Saturday, December 02, 2006

Penguins and Conservatives

"Happy Feet" is making quite a stir among some conservatives. For conservatives, references to environmental problems are politically incorrect (if not out and out violations of the PATRIOT [sic] Act), and the little penguin in the film makes references to declining fish stocks worldwide, an ad allegedly global warming as well. The mere mention of these things has put conservative reviewers into a tizzy, more "evidence" of the supposed "liberal bias" across media. (It also upsets them that there's "propaganda" in the objection that didn't seem to arise when "Passion of the Christ" was being reviewed.)

The problem for conservatives is that the depletion of fisheries around the world is a genuine problem, and it is entirely caused by humans. Global warming is also a fact. I’ll agree that anthropogenic global warming is not well established, but a variety of evidences show that earth is in a warming trend, evidence that includes not only temperature measurements, but the general shrinking of glaciers and polar ice caps, and analysis of ice cores from drilling in Greenland and elsewhere.

I don't have much to say about global warming at this juncture, but I do have something to say about the depletion of ocean fisheries. The basic problem is that fisheries are largely open-access commons. The only way to establish ownership over a fish is to catch it. An uncaught fish has, in effect, no value to anyone, even though uncaught fish are the only means by which more fish are produced. There's no such thing in an open-access commons as saving some fish for the future. If I am a fisherman, any fish I save by not catching it is available for anyone else to catch, so I might as well catch it and get the value for myself. Overfishing is the result, and it is extremely common.

Imagine for a moment that the only way that a cattle rancher could establish ownership over her/his cattle was by killing them. Live cattle would be anyone's for the taking. The number of cattle would plummet to zero almost overnight. Open access fisheries create exactly these incentives for fisherman. The only reason these don’t result in fish extermination is that fish are relatively hard to catch.

There's a very nice solution to this problem - ITQs (Individually Transferable Quotas). These establish private property rights over fish in the water, rather than fish caught. These give a fisherman ownership of uncaught fish, and a fisherman can save these fish in order to preserve and build the future population. Where ITQs have been tried (e.g. Canada, New Zealand, Australia) they have worked extremely well, and led to bigger fisheries, more valuable catch, lower fishing costs, and happier fisherman and fish consumers (and perhaps happier fish).

ITQs ought to be used worldwide, and in international waters. Of course, developing international ITQs would require things that all good conservatives oppose: friendly international negotiations, resulting in treaties with some sort of means of enforcement. It would also require admitting that there are limits to certain kinds of resources, and that conservation might be a good idea in some cases - there might be more for us to do than be fruitful and multiply so we can "subdue" the earth. (I note Gen. 1:28 also mentions replenishing the earth, but as I am no Bible scholar I must defer to the experts who assure us that conservation is an evil liberal doctrine, no doubt of Satanic origin.)

The conservative position is unfortunate, because ITQs represent a positive sum game that the world could play, and one that would publically demonstrate the good effects of private property rights. Development of ITQs around the world, at the national and international levels, would be a very positive development for world prosperity and peace.

In getting uppity about the absolutely correct observation that humans are depleting world fisheries, conservatives defend a property rights regime closer to that of collectivism than capitalism. Whether they realize it or not, the little enviro-penguin is endorsing private property rights, while conservatives are defending a communal property structure appropriate for an isolated band of hunter-gatherers.

I guess that's why they call themselves "conservatives."

Interesting piece. I haven't heard of ITQ's before.
Thanks for the comment, LeeLion.

Don Leal of PERC has an excellent paper on ITQs the refereneces the New Zealand experience. You can download a pdf here.

It's very good reading.
So where does the 'conserve' bit come in then?
Good question, TSP. I could give a clever answer (or at least try)but it strikes me I should do a serious post on this.

For now, suffice it to say that today's (American) conservatism isn't really about conserving anything; it's rent-seeking, using government to grab as much power and wealth as possible.
Dear Dr. Steele,

Thank you for your valuable comments on the Knowledge Problem Forum. I hope that our posts will initiate a debate on post-Friedman economics to continue the advancement in knowledge made by Dr. Milton Friedman and Dr. Hugh Ching of Post-Science Institute. For your convenience, I am enclosing the responses to your comments posted at Knowledge Problem Forum here with some additional views of post-science. Please feel free to post it in any other blog, with your modifications. I would appreciate greatly receiving your further advices and feedback.


Chien Yi Lee
cc: Hugh Ching, T. L. Kunii, Prof. Ram (C. V. Ramamoorthy

Dear Dr. Steele,

I appreciate your detailed comments on my commentary on Milton Friedman. The founder of post-science Dr. Hugh Ching summarizes that “The Free Market is better than Regulation By Man-made Laws, but is not as good as Regulation By Laws Of Nature In Social Science. Having bridged the gap between science and post-science, Dr Milton Friedman should be considered the leading thinker of the twentieth century.” As a personal note, the difference between the Chinese and the Russian Economic Reform is Milton Friedman ( As an initial introduction of post-science, I shall try to respond fully to your comments.

Dr. Steele: I'm not sure post-science, as described here, makes much sense...
"Value, defined as the sum total of all the future benefits and losses..." Value (utility) is simply an ordinal ranking, and summing it is meaningless -- both an Austrian and neoclassical point.

Response: Post-science accepts only the rigor of mathematical economists; Dr. Kenneth Arrow and the late Dr. Gerard Debreu are friends of Dr. Ching and agree to the definition of value and the demonstration of the deterministic Infinite Spreadsheet. The Infinite Spreadsheet is really quite easy to explain to mathematical economists, who only need to know the technical definition of the Infinite Spreadsheet: Valuation software where the cash flow equation, {Total Cash Return = Sum of Cash Flow + Cash From Resale}, is satisfied for the price and all the resale prices to infinity in time.

"Dr. Friedman must decide to plan or not to plan?" As Hayek pointed out, the debate was never "plan vs. no plan," but *central* plan vs. many individual plans coordinated by markets.

Response: Dr. Friedman objected to earlier and accepted later Fed regulating the interest rates. The mathematically rigorous relationship of interest, inflation, and return rates is expressed in the Infinite Spreadsheet ( Post-science believes that Dr. Friedman is the pioneer in Maximum Planning, not Free Market, which, being limited by the Infinite Spreadsheet and other laws of nature in social science should not be called “Free.” Maximum Planning covers both individual planning, whose volume is far larger than central planning, and central planning, which should not suffocate individual planning.

“We are free only within the limits of freedom defined by the non-violable (mathematical) laws of nature in social science, such as the Infinite Spreadsheet. Only when the market participants are well-informed of these laws of nature would the market be stable." I don't know about the infinite spreadsheet, but uncertainty about how the universe works is inescapable. Yet markets are stable, because that's what their job is, to cope with this uncertainty. In a world of certainty, markets would be irrelevant.

Response: No, but here you are initiating an extraordinary debate on the relevance of economics in the future. Markets are inherently unstable because of economic or financial instabilities, such as the Finite Spreadsheet Instability explained in the book Knowledge ( The Instability relates to the simple phenomenon that, when only finite time duration is considered, a rising price will cause the price to rise some more because of the erroneously observed rising rate of return. Calculated with Infinite Spreadsheet, a rising price decreases the rate of return. Market uncertainty belongs to a higher order (less important) of calculation, as described by Dr. Debreu in the last Chapter of his book “Theory of Value.” Post-science speculates that when most laws of nature are known in about another millennium, social science, including economics and the market, will become irrelevant, and most human effort will be devoted to the self-creation of the living system ( within the constraints set by the non-violable laws of nature in physical and social science. Post-science introduces the requirement of permanence as a design specification of life or software, where permanent is achieved through complete automation. In the Age of Life Science, knowledge, not money nor power, will be relevant.

"Laws of nature replacing man-made laws" Laws of nature are inescapable; man-made laws are tools we use -- hopefully we'll design better tools, but we need the tools. A society with no rules, conventions, etc. except those imposed by nature makes no sense.

Response: The world of physical science is doing fine with just the laws of nature. The number of man-made laws in science is exactly zero. The Infinite Spreadsheet is far more stringent than man-made laws. It simply extends consideration in valuation, decision-making, and planning from finite to infinite. Logically, finite consideration should be considered illegal because it hides material facts beyond the finite time. The Infinite Spreadsheet has predicted the US Savings and Loan Crisis as early as 1984 by detecting real estate market over-valuation, where the price was too high or the return too low. Dr. Friedman is for deregulation of man-made laws and probably not of laws of nature.

"Mankind should move beyond science into post-science in the next two millennia" Post-science's Great Leap Forward? Most of us haven't made it to the science point yet...see my own blog for comments on this re evolution & faith (shameless self-promotion, I confess:

Response: Yes. After the failure of Marx and Mao, who promoted their ideas before the solutions of value and complete automation, post-science hopes that this time Milton Friedman with the support of mathematicians, John von Neuman, Gerard Debreu, Hugh Ching will make the Long Leap Forward in knowledge.

In relation to your comments on science, my conclusion on religion and science is the following:
In conclusion, we consider the following questions. What percentage of the human population can understand the Bible? Answer: Almost all the people can understand the Bible. What percentage believes in the Bible? About 40%. What % understands science? A very tiny %. What % believes in science? Almost 100% of the educated population. Of the Bible and science [even worse for post-science], which one is more accepted based on faith? Accepting that the foundation of knowledge is based on faith, not reason, according to the late Prof. Paul Feyerabend (Against Method, Farewell To Reason, etc.) and Prof. Thomas Kuhn (The Structure Of The Scientific Revolution), would be a first step into post-science, which lacks the destructive power of science to assert itself on to the society in military competition

I truly appreciate your taking the opposing positions to help me clarify my explanations of post-science, which I certainly need more practice as a student of post-science. I thank you again for your detailed and thoughtful expert comments. ### [CYL]
Thank you for this interesting reply. I didn't see it until now.

I could make many comments on your reply, but would rather see a clear explanation of post-science first.

Again, just let me know and I'll arrange for you to do a post, and then we'll discuss.

Best regards,
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