Third Party & Independents Archives

When Regulation is Necessary

There’s a lot of talk about energy lately.

Everyone is blaming everyone else for this price hike, that price hike, this environmental disaster, and everything else in between. It’s always someone elses fault. In the end, all we end up doing is yell at each other until the din gets so loud that no one gets anywhere.

There's nothing wrong with a good fight. There's nothing wrong with a heated debate/argument/fistfight. There's nothing wrong with passion and inspiring rhetoric. One thing we are definitely not short on in the US is opinions and ideas. What we are short on here is motivation. Instead of everyone stopping, looking at what we're doing, looking atwhat we've been doing, and looking at how all these things come together to influence our current and future energy problems, we just sort of hunker down. You get in your pill box, I get in mine, I get mad about how you messed the world up, you get mad at me about how I messed the world up, and nothing happens.

What we need is a measure of logic and rationality. Take away the patriotism, nationalism, fidelity to economic policies, and political ideologies to start somewhere fresh and meaningful. We need to stop approaching problems with this supposed understanding that "x" problem will always be solvable with "y" political or economic ideology. Look at things on their own merits, with as little bias as you can muster. If I have two apples, and I add two more apples, then I have four apples. Liberals see four apples, conservatives see four apples, communists, and neo-Nazi feminist Scientologists see four apples. You get what I mean.

For energy, well... there are a couple basic logical realities that need to be addressed without any measure of sensationalism or animosity.

1.) Fossil fuels are a finite resource. Every day we use them is a day we have less overall. The less we have the more expensive they become.

2.) Every single aspect of modern life is almost entirely reliant on fossil fuels. Everything from the electricity you use to the shirts you wear comes almost entirely from fossil fuels.

These are not sensational. They are real. From the real information, we can form a rational argument. For my part, the argument is against the belief that the fossil fuel industry has the right to be treated the same as any other industry. It needs to be heavily regulated and forced to adhere to certain standards that other industries need not be forced to adhere to.

What do I base this on? Nothing fancy or even very well educated. Just a simple black and white appraisal of very basic facts. Keeping the statements above in mind: Over the years, fossil fuel companies have seen that Americans will pay them whatever they charge. No matter what. Americans will go without other necessities in their lives to pay for the gas they use to get to work and to recreate. They will pay the high food prices. They will pay the high heating oil prices. They will pay the high gas prices. They will complain vigorously about it, but they will still pay whatever these companies tell them to pay and will forget about it as soon as the market calms down. They never demand better. This is not to say that these rises in gas prices are not also influenced by many geopolitical events, but the issue remains the same. Americans paid for it.

In the free market, businesses have to compete with each other for things like customer satisfaction and loyalty. In most industries, this works perfectly fine and is of no danger to anyone or anything. Take the shampoo industry for example. Years ago, there was shampoo, there was conditioner, and they only came in seperate bottles. Through a spark of innovation, someone decided to find a way to put them both in one bottle and: voila. Innovation. Is it "Earth shattering, reverse climate change and save humanity" innovation? No. But innovation none the less. The innovator was rewarded with greater sales, customer loyalty, and his drive to attain those things gave the customer a new innovation. Even if all he did was mix them up in a bottle and change the label, his creativity paid off. He didn't necessarily "care" about the hair or choices of the consumer, but his greed and desire to distinguish himself led to another option for consumers. This is an example of when free market principles work.

Sadly, this is not how the fossil fuel industry works. See, in the shampoo industry you have a choice. Not only are there different companies to choose from, but you can choose to not even use shampoo to clean your hair. You can choose to not clean your hair. You can choose to "make your own" hair gel and cut out the middle man. You do not have a choice when it comes to fossil fuels. Unless you plan on buying a plot of land, building a shack by hand, making your own weapons, and hunting your own food while never using anything from society, you do not have a choice on how much of your life is controlled by fossil fuels. Even in this scenario, you need to pay property taxes. This money comes from a society that is run by fossil fuels, and its worth is dictated by an economy that functions solely because of these fossil fuels. In this sense, you do not have an option. You have no choice but to rely on fossil fuels for even the most basic necessities of your life.

The free market functions when consumers have a choice. That is, when consumers have the option to not even use whatever type of product your company provides. They could be fine without it, but you need to show them why they should spend money on it. Fossil fuel companies are not in this position. Everything from how your food is grown, to how your food gets to the store, to how your shirts are made, to what your electric cars components are made out of completely relies on fossil fuels. Every single aspect of your life. Every industrial and public infrastructure that exists today relies almost entirely on fossil fuels. As a result, these companies don't have to work to gain your loyalty; you have no choice but to be loyal. The rules that drive companies to innovate and therefore provide the consumer with more and better choices do not exist in this industry. Every aspect of your life is controlled by them.

In short: Fossil fuel companies have you by the balls.

When you look at a barrel of oil, you're not simply looking at a commodity. You're looking at a way of life. When you're looking at that barrel, you're looking at the plastics that we use in hospitals to administer medications, in restaurants to preserve foods, in the autos we transport ourselves and our goods in, and the computers we use to communicate and run our country. When you look at that barrel you're looking at the machinery that grows our food, the trucks that ship it to the store, the electricity that runs the freezers and coolers that keep it fresh, and the refrigerator you use at home. You're looking at the plows that clear our streets, the factories that produce our goods, and the power plants that produce our electricity. Think about that.

Then think about this: there is currently NO viable alternative to plastic. There is no working infrastructure to run our cities without fossil fuels; there aren't even any ideas on how to do it. There is no way that either exists, or that is close to existing, for us to provide the services, products, food, and healthcare we all rely on without fossil fuels.

If budget shampoo got to $30 a bottle, the world would just stop using shampoo.

If oil hit $300 a barrel, do you think we would be able to just stop using it? Our entire way of life currently revolves around this one commodity. If you think $300 a barrel sounds ridiculous, remember this: the yearly average price of a barrel of oil in 1998 was $11.91. By 2008 (ten years later), that average price launched up to $91.48.

So, no: the fossil fuel industry does not have the right to be treated the same as any other industry. Because it is not the same as any other industry. Every other industry is not the foundation upon which all of modern civilization is based. They need to either be regulated, or all subsidies that are given to them need to be revoked and given to companies developing renewable technologies. Am I a PhD in economics or engineering? No. I don't think I have to be able to sit here and tell you a way out to be able to have the right to simply bring up something that no one seems to be pressing.

Energy independence beyond quick-fix oil solutions needs to be the top priority to all Americans. Forcing energy companies to make renewable energy their number one business priority in exchange for ANY federal tax breaks is less of a matter of "protecting the free market" and more a matter of "National Security". If they don't want the breaks then leave them alone. But stop throwing money into a pit that, every day, becomes harder to pull ourselves out of. To me that sounds like a pretty reasonable conclusion. What do you think?

Posted by Jared Skye at March 19, 2011 1:58 AM
Comments
Comment #320387

Your points are well taken and obvious. What is striking is the lack of an integrated national plan to address such an obvious problem.

Posted by: Rich at March 19, 2011 6:53 AM
Comment #320391

Good diary.

What too many refuse to face is that, as the old textbooks say, energy is the ability to do work. Solar, Wind, Renewables, and Fusion power (when it actually comes around) have near-infinite fuel sources. Coal, Oil, Natural Gas, and, yes, Uranium and Plutonium do not. They must be mined, or drilled for.

Time is on the side of green technology. Time is not on the side of fossil fuels. If we are dependent on fossil fuels when the time comes, time will not be on the side of our economy.

It’s that simple. And the sooner we get going creating the new infrastructure, the sooner we can breathe easier with the knowledge that our economy will continue to have the ability to do work, at a decent price, far into the future, and the more pain and suffering we will avoid.

I like avoiding pain and suffering. I like making the sensible response to looming problems, rather than worrying and obsessing and desperately clawing after a diminishing, dwindling resource.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 19, 2011 9:15 AM
Comment #320394

Jared, I didn’t get a chance to say this on your first article, so Welcome to Watchblog!

I really liked your article. Keep up the good work.

In short: Fossil fuel companies have you by the balls.

I’d like to expound on this; a lot of conservatives and libertarians like to claim that the government has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. This isn’t entirely true, some companies also have the ability use force; we are just fortunate to live in a constitutional republic governed by the principles of liberal democracy. However, certain factions in this country think we’d be better off empowering these people. These people already have been empowered enough with the subsidies they get from our bought and paid for politicians.

Posted by: Warped Reality at March 19, 2011 10:53 AM
Comment #320398

Thanks for the kind words everyone. And I agree with the sentiments. It’s flat irresponsible of us to approach our energy policy the way we have.

Like Stephen said: renewables have a near-limitless supply. In the end, the sun creates solar energy and is the major component of the heat differentials that cause wind. So if those “near-limitless” supplies of wind and sun went away well that means the sun is gone and we’d all be dead anyway. I’m for responsible development of hydro, looking more toward smaller municipal projects where it’s possible. The truth is that with such a huge and varied landscape as the US, one means of harnessing energy will not suit every single area. It has to be on the action plans of local communities to get themselves on renewable technologies best suited to their local geology, climate, etc.

Posted by: Jared Skye at March 19, 2011 1:17 PM
Comment #320401

Jared, you do a good job in explaining just how indispensable fossil fuel is to our every day existence. Without it, the world, as we know it, simply would not exist. And this dependence upon fossil fuel will continue for some decades.

And yet, we hear from some who would advocate pricing fossil fuel out of existence before a replacement is ready to step in.

Either fossil fuel is critical for our world to operate today, and for some time, or it is not. I agree with you that it is and that we should do everything we can to get enough of it from our own resources to operate until a replacement is available, in sufficient quantities, and at affordable prices, until that time. Any other position is illogical and indefensible.

Posted by: Royal Flush at March 19, 2011 2:50 PM
Comment #320402

@Royal: It’s true that we need to get off of foreign oil and maybe try to get more of our own oil for now from our own reserves until we have the infrastructure to abandon oil entirely. We do, however, need to be smarter about it than we are now. The current mentality seems to be that if you care about the environmental impacts of acquiring oil (Gulf) or natural gas (Hydrofracking) then you’re just a hippie that hates America and jobs. We need to smarten up. The means through which we hurriedly gather these resources without any regard to long term consequences needs to be addressed. My only worry is that people see we have a bunch of oil somewhere and then take it as an excuse to go another fifty years without developing these technologies. The way I see it, the character of a people resides primarily in how it makes decisions that will effect the lives of its children. The way we absolutely destroy these areas inhibits (at the very least) the productivity of these areas in replenishing the other renewable natural resources we need to survive (water, etc). In short, I see a focus on “American Oil” as necessary, but a risky embarkation that can lead to people not pushing for renewable energy options. Being responsible means making the right decisions even if you’re not going to be around personally to benefit from them or gain the credit for them. Our kids and grandkids will never forgive us if we take too much longer on this. We’re not the ones who are going to really suffer from our inaction on this issue. They are.

Posted by: Jared Skye at March 19, 2011 3:01 PM
Comment #320407

Jared writes; “Our kids and grandkids will never forgive us if we take too much longer on this. We’re not the ones who are going to really suffer from our inaction on this issue. They are.”

Exactly my point when I write about our huge national debt, entitlement programs that will spew red ink for decades, and an educational system that deprives our children from getting a good education.

Posted by: Royal Flush at March 19, 2011 3:52 PM
Comment #320409

@Royal: Well there you go. We agree on something.

Posted by: Jared Skye at March 19, 2011 4:13 PM
Comment #320411


The sad part is that if we were a sane species solar energy could supply nearly all of our energy needs at very little cost to consumers. If we were a sane species.

We could build the solar array where there are no clouds, wind or rain to impede production, at less cost than say the true cost associated with 200 nuclear power plants, if we were a sane species.

If we were sane we would know that the energy is infinitely more important than the profits that can be made by selling energy.

Posted by: jlw at March 19, 2011 4:57 PM
Comment #320413

NEW YORK TIMES HEADLINE IN 2040

The democrat majority congress just passed, and the president is expected to sign, a new bill authorizing taxing the energy from the sun. With the United States carrying a deficit of $150 trillion, and only one remaining “rich person” left in the country, party leaders told the Times that there is no other alternative revenue source since eighty percent of those working (about 20% of those able to work) are government employees and no tax increase is workable above the 92% they are already paying.

Posted by: Royal Flush at March 19, 2011 5:38 PM
Comment #320415

Jared, welcome and good article.

World population is near 7B and expected to hit perhaps 10B come 2050. China has 1.3B, India 1.1B, and Africa 1.0B, all needing fossils, wanting to drive, plastics, etc. Seems we should recognize fossils as finite and, until technology comes along and saves us, we should consider lowering the world’s population. Look what the rise in commodities costs did to the Middle East toute suite.
Currently, it seems we are in a race to see who can use/garner the most oil before it runs out. Beyond reducing world population we should look for alternative energy sources. Our 104 nuke reactors deliver about 18% of our energy needs but we haven’t figured out how to dispose of the waste products. Natural gas is readily available but doesn’t deliver the mpg of gas, requiring larger gas tanks and it’s a highly explosive gas. Ethanol makes little sense to me in that it takes arable land to produce the fuel source. Again, look at the Middle East situation due largely to high corn prices.

One simply, effective way of mitigating population growth would be for the US to implement a flat tax, void of deductions. The current tax policy supports just the opposite, the more children one has the less tax one pays. International organizations might provide free condoms, birth control pharmaceuticals for the world.

While futuristic scientists can conjure that the human eye can become a ‘flat screen’ for the world Internet activity, they can’t venture that radioactive waste can be better controlled. In that sense we are stockpiling a disaster in waiting for our young-uns. Energy generated via wind and air are measureable metrics which don’t/won’t amount to much as energy sources. There seems to be little interest in “>http://newscenter.lbl.gov/news-releases/2010/04/30/inexpensive-catalyst-for-generating-hydrogen-from-water”> pursuing hydrogen from sea water. Supposedly an expensive process and hydrogen is super combustible as well.

Coal seems to have the most potential, IMO. We have figured out how to provide gas, diesel and kerosene in large quantities with a fairly high combustion point, relatively speaking. Seems there must be a way to process coal to remove harmful environmental toxins to a safe level. In so doing, maybe we could get rid of most reactors and use some reactors for supporting the process of cleaning up coal. You have contributed to $1B to bring on a new coal fired plant this year in Illinois.

Back to big oil – gisted from the “Tyranny Of Big Oil”, by Antonia Juhasz: Standard Oil was broken up into 34 companies in 1911. By 1970 big oil had reconfigured itself as the ‘seven sisters;. The Saudi’s frequently complain that oil prices are higher than they should be. They lost out in the oil pricing business to the ‘Futures Market’ when Regan’s era of ‘greed is good’ came into being where some 2600 oil company mergers took place.

ExXon posted a $40B profit in 2007. BP paid no taxes in 2009. ExXonMobile spent $80M on lobbying the fed gov’t between 98-06, 14 times more than they spent on political campaigns.

In 06 every oil company except Chevron and BP spent less than 1% of total capital expenditures on alternative energy.

Wendy Gramm, on the final day of the Regan admin, enacted a CFTC rule exempting energy futures contracts from gov’t regulation. In 2000 hubby, Phil Gramm, slipped the ‘ENRON Loophole’ into an 11k page omnibus bill allowing energy traders to establish their own exchange and trade between themselves sans regulations. Months before become law, oil and bank companies met in Atlanta to form their own exchange, Intercontintal Exchange (ICE), where today, about half of all crude trades are conducted.

Today, hedge fund traders and ICE speculators whipsaw futures contracts specifically to raise the price. In 2007 ICE’s 3rd quarter profit was up 60% over the 3rd quarter of 2006. Each barrel sold adds to demand and more demand means speculators raise the price. As the Saudi’s lament, the price of crude has nothing to do with supply or demand.

Otherwise, we have the Corpocracy we deserve.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at March 19, 2011 6:14 PM
Comment #320417

Roy,

Interesting point about the role of speculation and manipulation in the oil futures market. As you point out, the Saudis were the first to claim that the run up in oil prices in early 2008 was a result of speculation and not the fundamentals of supply and demand. They are making the same case today: “The oil minister of OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia, Ali Naimi, said the oil market remains well-supplied. In an interview with the Saudi state news agency, he reiterated the kingdom’s stance that the spike in oil costs stems more from financial speculation and unwarranted investor sentiment than industry fundamentals.” http://www.moneynews.com/StreetTalk/Output/2011/03/08/id/388726


Posted by: Rich at March 19, 2011 6:38 PM
Comment #320423

Rich, some so-called CFTC .

Posted by: Roy Ellis at March 19, 2011 9:26 PM
Comment #320425

CFTC controversies
http://www.allgov.com/agency/Commodity__Futures__Trading__Commission

(attaching links seems beyond me))

Posted by: Roy Ellis at March 19, 2011 9:29 PM
Comment #320426


‘Rich people’ don’t have a country, the whole world is their oyster.

Does anyone think Dick Cheney and his puppet masters gave a damn about their country when they were circumventing their countries laws to do oil and nuclear business with Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gaddafi, and the mullahs of Iran?

Why, we would be fools to not allow the rich to rule over us.

Good Work Roy, you should be paid for your work on the oil market. Youtoj2t2. I can’t click on the hydrogen article.

Posted by: jlw at March 19, 2011 9:50 PM
Comment #320427

@jlw: they’ve actually been working on something similar to what you mention in your post. Japan has a bunch of ideas about this stuff but nothing 100% viable. Yet. And from what little I know about the Japanese, if they say they’re going to do something they are damn sure going to do it. One way or another. We’ll see.

@Roy: Interesting post. What you’re saying is true about the population. It is definitely the biggest cause of most of the problems we have both as a country and as a planet. However I doubt highly you will ever see any real action done on that. All the education on sex and contraceptives in the world won’t take away the notion of all humans that procreation is a basic human right. In fact, like any animal, our fitness as an animal is derived entirely by our ability to live long enough to procreate. It’s in our blood, and I don’t see any way around that. Sooner or later there will be a disease, asteroid, famine, or something that will cull us out but until then it’s just the nature of the beast. Also, in regard to your point on renewable energy sources, it’s true that no one type of harnessing energy is “the solution”. The truth is that in some places, solar is absolutely the solution. In some places, wind is absolutely the solution. There’s hydro, tidal generators, etc. There’s a lot of means through which we can acquire energy, you just have to be smart about what you use and where you use it. For example, this map shows the local average windspeed throughout the US. Betz’ law tells us that it is impossible to convert more than 59% of the winds power into electricity via turbine. We can get about 40% out of the wind. Depending on how many turbines you place in various areas, you can feasibly cut a significant chunk out of electricity costs for at least the local area. When you add in things like geothermal generators in places where they’re suited, and tidal generators that are extremely productive (even though there aren’t a ton of great places for them), you can get a solid energy infrastructure built out of not one but many various inputs depending on where you are in the country. The biggest problem with these isn’t necessarily the efficiency of the systems themselves, but rather the lack of efficiency in the cables that conduct/transport the energy from the plant to local grids. And that’s just with the “grid”. There are currently a number of ways for homeowners to defray a large amount of their energy usage by not only fixing up their homes with more up to date features, but also by installing small-scale hydro/wind/solar setups where applicable. I even know a guy in Arizona who has a small diesel generator that he runs entirely on used cooking oil from the Applebees two blocks down that a friend of his manages. He gets all his power from that genny. You couldn’t use that in cold places because it clouds up at low temps, but that’s the point. You need to pick what you use to suit where you are.

Posted by: Jared Skye at March 19, 2011 9:51 PM
Comment #320429

Roy,

Yes, quite a watchdog [CFTC] we have. First, they said in 2008 that the oil run up was definitely a supply and demand issue. Then a year later, oops, maybe speculation did play a part. http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/2009/07/28/the-cftcs-flip-flop-on-oil-speculation/

Today we are experiencing another commodities bubble. It is not reasonable to attribute that rise solely to supply and demand. Particularly, when the Fed has openly stated that it’s policies, e.g., Quantitative Easing II, are designed to raise asset prices and produce a “wealth effect.” The rise in the stock and commodity markets are consistent with its policies. Get that money out of treasury bonds and into the riskier markets. Another Fed bubble economy.

Posted by: Rich at March 19, 2011 10:01 PM
Comment #320430

Royal Flush-
Ah, going for the difficult substantive arguments instead of taking the partisan allegations to ridiculous extremes.

Show me a person who claims to know how this economy will run in 2050, and I’ll show you a person who’s either a liar, a nut, or a time traveller.

I work in a large institution that puts a lot of computers out to pasture. I got a good look at a lot of old computers, Gateways to be exact. They were old models, with Pentium II or III chips, maybe a few hundred megabytes of ram and six gigabytes of memory.

I wear an iPhone on my hip that’s got better stats than that. I can play video games on it, take pictures, determine my location by Satellite, look up just about any information… I mean, it’s almost a joke to say there’s an app for that.

And it isn’t even the latest model.

Consider what people will be carrying in thirty-nine years.

Thirty nine years ago (1972), the internet was in its infancy. Virtually everybody did their word processing by typewriter. Now you can’t find one, typically, to save your life. A computer could fill rooms, yet not have the computing power, memory, much less graphics power to do what my iPhone does on an incredibly small fraction of the electricity, and without the moving parts.

Look at the computers on Star Trek- they’re about contemporary- so many of them constructed along the lines of what people knew.

Hell, that was before even Three Mile Island, so Nuclear power plants didn’t have such a bad reputation. In that time, most video cameras that recorded anything were huge things. Home video wasn’t really in the picture. If you were lucky, you had a film projector, or a super 8 camera. Now that phone on my hip takes video!

Not only that, I can run a video on that phone. In 1972, you weren’t going to catch any movie on home video. If you were lucky, you’d see it on TV, or in the theatres. That was about the year The Godfather Came out, and Spielberg’s first big movie, Duel, came out. Now you can download’s Spielberg’s movies over that internet, and watch it on your phone.

Or, you can make your own movie. Remember that reversal film I told you about? It used to be used to get news footage. It’s called reversal film because when you develop it, washing away the unused silver and everything, you get a positve image, instead of the negative that comes from regular film. Kodachrome was one such stock.

Well, now people send in news stories from their phone and their webcams, and can edit it on those mobile devices.

This is just one sector of technology. Just think about it for a second. If we’ve done so much in 39 years, how much will we be capable of doing 39 years from now? The answer is, we can’t possibly know what we can do, because to know that, we have to know what comes from the next advances and the consequences of those.

When I was a child, it was a big deal to get to work with a monochrome monitored Apple II. I think you had to load a disc in so you could boot the thing up. The Commodore 64 we once had wasn’t much better. I remember late in my childhood beholding a color monitor image for the first time, and it was a wonder to see.

I’ve seen the PC evolve from something so simplistic to the complex, versatile machine it is now, video games evolve from being blocky pixel kids games to being all-ages, 3-D, immersively controlled power houses. There’s even controller that simply uses your body as the controller.

What is the point of all this gushing? Well, if you asked me what was going to be possible as a kid? Probably the usual assortment of flying car type predictions. As a kid watching Tron on TV or home video, though, I would have never thought I would, decades later, see a digitally projected 3-D Movie rendered almost photorealistically, with the older leader character sharing screen time with a digital double half his age.

We often see the future as the present, just more so, but all too often, we miss how radically it can change, and how subtly.

For my part, then, what I see is the need to get to work now on building the infrastructure of tomorrow, and not just let it be some kind of lazy accident. The internete and all its developments, in part, came from the intentional research done in order to improve different technologies we had at the time. Nobody realized where it would head at the time, but I think to get the range of options we need in order to survive the processes that weed them out, we need to get to work now, and get to work with a concerted effort. This will be the challenge of the next thirty-nine years, and if we fail in it, we’re going to live in a much different world, but not a better one.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 19, 2011 10:49 PM
Comment #320432

Stephen: the thing to keep in mind, though, is that all those advancements are from industries that are reliant on consumer satisfaction. We have these advancements because companies in a competitive industry needed to compete for consumer loyalty. The energy industry doesn’t have to do that. They don’t have to do anything to keep customers, so why would they put any money into innovation?

Posted by: Jared Skye at March 19, 2011 11:05 PM
Comment #320436

Re fossil fuels - they are a finite resources only in the abstract sense. In a practical sense, we have enough to last for a very long time. This is the problem. We recently discovered new technologies that can extract gas from shale, which gives us cheap natural gas for 200 years. Similar technology has made it possible to tap oil resources in the Dakotas at a price of around $60 a barrel. These reserves are about the size of Saudi Arabia’s field. The Brazilians have recently found oil fields off their coasts which may hold more oil than the total current U.S. reserves. Iraq, now that it is out of Saddam’s incompetent hands, is set to produce significantly more oil and gas. The list goes on.

The problem with fossil fuels is that they are TOO abundant and TOO cheap. Despite momentary blips, this is the long term (i.e. as long as we are alive) trend.

Look at the chart for inflation adjusted prices of crude - http://inflationdata.com/inflation/images/charts/Oil/Inflation_Adj_Oil_Prices_Chart.htm. And this chart for gasoline prices - http://www.inflationdata.com/inflation/images/charts/Oil/Gasoline_inflation_chart.htm

We can produce plastic from bioproducts. We can produce biodiesel. It is just that these things cost more. We CHOOSE to use fossil fuels because they are cheap and abundant compared with alternatives. When/if alternatives become similarly cheap and abundant, we will switch and they will no longer be called alternatives.

The Saudis fear high oil prices because they encourage alternatives. In fact, the price of oil, in the long run, is limited by the price of alternatives.

As a Saudi oil minister once said, the stone age did not end because of a shortage of stone and the petroleum age will not end because of a shortage of oil. We will NEVER run out of oil. At some point it will become more expensive than alternatives and it will stop being used.

We will also, BTW, never become energy independent. It is not a valid goal. We COULD be energy independent if we CHOSE to pay a lot more for energy. It is nothing magic.

If you want to use less oil, the way to get that to happen is to make it more expensive than alternatives. I favor a tax on carbon, but most most people do not. Lefties sometimes say they do, but then they want to exempt the poor, the government, the schools … Righties just are against higher energy prices in general. So we play these childish games of claiming that we will somehow move to alternatives because we all want it so bad.

We can use alternatives today, now, but YOU have to be willing to pay more.

I own a hybrid. It gets 42 miles per gallon. I bought it in 2005 and it still has not paid for the extra cost. In the U.S. ALL the hybrids put together do not sell as many units as the one sort of truck the F150. Anybody can buy a hybrid. Why don’t we all have them?

Posted by: C&J at March 20, 2011 12:38 AM
Comment #320438

C&J: Actually everything that you just said relies entirely on really not changing anything in our infrastructure, but just using more expensive inputs. On that same note, you also seem to be looking at these “long term” fossil fuel resources in a strictly monetary sense, completely negating the very real health threats imposed by the means through which we acquire those resources. With the shale you reference, they extract it through a process called hydrofracking which absolutely poisons the drinking water of the communities in which it’s practiced. I live in the area of the Marcellus shale reserves that they’re trying to extract that natural gas from and personally know people from two towns south of the border in PA who had to move because their ground water is like runoff from a Somalian garbage dump. Knowing what I know about the process (independent of the people I know), I would feel like a ridiculous moron to support hydrofracking.

If the Saudis are, in fact, afraid of high oil prices because they encourage the development of renewables then they really don’t have any reason to have that fear since we’ve shown through at least 5 major fuel shortages in the US over the past 40 years we won’t do anything to shift our infrastructure. Why would they be afraid of something when there’s no evidence that they have to be? I agree with you on the carbon tax to make it more expensive to use fossil fuels, but I disagree with your statement about it being impossible to be energy independent. In the beginning of the shift from fossil fuels to renewables it will definitely be expensive. We’d have to completely revamp our infrastructure and new technologies take time to develop into better and cheaper upgrades. However after that initial surge in prices at the infrastructure change you’ll definitely see costs go down. Time and work brings new technologies, which bring lower costs for the consumer. Remember that at one time only the wealthiest nations could afford a computer. It couldn’t fit into one room and had a fraction of the computational power of currently available bottom grade consumer electronics. For a long time after the invention of the computer, it was way cheaper to keep people using adding machines and old technologies. For a long time after the invention of the car barely anyone could afford it. For a long time after the invention of the TV, barely anyone could afford it. The point I’m making is that every single time a new form of technology is presented to the world “it’ll never catch on”. Then it does. Then it gets cheaper. You just need that initial investment of ingenuity.

Posted by: Jared Skye at March 20, 2011 1:11 AM
Comment #320440

Jared

I am hopeful about alternatives. Some - like wind - are almost ready for widespread use - especially when mated with natural gas for times when the wind is not blowing.

I did not make myself clear about changes. I do NOT believe we should or will remain with the current energy mix. But I believe we have a plan in place, the same plan that has brought us from shortages of everything in the past to our prosperity today. We have in place a system of decentralized, dispersed decision making, where millions of people make decisions based on their own particular knowledge and preferences. I hesitate to use the word “market” because it brings with it all sorts of connotations to some people. The market has - requires - government leadership, but not close management by bureaucrats.

We now have some interesting new examples of market power. We can see how a dispersed decision making system works with something like Wikipedia v Britannica. Wikipedia is organized like a market. Britannica is a more centralized approach. Both can produce excellent results. Britannica is probably more reliable in its best and most recent articles. But Wikipedia has much more variety, responds much quicker to change and discovers topics that Britannica editors did not know existed.

Government responsibility - our government is not doing a good job on infrastructure. Our energy distribution networks are not able to move power from where new sources would produce it to places where it is needed. This is the penalty we pay for developing earlier. The system is optimized for situations that existed in the past. There is a lot of talk about smart grids and progress is being made, but government doesn’t support changes well. Government represents existing power relationships and allows stopping projects when some people object.

Re fracking - Your information differs from mine. The only place that toxins can reach water supplies is at the well head. We need to regulate this, no doubt, but we cannot let fears and innuendo take away this clean (compared to oil or coal) and American source. The State of Pennsylvania has excellent rules. There was recently an interesting discussion on Dianne Rehm show. The regulator from Pennsylvania really explained well how recent NYT articles were misinformed.

Re Saudis fearing higher prices - they fear the higher prices ADJUSTED for inflation. Oil prices are currently high, but they will go down, as they have in the past. And the price of oil and gasoline has not risen over all in adjusted terms since the 1970s.

In the late 1970s, I could get three hamburgers, fries and a coke for less than $1 (taxes included). In 1979, a gallon of gas cost $.89 (taxes included). Today, three hamburgers, fries and a coke costs more than $5. I paid $3.65 for gas last week. When prices start to diverge, Saudis worry. As long as prices keep pace with inflation, it works for them.

Re computer etc - I have no doubt that someday “alternatives” will be normal. Just not for a while. You mention adoption of various technologies. Take your own point. It takes time to switch over.

It takes about 15 years to “turn over” our auto fleet. A power plant lasts for more than fifty years. Our housing stock is even slower to turn over. Almost all the sources of energy we will use in 2020 are already in place or being built today. It takes time to change. Government can help by changing incentive. But government attempts to rush the process have ended in tears. Consider synfuels of the 1970s, or more recently the “hydrogen economy” or the ethanol debacle.

Government planners do not have the necessary knowledge to plan in detail. NO individuals or groups have that. But the people together tend to have more knowledge. Beyond that, government responds to politics. That is why we still push corn ethanol long after everybody understands the experiment has failed.

Let me end with a more hopeful note. You mentioned technologies. I remember my math teacher telling me that the calculator would never replace the slide ruler. Things can move quickly. But I also remember various attempts to “help” spread calculators or to create fairness by limiting them. We were initially not allowed to use calculators. Among the reasons was that it was unfair to “the poor” who couldn’t afford it. Subsequent government attempts to address the “digital divide” put antiquated computers into the hands of poor people, locking them into old tech. We CAN do this. But we cannot do it if government tries to run the show too much.

Posted by: C&J at March 20, 2011 10:38 AM
Comment #320445


It was clear to many folks that using a prime foodstock for producing energy was a dumb move. Of course, welfare farmers (Archer-Daniels-Midland) of the Midwest and their corporcratic politicians are propagandizing that using corn is just a start toward maturing the ethanol process. Ain’t enuff biomass on the planet to produce enough energy to compete with crude oil. And, we have some additional 4B people looking to eat something other than foo-foo and rice for a change. Another problem is that more than 10% ethanol additive to gas burns small 2 cycle engines up pdq. But, don’t you know the Corpocracy is pushing for 20% additive as we speak. Who cares if we have to re-design the worlds small engines, ain’t that good for business? Keeps them pork bellies moving.

Complete agreement that businesses and the politicians (the Corpocracy) are slow to get off the dime. While it is a rational response and well understood the Corpocracy will cling to their monopolies and investments until the ‘last Indian dies’, left to have their way.

I frequently write in the middle column that any policy reform through the Corpocracy will be fringe change at best. They can barely get court houses named anymore. So sad that people seem powerless to rid themselves of the Corpocracy and get on with the good life. Get rid of the Corpocracy, the money influence in politics/gov’t, and state/federal legislators will have to come around and communicate with people rather than corporations. Get rid of the money influence and all manner of reform becomes possible, campaign finance reform, healthcare, etc.

A roadmap to real reform: Support a 3rd party designed to remove the money influence from politics/govt such as the Republic Sentry Party. Support movements like Vote Out Incumbency Democracy to remove Corporcratic/long tenured politicians from elected office. Support the effort to force congress and the courts to recognize the long denied constitutional right, Article V Convention. We need to get some things right before we wade any deeper into the cesspool of Corpocracy.

Otherwise, we have the Corpocracy we deserve.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at March 20, 2011 12:57 PM
Comment #320446

C&J: in regard to fracking, a lot of “regulators” say that the damage is minimal in only small areas. These are usually lies. Any basic understanding of how aquifers are replenished and the chemical nature of liquids tells us that. They’re pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals into these shale beds. This is uncontainable. We aren’t even clear what chemicals are used in the process so real impact studies can’t even be done. The fracking process itself is actually a very inefficient way to get at shale gas. It creates only semi-predictable fissures in the rocks sending what knows where who knows where as well as directing the gas to the drilling op. Most “regulators” are industry employees that get placed in their position or other people that are payed. As a person who understands the need for development (I support the natural gas line in AK for example), but has watched this whole circus unfold by living in it, the whole thing is just balls out corrupt as hell. The reason why shale is such an acrimonious issue is because it’s a blatant example of corporate America absolutely destroying the lives of regular citizens, all while no one gives a shit. People are up in arms about it because there is nothing they can do to stop it. Not “development”, but any kind of development of this nature (in my opinion) has to be a transparent one that lets the people who write the impact statements do their job. Even if the natural gas in the area would support us for 200 years: by supporting a method of extraction that is utterly filthy and pumps uncontainable waste products into aquifers and wetlands, we are poisoning drinking water for millions for hundreds (if not thousands) of years beyond the lifetime of the gas. No matter what your political leanings: water IS more important than money and gas. There’s no getting around that.

Posted by: Jared Skye at March 20, 2011 1:28 PM
Comment #320448


Jared, there will always be people who will defend harmful but profitable products and techniques. There were plenty of investors who defended pollution as not harmful or a necessary by product of progress. There were many that defended the tobacco industry as either not harmful or, as it has turned out, a matter of choice. There are people who defend fracking and GMOs. There commonality is that they are far more likely to take the producers at their word.

C&J, I have a different definition.

The stock market is a centralized gambling parlor primarily controlled by big investors with most others jumping into the mutual funds arena. It is a system of gambling on the future of the world controlled primarily by greed, hysteria and profit taking.

Most all of us are greedy. Your preference for indulging your greed is the stock market. The poor man uses the government to indulge his greed. You prefer a king that will allow you to indulge your particular brand of greed. The poor man wants a king that will make the scales of greed a little more in balance. Since god will not referee, we wage political war over the matter. One side of the political spectrum is united in the cause of greed of by and for the individual based upon the individuals abilities. The other side prefers collective bargaining.

Posted by: jlw at March 20, 2011 3:05 PM
Comment #320449

jlw: You’re right and that’s true. People will always defend those techniques. Which is why it’s important that people equally attack those techniques with the understanding that some things are more important than any monetary gain. That’s not a hippie commie liberal stance. It’s a reasonable common sense stance. Try living without money. Like it or not, you can do it. Try living without water. You will die and there’s no creative way around that.

Posted by: Jared Skye at March 20, 2011 4:00 PM
Comment #320452


Jared, there have always been “crazy eddie’s”, people who think we can solve most any problem using logic and cooperation. There are too few “crazy eddie’s” to change the paradigm.

There will always be those who think that decision making should be done on the basis of greed, hysteria, and self interest because that is what we are best at. For them there are few things worse than a do gooder or a “crazy eddie”, whom they claim are always fouling things up by trying to make them better.

Crazy eddie resides in a SF novel by David Niven and Jerry Pournelle titled ‘THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE’.

Posted by: jlw at March 20, 2011 5:13 PM
Comment #320453

jared

The gas is many miles below the aquifers that we tap. In fact, most of the toxic pollution present in the water at the well head comes from the rocks below the surface. It is absorbed down there, so if the water table we use for consumption was down there, it would already be full of natural toxins.

One of us is misinformed about the dangers and benefits of this sort of gas extraction. I think it is you and you think it is me. There is no use arguing this one back and forth. If you don’t trust the EPA or the regulators in Pennsylvania, you won’t trust me.

Jlw

I also defend GMOs. There is no science available that indicates significant danger. The argument used against GMOs is that they may not work. If not, so what? You have eaten GMO food. I expect you are still alive.

GMO just uses a more precise form of plant breeding. If we are to address the problems of global food shortages, climate change, we need to use this technology.

You compare GMOs to tobacco. This is an error. In the tobacco case, science said it was dangerous and conspiracy theories said it was not. It is the opposite with GMOs. Your anti-GMO position is more like someone opposed to the use of electricity, because it is indeed dangerous and every year people are killed by it.

Re the stock market - if you believe it is like a casino, I suppose your investment strategies would reflect that and it is best to stay away from it. I cannot explain to you and will not try. But, you are wise to stay away from what you do not understand.

I try to create wealth. Some people want to take it. I consider them a bit more greedy.

Jared & Jlw

Most people don’t act only out of monetary greed. I mostly invest in forestry. Nobody I know in forestry maximizes profits in the short term. Nobody. We all maintain sustainable land that we plan to keep productive. Sometimes we get little rich kids from environmental organizations explaining things to us. Nice of them, but they understand forestry in much the same way the non-investors understand the stock market. We do things in sustainable ways not because we are hippie-commies (who, BTW, generally do NOT do things that work in the long run) but because we and others have learned how to do this over generations.

Posted by: C&J at March 20, 2011 5:22 PM
Comment #320457

C&J: And when toxins shift from aqueous to gaseous they rise. Not to mention all the reports of natural gas leaking into water lines and causing numerous cases of mysterious bleeding behaviors, headaches, etc. So yes one of us is very wrong. But you’re right, there’s no use arguing it.

Posted by: Jared Skye at March 20, 2011 10:21 PM
Comment #320460


“If you won’t trust the EPA or the regulators in Pennsylvania”

That’s a good one, coming from the right.

The EPA has no regulations on fracking. I wonder why? One name, Dick Cheney.

Many states are in the process of developing their own as Obama Administration stonewalls.

Pennsylvania has a large conflict of interests, jobs and money vs the environment.

Arkansas earthquakes diminish after fracking operations suspended. Imagine that.

I know quite well that you also support GMOs.

Here is some information that Monsanto isn’t distributing.

Seed contamination a prevalent problem.

2006, contamination of U.S. rice crop causes millions of dollars in damage to the rice industry.

Increased demand for acreage to grow GMO pharmaceutical food crops unintended and harmful for human consumption increase danger through seed contamination.

Dramatic increase in herbicide use for GMOs. Wild species and weeds cross contaminated with genes.

Global Food Act (s.384)- agricultural and rural development assistance to developing nations contains the Monsanto provision mandating research employing genetic engineering.

Pesticides (Roundup) Near extinction of Monarch Butterfly- increased resistance in pest species.

Increased use of pesticides.

Increase in allergens due to cross contamination and gene manipulation.

U.S.- Bt corn variety (Starlink) illegally introduced into food supply contained allergen harmful to humans.

Brazil- brazil nut gene placed in soybeans causes allergic reaction in people allergic to brazil nuts.

Crop yields actually decrease over time.

Union of Concerned Scientists.

How long did humans consume tobacco before it was known to be harmful.

In the corporate paradigm resistance is futile.

Posted by: jlw at March 20, 2011 11:02 PM
Comment #320464

jlw: one thing about tobacco to remember is that while even all natural tobacco is obviously bad for you, the majority of the nasty carcinogens in tobacco these days came from corporate involvement.

Posted by: Jared Skye at March 21, 2011 12:37 AM
Comment #320465

jlw

Dick Cheney left office. The VP is now Joe Biden and the President is Barack Obama. I guess you think they are crooks too. So who can you trust?

re states making regulations - yes, as they are allowed and encouraged to do in cases like this. Pennsylvania has very strict regulations, but then you don’t trust them either.

Your information about GMOs is simply inaccurate. I won’t even try to give you better information but simply ask you to apply logic to your own statements.

According to you, GMOs are causing crop yields to drop, requiring more inputs or things like pesticides and just plain are not working. Okay. If you are right, why does anybody plant them? Presumably, farmers are hoping to make money and if they pay extra for seeds that produce less and cost more to care for, won’t they make less money?

You have a significant logic problem. You assume people are greedy but then assume that they do not act on their greed.

It is interesting that, according to you guys, almost everybody is greedy and clever, but at the same time does not maximize greed and is stupid. I really do not understand how these things can all be true at the same time, but then I have an old fashioned classical education. We like to look at that logic thing and use science when it applies. It is a weakness of mine not to hate everybody and think they are all out to ruin my world.

Ask yourself another logic question. How many people do you think the world could support w/o the use of modern agriculture? Now how many people live on the world today? Shall we ask for volunteers to leave?

Jared

“the majority of the nasty carcinogens in tobacco these days came from corporate involvement” What do you even mean by that? When did the corporate involvement insert these additional carcinogens, how and why?

Do you really think things were better back in the past when we ate nothing but organic food and most of us died by the time we were fifty? How far back do you want to turn the clock?

Posted by: C&J at March 21, 2011 2:36 AM
Comment #320471

C&J wrote; “I try to create wealth. Some people want to take it. I consider them a bit more greedy.”

That is one of the best sentences I have read in quite some time.

Wikipedia defines wealth as; “context-dependent and there is no universally agreed upon definition. Generally, economists define wealth as “anything of value” which captures both the subjective nature of the idea and the idea that it is not a fixed or static concept.”

Being “poor” as defined in the US could be described as being “rich” in much of the world.

Wikiquote paraphrased says, Greed is not defined as the desire to possess something. It becomes greed when the things you possess start possessing you.

Posted by: Royal Flush at March 21, 2011 2:21 PM
Comment #320472

C&J: Actually, you seem to be one of the many people that believes that falsehood. People lived just as long all that time ago as they did today. The only reason why numbers you can find regarding life span look young to most people is because of the high rate of infant mortality. Spikes in global pandemics and wars influenced it as well, but we statistically have lost a lot of people due to these same issues (see WWII, Vietnam, Spanish Flu). The only reason why the “average” person lives longer now is because more babies that would have originally died are now living and skewing the statistics. Advances in medical technology to stop common killers back then (syphillis, etc) exist now which let people either live longer with a disease or cure it entirely. However a person had the potential to live just as long if not longer than the “average” person today since people who reached adulthood were actually fit and not lazy scumbags sitting on the couch playing videogames all day.

Posted by: Jared Skye at March 21, 2011 2:30 PM
Comment #320483

jared

I understand the difference between life span and life expectancy. I don’t believe “a falsehood”. I just understand statistics and how they work.

I also understand that in those organic food times, mortality rates were higher at all age ranges. In other words, your chances of dying were greater at any age back then than they are today.

You are right re diseases that we have conquered. Life is indeed much healthier today than it was then.

BTW - one of the bigger causes of sickness and death in the good old days was food poisoning. In those organic, pre-preservative days your daily meal was a real crap shoot - often literally.

Posted by: C&J at March 21, 2011 6:58 PM
Comment #320484


J.D. Rockefeller, “How much is enough? More than I have.”

The Bible (God) has defined greed in many ways, many times, as a desire for more than you need.

The poor widow gave more that all the rich men combined. Why, because they gave of their surplus while she gave all she had to live on. That’s right, they gave of their surplus.

What should make a man content? Food and covering.

That thing about not storing up treasure on earth.

In the time of Jesus the common belief was that wealth was a sign of God’s blessing and poverty a sign of God’s curse.

In the time of Jesus, His message on wealth was more than enough to get him nailed to a cross.

Indirect quote, after being loaned twenty years ago, the book was not returned.

And I ask God, who is this young man? And God spoke saying he shall be called the Son of Woman. He shall implore the people to return to the teachings of their God, but the people will ignore the message and they shall fall on their knees and worship him. I [God] say unto you, all who do this shall perish.

From the Book of Enoch.

Posted by: jlw at March 21, 2011 7:00 PM
Comment #320487

jlw

JD Rockefeller virtually invented the idea of modern philanthropy. All through his life, even when he was poor and struggling, he gave at least 10% of his yearly income to charity. He invented the foundation because it got to complicated for him to give away such large sums of money.

There is a good bio or Rockefeller called “Titan” by Ron Chernov. Take a look at it if you want to understand more about the man.

So if he really thought that enough was more than he had, he probably should not have given so much of it away during his entire life.

Re your religious beliefs - I think it is great that you are a strong Christian and that you interpret your religion according to the quotations you mention in the Bible.

Rockefeller gave 10% when he was poor and much more when he was rich. Chrissy and I give around 10%. I consider the proper deployment of “charity” resources as important as the productive ones, but the productive resources are what ALLOW me to be generous. I don’t happen to believe it makes much sense to give more than your “surplus” unless there is extraordinary need. If your religious beliefs are to the contrary, I expect you are carrying it out yourself. Congratulations. You are one of the few who lives up to his values.

Posted by: C&J at March 21, 2011 7:49 PM
Comment #320492

C&J: If you understood statistics and how they work then you would understand that “humans only lived until 50” is a falsehood. But I’m sure that as a person who’s read a number of sparknotes pages on statistics, you understand their application better than someone who studied to be (and worked extensively) as a research biologist. I understand.

Also, your quote on food poisoning is a lie or you just don’t know what you’re talking about. The only occasions where food poisoning was a significant contributor to decreasing life expectancy were in places where pork was commonly eaten and where people lived in heavy densities without proper sanitation strategies. If your argument is that the farther back you go in time the more food poisoning puts you at danger is absolutely false. If that were true, then the natives of the US (or anywhere else) would have been crawling around barely alive before western colonization. The native people were often much more physically robust and healthy than their white conquerers. I recommend putting your assumptions of how the world works aside for a minute and to take a minute to actually gain some information. But that’s up to you.

Posted by: Jared Skye at March 21, 2011 9:27 PM
Comment #320494

A good url on GMO salmon. As I understand scientists don’t know why Pacific salmon go up the river and die while Atlantic salmon go up the river and return to sea year over year. A peeve I have with Aquabounty is that they don’t won’t to label their product as GMO. I was in Wallmart today and thought I might buy some frozen fish. I picked up a package of COD, Tillipia, and salmon and all were labeled a product of China. So, I bought some grapes from Chile.

Lemme try this energy production url one more time: And, the one on hydrogen fuel for vehicles.

Some folks are looking to get a handle on US population growth. Even to be a microbit serious about population reduction one would think an open (uncontrolled) borders policy would not be best for the nation. Adopting a flat tax with no deductions for family size would seem a reasonable approach. Do we need the gov’t subsidizing population expansion in 2011? Is bigger salmon the answer to overpopulation?

Otherwise, we have the Corpocracy we deserve.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at March 21, 2011 9:37 PM
Comment #320496

Jared

I have an MBA in marketing research. We studied statistics. Don’t try to pull rank. You know that your interpretation of the statistics is so narrow as to be misleading.

Did you actually get a masters degree in that research thing? I have hired a few scientists and I looked for that credential. Lots of people told me that “they worked in”. It is like those people who “attended” Harvard.

The idea that food borne diseases were not much of a problem in the pre-modern world is just too silly to address. It is still clearly a problem all over the place, even in places where they don’t eat much pork.

Re the native people - assume you are talking about the Americas and not anywhere else, which would include Europeans native there. One reason they appeared healthy is because of the high mortality rates. There were not many really old people as a % of the population. You can see that even today in “native” populations in places like Brazil. We really cannot tell much about the levels of some diseases, since the extraordinary level of internecine violence tended to keep the population aggregate young.

Let me be very clear about life spans and tell me if you have a problem. The human life span seems to be around 110. When we find people who claim to be older than that, it is in places w/o good records. This has evidently not changed much throughout history. The Pharaoh Pepi II Neferkare reportedly ruled for ninety-four years. We assume he was young when he took the job, but you still have to figure that the man lived more than 100 years. The Egyptians kept records for thousands of years. Pepi II was the oldest. Archeological evidence confirms that average people did not live nearly as long.

As a biologist, you will understand that you can estimate a person’s age at death by their teeth and bones.

Life expectancy is how much an average person lives. This has changed a great deal. You are correct that the high infant mortality pulled down the average, but mortality was higher at every age. It was once very rare to reach 90. Now it is becoming much more common. I remember when 50 was considered old and when Social Security was invented, life expectancy was only 63.

If you understand statistics, you understand that it is a matter of the odds. At the time of Pepi II Neferkare at least one person lived to be around 100. But if you were 20 years old back then, your chances of reaching 75 were not good, whereas today they are.

I have lived in various countries and met actual indigenous people. They are not as healthy as you seem to think. Maybe they were healthier in the past, but historical and archeological evidence doesn’t back up this assumption. Some of the old people seem healthy, but then you find out they are not as old as you thought. They just look old.

Face it. Modern medicine and food are generally good things. There never was a pre-modern utopia.

I don’t know how old you are. If you are more than around 40 years old, you must have seen with your own eyes the changing vigor of the older population even in the short time span. The disease that killed my mother at 49 is now curable. The arthritis that crippled my aunt in her 50s is now treatable. The high cholesterol that helped kill my uncles is now controllable with a medication that costs $.17 a day. The dysentery that my daughter got as a baby in Brasil might have killed her a generation earlier; now it is quickly treatable with a simple solution.

So if you like living a shorter life, with more misery at any age, by all means praise the past. The past is a place I would like to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Posted by: C&J at March 21, 2011 10:09 PM
Comment #320501

C&J: There are so many things wrong with that post it’s insane. And I’m sorry, but as a biologist I do believe I understand statistics as they relate to populations better than a person with an MBA. Sorry.

And yes I have both lived and worked in countries other than the US. Most recently, another biologist and I initiated the first research expedition ever conducted by a team of US researchers in an isolated pocket of cloud forest in central Veracruz. While working there we stayed with a local native family that we met while conducting the research. The head of the family was a well respected member of the native community, and upon hearing of our research they welcomed us into their homes. And yeah, they were perfectly healthy. They used an unplugged microwave to store chicken and other meats for days at a time and didn’t have a refrigerator. Even as a person not from the area, with all the “food borne” illnesses there I never got sick once during the 2 months we stayed with them and I ate everything they ate.

I understand that it’s very likely that the “natives” you tell me you saw were living either in urban slums or in areas where western influence has overtaken their regular diet. It may surprise you to realize that the “natives” hawking trinkets to you outside whatever hyatt regency you’ve stayed in while abroad do not live in a traditional native way. It is also well documented by well kept russian medical journals that in places like Alaska natives led longer and healthier lives before heavy western influence pervaded the area. These days it’s hard to find an alaskan native older than 25 with all his teeth in his head. As far as people dying from diseases, like I said: that’s true. Medecine can cure a lot of things now. However you’re making a big assumption by saying that I refer to the past as some kind of “pre-modern utopia” as you so eloquently put it. It was harsh and people died by many means. All I’m challenging is your allegation that food poisoning was as big of a mortality factor as you seem to think. It’s a flat out, balls out, ridiculous falsehood. You seem to be running off of the assumption that people didn’t evolve to consume food. Or perhaps after the millions of years of human development, and the 200k+ years since the dawn of what we look at as “modern”, we’re the sole magical creature that evolved to have fatal reactions with the food we consume without the introduction of GMO’s and flame searing.

Listen, this is ridiculous. If I want information on how to run a bank then I’ll call you. But if you seriously think that an MBA is you “pulling rank” on a biologist that has actual working history studying the effect of disease vectors and environmental contaminants on living species of animals, then well I guess that’s your problem. I, however, am done playing tennis with a wall. Off to write the next article. Thanks for the discussion.

Posted by: Jared Skye at March 22, 2011 2:23 AM
Comment #320512


C&J. what Rockefeller is most credited with is practically inventing the Progressive Movement.

Didn’t like that quote by Dimes? Ok, here is another.

“the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker began to refine oil” “the price went down and down until the trade was ruined.”

Ah, the free market. It’s almost as if Old J.D. were still here fixing the price.

Anything else I need to know about J.D., price fixers, speculators or unethical businessmen?

I guess I was a Christian at one time, I was baptised at the Ohio Avenue Church of Christ when I was five and excommunicated at 11 for asking to many questions and arguing about the answers.

I know, conservatives are big on charity, they give more and they let the whole world know it. Something like, don’t let the one hand know what the other is doing.

I don’t quite understand, you gave of your excess and you see no need that is great enough to give of your surplus.

Excess? That wasn’t me, that was Jesus. Of course he doesn’t make a lot of sense in today’s capitalist economy where the need is no longer so great that it requires giving of surplus.

“I try to create wealth. some people want to take it. I consider them a bit more greedy.” I know what it’s like, those damned butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers.

The argument isn’t about who does or doesn’t try to create wealth. The argument is about the commission that is charged for creating the wealth.

Distribution of net worth

top 1% = 34.6%
next 19%= 50.5%
Total = 85%

bottom 80% = 15%

Financial wealth

top 1% = 42.7%
next 19% = 50.3%
total = 93%

bottom 80% = 7%

The bottom 80% are obviously a bit more greedy. Totals include government assistance and charity.

Posted by: jlw at March 22, 2011 6:11 PM
Comment #320524

jared

Sort of like that guy in ghost busters - “back off man, I am a scientist”.

Did you actually get that masters or PhD in science or are we talking dilettante?

Statistics are statistics. Did you find anything wrong with my explanation of life span v life expectancy? I know that a scientist with that PhD in biology might look down on ordinary people, but knowledge is knowledge too. You do accept that life expectancy was lower in the past than it is today, right?

Re food diseases - in the past food spoilage was more a problem. Various diseases were passed with food people died. You don’t have to be a PhD in biology to get that. A history major might even know that.

re your comment about running a bank - I really don’t know much about that, but if you believe this specialist stuff you claim to, any time we talk finance are you going to defer to my “better information?” I thought not. Than don’t try it with your biology degree. I was not “pulling rank” on you because I have probably studied more statistics than you have. I was merely saying that I would not accept that you “pull rank” on me because you studied biology. And, BTW, if you do not have that PhD …

Re natives - I have met indigenous populations in the Amazon and talked to Bedouins in the deserts in Iraq. They didn’t try to sell me any trinkets and they did not have microwaves, even unplugged ones. If your friends were storing chicken & meat for days in an unplugged microwaves, it says they did not have much chicken or meat (unless it was a very big microwave) and it is not smart to leave chicken out at room temperature. You were lucky.

As a biologist, I suppose you heard of giardia. Drinking from the streams, even in a place w/o much human habitation is not a good idea.

Re tennis with the wall. Good luck with that. I expect the wall wins most of the time.

jlw

Your point is what? If you are not a practicing Christian, why use the Bible as an argument? I think it is a good idea to use arguments that you believe and that are appropriate. If you do not believe this things are the way to run your life, why do you quote them?

You want to redistribute wealth. That’s a fine opinion you have. Poor wealth creators often want to take from those who are better at the task. It can be a workable public policy, but it is not just.

Re John D Rockefeller - you can like him or not. He was a hard business person. But he gave away 10% or more of his income from the time he was poor (he started out very poor), so he was motivated by something other than greed alone.

Posted by: C&J at March 22, 2011 10:32 PM
Comment #320532

C&J-
Fracking is the process of sending fluid at high pressure into shale formations to break them up, to create cracks through which Natural gas can seep towards the well.

Of course, when you do that, you are essentially breaking down the barriers between different rock formations, and since it’s usually quite a ways down below the surface, there’s really no direct way to discover the extent of the cracks. Now, they don’t have to get all the way to the Aquifer, they just have to get past the part that keeps such lighter than water fluids like benzene, or gases like methane from seeping upwards.

Fossil fuel extraction will be an issue, perhaps, into the next century. But we will have to deal with the consequences to the water supply for much longer than that.

All emotions aside, I don’t see how it’s in our interests to be so cavalier about it.

As for redistribution of wealth? For all intents and purposes, that’s what a governor who fires a bunch of state workers, and gives corporations and rich people a tax break does. That’s what people who vote to kill NPR but not to kill unnecessary subsidies to oil companies or insurers do.

It’s a catchphrase, a connotatively charged charge that’s meant to discourage people from seeking to create programs for the poor and disadvantage, or increase taxes on the rich. But if you look at Rep. Ryan’s plans for the GOP, taxes actually go up for the average person, and down for the rich, who already have a greater share of the nation’s money than at any time since the great depression.

Let’s not be naive about this. This is about one social class’s interests against another. There wouldn’t necessarily have to be this kind of contention, if today’s rich were more compromising, less insistent that people take the degradation of their interests in stride, but those who insist on such sacrifice from the average American seem not to register that this is a fight they ultimately cannot win. They are dependent on a system they seem hell-bent on having a certain way, but that system is not sustainable as it is.

Sooner or later, they will ask for a bailout, and they won’t get it. That, or they will get it only with a much more extreme set of regulations and restriction on them, because people have such bad memories of the last time.

People are not emotional blanks slates. The insults and injuries do not simply go away.

In my view, it is better to make peace with one’s enemies, and negotiate with one’s adversaries, than to, as a matter of course, pick fights with them.

As for Rockefeller and the other Robber Barons? They had at least one thing straight: the better people feel about you, the more willing people are to let you alone. It’s not merely something you can solve by pouring on the PR gravy. People will come to distrust that if they’re still suffering.

Today’s rich are adopting a much more elitist attitude towards the average person and their needs, and as a consequence, are probably more apt to feel the pain when those folks decide they’ve had enough.

So, long story short, business interests have to recognize that they are making a very unwise gamble, if they expect folks to continue to endure hardship in order to subsidize their lifestyles.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 23, 2011 11:12 AM
Comment #320538


C&J, Many of those medical breakthroughs were developed right here in this country and yet the citizens of this country don’t seem to be getting the same benefit from them as other countries are. We rank 50 in the world in life expectancy, lagging behind many socialist systems, even though we pay far more for health care. Imagine where we would be in the rankings if health care was, as it should be in a capitalist system, based exclusively on ability to pay. We could probably stay above 100 in the rankings with charitable contributions.

As one Republican Senator put it, Obama’s health care plan would have killed his seriously handicapped daughter. Thank God the Senator and his family has taxpayer supplemented health care.

You are right, the Bible was meant to be the exclusive property of the church and Christians. No one, especially heathens, can understand the literal words of God without years of indoctrination in Bible study classes.

It’s not my fault, it’s Gutenberg, do it to him.

My opinion of Rockefeller is that he epitomizes the free market. Like I said, it is Rockefeller and men like him that are most responsible for the Progressive Era. Like Rockefeller, many of his peers also gave lavishly to charity.

What does wealth pray for? No crop failures?

Posted by: jlw at March 23, 2011 4:51 PM
Comment #320613

jlw

re the Bible - Evidently you believe what you said from the Bible. It is a matter of faith that I do not share with you. It is not an argument.

I think you are confused. You evidently feel it makes sense to deploy faith based arguments for a faith that you seem not to even believe in.

re health care - I lived in Norway, which rates high on health care stats. Norwegians as a group have excellent health habits. That explains a lot. You don’t have to fix what doesn’t go wrong. If we could get Americans to live like Norwegians, we would have been outcomes. In fact, when you compare American populations of Norwegian descent (there are more than 5 million in the U.S.) they indeed do have health outcomes more similar to their Norwegian relatives.

We do indeed get a bad deal on health care. Personally, I would favor a Norwegian style program, but having experienced it, I understand that many of my fellow Americans, with their propensity to sue and hypochondriac tendencies, would object.

I got hit by a car in Norway. They just sent me home with a cracked sternum, broken toe, cuts and bruises and a concussion. They said there was nothing that needed be done, and they were right. I had a root canal done in Norway. The dentist seriously asked me if I wanted Novocaine. He said it didn’t take long and most patients didn’t need it. When someone has trouble walking, they don’t get a hoverround. They get crutches, instructions how to use them plus the guilt trip if they complain. In Norway, there are almost no really fat people. The list goes on.

Re Rockefeller - those guys built the wealth that later generations redistributed. Hard work doesn’t do it alone. Otherwise all those poor peasants would be rich.

Posted by: C&J at March 24, 2011 9:49 PM
Comment #320625


C&J, My quotes and comments about the Bible were to explain that there are many ways to interpret it. That in fact it is ideas and reasons written by men to explain natural events and the interactions between men within the context of the Gods, one God, then two Gods, the good one and the bad one.

You can find the camel through the eye stories as well as the given charity and treat your slaves well stories. They are denouncements of or promotions of the activities of men and are of no interest to Gods unless the Gods are indeed sitting on Mt. Olympus pulling the strings or unless the Gods really did come down from the sky.

Flaming chariot taxi service. And I [Enoch] was taken up higher than the eagle flies, higher still, till I could see the world ocean, higher still, till I could see the whole world below. To the jeweled city, the abode of God, I was taken.

They all lived nine hundred years plus and they died, except for Enoch. “And all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not; for God took him.”

When Lamech saw his new son he was very upset because the child looked like one of the Sons of God rather than a man. He ran to his father Methuselah. Methuselah said let’s ask your grandfather Enoch, he’s always off talking with God so he should know what is going on. Enoch said, God is going to destroy mankind and replace it, name the child Noah.

I consider the Genesis story a written account of oral traditions passed down from earlier accounts that were written from even earlier oral accounts.

The Bible, the Sanskrit writings, and the Sumerian tablets, science fiction or fact? I leave the dogmas to the Christians who know how to use them.

I think I was deserving of excommunication, don’t you?

Yes the people do have a raw deal with health care and yes they have been spoiled in many ways, none more so than those higher up the cast system. Who convinced American mothers that they should demand antibiotics to fight their kids colds? Do you have any idea what put that in their heads? I don’t know where they got that notion but they have it and I still here it despite attempts to convince them other wise. All I know is the doctors are writing the scripts and the pharmacies are filling them.

I depend on the V.A. for medical treatment. It was pretty bad, but a lot better now. I give Bush some of the credit for that. The problem I have now is nearly every time I go to see my doctor, I’m told I have a new condition. They are turning me into a non-complaining hypochondriac.

If you can get Doc Martin on your PBS channel watch it. The old doc spent most of his time listening to his patients trials and tribulations, and giving them what they wanted. The new doc is more to the point, you don’t have a damn thing wrong with you so get out.

Rockefeller, rags to riches, I admire that a lot and I also admire those who rise out of poverty just enough to give themselves and their families a better way of life and their children better opportunities in their lives. Rockefeller and his peers could have been heroes, they chose to be pariahs.

Name me one thing that capital built without labor. Nothing, not even more capital. It is a joint venture, a partnership and as such the workers should work hard and capital should share the wealth created in a more equitable fashion. If Rockefeller had shared half the profits created with his workers he would still have been filthy rich, still had much capital on top of his capital, and his workers and their families would have had a better way of life.

Why have hundreds of entrepreneurs in the oil business when only one is needed. Is that how the free market works? Unscrupulous business practices demanding monopolistic concessions from distributors, suppliers, and government alike?

I don’t remember if it was Pierpont or Frick that said, we bought the bastard and he didn’t stay bought, referring to Teddy Roosevelt.

Royal Flush said or Founding Fathers would be appalled by the social programs. What he didn’t say was that they fought a revolution because of the same government/corporate domination that exists today.

Our country has become the England of the past, when that Empire attempted dominate the world on behalf of wealth. All you have to do is read Dickens to find out how well trickle down works. In that England, most of the professional class was little better off the the paupers. Previews of coming attractions.

Posted by: jlw at March 25, 2011 5:51 AM
Comment #320654

jlw

Why do you keep on bringing up religion. And if it is not something you believe why do you keep on trying to use it as an argument?

Essentially you are arguing that your interpretation of the Bible means that we should redistribute income. That is fine if you are talking to someone who believes as you do.

What you are trying to do is indicate that my arguments are somehow hypocritical since they do not conform with all the tenets of the Christian religion. That would be a valid point if and only if I was a practicing church member, which I am not.

re your being deserving of excommunication - it is not my business. From what I know of the church, however, I am sure that you indeed would be excommunicated and they would think you would be going to hell. I don’t believe that; I suppose you don’t either. But that would indeed be the honest judgment of many.

Re those anti-biotics - I don’t believe that has anything to do with big pharma. They don’t like the abuse of their products. Beyond that, people in many other countries abuse anti-biotics more than Americans do.

Posted by: C&J at March 25, 2011 8:51 PM
Comment #320693


C&J, I am as good at confusing myself as I am at confusing you. I’ll try to be more clear.

The biblical references are to show that the argument over the distribution, or as you prefer, the redistribution of wealth is as old as civilization and remains unresolved to this day.

I also tried to show that IMO, the Genesis story is a rendition of a mythology that is common to nearly all ancient cultures. That myth being, the Gods descended from the sky, created men in their image, and interacted with men before returning to the sky.

That is a recipe requiring aliens as an ingredient rather than Gods. The evidence for that is superficial at best; dependent on the early stories and writings of men and, at this time, centered around an argument over what it is possible for men to accomplish without the help of those aliens.

In a primitive culture, the main actors in the stories make more sense in the context of Gods. In a technological culture they make more sense when applied to aliens or possibly people from the future.

Flaming chariots, gene manipulation, manipulation of the environment: We have become much improved at the latter two and finally achieved the first.

I believe that agnostic would best describe me. Like all or nearly all humans, I have a propensity for faith. Some put their faith in supernatural beings, some in money, capitalism or some other economic form. Some have faith that aliens will save us from ourselves. More likely, the aliens will buy low and sell high if they are anything like us.

God help us all if they turn out to be socialists, right!

I want to believe in a creator God, but I know, at least at this time, we cannot prove the existence of one. I also don’t believe that God interacts with humans. So, I put my faith in an equally unlikely source for solutions with good results, the human race.

First you accuse then defend the practices of the American health care consumer?

Big pharma? Never mentioned them, but since you did, I will have to disagree with your assessment. Big pharma, like all corporations, wants to sell as much product as they possibly can. They would make it a matter of choice and sell controlled substances directly to the consumer if not for government intervention.

Companies supplying large quantities of the ingredients to manufacture methamphetamine to customers in Mexico know damn well the finished product is doing serious harm in Mexico and here.

The tobacco companies know their product causes serious health issues, even death, and adds considerably to health care costs. That hasn’t altered their moral compass even one degree.

Halliburton had no problem at all doing business with Iran, Iraq, and Libya at a time when it was a violation of U.S. law to do so.

In a free market economy, the only enemies are competitors.

Like most corporations, what big pharma and their investors care about is that any negative consequences deriving from their actions or their products doesn’t come back to haunt them or that the haunting is fairly insignificant in relationship to profits.


Posted by: jlw at March 26, 2011 5:10 PM
Comment #320696

jlw

We don’t need religion to explain income redistribution. Envy is one of the most powerful human emotions.

There are also good public policy arguments to limit extreme distribution differences.

But lots of it goes back to evolution. Our relative position in any group matter to us because relative power relationship used to affect reproductive success. In some ways, we are hard wired to resent it when somebody has more than we do.

Posted by: C&J at March 26, 2011 6:42 PM
Comment #320715


C&J, we don’t need religion to explain income distribution, never the less, religion has been a focal point of the debate throughout history. The distribution of wealth and power is what set the Gods against eachother in the first place.

Certainly there are good public policy arguments to limit extreme distributions. We use them all the time.

Envy could explain the widening gap in distribution of the last few decades. The wealthy were and still are envious of the cut the less deserving were receiving.

I thought we were hardwired for survival of the fittest? Isn’t that why the sheep are so accepting of the ram and why the rams fight for supremacy? The grazing doesn’t have to be good but there must be some grazing or else, the motto of the sheep.

Civilization: little fields, with a little huts beside each, down wind of the big grainery with a big house beside it. All in support of the king and cronies in castles on the hill.

American civilization: anyone with the skill, plus the drive and or the connections can climb the hill. Alternative, hit the lottery.

Do gooders: an undesirable and unwanted mutation associated with the creation of civilization.

Then there is the Bedouin vs the city slicker, but that is more prevalent in the religion dept.

Posted by: jlw at March 27, 2011 2:20 AM
Comment #320736

jlw

I am just saying that envy is a very strong emotion. It must have a strong explanation. IMO - we could find it in our own evolution. You mention the rams. Indeed, they are the ones that count, since one successful ram gets to spread his genes to many yews. And so each ram must look with great suspicion at any other that seems to be getting ahead.

The same would apply to human populations in a situation of scarcity.

Our civilizations have mitigated that. It is now more possible for more people to have stuff. If you gain something, it is not necessary that you have taken it from me. But the old instincts die hard.

I suppose, if you want to take a religious point of view, a Christian one, the Christian view would try to mitigate or overcome the savage inheritance of corporal humanity. The Catholic Church identifies envy, greed, lust, sloth, anger, pride and gluttony as deadly sins. With the possible exception of pride, all these things could have evolutionary utility and all can be associated with behaviors in higher animals as well as humans, although presumably animals do not have the “intent” to sin when they compete for reproductive success etc.

Posted by: C&J at March 27, 2011 5:49 PM
Comment #320754


C&J, Humans are rams with tommy guns.

I agree that envy and the other deadly sins are strong emotions, but they do not affect each human in the same way or strength.

It is apparent that it applies right now because of the scarcity.

Our civilizations have enhanced our ability to have more stuff, but they have also fought a lot of wars on behalf of those sins.

The more we learn about our closest relatives the more we see how much they are like us and that they are affected by the same sins. To the church, that might mean a chimp has a soul.

I heard a strange thing, today that I would like your comment on. An author, you may have heard of him, Kel Kelly has written a book titled ‘The Case For Legalizing Capitalism’. In an interview he stated that in a free market, BP would probably not have drilled for oil in the Gulf because they would not have a government incentive to do so. He didn’t elaborate so I am assuming the the liability would be to great for such a venture. What do you think?

Kelly is an advocate of the Austrian School of Economics. Most of the big name economists dismiss them as being unscientific, sort of a gut feeling theory.

When I look at our history, I see that before the Progressive Movement we were pretty much a backwater country. Then we started moving onto the world stage slowly. After the New Deal and the War, we became a world super power. Since then, the countries with strong social welfare programs have done the best economically. The Soviet Union, despite it’s claims of a worker republic had a very poor social welfare program and a virtually incentive less and powerless work force. They failed economically. The one success story they had was their space program and those workers were treated far better than the general population. Whole new towns with new housing, better food, better clothing, education for their children, etc.

IMO, a free market system without a strong social welfare program would be more like the Soviet Union or Aristocratic Europe. Our Founding Fathers made it possible for the people to have a say and they eventually chose the social welfare programs. The progressive farmers and the unionists were catalysts for change, but ultimately it was public opinion the pushed the legislation. The same can be said of the Civil Rights movement and the anti-war protesters.

The reason the right is able to scapegoat the social welfare system is because people forget.

As for the way the multinational corporations and the government collusion are going about globalization ( I am for globalization in principle with the peoples supervision) I have a quote that I think sums it up.

Treason doth not prosper; what’s the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason. - Sir John Harington.

When it comes to patriotism, there is a double standard.

Posted by: jlw at March 28, 2011 1:29 AM
Comment #320781

jlw

I believe that the free market requires the rule of law and some reasonable regulation. There is no such thing a pure form of any economic system. Those are all abstracts.

I disagree about the success of more social democratic systems. You probably refer to the Western Europeans. It depends exactly where you are. The Germans are very efficient, but their growth rates have generally been lower than ours, as have the French and others. One of the nicest places is Denmark, which does indeed have a social democratic system, but lots of this has to do with the small, cohesive societies. The same is true of Norway.

The Europeans, BTW, have generally be dismantling their welfare states while we have been adding to ours.

When we refer to the free market, I go with how much interference government does, not with the vague notions of Capitalism. It seems that most people who wrote about “Captialism” and “socialism” never actually worked for a living or ran firms.

Take a look at the index of economic freedom - http://www.heritage.org/index. You will notice that the U.S. is now #9 and is rated as “mostly free”.

Posted by: C&J at March 28, 2011 8:32 PM
Comment #320798


C&J, you talk a lot about the free market without producing any examples of free market states, to compare to the social welfare, financialized states.

I am not thrilled with welfare for the sake of finacialization and civil unrest, but as the saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

You have often touted the financial success of Brazil, but most of the success came after increasing taxes to establish a social welfare program; and although slightly more that thirty years old, it is already being managed so poorly that it is in more trouble than most. Their retirement age is 53.

Isn’t that what civilization is about, breaking our backs or taxing our brains so others are free to engage in activities that may or may not be of benefit to society?

“If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion.”— George Bernard Shaw.

If we didn’t have the kind of corporate structure we have allowed to unfold, I would be far more inclined towards a free market system.

Posted by: jlw at March 29, 2011 1:35 AM
Comment #320799


I would have read your link even though it is Heritage, but it not working.

Posted by: jlw at March 29, 2011 1:37 AM
Comment #320807

jlw

I like Brazil a lot, but it is not up to American standards. Everything is relative. Brazil needs to address its very high taxes and regulations. They refer to it as “Brazil cost” which has kept the country from being all it could be.


Try the link w/o the period - http://www.heritage.org/index

We are measuring economic freedom. The idea of being “social democratic” etc is a fairly meaningless term, subject to individual interpretation.

Several European countries currently have more economic freedom than the U.S. They have liberalized (in the original meaning of the term) while we have become more restrictive.

If you look at the link, I think you will be surprised at economic freedom. You evidently suspect Heritage, but look at the content of the research. Also notice that Heritage may agree with you more than you think (or you may be more conservative than you think, whichever you like.)

Posted by: C&J at March 29, 2011 1:51 PM
Comment #320847


We have become more restrictive? More restrictive than when?

More restrictive than the 1950’s? What were corporate taxes then?

More restrictive than before we began to deregulate industry, say since Carter deregulated the air lines?

More restrictive since junk bonds, hedge funds, derivatives, since Gramm Bliley Leach?

More restrictive than before the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy?

More restrictive than before we outsourced 20 million jobs?

More restrictive than before government began ignoring it’s own laws on behalf of a cheaper workforce.

More restrictive than when we gave up our sovereignty for economic freedoms?

Conservative me? Yes, about 10%, plus 15% liberal, plus 25% progressive, plus 50% dreamer.

Posted by: jlw at March 30, 2011 2:19 PM
Comment #320860

jlw

The Europeans have liberalized in the last decade. Liberalized in the original sense of the word, which means less government interference. We have created more regulations in the last decade and especially since 2008.

The economy of the 1950s was less open than our economy is today in many ways. But it was much more open than major competitors. Our corporate tax rate used to be among the lowest in the world. Now it is among the highest. Competitiveness is relative.

Did you read the Economic Freedom Index? That would tell you more about what we are talking about.

Did you prefer the heavily regulated airlines? I flew from Chicago to Germany in 1976. My ticket cost around $500 - back then. Today you can fly to Germany for around $300. Most other things have gone up. This is the power of competition. Adjusted for inflation, I paid $1458.46.

Posted by: C&J at March 30, 2011 6:05 PM
Comment #320939


We deregulated the airlines, not their subsidies.

Prices could be cheaper right?

“21 airlines convicted of price fixing”

Posted by: jlw at April 1, 2011 2:50 PM
Comment #320940


Mexico, Turkey, Japan, and Korea. The four countries with lower corporate taxes.

Corporate tax rates have fallen in every decade since the 70’s. The countries of the European union receives a higher percentage of their tax income from corporations in America. The opposite was true 35 years ago.

Lower tax rates have created hugh deficits and increased the scapegoating of social spending.

Posted by: jlw at April 1, 2011 3:09 PM
Comment #320952

jlw

Almost everybody has lower tax rates than we do.

re Social spending - the European spend a lot on social programs still. They are still too high to be sustained.

Re airlines - we have a bottom line - the average traveller pays a lot less and has a lot more options today than he did before deregulation. Air travel is safer than ever. The only problem is that so many people are travelling because of the lower costs. Poor people who used to take the bus, now fly. Is that so bad?

Posted by: C&J at April 1, 2011 8:05 PM
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