Feed on

I’m going dataless for the moment, but I suspect my guesses here are close. If you were to, right now, take 1 additional trip in your car and compare the risk of injury or death to taking 1 additional trip on a bicycle and 1 additional trip on a subway or 1 additional trip on a bus or 1 additional trip on an airplane, your chances of dying and injury would be largest by driving in a car. Holding constant the obvious reasons why people may prefer one or the other, if you actually cared about the safety of people in the transportation sector, would it not make sense to (in addition to promoting car safety), purposefully make airplanes crash more often? Similarly, wouldn’t we want to see buses and trains and bikes and boats become more dangerous? As long as, at the margin, those modes of transportation will still be safer than car driving, then by making those other modes more dangerous you would be making them cheaper, and therefore transitioning some people from their cars and onto the now slightly more dangerous than before (but still safer than cars) other modes of transportation?

The logic here is undeniable. I am sure it is not something you want to suggest in conversations at your next dinner party should you want to be invited to another one.


In addition to just not posting, I’ve definitely tried to avoid the muck of politics. One thing has really stuck with me however is that I think that the Democratic and Progressive left has turned into quite a selective conservative movement, much in the tradition of the modern conservative movement (does it exist?). What is the deal with opposition to Uber and AirBNB and Genetic Modification (science anyone?) or the appeal of occupational licensing if not to prevent a dynamism from “overwhelming” economic and social structures? Why is dynamism in those areas something to be concerned about, but dynamism, in say, cultural attitudes, cosmopolitanism, and so on, which are unquestionably good things, not seem to be a problem and indeed a thing to celebrate?

Via the World Bank:

The share of US  economic activity coming from trade is about half of what it is for the rest of the world. Note that I think prior to World War 1 this was not at all the case. Do we see a rise in anti-trade Trumpism/Hillaryism around the world too?

Note that I still think this chart is extremely misleading. I won’t tell you why at the moment.

Ezra Klein. Go listen for the 70 minute interview he has with Tyler Cowen. Take notice of how careful he is in thinking about all of the questions – I think the point he makes about Bob Dylan is excellent, and should be a marker for how we talk about seemingly far more important issues. Take notice of how he talks about Joe Biden, and how he compares his mental model of the political world to others.

I am not even sure to say I “disagree” with Klein. Long-time readers may be wrinkling their eyebrows at that suggestion given the displeasure I have expressed with some of the thoughts emanating from the Vox.com site. But to unpack the displeasure would take a lot more time. What Klein, and the ideas he is pushing hard on, should be celebrated for and emulated for are his enthusiasm for good governance (and his understanding of the challenges in getting there, where we disagree may be on how we get there), on his enthusiasm for cosmopolitanism, on his understanding of the root causes of difference, on his patience in the presence of challenging questions and issues, on his ability to read and learn about a topic, on his willingness to try to understand those with whom he disagrees, and more.

Seriously, if you listen to the podcast, there aren’t really any policy proposals being discussed, so it would be hard for a clear thinking person to find much to quibble with.

By the way, I am with Klein on sports. Though I love them, and play them, and have always been enthusiastic about them, it is just increasingly impossible to sit down and watch any sporting event from beginning to end. That says as much about me as it does sports.

There’s always something fun brewing down at ye ol’ alma mater:

Dear Dean Boor and Trustees of the University: As New York State organic farmers, we object to the presence of the “Alliance for Science” on the Cornell campus (http://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/). This advocacy group for the highly controversial agricultural genetic engineering industry, funded almost entirely by the Gates Foundation, has no place at a Land Grant university. Cornell’s mission is to conduct objective research and education whereas the “Alliance for Science” has as its stated purpose to “help foster more constructive policies about biotechnology as a useful tool in the toolbox of food security and sustainability” and to spread it around the world. This biased presence impedes objective discussion of biotechnology on campus. Cornell is making valuable contributions to the long-term sustainability of agriculture. Please remove this unscientific impediment to such contributions.

Respectfully yours,

I love it. “Respectfully yours.”

Let’s translate. “We don’t like that the scientific evidence so far fails to fully support what we believe in … so please do not permit anyone on campus to talk about it.” Let’s see how well this ends. I’d love to see this theory applied consistently across campuses.

Many of us are very optimistic about the myriad ways that we may be able to store energy in the future. Why is this crucial? With sufficient energy storage capacity, not only can be be at much less risk when the whims of weather and natural disasters disrupt our production capabilities, but we will much better be able to meet peak energy demands whenever and wherever we need it.

The quick point today is that while advancements in batteries are surely essential for wind and solar to make up any significant portion of our energy mix (due to intermittency problems for the most part) the same is true for nuclear. You see, currently nuclear has a physical limit of how useful it can be for our grid – something like the potential to produce 40% of our electricity. This is too bad as nuclear fuel (with breeding) is virtually unlimited, it produces zero carbon and particulate emissions, and is one of the few energy sources that is scalable over reasonable time scales.

Thus, any improvement in energy storage technology, is not just going to be a boon for wind and solar, but rather it is also going to be a tremendous boon to nuclear. Thus, it is not at all clear to me that in the “race” ‘for the future of energy, that battery innovations will lead to any increase in wind or solar.



It has been said to me that nearly half of all substances are carcinogenic. Further, substances made by humans (chemists tell me) are not more carcinogenic than things that are “natural.” If you eat peanuts, or drink beer, or drink wine, you are exposing yourself to a very large amount of carcinogens – at least in relation to the other carcinogens you may be worried about.

For example, suppose that Roundup / Glypohosate is awful stuff (it isn’t, but let’s not go there). And suppose a LOT of it ends up in your beer. Again, ignore whether this is likely, or whether your body metabolizes it, etc. Scary news stories tell is that there is up to 30 micrograms per liter in our beer. And this is stuff that kills weeds. And you drink it.

Of course, 30 micrograms per liter is the same as 0.03 ppm, which is 30 parts per billion.

Now, glyphosate maybe perhaps might cause cancer. You should go check the literature on it to see how much you would have to consume for it to have a noticeable impact on you.

So we are terrified at the 30 part per billion glyphosate in our beer. Well, the beers above are about 10% ABV. I know lots and lots and lots of people who drink these regularly. And they don’t just drink a little. Well, 10% ABV is about one-hundred million parts per billion.

So here is the, ahem, roundup:

  • At worst, and it is questionable, there is 30 parts per billion of a possible carcinogen in your beer (again, lots more to learn about glyphosate) –> go bananas
  • With certainty, there is 100 million parts per billion of a known and serious carcinogen in your beer –> host Oktoberfest parties and tastings with friends.

Go figure.

I once saw a famous actor make a claim about the natural gas industry,

This is an industry that is the dirtiest, slimiest, most arrogant and negligent that you can imagine

Granted, this was before the rise of Hillary and Donald. And then,

you know, we have other technologies and they are better and most cost-effective than “they” are letting on

So, we never know who this cabal of “they” is … but consider the observation. Let’s actually accept it. So, the claim is that oil and gas companies somehow cheat and steal and lie and convince consumers to pay higher prices for energy than they would if we “allowed” solar and wind to develop. Fine. I get it. Sure.

Then how come movies like, “Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices,” exist? In that view, Walmart is so greedy that it does everything to crush down on prices so as to lure our super-price conscious sheeple public into buying goods from Walmart and not elsewhere.

As they say, you can believe one, or you can believe the other, but you may not believe both.


I suspect that what is being taught in enlightened public health classes is that things like expensive and high hospital and health insurance administrator salaries are the reason that health costs are so high. Now, there is actually a body of research on this question, done by capable health care economists, and some of those whom I suspect share the same collectivist desires as the typical public health professional, so I find it odd that the research is not well understood. I’ll leave it to readers to find it.

Very briefly, the puzzling thing about this particular trope is not that it doesn’t stand up to empirical scrutiny, but rather how utterly selective it is in its interpretation of value and cost. Think about it. The only possible reason a hospital or insurance administrator can exist is to suck money from us. In this trope, a hospital CEO, even at a non-profit, provides nothing of value – they are no more than the greedy leeches we know them to be. It is not possible that these executives provide value, it is not possible that they make it easier for medical staff to do their jobs, it is not possible that they do a good job assembling a talented and cooperative and successful medical team, it is not possible that they help provide the capital that staff rely upon, and so on.

Furthermore, all costs are characterized as pure waste. A dollar spent to a hospital administrator is a dollar flushed down the toilet. Imagine an analogy, every dollar of your wages paid by your current employer is a pure waste. Imagine how much better off your company would be if they cut your wage by 50%, or heck, if they cut it to $0!

Finally, like many “arguments” (i.e. Pravda manifestations), try extending the idea more generally. This is a perfect analogy, I’d like to see someone defend it. Here goes:

“The reason that the US federal government is constantly in deficit and has long-term federal debt issues is the high salaries paid to the President of the United States and all of the Congress and all of the federal bureaucracy. Clearly these salaries should be capped, or eliminated entirely, or the positions should be eliminated entirely and we would be well on our way to fiscal nirvana.”

Sounds intelligent, right?

Friday Fun Fact

A single American earning the minimum wage for a full-time job for a full-year (excluding ALL of the other compensation they may receive from their employer and certainly from government in the form of housing allowances, earned income tax credits, health insurance subsidies, food assistance, free education, subsidized transportation, access to infrastructure and public amenities, etc.) would have an income that would make them equivalent to the typical person in the 44th richest country on Earth – and they would be richer than a typical person from Argentina (once the 3rd richest country on earth), Chile, Poland, Costa Rica, Russia, …

Again, sans any other benefit, this already places them in the top 20% of the global income distribution.

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