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January 30, 2007

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Back in 2000, there was a problem with the pipeline that brings crude oil into Chicago from Texas. The price of gas shot up to $2.25 or so. At the time, I felt like traffic congestion improved. My theory was that Mexicans were priced off the roads.

Yet, now gas is still in the $2.25 range, and has been much higher this year, and I don't notice any lessening of congestion.

Maybe we've just gotten used to the higher prices. Gas was $2.11 on the way to work today, and I was pretty happy.

We should be taxing things that are inelastic, like cigarettes, liquor, and gas. If cigarettes can have taxes on them of 2 or 3 bucks a pack, gas can have a tax of a dollar a gallon.

How high would the tax need to be to get rid of income, corporate, and capital gains taxes?

"Yet, now gas is still in the $2.25 range, and has been much higher this year, and I don't notice any lessening of congestion."

In order for gas consumption to decrease significantly, gas would have to get so expensive (like $7.00 or more a gallon)that it forced people to carpool a lot more, buy smaller cars (like Honda Civics), and avoid driving long distances.

However, this would probably be bad for the economy.

People who hold these views have never lived in crappy areas (except maybe in a college setting, where they were insulated from the unpleasant aspects of the community). They love the idea of high population concentration and walking everywhere, because they envision everywhere becoming like Manhattan. They don't dread personal exposure to lots of random people because in their little ivory tower world, everyone is bright, interesting, clean, and well-behaved.

Your four points are good, maybe some of the facts are debatable, but strong analysis. However, your claim about the elasticity of demand for gasoline is only true in the short run, in this case as long as it takes to decide to buy a new, more fuel-efficient car. If the typical person replaces their car every six years, then every week some few thousand people are getting a new (to them) car. For those people, at the margin as we say in econ, the price of gas is relevant. Over six years, we're talking about what, over 100 million of those decisions being made. $1.00 may not cut it, but while Mankiw suggests $1.00, many others are suggesting a $2.00 increase or more over a few years. Also over that kind of period, people could move closer to work, change jobs, etc. In short, it could have a big effect in less than a decade.

But I'm not a Pigou Club member because, like you, I'm not convinced the benefits are really so high. And given how much trucking goes on in this country, it's likely to lead to higher costs for all kinds of consumer and industrial goods. All so some hippies can feel better about themselves and the environment.

I'm convinced that a lot of these people secretly hate cars for personal and cultural reasons that have nothing to do with the environment. But the environment is a good excuse to impose their lifestyle preferences upon others.

As a banished Manhattanite, I quite openly hate cars.

I still think global warming is dangerous and I don't consider the economy more important than resulting environmental destruction. But hey, I'm the only liberal here. ;)

Another thing we could do is increase mileage standards, which would have the practical effect of making people drive smaller cars. As a pleasurable side effect, fewer fatalities when every car is smaller.

I still think global warming is dangerous and I don't consider the economy more important than resulting environmental destruction

I don't either, but everything I've read indicates that automobiles are only responsible for a small amount of the greenhouse gases created. I think a lot of people hate cars in a luddist way. They don't like that cars enable people to escape their immediate environments, insulate themselves from undesirable people around them, and broaden their selection of associates, jobs, goods, and activities. Car haters are the same folks who like to talk about "relying more on our neighbors," and otherwise restricting and communalizing our lives. As I said before, usually they're privileged people who have never had to deal with an unpleasant environment.

In order for gas consumption to decrease significantly, gas would have to get so expensive (like $7.00 or more a gallon)that it forced people to carpool a lot more, buy smaller cars (like Honda Civics), and avoid driving long distances.

It depends. For the lower classes, an increase by a dollar or more would pretty much wreck their finances.

Oddly, in Europe where gasoline is $6-8/gal, carpooling and HOV are not common, and in some languages, IIRC, there's no translation for the word.

It's also very interesting how the trés libertarian people are the first ones to defend roads. In some rail advocacy circles, you see people who want entirely privatized transport whether by road OR rail and elimination of zoning because they feel that's the environment in which mass transport would win due to its various efficiencies. Personally, I'm just too socialist to support that, and I think a varied modal mix with government support would be best.

They love the idea of high population concentration and walking everywhere, because they envision everywhere becoming like Manhattan. They don't dread personal exposure to lots of random people because in their little ivory tower world, everyone is bright, interesting, clean, and well-behaved.

I know some of these people in railfan and rail advocacy circles, and for a lot of them, they do hate driving and they hate cars. One guy I know complains that certain low density areas of Queens and Staten Island are not dense enough, and that these places need high rises, and the various transit apparatus to support that high density. Mind you, he lives in a rent controlled three bedroom apartment and his parents pay sub-$1000 rents for it, and every time I ever told him to eliminate rent control, he'd get into a fit and bitch and pout...

My personal take on is that some people like is that we need a mix various densities to get a good fit. Not everything can be low density, nor high density. I think what a lot of the complaining is about is more of a "why can't I get my slice of Manhattan here in city XY". The thing is that Manhattan just doesn't magically appear, and it take certain ingredients that aren't availible in every city.

Although, I gotta admit, the design of most of the new suburbs sucks. It's not so much the house size, but the large plot sizes, and the poorly connected street setups. I guess I'm too enamoured of the older 1950s suburbs that seem to exist here in the NYC area.

I still think global warming is dangerous and I don't consider the economy more important than resulting environmental destruction. But hey, I'm the only liberal here. ;)

The all mighty GDP must be pleased my fellow liberal!

The thing is that Manhattan just doesn't magically appear, and it take certain ingredients that aren't availible in every city.

It takes exclusion. Manhattan's prices are so high, it effectively bars the (economic) undesirables. A working-class neighborhood like that would suck, suck, suck.

I think a lot of hippie sympathizers imagine that life without cars in centralized cities would be like their dorm lives back in college, which each community being like a themed dorm. Or like a big share-house full of attractive academic young people. They forget that the real world contains a much broader cross-section of humanity, including many characters you don't necessarily want having personal access to you, or with whom you want to be in close quarters.

How about pouring all the pigou taxes into alternative energy research (not ethanol)? If gasoline demand is price inelastic, that would simply become a positive externality without reducing the mentioned negatives

The problem with the Middle East is the crazy religous beliefs of the people who live there.

What you said is true, but, the problem is compounded by the fact that the crazy religious people have money from the oil. The thing is that it would take a *global* effort to not buy from "those" people.

Besides, using less crude oil is good since it's not like we're going to have it around for ever. I'm not going to say the Peak Oil people are 100% correct, but I'll say that it is best to err on the side of caution.

Madame Spungen, there is a bit of an expectation within these circles that if we the middle class were the associate with the lower classes more often, they'd be better behaved and tolerable. A lot of is the basis for thinking as to why Harlem any many other black inner city neighbourhoods collapsed when middle class blacks were allowed to purchase homes in the suburbs.

Otherwise, their theories are not thought out since it's harder to re-write American housing patterns now than it was 50 years ago when the big pushes the suburbs began.

They forget that the real world contains a much broader cross-section of humanity, including many characters you don't necessarily want having personal access to you, or with whom you want to be in close quarters.

Since most of these people are rich, most of them would probably buy their problems away. Essentially, their neighbourhoods will always stay rich. It's just a shift of the poor and some of the middle class.

if we the middle class were the associate with the lower classes more often, they'd be better behaved and tolerable.

Be sure to tell me how that goes for you. ;) Tolerable, maybe, but not desirable. Frankly, I think I've put in more than my share of diversity duty. And I don't just mean racially, I've had the privilege of knowing a rainbow of dirtbags and other undesirables.

Essentially, their neighbourhoods will always stay rich. It's just a shift of the poor and some of the middle class.

Exactly. A poor/middle class centralized carless neighborhood sounds like a horrible idea to me.

I actually believe that global warming is not only not dangerous, but would be beneficial for mankind. I am in favor of promoting and accelerating the global warming trend. Global warming is probably the only thing keeping us out of the next ice age, which is something that would really be bad.

I am coming to believe that the global warming craze is just a government-funded gravy train. It is government-funded scientists who make their living off of the tax payers and contribute nothing in return. It is the same kind of racket that enriches itself off of the tax payers in the same manner as the defense contractors, NASA, and the Tokamak fusion program.

The only difference is that the defense and NASA contractors do not ask us to sacrifice economic growth to support their agenda.

HS: What you wrote needed saying. Notice that all the folks who agitate for higher gas taxes can afford it very well. Furthermore, no other taxes will get reduced; the government simply doesn't operate that way.

As a banished Manhattanite, I quite openly hate cars. I only hate other people's cars. I love my own. And probably most people feel that way.

I would favor higher gasoline taxes IF all gas taxes were used to fund road building projects, and that all road building projects were funded solely through gasoline taxes and tolls and traffic-related fines.

This way, people who don't drive wouldn't subsidize those of us who do. And for the record, I drive about 23 miles each way to the office, every day.

So if gas taxes need to be twice as high as they are now to fund road building, then I guess gas taxes need to be higher.

I'm more in favor of congestion-based tolls, although the major problem with tolls is collection. Not enough people have EZ Pass yet to make tolls that efficient. I used to work north of Toronto, and they had a decent technology on one of their roads -- the 4-0-something.

"I only hate other people's cars. I love my own. And probably most people feel that way."

That's exactly how I feel. The thing I miss most in Manhattan is having a car. I miss getting in it in the morning and turning on the radio and being able to be isolated from the world outside just for a little while. It's a great feeling. Therefore, I agree with Spungen, when she says about car haters - "usually they're privileged people who have never had to deal with an unpleasant environment."

Whoops! Sorry Dave.

Hey, for me it's just a matter of personal preference.

Government-funded gravy train? Then why do all the other countries' scientists agree with it? And why are all the righties giving in and admitting they were wrong? There was an article in Reason by Jacob Sullum, and evangelicals are starting to be anti-global warming. Shoot, it hasn't snowed in New York until January. Something's up.

SFG,

You don't get it. All of these scientists get their funding from governments. They make their money writing paper after paper. Just like the Tokamak fusion program. Thats all it is. They don't produce anything of substance or anything marketable. Thus, their funding should be cut off.

Furthermore, I resent having people living off my tax dollars telling me how to live and limiting my economic freedom. These people are parasites, as is anyone who makes their living off the government money trough. Once these people make their money in the competitive free market, maybe they will have something useful to tell me. Until then, everything they say is hog wash.

If anything, the level of CO2 is way too low. Plants in greenhouses grow best with CO2 levels at 700-1000ppm. The current level of CO2 is 380ppm. We need to double or triple the level of CO2 to get it to the optimal level. We should encourage the Chinese to build more plants, not less.

I used the word "net" in there because most pundits fail to mention the positive externalities of gasoline usage. When you drive in your car you don't just benefit yourself, but there's almost always some other party who benefits. If you drive to work your employer benefits, if you drive to the store the store owner benefits, if you drive to visit friends and family they benefit from seeing you.

The difference, of course, is that these externalities have been internalized. Your company pays you to work, and so the positive externality of your commute is internalized in the employer-employee relationship. The contractual relationship between you and the store owner internalized the positive externality of your visit. Your familial relationship internalized the benefit of visiting Mom.

Car pollution, however, has negative, uninternalized externalities. You spread undesirables into the world without paying for them. So the cost-benefit externalities argument mostly fails, because you and your relationships benefit from the positive effects of driving, but mostly do not suffer the negative effects.

Better than the Pigou tax is for the state to get out of the business of subsidizing transportation. Expressways, beltways, interstates, and bridges have made new routes around cities available. And zoning laws have separated our work, play, home, and shopping.

Or, as I told Prof. Mankiw, don't embrace central planning in gas prices, reject it in transportation.

- Josh

Hi Half Sigma,
This is really an Emily Litella quality post. There is so much confusion in your post I not sure where to begin.
1. The Pigou club wants to tax carbon not gasoline. Fuel of all sort would be taxed based on their ability to create CO2 - the principal greenhouse gas.
2. Most greenhouse gas in the US is, in fact, not created by cows. It is created by burning coal to produce electricity. Cow emissions aren't even a close second - but if you want to tax them as well - fine.
3. None - absolutely none - of the activities that you mention as being positive externality of car ownership are infact positive externalities. How is it better, for example, for the store or anyone else if their customers come by foot or by vehicle (well if they come by foot they don't need to provide parking)? Do you really think people without cars spend a smaller percentage of their paycheck than do those with cars?

Be sure to tell me how that goes for you. ;) Tolerable, maybe, but not desirable. Frankly, I think I've put in more than my share of diversity duty. And I don't just mean racially, I've had the privilege of knowing a rainbow of dirtbags and other undesirables.

That's a rather harsh statement given your typical posts here. I'm not saying you're wrong to hold such viewpoints, but it's just rather telling...

The idea that many of these people have is that in the old days people were nicer and more polite to each other when we all lived in dense environments, so for them obviously going back to that style of living would be best. For some others, they really do have a viewpoint that having the poor and middle class live together does make the poor into less poor versions of the middle class. It's a faulty theory because pre-suburbanization, the American middle class was much smaller than post-suburbanization. The big government regime that the libertarians hate is what created suburbanization because so much of it was government subsidized, and thus, Democrats created Republican votes by subsidizing the middle class.

As for other viewpoints, there are some who say that living in a denser environment uses less resources because of the centralization of resource utilization.

Exactly. A poor/middle class centralized carless neighborhood sounds like a horrible idea to me.

They exist around here in the outerboros, and some of them are decent although that's in the eye of the beholder, but that's because it's a mostly working and middle class immigrant neighbourhood, and it's only a quarter to third of the residents who are carless, and in some cases it just means that the female is carless.

The poor mostly carless people already exist. It's your typical inner city neighbourhood.

I guess a fun question is where should the members of the carless middle classes live, or should they be forced to drive?

I will drive 15 minutes at 40 mph to a store.
I will not walk 2 hours at 5 mph to a store.
I will not take a bus for 45 minutes including stops to a store.

How would I get my purchases back to my home in the latter cases? I couldn't buy anything large - so less money for the store.

The Manhattanocentric point is really true. No one considers the transport of things as well as people (like trucking, mentioned above). That's because, in Manhattan, the grocery store is on the ground floor of the building you live in, and everything else can be delivered.

I've lived in Manhattan for periods up to two months. It usually took me 30 minutes in a cab to get across town during non-peak times. Cars do not work there because its overcrowded. But Manhattan methods do not work anywhere else (even Chicago and Los Angeles are too spread out).

I'm not saying you're wrong to hold such viewpoints, but it's just rather telling...

Telling of what? That while I have some sympathy for the dumb I didn't like living with them and have structured my life to avoid doing so? ;) I don't see what I've said here that would make that unexpected.

What upper-class, educated, liberal people think of as "diversity" is usually a very sanitized, upper-hand situation, one where they outnumber undesirables, can exclude them from their inner circle, and have the power to limit their interaction with them to suit their purposes. ("Undesirables" isn't a code word for blacks or Latinos, David A. -- maybe that's that's the subject of contention?)

For instance, off the top of my head: In lower-class neighborhoods, people are noisier. And they keep less regular hours. The denser it is, the harder it is to get sleep, because someone will always be having a fight or have the TV or stereo turned up.


Let me be more specific. There is often a fallacious assumption that if you introduce an undesirable element into a pool, it will be diluted throughout the pool. Everyone gets a small share. Unfortunately, there is usually no way to force everyone in the pool to have equal contact with the undesirable element. People with status will find ways to insulate themselves from it. So that results in those who aren't able to insulate having to absorb a lot more of the unpleasant element.

It's not just cities, it's any social system. The denser and more confined it is, though, the worse the effect.

How would I get my purchases back to my home in the latter cases? I couldn't buy anything large - so less money for the store.

Well, the theory is that large stuff would be delivered, or you'd rent a car in advance if you knew you were going to buy in advance. But then, that's not how Americans shop. Obviously, Europeans spend less than Americans because of that, and that adds to why their GDPs are lower. It probably doesn't help that Europeans have less credit cards and less access to credit than their American counterparts.

BTW, those stories of Europeans going to farmers markets and shopping in bakeries, butcher shops, et alia are because they work less, and they shop in them everyday since shopping in a supermarket on a weekly or bi-weekly cycle is an world-wide suburban phenomenon.

Although, I gotta admit, the design of most of the new suburbs sucks. It's not so much the house size, but the large plot sizes, and the poorly connected street setups.

That is very much not like the newer suburbs that I've seen. In fact, I have the exact opposite complaint: large houses all scrunched together on plots that are far too small for them. Most of the newer neighborhoods where I was raised have back yards so small you can barely toss a football around.

Telling of what? That while I have some sympathy for the dumb I didn't like living with them and have structured my life to avoid doing so? ;) I don't see what I've said here that would make that unexpected.

Actually, at a certain point, I had you pegged for leftie, not "moderate individual".

"Undesirables" isn't a code word for blacks or Latinos, David A. -- maybe that's that's the subject of contention?

I never had you pegged as a racist or prejudiced in that degree. I always figured you'd be more tolerant of the "undesirables", but one must remember that female != caring.

It's not just cities, it's any social system. The denser and more confined it is, though, the worse the effect.

What I'd like to know is how the Europeans, Australians, and Canadians deal with the undesirables in their denser urban environments? There has to be a better way.

As for stuffing poor people into a dense environment, I think years of impoverished urban areas have showed what happens when you stuff poor people together. OTOH, the low density areas of South Central LA haven't proven that low density makes poverty less acute. Many urban scientists have said that the problem is that the concentration of the poor is bad, but if the Spungens (and even David Alexanders) of the world are fearful of undesirables in their neighbourhood, then what about everybody else isn't as accepting?

It's not even just a code word for the poor. It's broader than that. The dumb, the dysfunctional, the icky. Weird men. The people who are fine as citizens but I just won't get along with. There are a lot of them. I'm not saying they don't have rights or they should be treated poorly. I just don't want to be forced to interact with them, the way dense areas and public transportation probably would force me.

It was the social environment at a good liberal law school that gave me this idea, BTW, not some urban ghetto. The undesirables I'm thinking of were white.

large houses all scrunched together on plots that are far too small for them. Most of the newer neighborhoods where I was raised have back yards so small you can barely toss a football around.

That's how it is with a lot of the new developments here. We're in the desert, for chrissake, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of huge homes with no room to sink a pool!

It's broader than that. The dumb, the dysfunctional, the icky. Weird men.

I had never considered them them as a part of the undesirable in the same way that you did, but then that's probably because I'm male. OTOH, there was that creepy drunk de facto homeless Vietnam Vet who scared the shit out of me until we moved three months ago...

Like I've asked before, how do other western countries deal with this? Do they have better solutions or are we as Americans scared of our own shadows?

That's how it is with a lot of the new developments here. We're in the desert, for chrissake, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of huge homes with no room to sink a pool!

When we were going house hunting, we did see some of the newer developments in Eastern Long Island where the plot sized seemed much larger than what I was used to. I don't think I'd want anything larger than 60 X 100, unless it was heavily wooded.

OTOH, you white people seem to love pools and living in the desert...

Do they have better solutions or are we as Americans scared of our own shadows?

As I've explained before, it's not just about being scared. It's about wanting to avoid interaction with that which I find annoying or distasteful.

Most of the newer neighborhoods where I was raised have back yards so small you can barely toss a football around.

Which does not, of course, prevent the homeowners from buying ride-on lawnmowers. I mean the homeowners that do not hire Mexicans to mow their lawns.

It's [undesirables] not even just a code word for the poor. It's broader than that. The dumb, the dysfunctional, the icky. Weird men. The people who are fine as citizens but I just won't get along with. There are a lot of them. I'm not saying they don't have rights or they should be treated poorly. I just don't want to be forced to interact with them, the way dense areas and public transportation probably would force me.

I'd rather ride the train with ghetto thugs or rednecks than SCA's.

Which does not, of course, prevent the homeowners from buying ride-on lawnmowers. I mean the homeowners that do not hire Mexicans to mow their lawns.

Not so much where I'm from. I didn't even know what they looked like until I visited some rich relatives on the east coast. Hiring immigrants was popular, however, and the latest rage is those self-propelling lawnmowers. It not only mows the lawn, but also provides drunken entertainment!

I should have guessed the comments section of this blog would turn into some kind of libertarian freakshow.

Calling everything and everyone that doesn't make money from the first moment of conception a "parasite". You know, like the first 40 years of computors, as they were called back then. The comical conflation of the ultra conservative "rely on neighbors" mentality with the very liberal "dont drive cars". Someone who can't even be bothered to look up the basic facts on how the recent rise in gas prices might have impacted the miles driven in the US.

Yeah, Kurt9 is a great example of a libertarian making other libertarians look bad. Though he may also just be a right winger, it's hard to say from the comment above.

All of these scientists get their funding from governments.

Really? Every last one? I suppose if you consider all universities to be part of 'the government' then it's close. But to me this smacks of Grand Conspiracy; you want all the scientists to be part of some statist monolith so that you can explain away their unfortunate near-unanimity on this topic.

They don't produce anything of substance or anything marketable. Thus, their funding should be cut off.

As it happens I agree that public funding of most science isn't such a good idea, but your logic here is sloppy. If they produced marketable things, they wouldn't need funding; obviously if there is any place at all for public science it will be specifically in areas where nothing marketable is produced.

Furthermore, I resent having people living off my tax dollars telling me how to live and limiting my economic freedom.

Me too, but you seemed to have confused your resentful feelings with an actual argument.

These people are parasites, as is anyone who makes their living off the government money trough. Once these people make their money in the competitive free market, maybe they will have something useful to tell me. Until then, everything they say is hog wash.

La la la, the scientists are not ideologically pure so they must also be wrong, I'm sticking my fingers in my ears so I can't hear them...

If anything, the level of CO2 is way too low. Plants in greenhouses grow best with CO2 levels at 700-1000ppm. The current level of CO2 is 380ppm. We need to double or triple the level of CO2 to get it to the optimal level. We should encourage the Chinese to build more plants, not less.

If we wanted only to maximize plant growth, this would be an interesting point. The objection is to the climate effects, the potential loss of coastal areas if large parts of the Antarctic or Greenland ice caps slide into the sea, and so on. BTW, I'm curious where you got the plant growth figures, given that all scientists work for the government and should be ignored. Or is that only when you don't like their conclusions?

FWIW I consider the Earth's atmosphere a commons which is an appropriate subject for government oversight. And I'm a pretty libertarian guy.

As for the HS spew here, Michael H and Wild Pegasus already addressed the shortcomings.

>>The Pigou club wants to tax carbon not gasoline. Fuel of all sort would be taxed based on their ability to create CO2 - the principal greenhouse gas.

Some want a CO2 tax, others simply a gas tax. Either wish gets you into the club.

CO2 is not the "principle" greenhouse gas. It is one greenhouse gas among many. It is not even that strong a greenhouse gas (methane and HCFCs are much stronger).

>>2. Most greenhouse gas in the US is, in fact, not created by cows. It is created by burning coal to produce electricity. Cow emissions aren't even a close second - but if you want to tax them as well - fine.

Because methane is 8 times stronger in its heat capacity, it could very well be a stronger contributor to climate change than CO2, even though C02 emissions are much greater in tonnage.

It might make more sense to go for low hanging fruit. Methane may be easier to target, it has more "bang for the buck" AND its residence time in the atmosphere is a mere fraction of CO2.

>>3. None - absolutely none - of the activities that you mention as being positive externality of car ownership are infact positive externalities. How is it better, for example, for the store or anyone else if their customers come by foot or by vehicle (well if they come by foot they don't need to provide parking)? Do you really think people without cars spend a smaller percentage of their paycheck than do those with cars?

You grossly underestimate the productivity benefit of cars.

Consider this: by some estimates, the entire post-1996 boom in productivity (increasing from 1.5% per year to 2.5%) is due to Walmart. Walmart, with its big stores, would not be anywhere near as productive if it had to rely on people walking to its stores.

Even if people biked instead of walked, the productivity hit would put us back to where we were before cars became common.

A lot of these productivity benefits are positive externalities. Yes, maybe Walmart is capturing the externality, but that doesn't stop making it an externality. The fact that Walmart gets the benefit because I drive is what makes it an externality. You could say that the fact that government builds roads but Walmart gets the benefits is an externality (one that justifies a sales tax or property tax, for example).

Climate "science" is not a hard science. It is soft science, much like economics. It relies of modeling to make predictions, not unlike economics.

The history of macroeconomic modeling in economics is quite poor. Thus, since climate science models use the same math as economic models, we should be very, very careful in accepting what these models say.

The fact that the models and the data are not open source makes me dismiss climate science as junk science.

I have some of the same concerns with economics of the "Freakonomics" variety. Even if you have the model and the source data, you don't have the many steps that the modeler used to parse the data (eliminate outliers and other bad data, etc.).

Worst of all is the attitude of the climate scientists, as if climate modeling is so different from everything else that we "lay people" are not qualified to judge their work.

I'm a fucking engineer, I do math modeling of data every day. I'm pretty fucking qualified to judge a math model, climate or otherwise.

Yes, maybe Walmart is capturing the externality, but that doesn't stop making it an externality.

Actually, it does, at least as the term is understood by economists (other than Half Sigma, who seems to like flaunting his, ahh, non-standard understanding of economics).
As for the objections to climate modeling, I admit that the models are untrustworthy; however, the basic effect (CO2 in the atmosphere causes a greenhouse effect) is pretty straightforward, even if the size, exact nature, and distribution of the effects is not easily determined. There is also data (going back tens of thousands of years) showing a close correlation between CO2 levels and temperature. So what I would call the weak statement regarding global warming, namely, 'We add CO2 to the atmosphere, and it tends to increase global temperatures by some undetermined amount', seems fairly uncontroversial. The problem is that a lot of the scientists involved seem to have the following logic:
- I think global warming is a problem
- My models give all sorts of results depending how I set them up
- People aren't going to get real worked up about a small rise in temperature, even though I (as a Scientist!) know this is a big deal
- So I'll trade on my credibility and pimp my most apocalyptic results in hopes of getting someone to do something

Carl Sagan basically admitted as much. Personally I'm skeptical that attempts to restrict CO2 emissions will amount to much, even if implemented; I'd rather have the government pursue carbon sequestration technologies and maybe some damage mitigation. More or less just try and contain things until we can get fusion, superefficient solar, or pebble-bed reactors together with better batteries/ultracapacitors so we can grow out of the carbon-burning energy economy in a natural way.

>>Actually, it does, at least as the term is understood by economists

How so? An externality is when my costs don't reflect my benefits. Pollution is the best example. My consumption of gasoline doesn't reflect the cost to others of NOx emissions, for example.

Walmart getting the benefits in increased revenue is EXACTLY an externality, a positive one for Walmart.

>>There is also data (going back tens of thousands of years) showing a close correlation between CO2 levels and temperature.

Correlation is not causation. The effect is probably the other way (hotter climates produce more CO2). Climate scientists so much as say so when they worry about CO2 and methane sequestered in permafrost.

Scientists have to do some pretty amazing things to get CO2 data from 10k years ago. How vallid is that data? What's the 95% confidence interval around their graph? It has to be large enough to drive a truck through.

I'd rather ride the train with ghetto thugs or rednecks than SCA's.

And I don't want to ride with any of the above. That's what's great about a car.

Peter, you've done some posts on your own blog where you refer to the aversion young women have for sitting next to older male strangers (which you seem to take personally). I think you call it "The Look of Love."

I think you call it "The Look of Love."

The look that caused the sadness of a million beta male riders.

Consider this: by some estimates, the entire post-1996 boom in productivity (increasing from 1.5% per year to 2.5%) is due to Walmart.

So, our boom in productivity was due to us creating unemployment amongst our lower IQ citizenry?

The look that caused the sadness of a million beta male riders.

I append no Greek letter to "older male strangers."

I append no Greek letter to "older male strangers."

The alpha males don't care if some woman sneers at them on the train. The beta male is probably heart-broken inside that he's viewed as a scary male.

>>So, our boom in productivity was due to us creating unemployment amongst our lower IQ citizenry?

Have you ever shopped at Walmart? It employs some dim bulbs.

Walmart has used IT, warehousing, just-in-time inventory, etc. to drive retail productivity to amazing heights. The rest of the retail industry has been forced to adopt most of its techniques, thus driving industrywide productivity gains. Because retail is such a large part of our economy, this shows up in the overall productivity numbers.

Warehouse workers and truckers have both benefited greatly from Walmart, and there ain't no truckers that are Harvard grads.

The alternative is Europe and Japan, where retail is stuck in the dark ages.

Have you ever shopped at Walmart? It employs some dim bulbs.

Considering that there are three within a 15 minute drive, yeah, I shop at Wal-Mart.

Yes, I'm aware that Wal-Mart employs many members of our lower IQ citizenry. My concern is that Wal-Mart's monospony powers have forced suppliers to move their operations overseas to meet Wal-Mart's pricing requirements, and have forced the unemployment of millions of Americans who aren't smart enough to qualify for white collar positions. I guess the question is what are we going to do with our low-IQ populace when the only jobs for them are low paying and unrewarding, and they're not smart enough for decent middle class employment.

The alternative is Europe and Japan, where retail is stuck in the dark ages.

I know in France, they have a big-box Wal-Mart style stores where they're classified as "hypermarche" which in English is loosely translated as a hypermarket.

>>I guess the question is what are we going to do with our low-IQ populace when the only jobs for them are low paying and unrewarding, and they're not smart enough for decent middle class employment.

Manufacturing employment has been decreasing since WW2. Walmart is not responsible for that.

And as someone who works at a manufacturing plant, there aren't many positions that can be manned by someone with an 85 IQ (1 SD bellow the mean). We need people who are proactive, understand the process, and can flag and troubleshoot quality problems.

I'll accept that manufacturing has been on the decline before Wal-Mart due to globalization and automation, but nobody has answered my question of what to do with the low IQ members of our citizenry?

nobody has answered my question of what to do with the low IQ members of our citizenry?

They're great with a little Tabasco.

>>but nobody has answered my question of what to do with the low IQ members of our citizenry?

Raise their IQ: prozac and ritallin in the water supply just like fluoride, and deep brain magnetic stimulation (it can raise IQ).

Deep Brain Magnetic Stimulation raises IQ:

http://www.musc.edu/fnrd/tmssciam.pdf

Deep Brain Magnetic Stimulation raises IQ:

http://www.musc.edu/fnrd/tmssciam.pdf

Raise their IQ: prozac and ritallin in the water supply just like fluoride

I've never heard that either Prozac or Ritalin raise IQ. Each can cause sleeplessness and psychotic behavior, though. Administering them to the public in combination doesn't seem like the recipe for either improved performance or good behavior.

I stand by my point when I say that the global warming industry is a scam. I know people who have worked in the government-funded research area and most of them think it a scam as well.

These climate scientists get money from their respective governments to do research. They do the research then publish their papers. What do they do next? They look for more money from government to do more research and publish more papers. It is the same with the Tokamak fusion program and even the "research" on String Theory.

I know of entire companies that have made their money for 20 years doing nothing but Phase I SBIR grants.

This pattern really is no different than defense contracting and NASA. The only difference is that "conservatives" make money in defense contracting, liberal scientists make their money off of "climate science". The racket is the same, which brings up my other point.

Frankly, I find it offensive for someone who has always made their living off of the government money trough to tell me (someone who works out on his own) how I should or should not live. I find this to be quite frankly offensive.

There are good reasons to move away from hydrocarbon energy sources. Global warming is not one of them. The best way to do this would be a series of "X-prizes", not a bunch of hokey regulation that will only crimp the economy. The X-prizes would implemented similiar to that of the space and life-extension X-prizes. Milestone prize targets would be set and people would compete in the development of real technology that would make hydrocarbon energy sources obsolete.

This is a far more sensible approach to obsoleting hydrocarbon energy sources in that it will actually do the job and there will be no detremental effect on economic growth. The currently government-funded scientists would also be welcome to compete for these prizes. It is the perfect opportunity for them to put their money where their mouths are, and that is always a good thing.

>>I've never heard that either Prozac or Ritalin raise IQ. Each can cause sleeplessness and psychotic behavior, though. Administering them to the public in combination doesn't seem like the recipe for either improved performance or good behavior.

Kids take Ritallin to calm themselves down to take tests. Okay, that's not raising IQ per se, but it could improve your IQ score.

According to "Listening to Prozac", a significant number of people are borderline depressed, and their work performance increases significantly when put on Prozac.

Maybe putting it in the water is an exageration, but dispensing these drugs to a larger population is one way to increase the productivity of low performers.

Maybe that's a little extreme, but so is protectionism.

Prozac and Retalin are not good drugs to put kids on. Retalin has been around since the 60's, where it actually got a bad "rap" for driving users crazy. Many of the recent anti-social acts on the part of kids (like school shootings) are likely due to the effects of these drugs.

There will be ways to increase peoples' IQ in the future, but drugs like Prozac and Retalin are not the way to do this.

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