« H2H: The End of the Debate (For Now) | Main | Hamdan »

June 27, 2006


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Applying the 1% rule to the sociology of terrorism is promising.

The draft article by Sunstein elaborates extensively, and I plan to study it.

Initially I was reminded of the now supplanted term "economic poison"[1] which was the language originally written in 7 USC 135, one of the early pesticide regulatory bills congress passed in 1972, now commonly the term is pesticide, so you will not see the 'economic poison' term defined at the beginning of that bill. The EPA commonly calls the bill by its acronym, FIFRA.

It is a bit of an extrapolation to view human civil society with the same terminology as we view agricultural pests. The economic poison concept was intended to describe willing application of a known dangerous chemical to crops, for example, knowing there would be some nontarget impact. And there was an actuarial science to quantify, for instance, how many illnesses use of the economic poison might cause.

Risk assessment views unpleasant topics; as must foreign policy.

As for the probabilistic examination of climate change, there is a lot more to the story than warm or cold weather. Yet, the impacts described in all of these topics border on a magnitude which alters civilization.

Climate change as a science is a blend of computer problem-solving; take, for example, the 2004 publication of an article which in 2005 it was discovered had been built upon a statistical starting point that failed to eliminate noise. This article was not hyping climate change as an approaching disaster; quite the contrary, the article purported to show climate change did not exist. There is a recent series of articles showing where the noise 'detrending' was omitted from the article. Perhaps this will appeal to the host of this post, Sunstein, given its nifty look at the statistical view of climate and the utility of the peer review process [2].

See final footnote [3] for some papers about oceans viewed as factors in global climate change.

[1] economic poison-- http://eurekavalleypest.com/glossary.htm
[2] climate change-- http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/03/climate-sensitivity-plus-a-change/
[3] oceans-- http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/

Kimball Corson

Well, let’s see if I have this right. Bush, as counseled by Cheney, Gonzales and sundry other Justice Department and White House lawyers and bureaucrats, continues to tell us that the Administration’s ever expanding list of surveillance programs are all legal or within the law, even though no warrants, FISA court approvals or oversight programs were ever obtained, implemented or sought for any of those programs. On the other hand, Professor Stone and those who signed the original letter of “concern,” Judge Richard Posner and various and many other knowledgeable, legal and non-governmental scholars recognize or concede that the absence of these elements at a minimum raise serious question, if not establish outright illegality in most cases. Bush’s and Cheney’s pronounced indignation at disclosure aside, which side are we to believe here? Is this not, if not a no brainer, a situation where we should defer to the weight of disinterested scholarly authority -- and by disinterested, I mean not a participant in the putative violations of our rights -- at least as a matter of positive law, regardless of whether, as a more normative matter, some of us want to toss the civil rights of all of us into the toilet for the sake of the so-called war on terror. Framed this way, is not it clear that these programs have serious legal problems and that Bush and Cheney, with considerable moxie, are simply blowing smoke in our face and aggressively taking the offensive? If so, are they to be trusted in these circumstances, especially having concealed the programs from us? I suggest not. Instead, they both should be in trouble for their likely violations of our rights, regardless of what we think the law should now be.

Kimball Corson

Frederick, bin Laden is no Adolph Hitler and a peace treaty is not necessarily an appeasement. We stop fighting and killing Arabs in the Middle East and they stop waging a champagne of terror against us here.

If it should work, what is wrong with that? We have to get ourselves out of the Middle East or at least Iraq sooner or later anyway. We could even save some face and get something for our efforts after all.

Kimball Corson

As for staying on topic, since when has one of these threads ever not strayed off topic, especially given Leon Walra's Third Law that everything is related to everything else.

Kimball Corson

We got this offer yesterday:

"Eleven Sunni insurgent groups have offered an immediate halt to all attacks — including those on American troops — if the United States agrees to withdraw foreign forces from Iraq in two years, insurgent and government officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday."

We should be listening, as I suggest.

To hell with democracy in the Middle East. Look at what it did in Palestine, Iran, etc. We liked earlier dictators better. We preach democracy, but then support only whom we like. Very two faced, I think. We like self determination, but only for us.


One problem with this discussion is the relative costs of the policies involve. For a wealthy nation such as ours, the costs of the Iraq War or bombing Pakistan are not zero, but they're hardly crippling to the economy or the lifestyle of most Americans. Most people hardly notice other than occasionally reading some unpleasant news in the newspaper. And it is entirely appropriate for our government to assign a much discounted value to the lives and interests of foreigners when decided how to address various problems. I don't know what the discount rate should be in the face of uncertainty, but it should be something.

Environmentalists concerned about Global Warming, however, demand essentially a maximum cost response from the whole human race and the West in particular to avert an unknowable risk that may be as low as a one percent risk. Stopping increases, and ultimately eliminating, C02 output could require, ultimately, the cessation of all combustion, which is the sine qua non of productive activity, electricity, health care, manufacturing, invention, etc.

It might be said that this is an extreme picture of what is advocated by global warming fanatics, but there is no obvious reason any lesser solution than a return to the stone age and a subsistence economy or the elimination of the human race altogether would not be required under their logic. Lesser solutions likely would not even have a statistically significant impact on global CO2, since so much comes from biogenic activity (i.e., emissions from trees and other plant life). If the point were simply privation for its own sake, that would clearly be ridiculous, but the West's puritanism and desire to perform penance in all things cannot be underestimated (think for example of our perverse attitudes about food and dieting).

The difference with the environmentalists is that they demand a maximum cost in the case of a small risk that is far from certain and completely based on computer models. Anti-terrorist politicians like Cheney are simply willing to impose those risks on others. Since the Arab and Muslim world has been so supportive of terrorists and so mired in tacit complicity--especially in Pakistan--then it is hard not to discount the costs we would impose on it and its denizens accordingly.

Lest anyone question the obvious, here is the latest Pew Research poll on Muslim support for terrorism and general alienation from the West:


And here is a link to one of many articles and studies showing global warming is unproven, controversial among climate scientists, and largely a media-driven bundle of hype:


And here is a link to numerous quotes by various environmentalists advocating the destruction of the human race (or a return to the stone age) as a necessary step to protect the earth:



Roach, thank you for the links - very interesting. I have always thought that anyone who passionately believes the world is overpopulated with humans should put their money where their mouth is and relieve the earth of the burden of supporting their life.

Kimball Corson

Brentbrent: I don't think we need to go so far as suicide, but zipping up our pants accasionally might help if birth control is not at hand. Most all of our time on earth a humans was spend in the Stone Age but we are making much too quick work of ourselves and the planet in the current age and do need some sensible checks, but nothing that throws up back into the stone age certainly or what is the point. |

Kimball Corson

Yes, thanks, especially for the Pew Survey on Muslims. They do have an odd attitudial profile, but seem more civil in countries that are.


Thanks for the links. Attitude survey is very revealing.

Kimball--I agree we should be listening to the Iraqi insurgents if they are willing to talk about an amnesty in exchange for dropping violence. Obviously the sooner stability is achieved and we can withdraw our troops, the better for everyone. It is also interesting that they are willing to give us two more years. Wonder what that says.

Did you see the Op-Ed in yesterday's WSJ re the Hamas reaction to Israeli withdrawal from Gaza?


Jesus, what an asshole:

"Stopping increases, and ultimately eliminating, C02 output could require, ultimately, the cessation of all combustion, which is the sine qua non of productive activity, electricity, health care, manufacturing, invention, etc."

Huh? eliminating CO2 output? Tell me one person who advocates that. Regulating automobile emissions and spending money on devloping alternative sources of energy is hardly a call for emilimating combustion.

We're not talking about reverting to prehistoric lifestyles, we're talking about pricing people out of driving their Hummer 3 blocks to pick up some milk from the store, or better having a 6000lb car in the first place.

Ever hear of nuclear fusion Roach? Cheap free energy for everyone forever once we figure out how to contain a reaction, which won't happen upntil the oil companies have sucked every last drop of profit from the earth.

Your ignorance and fear mongering are astounding. It is sad people like you exist.


Roach, the economy is much like an internal combustion engine. When output is highest, utilization of resources is at its most inefficient (more heat, less work extracted from the same amount of gas). A toyota will actually get you much farther on the same amount of gas than a ferarri. The total work it does is actually much higher in taking you that fartehr distance, it is just that the power output (work/time) is far less, so it takes longer to get there.

Nobody is saying we shoudln't drive the economy. Noboday is even saying our economy needs to be like a toyota. Environmentalists just want us to drive the ferarri a little slower, thereby creating a far more efficient and long-term output.

What you advocate is an engine that is destined to stall badly and squander energy.

Perhaps you, and most economists, should brush up on your thermodynamics. It would do you wonders. Power output at any given instance (economic growth) is hardly the best measure of a sucessful and efficient economy. Total economic growth over a period of time bounded by the resources one has to create work is the proper measure of a successful economy.

Envirnomentalists just want us to be more efficient. Creating an more efficeint economy is not calling for us to stop driving or for economic activity to end. You sound a bit foolish.

Kimball Corson

I did not read Roach to be advocating zero CO2, but only saying that there were some extremists who take that position or something too close to it.


I disagree. He did say:

"It might be said that this is an extreme picture of what is advocated by global warming fanatics, but there is no obvious reason any lesser solution than a return to the stone age and a subsistence economy or the elimination of the human race altogether would not be required under their logic."

Peopel don't understand how much energy is stored in the bonds of hydrocarbons, how it takes hundreds of thousands of years to store that energy in those bonds through immense pressure, and how all that energy is realease in an instant when burned, with 95% of the energy going into heat. Nor do people have any understand what happens to complex dynamic kinetic systems when heat is added to them. Low probabiity outcomes become far more likey.

The nay sayers have a severe political agenda that is hard to justify in science. They just seem to cry "end of civilization" when anyone suggests regulating or imposing added costs on the fossil fuel industry. It is kind of sick and indicative of a poor understanding of chemistry, complexity and themordynamics.


I confess to a certain constitutional skepticism about global warming advocates, not least because in my own lifetime I recall hearing predictions of a coming Ice Age. (Indeed, couldn't the addition of high albido particulate matter into the atmosphere do much to reverse any global warming trends, assuming they exist and are bad).

Second, I may not know what will happen in the future but neither do the scientists, because all of their models are just that, and often these models cannot do basic things like predict under current conditions that the Saharan region of Africa is, in fact, a desert.

It's true very few but the most nutty eco-freaks advocate a complete cessation of artificial addition of C02 to the atmosphere, and that some, like LAK, simply advocate a prudent and efficient use of existing resources. But if the harm is so maximal, a human-race-destroying trend of global warming, and if the only solution is the reduction or elimination of artificial Greenhouse gasses, LAK then is advocating serous costs and privations simply to slow down our eventual destruction as a race.

As for "cold fusion," I'm all ears anon, but someone has to go out and invent it, maybe you should? Under our (more or less) capitalist system you stand to become a trillionaire. Meanwhile, we live in the real world, where the deus ex machina of fusion or other forms of energy are not easily available or all that affordable. We must use combustion for years to come because the pricing system says it's more efficient than alternatives.

Market prices convey incredible amounts of information in a mutually translatable format. One of those pieces of information is the relative value of exploring, storing, or using oil. Some remains locked in shale, other oil is being gathered, and other resources are spent on alternatives. Regulators even might be within their rights and the limits of economic logic to impose costs for the costs emissions impose on third parties. But we should at least know what those costs are. In the cases of direct, point pollution the costs are obvious. But here? We don't even know if global warming is happening or if it is altogether a bad thing (some say it would open up vast regions of farmland, reduce winter heating costs, and have a minimal effect on ocean levels because so much ice would either be contained by the antarctic peninsula or (as we know from mixed drinks, only has marginally more volume when liquefied). We do know the effects of Kyoto and other laws on atmospheric C02 in the short term would be minimal, yet we are asked to endure great privation because this what-if scenario and, worse still, endure this privation when our strategic competitors in China and India would not have to do so.

It's a joke, and I think it's more about a peculiar western psychological trait--feeling guilty when successful and the concomitant desire to do penance--than it has anything to do with hard science, prudence, concern for the future, and the like. If you feel guilty, go to confession. Meanwhile, I'll enjoy driving my SUV, and I'll pay the market price for the fuel it consumes thank you very much.

PS Since I've once had comments deleted by Douglas Licthman for saying unkind things about believers in the Religion of Peace, what provision in this site's standards allows anonymous posters to call other posters--in this case, me--an "Asshole." I should think that loser's IP address should be tracked down and banned by the site administrator, or that he should at least be given a warning. Indeed, the warning should be as much for his slipshod logic and crude thought processes as for vulgarity. But this kind of double-standard is something with which every conservative is familiar.


You mean a market price that is subsidized by the public and relatively free from tax? Or do you mistakenly think that XOM is actually paying royalties to pump oil from public lands?

Roach, just because the atmosphere is a complex system and models are imperfect does not mean you can't trust predictions models make. I mean the westher man gets it right most of the time even though the models he uses are imperfect. I know of no credible climate scientist who does not see evidence of human sponsored global warming. Impossible to prove but not difficult to predict.

As for fusion, like many enormous high-risk projects, cold fusion cannot be expected to come about through the efforts of teh private sector. Sometimes, believe it or not, the giovernemnt is required to aggregate capital and bear risk to advnace civilization. Too much uncertainty and initial costs prvent private interests from exploring cold fusion meaingfully. We have just recently joined with Japan and the EU to conduct some research, but nothing short of a significant givernemnt investment of billions and billions would get resutls.

I too doubt that will happen in our government until XOM et al are done profiting from oil.

P.S. Doug Lichtman wouldn't let me take his picture teaching for the law school paper once because he wasn't in a suit. That should tell you volumes about how uptight that guy is. I wouldn't let it bother you.


Kimball: Your point is well taken, but the chance of personal responsibility as the means for population control being successful is limited. Just look at Kevin Federline - no chance he is going to help out in this regard.

LAK: I do not think it is a poor understanding of science that is causing us to continue to consume fossil fuels. What makes us consume fossil fuels is that it is quite a good way to deliver a good deal of energy by its combustion in a compact, stable and economical substance. While you are correct in stating that a great deal of the energy from combustian is not captured, nothing else works better gallon for gallon or pound for pound. We already impose huge disincentives on gas (except when the price spikes and the populists come out of the closet to 'ease the pain at the pump' for the American People). But it would take massive taxes on gas to get people to cut down. A gallon in Germany is about $8 as Germany tries to put disincentives on the use of gas and people still buy it because even with all the hoopla about other technologies (fuel cells, electric, hydrogen, etc.) none deliver energy to induvidual automobiles as well gas. Even now at $3 a gallon, unthinkable a couple of years ago, it is expected we will burn a record amount of gas this summer in the U.S. Polls say people are concerned but it has not changed actual behavior much. How this all comes back to the one percent doctrine is you will have to basically take transportation out of the world's economy to eliminate hydrocarbons as a primary energy source, since the alternatives are not even attractive at $8 a gallon. This will drastically increase the costs of all goods that have to be transported or refined in any way and will be a massive drag on the world's economy. If the 99% chance comes true that we will not utterly destroy the planet by burning all the hydrocarbons, then eventually the cost of obtaining the hydrocarbons in a useable form will rise and we will then transfer to a more expensive technology. In the mean time, if the cost of putting in the infrastructure and transitioning to other forms of energy for transportation become more economical, people will switch. I am sure Dick Cheney will make a buck on that switch when it happens if the ticker doesn't give out first.


Er, I certainly didn't say a lack of understanding of science is causing us to cosume fossil fuels. Rather it is what contributes to reactionary conservatives claiming that global warming is a myth. It simply is not, and its effect are easy to document, if difficultto prove. The only scientist who deny that golbal warming is a problem are generally funded by fossil fuel interests.

We don't have anything close to "huge" disincentives. If $8 isn't enough in Germany lets go to $10 (although I'll not that the Europeans are already way ahead of us in terms of fuel and energy efficiency, thanks to the incentives to conserve). All you have to do is raise the tax until consumption actually goes down. Lighter smaller more fuel efficient cars would follow and, more importantly, public transportation might crawl out of the gutter.

If its is a massive drag on the world's economy sobeit. If prices of goods go up due to energy conservation we should embrace those new equilibriums. See above, the outcome with the highest output is never the most efficient outcome.

And you seem to not understand that by the time the price of hydrocarbons becomes so costly as to provoke new alternative energy development, the dmage will have been long done. You can't rely on the market when externalized costs only manifest themselves after significant delay from the market action.

The faith you people have in free markets is disturbing. The chaotic outcomes that result from a bunch of indiviual actors acting in a unregulated market rarely are the outcomes that create the most benefit for all, or even for the indivudals alone.

Y'all need to get yourself to the physics department. Economics is indeed a dismal science for those unable to hack real math.

Kimball Corson

To do well in any decent graduate program in Economics these days you had better be able to "hack real math." Physics has no lock on the queen of the sciences.

Kimball Corson

We don't need to live like primatives for us and this planet to survive; we just need to number more like them. It is a situation correctable in three or four generations. A blip on the radar scope of time, if you will. Again, zip up should be our credo. Beyond good company, family and friends, we are all negative externalities to each other: the guy ahead of us at the light or in line.


I hear that. But before we can have meaningful population control we need to have the population stop killing each other and factionalizing based on membership to particular nations or thousands of years old cults.

I'm glad there is someone out there who recognizes the significance that we are only 150 years into the industrial revolution and have no idea how to organize and distribute wealth.

Kimball Corson

Speaking of primitive, how advanced are we to tool down the road blowing up dinosaur residuals for our locomotion? The problem with gas and other combustibles (I like diesel), given their market mechanisms, is the externalities of their harmful emission by products. If no one has responsibility for those costs, we will each free ride and over consume such combustibles. The problem of the lack of good alternatives makes our demand for such combustibles pretty inelastic so taxes, price increases etc. don’t impact the quantity demanded very much. We then have a catch 22 situation.

I am inclined to believe in the consensus of the environmental models and scientific community (which has commented very favorably on Gore’s new flick, by the way. He got the science largely right.) The big nitrogen cooled Cray and other computers that run the NOAA weather prediction models really do a pretty good job. I am cruiser sailing the world now who uses those predictions almost daily, and I can vouch for their location specific general accuracy.

The real problem is what to do. More and better alternatives would lessen the elasticity of demand for combustibles and make more taxes better serve as a disincentive to purchase and consumption. But how to get there? Cold fusion would be nice, but even a quantum leap in battery technology would do. Serious thought is needed in this quarter and quickly, I believe. We have some, but it is not clever enough and to busy trying to graft old and new technology into something workable.

Kimball Corson

We organize wealth pretty well by market mechanisms, subject to limiting and serious externalities, but I think everyone is unhappy with its distribution. The large problem with distribution is government actions have favored some over others throughout time and once you accumulate a little capital or wealth, it is much easier to accumulate more and not just be a working stiff on hourly wages or a salary. The prospective lack of an inheritance tax further compounds the problem. If there were a 100% inheritance tax the proceeds of which were used to better equalize opportunity for each new generation finishing high school it would go far to putting everyone on a more equal footing in regard to the distribution of wealth. But then some are just smarter and clever than others and they accumulate more during their life times. I think we could live with that problem, however, because upon their death, their estates would have to give up their wealth in taxes.

Kimball Corson

". . . lessen the inelasticity of demand . . . ", that should be. That is, alternatives would make demand more elastic.

The Law Fairy

Wait... how did we get from "taking preventive measure against global warming is at least as important as preventive measures against terrorism" to "the government should get everyone's inheritance"? Are you being sarcastic? You don't actually think the government knows best how to spend that much money, do you? Here's what a 100% inheritance task would create: fascism. The only ones with lasting money (and therefore power) would be corporations, which never die. It does not take a genius to figure out that she needs to invest in something that doesn't die if she wants her kids and grandkids to be taken care of. So we'll have nepotistic corporations controlling the lives of 99% of the population. Not exacty my idea of utopia; in fact, if that's the future my great-great-grandchildren have to look forward to, I'd just as soon let the planet do its worst.

The comments to this entry are closed.