27 August 2010

Obviously cutting my interest is ridiculous

Comment on this latest bit of special pleading.

27 Aug 2010, 10:52AM
This article is number 47 in a series of articles titled "My specialist interest group and why it should not have cuts applied to it.)

The editors would like to apologise that due to a calender error, the article about why the police should be above cuts clashed with this article. However, to make up for this glaring error, they will reprint the Film industry article of why they should not have their funding cut.

Thank you and we hope you enjoy this series which is due to finish around October when it will be replaced by the series "My specialist interest group and why it was wrong to cut public funding for it."

Now to be honest I wouldn't cut science funding first either, but as the comment above points out, no one wants their special interest cut, but that doesn't really get us anywhere.

24 August 2010

Putting us back in our box

I have been wondering of recent weeks if the corporate world is trying to put us back in our box. When I say us, I suppose I mean the ordinary person, the lone blogger, as opposed to the big corporations and the state. By putting us back in our box I mean users of the internet becoming increasingly consumers rather than active participants.

This doesn't seem to be a state sponsored problem for once, but more of an alignment between established corporates and old media with a bit of backing from good old fashioned state censorship. New tech like the iPad seem to be entirely geared at consuming a filtered version of the web and although the death of the browser has probably been greatly exaggerated, apps do offer the user much less control.

Maybe it is just that most people only want to be dumb consumers and it's only now that they are on the web in numbers that this consumerist tendency has become apparent. Still worries me though.

23 March 2010

Proud to be human: VSS Enterprise takes to the sky

Just last night whilst watching Wonders of the Solar System: Empire of the Sun (the first in an awe inspiring series presented by Professor Brian Cox), my girlfriend opined at the fact that with such an amazing universe out there, humanity spends so much of it's time bickering about trivialities. Although pessimistic libertarians and anarcho-capitalists everywhere no doubt often have similar feelings, this morning an email dropped into my inbox that just made me rejoice at the confluence of those two great human inventions: science and free enterprise.

The email, in a moment of synchonicity, was from Virgin Galactic, announcing that they have completed the first 'captive carry' flight of the VSS Enterprise! The title of this post paraphrases one of the comments, as news like this does make me proud to be human and gives me a chance to revel in the potential of a radical free-marketeer future.

16 February 2010

I am still looking into the AGW scare and my current thoughts are that I can be reasonably confident of the following:
  • There has been a statistically significant increase in average global temperature, with fits and starts, over the last 150 years although this has levelled off in the last 10-15 years.
  • There is a correlation with increased CO2, however it doesn't track perfectly and from what we know of the physics of CO2 radiative forcing it is both logarthimic (as we produce more, the effect gets relatively less for each additional unit) and that, to account for the warming seen, additional poorly understood 'feedback' mechanisms must be invoked.
In essence, I think there is, of course, a valid area of study in global climate, however the current alarmism is not justified given that the current understanding of the science attributes a relatively small warming effect directly caused by CO2 and the feedback mechanisms are poorly understood.

Somewhat as an aside I thought this quote from Stephen Schneider, an arch IPCC supporter, was almost entirely agreeable. Although no doubt people can point to many things he has said as entirely disagreeable, it is worth praising statists when they do get it right:

The transportation sector is the fastest-growing and seemingly most intractable source of carbon emissions precisely because it is the most socialized, subsidized,120 and centrally planned sector of the U.S. economy—at least for favored modes like road transport and aviation. It has the least true competition among modes, and the most untruthful prices, with hidden costs of hundreds of billions of dollars per year for U.S. road vehicles alone.121 These distortions leverage more billions into otherwise uneconomic infrastructural and locational decisions. In particular, the dispersion of uses that causes so much excessive driving is mandated by obsolete single-use zoning rules meant to segregate noxious industries that scarcely exist today. Congestion is specifically caused by non-pricing or underpricing of the road resource: most roads are supported by taxes, not users, so they look free to drivers who behave much as Soviet customers did in demanding a great deal of energy when it looked free. Congestion is not only unpriced, but is further exacerbated by building more subsidized roads that elicit even more traffic, and by requiring developers to provide as much parking as people use when they pay nothing for it. Future generations will marvel that the incredible social costs of these policies—costs intertwined with many inner-city ills—went so long uncorrected: all ways to get around, or not to need to, were never made to compete fairly against each other, and drivers neither got what they paid for nor paid for what they got.

I have always thought that both sides of this debate should consider the alternative scenarios; what would libertarians do if man is proved to be warming the planet?; what would AGW proponents do if there is global warming, but it is entirely natural?; is natural always a good thing?

Hopefully 'climategate' has opened the door to honest debate.

A UK Libertarian Forum

The guys at The UK Libertarian have started up The UK Libertarian Forums. Hopefully it is a great success. I don't know if it is just more anarcho-capitalists getting online, or whether more people are 'seeing the light' in the UK, but it feels like anarcho-capitalism and libertarianism are starting to take root here.

14 December 2009

Hide the decline: When the science isn't settled

I would like to write something on climate change, as much to obtain a better understanding of the issues for myself, as to proselytise to anyone else. I immensely dislike the whole tenor of the current debate, if indeed there is any real debate, and strongly object to being labelled with affiliations I do not hold, simply because I might wish to enquire about validity of a hypothesis and the efficacy of policy ideas. Climate change has clearly been a continous process since the Earth formed so the slur of climate change 'denier' is clearly disingenuous for a start. Incidently one might get the impression that I am biased already given the link below, but the main point of that link is the government using alarmist scare stories (I am sure not endorsed by serious climate scientists of any stripe) to terrify our children. If anyone believes that this kind of hyperventilating nonsense is helpful, then I have no time for them as they are not interested in rational enquiry and methods. Also, although the peer review system is a useful process, it is rich of proponents of AGW to dismiss criticisms as not peer reviewed, when they are happy to use alarmist journalism to further their own agendas.

It is interesting that one can hold heterodox views in other areas of science whithout becoming a social pariah at hip London dinner parties, or indeed without anyone caring at all. As an example and somewhat ironically given the context, I doubt the 'Copenhagen' interpretation of quantum mechanics, in fact I prefer the De Broglie–Bohm or Pilot-Wave theory of quantum mechanics, where incidently the debate appears to be alive and well. Why am I socially allowed this opinion, but not a similar minority view on climate change? Is it because of the science, or the perceived policy implications of the science? Why has 'sceptic' become an insult instead of an eminently sensible position to take when confronted with a decision to accept monumental impositions of society?

In a field entirely unrelated to climate change, I have just finished The Nurture Assumption, which holds that children's personalities are formed in the main by interactions with their peer group and the parents have little to no effect, other than through their genes. This is a controversial position, which flies in the face of the scientific 'consensus' amongst social psychologists. Now whether or not this author is correct in her theories, I doubt my agreement with her position is likely to get me metaphorically lynched by devout believers in the 'nurture assumption', yet as far as I am aware she does not have a vast catalogue of peer-reviewed papers backing up her theories.

Having expressed my objections to some of the cartoon portrayals of those who might query the anthropomorphic climate change movement (complete with policy implications), I would like to look at what evidence there is and see where that leads me. Although anyone who reads this blog will appreciate I am unlikely to like government 'solutions' for any perceived problems, this is a different issue to the truth of AGW. So I would like to concentrate on whether that is an issue or not first and then discuss what solutions there might be if it is, or were to become, a problem. I would add at this juncture that anarcho-capitalists do need to think about what our solutions are even if the current scare turns out not to be true, since there is nothing logically impossible about dispersed processes causing global catastrophes.

22 May 2008

The Bansturbators

Back again for another round, as some survey or other tells us that alcohol related problems and illnesses are costing the NHS more than ever before. The Bansturbators are right there telling us how alcohol should be even more expensive. Having recently paid £4 for a pint in London, I've got a few things to say to those who think alcohol is cheap. Then again they would probably say that the 'problem' has now moved into the home and this time it is cheap booze in supermarkets to blame.
To be honest I am not inclined to argue about whether I am, or anyone else is, drinking too much alcohol. The point that is always avoided is the question of why we are forced to pay for other people's healthcare in the first place, those of power hungry and paternalist instinct always go for more control and restriction on our actions. The irony is that these very same people are the ones to complain about the lack of responsibility in todays society.
Of course the obvious thing to do if you are worried about everyone bearing the cost of the excesses of the few is to have real insurance in healthcare. Then if you get ill through the wilful downing of 15 pints or a litre of vodka it is only an argument between you and your insurer whether they should pay for your treatment. Even better than that, there is usually no argument, as with real insurance you are clear that it doesn't cover you for intentionally damaging your health. This solution means people taking real responsibility for their own well being, having to accept the consequences of their actions and being allowed to live with the level of risk they are comfortable with.