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"Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice" - Adam Smith

An epidemic of WHO spin

Written by Dr Fred Hansen | Tuesday 15 April 2008

One major aspect of climate change scare mongering is epidemics. For example, the WHO and other scientists with a strong green bias claim that US energy policy is "indirectly exporting disease to other parts of the world" - causing probably 160,000 deaths per year.
However, infectious disease specialists from the Paris-based Pasteur Institute are defending the US against such claims. They demonstrate that Tiger mosquito-borne outbreaks, for which the WHO blames global warming, are actually caused by simple transportation. Malaria is not a tropical disease at all but simply one that affects the poor most .

The thing is that the WHO counts on ignorance and loss of memory to drive public opinion into climate scare scenarios. Malaria is one example of this. Most people have forgotten that Malaria was once quite common in Northern Europe – including Germany, Holland, and Britain – and was only completely eradicated there as late as the 1970s. The Pasteur doctors argue:

The globalization of vectors and pathogens is a serious problem. But it is not new. The Yellow Fever mosquito and virus were imported into North America from Africa during the slave trade. The dengue virus is distributed throughout the tropics and regularly jumps continents inside air passengers. West Nile virus likely arrived in the U.S. in shipments of wild birds. These diseases are spread by mosquitoes and therefore difficult to quarantine.

In the same way, that Malaria was probably slightly less active in Shakespeare’s England during the ‘Little Ice Age’ - although he mentions the disease in eight of his plays – it might well be slightly more active in our times due to mild warming. But this is by no means a decisive factor and people will always find ways to adapt to these new conditions.

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And another thing...

Written by Junksmith | Tuesday 15 April 2008

One voter in the southern town of Sorrento, Ciro d'Esposito, publicly tore up and ate his ballot paper in an unusual form of personal protest...

An Italian voter is not happy with his electoral options

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Blog Review 567

Written by Netsmith | Monday 14 April 2008

From an odd source, Grist, but an interesting article arguing that we really don't need further subsidy or massive investment in solar technology. What was necessary has already been done, we just need to let it all mature.

Discussing the rhetoric of climate change and climate change scepticism: rhetorically, of course.

How is it that a Government supposedly dedicated to the interests of the working poor has managed to make so many of them worse off?

Other poor people seem to be doing better: Albania is getting better all the time. Amazing what a bit of free market capitalism can do.

Editorial cartooning isn't entertainment you know, it's journalism.

It's a slow Monday so the 50 best comedy sketches of all time. Yes, you have guessed correctly about which is the global number 1. Be rather difficult not to really.

And finally, another British triumph. The world's first ever Rickmob.

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Doing the trade thing the wrong way

Written by Tim Worstall | Monday 14 April 2008

This doesn't bode well for the collective intelligence of our rulers:

Governments are racing to strike secretive barter and bilateral agreements with food-exporting countries to secure scarce supplies as the price of agricultural commodities jump to record highs, diplomats and cereal traders say.

How marvellously insensible, replacing the information flow of market pricing with the bounded knowledge of the bureaucrat making plans.

How is that bureacrat going to estimate the demand for wheat, say, or bread, or flour, as tastes, technologies and prices change? He can't, of course, it is simply impossible, as Hayek pointed out (and no, "socialist calculation" doesn't work either). If, however, in the face of changing prices, the assumption is simply that what will be demanded next year is the same amount as was demanded this, then the vital information those rising prices contain will simply be being ignored. For example, that it's about time to look for a substitute or two.

Now if countries really were worried about basic food supplies, about the ability of the population to ingest the necessary daily calories, there is in fact a much easier solution for them. Simply buy futures on the commodity markets and hold them until maturity and ask for delivery in kind. That's actually what they are there for, after all.

The added bonus here is that politics doesn't come into it. Instead of Syria and Egypt (an actual example) needing to be politicaly friendly in order to sign a deal, they can both deal with the entirely amoral market. Further, in such a barter deal, (again, from the real example) the import of rice from Cairo to Damascus is dependent upon the export of wheat from Damascus to Cairo. And what if the wheat crop in Syria fails? Does that also mean no rice in the country as well?

No, far better that the products themselves are exchanged for money and then the money used to purchase from anyone with the requisite goods. That is why we invented money, after all, to free us from the tyranny of having to barter for everything.

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Common Error No. 91

Written by Dr Madsen Pirie | Monday 14 April 2008

91. "We have to live more simply and restrain our extravagant lifestyles, or pollution will overwhelm the Earth's ability to cope with it."

smoke stacksIt sounds fine in theory. If we all bought locally, went back to horse-drawn carts, and stopped our acquisitive drive for more, surely we could reduce our footprint on planet Earth and allow it time to heal itself? Probably not. Rich people might fantasize about the simpler, less stressful life, but the poor want to get rich. In the Asian sub-continent and the Far East, they want to get as far as they can from starvation and subsistence, and lead the lifestyles they see us enjoying.

In China and India they are using Earth's resources hand over fist, burning energy at an unprecedented rate. It is not environmental quality they seek, but the wealth that offers a better life. The Chinese will build two new coal fired power stations a week for a decade, maybe two, and probably burning cheap, sulphurous coal to generate their electricity. They do not wish to be told to curb their ambitions and live more simply.

The scapegoat targets like 'food miles' and budget air trips make a negligible contribution to the pollution humans cause. The biggest contributors to that include agriculture and power generation. Even if the whole planet, rich and poor alike, made binding agreements "to live more simply," it would only succeed in lowering the quality of life for many, probably without making any significant change to the planet.

The answer is not simplicity but technology. Rich countries can afford to live cleanly, and can develop the technology to make this possible. We can produce clean power, clean engines and clean industry, and we can be wealthy enough to afford these things. Instead of living more simply, we should be developing and rewarding this advanced technology and doing what we want to do in a way that has less impact on the planet.

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Rail crisis on the horizon

Written by Steve Bettison | Monday 14 April 2008

old railway It is time to set the railways free. It's plain to see that despite the privatization of the railways in the mid-1990s, government interference has only worsened, to the point where David Briginshaw (Editor-in-Chief, International Rail Journal) writing about privatization around the globe states:

"In Britain, for example, we have the worst of all worlds. The government is now controlling franchisees so strictly that all the innovation that arrived with privatization has been squeezed out and the government now exercises far greater control over the passenger operators than was the case with state-owned British Rail."

The government, according to Mr Wolmar, has painted itself into a corner: if passenger numbers fall then the financial demands placed on train operating companies (TOC) by the government mean many may depart the rail industry. If numbers increase, then there will be demands that the infrastructure is improved and expanded, something which will cost the government a lot of money, and something they don't want to spend money they've not got on. The current problems found on the railways are only set to worsen over the coming years due to the political interference that has now seeped into the day-to-day running of the railways. But this crisis is one that could be avoided, and easily: we need to privatize the railways once and for all.

The current system whereby TOCs are separated from the rolling stock and the track they use means that any sense of control over their operations has been totally lost. It is time to allow companies to purchase rail lines, and rolling stock. Vertical integration (much feared by the left) is the simplest way that the railways could be saved. If monopoly of service is feared then competition needs to encouraged by allowing new rival rail lines to be constructed (or, indeed, old rail lines brought back into service). The railways need to be depoliticized, and given the opportunity to flourish.

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And another thing...

Written by Junksmith | Monday 14 April 2008

How do you know it's spring?

Because Arsenal's season is over.

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Blog Review 566

Written by Netsmith | Sunday 13 April 2008

How fabulously glorious. Dancing, silently, at Jefferson's Memorial (which is indeed open 24/7) to honour Jefferson's birthday, the birthday of one stalwart in defence of individual liberty and freedom from the State, appears to be an arrestable offence. Can you feel the irony?

On American Presidents, the Powerpoint way not to do the Gettysburg Address.

On matters similarly pictorial, great graphs of our time.

Slightly missing the point. The surge in flytipping is indeed because of the costs imposed upon more traditional methods of waste management.

It is indeed possible to wibble about what the optimal population might be at some point in the future: but it will be wibbling nonetheless.

What's driving growth in the Lusophone economies?

And finally, there are indeed things worse than a bad school report.


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Climate Change Censorship!

Written by Tim Worstall | Sunday 13 April 2008

OK, OK, censorship is too strong a word. How about activists try to get the books (as with the news earlier) written their way? Friends of the Earth has noted that this book doesn't toe the line on climate change. They're urging people to write to the publishers to get it changed, and writing to every Governor of a State to try and see that it doesn't get used in schools (at least, I assume that's their point). Why, even the Great James Hansen has joined the campaign with a letter.

So where's the actual beef?

"It is a foolish politician who today opposes environmentalism. And that creates a problem, because not all environmental issues are equally deserving of support. Take the case of global warming."

Certainly not all environmental problems are equally worthy of support. The appalling pollution in my office is no where near as important as the lack of potable water for a billion or more of my fellow human beings. That when politicians do look at global warming we get idiocies like mandatory biofuels is of course a different point. 

"The earth has become warmer, but is this mostly the result of natural climate changes, or is it heavily influenced by humans putting greenhouse gases into the air?"

This is of course a central point of the discussion: certainly we would want students to know the answer. 

"On the one hand, a warmer globe will cause sea levels to rise, threatening coastal communities; on the other hand, greater warmth will make it easier and cheaper to grow crops and avoid high heating bills."

Entirely true and more importantly, our students of "American Government: Institutions and Policies" are being introduced to the concept of cost benefit analyses, a most important tool. 

"But many other problems are much less clear-cut. Science doesn't know how bad the green-house effect is."

Indeed this is so. Climate sensitivity (how much warming from a doubling of atmospheric CO2) is the most important unknown at present. The IPCC thinks somewhere from 2 degrees C to 4.5. James Annan says 3. James Hansen (yes, he of the letter), in a paper released only last week, says 6 degrees C. So we don't in fact know how bad it is.

So our students seem to be getting a useful introduction to the subject then: and where is that beef?

It couldn't be that FoE and fellow travellers don't in fact want people to have a useful introduction, could it? That anything less than the insistence that we're all gonna die (Aieeee!) unless we have a fundamental change in the organisation of society is an unacceptable statement, could it?

No, no, perish the thought, even I'm not that cynical. There must be a more logical reason for this complaint.

Anyone know what it is?

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Common Error No. 90

Written by Dr Madsen Pirie | Sunday 13 April 2008

90. "The results of globalization and free markets can be seen in the shanty towns of third world countries."

shanty townThere's an important sense in which this is true. Were it not for the economy of the modern world, the people in the shanty towns would not exist at all. In primitive economies large families are the norm because the children contribute to the family's earning power, and support the parents when they are too old to care for themselves. People live on subsistence farms, suffering malnutrition and even starvation when harvests fail or floods destroy crops.

When their country begins economic growth and trade, jobs become available in towns and cities, and people are attracted there by better wages and living standards. Often they send money home. Many live in slum shanty towns while they advance themselves. Conditions are indeed poor, but afford many a chance to survive whereas they faced death in the countryside. So the population increases as they gain access to the rudiments of modern medicine and to a better and more secure diet than they had before.

Population expansion does settle down as the economy advances; the shanty town dwellers are the intermediate stage on the way up. In previous ages they would have died in childbirth, or of disease or malnutrition. Now, poor though they are, their country's economic advances have made it possible to keep them alive. Their equivalent was roughly the slum tenement housing that characterized many of the cities of England's early industrialization. Conditions improved as society prospered.

As society becomes more wealthy, large families become less necessary because children are no longer an economic necessity. Some campaigners suppose that societies must limit their population in order to become wealthy, but it is the other way round: wealthy societies limit their populations. These changes break with subsistence poverty and bring opportunities to climb with their expanding economy into a better life.

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