in his day.) He would add another chapter on the teachers' unions as well.

Smith would have some kind words about some of Clinton's policies, especially his (cash basis) balancing of the budget.

He'd be horrified by fiat money. Men of his day studied classical history, and the Roman empire had some serious problems from debasing the currency.

Justin said...

@RandyB if the men who curb-stomped that protester thought she represented a real threat (they thought she had a concealed weapon? perhaps the paper she was carrying was a cleverly concealed satchel charge?) that's fine, if a little silly. But let's be honest: the guy in question was stomping on someone who had already been secured, as opposed to trying to get a weapon out of her hands.

It's nice to assume that there's always another "side to the story," particularly if you don't put much trust in your own analytical skills, but the simplest explanation in this case is that this guy was just very angry and decided to indulge himself.

Jonathan S. said...

My next Nexialist step should be obvious to anyone familiar with the tenants of the Nexislist ethos. If you can determine what I did next to save our nation, I will either affirm or dis-affirm your understanding of the science of sciences. Let me remind you, it saved the Space Beagle from the 3 most dangerous alien menaces in the universe, and it darn well can save us.

You arranged to be written by A. E. van Vogt?

bentr: the present tense of the term for a drinking binge (past tense being "bender")

LarryHart said...


Garry Trudeau calling President Obama a moderate merely conforms that he's firmly left of center.

How so? Most left-of-center people I know consider President Obama to be a dissapointing corporatist shill.

Your statement reminds me of the attitude of the Bush/Cheney Administration toward the press corps. "Balanced" or "unbiased" meant taking the Adminsistration's line at face value. Doing the job of a journalist--questioning and independently verifying--meant that one was "biased against Bush". Exactly the opposite of what the words really mean.

RandyB said...


Yes, it's quite possible that he decided to "induldge" himself with one momentary stomp. But just look at it. That "stomp" appears to be more of a misplaced foot hold.

Critics (who couldn't bring themselves to care at all about Kenneth Gladney) are now making this out to be another Rodney King beating. It wasn't.

We'll see how the trial goes. It doesn't look like the charges are that serious.

RandyB said...


There's a difference between left and far-left.

As for calling President Obama a "corporatist shill," that depends on one's meaning of a "corporatist". Nowadays, we'd think of the original corporatists' policies as being very far to the left.

rewinn said...

"...I don't worry about AGW (even if true, I just don't think it can be tackled without crippling the economy until we have better technology..."

Your claims that AGW is not true and even if true, cannot be dealt with without crippling our economy, are contrary to the weight of the evidence provided by the vast majority of actual scientists. They may be wrong, but the burden of proof is on the sceptics as to the science, and as to the economics, it should be obvious that AGW untreated will devastate our economy.

For a nice blend of science and analysis by an expert, you may enjoy Storms of My Grandchildren.

As for Obama's position on a left/right axis, let it be observed that his wholly inadequate health care reforms are basically those advocated by the GOP in 1994; the "bailout" of the auto industry preserved capitalist corporations which are being re-sold into the private sector; and in an era in which 78% of America oppose DADT, he's moving very slowly to eliminate it.

There is no fact-based evidence that Obama's some sort of hairy-eyed liberal.

Tyler August said...

I don't know if this is an established political principle; if it's not, let me codify it as Tyler's Law:
"The centre is wherever you are."
Everyone wants to claim that high ground-- and why not? It's a nebulous term, after all. Is it the majority opinion? Halfway between the two most extreme positions? It's slippery, and I'd caution you, RandyB, to keep that in mind when you're deciding what's 'left-of-center'-- those of us left-of-center define it further leftwards than you'd like.
With his Gingrich-era Republican health care plan, pro-corporate bailouts, and failure to prosecute the criminal negligence on Wall street or the last administration, Obama seems to me to be right smack dab in the middle, if you use the weighted average of popular opinion. Near as I can tell, half of the people think he's too far left, half think not far enough. Fair enough.
NOW, if you compare the other definition, where he stands on an absolute scale...
Obama and the Democrats support private property, private enterprise, and the profit-motive as the fundamental driver of a free-market economy. Aside from slight differences about regulating the almighty market, that puts the Democrats very far to the RIGHT, in absolute terms, if we look at how far to the left one can actually go from there.
Of course, Dr.Brin is right--you cannot do politics along one coordinate axis, so this left/right talk is a bit silly. If you can't even agree on coordinates along that axis, mon dieu! We'll be here arguing over terminology forever.

Tyler August said...

Looks like Reiwinn and had a similar point about Obama's leftiness. Posted at the same time. Oops.
I'd like to add,
about AGW and the economy: have you ever looked at Sweden? They cut emissions 9% between 1990 and 2006 (not a huge cut,but more than their Kyoto targets) and their economy still grew by 44%.
Unlike certain countries who allowed their emissions to skyrocket, that 18 years of growth wasn't totally swallowed by the recent recession. *cough*USA*cough*
I have never understood this concept that some people have that economic growth and environmentalism are diametrically opposed* when most pro-environment activities we take stimulate economic action. The phrase green collar jobs ring any bells? Someone has to put up the solar panels, the wind turbines, and power-lines to them. Somebody has to put insulation into buildings and retrofit new windows-- and those are jobs we have to do here! An industry not vulnerable to outsourcing. I don't see how the North American economy can afford to get by _without_ such jobs, to be honest.

*(okay, they are, eventually, but that's just because the whole idea of economic growth breaks down after a while. Infinite growth on a finite planet (or solar system, or universe, for that matter!) is nonsense.)

RandyB said...


Those scientists are only commenting on the likelyhood of global warming and the effects. They're not the ones telling us how much it will cost.

Bear in mind that Kyoto was expected to cost quite a bit, but scientists never said it would solve the problem. They'd only say it would be a "good start." Solving it, to the extent that it could be "solved," would eventually cost us trillions more. I'd like to know that the costs are worth the supposed benefits they're trying to sell.


Those solar panels and wind turbines cost money. Those "green jobs" are coming at the expense of normal jobs.

"There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

Tony Fisk said...

There are now several economic studies that demonstrate that switching to renewables will not cripple economies.

What is the distinction between a 'green' and a 'normal' job?

ovenests: when house martins get bold.

RandyB said...


Yes, "the centre is wherever you are" but that's only as far as you go. Historically speaking, Obama is very much to the left of center.

The "pro-corporate bailouts" weren't solely a GOP idea. Wall Street supported Obama in the last election. The "failure to prosecute the criminal negligence on Wall street or the last administration" was never more than a pipe dream of liberals.

I'll concede that even under the Obama administration, the U.S. is still not as far left as Europe. But, unfortunately, we're getting there.


A "green job" is one that we'd only be paying for because the politicians mandate it while promising we'll be better off in the long run.

A normal job is one we pay for because we really want it done.

The last I heard, Spain is regretting its green jobs experiment. The politically-connected contractors probably still like the idea.

RandyB said...

FWIW: Here's something on Spain's green jobs experience.

Tony Fisk said...

A "green job" is one that we'd only be paying for because the politicians mandate it while promising we'll be better off in the long run.

Like infrastructure works? Teaching?

Blight said...

Wikipedia states the following about Nexialism: "The main protagonist of the novel is Dr. Elliott Grosvenor, the only Nexialist on board (a new discipline depicted as taking an actively generalist approach towards science). It is Grosvenor's training and application of Nexialism rather than the more narrow-minded approaches of the individual scientific and military minds of his other shipmates that consistently prove more effective against the hostile encounters both from outside and within the Space Beagle. He is eventually forced to take control of the ship using a combination of hypnotism, psychology, brainwashing, and persuasion, in order to develop an effective strategy for defeating the alien entity, Anabis, and saving the ship and our galaxy."
However, I believe Wikipedia's source errors in its description of Nexialism. Nexialism is the very focused science of the sciences. It is hierarchically superior to the other sciences because it subsumes them. It is also superior because it apparently provides a means of arriving at successful real world strategies. Although the topic of Nexialism may appear disjoint from this discussion, I think it no more so than other threads - head bludgeonings, etc. In fact as a Nexialist, I'm certain that this is the case. If you really want to change this society, you will need a well structured plan and a man of action, let's say a modern day Napoleon to carry it out. Just look what Fox has done with Glenn Beck. Give the media tools to those who can use them.

Tony Fisk said...

Turning it down a notch, a lot of new industries receive government subsidies to get them going. Australia's have not been particularly well implemented.

A carbon tax is meant to represent the cost of the damage that such emissions do to the environment. It's a message to the fossil fuel lobby that there is, indeed, no such thing as a free lunch.

rewinn said...

Costs (if any) of averting AGW need to be compared to costs of NOT averting AGW.


Meanwhile, for a quick snicker, see: The greatest science-fiction story ever written

RandyB said...


Yes, the costs of not averting AGW would presumably be enormous. The costs of averting it will also be enormous.

Compare this to the costs of averting previous expected calamities, such as the Population Bomb (an interesting book you can still find in used-book stores) or the ice age we were supposed to be in by the year 2000 just as the world was supposed to be running out of oil.

You can say it's real this time, and perhaps it is. Just the same, I'll feel better if they tell us how much it'll cost. Telling us it comes out of corporate profits is not an answer. It *always* comes out of our pockets in the end.


Actually, a "green job" is something like infrastructure and building schools. They're also subject to graft.

One critical difference is we have genuine experience with infrastructure and schools. We know what we're getting because we've seen it before, and we can see them being built now.

The only thing we'd have gotten out of Kyoto is a promise that it's just a start.

Tony Fisk said...

Actually, a "green job" is something like infrastructure and building schools. They're also subject to graft.

No argument there! But does that mean we shouldn't encourage them?

At some point in the past, we didn't know what we were getting with infrastructure and public schools.
Or libraries.

I daresay there will be mistakes made (eg the Australian 'green batts' initiative led to a lot of fire hazards)

There is also a lot of dodginess going on: (yes, sez the energy companies, we'll put solar panels on your roof, and pay you a bit for the excess... and charge you peak rates for *your* tariff, you competitive grifter!)

So what?

rewinn said...

"... ice age we were supposed to be in by the year 2000"


Can you cite to any scientific consensus on that? A speculative article in Newsweek does not count.

And while you're at it, have you an estimate as to what fraction of the computing power was available on the entire planet in the 1970s, as compared to that sitting on my laptop at this moment?

The "Population Bomb" --- you may have noticed --- is indeed going off although attempts to mitigate it are having some results. You can't claim a problem never existed just because a solution was found.

Reasonable estimates of the cost of unremediated AGW would vastly exceed the costs of averting it (...and, as noted elsewhere, the net costs may well be negative ... for an example of a massive effort with a huge economic payoff, see "space program"...).

RandyB said...


As with infrastructure, if the benefits exceed the costs then it's a good idea. This assumes you also include the loss of non-green jobs on the other side. (That money would have been used for something else.)

That brings us to another problem with green jobs: Infrastructure was usually sold to previous generations as being of tangible benefit for the infrastructure itself. The Great Depression was a notable exception, and it turned out to be a bad idea. Unemployment never fell below 10% until WWII.

If they have to play the "jobs" angle then it's a gimmick. They're not making a real case about AGW.

Even so, building the Hoover Dam did us the Hoover Dam. Compare that to "green jobs". Closing a coal-fired plant, and replacing it with something else gives us nothing more than cleaner air. I do like clean air, but it's already cleaner than it was decades earlier. There's a point where a nice economy would be preferred.

Tony Fisk said...

Cleaner in some ways, not in others

Oddly enough, a good economy would be good for green jobs as well (whereas now, jeez where would the money come from? Funny about that... but that's just paranoia!)

If they have to play the "jobs" angle then it's a gimmick. They're not making a real case about AGW.

I'm not sure what you mean by that.

re: Ice Age by 2000: I don't recall ever being panicked* by the prospect of a new ice age. The only reference I've ever really heard about that comes from the Gulf stream shutting in due to the lack of ice formation at the Arctic (as ice freezes, salt is excluded and the resulting dense brine sinks, drawing warmer water up from the South)

*I'm not panicked about AGW either. Just worried.

usefulipodtools said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
rewinn said...

"... The Great Depression was a notable exception, and it turned out to be a bad idea. Unemployment never fell below 10% until WWII."

Non sequitur.

Economies are quite able to stabilize at low rates of supply and demand. This results in a low standard of living, but all other things being equal, it's economically stable. Often the low standard of living results in political actions to boost demand, supply follows and the economy can stabilize at a higher level.

That the New Deal brought unemployment down to "only" 10% from its high of ... what was it in when FDR took office in 1933? ... is pretty remarkable ... AND our great nation profited from the infrastructure ever since.

P.S. Hoover Dam was authorized in 1928.

Tim H. said...

Forty years ago a coming ice age was talked about a lot, not to the extant of being written about by Whitley Strieber (Nature's End, with James Kunetka), but quite a lot. We may still have an ice age coming, which doesn't weaken arguments for non-carbon energy. FWIW, there's enough negatives with coal the plausibility and extensability of AGW aren't needed to sell low and no carbon energy.

Tacitus2 said...

If I am reading him correctly, Dr. Brin would feel happier if a Republican spent some time considering his pet conspiracy theory.

That does not seem too much to ask.

OK, here goes. We need to account for continued dependence on Middle East Oil, delayed development of alternative energy, decreased military preparedness and involvement in an Asian land war.

Lessee..on the Sandy Side of the conspiracy you probably need the Head Guy and his immediate successor. Also the Defense Minister, the Ambassador to the US and both the internal and external security heads. Each conspirator would likely need a trusted aide, as the principles are too visible to be publicly involved. And their work ethic is lousy. Call it, oh, an even dozen guys who can all be totally discreet. Doable, since you can at need disappear the inconvenient, but not easy.

On the US side its harder. You still need either Pres or Veep, both being better. And since you can't predict those fellows far in advance, you need at least one revered Elder Statesman to explain the situation to the new nominees every few years. Or do you bring all potential nominees in on things? It would sure be embarrassing if someone like McCain heard you out then ran to the nearest open microphone!

If I were buying a superpower I would insist on controlling both parties, because unlike certain dusty monarchies, our leadership changes. Need to keep all the ex pres and veeps in line too. Really, would you go for this deal only counting on the GOP? Someone in a D admin sniffs this out and creates a permalock on power for their side! And likely causes the downfall of the oily conspirators!

OK, now we also need the heads of NSA,FBI and CIA. Or maybe their second in commands. Can't have stray details coming to anybodies attention. When they do, you need a few black ops guys to Vince Foster the occasional snoop. Not sure how many military guys you need, they tend to have stubborn senses of honor, but also usually follow orders. Is usually sufficient? What can we do to stop garage inventors turning up with alternative energy breakthroughs...suborn the Patent Department?
I am not sure how many I am already up to, but far too many to make a reasonable conspiracy. Remember the stakes, this would be the most powerful conspiracy in history. The man who uncovers it becomes the greatest hero of modern times....

Is this sufficient consideration? I can get more Goldbergian if you likes.


RandyB said...


The Population Bomb was real. The numbers slowed down a bit in the U.S., but population did continue to expand well beyond what the book said could ever be sustainable. They projected a major crisis by the late 1970s. One contemplated scenario in the book was that we might have to withdraw troops from Vietnam to handle all the food riots back home. The author's next book projected the crisis by the mid 1980s. But the numbers were sound. The population did keep rising. Their only real mistake was not knowing that scientific advance would allow us to produce more food.

I don't know what the average climate scientist thought of the "ice age by 2000" prediction back then, but I do know that it was enough to make more than just Newsweek. The point is that these things all sound like the same anti-capitalist scaremongering we have now. You have to understand that you and they need to separate yourselves from that if you want this to be taken seriously by others.

Just as there are companies that make money polluting, there are also companies hoping to make big money stopping global warming. They'll want to make money regardless whether AGW is a real problem or not.

I like the space program but I don't buy the economic payoff argument. People say the same thing about military spending. I like having a strong military (certainly a lot more than you do) but I recognize that it's very costly. I want us to spend what is strictly necessary for the stated purposes. I don't want any pretense that there are economic benefits when I know that the numbers don't add up that way.


It's not as though FDR lowered unemployment from 25 to 10%. It varied from year to year. 1937 was especially bad.

Yes, I thought I was too quick to pick on the Hoover Dam, but it's just one example out of many.

You're right that we've profited from it since then. That's the point of why it was better than "green jobs" are now. Building a new power plant when we didn't have one before is very different than replacing a coal plant we have for a supposedly green one. (And, again, I do like clean air.)

I'd rather that environmentalists leave potential jobs out of the argument. It might work on others but it won't persuade me.

Tony Fisk said...

@ tacitus: Can I play?

the Sandy Side of the conspiracy...
If you are an absolute monarch with money to burn, I think all those items can be arranged.

The US side is definitely where the WTF? factor kicks in. Still, as a list we have:
- Pres or Veep, both being better. It would seem the Veep had the Pres.
- at least one revered Elder Statesman This would take time, but King players are nothing if not patient.
- Control of both parties That would be nice, but a systematic demonisation of the other might serve.
- Department heads with the pres and veep, you get to choose the best tools for your needs. Didn't Paul O'Neill get kicked out and later claimed that Iraq was on the agenda prior to 9/11?)

Like you, I think the killer is persistence over several terms of office (the Drakh used 'keepers' to keep the Centauri emperors in line. When was the last time you saw Obama without a collar?). However, it depends on what the original intentions were, and how much credence can be given to the notion that they hit the jackpot: that the like-minded and smug incompetence of the neocons could be so easily guided?

As for no one taking the conspiracy seriously? Well, would anyone expect to be after the over the top shotgun revelations of 'Loose Change'? (and who financed that?)

I wonder what Fred Forsyth would make of it all?

keries: just and vengeful* journalistic spirit from the 7:30 report (Australian reference)
*Maybe not quite vengeful, but some of his interviewees may think so!

Tony Fisk said...


I think it was Rewinn that was discussing population bombs. (Still a growing concern, and will remain so until about mid-century. Factor in increased expectancies and it's a major headache)

Another thing about ice ages was that the Milankovitch cycles would have come to the attention of Western circles around then (originally worked out by Serbian Astronomer Grigo Milankovitch while under house arrest in Budapest University during WWI, they weren't translated into English, and spent some time behind the Iron Curtain)

The Zero Carbon Australia plan is actually at pains *not* to cite environmental concerns (it's clear that the authors *are* concerned, but anything being pushed because of environmental concerns alone is going to be instantly pilloried today)
So instead they cite:
- reduced dependence on foreign fuel supplies
- a potential export industry that we won't have to import in a couple of decades (hint: check out what China and India are doing on this front)
- Yes. Jobs. It's plain they consider this a drawcard, if not for you.

All of which, I agree, requires a certain onus, given the sheer scale of the undertaking. (a 90 page report is a start, but it will take a bit more than that to get policies adopted)

Stefan Jones said...

Anti-capitalist left-wing fanatic Bill Gates betrays the loving embrace of glorious free enterprise:

The Miracle Seeker.

How embarrassing and shameful! Doesn't he know problems aren't really problems if you refuse to acknowledge them because their solution falls outside your ideological comfort zone?

rewinn said...

@Tony - I brought up the "Population Bomb" along with the Ice Age Theory because RandyB offered them as examples of a scientific predictions that didn't pan out ergo AGW is also a scientific prediction that won't pan out.

The argument is flawed logically. Early failures at manned space flight does not prove the Apollo Missions were fake.

The arguments are also defective factually. This would be easy to show if RandyB bothered to cite to anything in support of his claim but he doesn't, except possibly to the title of a book ("The Population Bomb") which embodied one theory, not a consensus.

The claim that an ice age was predicted in 1970s is more precise and therefore easily debunked by looking at the scientific literature of the time ("around 1970 there were 6 times as many scientists predicting a warming rather than a cooling planet").

Ian said...

Spain's massive unemployment has nothign to do with "Green Jobs", it predates the solar and wind energy programs by decades.

The fundamental spnaish problem is that, like Greece, they thought they could simply declare themselves a fully developed European social democracy with an advanced economy and pay themselves accordingly and have the social welfare system that, say, Sweden has while taxing at a muhc lower level.

David Brin said...

Carl, I am afraid that Adam Smith was much more of a pragmatist than you think. For example, he believed that a country, if faced by relentless mercantilism abroad, had no choice but to practice some, itself. He unabashedly favored erecting a strong civil service as a counterweight to oligarchy and monopoly.

Sure the dems have their corruption too. But at least the dems have deregulated SOME agencies. Not many, but some. In 14 years the GOP Congress didn't even PROPOSE eliminating any!

Likewise, the fact that small businesses do well under dems and oligarchs under gops would sway him. Plus the fact that Keynsianism has at least worked some of the time... and Keynsians proved their sincerity by using surpluses to buy down debt in good times. That showed there's something to at least negotiate with. While supply side simply is voodoo, with a zero track record of reified predictions. That's a pretty sharp contrast.

Above all, Smith would see that his chief enemy, oligarchy, is using one party as a tool. The other merely spreads its legs for Big Money on selected occasions, but the GOP is always on call. The difference between a loose date and an outright whore. These differences may not impress a purist...

...but I reckon Smith would see them as very real.

David Brin said...

As for global warming... bah! All the chicken little scenarios about "too costly" and "crippling" economic consequences are screeched without ANY specifics, ever. If the palliations were the problem, they would NEGOTIATE about the palliation measures, and try to dicker for a balance of solutions.

But they do not. Instead, the methods are straight out of the distraction playbook used to deny that cars caused smog, or that Tobacco caused cancer or that CFCs caused the ozone hole.

Each time the solutions were decried as economy-destroyers... and they instead had net BENEFITS! Just as every increase in CAFE car fleet mileage standards has been easily met, without a single downside effect. (WHY are these guys' credibility not dinged each time this happens? Why does anybody still listen to supply side voodoo?)

Most AGW palliatives are STuff We Ought to be Doing Anyway... SWODA... in order to gain efficiency and wean ourselves off the middle eastern oil teat... but that's the REASON that the BUshites sabotaged energy research and promoted AGW denialism! Where is the center of it? Fox. And who OWNS fox?

Jesus. Follow the money.

David Brin said...

Yipes did someone raise the ICE AGE thing? ONE ARTICLE from the 1970s...????? Jeez give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's too young to remember what Big Tobacco did... with many of the same lobbyists and techniques.

Tim, SHOW US the "talked about a lot." I was there 40 years ago. I don't remember anything more than a fun little speculative feature story or two. The only reason this is reaised is in order to call the scientific community crazy and doubt their credibility.

Tacitus... please go to

All you really need is the President of the UNited States. Have a look at who helped RAISE W! The men he called "uncle." The yachts he partied aboard, back when he was a reeling drunk. Then, once your manchurian is in place, get him busy making endless appointments of men who were NOT necessarily owned, but certainly corrupt or moronically incompetent. Compliment that with a massive propaganda machine that is owned by the cabal... um, what's so hard about this?
And what doesn't it explain better than the "they were all imbeciles" theory?


Stefan... Gates is an example of the portion of the aristocracy that is loyal to the enlightenment and that does not want to join an oligarchy. But they are scattered individualists. They do not know how badly we need them to step in and help us.

RandyB said...

@Rewinn, @Tony, et al,

I didn't cite references because I didn't expect this to be peer reviewed.

The 1975 Newsweek ice age article can be found here. Does that mean real scientists (other than those named) thought that way? Perhaps not.

But I know they were already discussing global warming before then. IIRC, this book, Earth Day: The Beginning, contains a variety of Earth Day articles and speeches published in 1970. One of the writers very briefly mentions that it may be warming instead of cooling. I don't think it was more than a casual mention. (It's funny to think that the eco-movement was focusing on the wrong one.)

As I said, the Population Bomb wasn't at all wrong about the population increasing. Likewise, AGW may turn out for real while we find solutions for that, too.

But I'm not trying to disprove AGW. You can believe what you like. I'm just pointing out that we do need to know how much it will cost. I hope solar energy will be cheap and plentiful in 20 years. Right now, it's expensive.


You're probably right that "green jobs" haven't been a fundamental cause of Spain's problems. The numbers they give are big, but not big enough. But I haven't seen green jobs as a solution yet either. It can really only be economical if it's more efficient than oil, gas, etc.

RandyB said...

Sorry David,

But the radical eco-movement latched onto the ice age scare, and it's part of *their* history. Serious players should have put them in their place rather than elevating them. They're not your friends.

I think we've learned by now that high energy prices can hurt the economy.

SteveO said...

Randy B,

Regarding costs of carbon reduction....I have worked for the mining industry, and every single anti-pollution law that was "forced down their throats" was said to "doom domestic production of XXX and will cause the price to skyrocket!"

...and every single time it did none of it.

Money is not a consumable - if we require copper mines to use scrubbers, then they have to pay for the research, development, and manufacture of scrubbers. The people take that money and *grow* it - an industry exists now that did not before, along with all its suppliers and spin-offs.

Where did the seed money come from? Sure, the consumer of copper, but they are also the beneficiaries of the new industry, jobs, support structure, spinoffs, etc. (even ignoring eliminating the reduced costs to the environment) so the net wealth increases. Eliminating acid rain (for example) was a net-profit venture.

The point is that money is not destroyed when it is applied to tasks like reducing sulfur emissions. For a massive effort like reducing carbon emissions money *is* redirected, and not every industry will be a winner, but the *net* effect will be much smaller than you think - and if we involve all costs I bet it will, like every other one I have been involved with, end up to be profit generating.

Or can you explain just where all that money that would mitigate carbon emissions disappear to and have no net beneficial effect? Is it sequestered along with the carbon in a rock formation? :)

Travc said...

A quick side note on Spain (and Greece, Portugal, Ireland) economic woes.

A major factor in the troubles wasn't so much "reckless spending" as it was unrealistic expectations that very high levels of foreign investments would continue indefinitely.

Their economies were greatly buoyed by lots of money coming in, primarily from other European nations. Wages, prices, and government spending/entitlements followed suit, as one would expect. Then the financial crash happened and the money vanished.

Since their economies (productivity and domestic demand) hadn't actually caught up to the levels of prices, wages, and spending, they were suddenly facing a big "competitive crisis". The normal course of action would be to devalue the currency and effectively reduce those prices, wages, and spending. However, since they are in the Euro-zone.. that wasn't an option.

Oh, and it had jack to do with "green jobs".

Ian said...

"Sorry David,

But the radical eco-movement latched onto the ice age scare, and it's part of *their* history. Serious players should have put them in their place rather than elevating them. They're not your friends.

I think we've learned by now that high energy prices can hurt the economy."

Fell free to provides exampels of this.

The main proponent of the New Ice Age theory was Nigel Calder, who is currently a prominent global warming skeptic.

Tacitus2 said...

Also, sorry David.

I gave you my best estimate at the minimum number of people it would take to create a worthwhile conspiracy. And you find my creation as unlikely as I find yours.

At some point-forgive me-conspiracy theories become an unhealthy obsession.


Tim H. said...

As to the imminent ice age, as I remember the argument was interglacial periods run 10 to12K years, and it's been 11K since the last ice age. I remember this as being something of a consensus position, then, when environmentalists were fringe.

Carl M. said...

OK David, I call BS on CAFE. We have a huge downside: SUVs. SUVs are a product of CAFE. People who used to drive big cars buy SUVs instead because the government rations the number of big cars allowed via CAFE.

And don't give me the "SUVs are macho mini vans thing." Vans are unpleasant to drive. The engines are squunched into a weird place. There is no comparison in ride between a mini van and a Chevy Caprice station wagon.

Democrats can look brilliant compared to Republicans if you ignore their failures and notice Republican failures. (as well as vice versa, of course)

I'm still waiting for that nuclear war and great depression my Democrat friends were predicting under Reagan.

I'm also waiting for that mini ice age that was supposed to happen when Saddam Hussein burned the oil wells.

And I'm waiting for an entitlement program which stays within budget projections.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin said:

Ah but there's a silver lining. The fact that nobody at all is listening to me is probably the reason I am still alive.

You think I'm joking?
Well... yeah...!
About the whole thing. Just messin' with you all. Really I am. Contrary Brin.

Hey I write stories. Maybe someday I'll do it for the Caliph, blessings be upon him.

Y'know, for someone who so fervently cautions against shouting our presence into space because of who might be listening, you might want to consider the dangers of shouting this sort of thing into the ether, ESPECIALLY if no one else will touch it. There might just be a reason no one will go there. I forget who said "It's difficult to convince a man of something when his livelihood depends on him not believing it." How much more so when you replace "livelihood" with "continued existence" or "exposure to disappearance and torture".

If you and I are only safe because no one is paying attention, then is it any wonder that politicians with actual influence and media coverage won't touch it?

I mean, I think you're right, but be careful, ok?

Ilithi Dragon said...

My friend, Corey (some of you might remember his AGW dissertations posted on a few of Doc Brin's previous posts), is a conservation biologist by major, and closely studies and researches AGW as part of his intended career path. His response to the "Global Cooling Scare" would be on par with a Picard double-facepalm. NO scientist was seriously predicting an ice age in the 70s (speculations about the 10-12k interglacial periods aside). There was a cooling trend measured from the end of WWII to he 70s, which were attributed to aerosols from industry, and the bombs and fires of WWI and II, but only a handful of models showed that trend continuing. The vast majority of models, and the scientific consensus, was that the greenhouse gases' warming effects would begin to surpass the aerosol's cooling effects in the near future (of the 70s), which it did.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2 said:

If I am reading him correctly, Dr. Brin would feel happier if a Republican spent some time considering his pet conspiracy theory.

Is this sufficient consideration? I can get more Goldbergian if you likes.

I'm not sure Dr Brin is proposing as tight a conspiracy within the US government as you depict. More like a conspiracy to keep us distracted with culture-war and to keep the government in perpetual campaign mode rather than actually doing any of We The People's business.

Seems to me all you'd need on the US side at this stage of the game is Karl Rove and Rupert Murdoch. Some high level Dems and GOPpers wouldn't hurt either, but that almost follows from the media coup.

Not sure if the 5 corporatists on the USSC would have to be part of the conspiracy or just useful idiots. After all, what's good for General Motors MAY have been good for the USA back in the day, but what's good for Newscorp may not necessarily fit the paradigm.

LarryHart said...


But I'm not trying to disprove AGW. You can believe what you like. I'm just pointing out that we do need to know how much it will cost.

You sound just like an old Jack Benny routine, where he's facing an armed robber going "Your money or your life?" And he replies "I'm thinking! I'm thinking!" there a monetary value above which it is NOT worth paying for the privilege of continuing to breathe oxygen?

SteveO said...


Don't know if you caught it last time I posted it, but I write a monthly article for quality managers and engineers. In one article, I used local temperature data for near where I live in Colorado to illustrate how to use a statistical tool called Cusum. Click here to just view the graph. The graph shows the cumulative sum of each year's average was off of target (target here determined by the average temperature from 1893 to 1900, so if a year is above that average, we add a positive amount, below that average and we subtract that amount - if we are on target, it will bounce around zero). It shows a long-term gradual warming trend from the beginning of the data, a big spike in the warming in 1933-44, continual warming until a sharp decrease in 1950, followed immediately by a big warming spike and then a stabilizing in the 1960s, then a gradual decline until 1985, where we see a VERY steep increase in heating.

I am not a climatologist, and I purposefully chose local and not global temperature data, so I leave interpretation to those who know. I do know that if this were a chart on say part size in a business, this chart is more than sufficient statistical evidence to indicate an ongoing process shift on the high side wo which the business should have reacted a long time ago - there is no question about that interpretation. This type of chart accentuates even small deviations from a target, and I hadn't seen it done for temperature data before.

Your friend Corey might find it an interesting way to highlight changes that are swamped in year-to-year variability, as I show with the time ordered data here using the same data set.

Jonathan S. said...

Remember when the CAFE standards were first proposed, back in the late '70s? Back then, US cars dominated the world market, and the Japanese vehicles were seen as unreliable and cheaply made. Then Detroit spent years trying to convince us all that cars that got better mileage would necessarily have to be less safe, and more poorly made ("econoboxes") - while Nissan and Honda proceeded to go ahead and build safe, stylish cars that got the required mileage and met emissions standards.

The current fuss over the "economic non-viability" of "green energy" seems to me reminiscent of those days. The chief difference is that today, there doesn't seem to be any government looking to assert global economic dominance similar to that once enjoyed by Japan by exporting their own efficient "green" technologies (this may or may not play into Dr. Brin's conspiracy hypothesis). Instead, the technologies are being employed by individuals on a piecemeal basis. One hopes that this will prove as effective in changing the paradigm as Japan Inc. once was.

Ilithi Dragon said...


I remember seeing you post those before, yes. I can't remember if Corey saw them or not, though... I think he did, but I'll pass them on to him, anyway.

SteveO said...

Jonathan S,

Japan's cars *were* poorly made, as were the US's. The difference is that Japan fundamentally changed how they did their manufacturing, under the tutelage of Deming, Juran, and Feigenbaum, and then in 1980 started beating the US on price, quality, and fuel efficiency.

But yes, to my point above, converting to a "green" economy will take investment, probably from a government, to kick off, but will end up being net profitable. So entrenched interests will resist, as the US auto industry did, and you can't really blame them for doing so. At the time, 1 in 6 jobs relied directly or indirectly on the auto industry, so it was really scary for the US to lose that dominance, even though it was lost due to abysmal business management.

So you can't blame oil companies for circling the wagons - if the consequences weren't so dire.

RandyB said...

@SteveO and @Ian,

You're free to say that the costs won't be that much. That's all the more reason they should be eager to discuss the numbers.

It obviously costs something. The stated reason they're pushing cap-and-trade is the hope that money will be the incentive to reduce carbon emissions.

This is also the reason China was let off scot free at Kyoto. It doesn't really help global warming if we simply transfer our high-emission manufacturing to China.

There's no doubt that energy prices can hurt the economy.

As Alan Reynolds wrote last year:

"What really triggered this recession should be obvious, since the same thing happened before every other postwar US recession save one (1960).

"In 1983, economist James Hamilton of the University of California at San Diego showed that "all but one of the US recessions since World War Two have been preceded, typically with a lag of around three-fourths of a year, by a dramatic increase in the price of crude petroleum." The years 1946 to 2007 saw 10 dramatic spikes in the price of oil -- each of which was soon followed by recession.

There were other reasons that made this one worse than usual, but energy prices started the ball rolling.

Robert Samuelson also says it'll be expensive:

"Finally, there's energy. Despite their recent drop, oil prices at about $65 a barrel remain well above the $29 average of 2003. Combating global warming would also raise prices. Many Americans imagine that greenhouse gases can be cut painlessly—just order companies to do it. This is a fantasy. Most anti-global-warming policies aim to "put a price on carbon"—carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas—through a carbon tax or a "cap and trade" program. Under cap and trade, companies would receive permits to emit greenhouse gases; firms needing more permits would buy them from firms willing to sell. Prices of carbon-based fuels would rise, forcing people to use less or making costlier noncarbon energy, such as solar, more competitive."

RandyB said...


I assume you're exaggerating for effect, but that's a good example of how cost is a good way to determine the value of proposed restrictions.

Clearly, if AGW has a substantially increased risk of everyone not being able to breathe, then it would be worth an enormous amount of money to stop it.

This assumes any proposal currently on the table really says they can stop it. Kyoto never promised that.

That reminds me, I had forgotten another environmental scare that fell apart already. Global warming projections in the 1980s were separated into three tiers: least, moderate, and worst case scenarios. The worst case scenario had U.S. coastal cities underwater around 2000.

And before you say it, this doesn't mean AGW isn't going to be bad enough.

LarryHart said...


I assume you're exaggerating for effect, but that's a good example of how cost is a good way to determine the value of proposed restrictions.

Well, the oceans giving up their NS2 is what's currently keeping me awake nights (or more accurately, what I currently have to IGNORE in ORDER to sleep nights)

Clearly, if AGW has a substantially increased risk of everyone not being able to breathe, then it would be worth an enormous amount of money to stop it.

Even IF it were proven beyond a doubt, it still seems to me that the various players (oil companies, etc) would not cooperate on fixing the planet, but would instead play a dangerous game of "chicken"--each hoping that the REST of the world would pay for the cleanup while THEY sit on their cash. A very dangerous "prisoner's dillema" scenario that I worry may doom us all.

rewinn said...

"...You can believe what you like."

Well, no.

I *like* to believe we can all have ponies.

But, on the evidence, we can't.

I *like* to believe AGW is a myth.

It, on the evidence, it isn't.

I provided a fact-based debunking of the myth that Science Predicted an Ice Age. Rather than acknowledge this bundle of facts and (if possible) debunked THAT, the argument has shifted to a claim that because a worst-case scenario has not come to pass, therefore the non-worst-case scenario will not come to pass.

This is not persuasive.

David Brin said...

Randy seriously? A 1975 Newsweek "what-if" is it? And you aren't APOLOGIZING right now for participating in that Big-Tobacco-style fabulation-distraction about "scientists used to believe in an Ice Ae!!! ?

"But the radical eco-movement latched onto the ice age scare, and it's part of *their* history. Serious players should have put them in their place rather than elevating them. They're not your friends."

Prove this. Prove this NOW! It is an outright lie. I say this without even making allowances for the "radical" word. Indeed, I despise many of the "radical" environmentalists and rip into them in my novel EARTH. NEVERTHELESS, I lived in those days and I remember ZERO cred given to the Ice Age myth. None even from Greenpeace. You are swallowing Beck Big Lies.

"I think we've learned by now that high energy prices can hurt the economy."

Which is why the neocons are bona fide enemies of the United States of America, who have done everything in their power to leave us suckling the teats of their Middle East pals.

Oh, Spain overbuilt vacation homes for the rest of Europe. They overbuilt by about half a MILLION units. Yet you'd participate in another Big-Tobacco style fabulation about green energy causing their problem? Where do you GET this stu....

Oh... you don't watch Fox, do you? Sigh... All is explained. Guys. Lay off Randy. It's the drug.

Tacitus, you wave it away and I can live with that. Even though the last ten years fit perfectly what our enemies would have wanted. Enemies whose documents show an eagerness for our decline and the motive, means and opportunity to commit the crime... and fingerprints on the weapon.

Carl, under Reagan, the EXTREME left included a bona fide threat to us all -- the USSR. There were extremely insipid things said... like attacking RR for decrying that Evil Empire. I defended him on that.

But you cannot evade the fact that it was dems who did all the DE-regulating... except for S&L regulation and derivative trading. It was they who raised the retirement age on Social Security, bringing it back in line and deferring the doom date by TWO decades.

I admit Newt Gingrich participated in Welfare Reform... another successful entitlement adjustment... before his party punished him for actually negotiating something useful.

Carl, interesting insight how a FLAW in the CAFE standards allowed a loophole through which the car companies pushed SUVs. Interesting. So? The normal way to look at flaws is to FIX them. If we had a system based on negotiation, the conservative side would be criticizing... with an aim to make things work better, not to ensure that they fail, in order to yell at a polemical point.

Larry, now you know why I was burned at the stake in all previous lives. No instinct for self-preservation! If I do croak mysteriously, or get an INDUCIBLE form of Big C... you guys spread the conspiracy theory, eh? They'll be sorry!

Oh... while the damage done to us by Fox-propeled culture war is sever, remember Civil War is only half of the scenario. The other half is to repeat Vietnam and snare us into a debilitating THREE TRILLION DOLLAR land war of attrition in Asia.

For that, you needed a good nephew whom you can also blackmail. For that you needed a Manchurian president.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Ah, Afghanistan, "where empires go to die."

I'm looking at installing solar panels on my house. With the annual solar infall in our area, we should have it paid back in about 15 years. On the same note, I would buy an all-electric car, since 95% of my driving is commutes of 25 miles or less. In both cases, the big holdup is intial outlay. For the car, the additional factors are reliable mechanics to work on it when it inevitably poops out, and a certainty of what will be done with the batteries. Lead car batteries are already a blight on the market and environment; hybrids and all-electric cars have several multiples of that quantity. I don't like the current paradigm of shipping it all to Asia or Africa for street urchins to disassemble for peanuts, either.

Nobbiref: the 'black dossiers' that conspiracy theorists like to pass around.


LarryHart said...

Dr Brin said:

Larry, now you know why I was burned at the stake in all previous lives. No instinct for self-preservation! If I do croak mysteriously, or get an INDUCIBLE form of Big C... you guys spread the conspiracy theory, eh? They'll be sorry!

Hey, your "thing" is contrariness. Mine is applying your own rules (like "It's dangerous to shout our presence to the heavens") back upon your own self and seeing where it leads. Gotta have SOME sort of hobby to keep from crying.

Personally, I'm expecting you to go in the tried and true manner of Paul Wellstone.

The laugh might be on them, though. If living conditions deteriorate enough, continued existence may itself become a form of torture. A quick death might be an unintentional KINDNESS.

rewinn said...

On the lighter side, the Singularity is well enough understood, or at least popularized, to form the basis of humor here and here

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi TheMadLibrarian

"I would buy an all-electric car, since 95% of my driving is commutes of 25 miles or less. In both cases, the big holdup is intial outlay. For the car, the additional factors are reliable mechanics to work on it when it inevitably poops out, and a certainty of what will be done with the batteries. Lead car batteries are already a blight on the market and environment; hybrids and all-electric cars have several multiples of that quantity."

Lead Acid batteries are one of the recycling success stories over 98% are recycled

Electric cars -should- need much less maintenance than IC cars

I am building myself a car at the moment - being a cheap Scotsman I expect to get it on the road for $10,000 - ($6,000 of which is batteries)
I will be using lithion Ion cells and I expect a range of about 80 miles

Lead acid batteries are cheaper but much much heavier for the same energy storage

Lead acid batteries are normally good for 600 cycles (2 years)
the Lithium Ion cells I will be using are advertised as good for 5000 cycles (20 years) - they have only been sold for 4 years so????

RandyB said...


I'm sorry you're not sleeping well.

There are three reasons you shouldn't blame the U.S. oil companies:

1) They're only selling us the oil we want and need.

2) About 90% or so of the oil is in foreign government hands, and run by foreign government-owned oil companies.

3) They're only about 3% (give or take, I'm working from memory) of the U.S. economy. The rest of the country, the energy users, also have reasons to be cautious of high energy prices. As I think I said earlier, transferring the polluting industries to China won't change the equation.

RandyB said...

@David and @Rewinn,

Newsweek quoted NOAA climatologists.

I added, "Does that mean real scientists (other than those named) thought that way? Perhaps not." Well, I'm willing to agree that a couple of NOAA climatologists aren't a consensus.

On radicals, I had cited Earth Day: The Beginning. I did point out that it also mentioned global warming -- albeit in one brief aside. I'm afraid I lost my copy years ago. I recall there are plenty of radicals in the book. To be fair, it includes some respectable people, too. If you say the radicals weren't pushing it back then, then fine. I can accept that one or two were outliers.

On Greenpeace, I'm not that familiar with their history, but I wasn't aware that they were always the way they are now.

In an earlier post, immediately after I said the worst case AGW scenario didn't pan out, I added: "And before you say it, this doesn't mean AGW isn't going to be bad enough."

Frankly, I didn't even think that needed to be said.

I'm just saying I'm skeptical but listening, and would like to know how much it'll cost, and how much reduction that will buy us. The responses here seem to be either that it won't cost enough to worry about, or that we need it so badly that it doesn't matter what it costs. Even a full believer ought to be skeptical of those kinds of answers.

I don't want to spend trillions only to find out that we'll still have AGW in 2099, and then have to spend trillions more anyway to reinforce buildings because their expensive solutions were never expected to be sufficient.

This is similar to Bjorn Lomborg's position even before he changed his mind on priorities. He did not doubt global warming was happening, or that it would be very harmful.

As a quick reminder, the GWBush position on Kyoto was that it should apply to China, too. Bush wasn't a denier. This is the same position stated by Clinton, and I think Obama said something similar recently.

If you read my previous posts, I acknowledged to Ian, "You're probably right that "green jobs" haven't been a fundamental cause of Spain's problems. The numbers they give are big, but not big enough. But I haven't seen green jobs as a solution yet either."

But I cited a link earlier. I don't think it was Fox.

BTW: Just a guess, but of all the various types of conservatives, I would think the neocons are the most likely to agree with you all on AGW.

RandyB said...

I should clarify on Earth Day: The Beginning, most of it wasn't about this issue. There were only a handful of writers who even mentioned it.

I mostly remember that one of them said we'd also be running oil at around the same time.

That said, it was a nice book to have.

David Brin said...

on to next posting...

vruz said...

Mr Brin, tell me something new.

It's not that they don't know, it's that they didn't listen.