Liberty & Power: Group Blog
In fact, as his daughter Nicole points out, Judge Richard J. Goldstone is"a Zionist and loves Israel".
And as the heroic Uri Avnery explains, Goldstone is the victim of a slime campaign to discredit him and his report.
Jane S. Shaw
Traffic jams, if they're managed well, can actually be good for the environment. They maintain a level of frustration that turns drivers into subway riders or pedestrians.
Aeon J. Skoble
(HT Todd Zywicki)
Charles W. Nuckolls
Oil prices pushed near the top of their recent range this week, and the usual suspects trotted out on the TV to tell us why this rally couldn't last. And on the face of it, their argument seems to make sense. It boils down to ...
1. Crude has been trapped in the same range since June. 2. U.S. oil demand is lackluster at best. 3. There is plenty of oil in storage.
So why, then, are oil prices trending higher?
Force #1: Global Demand Is Rising
To be sure, America is using less oil. The Energy Information Administration expects America's oil demand to fall by 330,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the fourth quarter from a year earlier. And oil refiners including Valero and Sunoco have shut plants to cope with a glut of fuel.
However, all gluts end. The EIA recently revised upward its estimate for U.S. oil consumption in 2010, expecting demand to increase by 320,000 bpd over 2009.
And demand is recovering faster elsewhere in the world. In fact, the International Energy Agency expects global oil demand to rise to 86.1 million bpd in 2010 from 84.6 million bpd in 2009.
And in its October Monthly Oil Market Report, OPEC jacked up its estimate of global oil demand for next year."The risks to the forecast are seen on the upside," OPEC said in a statement."Should the U.S. continue to show healthier oil demand levels, then world oil demand could increase by another 200,000 barrels per day before year's end."
OPEC expects the emerging markets will run rings around developed countries when it comes to oil demand growth. And international experts agree that there's one country in particular that will likely use a LOT more oil ...
Force #2: China Is Shifting Into Higher Gear
China's oil consumption doubled in the last decade, rising to 8 million barrels a day last year from 4.2 million barrels in 1998, according to BP Plc's Statistical Review. And that trend continues.
Chinese oil demand was revised upward to 8.17 million bpd for 2009 from a previous estimate of 8.08 million bpd, according to the International Energy Agency. Crude oil imports in January-August period went up 7.4% from earlier. And demand is accelerating. China's oil imports rose 18% in August.
Looking at next year, China's crude consumption is expected to increase 1.4 million barrels per day to 86.1 million, according to the IEA.
Even these raised estimates may not be high enough. China's car sales are booming — up 78% in September from a year earlier. Overall vehicle sales totaled 1.33 million units, while passenger car sales climbed 84% to 1.02 million units, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers reported.
So far this year, China has seen 9.66 million cars sold — far ahead of the U.S., which has seen auto sales of 7.85 million. What's more, most cars sold in China are first-time owners. In the U.S., most car sales are replacement vehicles.
So, those revved-up China auto sales mean much higher gasoline consumption and oil consumption.
Force #3: The Cheap Oil Is Going ... Going ...
Peak production is already receding in the rear view mirror for dozens of nations. World reserves are being depleted by about 4% a year, according to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil. That leaves the world margin of error far too small, and vulnerable to disruptions such as rebel attacks on pipelines or saber-rattling disputes in the Middle East.
As reserves of cheap oil run lower, competition for remaining assets becomes more frenzied. The global financial crisis barely slowed China down in its quest to outbid western oil companies for global assets. For example, ExxonMobil recently made a $4 billion offer for Ghana's Jubilee oil field. But then China National Oil Company opened its own talks with Ghana to make a rival bid for a stake in Jubilee.
The Jubilee field is estimated to hold 1.8 billion barrels of oil. According to the Energy Information Administration, the world's 15 largest oil producers delivered about 64 billion barrels per day in 2008.
Exxon's $4 billion bid would buy it a 23.5% stake in the Jubilee. According to some experts, oil would have to sell at $100 a barrel to make this stake profitable for Exxon.
Deflationists — people who argue that the big trend in prices going forward will be down, not up — would argue paying that kind of price for oil is just crazy! So how crazy is it that China is willing to trump that bid? How high of an oil price is China planning on?
And Ghana is just the beginning. Chinese oil companies have announced plans to spend at least $16 billion to gain access to African energy assets.
Meanwhile, the big American oil companies, outbid by foreign competitors with deep pockets, are facing a future of steadily dwindling production. Let's keep the focus on ExxonMobil. It has been producing a little over 2.4 million barrels of oil a day for the last year and a half, its lowest rate of production over the last decade.
Many oil companies are running up against the limits of growth. This is something that is affecting the entire Western oil industry, and will probably eventually spark a resource war in the Arctic, as the U.S., Canada, Russia and other countries fight over oil and gas resources literally at the end of the Earth.
Like I said, suburbia -- that car-depenent extravaganza of the post-war era -- may end up looking like the worst misallocation of resources in American history.
The primary noticeable effect of this occurrence seems to be increased commerce. The Oakland Community and Economic Development Agency reports that 160 new businesses have moved into the downtown area while the vacancy rate has decreased from 25% to 5%. The city has passed an excise tax on marijuana and it is expected to bring in over $1 million during the first year. The founder of the cannabis college, entrepreneur Richard Lee, points out that "the reality is we're creating jobs, improving the city, filling empty store spaces, and when people come down here to Oakland they can see that."
Those who oppose these recent developments use the same tired unfounded arguments they have always employed, unfortunately repeated in the Newsweek article linked to above. However, there is nothing that has happened in Oakland which bolsters their position that legal marijuana is a problem. Quite the contrary it is proving to be beneficial.
Cross posted on The Trebach Report
Because I am often introduced as an authority on government growth, the lay audiences seem shocked and disappointed when I answer the query about how we can stop further government growth by saying that I don’t know or, worse, by saying that I don’t think we ― which is to say, those of us in the room and all other likeminded people ― can do anything significant to deflect the trend toward larger, more tyrannical government.
I often receive similar reactions when I post commentaries on the Internet. Thus, I recently posted a short essay called “Partisan Politics ― A Fool’s Game for the Masses,” and in response, one man wrote: “Quit whining and figure out something better if you’re so damn smart.” Another wrote: “Okay, Higgs. So what can one do to protect one’s person and family and aid in the country’s survival?” I commonly hear from people who find my description or analysis beside the point unless I have “an answer” or “a solution” to the problem under discussion. Higgs, they conclude, is “not constructive,” and therefore he does not deserve anyone’s time and attention.
Although I would be the last to assert that I have a claim on anyone’s time or attention, I believe that the solution-demanding response to my commentaries (or anyone else’s) betrays a confusion between diagnostics and therapeutics in political economy. The former focuses on finding the causes of a condition or development, the latter on prescribing measures by which the condition can be lessened or eliminated. This distinction is common in the medical profession, where some practitioners specialize in diagnosis and others in various kinds of therapy. In political economy, however, the two activities are often combined. In professional economics journals, countless articles have been published in which the author first lays out his “model,” sometimes presents empirical “tests” of some of its implications, and finally draws “policy conclusions” ― that is, unsolicited advice to government functionaries as to how they should employ their powers.
Lay people and professionals alike, however, need to appreciate two critical points. First, in social and economic affairs, one man’s problem may be another man’s solution. The growth of government belongs to this category. Many people are pleased when the government grows, whereas others are outraged. Still others, of course, have no concern one way or the other, so long as their personal ox is not being gored deeply. In short, the normative evaluation of a socioeconomic condition or development may vary greatly among the people involved in it.
Second, even if everyone agrees that a certain condition constitutes a problem, it still may have no generally acceptable solution. Because of the diversity of beliefs, values, and interests in the populace, whatever is done to create a “public good” ― that is, a condition that, if established at all, applies equally to everyone ― will displease some people. For example, everyone may value “national security” in the abstract, but if in its pursuit some people want the government to go to war against country X, whereas others want the government to steer clear of war with country X, then some people are bound to be dissatisfied, no matter what the government does. Issues of this kind have no generally acceptable solution, owing to uncertainties about the “production function” for certain public goods. One might imagine, of course, that one side persuades the other to change its beliefs, values, or preferences, but unless unanimous agreement is achieved ― an extremely unlikely eventuality ― a certain number of problems whose solutions are contentious will necessarily always remain.
Since the Great Depression, the American public has generally approved of an active, interventionist federal government. In a perceived crisis, most people want the government to “do something.” Of course, most politicians and government functionaries, for perfectly understandable self-serving reasons, are quite pleased to respond to such public demands for action ― after all, taking such action promises to butter their bread more thickly. Franklin D. Roosevelt enthusiastically supported an approach whereby the government would “take a method and try it; if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” Likewise, more recently, despite the great confusion that prevailed about the current recession’s causes and about the best means of moderating or reversing it, Barack Obama, soon after taking office, declared, “The time for talk is over. The time for action is now.” In both instances the president was presuming that successful therapy can be administered without a sound diagnosis. This presumption is foolish, however, if one’s interest lies not in mollifying a bewildered electorate, but in implementing a genuine remedy for the perceived problem.
Furthermore, in dealing with a “problem” such as the relentless growth of government, we must recognize that unlike the automobile mechanic who undertakes to repair a sputtering engine, we are attempting to alter the workings of a socio-economic process that has hundreds of millions of moving parts, each one with a mind of its own! It is hubristic ― a Hayekian “fatal conceit” ― to suppose that anyone can control this process in fine detail. The “man of system,” Adam Smith sagely observed, “is apt to be very wise in his own conceit.”
He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it.
I am not a “man of system” in the Smithian sense. For me to propose a “magic bullet” to stop the growth of government, as an oncologist might prescribe a certain drug to cure a particular type of cancer, would be ridiculous. Just as one may know a great deal about the origin and development of a particular type of tumor without knowing how to cure it, one may know a great deal about the growth of government without knowing how to stop it. Indeed, curing a cancer is a much simpler task.
Yet, one thing we do know: Many Americans now believe many things about their government that are false, and they expect much from the government that the rulers cannot provide. The public at large embraces myths about what the government can do, what it actually does, and how it goes about doing it. Only people enamored of such myths can support, for example, a gigantically expensive health-care “reform” at a time when the present value of the government’s promised future Social Security and Medicare benefits alone amounts to several times the current GDP. (I am disregarding here the interested parties who expect to reap short-run pillage from an intrinsically doomed system.) Until more people come to a more realistic, fact-based understanding of the government and the economy, little hope exists of tearing them away from their quasi-religious attachment to a government they view with misplaced reverence and unrealistic hopes. Lacking a true religious faith yet craving one, many Americans have turned to the state as a substitute god, endowed with the divine omnipotence required to shower the public with something for nothing in every department – free health care, free retirement security, free protection from hazardous consumer products and workplace accidents, free protection from the Islamic maniacs the U.S. government stirs up with its misadventures in the Muslim world, and so forth. If you take the government to be Santa Claus, you naturally want every day to be Christmas; and the bigger the Santa, the bigger his sack of goodies. This prevailing ideology constitutes probably the most critical obstacle to reductions in the government’s size, scope, and power. Getting rid of this ideology will be diabolically difficult, if possible at all.
Analysts of the political economy, such as yours truly, may have some capacity to open people’s eyes with regard to the government’s true nature and its actual operation. Such diagnostic work is a full-time job, however, so consumers of this analysis should not be surprised if a diagnostician cannot prescribe a sure-fire cure whenever he identifies, describes, or analyzes a problem. Moreover, consumers of opinion and analysis in political economy would be well served by developing a healthy skepticism toward all those who propose a simple cure for the growth of government ― flat tax, term limits, constitutional amendment, abolition of the Fed, you name it. The doctor with a panacea just might be a quack.
Jonathan J. Bean
Why is it good? Because a majority of the workforce is now made up of women; and blacks have not been hurt as much as whites (the media seem to have forgotten about Asians and Hispanics but what else is new?). This is an advance in gender, if not racial, diversity. Whooo. One wonders how those women married to unemployed men think about their gender’s “advance.”
Is this recession different? We won’t know until later but with “diversity accomplishments” now part of our academic job descriptions, there is reason to think that we may be evaluated accordingly when (or if) layoffs occur. After all, what better way to “diversify” the faculty than to adopt the slogan:
“First thing we do, fire all the white males!”
Employers are fearful of employment-related lawsuits and this is the first recession to seriously threaten academic jobs since 1982. The Diversity Machine has grown enormously since 1982, when it was only a glimmer in the eyes of campus social engineers. Today it is an industry that influences accreditation bodies, professional associations, and university practices (think of the money set aside for “diversity hires”).
If universities can make diversity hires, why not make the same decision when firing people?
Time to dust off your computer screen and search for labor relations law in your state. Those of us with unions ought to contact them too if the proverbial four-letter word “hits the fan.”
This bill, the idea of former NORML and StoptheDrugWar.org board member Northampton attorney Richard Evans, got a hearing before the legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee this week. Arguing that state revenues would be greatly enhanced Evans testified that "whether you like it or you hate it... it is undeniable in 2009 that marijuana has become inextricably embedded in our culture. It is ubiquitous and it is ineradicable. Members should put on your green eye shades and give close scrutiny to marijuana prohibition." While the law is not expected to pass in this session its proposal and the hearing are nevertheless important steps in the right direction.
Cross posted on The Trebach Report
Aeon J. Skoble
Neither Ms. Ostrom nor Mr. Williamson has argued against regulation. Quite the contrary, their work found that people in business adopt for themselves numerous forms of regulation and rules of behavior — called “governance” in economic jargon — doing so independently of government or without being told to do so by corporate bosses.
Note the key equivocation over the word regulation. Most people use that word to mean government interference with private market activity. So the Times at first seems to be saying that Ostrom and Williamson do not oppose such government interference. Maybe they don't, but that's not what the Times goes on to say. Instead, it says that both have shown that people often generate their own efficient rules -- governance -- independent of the State (and corporate authority).
It's as though the reporter said,"Neither has argued against taxation. Quite the contrary, they found that people use market prices to pay producers for their efforts."
What the Times reportermisses is that spontaneously evolved bottom-up rules are to be distinguished from top-down government regulation, which statists believe is indispensable. The former results from voluntary interaction by people on the spot, the latter from coercion by a central elite. The reporter seems more interested in getting in a subtle dig at the free market, which is alleged to be"unregulated." Of course it isn't, as I point out here.
Aeon J. Skoble
With the Iraq and Afghani “cakewalks” turning into meat grinders, it is understandable (from a heartless, practical level) that the US military will take whatever it can get, however it can get it. But when Bill Carr, the “deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy” appears positively giddy over how the desperate plight of America’s unemployed "allowed us to be, for much of the year, in a very favorable position", it just gives yet another reason to pray for a quick end to our economic malaise.
The same issue has pieces by Claes Ryn and others.
That's right. The industry wants the government to force us to buy its product and to impose harsh penalties on those who refuse. The companies, which oddly are demonized by the "reform" crowd, are happy to accept all kinds of coverage rules in return for captive customers and guaranteed income.
If I may be so presumptuous as to edit Adam Smith:
People of the same trade seldom meet together with government officials, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.
Of course, it’s all a fraud, designed to distract people from the overriding reality of political life, which is that the state and its principal supporters are constantly screwing the rest of us, regardless of which party happens to control the presidency and the Congress. Amid all the partisan sound and fury, hardly anybody notices that political reality boils down to two “parties”: (1) those who, in one way or another, use state power to bully and live at the expense of others; and (2) those unfortunate others.
Even when politics seems to involve life-and-death issues, the partisan divisions often only obscure the overriding political realities. So, Democrats say that anti-abortion Republicans, who claim to have such tremendous concern for saving the lives of the unborn, have no interest whatever in saving the lives of those already born, such as the poor children living in the ghetto. And Republicans say that Democrats, who claim to have such tremendous concern for the poor, systematically contribute to the perpetuation of poverty by the countless taxes and regulations they load onto business owners who would otherwise be in better position to hire and train the poor and thereby to hasten their escape from poverty.
If the unborn children happen to be living in the wombs of women on whom U.S. bombs and rockets rain down in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, however, all Republican concerns for the unborn evaporate completely, as do the Democrats’ concerns for the poor children living in the selfsame bombarded villages. Both parties’ positions would seem to rest on very flexible and selective morality, if indeed either party may be said to have any moral basis at all, notwithstanding their chronic public displays of “moral” wailing and gnashing of teeth.
In any event, the parties’ principles of hatred have never passed the sniff test; indeed, they reek of hypocrisy. Thus, while railing against the “corporate rich,” the Democrats rely heavily on the financial support of Hollywood moguls and multi-millionaire trial lawyers, among other fat cats. And the Republicans, while denouncing the welfare mother who makes off with a few hundred undeserved bucks a month, vociferously support the hundreds of billions of dollars in welfare channeled to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and General Electric, among many other companies, via larcenous “defense” contracts, Export-Import Bank subsidies, and countless other forms of government support for “national security” and service to “the public interest” as Republicans conceive of these nebulous, yet rhetorically useful entities.
Notice, too, that although ordinary Democrats and Republicans often harbor intense mutual hatreds, the party leaders in Congress rub shoulders quite amiably as a rule. Regardless of which party has control, the loyal opposition can always be counted on to remain ever so loyal and ready to cut a deal. And why not? These ostensible political opponents are engaged in a process of plunder from which the bigwigs in both parties can expect to profit, whatever the ebb and flow of party politics. At bottom, the United States has a one-party state, cleverly designed to disguise the country’s true class division and to divert the masses from a recognition that unless you are a political insider connected with one of the major parties, you almost certainly will be ripped off on balance. Such exploitation, after all, is precisely what the state and the political parties that operate it are for.
Yet, rather than hating the predatory state, the masses have been conditioned to love this blood-soaked beast and even, if called upon, to lay down their lives and the lives of their children on its behalf. From my vantage point on the outside, peering in, I am perpetually mystified that so many people are taken in by the phony claims and obscurantist party rhetoric. As the song says, “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,” but unlike the fellow in the song, I am not “stuck in the middle.” Instead, I float above all of this wasted emotion, looking down on it with disgust and sadness. Moreover, as an economist, I am compelled to regret such an enormously inefficient allocation of hatred.
AN 80-year-old grandmother who doctors identified as terminally ill and left to starve to death has recovered after her outraged daughter intervened. Hazel Fenton, from East Sussex, is alive nine months after medics ruled she had only days to live, withdrew her antibiotics and denied her artificial feeding.....
Doctors say Fenton is an example of patients who have been condemned to death on the Liverpool care pathway plan. They argue that while it is suitable for patients who do have only days to live, it is being used more widely in the NHS, denying treatment to elderly patients who are not dying.