October 31, 2016


Free Market of Ideas

Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

Green Army: Research and Development

Caroline Ash, Elizabeth Culotta, Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink, David Malakoff, Jesse Smith, Andrew Sugden and Sacha Vignieri:
Anthropogenic climate change is now a part of our reality.
Even the most optimistic estimates of the effects of contemporary fossil fuel use suggest that mean global temperature will rise by a minimum of 2°C before the end of this century and that CO2 emissions will affect climate for tens of thousands of years. …
[Terrestrial ecosystems] will face rates of change unprecedented in the past 65 million years.
(Science, Vol 314, AAAS, 2 August 2013, p 473)

IPCC AR5 Working Group I:
The globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature data as calculated by a linear trend, show a warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06] °C [3], over the period 1880–2012, when multiple independently produced datasets exist.
(Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis — Summary for Policymakers, 27 September 2013, p 4)

Alan Austin:
In [the fourth biennual] Global Green Economy Index released yesterday [by Dual Citizen, Australia fell 27 places to] 37th out of 60 countries on clean energy performance [and ranked] last on global leadership.
(Abbott takes Australia to last place on global climate change leadership, Independent Australia, 21 October 2014, emphasis added)

Dangerous Interference With The Climate System

Rachel Warren: Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Based on peer-reviewed literature, climate change impacts on the earth system, human systems and ecosystems are summarised for different amounts of annual global mean temperature change (ΔT) relative to pre-industrial times. …
  • At ΔT = 1°C world oceans and Arctic ecosystems are damaged.
  • At ΔT = 1.5°C [irreversible] Greenland Ice Sheet melting begins.
  • At ΔT = 2°C agricultural yields fall,
    • billions experience increased water stress,
    • additional hundreds of millions may go hungry,
    • sea level rise displaces millions from coasts,
    • malaria risks spread,
    • Arctic ecosystems collapse and
    • extinctions take off as regional ecosystems disappear.
    Serious human implications exist in Peru and Mahgreb.
  • At ΔT = 2–3°C the Amazon and other forests and grasslands collapse.
    • At ΔT = 3°C millions [are] at risk [of] water stress,
    • flood, hunger and dengue and malaria increase and
    • few ecosystems can adapt.
The thermohaline circulation could collapse in the range ΔT = 1–5°C, whilst the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may commence melting and Antarctic ecosystems may collapse.
Increases in extreme weather are expected.

("Impacts Of Global Climate Change At Different Annual Mean Global Temperature Increases" in Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change; Editor in Chief Hans Joachim Schellnhuber; Co-editors Wolfgang Cramer, Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Tom Wigley, Gary Yohe; Cambridge University Press, 2006, p 92)

State of the Climate 2015: Record Heat and Weather Extremes

World Meteorological Organization

The [combined] global average [land and sea] near-surface temperature for 2015 was the warmest on record by a clear margin …
The global average temperature for the year was … approximately 1 °C above the 1850–1900 average.

Figure 1.
Global annual average temperature anomalies (relative to 1961–1990) for 1850–2015.
The black line and grey shading are from the HadCRUT4 analysis produced by the Met Office Hadley Centre in collaboration with the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.
The grey shading indicates the 95% confidence interval of the estimates.
The orange line is the NOAAGlobalTemp dataset produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Centers for Environmental Information (NOAA NCEI).
The blue line is the GISTEMP dataset produced by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA GISS).
(Source: Met Office Hadley Centre, United Kingdom, and Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom)
(p 5)

Figure 6
Global annual average temperature anomalies (difference from the 1961–1990 average) based on an average of the three global temperature datasets.
Coloured bars indicate years that were influenced by El Niño (red) and La Niña (blue), and the years without a strong influence (grey).
The pale red bar indicates 2015.
(Source: Met Office Hadley Centre, United Kingdom, and Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom)
(p 8)

Australia had its warmest October on record.
The anomaly for October was also the highest anomaly for any month since records began. …
[For Australia, it] was the fifth-warmest year on record as a whole.
(p 17)

(WMO Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2015, WMO-No 1167, 2016)

Rising Global Mean Temperature

World Bank

[Observational data corrected for sources of short-term variability (El Nino/Southern Oscillation, volcanic aerosols and solar variability) reveals the underlying trend.]

(Foster & Rahmstorf, Global temperature evolution 1979–2010, Environmental Research Letters, 6(4), 2011)

CSIRO: State of the Climate 2016

Monitoring Greenhouse Gases at Cape Grim

Background hourly clean-air CO2 as measured at Cape Grim.
The blue hourly data represent thousands of individual measurements.
To obtain clean air measurements, the data are filtered for only times when weather systems have come across the Southern Ocean, and thus the air is not influenced by local sources of pollution.
(p 18)

Carbon Sources and Sinks

Annual fluxes of CO2 and their changing sources (eg fossil fuels) and sinks (eg the ocean absorbing CO2).
About 30% of the anthropogenic (caused by human activity) CO2 emissions have been taken up by the ocean and about 30% by land.
The remaining 40% of emissions have led to an increase in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.
(p 21)

Business As Usual

Climate Action Tracker

In a world first for climate policy, the Australian Government repealed core elements of Clean Energy Future Plan, effectively abolishing the carbon pricing mechanism, sought to reduce the Australian renewable target, and block other clean energy and climate policy measures in Australia.
The carbon pricing mechanism introduced had been working effectively, with emissions from the electricity and other covered sectors reducing by about 7% per annum.

Up until the time of repeal, the implemented climate policy was effective and was projected to have been sufficient to meet Australia’s unconditional Copenhagen pledge for a 5% reduction from 2000 levels by 2020.
Our new, post-repeal assessment shows, however, that this target is no longer in reach and the currently proposed new legislation will result in emissions increasing by 49-57% above 1990 levels.

(11 December 2014)

Climate Equity Reference Calculator

Given a Strong 2℃ pathway target, the global mitigation requirement in 2020 is 19.8 gigatonnes.

Australia’s fair share of this 2020 global mitigation requirement is 1.7%, which is 342 million tonnes.
Australia’s 2020 unconditional mitigation pledge (150 tonnes) falls short of its fair share of the global effort by 192 million tonnes.

In per-capita terms, Australia’s fair share of the 2020 global mitigation requirement comes to 13.5 tonnes.
Its reduction pledge, however, is only 5.9 tonnes per person, which falls short of its fair share by 7.6 tonnes per person.
Its score is therefore −7.6. …

Australia’s fair share can be expressed as … 34% reduction below national 1990 emissions. …
A country’s fair share is a function of both its capacity and its responsibility.
Australia is projected in 2020 to have 1.9% of global capacity and 1.5% of global responsibility.

(Accessed 1 January 2015)

Would you like to know more?

October 15, 2016

Robert Putnam

Green Army: Persons of Interest

Lucius Seneca (~4 BCE – 65 CE):
Poverty amongst riches is the most grievous form of want.
(Epistulae morales ad Lucilium, LXXIV, 4, adapted)

Adam Smith (1723 – 90):
No society can be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of members are poor and miserable.

John Kennedy (1917 – 63):
If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
(Chris Matthews, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, Simon & Schuster, 2011, Reader's Digest, 2013, p 129)

Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 65):
Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. …
The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. …
The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. …
In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free. …
We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
(Message to Congress, 1 December 1892)

Clement Vallandigham ( 1820 – 71) [Leader, Peace Democrats, 14 January 1863]:
I see more of barbarism and sin, a thousand times, in the continuance of this war … and the enslavement of the white race by debt and taxes and arbitrary power [than in Negro slavery.]
In considering terms of settlement [with the South, we should] look only to welfare, peace, and safety of the white race, without reference to the effect that settlement may have on the African.
(James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2003, p 513)

Amartya Sen (1933) [Swedish National Bank's Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, 1998]:
Black men between the ages of 35 and 54 are 1.8 times more likely to die than are white men of the same age.
And black women in this group are almost three times more likely to die than are white women of the same age. …
The survival chances of the average African-American are … unfavorable when compared with … those of the citizens of China and Kerala, who have much lower incomes.
(The Economics of Life and Death, Scientific American, May 1993, p 44-5)

George Gilder (1939):
In order to succeed … the poor need, most of all, the spur of their poverty. …
(Wealth and Poverty, 1981)

Mark Blyth (1967):
72% of the working population [in the US live from] paycheck to paycheck, have few if any savings, and would have trouble raising $2000 on short notice.
(Austerity, Oxford University Press, 2013, p 48)

Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826):
All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man.
The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs; nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.
(Letter to Roger C Weightman, 24 June 1826)

Kim Robinson (1952):
There were of course very powerful forces on Earth adamantly opposed to … creating full employment …
Full employment, if enacted, would remove “wage pressure” — which phrase had always meant fear struck into the hearts of the poor, also into the hearts of anyone who feared becoming poor, which meant almost everyone on Earth.
This fear was a major tool of social control, indeed the prop that held up the current order despite its obvious failures.
Even though it was a system so bad that everyone in it lived in fear, either of starvation or the guillotine, still they clutched to it harder than ever.
(2312, Orbit, 2012, p 373-4)

Ridley Scott (1937):
Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it?
That's what it is to be a slave.
(Blade Runner, 1982)

American Political Science Association Task Force on Inequality and American Democracy:
Today, the voices of American citizens are raised and heard unequally.
The privileged participate more than others and are increasingly well organized to press their demands on government.
Public officials, in turn, are much more responsive to the privileged than to average citizens and the least affluent.
Citizens with lower or moderate incomes speak with a whisper that is lost on the ears of inattentive government officials, while the advantaged roar with a clarity and consistency that policy-makers readily hear and routinely follow.
(American Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality, Perspectives on Politics, December 2004, p 651)

Don Watson (1949):
[The US minimum wage has fallen by a third since 1968.]
More than 20% of children in the United States live in poverty, more than twice the rate of any European country.
[The Australian child poverty rate is 17.4%.]
With a quarter of totalitarian China's population, democratic America has about the same number of people in jail.
(Enemy Within: American Politics in the Time of Trump, Issue 63, 2016, p 34)

Julie Willems Van Dijk [Population Health Institute, University of Wisconsin]:
Research is now showing that many health effects once attribute to racial differences are actually tied to educational and economic disparities.
(Deborah Franklin, Scientific American, January 2012, p 18)

Sean Reardon [Sociologist, Stanford University]:
The achievement gap [in education] between children from high- and low- income families is roughly 30–40% larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier.
(The Widening Academic Achievement Gap Between the Rich and the Poor: New Evidence and Possible Explanations, in Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances, Greg J Duncan and Richard M Murnane (Eds), Russell Sage Foundation, 2011)

Andrew Cherlin:
The wages of men without college degrees have fallen since the early 1970s, and the wages of women without college degrees have failed to grow.
(Demographic Trends in the United States: A Review of Research in the 2000s, Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, June 2010, p 404)

Milton Friedman (1912 – 2006):
[In] a free choice [educational] system, you would have more heterogeneous schools [and] far less segregation by social and economic class than you now have. …
I went to a state school, Rutger's university.
I went on a state scholarship.
The poor suckers in the state of New Jersey paid for my going to college.
I personally think that was a good thing. ….
[And] I don't see any reason whatsoever, why I shouldn't have been required to pay back that money.
(What's Wrong With Our Schools, Free to Choose, Episode 6, PBS, 1980)

Robert Putnam (1941)

A World Without Trust

I've told you about my granddaughter, Miriam …
Mary Sue and Miriam are exactly the same age.
They are both granddaughters of Port Clinton [Ohio] in the 1950s. …
I'm just going to read to you, the field notes from [our meeting with Mary Sue:]
Mary Sue tells a harrowing tale of loneliness, distrust and isolation.
Her parents split up when she was 5.
And her mother turned to stripping and left her alone and hungry for days.
Her dad hooked up with another woman who hit her, refused to feed her, and confined her to room with baby-gates.
Caught trafficking marihuana at 16, Mary Sue … spent several months in a juvenile detention center, failed out of high school and got a "diploma" online.

[Mary Sue's] experiences have left her with a deep seated mistrust of anyone and everyone embodied in the scars on her arms (which we saw) where her boyfriend had burned her in the middle of the night, just a few days earlier.
Mary Sue wistfully recalls her stillborn baby, born when she was 13.
Since breaking up with the baby's dad, who left her for someone else, and with a second fiance who cheated on her after his release from prison, Mary Sue is currently dating an older man with two infants born two months apart to two other women.
And to Mary Sue this feels like the best that she can hope for. …

Mary Sue posted on facebook, not long ago, that she'd figured out her problems.
Her problem, she said, is that no one in the world loves her — which is probably true …
And, she's figured out how to solve that problem.
Mary Sue's going to have baby, because the baby will love her.
And if you think Mary Sue is in a pickle, imagine Mary Sue's baby …

[The] most important feature of the life of a poor kid in America today, bar none, is that poor kids are isolated and alone.
And they don't trust anyone.
They don't trust their parents …
They don't trust schools.
They don't trust anybody.

Mary Sue recently posted on facebook:
Love hurts.
Trust kills.
Think what it means to grow up in a society in which you cannot trust anyone.

(Closing the Opportunity Gap, RSA, 6 October 2015)

July 23, 2016

Ministry of Plenty

Live Long and Prosper

Heinrich Heine (1797 – 1856):
Money is the God of our time.
And Rothschild is his prophet.
(March 1841)

Gary Becker (1930 – 2014):
All human behavior can be viewed as involving participants who:

  1. maximize their utility,
  2. form a stable set of preferences, and
  3. accumulate an optimal amount of information and other inputs in a variety of markets.

(Economic Approaches to Human Behavior, University of Chicago Press, 1976, p 14)

Alexander Hamilton (1756 – 1804):
Why has government been instituted at all?
Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.
(Federalist No 15 Papers, 17 September 1787)

Chuang Tzu:
What would become of business without a market of fools?
(4th century BCE)

P W Singer (1974):
For all the claims that “big government” can never match the private sector, [the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency] is the ultimate rebuttal.
The Internet … e-mail, cell phones, computer graphics, weather satellites, fuel cells, lasers, night vision, and the Saturn V rockets [that first took man to the moon] all originated at DARPA. …
DARPA works by investing money in research ideas years before any other agency, university, or venture capitalists on Wall Street think they are fruitful enough to fund.
DARPA doesn’t focus on running its own secret labs, but instead spends 90% of its (official) budget of $3.1 billion on university and industry researchers …
(Wired for War, Penguin, 2009, p 140)

Niall Ferguson (1964):
The first era of financial globalization took at least a generation to achieve.
But it was blown apart in a matter of days.
And it would take more than two generations to repair the damage done by the guns of August 1914.
(The Ascent of Money, Penguin, 2008, p 304)

Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919):
  • Individualism,
  • Private Property,
  • the Law of Accumulation of Wealth, and
  • the Law of Competition
[are] the highest results of human experience [—] the best and most valuable of all that humanity has yet accomplished.

Peter Singer:
L Ron Hubbard [(1911 – 1986),] the founder of the Church of Scientology, once wrote that the quickest way to make a million in America is to start a new religion.
(How Are We to Live?, 1993, p 94)

Simone Campbell [Catholic Nun]:
[We were] doing business roundtables [with] some entrepreneur, CEO types. …
A report had just come out that that the average CEO … got $10 million in salary a year, and [that] they were going for $11 million.
I got to ask them:
Is it that you're not getting by on $10 million that you need $11 million?
I don't get it.
And this one guy said: …
Oh, no Sister Simone. …
It's not about the money. …
It's that we want to win.
And money just happens to be the current measure of winning.
(Krista Tippett, Becoming Wise, Corsair, 2016, p 129)

PBS Frontline:
There was a phrase — "ripping someone's face off" — that was used on the trading floor to describe when you sold something to a client who didn't understand it and you were able to extract a massive fee because they didn't understand it.
[This was seen as] a good thing because [you were] making more money for the bank.
[That] sort of spirit, of [acting against the best interests of] your client … took on significant life on Wall Street.
(Money, Power and Wall Street, 2012)

Kid Power Conference, Disney World:
Kids love advertising: it's a gift — it's something they want.
There's something to said … about getting there first, and about branding children and owning them in that way. …
In boy's advertising, it is an aggressive pattern [—] antisocial behavior in pursuit of a product is a good thing.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859):
The people may always be mentally divided into three distinct classes.
  • The first of these classes consists of the wealthy;
  • the second, of those who are in easy circumstances; and
  • the third is composed of those who have little or no property, and who subsist more especially by the work which they perform for the two superior orders.
(Democracy in America, 1835, Bantam, 2011, p 246)

Equality = Fairness = Justice

I know it makes you sick to think of that word ‘fairness.’
[But the American public believe that] it’s right to help the vulnerable.

Arthur Brooks (1964) [President, American Enterprise Institute],
Annual Conservative Political Action Conference, 16 March 2013.

(Alex Gibney, Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream, Steps International, 2012)

Breakdown of the Top 1% by Income in the United States (2012)

Percentile# per 100,000 Taxpayers% of Total Income% of Total Income Tax

Adrian Dungan

For 2012, the [US Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)] threshold for:
  • [The] top 0.001% of tax returns [was] $62,068,187 or more [≈ $170,000 per day or 1,700 times the median income.]
    These taxpayers accounted for 2.4% of total AGI, and paid 3.3% of total income tax.
  • The top 0.01% of tax returns [was] $12,104,014 or more [≈ $33,000 per day or 330 times the median income.]
    These taxpayers accounted for 5.5% of total AGI, and paid 8.3% of total income tax.
  • [The top 0.1% of tax returns [was] $2,161,175 or more [≈ $6,000 per day or 60 times the median income.]
    These taxpayers accounted for 11% of total AGI, and paid 18.6% of total income tax.]
  • The top 1% of tax returns [was] $434,682 or more [≈ $1,200 per day or 12 times the median income.]
    These taxpayers accounted for 21.9% of total AGI and paid 38.1% of total income tax.
  • [The] top 50% of all tax returns was $36,055 for the year [≈ $100 per day = median income.]
    These taxpayers accounted for 88.9% of total AGI and paid 97.2% of total income tax.

(Individual Income Tax Shares, 2012, IRS Statistics of Income Bulletin, Spring 2015)


  • This is equivalent to the richest individual in a group of 100 being paid twice as much as the poorest 50 combined.
  • The richest 1/100,000 part of the population captured a 1/40 share of aggregate income.
  • Each of the richest 1 in 100,000 accrues the lifetime median income (~50 years) every 11 days.
  • Conversely, a person (and their descendants) on the median income would need to work for 17 centuries, ie 34 working lifetimes, to earn as much as the richest 1 in 100,000 get in a single year.
  • In 2005, 40% the global population (2.6 billion people) were living on less than $2 per day.

John Quiggin (1956)

Professor of Economics, Queensland University

Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution looked at social mobility by looking at the economic life chances of men whose fathers were in the bottom fifth of the income distribution.
In a world of equal opportunity, we might expect that one fifth, or 20%, of those men, would end up in the same group as their fathers. …

Finland & Norway28%
United Kingdom30%
United States42%

Even in the Scandinavian countries, starting out poor is a disadvantage.
But in the United States, starting out poor doubles the risk of ending up poor.

(Zombie Economics, Princeton University Press, 2012, p 163)

Ha Joon Chang (1963)

Reader in Political Economy and Development, Cambridge University

[Nineteenth century 'classical' liberals rejected] the conservative view that tradition and social hierarchy should have priority over individual rights.
[On the other hand, they] believed that not everyone was worthy of such rights.
They thought women lacked full mental faculties and thus did not deserve the right to vote.
They also insisted that poor people should not be given the right to vote, since they [feared that] the poor would vote in politicians who would [redistribute wealth. …]

[Twentieth century neo-liberals, by contrast,] do not oppose democracy [in principle.]
[In practice, however, many would be prepared where necessary to] sacrifice democracy [in the defense of] private property and the free market.

(Economics: The User's Guide: A Pelican Introduction, 2014, emphasis added)

July 13, 2016

Tom Switzer

Blue Army: Persons of Interest

Dwight Eisenhower (1890 – 1969) [6 October 1952]:
Neither a wise man or a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.
(Adriana Bosch, Eisenhower, PBS American Experience, WGBH, 1993)

Friedrich von Schiller (1759 – 1805):
Against stupidity
The Gods themselves
Contend in vain

Tom Switzer (1971):
[Malcolm Turnbull] needs a new model of governance that sidesteps an obstructionist and riff-raff Senate.
The side that picks the issues dominates the political debate, and the advantage lies with the Bully Pulpit if the Prime Minister will use it.
Why not call on the states to ditch the politically correct Safe Schools [anti-bullying] program?
Or encourage Muslim leaders to assimilate to Western cultural norms?
The culture-war list is endless, and it would resonate with what [John Howard] once called:
The decent conservative mainstream of Australia.
(PM must play the Right card, The Age, 11 July 2016, p 16)

The Wrong Side History

Tom Switzer:
I'm joined by [Nigel Lawson] the chairman of The Global Warming Policy Foundation
[Nigel, do] you think there will come a time when historians will look back at the past decade or so and say that this climate hysteria reached its peak and rational debate was at its most restricted and politicians at their most gullible?

Nigel Lawson:
Yes, I think that this will be seen … as one of these outbreaks of collective madness which happen from time to time …
(New climate deal faces hurdles, Between The Lines, ABC Radio National, 21 May 2015)

Tom Switzer:
[Patricia Adams is the author of a recent report from] The Global Warming Policy Foundation in London. …
[Patricia, there are those that] insist that climate change represents such a grave threat to humanity … that the world has no choice but to … end fossil fuels entirely.
Is history on their side?

Patricia Adams:
No, it's not on their side.
Countries that have developed in the last 200 to 300 years have done so because of the use of fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels have empowered our economies:
  • to raise standards of living, [and]
  • to provide jobs for people.
The key … is to use fossil fuels cleanly. …
And when I say cleanly, I mean to get rid of the emissions that come out of them that kill people …
CO2 is not a killer. …
I don't think CO2 is as dangerous as some of the other forms of energy.
It may be a problem, we have to keep a watch on it, but I don't think that it solves any problem by saying we've got to eliminate fossil fuels:
  • [firstly, it's not] going to happen … certainly not in [the] foreseeable future [and]
  • [secondly,] what about the alternatives that are being proposed?
    They also cause environmental problems …
[The Paris climate change agreement is just] a cash-grab … by the developing countries. …
(Is China really showing 'leadership' on tackling climate change?, Counterpoint, 31 October 2016)

Freeman Dyson [Academic Advisor, Global Warming Policy Foundation]:
[The problems caused by global warming] are being grossly exaggerated.
They take away money and attention from other problems that are much more urgent and important.
Poverty, infectious diseases, public education and public health.
Not to mention the preservation of living creatures on land and in the oceans.
(Commencement Address, University of Michigan, Winter 2005)

[The] environmental movement [has been] hijacked by a bunch of climate fanatics, who have captured the attention of the public with scare stories. …
China and India have a simple choice to make.
Either they get rich [by burning prodigious quantities of coal and causing] a major increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide, or they stay poor.
I hope they choose to get rich. …
The good news is that the main effect of carbon dioxide … on the planet is to make [it] greener, [by] feeding the growth of green plants of all kinds [and] increasing the fertility of farms and fields and forests.
(Misunderstandings, questionable beliefs mar Paris climate talks, Boston Globe, 3 December 2015)

Miranda Devine:
Environmentalism is the powerful new secular religion and politically correct scientists are its high priests …
It used to be men in purple robes who controlled us; soon it will be men in white lab coats.
The geeks shall inherit the earth.
(John Quiggan, Innovation: the test is yet to come, Inside Story, 10 December 2015)

Peter Van Onselen [Associate Professor in Politics and Government, Edith Cowan University; Contributing Editor, The Australian]:
[According to Miranda Devine, the Delcons (Delusional Conservatives) believe] the Liberals should lose the election.
[That] it's better for the Liberals to lose to Labor.
And there is a candle being held to the possibility of a Tony Abbott comeback. …
Andrew Bolt decided he was one …
Nick Cater from the Menzies Research Centre …
[Tom Switzer's] definitely a Delcon.
(Gambling on Turnbull, Late Night Live, ABC Radio National, 7 September 2016)

Against Public Broadcasting

David Marr (1947):
Over the last twenty years, the impact on public debate of cuts and the fear of further cuts at the ABC is incalculable.
  • The politicians mask their revenge behind a barrage of abuse about bias;
  • the Howard government stacks the board with angry ideologues; and
  • [its] commercial news rivals print near-lunatic attacks.
(His Master's Voice, Quarterly Essay, Issue 26, 2007, p 52)

Tom Switzer (1971)

[Privatisation] would say to the ABC management:
You can put on as much Left wing ideological, tainted, journalism as you like — be frank about it — but just not at tax-payers expense. …
[And,] you'd be saving taxpayers up to more than million dollars every year …
Some programs, clearly, would not sell.
And others would continue to aggravate people like me.
But the point is, at least taxpayers would not be forced to pay for it. …

[Then] of course you've got this digital evolution … that's costing jobs … it's threatening the very viability of newspapers …
And let's be frank, when Rupert Murdoch goes, its highly unlikely that good quality flagship papers like the Australian will prevail.
In that environment, why should a tax-payer funded, free-to-the-consumer competitor, be allowed to expand on their turf?
There's something fundamentally unfair about that. …

My point is, that with the bias there and the changing media landscape, I don't think the ABC can be a public service broadcaster …

All things considered, the ABC News is more professional and it covers the big issues of the day in more detail than the commercial networks.
But my point is: [there's] a plethora of [digital] news and media [out there …]
[These] days, people … can read the New York Times or the Guardian newspaper online — we're well informed.
Do we need a publicly funded broadcaster to fill us in on those issues? …

[If, as the polls indicate, public broadcasting has 89% support in the community, why] would the marketplace let [such a] valuable franchise die?
If it were a commercially viable entity … how would privatising lead to diminishing the quality of it's product?

(Should the ABC be privatised?, Counterpoint, ABC Radio National, 10 June 2013)


Climate Hysteria

Against Public Broadcasting

Bring on the Culture Wars

In Trump We Trust

July 4, 2016

Mark Blyth

Green Army: Persons of Interest

(Terry Hillman, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Economics, Penguin, 2014, p 254)

George Megalogenis (1964):
[During the 1980's blue] collar workers had delivered their end of the bargain under the wages accord.
Yet their restraint in the boom, could not protect their jobs in the bust.

Ken Henry (1957) [Australian Treasury Secretary, 2001-2011]:
[More than half of the] people aged over 45 who lost their jobs in the early 1990's recession [— when unemployment peaked at 11.1% —] never worked a day again in their lives …
(Making Australia Great — Inside Our Longest Boom, Episode 2: Growing Pains, ABC Television, March 2015)

Tim Jackson (1957):
… Trumpf, a machine-tool maker in the south German city of Ditzingen, … managed to get through the [global] financial crisis without laying off any of its 4,000 German workers, while in the US, the same company laid off almost 15% of its workforce.
The difference was that, in Germany, Trumpf took advantage of government incentives to reduce working hours rather than firing people.
(Prosperity Without Growth, 2nd Edition, 2017, p 146)

John Galbraith (1908 – 2006):
The market will not go on [another] speculative rampage without some rationalization.
[And, needless to say,] during the next boom some newly rediscovered virtuosity of the free enterprise system will be cited. …
Among the first to accept these rationalizations will be some of those responsible for invoking the controls. …
They will say firmly that controls are not needed.
The newspapers, some of them, will agree and speak harshly of those who think action might be in order.
(p 206-7)

The Wall Street Journal [11 September 1929]:
[The] main body of stocks [continues] to display the characteristics of a major advance temporarily halted for technical readjustment.
(p 110)

Irving Fisher (1867 – 1947) [15 October 1929]:
Stock prices have reach what looks like a permanently high plateau. …
I expect to see the stock market a good deal higher than it is today within a few months.
[Irving lost between $8 and $10 million in net worth in the crash.]
(p 95)

Harvard Economic Society [10 November 1929]:
[A] severe depression … is outside the range of probability.
We are not facing protracted liquidation.
(The Great Crash 1929, Penguin, 1975, p 163)

John Galbraith (1908 – 2006):
Until well into the depression years the United States had no useful figures on the level or distribution of unemployment.
There was a certain classical logic in this; one did not spend money collecting information on what, in [theory,] could not exist.
(A History of Economics, Penguin, 1987, p 245)

Joseph Schumpeter (1883 – 1950)
[Recurrent] 'recessions' that are due to the disequilibrating impact of new products or methods. …
Economic progress, in capitalist society, means turmoil. …
[Capitalism's performance can, therefore, only be judged] over time, as it unfolds through decades and even centuries.
(Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, 2nd Ed, 1942)

Robert Lucas (1937):
[The] central problem of depression-prevention has … for all practical purposes … been solved for many decades.
(Presidential Address, American Economic Association, 2003)

Gregory Clark (1957) [Professor of Economics, University of California, Davis]:
The debate about the bank bailout, and the stimulus package, has … been conducted in terms that would be quite familiar to economists in the 1920s and 1930s.
There has essentially been no advance in our knowledge in 80 years.
(Dismal scientists: how the crash is reshaping economics, The Atlantic, 16 February 2009)

Joseph Stiglitz (1943):
In order to bail out the German banks [the Greeks have] had to accept [economic depression:
  • 25% unemployment (including 50% youth unemployment) and
  • a 25% decline in GDP. …]
(Stiglitz on Greece and climate change, RN Drive, 10 July 2015)

Niall Ferguson (1964):
[Subprime mortgage refinancing deals] allowed borrowers to treat their [over-priced] homes as cash machines, converting their existing equity into cash. …
Between 1997 and 2006, US consumers withdrew an estimated $9 trillion in cash from the equity in their homes.
(p 265)

The final cost of the Savings and Loans crisis between 1986 and 1995 was $153 billion (around 3% of GDP), of which taxpayers had to pay $124 billion, making it the most expensive financial crisis since the Depression.
(The Ascent of Money, 2008, Penguin, p 259)

William Crawford [Commissioner, California Department of Savings and Loans]:
The best way to rob a bank is to own one.
(Henry Pontell and Kitty Calavita, 'White-Collar Crime in the Savings and Loan Scandal', Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 525, January 1993, p 37)

Mark Blyth:
[The 2007 global financial crisis has cost,] once lost output is included, as much as $13 trillion and, on average, a 40-50% increase in the debt of states hit by the crisis. …
(p 45)

Lost output from 2008 through 2011 alone [averaged] nearly 8% of GDP across the major economies.
(p 46)

Since the 2008 crisis, [US banks] have awarded themselves $2.2 trillion in compensation.
(p 50, emphasis added)

[When] those at the bottom are expected to pay disproportionately for a problem created by those at the top, and when those at the top actively eschew any responsibility or that problem by blaming the state for their mistakes, not only will squeezing the bottom not produce enough revenue to fix things, it will produce an even more polarized … society in which the conditions for sustainable politics of dealing with more debt and less growth are undermined. …
In such an unequal and austere world, those who start at the bottom of the income distribution will stay at the bottom, and without [hope of advancement,] the only possible movement is a violent one.
(p 15)

[The] true price of saving the banks [may not] just the end of the euro, but the end of the European political project itself, which would be perhaps the ultimate tragedy for Europe.
(Austerity, p 92)

John Quiggin (1956) [Professor of Economics, Queensland University]:
An analysis by the New Economics Foundation concluded that for each pound paid to British bankers, society incurred a net loss of ten pounds. …
A study by the Center for Responsive Politics showed that about two-thirds of US senators were millionaires in 2008.
(Zombie Economics, Princeton University Press, 2012, pp 174-5)

Freeman Dyson (1923):
The gap between technology and needs is wide and growing wider.
If technology continues along its present course, ignoring the [basic] needs of the poor and showering benefits upon the rich, the poor will sooner or later rebel against the tyranny of technology and turn to irrational and violent remedies.
(Imagined Worlds, Harvard University Press, 1998, p 201)

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 – 1859):
Almost all the revolutions which have changed the aspect of nations have been made to consolidate, or to destroy, social inequality. …
Either the poor have attempted to plunder the rich, or the rich to enslave the poor.
(Democracy in America, 1835, Bantam, 2011, p 789)

Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895):
  • Where justice is denied,
  • where poverty is enforced,
  • where ignorance prevails and
  • where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them:
neither persons nor property will be safe.

Mark Blyth (1967)

  • Democracy is Asset Insurance for the Rich
  • Redistribution and Debt is Reinsurance for Democracy
  • Austerity is Anorexia for the Economy

(Charles Ferguson, Inside Job, 2010)

June 17, 2016

Francis Fukuyama

Blue Army: Persons of Interest

Francis Fukuyama (1952):
From the days of Aristotle … thinkers have believed that stable democracy rests on a broad middle class and that societies with extremes of wealth and poverty are susceptible either to
  • oligarchic domination or
  • populist revolution.
(Foreign Affairs)

It is hard to imagine a more disastrous presidency than that of George W Bush.
It was bad enough that he launched an unnecessary war and undermined the standing of the United States throughout the world in his first term.
But in the waning days of his administration, he is presiding over a collapse of the American financial system and broader economy that will have consequences for years to come.
(The Right Choice?, The American Conservative, 3 November 2008)

Today leaders of democracies do not lead their countries to war for other than serious national causes, and must hesitate before taking such grave decisions for they know their polities will not permit them to behave recklessly.
When they do … they are severely punished.
((The End of History, 2006, p 261 )

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 – 59):
Democracy, carried to its furthest limits, is … prejudicial to the art of government; and for this reason it is better adapted to a people already versed in the conduct of administration than to a nation which is uninitiated in public affairs.
(Democracy in America, 1835, Bantam, 2011, p 256)

Francis Fukuyama (1952)

Those countries in which democracy preceded modern state building have had much greater problems achieving high-quality governance than those that inherited modern states from absolutist times.
(p 30)

The United States is trapped in a bad equilibrium.
Because Americans historically distrust government, they typically aren't willing to delegate to the government authority to make decisions in the manner of other democratic societies.
Instead, Congress mandates complex rules that reduce the government's autonomy and make decisions slow and expensive.
The government then doesn't perform well, which confirms people's original distrust.
Under these circumstances, they are reluctant to pay higher taxes, which they feel the government will waste.
But while resources are not the only, or even the main, source of government inefficiency, without them the government won't function properly.
Hence distrust of government becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
(pp 503-4)

[While] democracy does provide an important check on elite power, it frequently fails to perform as advertised.
Elite insiders typically have superior access to resources and information, which they use to protect themselves.
Ordinary voters will not get angry at them for stealing their money if they don't know that this is happening in the first place.
Cognitive rigidities may also prevent social groups from mobilizing in their own self-interest.
In the United States, many working-class voters support candidates promising to lower taxes on the wealth, despite the fact that this hurts their own economic situations.
They do so in the belief that such policies will spur economic growth that will eventually trickle down to them, or else make government deficits self-financing.
The theory has proved remarkably tenacious in the face of considerable evidence that it is not true.
(p 465)

There is … a long-standing tension between rule of law and democratic accountability.
For rule of law to exist, it must be binding on all citizens, including democratic majorities.
In many democracies, major parties are content to violate the rights of individuals and minorities, and find legal rules to be inconvenient obstacles to their goals. …
Moreover, laws are administered by the human beings who operate the judicial branches of government.
These individuals have their own beliefs and opinions that may not correspond to the desires of the broader public.
Judicial activism can be as much of a danger as weak or politically compliant judiciaries. …

Finally … efforts to increase levels of democratic participation and transparency can actually decrease the democratic representativeness of the system as a whole.
The great mass of individuals living in democracy are not able by background or temperament to make complex public policy decisions, and when they are asked to do so repeatedly the process is often taken over by well organized interest groups that can manipulate the process to serve their narrow purposes.
Excessive transparency can undermine deliberation.
(p 534)

If there has been a single problem facing contemporary democracies [it is] their failure to provide … what people want from government:
  • personal security
  • shared economic growth, and
  • [the] quality basic public services like education, health, and infrastructure that are needed to achieve individual opportunity.
( p 546)

(Political Order and Political Decay, 2014)

June 1, 2016

Alexis de Tocqueville

Blue Army: Persons of Interest

Alexis Clérel (1805 – 59)

[All] the particular circumstances which tend to make the state of a democratic community agitated and precarious … lead private persons more and more to sacrifice their rights to their tranquillity.
(p 842)

The nations of our day cannot prevent conditions of equality from spreading in their midst.
But it depends on themselves whether equality is to lead to
  • servitude or freedom,
  • knowledge or barbarism,
  • prosperity or wretchedness. …

In the United States the majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of individuals who are thus relieved from the necessity of forming opinions of their own. …
The fact that the political laws of Americans are such that the majority rules the community with sovereign sway, materially increases the power which the majority naturally exercises over the mind [of the individual.]
For nothing is more customary in man than to recognize superior wisdom in the person of his oppressor.
(p 520

In the United States, where the poor rule, the rich have always some reason to dread the abuses of their power.
(p 288, emphasis added)

[It] is easy to perceive that the wealthy members of the community entertain a hearty distaste to the democratic institutions of their country.
The populace is at once the object
  • of their scorn and
  • of their fears.
(p 207)

I know of no country … where the love of money has taken a stronger hold on the affections of men, and where the profounder contempt is expressed for the theory of the permanent equality of property.
(p 57)

In no country in the world do the citizens make such exertions for the common weal; and I am acquainted with no people which has established
  • schools as numerous and as efficacious,
  • places of public worship better suited to the wants of the inhabitants, or
  • roads kept in better repair.
(p 102)

In no country is criminal justice administered with more mildness than in the United States.
Whilst the English seem disposed carefully to retain the bloody traces of the dark ages in the penal legislation, the Americans have almost expunged capital punishment from their codes.
(p 694)

The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law and the surest pledge of freedom.
(p 48)

[However, religions] ought to confine themselves within their own precincts; for in seeking to extend their power beyond religious matters, they incur a risk of not being believed at all.
The circle within which they seek to bound the human intellect ought therefore to be carefully traced, and beyond its verge the mind should be left in entire freedom to its own guidance.
(p 532)

[Patriotism] and religion are the only two motives in the world which can permanently direct the whole of a body politic to one end.
(p 104)

The English … rarely abuse the right of association [through resort to violence,] because they have long been accustomed to exercise it.
In France the passion for war is so intense that there is no undertaking so mad, or so injurious to the welfare of the State, that a man does not consider himself honored in defending it, at the risk of his life.
(p 226)

It is in the general and permanent interest of mankind that men should not kill each other: but it may happen to be the peculiar and temporary interest of a people or a class to justify, or even to honor, homicide.
(p 765)


It should … be the unceasing object of the legislators of democracies, and of all the virtuous and enlightened men who live there, to raise the souls of their fellow-citizens, and keep them lifted up towards heaven. …
If amongst the opinions of a democratic people any of those pernicious theories exist which tend to inculcate that all perishes with the body, let men by whom such theories are professed be marked as the natural foes of such a people. …

The materialists are offensive to me in many respects; their doctrines I hold to be pernicious, and I am disgusted at their arrogance. …
Materialism is, amongst all nations, a dangerous disease of the human mind; ; but it is more especially to be dreaded amongst a democratic people, because it readily amalgamates with that vice which is most familiar to the heart under such circumstances.
Democracy encourages a taste for physical gratification: this taste, if it become excessive, soon disposes men to believe that all is matter only …
(p 668)

Most religions are only general, simple, and practical means of teaching men the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.
That is the greatest benefit which a democratic people derives from its belief, and hence belief is more necessary to such a people than to all others.
[Therefore, seek] not to supersede the old religious opinions of men by new ones; lest in the passage from one faith to another, the soul being left for a while stripped of all belief, the love of physical gratifications should grow upon it and fill it wholly.
(p 669)

(Democracy in America, 1835)

February 21, 2016

Franklin Roosevelt

PBS American Experience

Franklin Roosevelt (1882 – 1945):
[The] only thing we have to fear is fear itself …

[There] must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. …

[In] our progress toward a resumption of work we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order:
  • there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments, so that there will be an end to speculation with other people's money; and
  • there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency. …

[We] now realize as we have never realized before, our interdependence on each other …
[That] we cannot merely take but we must give as well …
(First Inauguration Address, 4 March 1933)

A few timid people, who fear progress, will try to give you new and strange names for what we are doing.
Sometimes they will call it 'Fascism.'
And sometimes 'Communism.' …
And sometimes 'Socialism.'
But in so doing, they are trying to make very complex and theoretical something that is really very simple and very practical.
I believe in practical explanations and in practical policies …

[The] simplest way … to judge recovery lies in the plain facts of your own individual situation.
Are you better off than you were last year?
Are your debts less burdensome?
Is your bank account more secure?
Are your working conditions better?
Is your faith in your own individual future more firmly grounded. …

Plausible self-seekers and theoretical die-hards will tell you of the loss of individual liberty.
[Again,] answer this question out of the facts of your own life.
Have you lost any of your rights or liberty or constitutional freedom of action and choice?
(Fireside Chat, No 117, 28 June 1934)

[We] struggle with the old enemies [—] business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism [and] sectionalism …
We know … that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. …

[There are] those who disparage their fellow citizens on the relief rolls.
They say that those on relief are not merely jobless — that they are worthless.
Their solution for the relief problem is to end relief — to purge the rolls by starvation. …

[It] is my deep conviction that democracy cannot live without … a sense of justice and of moral purpose.
(The Second New Deal, 31 October 1936)

Henry Fletcher (1873 – 1959) [Chairman, Republican National Committee, 1934-6]:
The New Deal is government from above.
It is based on the proposition that the people cannot manage their own affairs and that a government bureaucracy must manage for them. …
(David Grubin, FDR, 1994)