Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A Word About Trump

President Trump is a mixed bag.  Of course, tautologically that means that, unlike any of the previous four Presidents, he's not hands-down awful.  But he's much better than that.  For whatever disagreements "we" at Unforeseen Contingencies might have with his policies, we must point out he truly is a great force for good.  Here's an example.

Under President Trump, the Departments of HHS, Treasury, and Labor have issued a document "Reforming America’s Healthcare System Through Choice and Competition" that explicitly identifies government intervention as the cause of spiraling health care prices and expenditures, and calls for getting rid of intervention and restoring the free market.  This is absolutely correct.  The document doesn't go as far as I'd like, but it is very good.

First, unlike anything else I've read from politicians, it gives attention to expanding the supply of medical care, by reducing such things as regulation that blocks provision of service (e.g. CON requirements), federal interventions that restrict medical training, barriers to entry by foreign trained medical specialists, etc.  Second, it also calls for price transparency and measures to facilitate direct payment by consumer-patients, so that the buyer is in control of price and quality, unlike the current third party system.  (The Trump administration is already requiring hospitals to post prices.  Wonderful!)

Anti-Trump libertarians and conservatives need to wake up.  This is the ball game.  Who would do better?  Trump might not be perfect, but that's a stupid point at this juncture.  Hillary or any other Democrat would have imposed centrally planned bureaucratically controlled health care rationing on us, and will do so if they get power. Alternatives?  Kasich is in favor of expanding govt intervention and ACA, "Democrat lite."  Jeb! has no principles; this weak man would surrender.  Go ahead, imagine either of these two zeros commissioning an official government report that shows socialism is destructive. Gary "I think Republicans alienated a lot of people when they talk about de-funding Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood does a lot of good" Johnson deserves zero consideration. (If you don't get why, your understanding of libertarianism is as bad as his.)

When Mr. Trump said "I alone can fix" it sounded like hubris.  As an academic, I must observe that "alone" turns it into a falsifiable statement, so we can never confirm it.  I suspect Ted Cruz or Carly Fiorina could also have "fixed it" (i.e. run an administration that tries to reduce government to its proper Constitutional constraints).  But certainly the "I can fix" is right.  That's a verifiable statement.  And Mr. Trump is verifying it.

Onwards, President Trump!

Photo: POTUS receives word that he's again received Unforeseen Contingencies' endorsement.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The "Economists' Statement on Carbon Dividends"

I was asked today (by Janet Yellen!) to sign on to the "Economists' Statement on Carbon Dividends."  I declined.  I'm unsure why they call it this -- perhaps to fool people into missing that it's actually a tax.  Regardless, I think it's a bad idea.  Here's the reply I sent to Dr. Yellen.  (You can find the "Statement" here and here.)

Dear Dr. Yellen – thank you for the offer to sign this statement.  I won’t sign, for three reasons. 

First the proposal in the statement for a Hotelling trajectory carbon tax is based on erroneous models of an optimal carbon tax.  The standard Hotelling tax trajectory is inefficient because it ignores climate inertia.  The recent paper by Lemoine and Rudik in the AER (Oct. 2017) demonstrates this, and a calibrated version of their model suggests the tax proposed in your petition has at least 10 times the cost of the efficient tax.

Second, I’m skeptical of the IPCC claims of sudden urgency; IPCC report SR15 does not establish claims that immediate drastic action is necessary.  A careful reading of the IPCC report suggests it is really about quickly and incautiously implementing U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, for purposes of so-called “social justice.”  It appears to be a rent-seeking scheme for massive redistribution of political power and wealth, rather than a climate proposal.

Third, I’m skeptical that a unilateral U.S. carbon tax has any important power to address climate change, since the lion’s share of new emissions will come from the developing world.  The border adjustment component is more likely to be an effective trade barrier and little else.

In my opinion, your proposal is the least bad of all the bad solutions to climate change, and certainly superior to the proposals in IPCC SR15 or the Green New Deal.  But you’ve omitted important economic and climate factors, and your proposal is still wildly inefficient.


Charles N. Steele, Ph.D.

The "Green New Deal"

Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has proposed a "Green New Deal" that promises to fix anthropogenic warming and advance "social justice."  it's a quite radical proposal -- it calls for a complete end to fossil fuel use in the United States in ten years, among other things.  Sandy Cortez did not invent it -- she's just the vehicle being used to promote it.  David Roberts of Vox has an excellent article surveying the history and principles of the GND.  (Yes, this is the same David Roberts who says "war crimes trials" for people who disagree with climate change radicalism should be part of any AGW solution.)

The idea of banishing all fossil fuels in ten years is astonishing.  Fossil fuel sources, especially natural gas and coal, provide almost 2/3 of America's electricity.  There's no way this could be replaced in ten years, for two reasons.  First, wind and solar provide intermittent power; they can't rise and fall according to demand, but instead depend on the vagaries of... wind and solar.  The technology doesn't exist to store electricity on the scale that would be needed.  And the intermittency would destabilize the power grid, creating blackouts.  Second, the required scale is too great.  Ending use of fossil fuels in ten years would mean major reductions in electricity.  This would shut down most transportation as well, since most is fossil-fueled.  With less electricity, electric cars can't fill the gap.  I'll admit, though, it would be interesting to see Rep. Cortez in a solar powered airplane.

The GND is not a serious proposal, but it should be taken seriously, because the socialists in Congress and their voter base seem to be all-in for it.  It could never be fully implemented, but then Hugo Chavez' Chavismo couldn't be fully implemented, but that hasn't stopped it from destroying an entire country.

Photo: Rep. Sandy Cortez.  I like this photo, it's quite dramatic. I think the photographer is trying to have her remind us of Che.  And I suspect there's more Che in her than most people realize.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Happy Christmas, Orthodox

It's Christmas Eve (Julian calendar).  Merry Christmas.  This is a somewhat special Orthodox Christmas, because it is the first for the Ukrainian Orthodox free of Moscow's rule.  It's unclear to any of "us" at Unforeseen Contingencies why Ukrainians should be subservient to Russia in any way, as  Russia is an enemy of Ukraine and the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy is beholden to the Kremlin.  This independence is welcome.

But let's keep this on a more Christmas-y note.  There are various ways of looking at Christmas -- "hope," "good cheer," "kindness" ... all of these are supposed to be Christmas sentiments.  But it really seems more appropriate to think of Christmas as a celebration of having been rescued, or of doom averted and happiness assured.  The story of Christmas is of God coming to save humans from doom; it's a very positive story, and whether one believes it or not, this should be a time of being grateful that we're here.  We belong in the universe.  And I think it a great time to re-dedicate ourselves to building a happier, freer world.

Merry Christmas! Христос Рождається!

Coptic Orthodox Christmas, Ethiopia

Orthodox Christmas, Wayne WV USA, courtesy of National Radio Television of Afghanistan!

Orthodox Christmas, Lviv Ukraine

Friday, January 04, 2019

Chang'e 4 on the Moon!

Happy New Year!

It's off to an interesting start, with one foul-mouthed radical in Congress spewing hate, and another vowing confiscatory taxes and destruction of our energy systems.  If left to their own designs, these people will bring us to ruin, so in response, junior senator Mitt Romney decided to "bring us together" (and co-incidentally launch his 2020 presidential bid, heh) by preaching against Donald Trump's alleged failure to be sufficiently nice.  And Pocahontas declared she's running for president.  Such shenanigans.

But meanwhile, elsewhere, some other human beings actually are up to some serious stuff, very serious stuff.  China has landed the Chang'e 4 explorer on the far side of the moon, and is exploring.  SpaceNews and Space.com have coverage.  This is really interesting and important.  Narcissi Craig of Victory Girls laments that "We Just Lost the Moon."

I would say we’re not lost yet. But we should pay attention.  I'll expand on the comment I left on her post.

One of the very biggest developments the future decades will be the building of the economy in space.  Morgan Stanley predicts the space economy will be over 1 trillion USD in 20 years (about three or four times what it is now);  I think that will be low, but regardless, it will continue.  Humans are on the verge of developing a Kardeshevian Type I civilization.  As we do, the space economy will grow and very likely surpass the Earth economy.  It's really only the time frame that should be in dispute here.

Building this economy will require development of private property rights in outer space.  This will happen, because the benefits relative to costs of doing so are going up over time.  Currently, property rights are supposedly prohibited by the international Outer Space Treaty of 1967, to which most nations (including the U.S. and PRC) are signatories, but this will prove toothless. The race is already on, now, to establish property claims.  Think Huntington's Clash of Civilizations in space.  Whoever owns space will essentially run human civilization for the next few centuries at least. Also, whoever dominates space militarily will dominate Earth militarily.  It would be desirable, for those of us who believe in individual liberty, if it were the Western liberal civilization.  Humans will do much better with this than any alternative.

Fools in the Western nations who imagine the great global challenge is “sustainability” and that the great goal is to decarbonize and to detechnologize would hand the game to the Chinese. (And I can imagine the Chinese and Russians might not mind encouraging us in this.)  The insane push for socialism in America has to be defeated, and it must be done and quickly and thoroughly.  Chang'e 4 is rolling.

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