Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Core Problem with Collectivism

"Concentration of money and authority in any single entity NECESSARILY attracts those who would abuse that power for their own selfish interest."
- Ryan Roland

I say this to those who believe that centralized planning can work; that government control is not only necessary in some instances, but better and preferred in many; that the free market and decentralization just doesn't work. Beyond the fact that such management is necessarily a direct and intolerable restriction on freedom, here's my core problem with the theory.

Let us assume that Barack Obama (or someone) were to create a more centrally planned America. And even more surprisingly, let us assume that it works. That somehow, everything is balanced, everything runs, everything is regulated, everything is allocated, those that can, produce, and those that need, receive. And in this instance, despite all the real world evidence and all the logic and common sense, the collectivists' dreams are realized. Let us say that it came about through genuine compassion and thoughtful prudence and planning. These planners were genuine in their desire to better mankind and designed a system that provides for all. For a decade after their ideas were initially put into action, they gave their system careful tending, feeding and nurturing and it all went smoothly.

Now what?

Well it is my belief that things would eventually turn sour (and relatively quickly). The reason for this is that even if the creators of such a Utopian dream had the very best and genuine of intentions, eventually those who created and nurtured the system would be replaced.  They might die or retire or simply be replaced by someone else. This is where things get hairy.

The economy is a complicated system. Therefore, the system put in place to organize, plan and coordinate it would not only be large, but would necessarily be even more complicated and intricate. By creating such an almighty redistributive machine, they have created massive channels of money and it requires oversight and regulatory agencies with phenomenal powers of authority. This type of power is like honey to flies for those that seek power. And unfortunately, many of those that seek power, wish to use that power to "help" themselves and those around them. And I don't even need to go into detail to describe (since we see it happen all the time) the means by which a corrupt person placed in a position of power, can cause problems.  And as we see with most politicians, even if things start to go wrong because of their interference, they would only blame someone else.

Even innocent incompetence can wreak havoc. Central planning leads to "central" points of failure. A mis-allocation of money, an error in quota requirements, a mistake in regulatory restrictions can cause a chain reaction that negatively affects the huge swaths of the economy.

In the end, no matter how well you plan an economy, it will fail with central management because of the attraction that power would have on those who would abuse it. To me, argue all you want about central economic planning, about incentives, subsidies and credits or penalties, fees and taxes. It just doesn't make sense to restrict freedom to that degree and to create that type of temptation in order to create an economy that requires perfect planning to avoid potentially massive negative outcomes.

PS: For those that think that some combination of capitalism and socialism is the way to go, same argument applies. There will always be the debate of what should be free and what should be planned.  And in that situation, you're creating the temptation for people to come in and advocate for more and more to be controlled. Something fails in the free market: requires government oversight. Something fails in the controlled economy: requires MORE government oversight. I believe that is how we have found ourselves with the chimera of an economy we currently have.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Article Response #4


1) Sanders is a proclaimed socialist. To merely state he's an 'independent' because he isn't a Democrat or Republican is misleading. In fact, the fact that both Bunning and Sanders both wish to hold Bernanke's reappointment should be telling.
2) Why is it just assumed fact that his actions (and those of Geithner and Obama) made things better? Economics is about balance, like supply and demand. When one changes, it exerts a force on the other (and possibly over many other things). Over the course of decades, more of the US, both government and personal finances were based on debt (largely due to the artificially low interest rates of the FED). When enough of that debt manifest itself in bad investments (i.e. subprime mortgages), a chain reaction of revoking credit began. This whole "bubble" was not only allowed, but encouraged by manipulation in the market by the FED. Now that that bubble burst, as the market began to divest itself of these poor investments and bad debt, as we started the difficult climb from badly extended credit to more sound investments, what did Bernanke do? He lowered interest rates, began printing of MASSIVE amounts of money, and intentionally TRIED to make credit, borrowing, and debt to get going again. This is what led to the crisis to begin with!!! Note that since he got approval to print trillions, has lowered interest rates to effectively 0% and Obama has injected billions into the economy, it's not surprising we've seen the short-term improvement we have. However, throwing money at the situation doesn't necessarily fix it. Remember that GDP has, as part of its measure, Government spending. So say the government were to massively raise taxes and spend trillions on welfare and unemployment handouts, GDP may actually increase. Would that realistically represent actual growth in our economy? Of course not. So just because we seemed to have a sliver of growth doesn't mean that we're on our way to recovery. And as for the evaluation of Bernanke, we cannot start with an assumed premise (things would have been worse had he not done what he did) and then go from there. Remember, Obama said that if we did NOT pass the stimulus, unemployment might get up to 8%, but that if we did pass it, it wouldn't rise past 7%. I'm not so confident in their prognostication abilities.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Article Response #3


This is a pretty one-sided article to have been written as a communal editorial by the staff. Also, "watching the earth suffer"? Suffer how? How exactly has the earth "suffered" from an average temperature increase of a fraction of a degree? There are predictions that negative things may happen in the future if things continue, but those dire things aren't happening yet (and simply claiming any change is "suffering" doesn't work). More importantly, however, and the reason I chose to comment was to point out that there was no mention of the recent release of emails, code, data and other files from a key climate data organization. Even if you believe the "nothing to see here" attempts to dismiss this revelation, it should at least make us question the true openness of the process. With an issue this potentially significant, whose prescribed solution has such a monumental impact, it only makes sense that all science involved be open, the data available, and the methods described. If scientific experiments and models cannot be recreated by others, then it shouldn't be considered valid and definitely should not be considered as a resource to guide policy. The evidence coming out of the unearthed files indicates the exact opposite of this. It shows intentional efforts to stifle release of data, methods and processes. It contains intentional attempts to eliminate information contributing to the IPCC which is the gold standard reference for all who see global warming as requiring immediate action.
The primary reason this data was as significant as global warming skeptics claim is that for years these skeptics have complained that the scientific process was being abused. They have claimed that scientific journals were influenced in a particular direction, that grants were consistently given to those pushing the agenda, that data was being misused and misrepresented and poorly constructed predictive models based on poor data were being treated as scientific fact. These complaints were usually dismissed as either simply conspiracy theories, or that the complainers were paid by oil companies. With the exposure of these files, at the very least, it reveals that their complaints have some merits. We need to reopen the discussion, verify the data, reevaluate the models and conclusions. It is becoming apparent that the scientific peer-review process is fraught with problems that can lead to significant (and conclusion altering) errors entering into "peer-reviewed studies" that then go on to be referenced across the scientific, media, and political worlds.
From a university paper, and in the wake of this revelation, the editorials should consist of demands that the scientific process relating to global warming be completely opened, transparent, and requiring critical assessment and reproduction by others. We need to make sure that the case for global warming is completely iron proof before we implement measures which would have astronomical effects. If we as a people choose to pursue actions to stop greenhouse emissions, it will be so much more significant than I believe most realize. It will affect individual people so much more than simply shopping with a cloth bag, inflating our tires, and buying energy efficient products. It will be a huge increase on the cost of ALL things. We need to be absolutely positive that it is absolutely essential.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Letter to Congressmen

Revelations of anti-scientific behavior at the CRU (Climatic Research Unit) undermines the justification for cap and trade. The case for human-caused global warming depends on claims made by the UN's IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which in turn depend on so-called research by the CRU. 
But please take note . . . 

Emails from the CRU reveal that key advocates of the global warming hypothesis may have knowingly corrupted the scientific process. 
For example… 

CRU researchers may have manipulated temperature histories in order to get the results they wanted. They have systematically refused to expose either their data or their manipulations to testing by the wider scientific community. This kind of testing is a crucial component of the scientific process.

Real scientists wouldn't behave this way.

CRU researchers explicitly advised other scientists involved in climate research to delete emails regarding to the UN's IPCC report in an intentional effort to avoid Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests. This is a blatant attempt to cover their tracks and avoid exposing bias, misrepresentation or outright fraud.

Real scientists wouldn't behave this way.

CRU researchers have also demonstrated a keen desire to silence critics by influencing scientific peer review process, as well to thwart and resist FOI requests for the data involved and the methods used in their studies which advocate for global warming legislation like cap and trade. The scientific process requires peer critiques.

Real scientists wouldn't behave this way.

The hypothesis that rising atmospheric CO2 should lead to global warming seems plausible. However, it's not an open and shut case, and the scientific process is famous for refuting seemingly plausible ideas. Now the practices of the CRU have set back the global warming hypothesis many years – perhaps to its starting point. The C02 hypothesis needs further, OPEN testing. It can't be taken for granted because it sounds reasonable, nor because it came from people with titles and degrees.

Your responsibility in this matter seems clear . . . 

You must reject the cap and trade bill, and craft no further policy until we all have better evidence from which to work.

In fact, I believe it would be reasonable that all government funded (i.e. grant) studies release not only the full results of their studies to the public, but also the entire set of data, methods and source code used to attain their conclusions. This would allow those that are skeptical to recreate the experiments, and to confirm or disprove the findings. It would also allow more sets of eyes to "peer review" the study. With the possibility of studies pushing policy, we need to ensure that there is some means to limit the impact of politicians who have an agenda from pushing money to organizations that share their views, whose studies reinforce the agenda of the politicians. 

I will be watching to see if you act responsibly on this matter, and I will be discussing your re-election with fellow voters in light of how you handle this issue.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Article Response #2

This article was basically nothing more than exactly what the title implied. Keep in mind that profiling does not mean automatic arrest. It's simply means that the threshold of "suspicious activity" is a little lower for individuals that match the profile. It doesn't mean automatic arrest, rounding up and communal internment. Personally I am against profiling. However, I'm also against it's opposite which is the dismissing of suspicious activity due to political correctness in an attempt to avoid the appearance of profiling. This is, I believe, what led to what happened at Ft. Hood. Very disconcerting signs were dismissed or ignored that, had people been willing to say, "Ok, we've got a male Muslim between the ages of 17 and 40 who's talking about retribution against America and has attempted to contact Al Qaeda. We need to watch him very, very closely." it may have helped avoid the death. Then, once he started giving away all of his furniture and possessions a day or so before the attack, action might have been taken to stop it. But when the fear of being accused of profiling, or worse racism, is present, then rational conclusions and actions get impeded.

Now that I think about it, what does the author think about Secretary Napolitano and the Dept of Homeland Security's warning regarding "rightwing extremists" and the need to be more aware of people that are "anti-government" or be passionate about issues like abortion, illegal immigration, taxes, gun control, etc?