July 9, 2017

2017

Free Market of Ideas





July

Posts Charles & David Koch: Weaponizing Philanthropy
Greg Bear: All Flesh is Grass
Anthony Grayling: God is the name of our ignorance
Trump's America: A House Divided
CSIRO: State of the Climate 2016
PBS American Experience: Slavery is Freedom
Mark Blyth: Milton's Great Vacation
Links Naomi Oreskes: The scientist as sentinel
Matthieu Ricard: Contemplating Happiness
The Documentary: The Origins of the American Dream
Tim Jackson: Can economies thrive without growth?
Kate Pickett: Inequality is bad for everyone, why isn't it getting better?

June

Posts Brendan O'Neill: The Freedom to Hate
Peace And Long Life: On Tolerance
John Howard: The Master of Race Politics
John Howard: A Generous Open-Hearted People
Franklin Roosevelt: Economic Slavery
Herbert Spencer: The Survival of the Fittest
Donald Trump: The Most Powerful Man in the Universe
Robert Manne: Culture War — Historical Denialism and the Stolen Generations
Vannevar Bush: As We May Think
Links Brahma Challaney: Saudi Arabia — State Sponsor of Terrorism
Jane Mayer: In the Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, the Koch Brothers’ Campaign Becomes Overt
Peter Singer: How Can We Be More Effective Altruists?
Abigail Marsh: Are We Wired To Be Altruistic?
Joseph Carens: The moral maze of refugees and migration
Alain de Botton: What's A Kinder Way To Frame Success?

May

Posts Yuval Harari: Homo Deus — Divine Man
Yuval Harari: Homo Sapiens — Wise Man
Michel de Montaigne: My local witches
Michel de Montaigne: On being
Michel de Montaigne: Death is a scene with one character
Les Murray: An Ode to Pauline Hanson
Simon Marginson: The New Gilded Age
Rear Vision: Perfecting the White Race
Links Pauline Hanson: The Perfect Liberal
Robert Manne: Breeding out the colour
Matt Bevan: Trump gives himself an 80% tax cut
Matt Bevan: Trump and Putin
Science Friction: The Global War on Science
The Money: Populate and Perish
Yuval Harari: Why Did Humans Become The Most Successful Species On Earth?
Elizabeth Lesser: Why Is It So Hard To Ask For — And Offer — Forgiveness?
Anne Manne: Rape among the lamingtons
Nick Hanauer: Beyond the dreams of avarice

April

Posts Ronald Reagan: Creeping Socialism
Edward Gibbon: Of Jews and Christians
John Galbraith: The Next Bubble
Cultural Total War: The Global War on Political Correctness
Waleed Aly: The Enemy Within
Rosalie Crestani: Rise Up Australia!
James McPhersen: Freedom is not possible without slavery
Peace and Long Life: Cosmological Fine Tuning
High Mackay: The state of the nation starts in your street
Cosmos: Carbon Capture and Storage
Four Corners: Please Explain
John van Tiggelen: After Sorry
Links Bob Inglis: Political climate changing?
Ann Pettifor: How to Break the Power of the Banks
Svend Brinkmann: How to Resist the Self-Improvement Craze
Rutger Bregman: Utopia for Realists

March

Posts John Rasko: Trump's Pharmaceutical Plan
Love is a Warm Gun: Sandy Hook
Malcolm Turnbull: Coal is King
Thomas Piketty: A Recipe for Right Wing Revolt
Thomas Piketty: How Much Does the Richest Woman in History Pay in Taxes?
William Gibson: Idoru
Dylan Thomas: Under Milkwood
Michel de Montaigne: On fleeing from pleasures at the cost of one's life
Bertrand Russell: Contempt for Happiness
Four Corners: Alternative Medicine
Peace and Long Life: Freedom (of Action) Without (Freedom of) Will
Live Long and Prosper: Society Versus Community
Links Naomi Oreskes: Why Should We Believe In Science?
Maz Jobrani: Can Comedy Break Stereotypes?
Paul Bloom: Why Do We Create Stereotypes?
Satyajit Das: Consuming our future
Tim Berners-Lee: How Did The World Wide Web Start?
Clay Shirky: Can Open Source Be Traced To The 17th-Century?
Clay Shirky: How cognitive surplus will change the world

February

Posts Alistair Cooke: Saving Capitalism
Martin King: Free at Last
John Quiggin: An Epidemic of Laziness
George Orwell: The Lion and the Unicorn
David Biello: China leads the way on climate change
Tom Switzer: Against Public Broadcasting
Links Dorothy Roberts: What's Race Got to Do with Medicine?
Laurence Cockroft & Anne-Christine Wegener: On Corruption
Mark Blyth: Global Trumpism
Thomas Frank: Why Hillary Lost
William Perry: Nuclear Insecurity in the 21st Century
BBC World Service: Eugenics in America

January

Posts Tom Switzer: The Wrong Side of History
John Kennedy: The Common Enemies of Mankind
Martin Luther: On the Jews and Their Lies
Donald Trump: Ignorance is Strength
Links Scientific American: Trump's 5 Most “Anti-Science” Moves
Discovery: The Future of the Paris Climate Deal under Donald Trump
Suzanne Barakat: After A Horrible Hate Crime, How Do You Not Hate Back?
Earshot: The Seven Ages of Woman
Andrew Solomon: Is There A Healthy Way To Think About Depression?

Milton Friedman

Blue Army: Persons of Interest


On few matters over the centuries has
the human conscience been more amenable and
the human brain more resourceful
than in finding reasons why the rich and the fortunate
should live in comfortable coexistence with the poor.


(John Galbraith, The Affluent Society, 4th Edition, Penguin, 1984, p xxiv)




(Michael Kirk, President Trump, PBS Frontline, WGBH, 2017)

John Galbraith (1908 – 2006):
Labor and labor unions are no longer the primary enemies of the business enterprise …
The enemy … is government. …
[And for] the defense of private enterprise against the state the commitment to the classical market is of vital importance.
(A History of Economics, Penguin, 1987, p 285)

John Kennedy (1917 – 1963):
[My] fellow Americans:
  • ask not what your country can do for you;
  • ask what you can do for your country.
(Inaugural Address, 20 January 1961)

Milton Friedman (1912 – 2006):
The free man will ask neither:
  • what his country can do for him; nor,
  • what he can do for his country.
(Capitalism and Freedom, 1962, emphasis added)

The strongest argument for free enterprise is that it prevents anybody from having too much power …
[The workers of 19th century Britain] were not exploited.
The studies that have been done recently have shown over and over again that the 19th century was a period in which the ordinary English worker experienced a very rapid and very substantial rise in his standard of life.
(The Tyranny of Control, Episode 2)

{[That system] of unregulated rapacious capitalism} did a far better job of expressing … compassion than the governmental welfare programs are today.
[It saw] the greatest outpouring of … charitable activity the world has ever known.
And one of the things I hold against the welfare system most seriously, is that it has destroyed private charitable arrangements that are far more effective [in helping people] in disadvantaged situations.
(From Cradle to Grave, Episode 4)

[Look] at the way the welfare system has been corrupting the very fabric of our society. …
[We] are inducing [welfare recipients] to become dependants — to become children …
(How to Stay Free, Free to Choose, Episode 9, PBS, 1980)

Mary Kissel (1976) [Editorial Board Member, Wall Street Journal]:
[By expanding] the entitlement state [Barack Obama has] hooked a lot of lower income Americans on welfare programs — 1 in 7 Americans on food stamps, for instance.
(The Trump victory, Between The Lines, ABC Radio National, 10 November 2016)

Donald Regan (1918 – 2003) [Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan, 1981 – 1985]:
I've read an awful lot about how we're really going to hurt the poor … with our cuts.
That is absolutely not what we're going to do.
(The Reagan Revolution, The Eighties, Episode 5, 2016)

John Galbraith (1908 – 2006):
[Under Ronald Reagan, along with tax cuts for the rich,] there was the attack … on economic support to the poorest of the population — on welfare payments, food stamps and aid to families with dependent children.
(p xvii)

There is … the by no means remote chance that management of the modern economy by the affluent for the affluent will fail.
It involves a basic contradiction between,
  • on the one hand, the conservative commitment to free enterprise, the monetarist illusion and taxation especially tailored to the affluent, and,
  • on the other, the hard fact that depression and recession are only avoided by comprehensive, socially concerned measures, notably by the required fiscal and prices and incomes policies …
Failure could easily put enough people in jeopardy so that the economic contentment arising from affluence would be threatened and political attitudes thus changed.
This was the effect of the Great Depression …
(The Affluent Society, 4th Edition, Penguin, 1984, p xxxi)

Karl Marx (1818 – 1883)
William Wood, 9 years old, was 7 years and 10 months when he began to work …
He came to work every day in the week at 6 am, and left off about 9 pm …
Mary Anne Walkley had worked without pause 26½ hours, together with sixty other girls, thirty of them in one room …
[She] died of apoplexy, but there is reason to fear that her death had been accelerated by overwork in an overcrowded workroom.
(Capital, Vol 1 Ch 8, 1867)

The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class …
During its rule of scarce one hundred years, [capitalism] has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. …
[It] has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life …
(Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1848)

Terry Hillman:
In the eighteenth century, factory owners chained children to the machines.
They fought the government's attempt to [make the] shackling children illegal.

The Mills and Factory Act (1833):
  • No child workers under nine years of age.
  • Children of 9 to 13 years to work no more than 9 hours a day.
  • Children of 13 to 18 years to work no more than 12 hours a day.
  • Children are not to work at night.
  • Two hours of schooling each day for children.
(The Complete Idiot's Guide to Economics, 2014, pp 20 & 23)

William Sumner (1840 – 1910):
[Millionaires] are a product of natural selection … the naturally selected agents of society for certain work.
They get high wages and live in luxury, but the bargain is a good one for society.
(The Challenge of Facts and Other Essays, Albert Keller, Editor, Yale University Press, 1914, p 90)

The law of the survival of the fittest was not made by man.
We can only by interfering with it produce the survival of the unfittest.
(Essays in Political and Social Science, Henry Holt, 1885, p 85)

Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797):
The laws of commerce are the laws of nature, and therefore the laws of God.
(Thoughts and Details on Scarcity, 1800)

John Rockefeller, Jr (1874 – 1960):
The growth of a large business is merely a survival of the fittest …
The American Beauty rose can be produced in the splendor and fragrance which bring cheer to its beholder only by sacrificing the early buds which grow around it.
This is not an evil tendency in business.
It is merely the working out of a law of nature and a law of God.

Milton & Rose Friedman:
Life is not fair.
It is tempting to believe that government can rectify what nature has spawned.
(Free to Choose, 1980)

David Ricardo (1772 – 1823):
The natural price of labour is that price which is necessary to enable the labourers … to subsist and to perpetuate their race, without either increase or diminution.
(Chapter V, The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, 3rd Edition, 1821, p 52)

Like all other contracts, wages should be left to the fair and free competition of the market, and should never be controlled by the interference of the legislature.
(Letter to Malthus, Vol I, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Piero Sraffa, Editor, Cambridge University Press, 1951, p 105)

John Galbraith (1908 – 2006):
Thomas Robert Malthus [1766 – 1834], a British clergyman of aristocratic instinct … provided a powerful case against public or private charity and a greatly serviceable support to those who found it publicly convenient or personally economical to forgo help to the unfortunate. …
[Among] the many who sought to put the poverty of the poor on the shoulders of the poor — or remove it from those of the more affluent — none did so more completely than Malthus.
(A History of Economics, Penguin, 1987, pp 77 & 79)

John Locke (1632 – 1704):
The great and chief end of men uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property …
[Men] have agreed to a disproportionate and unequal possession of the earth …
[By] voluntary consent [they have] found out a way how a man may fairly possess more land than he can fairly use the product of, by receiving … the overplus of gold and silver, which may be hoarded up without injury to anyone.
(Second Treatise on Civil Government, 1689)

Adam Smith (1723 – 1790):
For every rich man, you must have 500 poor.
And that rich man must live every time in fear because of the jealousy of others.
And if it is not for the firm hand of the magistrate … he would not be able to keep his capital safe. …

[Civil government,] in so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense
  • of the rich against the poor, or
  • of those who have some property against those who have none at all. …
(The Wealth of Nations, 1779)

Garrett Hardin (1915 – 2003):
World food banks move food to the people, hastening the exhaustion of the environment of the poor countries.
Unrestricted immigration, on the other hand, moves people to the food, thus speeding up the destruction of the environment of the rich countries. …
We are all the descendants of thieves, and the world's resources are inequitably distributed.
[However, we] cannot remake the past.
We cannot safely divide the wealth equitably among all peoples so long as people reproduce at different rates.
To do so would [only] guarantee that future generations would have … a ruined world to inhabit.
(Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor, Psychology Today, 1974)

Robert Putnam (1941):
The dominant public ideology of the Gilded Age [was] social Darwinism.
Its advocates had argued that social progress required the survival of the fittest — with little or no interference by government with the “natural laws of the marketplace.”
In a society so organized, the ablest would succeed, the feckless would fail, and the unhindered process of elimination would ensure social progress.
In important respects this [late 19th century] philosophy foreshadowed the libertarian worship of the unconstrained market that has once again become popular in [late 20th century] America.
(Bowling Alone, 2001, p 378)

Herbert Spencer (1820 – 1903):
I am simply carrying out the views of Mr Darwin in their applications to the human race …
Only those who do advance under [the pressure imposed by the system| eventually survive …
[These] must be the select of their generation.
(The Study of Sociology, 1882)

Partly by weeding out those of lowest development, and partly by subjecting those who remain to the never-ceasing discipline of experience, nature secures the growth of a race who shall both understand the conditions of existence, and be able to act up to them.
It is impossible in any degree to suspend this discipline.
(Social Statics, 1878)

The function of Liberalism in the past was that of putting a limit to the powers of kings.
The function of true Liberalism in the future will be that of putting a limit to the powers of Parliaments.
(The Man Versus the State, 1884)

Freedom Without Justice


peaceandlonglife:
Freedom without justice is tyranny by any other name.

James McPherson (1936):
[Most] southerners insisted that one of the most cherished tenets of republican liberty was the right to property — including property in slaves.
(p 34)

John Calhoun (1782 – 1850) [Senator for South Carolina]:
Instead of an evil [slavery is] a positive good … the most safe and stable basis for free institutions in the world.
(Battle Cry of Freedom, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2003, p 78)

Richard Tawney (1880 – 1962):
Freedom for the pike is death for the minnows.
(Equality, 3rd Edition, 1938)

It is not till it is discovered that high individual incomes will not purchase the mass of mankind immunity from cholera, typhus, and ignorance, still less secure them the positive advantages of educational opportunity and economic security, that slowly and reluctantly, amid prophecies of moral degeneration and economic disaster, society begins to make collective provision for needs no ordinary individual, even if he works overtime all his life, can provide himself.
(Equality, 4th Edition, Allen & Unwin, 1952, pp 134–5)

Isaiah Berlin (1909 – 1997):
[Total] liberty for wolves is death to [lambs.]
[Total] liberty of the powerful [and] the gifted, is not compatible with the rights to a decent existence of the weak and less gifted. …
Equality may demand the restraint of the liberty of those who wish to dominate … in order
  • to make room for social welfare,
  • to feed the hungry,
  • to clothe the naked,
  • to shelter the homeless,
  • to leave room for the liberty of others, [and]
  • to allow justice or fairness to exercised.
(The Pursuit of the Ideal, The Crooked Timber of Humanity: Chapters in the History of Ideas, 1990)

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826):
Under pretence of governing, they have divided their nations into two classes:
  • wolves and
  • sheep.
Experience declares that Man is the only animal that devours its own kind.
For I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe.
And to the general prey of the rich [upon] the poor.
(Letter to Colonel Edward Carrington, 16 January 1787)

Karl Popper (1902 – 1994):
[The] paradox of freedom, first discovered by Plato, … can be expressed by saying that unlimited freedom leads to its opposite, since without its protection and restriction by law, freedom must lead to a tyranny of the strong over the weak.
This paradox … was solved by Kant, who demanded that the freedom of each man should be restricted, but not beyond what is necessary to safeguard an equal degree of freedom for all.
(The Open Society and Its Enemies, 5th Edition, 1966, Routledge, pp 257-8)

Tony Benn (1925-2014):
[Real choice] depends on the freedom to choose, and if you're shackled with debt, you don't have the freedom to choose. …
[If] the poor in Britain or the United States turned out and voted for people who represented their interests, it would be a real democratic revolution. …
[There] are two ways in which people are controlled:
  • first of all, frighten people; and
  • secondly, demoralize them.
An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern. …
The top 1% of the world's population own 80% of the world's wealth.
It's incredible that people put up with it.
But they're poor, they're demoralized, they're frightened.
And therefore they think: perhaps the safest thing to do is [just] to take orders and hope for the best.

Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004) [On behalf of the American Medical Association]:
One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine …
The doctor begins to lose freedoms.
It's like telling a lie, and one leads to another …
All of us can see what happens once you establish the precedent that the government can determine a man's working place and his working methods, and behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country.
Until, one day, we will awake to find we have socialism.
(Michael Moore, Sicko, 2007)

George W Bush (1946):
We're faced with a prospect of a global meltdown. …
It's true this crisis includes failures
  • by lenders and borrowers, and
  • by financial firms and independent regulators,
but the crisis was not a failure of the free market system.
(The G20, Rear Vision, ABC Radio National, 2 November 2014)


My God is Freedom


Milton Friedman (1912 – 2006)

[The] Great Depression was not a failure of capitalism.
It was not a failure of the private market system …
It was a failure of government.
(Who Protects the Worker?, Episode 8)

Unfortunately that failure did not end with the Great Depression.
Ever since, government has been attempting to fine-tune the economy.
In practice, just as during the Depression, far from promoting stability, the government itself has been the major single source of instability.
(Anatomy of a Crisis, Episode 3)

If you promote freedom … you will end up … with both
  • more freedom,
  • more prosperity, and
  • more equality. …
[But] if I were wrong, if freedom led to wider inequality, I would [still] prefer that to a world in which I got artificial equality at the expense of [natural] freedom.
[My] God … is freedom. …
(Created Equal, Episode 5)

[Government] money always corrupts …
(From Cradle to Grave, Episode 4)

[In America today, in] some areas we have more freedom than we have ever had before.
In some other areas our freedom has been drastically reduced.
  • Our freedom to spend our own money as we want has been cut sharply.
  • Our freedom to go into whatever occupation we want has been reduced sharply.
  • Our freedom to enter various businesses has been reduced sharply.
[These] restrictions on our economic freedoms have carried over to restrictions on [our] freedom of [speech,] the activities we carry on, our attitudes toward governmental officials …

Consider a Professor of Medicine, … he's almost certain to have is research financed by the federal government .
Don't you think he would think two or three times before he gave a lecture on the evils of socialized medicine?
Or consider one of my colleagues at the university who happens to be getting grants of money from the National Science Foundation.
Do you really think he feels free to speak out on the issue of whether government ought to be financing such research? …
There is no businessman in this country today who can speak out … about anything.
Take, for example, the recent attempts by President Carter to impose voluntary wage and price controls. …

There's a natural human drive for freedom which always expresses itself …
The real value of freedom is that it provides diversity. …
The fact that there isn't a monolith conformity imposed on us, that is the source of protection for our freedom and also the fruit of freedom. …
[It's] the fact that have all these expressions of people's individuality that produces the great achievements of civilization and that provides the great hope and protection of our freedom. …
We have been moving away from freedom.
Our freedom is in jeopardy. …
[Nevertheless,] I believe that there is a strong enough component of freedom in our society … that we're going to turn this trend back, that we are going to cut government down to size.
We going to lay the groundwork for a resurgence … of that diversity which has been the real product of our free society. …

[Government] should be limited to its basic functions:
  • defending the nation against its foreign enemies,
  • preserving order at home, [and]
  • mediating our disputes …
[I would] reform social security in such a way that would end in its ultimate elimination. …
[Admittedly, it] would be intolerable to throw the millions of people now depending on welfare on to the streets.
We've got to go gradually from here to there.
That's why I proposed a negative income tax as a transitional device, that it would enable us to give help to people who really need help, [rather than] the mess we have now where most of the benefits go to people who [don't.]
How to Stay Free, Episode 9)

(Free to Choose, PBS, 1980)


Milton's Great Vacation


[Milton] assumed that unemployment was voluntary and was not due to a deficiency [in the demand for labor.]
People [voluntarily trade off leisure against labor according to] the prevailing wage.
There is no [such thing as Keynesian] demand-deficient unemployment in Milton's world.
In other words, the 25% of Spaniards who are presently without work [have simply made a rational decision not to] work at the prevailing wage [— freely choosing, instead, to go] on vacation.
(p 153)

[By this logic, the Great Depression was] a giant, unexpected, and astonishingly long unpaid vacation for millions of people …
(p 159)

[Likewise, Joseph Schumpeter] argued that the Great Depression was neither great nor depressing.
Rather, it was just a particularly marked transitional period of technological and organizational change …
(p 129)

(Mark Blyth, Austerity, 2013)


John Kenneth Galbraith (1908 – 2006)


The values of a society totally preoccupied with making money are not altogether reassuring.
(p 101)

[From June 1929,] free at last from all threat of government reaction or retribution, the market sailed off into the wild blue yonder. …
Never before or since have so many become so wondrously, so effortlessly, and so quickly rich. …
Perhaps it was worth being poor for a long time to be so rich for just a little while.
(p 68)

Those who employed rational, objective, and scientific methods … failed to foretell the crash.
(p 109)

When people are least sure they are often most dogmatic.
(p 189)

Many things were wrong [in the lead up to the Great Depression,] but five weaknesses seem to have had an especially intimate bearing on the ensuing disaster. …

  1. The bad distribution of income. …

  2. [The] 5% of the population with the highest incomes in that year received approximately one-third of all personal income.
  3. The bad corporate structure.

  4. The bad banking structure.

  5. The dubious state of the foreign balance.

  6. The poor state of economic intelligence.
  7. [The] economists and those who offered economic counsel in the late twenties and early thirties were almost uniquely perverse.
    In the months and years following the stock market crash, the burden of reputable economic advice was invariably on the side of measures that would make things worse. …

    The Democratic platform in 1932 called for … at least a 25% decrease in the cost of government.
    The fear of inflation reinforced the demand for the balanced budget [— flying in the face of] the most violent deflation in the nation's history.

(pp 194-201)

The economic advisers of the day had both the unanimity and the authority to force the leaders of both parties to disavow all the available steps to check deflation and depression.
(p 202)

[The] chances for a recurrence of a speculative orgy are rather good.
No one can doubt that the American people remain susceptible to the speculative mood — to the conviction that enterprise can be attended by unlimited rewards in which they, individually, were meant to share.
A rising market can still bring the reality of riches.
This, in turn, can draw more and more people to participate.
The government preventatives and controls are ready.
In the hands of a determined government their efficacy cannot be doubted.

There are, however, a hundred reasons why a government will determine not to use them. …
Action to break up a boom must always be weighed against the chance that it will cause unemployment at a politically inopportune moment.
(p 206)

[Now,] as throughout history, financial capacity and political perspicacity are inversely correlated.
Long-run salvation by men of business has never been highly regarded if it means disturbance of orderly life and convenience in the present.
So inaction will be advocated in the present even though it means deep trouble in the future.
Here, at least equally with communism, lies the threat to capitalism.
It is what causes men who know that things are going quite wrong to say that things are fundamentally sound.

(The Great Crash 1929, Penguin, 1975, p 210)


[The] influence and power [of the modern business firm extends] to politicians, Presidents and the Pentagon. …
[This power] is much enjoyed, and its economic and political exercise can also be pleasingly remunerative.
Nothing serves it better than [an economic] theology that disguises its exercise. …
[Nonetheless,] the service that economists render to the disguise of power in their writing and teaching is more often the result of catatonic expression than of any deliberate or wilful motivation.
(p xv)

Inflation is an endemic tendency of the modern economy, which monetary policy attempts to control by high interest rates.
Given the persistent character of inflation, a reliance on monetary policy means that interest rates will be persistently high. …
And, since those who lend are likely to have more money than those who borrow or have nothing to lend, also a strikingly evident matter, the policy clearly favors those of established affluence.
From this comes the popularity of monetary policy in the financial world — its popularity with those who are or who speak for the affluent. …
[Unsurprisingly] those who urge an aggressive monetary policy are conveniently exempt from the unemployment and other misfortunes that it produces.
(p xxi)

[There] has been the shift in political power to the affluent.
This has led those so favored to try to contract out from the cost of those public services of primary importance to the poor — from the cost of public schools, police, public libraries, parks, public recreational facilities, public transportation.
Instead, through private purchase, the affluent provide these services for themselves in the form of private education, personal security guards, private recreational facilities and private transportation.
Deep moral indignation over the invasion of liberty by taxes coupled with grave complaints about the inefficiency of government have extensively supported this change.
(p xxiii)

A self-serving branch of moral philosophy has been devised to defend the right of the affluent to freedom of choice [while neglecting to mention] the way bad public services (like the absence of income itself) abridge the freedom of the poor.
(p xxiv)

With the spread of well-being, more and more people have a comfortable satisfaction with their own economic position.
Once thus blessed, they find, as in all past times, a suitably persuasive reason for separating themselves and their consciences from the still-persisting poverty of the now less numerous poor.
Those who are financially secure are the people
  • who are most likely to vote in elections and
  • who are best able to contribute to the high cost, especially in the United States, of modern political campaigns.
So endowed, they vote out of power those
  • who made the revolution on behalf of the insecure and the poor and
  • who would continue efforts on behalf of the smaller number of the underprivileged who remain.

In the industrial countries it was the leaders of the socially concerned left …
  • who, all but exclusively, led in measures to temper or eliminate the insecurity and anxiety associated with old age, illness and unemployment;
  • who supported the trade unions in their quest for better incomes and job security;
  • who gave farmers a large measure of certainty in their prices; and
  • who gave the average citizen safety for his savings.
In all of these efforts American liberals and their counterparts in the other industrial countries contributed to the spread of affluence and especially to a more-than-modest security therein.
(p xxvii)

That as more people grow richer there will be growing political indifference as regards the poor is not wholly a domestic tendency; it has a strong international manifestation as well.
(p xxix)

With increasing affluence it might have been expected that out of the ever-more-abundant resources this assistance would increase.
Alas, however, the concern for the poor in both the United States and the rest of the affluent world has diminished …
That the political and economic position of the poor everywhere worsens with increasing affluence is not an attractive conclusion.
[Yet in] the industrial countries some do remain whose compassion and resulting political commitment survive their personal good fortune.
(p xxx)

The line which divides our area of wealth from our area of poverty is roughly that which divides privately produced and marketed goods and services from publicly rendered services.
[Our] wealth in privately produced goods is, to a marked degree, the cause of crisis in the supply of public services.
For we have failed to see the [the urgent need to] maintaining a balance between the two.
(p 190)

[Just as] the modern corporate bureaucracy shelters its power behind the myth of the market, so its bureaucrats live in the shadow of the energetic, innovative, risk-loving entrepreneur.
(p xxxv)

[For] Herbert Spencer and his American disciples in the last century, the Social Darwinists, poverty is the socially therapeutic tendency that eliminates the unfit.
[This secular] instinct for Social Darwinism still lurks in our time [accompanied by a] fundamentalist theology that holds that property is God's natural reward for the worthy.
The poor, meanwhile, have the comfort of knowing they … will pass [more] easily into the next world to enjoy, along with the meek, full compensation for the miseries of this existence.
The relevant and supporting texts and sermons are amply available from the religious broadcasters and the Moral Majority.
(p xxvi)

(The Affluent Society, 4th Edition, Penguin, 1984)


By showing that the rich were the naturally selected products of the Darwinian process, Herbert Spencer … relieved those so endowed of all sense of guilt and made them understand that they were, instead, the incarnation of their own biological excellence.
And he had also removed all feelings of obligation and concern as regards the poor.
However cruel their euthanasia, it served the higher purpose of human improvement as a whole.
(p 164)

In Europe the division between privilege and impoverishment was by classes; in the United States it was by individuals — the rich and self-reliant and below them the ragged fringe.
There could be a Darwinian selection of individuals, a Darwinian euthanasia of the fringe, but not so obviously of an entire class.
(p 165)

Spencer and his prophets were the supreme achievement in the defense of the great American rich in the years after the Civil War.
(p 166)

For active business participants the classical system was — and remains [—] a manifestation of religious faith.
(p 219)

To attribute to intellectual myopia or to narrow pecuniary interest the resistance of business to the ameliorative tendencies of Social Security (and later of Lord Keynes) is to misunderstand much that is important in competitive and capitalist motivation.
Something, perhaps much, must also be attributed to the pleasure of winning in a game where many lose.
(p 220)

In 1929, the highest marginal rate on the personal income tax had been 24%; it rose during the New Deal years, and by 1945 it was 94%.
With the war, and in justification of these taxes, had come the notion of an approach to equality of sacrifice:
  • the poor would pay with their lives or anyhow with their military service or their toil;
  • the affluent, especially the nonserving rich, would pay with their taxes.
(p 249)

There are some economic lessons that are never learned.
One is the need for the most profound suspicion of innovation in matters concerning money and more generally the field of finance.
The thought persists that there must surely be some as yet undiscovered way of solving great social problems without pain, but the simple fact is that there is not.
Ingenious monetary and financial designs, without known exception, turn out to be, if not innocuous, then frauds on the public or, frequently, on their perpetrators themselves.
(p 99)

[The] pretension of economics that it is a science is firmly rooted in the need for an escape from blame for the inadequacies and injustices of the system with which the great classical tradition was concerned.
(p 125)

The most common qualification of the economic forecaster is not in knowing, but in not knowing that he does not know.
His greatest advantage is that all predictions, right or wrong, are soon forgotten. …
The modern economic system [survives] not because of the excellence of the work of those who forecast its future, but because of their supremely reliable commitment to error.
(p 4)

The inadequate provision of housing at modest cost in contrast with that of, say, automobiles or cosmetics, can be considered the single greatest default of modern capitalism.

In great measure, wants are now shaped by the advertising done by the producing firms that supply the products or services.
That this is possible is itself an indication that the individual product or service has little consequence.
When the price for a particular product is noticeably high, the result may be complaint or indignation, but there is no suffering or hardship as in the past. …

In the industrial countries most people, when employed, are not primarily preoccupied with the size of their income. …
Their principal worry is the danger of losing all or most of their income — of losing employment and the consequent loss of all or most of the means of their livelihood.
This fear afflicts men and women at nearly all levels — on the shop floor and throughout the middle structure of administration and management.
(p 290)

In consequence, the factors affecting the security of employment are now socially far more important than those determining the level of reward. …

During the severe recession of the early 1980s … the production of goods and services declined over a broad range.
No one was thought, however, to suffer because of what was not produced, housing again apart.
Deprivation of this kind received no mention at all.
All suffering was identified with the interruption in the flow of income — with unemployment or loss of employment.
That, not prices or the unequal distribution of income, is demonstrably the prime social anxiety of our time.
In the modern industrial economy production is of first importance not for the goods it produces but for the employment and income it provides.
(p 291)

(A History of Economics, Penguin, 1987)


John Quiggin (1956)


Professor of Economics, Queensland University

[In the 1970s, those economists] who wanted to restore the pre-Keynesian purity of classical macroeconomics … became known as the New Classical school.
Their key idea was what they called "rational expectations," which, in its strongest form, required all participants in an economy to have, in their minds, a complete and accurate model of that economy.
John Muth (1930 – 2005):
[Rational expectations are] those that agree with the predictions of the relevant economic model.
(p 94)

[New Classical economics] reproduces the classical conclusion:
  • that government intervention cannot improve macroeconomic performance and
  • that, in the absence of such intervention, the economy will rapidly adjust to economic shocks, returning quickly to its natural equilibrium position.
(p 96)

The top four hundred income earners [in the US] paid average tax rates below 20% in 2007, a fact symbolized by Warren Buffett's observation that he paid a lower rate of tax than his secretary.
(p 142)


An Epidemic of Laziness


[Real Business Cycle Theory interprets] fluctuations in aggregate demand and employment [as the] socially optimal equilibrium response to exogenous shocks such as:
  • changes in productivity,
  • the terms of trade, or
  • workers' preference for leisure.
(p 99)

[This analysis implies that,] at the outset was the Great Depression, [either:]
  • the state of scientific knowledge had suddenly gone backward by 30%, or …
  • workers throughout the world had suddenly succumbed to an epidemic of laziness …
(p 100)

(Zombie Economics, Princeton University Press, 2012)


Crisis? What Crisis?


The Efficient Markets Hypothesis implies that there can be no such thing as a bubble in the prices of assets such as stocks or houses.
(p 45)

The Efficient Markets Hypothesis, which enshrines the market price of assets as the summary of all relevant information, is inconsistent with any idea that managers should pursue the long-term interests of corporations, disregarding short-term fluctuations in share prices.
According to the Efficient Markets Hypothesis, the current share price is the best possible estimate of the long-term share price and therefore of the long-term value of the corporation to shareholders.

If the Efficient Markets Hypothesis is accepted, public investment decisions may be improved through the use of formal evaluation procedures like benefit-cost analysis, but the only really satisfactory solution is to turn [delivery of public services] over to the private sector. …
The Efficient Markets Hypothesis implies that governments can never outperform well-informed financial markets.
(p 49)

Privatization is bad for unions, which tend to be stronger and more effective in the public sector.
It is usually good for the incumbent senior managers of privatized firms, who move from being rather modestly paid public sector employees, constrained by bureaucratic rules and accountability, to doing much the same job but with greatly increased pay and privileges, and far fewer constraints.
(pp 185-6)

[In 2007 all] of the checks and balances in the system failed comprehensively.
The ratings agencies offered AAA ratings to assets that turned out to be worthless, on the basis of models that assumed that house prices could never fall. …
The entire ratings agency model, in which issuers pay for ratings, proved to be fundamentally unsound.
But, these very ratings were embedded in official systems of regulation.
Thanks to the Efficient Markets Hypothesis, crucial public policy decisions were, in effect, outsourced to for-profit firms that had a strong incentive to get the answers wrong.
(p 64)

The failure of the Efficient Markets Hypothesis does not imply the converse claim that governments will always do better.
Rather, the evidence suggests that markets will do
  • better than governments in planning investments in some cases (those where a good judgment of consumer demand is important, for example) and
  • worse in others (those requiring long-term planning, for example).
(p 76)

The experience of the twentieth century suggests that a mixed economy will outperform both
  • central planning and
  • laissez-faire.
(p 78)

The financial markets that were supposed to replace governments showed themselves incapable of managing their own businesses, let alone the world economy. …
[During the crisis everyone] in the financial sector was happy to be bailed out.
But of course, as soon as the crisis was over, they insisted that everything had been under control and that no rescue was necessary.
(p 225)

Throughout the [global financial] crisis, the economics profession carried on, for the most part, as if nothing had changed.
And now that the immediate crisis has passed, market liberals are trying to pretend … it never happened.
(p 231)

(Zombie Economics, Princeton University Press, 2012)

April 2, 2017

Donald Trump

Blue Army: Persons of Interest

Truth for us nowadays is not what is, but what others can be brought to accept …
[Dissimulation has become] one of the most striking characteristics of our age. …
Our understanding is conducted solely by means of the word: anyone who falsifies it betrays public society.
It is the only tool by which we communicate our wishes and our thoughts; it is our soul's interpreter: if we lack that, we can no longer hold together; we can no longer know each other.
When words deceive us, it breaks all intercourse and loosens the bonds of our polity.


(On giving the lie, The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, 1580, M A Screech, Translator, Penguin, 1991, p 256-7, emphasis added)


I Am Your Voice




(Michael Kirk, Trump's Divided States of America, PBS Frontline, Episode 2, WGBH, 2017)


A House Divided

(CNN Exit Poll 2016, n = 24537)
Hillary's Margin per 10,000 votersDonald's Margin per 10,000 voters
RaceNon-white1590RaceWhite1470
ReligionNon-Christian or No Religion1035ReligionChristian1149
ResidenceUrban816ResidenceSuburban or Rural721
Marital StatusUnmarried714Marital StatusMarried580
GenderFemale624GenderMale576
Age18-44528Age45 and older504
EducationCollege Degree450NativismAmerican Born Citizen455
Military ServiceNon-veteran435EducationNo College Degree400
IncomeUnder $50,000396Military ServiceVeteran351
Orientation Queer390Income$50,000 or more128
NativismOverseas Born Citizen297OrientationStraight95





(Barak Goodman, Clinton, PBS American Experience, WGBH, 2012)




(Michael Kirk, Trump's Divided States of America, PBS Frontline, Episode 2, WGBH, 2017)


Richard Nixon (1913 – 1994), 8 August 1971:
[As] president, I must put the interests of America first.
Therefore, I shall resign the presidency, effective noon tomorrow.
(The United States Vs Nixon, The Seventies, Episode 2, 2015)

Michael Kirk:
[The Taj Mahal casino was] the biggest deal of his lifetime …
[Trump] spent a billion dollars on the Taj. …
Burdened by debt, [it] would not turn a profit [and closed in October 2016.]
The Plaza Hotel — a financial disaster; the airline, Trump Shuttle, was bleeding money. …
Trump and his companies owed more the $3 billion, much of it to the banks …
[But as the bankers] stared into the Trump Organization's abyss, [they] came to believe that Trump's assets … were worth more with his name on them than in foreclosure. …
They sold the yacht and the airline; and they put Trump on a $450,000 allowance.
In exchange he would continue to promote the business.

Donald Trump had survived but his casinos were deeply in debt.
He was looking for a way out.
He found one: Wall Street. …
Trump paid himself $44 million for services … even as the stock price began to fall.
The company filed for bankruptcy 3 times, investors lost billions. …
Trump characteristically described his time in Atlantic City as a success.

For Trump — real estate was increasingly a side business — marketing his name, a full time job. …
For 14 seasons [of The Apprentice,] millions of Americans watched a carefully crafted Donald Trump. …
And for his political guru … the TV audience could become Trump voters.
Roger Stone (1952):
Now, I understand that the elites say:
Oh that's reality TV!
Voters don't see it that way.
Television news and television entertainment — it's all television.
Now he saw an issue he could turn into headlines … the birther issue …
(Michael Kirk, President Trump, PBS Frontline, WGBH, 2017)




Omarosa Manigault (1974) [Director of Communications for Donald Trump, September 2016]:
[If he wins, every] critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump.
[Everyone] who's ever doubted Donald, whoever disagreed, whoever challenged him.
It [would be] the ultimate revenge [for him] to become the most powerful man in the universe.
(Michael Kirk, President Trump, PBS Frontline, WGBH, 2017)

On May 1, 1989, [Donald Trump spent an estimated $85,000 on] full-page advertisements in all four of the [New York] city's major newspapers [calling for the return of the death penalty for the Central Park five. …]
In 2002, [Metias] Reyes declared that he [had] assaulted and raped the jogger. …
The city [subsequently reached] a settlement of more than $40 million in the civil suit brought by the five defendants.
In June 2014, Trump wrote an opinion article for the New York Daily News in which he called the settlement "a disgrace" and said that the group's guilt was still likely:
Donald Trump:
Settling doesn't mean innocence. …
Speak to the detectives on the case and try listening to the facts.
These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels. …
[In] October 2016 [he again] refused to acknowledge the Central Park Five's innocence and stated that their convictions should never have been vacated.
(Central Park jogger case, Wikipedia, 6 July 2017)


Tom Switzer (1971):
We are into the sixth month of the Trump presidency [and, according to the Wall Street Journal,] of the 558 key positions requiring senate confirmation 427 have no nominee. …

Jake Sullivan (1976):
[Trump] is not actually interested in doing the job of president.
He's just interested in being the president.
( American policymaker Jake Sullivan on US foreign policy, Between the Lines, 15 June 2017)

Nicolas de Caritat (1743 – 1794) [Marquis de Condorcet]:
If we cannot find voters who are sufficiently enlightened, we must avoid making a bad choice by accepting as candidates, only those men in whose competence we can trust.
(1785)

William King (1874 – 1950) [Prime Minister of Canada, 1921-26, 1926-30, 1935-48):
The extreme man is always more or less dangerous, but nowhere more so than in politics.
(Margaret MacMillan, History's People, Text, 2015, p 51)

George Orwell (1903 – 1950):
The energy that actually shapes the world springs from emotions —
  • racial pride,
  • leader-worship,
  • religious belief,
  • love of war
— which liberal intellectuals mechanically write off as anachronism, and which they have usually destroyed so completely in themselves as to have lost all power of action.
(Wells, Hitler and the World State, Horizon, August 1941)

Totalitarianism has abolished freedom of thought to an extent unheard of in any previous age. …
The totalitarian state tries to control the thoughts and emotions of its subjects at least as completely as it controls their actions. …
It sets up unquestionable dogmas, and it alters them from day to day.
It needs the dogmas, because it needs absolute obedience from its subjects, but it cannot avoid changes, which are dictated by the needs of power politics.
It declares itself infallible, and at the same time it attacks the very concept of objective truth.
(Listener, 19 June 1941)

Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945):
I know perfectly well … that in a scientific sense there is [no] such thing as race …
[But] as a politician [I] need a concept which enables the order which has hitherto existed on historic bases to be abolished and an entirely new and antihistoric order enforced and given and intellectual basis …
[For] this purpose the concept of races serves me well …
With the concept of race, [we will] recast the world.
(Anthony Grayling, The Meaning of Things, Phoenix, 2001, p 51)

Don Watson (1949):
Noble and creative as it has often been, provider of an essential thread in the best of the American ideal and source of a rare grace one encounters only in the United States, American Christianity also disguises fear and feeds ignorance, paranoia and prejudice, along with a readiness to smite enemies with weapons of unspeakable destructive force.
(Enemy Within: American Politics in the Time of Trump, Quarterly Essay, Issue 63, 2016, p 23)

Alice Miranda Ollstein [Political Reporter]:
According to a book written by [Argentinian President] Macri’s father Franco, Trump threw a tantrum after losing a round of golf to Mauricio Macri and broke his friend’s golf clubs — one by one.
(There is a lot more to the Trump Argentina story, ThinkProgress, 23 November 2016)

Ying Ma [Deputy Director of a Trump Super PAC, The Committee for American Sovereignty]:
[We] know that in state-craft, every now and then, to be unpredictable is not such a bad thing in negotiations. …
One of the reasons Donald Trump won is that … he is able to simplify a lot of issues that the GOP have not been able to simplify for voters …
(The Trump victory, Between The Lines, ABC Radio National, 10 November 2016)

John Ashton (1956):
Our mainstream politics is less connected to the base of society than [it has been] for generations.
Into that gap scurry opportunists, attention-seekers, populists, pied pipers and demagogues, always good entertainers, peddling the illusion of simple solutions in a complex world.
We don’t feel close to our politicians, or trust them. …
We yearn for a real conversation about who were are and where we are going as a country, a vision for the future.
(Lifting the Lid on the Politics of Climate Change, RSA, 16 May 2013)

Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865):
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new Nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. …
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us,
  • that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion,
  • that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain,
  • that this Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and
  • that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
(Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 19 November 1863)

Franklin Roosevelt (1882 – 1945)


Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital — all undreamed of by the [founding] fathers — the whole structure of modern life [has been] impressed into [a new royal servitude. …]
It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, [should reach] out for control over Government itself.
They [have] created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. …
Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of Government. …

The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the Government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business.
They granted that the Government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the Government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.
Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair.
If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place. …

Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in different scales.
Better the occasional faults of a Government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a Government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.

(Acceptance Speech for the Renomination for the Presidency, Democratic Convention, Philadelphia, 27 June 1936)

October 31, 2016

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

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




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 – 1790):
No society can be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of members are poor and miserable.

John Kennedy (1917 – 1963):
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 – 1865):
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 – 1871) [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)


Freedom and Justice for All


In the quarter century between 1979 and 2005, average after-tax income (adjusted for inflation) grew
  • by $900 a year for the bottom fifth of American households,
  • by $8700 a year for the middle fifth, and
  • by $745,000 a year for the top 1% of households. …
(p 35)

From 2009 to 2012, the real incomes of the top 1% of American families rose 31%, while the real incomes of the bottom 99% barely budged (up less than half a percentage point).
(p 36)

In terms of average wages, a college degree was worth 50% more than a regular high school degree in 1980, but by 2008 the college degree was worth 95% more.
(p 184)

[The] net worth of college-educated American households with children rose by 47% between 1989 and 2013, whereas among high school-educated households net worth actually fell by 17% during that quarter century.
(p 36, emphasis added)

[The] growing access by poor kids to college does not mean growing access to selective colleges and universities.
Increasingly, poor kids who go on to college are concentrated in community colleges …
Community colleges can play a valuable role as a ladder out of poverty …
[However, in] terms of entry into more selective institutions, which … offer the best prospects for success in America, the class gap has actually widened in recent years. …
By 2004, in the nation’s “most competitive” colleges and universities … kids from the top quartile of the socioeconomic scale outnumbered kids from the bottom quartile by about 14 to one.
(p 185)

[Furthermore, much] of the recent growth in enrollment in postsecondary institutions by low-income students has been concentrated in the rapidly expanding for-profit sector …
In 2013 this sector attracted 13% of all full-time undergraduates, compared to 2% in 1991.
These students are disproportionately from low-income backgrounds (as well as older and ethnic minorities).
Giving a leg up to such students could narrow the opportunity gap …
[However,] for-profit institutions are twice as expensive for students as public universities — and have much worse records in terms of
  • graduation rates,
  • employment rates, and
  • earnings.
Not surprisingly, therefore, students at for-profit institutions have
  • much higher debt burdens (especially government-backed loans) and
  • much higher default rates.
(p 186)

David J Deming, Claudia Goldin, and Lawrence F Katz, “The For-Profit Postsecondary School Sector: Nimble Critters or Agile Predators?,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 26 (Winter 2012): 139–64, show that the outcomes from for-profit institutions are worse, even holding constant the students’ background characteristics.
(Note 78, p 338)

The class gap in college completion, which was already substantial 30 to 40 years ago, has steadily expanded.
This matters hugely, because completing college is much more important than entering college on all sorts of levels:
  • socioeconomic success,
  • physical and mental health,
  • longevity,
  • life satisfaction, and more. …
(p 187, emphasis added)

Kids from low-income backgrounds … are working more or less diligently to improve their prospects in life, but no matter how talented and hardworking they are, at best they are improving their play at checkers, while upper-class kids are widening their lead at three-dimensional chess. …

[Changes in family] structure, parenting, childhood development, peer groups, [and] extracurricular opportunities [have all] contributed to the widening gap in college graduation rates in recent decades, along with the neighborhood and community influences …
(p 188)

The burdens on the poor kids have been gathering weight since they were very young.
Rising tuition costs and student debt are the final straw, not the main load. …




(Michael Sandel, Justice: What's A Fair Start?, February 2011)


As the twenty-first century opened, a family’s socioeconomic status had become even more important than test scores in predicting which eighth graders would graduate from college. …
[Most shockingly,] high-scoring poor kids are now slightly less likely (29%) to get a college degree than low-scoring rich kids (30%).
(p 190, emphasis added)

[Social] capital can protect privileged kids from the ordinary risks of adolescence.
Studies during the past 40 years have consistently shown that, if anything, drug usage and binge drinking are more common among privileged teenagers than among their less affluent peers.
What is different, however, are the family and community “air bags” that deploy to minimize the negative consequences of drugs and other misadventures among rich kids. …
To be sure, social capital is not the only advantage that privileged kids have in confronting unexpected risks; … financial capital [also provides significant protection from the potentially catastrophic consequences of wayward behavior.]
(p 210)

[Class] segregation across America has been growing for decades, so fewer affluent kids live in poor neighborhoods, and fewer poor kids live in rich neighborhoods.
(p 217)

The pervasive growth of neighborhood economic segregation [first became evident shortly] after the rise in nationwide economic inequality in the 1970s.
The onset and aftermath of the Great Recession in 2008 only accelerated these disparities.
Given the manifold ways in which neighborhood economic differences affect the lives and opportunities open to young people, it is hardly surprising that neighborhood inequality across metropolitan areas is associated with less equality of opportunity.
[Unlike in the mixed neighborhoods of the past:]
  • the benefits of neighborhood affluence are [now] concentrated on rich kids [while]
  • the costs of neighborhood poverty are concentrated on poor kids.
The greater the inequality across neighborhoods,
  • the lower the rate of upward social mobility and
  • the greater the opportunity gap.
[Social] context (even apart from families and schools) powerfully conditions our kids’ chances of success in life.
(p 223, emphasis added)

{This is not the first time in our national history that widening socioeconomic gaps have threatened our economy, our democracy, and our values.}
It took many decades for public high schools to become nearly universal in America, but the High School movement that made America a world leader in economic productivity and social mobility began in earnest in local communities across the nation a century ago.
The essence of that reform was a willingness of better-off Americans to pay for schools that would mainly benefit other people’s kids. …
The specific responses we have pursued to successfully overcome these challenges and restore opportunity have varied in detail, but underlying them all was a commitment to invest in other people’s children.
And underlying that commitment was a deeper sense that those kids, too, were our kids.
(pp 260-1)

Throughout [US] history, a pendulum has slowly swung between the poles of individualism and community, both
  • in our public philosophy and
  • in our daily lives.
In the past half century we have witnessed … a giant swing toward the individualist (or libertarian) pole in our culture, society, and politics.
At the same time, researchers have steadily piled up evidence of how important social context, social institutions, and social networks — in short, our communities — remain for our well-being, and [for] our kids’ opportunities.
(p 206)

(Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, 2015)


A half century [of] increased competition in the global marketplace, improved information technology, greater focus on short-term financial returns, and new management techniques have combined to make virtually all jobs more "contingent". …
One consequence of these changes has been increased employee anxiety, but there have been winners as well as losers.
More independence from the firm, flatter hierarchies, less paternalism, and more reward for merit and creativity rather than seniority and loyalty have been good for many firms and their employees.
Even when corporate morale and employee commitment have been badly damaged, as they typically are, research often finds that corporate productivity has improved.
[Nevertheless, in terms of] their impact on trust and social connectedness in the workplace … the balance sheet is negative.

(Bowling Alone, Touchstone, 2001, p 88)


Inequality of Outcome → Inequality of Opportunity


John Quiggin: Professor of Economics, Queensland University

Among the developed countries,
  • the United States has the lowest social mobility on nearly all measures, and
  • the European social democracies [have] the highest.
(p 162)

If inequality of outcomes is entrenched for a long period, it inexorably erodes equality of opportunity.
Parents want the best for their children.
In a highly unequal society, wealthy parents will always find a way to guarantee their children a substantial head start {[—] most obviously through private schooling, expansion of which has been a central demand of market liberals. …}
(pp 164-5)

[Between] 1985 and 2000, the proportion of high-income (top 25 percent) students among freshmen at elite [US] institutions rose steadily, from 46 to 55 percent.
[By contrast, the] proportion of middle-income students (between the 25th and 75th percentiles) fell from 41 to 33 percent.
(p 159)

Those with old money, but less than stellar intellectual resources, have their highly effective affirmative action program — the (formal or informal) legacy admission system by which the children of alumni gain preferential admission. …
William Bowen and Derek Bok:
[The] overall admission rate for legacies was almost twice that for all other candidates.
(The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions, Princeton University Press, 1998)
(p 164)

A British study [has also] found that “low ability children with high economic status” … experienced the largest increases in educational attainment.
(p 164, emphasis added)

The Gini coefficient is a standard statistical measure of inequality.
It is equal to half of the average income gap between households, divided by the mean income.
So if average income is $10,000, then a Gini of 0.25 means that the expected income gap between two randomly selected individuals is:
2 × 0.25 × $10,000 = $5000. …

The pattern set by the United States in the 1980s, was followed, to a greater or lesser degree, by other English-speaking countries as they embarked on the path of market liberalism.
{Canada and Australia all followed a similar path, as did Ireland in the 1990s.
Most countries in the European Union resisted the trend to increased inequality through the 1980s and 1990s, but recent evidence suggests that inequality may be rising there also.}

The most striking increases in inequality were in Britain under the Thatcher government, where the Gini coefficient rose from 0.25, a value comparable to that of Scandinavian social democracies to 0.33, which is among the highest values for developed countries.

New Zealand [cut] the top marginal rate of income tax from
  • 66% in 1986 to
  • 33% by 1990.
Unsurprisingly, this pushed the Gini index from an initial value 0.26 to 0.33 by the mid-1990s.
(p 142)

[As a result] income per person in New Zealand [fell] from broad parity with Australia (a position sustained from European settlement to the late 1970s) to two-thirds of the Australian level.
The gap stabilized around 2000, [and] has not been reduced [since.]
(p 221)

While the problem is worse in the United States than elsewhere because of highly unequal access to health care, high levels of inequality produce unequal health outcomes even in countries with universal public systems.
Children growing up with the poor health that is systematically associated with poverty can never be said to have a truly equal opportunity.
(p 165)

(Zombie Economics, Princeton University Press, 2012)


Rising mortality among white middle-aged Americans in the 21st century


Anne Case & Angus Deaton: Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Department of Economics, Princeton University

[There has been] a marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013.
This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround.
The midlife mortality reversal was confined to white non-Hispanics …
[In all other] racial and ethnic [groups and age cohorts] mortality rates [have continued to] fall.
This increase for whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from
  • drug and alcohol poisonings,
  • suicide, and
  • chronic liver diseases [including] cirrhosis.

Although all education groups saw increases in mortality from suicide and poisonings, and an overall increase in external cause mortality, those with less education saw the most marked increases.
Rising midlife mortality rates of white non-Hispanics were paralleled by increases in midlife morbidity.
Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population. …

From 1978 to 1998, the mortality rate for US whites aged 45–54 fell by 2% per year on average, which matched … the average over all other industrialized countries. …
After 1998, other rich countries’ mortality rates continued to decline by 2% a year.
[By] contrast, US white non-Hispanic mortality rose by half a percent a year. …
If it had continued to fall at its previous (1979‒1998) rate of decline of 1.8% per year, 488,500 deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013, [including] 54,000 in 2013 [alone.]
(p 15078)

[In fact, all white non-hispanic] 5-y age groups between [30–64] have witnessed marked and similar increases in mortality from the sum of drug and alcohol poisoning, suicide, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis over the period 1999–2013; the midlife group [differed] only in that the sum of these deaths is large enough that the common growth rate changes the direction of all-cause mortality.
(p 15080)

The fraction reporting being unable to work doubled for white non-Hispanics aged 45–54 [over the] 15-y period [— ie increasing from 4.7% to 9.2%. …]

Although the epidemic of pain, suicide, and drug overdoses preceded the financial crisis, ties to economic insecurity are possible.

After the productivity slowdown in the early 1970s, and with widening income inequality, many of the baby-boom generation are the first to find, in midlife, that they will not be better off than were their parents.
Growth in real median earnings has been slow for this group, especially those with only a high school education.
However, the productivity slowdown is common to many rich countries, some of which have seen even slower growth in median earnings than the United States, yet none have had the same mortality experience.

(Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century, PNAS, 112: 49, 8 December 2015, p 15081)


Healing Kansas


Researchers rank US counties according to how they measure up along the following behavioral, clinical, socioeconomic and environmental lines known to contribute to overall health.


Health Checklist

Socioeconomic Factors (40%)

Health Behaviors (30%)

Clinical Care (20%)

Physical Environment (10%)

Education (10%)Smoking (10%)Access to care (10%)Environmental quality (5%)
Employment (10%)Diet and exercise (10%)Quality of care (10%)Built environment (5%)
Income (10%)Alcohol use (5%)
Family and social support (5%)Unsafe sex (5%)
Community safety (5%)


[The] evidence that socieoeconomic factors like education play a major role in health is solid and growing.
[High] school dropouts tend to die earlier than graduates [and] their children are more likely to be born prematurely, robbing another generation of a healthy start.
Every year of additional education improves … outcomes.

(Deborah Franklin, Scientific American, January 2012, p 18)