Econ project

I have something I intend to do once I finish the book – which is rapidly approaching the end – and I’m interested in knowing if anyone else might be interested in helping with it. I’ve made use of the figures from Angus Maddison’s The World Economy: historical statistics, but they end in 2003. It seems to me it would be useful to update them through 2008. I’ll handle the 21 nations in the Western Offshoots and Western Europe categories, but I’d like to know if anyone else wants to do any the other regions once I’ve worked out the conversion process required. If you’re up for it, please let me know how many countries for which you’d be willing to calculate Populatio, GDP, and GDP per capita.

Also, Don Reynolds, please email me. There’s a chapter which concerns Friedman that I’d like to run by you.

Phillip Ball bitchslaps Mr. Harris

My lab amigo unfortunately fails to present much of an argument. If he was an economist, we would be forced to conclude that he was an extreme practitioner of the Ricardian Vice:

One somewhat frustrating aspect of this exchange for me has been that you seem to insist that any disagreement with your point of view is not genuine disagreement as such but is missing the point. My sense is that you cannot conceive how any sane, rational person can hold a point of view different from your own, so that if they insist on doing so, they are obviously being either obtuse or stupid. Your first long paragraph is all rhetoric along those lines. I’d add here that, while I won’t accuse you of intellectual laziness, I do feel that your absolutism is, like most absolutisms, the easy way out. There is then always a right answer, and your convictions supply it ready-made. I understand everything you say about religion being generally filled with irrational beliefs, and it would be very easy for me too to say that ‘people should not believe anything for bad or invalid or flaky reasons, and therefore we must strive to ensure that they never do.’ I suspect that philosophers might find that an epistemologically dodgy position to take, but I can see that it makes life easy. I don’t find it either attractive or useful, however….

But to the meat of your argument. I stated in my original article that at least your position can claim some philosophical rigour. I think this is the one aspect of the piece I might now have to withdraw.

I’ll write up a full review of this debate between atheists later, but the root problem is that because Harris’s basic argument is tautological in nature and empirically absurd – if you believe in religion then you must be incapable of scientific rationality – he finds it hard to understand how anyone can disagree with him. Compounding this is the fact that he pays no attention to what his opponent is actually saying and so fails to respond to the point at hand. And notice how, as usual, Harris is complaining that he’s being misunderstood. The thing is, if intelligent people continually fail to understand what you are saying, then the onus is on you to learn to communicate more clearly.

The collapse of "scientific" consensus

I’m looking forward to scoring this one for the skeptics soon:

The number of skeptics, far from shrinking, is swelling. Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe now counts more than 700 scientists who disagree with the U.N. — 13 times the number who authored the U.N.’s 2007 climate summary for policymakers. Joanne Simpson, the world’s first woman to receive a Ph.D. in meteorology, expressed relief upon her retirement last year that she was finally free to speak “frankly” of her nonbelief. Dr. Kiminori Itoh, a Japanese environmental physical chemist who contributed to a U.N. climate report, dubs man-made warming “the worst scientific scandal in history.” Norway’s Ivar Giaever, Nobel Prize winner for physics, decries it as the “new religion.” A group of 54 noted physicists, led by Princeton’s Will Happer, is demanding the American Physical Society revise its position that the science is settled. (Both Nature and Science magazines have refused to run the physicists’ open letter.) The collapse of the “consensus” has been driven by reality.

I’ve always had my doubts about the credibility of scientists due to their demonstrated willingness to sell biological philosophy as genuine science. But their collective behavior in what will eventually be known as the Great Global Warming Scandal really demonstrates what a bunch of greedy, power-tripping scum so many of them are. The amusing thing is that scientists like PZ Myers and Sam Harris, ex-scientists like Richard Dawkins, and would-be scientists like Daniel Dennett constantly worry about the “danger” supposedly posed to science by religion, while blithely and unquestioningly accepting the fraudulent gospel of global warming because it came wrapped in scientific clothing. They truly don’t seem to understand how utterly devastating this ongoing scandal is going to be to the public regard for science and scientists alike.

And let’s not forget those who declared global warming to be an established fact. Keep that in mind as you consider their credibility with regards to other matters where they claim science has settled the issue.

Logic and the Magic Negro

Obama demonstrates his logical incapacities:

“If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care, if they tell us that they’re offering a good deal,” he asked, “then why is it that the government, which they say can’t run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That’s not logical.”

It would not be logical if the government were competing on anything remotely resembling a level playing field. However, that’s not the case with government, which has several advantages even when it doesn’t make use of its ability to assert a monopolistic position. First, a government agency has no need to make money. Subsidized by the taxpayers and public debt, it can run at a loss for decades. It can therefore undercut private competition by any amount it chooses, thus creating demand for its services even if they are inferior. Second, a government agency is allowed to exclude itself from regulations that apply to private competitors, giving it further competitive advantages that don’t necessarily show up on the balance sheets. For example, it is highly unlikely that one could successfully sue an employee at a government health care provider for malpractice. The Supreme Court upheld the Feres Doctrine in 1950, which prevents veterans from suing any Veterans Administration physician for malpractice. So, among other things, federal health care providers would not need to carry insurance due to their so-called sovereign immunity.