Monthly Archives: January 2013
Regular commenter Wanderer has started his own site where he will be posting all kinds of music and related information, along with who-knows-what-else. He’s got a laid back, quietly witty style, and really knows his stuff, go check it out.
The only downside is now that he’s posting over there, my comment count will probably drop by at least half.
Meant to post this a couple days ago…
It didn’t work.
Every so often, almost like clockwork, the story goes around that natural resources are running out. In 1968, Paul Erlich published The Population Bomb, in which he claimed
The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate…
I’m sure you all vividly remember the huge population drop in the 70s. Hundreds of millions of people died as predicted, and worse, thousands of pizzerias closed their doors. [The government tried to blame the deaths on mass suicides to escape disco music.]
In 1980, Julian Simon – who stated the human mind the “ultimate resource” and that there are no natural resources until humans figure out a way to use them – called Erlich out. They wagered on whether the prices of five metals would rise or fall by 1990. Simon won the bet.
Some have claimed that if the bet had been longer, or for a different time frame, Ehrlich would have won. Tim Worstall of Forbes explains why this isn’t so –
The end result of all of this is that yes, it is true that Ehrlich could have, would have, won the bet depending upon the starting date. But note that it would have been either political actions, or teething problems with new technology, that would have allowed that. None of these metals faces an actual shortage as yet. Further, note that over variable time scales Simon is still correct: it really is true that new technologies of extraction are developed and these increase supply and push prices down.
Oil is a perfect example of how human innovation transforms worthless material into valuable resources. Alex Epstein wrote –
It is almost impossible to overstate the dramatic and near-immediate positive effect of a group of scientists and businessmen discovering that “rock oil,” previously thought to be useless, could be refined to produce kerosene—the greatest, cheapest source of light known to man. In 1858, a year before the first oil well was drilled, only well-to-do families such as that of 11-year-old Henry Demarest Lloyd could afford sperm whale oil at three dollars per gallon to light their homes at night.
The “teething problems with new technology” plagued the early business of kerosene – fires and explosions were not uncommon. Standard Oil owner John D. Rockefeller innovated numerous methods of improving efficiency, such as transporting oil in tank cars instead of filling railroad cars with barrels. Chemist Samuel Andrews refined Standard Oil’s formula for purifying distilled kerosene. Costs went down, not only for Standard Oil, but for everyone else too. The price of kerosene dropped by more than half – from fifty-eight cents in 1865 to twenty-six cents in 1870.
Chris Mayer of The Daily Reckoning quotes Joseph Schumpeter and makes his prediction for 2013 –
The great economist Joseph Schumpeter’s (1883-1950) criticism of the Malthusian position still holds. On Malthus and his ilk, he wrote: “The most interesting thing to observe is the complete lack of imagination which that vision reveals. Those writers lived at the threshold of the most spectacular economic developments ever witnessed.” Yet they missed it.
So here is my prediction: I believe we are on the cusp of even greater levels of innovation and development — another industrial revolution is in progress right now.
I think he’s right. Deep Space Industries just announced their plan to send out spacecraft called “Fireflies” into space to seek out resources for exploitation (no word yet on whether River Tam will be aboard). And they aren’t the first. Last year, Planetary Resources announced a similar undertaking. Rand Simberg raised a question at Deep Space Industries recent press conference
Is there room for two such companies? At the press conference, I asked if they saw themselves as complementary to, or in pure competition with PR.
“We love Planetary Resources,” said Rick Tumlinson, chairman of the board. “One company may be a fluke, but two companies showing up, that’s the beginning of an industry.”
Don’t believe anyone who claims the future is all doom and gloom. The future may not be all sunshine and flowers, there are far too many Black Swans in the water to just assume it’s all downhill from here.
Russ Roberts of Cafe Hayek discovers the rationalization hamster of economists –
We get the economics that’s in demand, the economics that people want. It’s the reverse of the Keynes argument about the influence of defunct economists. Keynes saw economics ideas influencing policy. But maybe it is policy that influences economics. So as the world becomes more interventionist, the economists respond by finding arguments that rationalize that policy.
…In this view, economists are not truth-seekers. They are producers of ideas who respond to market demand. So when the financial crisis comes in 2008 and everyone wants something to be done about it, suddenly, Keynesianism is obviously the right intellectual choice for hundreds of academics and bloggers who hadn’t given it much thought or if they had, they had rejected it previously.
Our product, the less interventionist, liberty product, is in demand but not nearly as popular. People generally don’t want to trust unseen, spontaneous order-based solutions that rely on invisible hand processes. They don’t trust solutions without top-down control–they are not as reassuring. Most people are eager to trust a person who says they care about them than they do a process they are unlikely to fully understand.
Perhaps we could name this pet hamster “Maynard.”
From Late Night Mistakes, one of the greatest sites ever invented, ever. Flaming Moe has nothin’ on this.
Yes, two “evers.” It’s that awesome.
This Salon piece by Mary Elizabeth Williams is one of the most vile pieces of self-righteous garbage I’ve ever seen – So what if abortion ends life?
Of all the diabolically clever moves the anti-choice lobby has ever pulled, surely one of the greatest has been its consistent co-opting of the word “life.” Life! Who wants to argue with that? Who wants be on the side of … not-life? [ellipsis in original]
…Yet I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice.
She writes that pro-choicers tend to fall into illogical contradictions around “the life question” (her words). She misses the contradiction in saying a fetus is a life and then condemning anyone who would oppose destroying that life by claiming they have co-opted the concept of life that she defined herself. I suppose she resents anyone holding her to her own words. She continues about these illogical contradictions with this –
I have friends who have referred to their abortions in terms of “scraping out a bunch of cells” and then a few years later were exultant over the pregnancies that they unhesitatingly described in terms of “the baby” and “this kid.” I know women who have been relieved at their abortions and grieved over their miscarriages. Why can’t we agree that how they felt about their pregnancies was vastly different, but that it’s pretty silly to pretend that what was growing inside of them wasn’t the same? Fetuses aren’t selective like that. They don’t qualify as human life only if they’re intended to be born.
… It seems absurd to suggest that the only thing that makes us fully human is the short ride out of some lady’s vagina.
That is a key component of the pro-life argument. They question why it’s a baby when the mother intends to carry it to term, but just a clump of cells when the mother doesn’t want to keep it. Williams has firmly and unequivocally stated that a fetus in utero is a life. I’m not sure why a hardcore supporter of abortion would go to so much effort to define a fetus as a human life. So how does she get out of the corner she’s backed herself into?
Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. …a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides.
That’s it. All life is not equal. A fetus does not have the same rights as the
mother the woman in whose body the fetus is taking up space. A bit of verbal sleight-of-hand there. “Mother” sounds too emotionally charged, so make it a woman whose personal space is being encroached on.
She ends with this –
I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.
As the Anchoress astutely observes –
A point of order, please: One may certainly sacrifice one’s own life for another. That is what makes it a sacrifice. Sacrificing “another’s” life is not a sacrifice, unless that other person actually (like Jesus Christ or a soldier who has volunteered to serve, or a mother like this one) says, “yes, I will be sacrificed for the sake of others.”
Absent that permission, though, it’s not a sacrifice. It’s just an expedient, and wasteful killing.
In fact, the notion that someone else’s life is “worth sacrificing” for the furtherance of one’s own situation — the mindset that can advance that thinking — is precisely one that deserves the name “diabolical.”
The Bookworm Room follows this line of thought to its inevitable end, in a post about euthanasia –
The writer’s approach to human beings — we must sacrifice innocent lives for the greater good — has the same stark utilitarian logic found in the heartless and soulless socialist state that readily puts humans on a death pathway because they’re too expensive to care for.
All life is not equal. Per Williams, some must be sacrificed for the greater good. But whose greater good? Who decides which of us have greater rights than others?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
– The Declaration of Independence
The quote from the Anchoress includes a link to another post of hers, about Chiara and Enrico Petrillo. They had already lost two children. She became pregnant with a third, but soon developed cancer. She declined treatment because of the risk to her pregnancy. She died soon after her son was born. Her husband said [emphasis mine] –
Chiara’s husband, Enrico, said he experienced “a story of love on the cross.” Speaking to Vatican Radio, he said that they learned from their three children that there is no difference in a life that lasts 30 minutes or 100 years.
[Or: “Were The Serial Numbers Filed Off?”]
I love Kids Prefer Cheese. To wit –
Arguably the worst journalistic lede ever.
She lost a womb but gained a penis.
Unfortunately, the article is not as exciting as the lede would imply (short of spontaneous involuntary sex-change, how could it be?). An anesthesiologist is charged with sexually assaulting 20 women while they were sedated. Or, as the next line helpfully explains, “The former was being removed surgically — full hysterectomy — while the latter was forcibly shoved into her slack mouth.”
I have no idea if this story is true. There are some flags in the story, and at least one commenter on Gawker has argued that the procedure wouldn’t be carried out as described in the article.
The best part, though, is the guy’s name. George Doodnaught.
Doodnaught. If this story is actually true, you couldn’t make up a better name. Sounds like a mandroid pimpbot from some XXX Star Trek parody. A Doodnaught would fit perfectly into an “art film” involving spontaneously sex-changing aliens. Who would, of course, gleefully sleep with Captain Kock.
I have to wonder if some of them were photoshopped…
Others, I can only hope they were.