Friday, August 12, 2016

The economics of air and an anti-human ideology

I was engaged in an online discussion about climate change when another writer challenged my comments. When he asked "Perhaps you could start with why you believe you are not responsible to pay Market rent for fossil waste disposal by use of other people's air?" multiple times I though a good response was in order and I have copied it below.
I get the strong impression that no matter how many highly intelligent, experienced, published and distinguished scientists from a range of fields identified factual contradictions and errors in your ideology it would not matter, so I will switch to the evidently hyper-important question that you have stated ad-nauseum above. It is evident you have no concept of the meaning of economics or freedom or capitalism, or else you would not ask such an irrational question. You might as well ask why you do not pay me for the use of the oxygen that you consume when you breathe. First, there is no such thing as a market rent for what you refer to. Second, what you refer to is not waste disposal but a natural by-product of human civilization and progress, a very mild side effect in exchange for an incalculable benefit, like an occasional headache in exchange for a cure for cancer. Third, other people do not own the air as it does not meet the criteria for private property. More broadly, it is the energy from fossil fuels that has enabled all of the advances of the industrial revolution, enabled your birth, being fed, clothed, housed, educated, your health care, your communications, your transportation and your leisure time. Until the discovery of a commercial means of mass producing energy from fossil fuels, you would have lived a short, diseased, starving, laboring, painful, cold and hot and extremely local life - if you lived at all. The energy from fossil fuels is the industry that underlies and enables all other industries and has been an incalculable good for humanity and has vastly improved your own life, yet you oppose it, perhaps even despise it like many catastrophists. To be fully consistent then, you would have to loathe yourself for owing so much to fossil fuel energy and the intelligent people who produce it. You appear to have an ideology based on looking only at potential harm in the distant future as predicted by computer models. This reduces to a base antagonism against human life and that which it depends upon. My philosophy is based on the irreplaceable value of human life and my standard of value is that which advances human life. I love fossil fuels, but not because the are fossil fuels, but for the wonders they have enabled humanity to achieve and continue to accomplish. As we speak, hundreds of millions of lives are being raised out of poverty and despair through fossil fuel energy. Fossil fuel energy has already solved the problem of world hunger, essentially eliminated the risk to human life from a naturally dangerous climate (deaths due to extreme climate conditions have decreased about 96% in the last 80 years, a period in which most of the fossil fuel in history has been used), enabled a vast division of labour and incredible specialization that has led to incredible wealth for the average person that was unimaginable to kings a hundred years ago. Yet this is what you are against and what you would have us give up - for what and in the name of what? For a life much shorter, poorer and filled with wretchedness where self-declared people who know better than we do dictate to us how we must live our lives. This in the name of the prophets of doom and their dis-proven computer models whose predictions are all over the map and have all over-predicted factual measurements - all in the same direction, because they contain the same false premises. Let the models and their true believers compete on an open betting market for accuracy and let the catastrophists place their bets on the accuracy of their predictions and let's see who loses all their money and who takes it all away. Now THAT would be a real type of market rent - a market for forecasting ability that rewards success and punishes irrationality. My money and the smart money is on the null hypothesis. I have no doubt that thanks to fossil fuels we will discover even better and more abundant sources of energy, but until then coal, gas and oil are the very best we have - and we are getting ever better at discovering sources of them, extracting them and converting them into usable energy that has lower and lower negative effects and greater and greater positive benefits. We now know of enough sources to last about a thousand years and we have just begun to discover how much energy is truly available to minds left free to search, discover, experiment and create. I believe that thanks to fossil fuel powered science we will soon have the use of essentially unlimited fusion power with a density a million times that of oil, that will replace almost all other sources of energy and will advance human progress as much as fossil fuels have already done. Until then, we owe it to ourselves, our lives, our children and those whose societies are still way behind ours to make the best use of fossil fuel energy we can and to continue to improve its use in every way possible.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ottawa-Vanier climate consultation was a setup

Note: I posted this on the Ecology Ottawa site yesterday and today it has been removed after just a few hours.  I tried to re-post it but they seem to have blocked me. This time I edited a few remarks they may have considered inflammatory and wrote a preamble asking them to treat this as a reasoned, thoughtful argument and let readers make up their own minds by allowing them to read it.  We'll see if they allow it.

The Federal Government wants to hear ideas from everyday Canadians about climate change. In many communities in Canada there are consultations going on that are supposed to enable us members of the public to have a voice in policy making.  I attended one of these in Vanier (Ottawa) in July 2016 and can tell you the entire event appeared to attract mostly people with a certain view, funnel them into discussion on topics that were pre-selected, have group notes taken by people whose minds are made up and have full-group statements made only by those same note takers with no opportunity given for individuals to address the full audience or speak up to the municipal politicians in attendance.

The event was hosted by Ecology Ottawa, whose website report on the event can be read here.  On the way into the event the reception table had literature about stopping energy pipelines such as the proposed Energy East, which would allow the product of Alberta and Saskatchewan to be shipped to refineries in eastern Canada with less wasted energy and much more safely than by using trucks and rail. This immediately made it obvious the town hall was not to be a full and reasoned discussion but a directed lobbying effort with foregone conclusions.

At the start of the session there was no initial presentation of facts upon which the discussion was supposed to be based. Rather, there were pre-written questions written on cards that were placed on tables - questions that presume to summarize a vast scientific data set that in fact remains under great debate and dispute, never mind the extrapolated implications that can be dis-proven with a little knowledge of economics. It was perfectly clear to me that the presumptions of the evening included the idea chain known as dangerous anthropogenic global warming (DAGW), namely that:

  1. the planetary mean temperature is rising
  2. this rise is outside the historical range
  3. the rise is caused by atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2)
  4. human activities are causing the rise of CO2
  5. the rise of CO2 and temperature represent a significant danger to human life
  6. human industrial society cannot easily adapt to the temperature change
  7. drastic measures to reduce then eliminate the use of energy sources that produce CO2 are warranted
  8. governments are morally correct to initiate force against energy producers and consumers (everyone) to coerce them into taking these drastic measures.
In a chain of reasoning if one link is erroneous then the conclusion cannot be supported. When I first began to study these issues in the early 2000s I accepted some of these assumptions as true but I quickly learned there was a great deal of contradictory evidence and that much of the information supporting DAGW was exaggerated, misleading or even falsified. I found that except for item 4 in the chain above, everything else in the list was either patently wrong or at least there was serious concern about its validity and/or significance.  Eventually I realized that the whole concept of DAGW was so fundamentally flawed that it could be safely rejected as irrational but that it would likely take humanity many years to purge the errors from the realm of public discussion. As the weight of scientific evidence de-bunking DAGW continues to grow, its advocates are doubling down on their rhetoric and lobbying effort to gain political power before the scheme is exposed as delusional.

Now back to the town hall event. As I said, the discussion questions were pre-selected and presumed all of the eight statements above are true. Participants were asked to discuss topics such as innovation to reduce CO2 production, ways to reduce CO2 production in daily life and the like. I chose to sit at a table where innovation was the main topic.  Realizing the group leader (an Ecology Ottawa representative) and the group itself would likely stop listening and become hostile to further ideas if I voiced my direct opposition to their DAGW assumptions, I chose to actively listen and to try and inject an element of rationality into the discussion. For example, when others advocated for massive use of government force against citizens in the areas of housing and transportation I suggested that all proposed measures should be tested against a vital standard - the harm they might do to our most vulnerable citizens if the measures were enforced, absent such distorting side-measures such as subsidies and wealth confiscation and redistribution, which mask the true and intended policy effects. If a policy makes energy more expensive and thus makes life harder for citizens, the damage to their lives must be considered, not to mention the more important moral propriety of causing them harm in the first place. Taking one person's wealth and giving it to the damaged person does not solve the problem, it only expands the scope of damage.

I tried to get our group talking about energy innovation and to show that while fossil fuel energy is currently the best source of dense, abundant, safe, cheap and portable energy, that it was not likely to remain so as nuclear fission energy could be unshackled and replace much fossil fuel energy with far less CO2 production, never mind the exciting potential of nuclear fusion in the near future that has unlimited potential to produce safe, distributed, cheap and abundant energy to all of humanity, improving human life by an enormous measure without CO2 emissions. To my dismay but not my surprise, one group member spoke strongly against fusion energy by saying that abundant cheap energy would release heat and cause the planet to warm dangerously.  He apparently has no idea that the amount of heat itself is not a dangerous issue and that the Earth's climate system has a number of auto-regulatory mechanisms that prevent large changes in temperature, absent external changes in energy from the Sun. The fact that he saw what could be the greatest source of energy ever discovered, that could advance the quality of human life beyond measure and lift entire civilizations out of poverty, starvation and disease if allowed to progress as to be avoided at all costs was a scary testament to the philosophy of those who believe in DAGW. Maybe he thinks solar panels and windmills do not produce heat as a by product or that society should stop progressing or even regress to pre-industrial times.

At another point I tried to help the group see that cooperation (persuasion by means of reason, a part of the political-economic system known as capitalism) was the proper and moral path to energy policy and that coercion (use of force to override the free will of individuals) was to be avoided as improper for a free, human, reasoning society. While there were a couple of faces that appeared sympathetic to the idea, I sensed a lack of understanding of what political force really means and a young man beside me stated clearly that while persuasion and cooperation are good, that at a certain point force must be used.  In this context I did not dare to point out to him and the group that his was the political ideology of Lenin, Mao, Stalin, Pot, Chavez, Castro and many others whose policies led to the death and suffering of hundreds of millions of human beings. I did not point out that his idea was contrary to the discovery of political freedom in the enlightenment, the advance of humanity in the consequent industrial revolution and the founding principles of the country he lives in. Such statements would have certainly provoked strong emotions and blocked any modest, reasonable ideas I was trying to get on the table.

I must give credit to our group leader dutifully and quite fairly recorded comments and did not override the discussion. During the summary session he actually mentioned my idea of having a "harm test" for every policy initiative. However, the entire event was structured so that no participant had any opportunity to speak to the whole group since only Ecology Ottawa group leaders were given the floor, and they generally spoke from the very same perspective, having likely had only participants from that same perspective.  I think most people like me, who have opposing views based on considered research and reasoning, would not consider attending an event positioned like this as they would see it as a waste of time and they would not be listened to.  That was my expectation yet I chose to use the event as an opportunity to look inside the minds of those who have opinions different from my own, to see if I could learn more about them, how they came to hold these ideas, how well reasoned they are and if they are open to discussion. 

I am sad to say my impression is that they are not at all open on this subject. When have you heard of a public debate on the science of climate change? When has such an event been held by your political representatives to help them understand the related issues? Why do people like Al Gore steadfastly refuse to engage in a public debate? Why are people with differing opinions being prosecuted for holding these ideas? Why does David Suzuki advocate for jailing people who produce life-promoting fossil fuel energy and those who advocate for its continued use? Why do so many people ignore the basic science done by hundreds of researchers all over the world that contradicts and even disproves all aspects of the DAGW hypothesis chain of ideas and instead continue to advocate for massive political force against innocent citizens?  These questions and many more will need to be answered and understood if humanity and our life-promoting industrial civilization is to survive long into the future. Such crucial topics will very likely not be discussed at climate change town halls across Canada.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Comments on "Our car runs on the sun"

The June-July 2016 Image article “Our car runs on the sun” not only contained a number of explicit and implicit fallacies, but more importantly it omits the economic and moral aspect of government solar panel and electric car subsidies. Let me explain.

First, the economic side of the issue.  Having personally installed, maintained and used solar panels at my off-grid cottage for more than 20 years, I am very familiar with the technology. It galls me when people speak glowingly of their solar panel installations and completely miss the deliberate negative consequences when government interferes in the market for energy. Basic economics indicates we have abundant, safe, dense and portable fossil fuel supplies to last us centuries, long before which we will certainly have found even better energy sources, with nuclear fusion a most likely candidate I think (and hope). While photovoltaic panels are coming down in price and getting better, they are nowhere near viable as sources of reliable industrial scale energy, costing several times as much as existing energy sources and suffering from being intermittent, unreliable and low in power density.

To build solar panels requires intensive mining for rare earth minerals, often done in third world countries that are less wealthy and so do not take such great care in the handling of toxic by-products and in site restoration. To build electric cars and their huge batteries again requires large amounts of mining for minerals, not to mention all the other industries required to build the car. Then there is the fact that every panel connected to the grid decreases grid reliability and efficiency since, in contrast to existing sources, solar panels spit out power in an unpredictable fashion, forcing reliable power plants to ramp their use of coal, gas, nuclear and hydro up and down to balance the grid second to second. Thus, reliable industrial power sources are made less efficient because of the constant adjusting for solar power. For every kilowatt of solar panel connected, the grid requires 100% backup by a reliable energy source for the majority of the time when the sun doesn’t shine, thus making the whole system more expensive for everyone, harming most those who can least afford deliberately jacked-up prices. When the people harmed most complain, government gives them subsidies too, so they are first being punished and then rewarded for the same thing, both actions being outside the proper role of government.

Now to the moral problem. If solar panels and electric cars were in reality such wonderful products, people would flock to buy them and create a large and viable market for them. Exactly the opposite has happened. Unless government uses money forcibly taken from taxpayers to heavily subsidize panels and cars, almost no one buys them of their own free will and based on their rational judgement. The writer of the article is being paid about ten times the price at which energy can be produced, absent government interference. In truth, he is being paid on the backs of the people who cannot afford to put $20,000 panels on their roof and buy $40,000 cars. This is pure “weathfare” - the more wealthy being subsidized on the backs of the less wealthy, and is immoral since it is a case of government violating the rights of some citizens to benefit others. Ontario’s Auditor General has highlighted how Ontarians have paid tens of billions more for power in recent years than they would have if not for government interference. This has caused great harm to all Ontarians and is blatantly anti-freedom.

While it is tempting to read the simple story of one family and think it is a nice, encouraging story of how to make Ontario better, while it is actually a cautionary tale of the economic destruction, rights violations, inadvertent consequences and immoral outcomes that have to occur when government force interferes in the free decisions of citizens.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Financial illiteracy in the press and in society as a whole

While Ottawa east opinion writer Brynna Leslie belittles the importance of financial literacy, she exemplifies it in her opinion piece. It is clear she has not sought any professional advice, nor did the CBC Radio economics reporter she refers to. If they had, they might have learned some of the following basic financial principles.

She likely would have learned that you don't "make some good money in interest." Interest is a payment in return for borrowing your money and interest is normally a part of what is left over after the borrower has made a profit using your money. The source of wealth creation is ownership of the means of production, meaning businesses, companies, shares, stocks or whatever name you prefer to give them. With financial literacy she certainly would not have labeled the source of all wealth as "junk."

She could have learned how important it is to match the time horizon of an investment with a suitable investment type. Earning interest through a bank is suitable for short term goals because there is little fluctuation, but is spectacularly unsuitable for longer term goals because of the inherently lower returns of fixed income investments, especially one inflation is subtracted.

She could have discussed how growth investments fluctuate, but with diversification and prudence the probability of a negative outcome decreases exponentially with time. An advisor would have shown her how important it is to have patience and to understand the fluctuating nature of investment markets and coached her to avoid making mistakes of timing and selection.

With advice, she would have understood the difference between saving and investing, earning interest versus earning profits, and thus embraced the crucial incentive to save and invest - the pursuit of wealth accumulation and creation through rational self-interest.

If she was financially literate or rational enough to seek help from a financial advisor, the economics reporter Leslie refers to would have never dared advise her own daughter to "blow her pocket money on Cheezies" instead of learning about investing and personal financial independence, then reported it to the world.

The state of financial education in our schools is nothing less than a travesty and a moral outrage - testimony to the awful result of government monopolies.  Ask yourself the same question I do when I start a conversation about finance with someone I know little about: "in your primary, secondary, college and university education, how many minutes of instruction were dedicated to the understanding of critical, real-world personal financial principles?"  The usual answer is... zero.

What percentage of high school graduates are not only expected, but required by law to file annual income tax returns once they have their first job, which is usually before graduating from high school?  100%.  What percentage of these graduates is even remotely familiar with the structure and principles behind income tax? The answer is scary - for all of society.

Brynna Leslie's column is testament to the failure of our education system to prepare students for reality and the failure of our society to value financial education. Until such time as the subject is embraced (and even more so if it ever is), financial advisors provide an essential service to their clients and create enormous value in society.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Morality and fossil fuel energy production vs. global warming alarmism

A letter to the editor prompted me to write directly on the subject of the morality of fossil fuels and global warming. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Let's address the question of morality head on. My standard of morality is human life. That which improves human life is the good, that which opposes human life is the bad.

The industrial revolution, powered by the energy ingeniously discovered and then released by humans from dense, inexpensive, portable and abundant fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas, has led to the most magnificent advance in human life in all history. Our food supply has been multiplied many times over due to fossil fuel powered machinery, irrigation, fertilizers and transportation; our housing quality has improved many times over by fossil fuel powered machines for lumber production, the creation of cement, the mining for minerals and smelting of steel; our education has improved immeasurably by machines that enable the production of paper, presses for printing books, the transportation of knowledge, the creation of schools, and lately the storage and sharing of knowledge in electronic form; our health and longevity is fantastically better due to fossil fuel powered machines that have purified our water, transported it to our homes and taken sewage away for treatment, the improvement of our supply of nutritious foods transported quickly and safely from afar, the hospitals, machines and pharmaceutical discovered due to fossil fuel powered civilization.

In short, there is no area of human life that has not improved vastly due to our use of fossil fuels. What about the dangers we face from the climate? Has our climate become more dangerous in the last one and two centuries? Has there been global warming caused by man's activities that has led to death and suffering? I dare you to look around and conclude that the climate is more dangerous with the use of fossil fuel energy than without. Until the advent of fossil fuel powered civilization the climate was an ever-present danger, with millions suffering from malnutrion, drought, floods and storms every day. In fact, climate related deaths are down 98% in the last eighty years, meaning humans are 50 times less likely to die from extreme weather events like storms, floods and drought - and this during the same period when most of the fossil fuel energy (and CO2 production) has been produced. The alarmists speak as if the small possibility of a degree or two of warming will leave humanity unable to adapt and lead to wholesale death and suffering, when the overwhelming evidence is that we could easily adapt to such change and would most likely benefit tremendously from it, as long as we are left free to produce energy to power our industrial civilization using the abundant, inexpensive, dense, safe and portable power of fossil fuels.

Being moral means placing human life at the top of your priority list and judging based on all factors, positive and negative, not ignoring the positive and only looking at speculative negatives. The global warming alarmists are indeed profoundly immoral to the degree they fail to fully recognize the immense good that fossil fuel energy brings to humanity and the fact that with this energy we can easily adapt to the small changes we know are happening and even larger ones that are the subject of much speculation. The travesty consists of failing to acknowledge the great human/moral good created by man-made energy processes that produce carbon dioxide, never mind the fact that carbon dioxide is the food of life itself. A side benefit of industrialization is that it is re-energizing plant life on Earth that grows faster with a higher level of life-giving CO2 in the atmosphere.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Capitalism and the moral high ground

When I saw the meme below I re-posted it on Facebook and attracted more than one active commenter.  The exchange below was quite detailed and I thought was worth assembling here. In it, I am able to address a number of important issues and questions brought forward by the commenter, which I have shown in blue.  

Comment: Are you complaining about wealth distribution? We're playing monopoly while 50% of the world is playing feed my family - living on $2.50 per day. Hunger is the leading cause of death worldwide. 1% of world population owns 50% of global wealth.
My reply: I am not complaining about wealth distribution so long as it is within a free society where rights are objectively defined and protected by government. In such an economy, the poorest people are far better off than in a country where rights are violated, productivity is punished instead of rewarded and cronyism is de rigueur.

I do complain about the lack of rights, freedom and protection that persists in large parts of the world, despite the example set by the West over the last couple of centuries, clearly showing the path to prosperity and long life. I also complain about the path the West is on, headed back to various forms of collectivism and away from the freedoms they earlier enshrined in their societies. I complain about the tremendous loss of lives and progress due to the lack of freedom and rights and encourage people to rediscover the true meaning of freedom and its political-economic corollary, laissez-faire capitalism.

For all of human history hunger, disease, climate and murderous governments and groups prevented humanity from learning, experimenting, discovering and progressing. Until the renaissance, enlightenment and the founding of a country on the principle of individual rights, no country in history was even close to having a system proper for the life of man - the rational being. Hunger is a problem quickly solved in countries that embrace rights and freedom.

In just over two short centuries, men in mostly free countries advanced so fast they virtually eliminated the problems of food supply, shelter, clothing, protection from the climate and predators, education and physical violence, among others. Those who remain stuck in pre-capitalist societies are poor and hungry because of their desperate lack of capitalism and not because of the wealth produced under more free economies. If we owe anything to them, it is to share the message of how to create wealth through productive activity, the protection of rights and trade with others.

Comment: Where to begin? It seems you are not aware that laissez-fair capitalism - trickle down economics - has been proven to be a broken model. While capitalism is the uncontested winner overall, left to it's own (unrestricted) mechanisms, wealth is not distributed in a way that helps the world most.

Laissez-faire capitalism leads to the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer. The Monopoly analogy is equivalent to saying: OK, all the properties have already been purchased, but jump into the game and try to get ahead on $200 of income. (80% of the worlds lives on just USD $10 per day - so $200 is not far off).

In terms of freedoms, I am not sure why you are so opposed to taxation. Is it abuse your fear? I think you believe in insurance, so why not just consider taxation your insurance contribution... health insurance (for all), education insurance (for youth), security insurance (army, police, courts - for all).

I want to live in a society that works collectively to manage collective issues - like health, education and security. I also want to live in a society that values progressive contributions. From each according to their capacity, to each according to their need. This can get distorted, but the principle is one I do believe in.

The dollars lost on individual abusers does not compare to the dollars lost on corporate abusers. We think Apple, Google and others are wise for juggling their finances in such a way as to take advantage of international tax opportunities. But this is faulty and we need a global taxation system to respond. Corporations should be taxed on revenues earned in a country, according to the tax policies of that country. Becoming an Irish-based corporation should not free a company from their tax liability in Canada, US or elsewhere.

Part of my personal experience of freedom comes from living in a system that restricts capitalism, has a progressive tax system and supports those in need. If I pass by a homeless person, for example, I am free not to care too much, as there are supports for that individual. That's is a wonderful freedom. I am delighted to have health care, free education and police. Aren't you?

The US is probably the closest country to model your version of laissez-faire capitalism, but look where that is getting them. The class divide is growing and inequality is at record highs. Their health care and education scores are at the bottom of "rich" countries. The middle class has been shrinking for 40 years. By 2040, it is estimated that 50% of the population will only make minimum wage.

But somehow, I feel like maybe you are ok with that. I think you feel that laissez-faire capitalism provides everyone with equal opportunity. If governments would just get out of the way, capitalism will lead all to a happier, healthier life. Right? Competition and the markets will regulate themselves.

I certainly agree that capitalism is good. And there is no doubt that it has lead to the prosperity that the modern, developed world enjoys. Greed works. It motivates wonderfully.

However, the 2008 financial collapse, resource oligopolies and the shrinking middle class are all examples of why greed needs to be mitigated and restricted. Similarly, aging seniors, kids with special needs and refugees are all examples of why a social welfare element to capitalism is necessary and positive.

We Canadians tend to believe in an economic approach that is kinder and gentler than laissez-faire capitalism. This is true of most of Europe. And, it is working. Most every report suggests that cities in these parts of the world are amongst the best places to live. US cities generally don't make the cut. Countries with capitalist economies and a high measure of social-minded programs/taxation tend to score highest on health, education, and quality of life. For me, that counts.
My reply: I think we have to go back to basics here to make sure we are talking about the same thing.

When I say capitalism I mean the social system where the right of individuals to life, liberty, property and the peaceful pursuit of their own happiness is recognized as the fundamental basis for society. The recognition of rights means that physical force and fraud must be banished from society since it is the only way rights can be violated. Thus, there is an absolute need for a government for the purpose of protecting those rights and its sole responsibility it to intervene when rights are physically violated or threatened and to arbitrate when there are non-violent disputes among individuals. Any other actions require the violation of rights and are thus immoral. Under capitalism all economic activity is done through productive action and voluntary exchange of values. If one man wishes to trade his production with another man, he is free to do so and no one has the right to stop him or to interfere in the exchange. Capitalism is the system of individual rights and freedom.

While there has never been a truly capitalist country, the US did come closest in the 19th century and the result was the greatest improvement in the human standard of living in all of history as the potential of the human mind was released from the various forms of collectivism that had enslaved and suppressed it for many centuries. From a world where poverty, starvation and disease were almost universal there arose such wealth that a poor person in a partially free country today has easy access to a standard of living un-dreamed of by kings before the coming of the freedom-fueled industrial revolution.

Capitalism is the ultimate system of voluntary cooperation since it empowers everyone to pursue any goal they wish, so long as they recognize the right of others to do the same. Capitalism is the most kind, gentle and benign form of government discovered. Under partial capitalism, lifespan, health, education, safety and all other measures of quality of life advanced more than in all previous centuries combined. These advances were not because people were ordered to do this and forced at gunpoint if they refused, but by free men of good will working together for mutual gain. A free market enables everyone to experiment withe different ideas and to compete with all other ideas to discover which ones work best and are preferred by their fellow men with whom they trade values.

Being in favour of capitalism means I am against all forms of tyranny, slavery, oppression and other versions of the violation of individual rights. It means I advocate for a society where not only is your right to your own life protected from force applied by other individuals, it is specifically protected from the force of government, thus the need for a constitution that defines and delineates the proper function of government. Force does not become moral when two people decide to use it against a neighboring individual, when ten people get together in a gang, or when a population votes to initiate force, no matter how many people vote. Using the agency charged with protecting individual rights in order to violate those rights is a contradiction that wipes out the very essence of the concept of proper government. Once government is used to start violating rights, there is a natural progression of increasing violations, as is the case in western civilization today.

Capitalism, lacking a proper moral defense at its inception, has been in decline since the day it was first tried. Thus, we have the spectacle of the financial crisis being caused by decades of forcible government interventions culminating in a massive destruction of wealth, yet being blamed on too much freedom, in a sector more heavily regulated than any other - the financial sector. People have lost understanding and connection with the definition of rights, the meaning of freedom and the basic principles of economics. Government creates a monopoly on the money supply, manufactures inflation then blames freedom for the destructive consequences. Government enforces thousands of rules on banks, creates a monopoly on risk rating agencies and then blames freedom for the ridiculous risk ratings that were produced. Government forces banks to lend to people who are a poor credit risk and should not be borrowing, then blames freedom for the harm done to these people. Government inverts the yield curve, encouraging enormous short term borrowing in risky assets that inflates house prices and then blames freedom when havoc results.

I have personally spoken to and read a book by the former head of the BB&T Bank in the US. His bank remained profitable through the crisis because it focused on win-win lending, where a responsible lender contracts with a responsible borrower for mutual benefit. Though he did not want it, government rammed money down the throats of all the banks so that the public could not see which ones were weak and which were strong, hiding the damage government had done to the financial sector for decades, protecting their cronies and harming the more honest banks. Under capitalism the foolish banks would be out of business long ago and the most productive ones, as determined by the preferences of their customers, the public, would thrive. Government regulations encouraged deceit, recklessness and even criminal activity and when it went to hell the government bailed them out to hide their mistakes, thus doubling down once more on their ideology of forcible intervention in the economy.

Under capitalism there is no such thing as a government subsidy for business, nor for individuals; no such thing as cronyism since government has no power to hand out favours; no such thing as lobbyists since there is nothing to gain in a system where all rights are protected and government cannot use force against innocent citizens; no such thing as patronage since government has no goodies to give away; no such thing as dog-eat-dog since no one has the right to destroy anyone else's effort except through open and honest competition for customers.

This, and much more is what I mean when I say capitalism.
Comment: Where in this "social system" you describe is there a place for collective good? The capitalism you describe is fueled by personal fulfillment - and that's why it's so damn good. But we are social creatures - not just goods and services machines geared to exchange at optimal profitability.

We care about others in our societies. We help each other and support each other - often at a loss of time and energy, with no financial gain.

Many have said that business is about people. Where is this in your purist model?

Where is there room for those who care more about the collective good than personal financial advancement? By definition, society involves some measure of giving to the collective for the sake of personal satisfaction gained. It's a give and take.

We come together for security, community, commerce and capacity. We form states for personal gain (yeah capitalism) but this inherently involved sacrifice. In short, we must share - give back. I like to think that as Canadians, this is something we take pride in. Government is not forced tyranny. Taxation is neither slavery nor theft. We take much of our way of life from the bounty that Canadian society provides - safety, infrastructure, resources, amenities, health care, education, arts, etc. We give back (yes, painfully through robust taxes) in accordance with our capacity (more or less). It's all good.
My reply: That's an important question. To answer, we have to begin with a look at the basis of a social system. A society is not a system that stands by itself, but rather is a number of individuals living in an area, organizing themselves with a set of principles to guide their actions. For an individual, the guiding principle, if he is to survive, must first be to establish his own life and happiness as his standard of value and take all the actions needed to preserve and promote his life. An individual quickly recognizes that living in a society instead of on his own is a tremendous value, since it allows for a division of labour and exchange of values for mutual benefit.
For an individual to live his life he must be free to act on his reasoning, even if it turns out to harm himself, and in return he must be willing to recognize that everyone else in society has the same rights. In order for a society to protect the rights of all, a government is necessary, to which the retaliatory use of force is delegated (police, courts, prisons, military) and which serves as an objective arbiter of civil disputes (civil law and courts).

Business is absolutely about people - people who produce values trying to do so in a way that maximizes the value for their customers while creating value for themselves in exchange. An economic exchange only occurs when both parties agree that each will be better off after the exchange than before, thus a win-win is the normal expectation for all trade.

In a free society where rights are protected, every individual is free to create as much value for others as he is capable of doing. If he chooses to exchange his production at a low price and makes little profit, he will have little to use in the production of future value. If he produces at a loss, he will gradually destroy the value he has and also his ability to create future values. If he produces at a large profit he will have a lot of value with which to save and invest, thus increasing his ability to produce values in the future. It is this latter which is the path to a society of growing wealth, meaning more health, more choice, more education, more medical care, more literature, more travel, more charity and whatever else individual may choose as their values. In this sense, society advances only if the values created are greater than those consumed.

In a free society an individual is free to give away as much of what he has produced as he wishes, and there is no moral foundation for forcing him to give away more (or less) than he chooses. In practice, people of high productive ability living in freedom are very benevolent and usually use a part of their accumulated wealth to endow causes they are passionate about, from education to research, from the arts to entrepreneurship. It is only when people have their rights fully protected and are able to truly make choices that they full benevolence is enabled, otherwise they are acting under coercion and properly resent those doing the coercing.

In a rights-respecting society there is no need for sacrifice, which means the surrender of a high value for a lower value, or for no value. Just as it is not moral for me to sacrifice you for my wishes, so it is immoral for you to require me to sacrifice myself for your wishes. A proper society is not one of sacrifices at all, but one of voluntary cooperation.

Regarding giving back, in a society that protects rights people recognize that there is nothing to give back since nothing has been taken. Since free trade is a win-win exchange where both benefit, a man who accumulated wealth by creating value for a large number of fellow citizens has not left them worse off, but better than they would be without him. He may choose to give money away, but in no sense it there any moral obligation for him to "give back". Such a term may properly be applied only when a violation of rights has occurred, such as when a character like Robin Hood takes money from tax collectors and gives it back to those from whom it was taken under threat of violence.

Government in itself it not tyranny and taxation itself is not theft, but rather their methods may make them tyranny or theft. A government that violates the rights of the very citizens it is morally obliged to protect, when it goes far enough, is properly labeled a tyranny. Taxation that is exacted through the threat of seizure and imprisonment (force) is theft, whereas taxation through voluntary contribution to a government in exchange for access to civil court protections is fully moral. Rational people know that there are a few roles that only an objective government can perform, and would be willing contributors if their rights were otherwise protected. Consider this as similar to the military: only a military comprised of volunteers, not conscripts, is morally based. If a government believes that a particular military action is necessary to protect the nation yet it cannot raise enough volunteers, then clearly the citizens do not support the action. This same principle of non-coercion may be applied across the board to governmental actions.

Thus, we do not TAKE our way of life from Canada because Canada is nothing but a group of individuals acting together for mutual benefit, just like a corporation, a cooperative or another form of organizing large numbers efficiently. It is not possible for the people of a nation to take more than they produce, so the fundamental here is production, not consumption. A rights-protecting society in essence says "take as much as you want, and pay for it." It is the latter part that many people ignore or even wish to destroy - the part that requires that you PAY for your own way in life, and instead want to use government force to make others pay for their wishes and whims. This ideology leads to a society of mutual aggression and eventually the destruction of society - a la China, USSR, Vietnam, Germany, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, etc. Its dominant themes are aggression, force, compulsion, sacrifice, distrust, protectionism, regression, mean-spiritedness, pessimism, posturing, manipulation, cronyism, pain and fear. A society based on the protection of rights, meaning capitalism, is one of cooperation, benevolence, progress, happiness, freedom, confidence, respect, security and optimism. This is the type of society for which I advocate.

As a footnote, when did you adopt Marxism (from each...)? I recall a social studies course or two in CEGEP as being loaded with Marxist/collectivism/altruistic philosophy.

Friday, February 26, 2016

I have my very own global warming attacker

I chipped in a few comments on a blog about global warming and ended up being the target of my very own blog post.  I am copying my initial response to the post below in case it is taken offline. 


I'm flattered you think my arguments make me worth attacking. When hyperbole reaches this stage I can tell someone is feeling afraid. 

At this stage I believe if an uninformed but open-minded person reads enough of the threads I have contributed to they will likely go on to seek more information from the broad literature available and not simply accept the global warming dogma, thus my goal will have been partially accomplished. I did not set out to debate this area of science point-by-point, but rather tryied to indicate there is a lot of misinformation out there, much more to be learned in this domain, and not to accept demands for sweeping politico-economic change without challenging the numerous linked premises, assumptions and extrapolations of the global warming crowd. I realize there are closed minds that cannot be reached through an appeal to reason and they are not my target audience - the ones who are open to reason but have not really examined the question are the ones I speak to. That, and the fact it is important not to let wild claims about disasters that involve incredible violations of human rights stand unchallenged. 

My larger goal is to see a better future for humanity, one where the best energy sources available at the time are not restricted by force and intimidation but allowed to compete on a free market against all other energy sources for their ability to help humans improve their environment by altering nature. If we let free people choose which types of energy they wish to use they will overwhelmingly tend to choose those that in their judgement are best for their lives and those of their children. If solar or wind becomes economically viable for large scale energy one day, the free market is the best place for it to be discovered and flourish. In a free society there are no subsidies for any businesses, whether oil or solar, since the state has no proper role intervening in the economy.

In contrast, when governments run around banning this, blocking that, taxing this and subsidizing that, humanity is worse off because valuable information is distorted and destroyed and useful economic activity and tests are prevented. The principles of freedom, individual rights and limited government are what brought humanity out of pre-enlightenment, pre-industrial times and have improved human life more than in all of history combined. I write to delay and prevent those people whose stated and implicit goals and philosophy stand opposed to rights and freedom from taking total control of the culture and returning us to pre-industrial times.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Democratic socialism is simply socialism via voting instead of revolution

Me, commenting on a Facebook post by Democratic Socialist, attempting to define socialism as benign and beneficial:

This fellow declares that people trading through voluntary cooperation and for mutual benefit (the free market) is not the right form of economic exchange, that some other form of economy is better.

He declares that socialism implemented through revolution (communism) is extreme, but that socialism imposed through voting is okay. Note that he does not examine the moral correctness of the end except through through the means. By that standard, slavery by military conflict is not okay, but slavery through the ballot box is just hunky dory.

He says the foundations of society must be provided through government force, ignoring that the very foundations he identifies did not simply pop into existence but were produced by the free minds he proposes to enslave.

He states he does not want to do away with free markets while he is bust advocating for an end to freedom. The system he is describing, where the pretense of freedom is maintained while the state dictates a million rules, is the form of collectivism known as fascism. In this he, clearly does not know how such democratic socialists as Hitler, Chavez and others came to power and what was the end result for citizens.

He asserts that people engaged in voluntary trade for mutual benefit are not working for the good of their community. He implies that working to further their own lives is not good for the community. What is? Sacrificing their lives for anyone except themselves and those they love.

He asserts that such services as firefighters, parks, medical care and the military would not exists without socialism, as if citizens left alone are not those who conceived of all these and would never think to value them and find ways to maintain them if left free to choose.

He thinks education is good and free if provided through the force of government but not good if people are allowed to choose and earn an education for their children; that it is somehow better if others are forced to pay for your children's education and if you are forced to pay for your own children's education through a state monopoly instead of having the freedom of choice.

In short, he is in favor of nothing less that a total dictatorship of the majority, which is simply pure democracy. This is not what the founding fathers envisioned. They saw a country of free individuals, with a constitution protecting them from exactly the kind of statist government he espouses, with police and objective laws protecting them from criminals and a military protecting them from aggressive countries. The country has lost the knowledge of the enlightenment-based founding fathers and has been in social decline almost from the start, as various forms of collectivism have eaten away at the principle of freedom from the state on which the country was founded. Very sad.

Commenter: Government programs come into existence when there is a lack or hole created by private endeavors or when privatization would be unethical, such as with law enforcement. In other words, every social program we have today came into existence because the free market was failing in that area.
My reply: Disagree. Aside from law enforcement, all other activities are better, more economically, and, most important of all, justly provided by free people acting without coercion. Socialization of services is most often justified on the basis of some people's wishes to get a better service without having to pay for it.

For example, so-called public transit is fantastically expensive and only survives on massive payments taken from some taxpayers and given to other taxpayers. No wealth is created in the process, only removed forcibly and given away, while extracting a high cost of operation to do so. A free market sees all the transportation options enough people want and can pay for springing forward as rational, profit-seeking entrepreneurs try to fill market demand.

If an activity is not profitable, that is to say it cannot be exchanged between a producer and consumer who both think it will improve their life and matches with their priorities, then it does not happen. Someone may look at the resulting situation and wish for a low priced bus to appear on the street, but wishes are not reality and coercing people's activities to accomplish the wishers' ends is not moral.

Further, once free choice is removed from the equation, then ever more coercion is required to maintain the illusion. Thus, in transit we have the creation of government monopoly, the prevention of competition, the political cronyism of contracts, the featherbedding by unions, the favoritism of routes, the lobbying for preferred price categories, the posturing for control of the system, the abrogation of negotiating rights through the declaration of essential services and it goes on and on, around and around. Never is the basic premise challenged, the premise that it is right for government to coerce citizens instead of protecting them from coercion.

Just because someone claims to need something cannot create a moral obligation on anyone else to produce it for them. For most of history, humanity needed to discover reason and the principles of a rational society but did not do so. Men needed food, clothes, shelter, health and security and no one gave it to them. They had to first discover the principles that make such a society possible an then tear their freedom from collectivists at a great price. Then they had to institute a society based on those principles and try to protect them. A great failure they made was to omit the moral case for freedom, recognize that human freedom and economic freedom are inseparable, and to separate government from economic actions. This is why the US has been in moral and political decline since its founding. Only a rediscovery of founding principles can save the country.

How to end political cronyism?

A recent Facebook exchange I had that started with a posting about the US Democratic Party and candidate Bernie Sanders holding opposing positions about a campaign finance law.

Politics has been corrupting money for too long. A separation of state and economy is way overdue.

The Constitution of the US specifically grants Congress the right and responsibility to regulate commerce, so a complete separation would go against the Constitutional intention.

What did the founders mean when they included this? Did the same men who so valiantly cherished individual freedom and fought to establish a country based on individual rights intend that the state would control and restrict citizens' productive activity in pursuit of their own happiness? Did they intend to deny citizens the very freedoms the declaration of independence so proudly identified? Or was their intent to empower the federal government to act to ensure interstate commerce was not restricted and citizens of the country were allowed to trade freely? Did they mean regulate in the sense of modern regulators, who seek only the political power to control and restrict others, or did they mean it in the older sense of ensuring a free flow of trade and removal of obstacles from the path of citizens pursuing happiness through productive activity? Which position is consistent with all we know of the founder's explicit and implicit philosophy?

Think of the process of evolution of cronyism. First, government makes a rule that favors some citizens at the expense of others who have violated no rights of others and are thus by definition innocent. The rule may have been prompted by lobbying or not, but it is clearly improper in a free society for government to violate rights when its sole purpose should be their protection.

Now that such a rule exists, it pays for people to lobby either to become part of the favored group or to change the law to instead favor them. If corruption has not already been introduced into the equation, it certainly is now. And so various groups band together to lobby for their interests, specifically for the privilege of being the group to whom the interest of others are sacrificed, the privilege of benefiting from the pain of others. Groups raise money, fund campaigns, try to shape public opinion, advertise and in many other ways increase the corruption. Before long, lobbying is an essential requirement to protect your business from lawmakers who can be swayed by competitors or those who simply want to stop you from producing, the nihilists.

Ask yourself if it is the money, the agreed upon medium of exchange of produced values, that is the essential here? If a man is phenomenally successful at creating things greatly valued by fellow citizens, who exchanges such values in a trade of mutual benefit and has not spent the produced wealth, but rather reinvested to produce ever greater value for fellow citizens, if such a man is wealthy, is the money he may spend corrupt? This money is a result of the exercise of the highest virtues a man may exercise: reason, purpose, self-esteem, productivity being primary among them. It is not the money but the purpose that may be corrupt. If he spends it on a vacation for himself and his family, he is acting most morally. If he spends it lobbying for political favors it is corrupt.

Now how does a society fully engaged in such activity correct the problem? Do they change laws on lobbying? Do they adjust campaign finance rules? Do they punish honest and productive businessmen who are trying to protect themselves from attacks by political powers? What is the correct response to a society constructed and fueled by political pull?

I submit that the only rational, and thus the only successful method of combating cronyism is to end the possibility of there being rewards of cronyism. To do so means the government must not have any levers of political power and favoritism to pull. It means the disempowerment of the cronies and an end to the potential for their very existence. It means a populace living under a system of political freedom where government exists to protect their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and has a legal system of objective laws and courts to deal with cases where citizens believe their rights have been violated. It means there is criminal law to deal with those who initiate physical force and civil law to deal with contract disputes. It means the implementation of the political-econonomic system known as laissez-faire capitalism, the system suited for homo sapiens, for man the rational being.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Objectivity needed in climate debate

Mr. Martin's comments in the Low Down of January 27 'Straw men and climate change' do little other than repeat myths and delusions about science that are easily disproven by a reading of the literature on the subject.  

A fact is not determined by a consensus or a vote, but by objective observation of reality to identify new knowledge that integrates into all existing knowledge without contradiction. The claims of so-called climate change  alarmists are so riddled with contradictions their entire corpus is properly dismissed as arbitrary and without merit, not worthy of further consideration.  

The entire hypothetical daisy-chain that an increase in atmospheric CO2 will cause the planet to warm, that this warming represents a danger to humanity, that we cannot adapt to a change if it does occur, that it is better to sacrifice actual human lives today to avoid potential harm to future lives and that massive coercive action to violate individual rights is the proper way to address such an issue falls apart at every point.  

Warming occurs on a logarithmic path as CO2 concentration rises, meaning that almost all the warming that can be caused by CO2 has already occurred and a further doubling will have almost no effect. Satellite and weather balloon measurements, the only reliable data we have, show no significant change in average global temperature since the satellite data started in the 1980s. Claims of greater warming rely on poor quality land-based thermometers that have been mostly proven as having low resolution and as being massively tainted by urban growth.  Historical data from geological, ice core and sea sediment records show the planet has been through many warming cycles and is expected to always do so. The best long term relationship between temperature cycles and another variable shows that the Sun is the main driver of climate cycles, not CO2. There are no islands sinking fast because there is no significant change in sea level, other than the cycle which was initiated by the end of the last ice age and will continue until the next ice age. All land masses are in motion in three dimensions - moving not only laterally but up or down according to plate tectonics and the relief from stresses from massive mountains of ice that used to cover large parts of the world. Again, satellite data measures this well.  I could continue with a list of scientific impossibilities embedded in the climate scare, but I trust that a few basics are sufficient for most readers since all it takes is one inconvenient fact to demolish a hypothesis, no matter how aggressively asserted.

What about the computer models that have uniformly been proven invalid, since they can barely be tortured into modeling the past and have all failed as predictive tools?  If you make a prediction and it fails to occur, it means your hypothesis is wrong - reality tells you this clearly.

What about the morality of using climate change to attack the lives of people who should be free, denying them the right to choose, the right to keep their hard earned money and property, the right to continue to advance humanity, to create wealth and improve life for people? The climate alarmists want to dispense with such formalities as rights, freedom and property and impose a global police force to monitor your emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas of life itself, fertilizer of all plant life and thus a vital ingredient for all life on earth.  These people need to be chased back behind the iron curtain from which they emerged.