Thursday, February 25, 2010

Forms of Government

I believe this video explains well the various forms of government.

While it can be debated whether there have been actual monarchies and about what anarchy would look like, I think it effectively conveys the difference between a republic and a democracy. We were not intended to just be simple majority rule nation. That can be seen in how the US founders required 2/3 majority of both houses of Congress to pass it AND 3/4 of all states ratifying it to enact a Constitutional amendment. It was not intended to be easy to make changes; to increase the reach and power of the national, federal government.

And I hope that everyone agrees that an oligarchy is undesirable. Even in the case where that oligarchy is several thousand in size, consisting of elected officials, bureaucrats, and various "experts", you still run into problems of bias, corruption and mistakes creating unforeseen problems that pervade the entire country or market.

Though I disagree with the 1 dimensional description of the political spectrum. I believe that it is a 2D  spectrum similar to the  Nolan Chart.

To me, this is a good example of the two ideas of Liberty and "Security" with regard to both Personal and Economic issues.

In this particular example, it places individuals to represent where their views are located. While you can disagree with the placement of the individuals in that example, the chart itself is great to map out most anyone's nuanced political views.

At the same time however, I'm willing to settle with simply going back to federalism. As long as the federal government gets out of the habit of making national laws regarding personal and economic matters and leaves that up to the states as was originally intended (see Ninth and Tenth amendments) then I think we'd all be better off.

Even many progressives believe that the idea of "laboratories of democracy"; of having 50 individual states attempting to find solutions to problems is more efficient and effective than a single national attempt which can take 20, 30, 50, 100 years to recognize as a bad idea. And by then, the political debate all too often revolves around how to fix the problem created by the implemented solution instead of asking, "Is there a different, better solution to the original problem?"

For the curious, I believe I fall between the classical liberal and the market liberal. 

I suppose there could be some entertainment from telling people I'm a liberal, then go on to describe my views :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sweden as Socialistic Example

I've talked with several people recently about the effectiveness of a libertarian-style free market. They seem to believe that different groups of people require different types of government. That some people are designed for communism whereas others for capitalism.

Sweden was recently used as an example by someone who said that their socialism is actually quite successful and that those people are perfectly happy with it.

Here's an actual look at the country of Sweden and the "success" of it's socialistic policies.

Looking objectively at the statistical history vs just the perception of success, it seems that Sweden and the socialism isn't faring much better than anywhere else.

In addition to the economic ramifications of collectivism, the effects of socialism on the mentality of people is also detrimental.

It's easy to understand that when people are raised in an environment where most everything is provided for you by someone else, your attitude about work, about expectations, about rights themselves, changes. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Say what you will, I like the guy

You can joke about him crying, about him being a goofball, about him being overdramatic, about him being more about sensationalism than realism, but I like him.

Glenn Beck's keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was impressive. It touched on all the things that fiscal conservatives are demanding and used actual history and stats to reinforce the point. Not much was discussed regarding social conservatism, to which I say all the better considering the economic state of affairs. Best of all, he expressed a skepticism about the Republican party and their limited government intentions that I don't hear enough. Plus ... you gotta love the chalkboard. :)

Oh, and Jon, talk about missing the forest for the trees.

Conservatives don't want to get rid of public libraries. Please explain the logic behind claiming conservatives who advocate for enumerated powers and the 9th and 10th amendments to limit the federal government, are somehow hypocritical because they use public libraries. Not everything paid for with taxes is evil communism. We just think that falls squarely outside the enumerated powers of the federal government (as does a LOT of what the federal government is doing nowadays). If states and city/counties want to fund their own libraries with taxes, then by all means they can do so and most conservatives would support that.

If you truly believe that there is a group trying to get rid of all public libraries... Well, you're right. They're called libertarians. I agree with them on many, many things. But I tell you what, if you're worried, I think libertarians would be willing to put "Eliminate Public Libraries" LITERALLY at the end of their list of priorities. 

Law of Comparative Advantage

The Law of Comparative Advantage
Long name that basically says that even if you have the ability to do something, it's to your advantage to let someone else do it if you can be more efficient at something else.

This is nothing new, but it helped me understand why, in a truly free economy, you wouldn't have megalithic corporations that do end-to-end vertical production as well as having a huge breadth of products. In our current setup, government tax schemes have created an environment where it is to the advantage of the corporation to provide everything "in-house". This means that because of taxes that Dell would pay to buy network cards from some manufacturer, it would be cheaper for Dell to manufacture their own network cards for themselves. Soon it becomes nearly impossible for an upstart to get into the market because in order to be able to compete at Dell's prices, you have to start with a massive manufacturing infrastructure to avoid the same tax penalties. 

Even in situations where one person/group is better at everything they do than anyone else, it's still going to be to their benefit to cooperate:

You want increased competition and smaller megalithic corporations? Lower the barriers of entry into the market (i.e. regulations, taxes, permits, etc) and don't incentivize monolithic practices while claiming to despise them. Through a combination of comparative advantage and increased competition, you'll see that companies find it beneficial and more profitable to do one thing, and do it very well. In the end, it's the customers, we consumers that benefit.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Booms and Busts

Excellent economic video contrasting two key economists of the 20th century. While one is the prominent basis of all economic theory and taught in economic classes, the other is hardly known.

This describes the crisis we're in. The housing bubble and Wall Street are all blamed, but Hayek describes how the Fed has played the key role in creating the boom and bust cycles.  We need to learn from history.

Why don't we go nuclear?

I read an article titled There is No Perfect Fuel published on Acton blog.  However, while the article itself is good, it was a comment that I found that really impressed me with how powerful it was. Now, I haven't double checked all his numbers, but I do know from my own reading that the concepts he's talking about are accurate. This really makes one wonder why we aren't really pushing nuclear more beyond just promises and rhetoric.

Yes, there is a perfect fuel: uranium and thorium. I have worked in nuclear energy for more than 30 years. I have been on a submarine that could traverse the ocean depths, surfacing only for food and toilet paper, all thanks to a 158 MWth nuclear reactor. I have worked in 1000 MWe nuclear power plants that emit zero CO2 and zero particulates, and whose spent fuel of some 30 years of operation fits inside five or six dry storage casks, completely sequestered from the environment and ready for reprocessing to be used in the next generation fast neutron burner.
With nuclear energy we can make our own liquid fuels or produce hydrogen to replace imported oil. With nuclear energy we can obviate the need for coal fired power plants whose emissions kill 30000 annually from lung disease in the US alone. With fast neutron burners we can consume all the long lived actinides in spent nuclear fuel, making Yucca Mountain or any other long term geologic repository a moot point. By using fast breeder reactors, we have enough uranium and thorium in Earth's crust to fuel nine billion people with a level of energy consumption equal to that of the average American for one million years.
Consider this: The energy in one uranium fuel pellet—the size of the tip of your little finger—is the equivalent of 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, 1,780 pounds of coal, or 149 gallons of oil. If you used only uranium or thorium for energy and added up all the energy you use in a lifetime, it would be the size of a 12 ounce can of soda. But if you did the same with coal or oil or gas, it would hundreds of tons of refuse dumped willy-nilly into the air and water and ground.
BTW, did you know that coal fired power plants that supply 50% of US electricity emit more radioactivity in the form of uranium, thorium and radium occurring naturally in coal than any nuke plant releases? Indeed, Con Ed in the 1960s wanted to build a coal fired power plant next to its Indian Point nuclear facility but couldn't because the radioactive emissions of the coal plant would swamp the radiation detectors in the nuke plant. I know - I worked at Indian Point for 18 years and I was the radiation monitoring system engineer for unit 3, and the two 1000 MW pressurized water reactors (units 2 and 3, 1 is decommissioned) produce almost as much electricity as the US portion of Niagara Falls!
Take a look at emission numbers below:
Coal Plant Emmissions: Pounds of Refuse per 1 MWe of Generation
 Carbon Dioxide 2249
 Sulfur Dioxide 13
 Nitrogen Oxides 6
Oil Plant Emmissions: Pounds of Refuse per 1 MWe of Generation
 Carbon Dioxide 1672
 Sulfur Dioxide 12
 Nitrogen Oxides 4
Natural Gas Plant Emmissions: Pounds of Refuse per 1 MWe of Generation
 Carbon Dioxide 1135
 Sulfur Dioxide 0.1
 Nitrogen Oxides 1.7
Nuclear Plant Emmissions: Pounds of Refuse per 1 MWe of Generation
 Carbon Dioxide 0
 Sulfur Dioxide 0
 Nitrogen Oxides 0
So what's safer for the lungs?
BTW, solar and wind are a joke: no wind - no electricity. No sunlight - no electricity. If wind were so darn great, then why are not commercial ships still propelled by sails? Capacity factor of wind and solar never exceeds 30%, but the current capacity factor for an American nuke is more than 92% and its environmental footprint is miniscule compared to the dozens of square miles of landscape that have to be torn up for wind or solar.
Yes, there is the perfect fuel - two of them in fact: Thorium from which we can breed U-233, and uranium from which we get get U-235 or with which we can breed Pu-239.
I have worked 30+ years in the nuclear industry. It's the safest and best industry in the world, and that is exactly why it is opposed by all the right (er, I mean left) thinking people.
More nukes, less kooks is what I say. I shall have more to say about safety, Chernobyl, TMI, etc., in later posts. Suffice it to point out that not ONE member of the public has been injured or killed as the result of the operation of ANY Western light water reactor. A Chernobyl event cannot happen at a US plant because Chernobyl was an RBMK - a plutonium weapons breeder. It was graphite moderated and light water cooled. It had a positive tmeperature and void co-efficient of reactivity. No US reactor is like that. The laws of physics prevent a Chernobyl event at any light water cooled, light water moderated reactor. As for TMI - when the worst happens to a US reactor, the radioactivity is contained in containment and the public unaffected. Just look at the gas fired power plant explosion in Conneticut earlier this week. Can't happen at a nuke. Not possible.
By the way, I want to make something perfectly clear here. Obamolech is NOT pro-nuke. Yes, he proposed 57 billion in loan promises to the US nuke industry, but he appointed anti-nuke Jackzo as head of the US NRC.
Remember back in Bush's days John Roberts was selected for SCOTUS? Harry Reid had a fit about that and said no. But Harry Reid (who opposes the Yucca Mtn repository and is anti-nuke) had as his science advisor Gregory Jackzo. he proposed to Bush that he'd let John Roberts go to SCOTUS is Jackzo became a commissioner in the NRC. Bush agreed, but NEI (Nuclear Energy Institute) wanted balance in the NRC, so they contacted Pete Domenici (a pro-nuke senator) whose science advisor was Peter Lyons, a pro-nuke himself. Domenici offered Lyons as the balance to Jackzo. Then the Obamination of Desolation got elected. The terms of Jackzo and Lyons both ended early in Obamolech's presidency. Obamolech renewed Jackzo's term but dismissed Lyons, leaving an open vacancy. Additionally, Obamolech demoted pro-nuke Dale Klien as NRC Chairman and appointed anti-nuke Jackzo.
Guys, this ain't rocket science. The Obamination of Desolation opposes nuke power no matter what he says. Why? I can only assume that coal and oil suppliers have him in their back pocket. What's the biggest threat to coal and oil and gas suppliers? Nukes!
Oh, here's a bit of trivia: pick up an ordinary piece of bitumous coal. There's more energy in the uranium and thorium of the piece of coal then there is in burning the coal. Think about that. Think about how we could cut down on our consumption of coal if we used that as a resource for uranium and thorium instead of burning it by the megaton. And did you know that a nuke operates for 2 years before refueling, and only 1/3 of the core gets refueled at any time? Coal and oil and gas suppliers hate nukes.