Obama's Green Snake Oil

The president continues to ignore the cost of his global warming plan.

"We need more than the same old empty promises," President Obama declared on Monday. He therefore offered new empty promises, most conspicuously a vow to create "a new energy economy that puts millions of our citizens to work."

As he did during his campaign, Obama presented his plan to ameliorate global warming as a way of stimulating the economy, with the first steps—money for weatherizing buildings, boosting alternative energy production, and improving power transmission—incorporated into his American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. Thus he continues to ignore the enormous cost of dramatically reducing carbon dioxide emissions, falsely portraying the economic burden as a boon.

Obama still officially intends to "help create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future." Exactly where that projection comes from is a mystery.

The Apollo Group, a coalition of environmentalists and labor unions that has influenced the president's thinking in this area, also talks about creating 5 million "green-collar jobs" during the next decade, although it puts the cost to taxpayers at $500 billion, more than three times Obama's figure. But maybe we should not get too hung up on this estimate or the basis for it.

"Honestly," the Apollo Alliance's co-director told The Wall Street Journal right after the election, "it's just to inspire people." In that case, why not say 10 million jobs over five years, or 20 million over two?

It's not as if anyone will ever be held to account for these wild promises. Since there's no agreement about what constitutes a "green-collar job," who's to say whether the goal has been met?

Given the malleability of the concept and the fancifulness of the numbers, politicians' faith in Obama's green snake oil is touching. "For us to support what needs to be done in addressing global warming," Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) recently told The New York Times, "we need to demonstrate that, in fact, jobs are created."

Stabenow, whose state is heavily dependent on coal, is rightly concerned about the economic impact of Obama's cap-and-trade plan for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, which will sharply increase the cost of fossil-fuel energy. But she is mistaken if she thinks that "green jobs" can compensate for the economic pain that plan must inflict in order to work.

To see the fallacy here, consider this: If Obama could snap his fingers and make global warming disappear tomorrow, should he do it? By his logic, no, because then we'd lose all those wonderful green jobs that will help pull us out of the recession.

The justification for a cap-and-trade system (or a carbon tax, which likewise aims to shift the economy away from fossil fuels by making them more expensive) lies not in the jobs it will "create," which will be more than balanced by the jobs it will destroy or forestall, but in the bad consequences it will prevent. Obama alluded to those in his speech, saying "the long-term threat of climate change...could result in violent conflict, terrible storms, shrinking coastlines, and irreversible catastrophe."

To know whether Obama's cap-and-trade proposal makes sense, we need to know how likely those outcomes are and how costly they would be. We also need to know how likely it is that his plan actually would prevent the dire results of which he warns and, crucially, at what cost.

Critics such as Bjorn Lomborg, author of Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming, argue that adapting to climate change is much more cost-effective than trying to prevent it, an effort they say is unlikely to have any measurable impact. Presumably Obama thinks these skeptics are wrong. I'd like to hear why.

But that would require the president to be more candid about the sacrifices demanded by his plan to create "the new energy economy." It is difficult to perform a cost-benefit analysis if you refuse to admit there's a cost.

© Copyright 2009 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  • ||

    Personally, I'm not convinced that human activities have much to do with climate change - especially since the wholesale discrediting of the infamous 'hockey stick' scam. Obama's 'plan' looks like a much bigger threat to the US and the world than CO2! But even if it was a reality the solution is blindingly obvious - build more nuclear power stations. Build 'em anyway - at least you'll get cleaner air.

  • ||

    Get on the bus Ronald Bailey.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Oh, you guys are so wrong to point out that everything that Obama says about the environment is, well, wrong. Don't be so negative! We'll decide where we're going when we get there! Isn't that what politics is all about?

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "We also need to know how likely it is that his plan actually would prevent the dire results of which he warns and, crucially, at what cost."

    But first we need some proof that there are any "dire consequences" that need to be prevented to begin with.

  • ||

    Governments garner support by finding big external enemies to crusade against. Soviet Russia, Communist China, WMD, Saddam Hussein, islamofascism, etc. By promoting perpetual crisis the government pursuades the public (read: suckers) to sacrifice for the noble cause. Crack babies, Immigration, shark attacks, Japan Inc., oil shortage, health care crisis, etc.

    Two current egregious examples are the banking 'crisis' and the grand-daddy of them all, Gullible Warming. By promising grandiose programs to solve these urgent 'crises du jour' politicians attempt to paint themselves as heroes of the common folk. And, of course, purchase your votes with your money and sacrifices.

    When will they ever learn?
    When will they e......ver learn?

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Yes and they've got a two for one special going on now - the economic recesssion "crisis" and the global warming "crisis".

    The hype over both has kicked into high gear now that the Dems are in charge of the executive and legislative branch to generate enough political momentum to pass as much of their lefty wish list as fast as they can.

    A lot of economists predict the economy will start turning up by the middle of this year. The dems want to get as much socialism rammed through as fast as they can before it does start turning up or they'll lose the rationalization that it's all needed to "fix" the crisis.

  • Other Matt||

    build more nuclear power stations

    No shit. No support from His Highness for that though, unless we let the automakers go bankrupt and claim they'll be employed by building/running them. As long as it's union labor, then he might grudgingly accept it.

  • ||

    France provides a years worth of energy for it's people resulting in nuclear waste the size of a dime/person/year. It stores it all in a single room. We don't reprocess because we are worried about proliferation, and instead argue over storing metric tons of nasty stuff in Yucca Mountain for 100k years instead of recycling it several hundred more times.

  • ||

    I never thought I'd see the day when I envied the French. What a sad day for America.

  • Reinmoose||

    To see the fallacy here, consider this: If Obama could snap his fingers and make global warming disappear tomorrow, should he do it? By his logic, no, because then we'd lose all those wonderful green jobs that will help pull us out of the recession.

    I think this puts it well. I mean - you could argue that you could do all these "job-creating" programs anyway, but yes, you're correct. If there's an economic benefit to these programs there's an economic benefit to these programs, whether there's global climate change or not.

  • Reinmoose||

    Now what we need is for the government to come out and tell us that we should all go out and buy new cars to replace our old ones... as an investment!! Oh wait...

  • Reinmoose||

    People are suckers for this shit. All you have to do is replace the words "spend money on" with "invest in" and you have instant benefit.

    Example:
    We need to invest more in our schools... by... spending a whole heck of a lot more money to get no measurable improvement in aptitude.

  • Untermensch||

    Two current egregious examples are the banking 'crisis' and the grand-daddy of them all, Gullible Warming. By promising grandiose programs to solve these urgent 'crises du jour' politicians attempt to paint themselves as heroes of the common folk. And, of course, purchase your votes with your money and sacrifices.



    Here's where Dawkins is quite useful. This is classic memetics. You have an idea that, in a certain context, is able to reproduce. Politicians who subscribe to it are reelected and get votes because they are "doing something". So while it seems venal and self-serving, I think most of them actually believe what they say they do and the memetics can account for the self-serving aspect by seeing them as unwitting dupes of an idea that out-competes other ideas (those that say all is well, nothing to see here), regardless of their actual truth value.

  • Untermensch||

    Note that I'm not arguing it's good, but I've often been struck by how bad ideas seem to proliferate and accumulate support over time.

  • DADIODADDY||

    You say demagoguery, I say douchebaggery...lets call the whole thing off.

  • ||

    how could it possibly be cheaper to adapt to the problem instead of mitigating it? is it cheaper to treat everyone who has common colds or not treat any and cure the fewer patients whose colds develop into deadly cases? the answer, of course, is the former.

    there will be direct economic consequences such as repairing after disasters like katrina and limited rainfall, variant temperature in americas foodbowl.

    of equal importance, our emissions which are grossly higher per capita than any other country, will displace hundreds of millions bangladeshis...etc when the water level rises. imagine the problems a hundred million refugees will cause. (perhaps compare to our own immigration problems)

  • ||

    Just tell me he's going to put an end to the ethanol nonsense. Please. That will mitigate a lot of the damage he's going to do with wind and solar.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "there will be direct economic consequences such as repairing after disasters like katrina and limited rainfall, variant temperature in americas foodbowl."

    Uh huh.

    And the dragons will eat us too.

  • ||

    "Presumably Obama thinks these skeptics are wrong. I'd like to hear why."

    For that to happen you'd have to have a conversation about global warming with him (or any supporter) that did not involve ad hominem, shouting and insults against all the evil selfish oil barons who disagree with them. (I didn't know I was an oil baron, can I get my check now?)

    I've yet to have a rational calm discussion about how we measure temperature, how funding for research is allocated, about anything remotely to do with the environment. Because when someone thinks they are on the side of moral right, then by disagreeing you automatically become immoral, and therefore no discussion is possible.

    Hey I don't like pollution either, I love the country and the clean air. But I think whatever we do has to be backed by science. That's not good enough.

  • ||

    how could it possibly be cheaper to adapt to the problem instead of mitigating it?

    Lots of problems are easier to adapt to than mitigate.

    Example: Your house is built on a flood plain and gets flooded out. You can either (a) adapt by rebuilding it on higher ground or (b) rebuild it where it was and build a levee.

    Which do you think is cheaper?

  • ||

    our emissions which are grossly higher per capita than any other country, will displace hundreds of millions bangladeshis

    !!!!!!!!!!

  • Neu Mejican||

    Critics such as Bjorn Lomborg, author of Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming, argue that adapting to climate change is much more cost-effective than trying to prevent it, an effort they say is unlikely to have any measurable impact. Presumably Obama thinks these skeptics are wrong. I'd like to hear why.

    Yes, we can presume he thinks they are wrong.

    He may be paying attention to people like Armory Lovin who have a record of demonstrating the economic benefits of these types of measures rather than people who are just guessing about the effects.

  • ||

    P Brooks, doncha know - the bangladeshis are so light, the CO2 just blows them away...

  • ||

    The reason to act is the same that led State Farm Insurance Co to leave the Florida market to whoever would like to have that market: the risk that it will all wash away.

    The insurers listen to the 97% of climate scientists that are convinced that CO2 causes climate change, and that the likelihood is high that the consequences will be really bad.

    The climate sceptics on the other hand prefer to listen to ill-informed journalists, economists, and libertarian outfits like Reason-online that only believe in ideology.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Reinmoose | January 28, 2009, 9:08am | #
    To see the fallacy here, consider this: If Obama could snap his fingers and make global warming disappear tomorrow, should he do it? By his logic, no, because then we'd lose all those wonderful green jobs that will help pull us out of the recession.

    I think this puts it well. I mean - you could argue that you could do all these "job-creating" programs anyway, but yes, you're correct. If there's an economic benefit to these programs there's an economic benefit to these programs, whether there's global climate change or not.



    JS seems pretty disingenuous here. There is no evidence that Obama would push for these programs just because they create jobs. His argument is that we need to do these things anyway and that doing them has the additional benefit of creating jobs. If we didn't need to do them, he might promote doing different things that we need to do, but it seems unlikely he would be pushing unneeded activities as the primary mode of job creation.

  • ||

    State Farm isn't leaving because of AGW, State Farm is leaving because Florida is socializing insurance, and there's no money to be made there. Al Gore is doing some fear mongering as we speak. I only have to look at him to see that he is lying.

  • ||

    Let me correct that last point: "Global warming Reason Foundation has received funding from ExxonMobil and for many years denied climate change was happening, or was being caused by human beings. But, in 2005, Reason magazine's science writer Ronald Bailey wrote a column declaring that climate change is both real and man-made. He wrote, "Anyone still holding onto the idea that there is no global warming ought to hang it up. All data sets-satellite, surface, and balloon-have been pointing to rising global temperatures (from Wikipedia).

    However, Reason Magazine apparently still likes to throw spokes in the wheels of those who have a good chance to stop global warming. Bush didn't even want to try.

  • ||

    More false claims of consensus and infallibility. scary, huh? All those unanamous scientists agreeing as they so obviously and clearly do, with their perfect data, and predictive models, and long track record of success.

  • ||

    If the government wants to have an impact on oil prices going up for consumers, I think less is more in regards to government "action." We can all think of new taxes, higher taxes, carbon taxes, subsidies, regulations, blah-blah. But the fact of the matter is the United States Government, in what could be described as some perverse bi-polar disorder, distorts fuel prices for the entire world with its military activities and politics in the Middle East. Oil enters every calculated decision the USA has made in that part of the world, some overtly. And I don't mean since 9/11, either. When you look at the history you see:

    1953: Coup in Iran via CIA malfeasence with British help to insure BP owned the fields to keep the goo flowing.
    1956: Effectively eliminating the influence of old colonial powers Britain and France in the eastern Med during the Suez crisis, pleasing our drug dealers.
    1973: Air-shipping Israel damn near a whole brigade of Army junk so they could seize the initiative in the Yom Kippur war, pissing off our drug dealers and precipitating the embargo.
    1979: Screwing up big-time in the implosion of the Shah (see 1953 coup) with half-ass commando ops to save hostages, precipitating second oil-shock
    1986: Flagging Kuwaiti tankers with Old Glory, insuring a diplomatic cover (once the Iranians made a stupid move, which they did) to sink the entire Iranian navy and effectively guarantee the smooth flow of goo through the Straights of Hormuz, keeping oil cheap.
    1991: First Gulf War to again, protect our Kuwait and Saudi drug dealers, (after one of our dealers turned on the others) and insure cheap, reliable access to the oil.

    Needless to say, the subsequent eighteen years since then have been filled with all kinds of shenanigans by our sovereign government in the Middle East. If Uncle Sam really wanted to insure higher oil prices, we would extricate ourselves not just from Iraq, but militarily from that region. No more 5th Fleet in Qatar. No more F-16's with AESA radars and Patriot batteries for Dubai. No more Strike Eagles and M-1 tanks for the Saudis...etc.

    Within a couple years, the towel-headed ones in Persia wil have their third-rate nuke and oil will be north of $150/bbl barring significant "regime changes" within those societies. High gas prices achieved! And Uncle Sam saves lots of blood and treasure in the process. Gas taxes have not even begun to cover the bills we've paid to insure access to the goo, at any price.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    We don't reprocess because we are worried about proliferation, and instead argue over storing metric tons of nasty stuff in Yucca Mountain for 100k years instead of recycling it several hundred more times.


    Nuclear waste is one of the few items that can be profitably recycled.

  • Michael Ejercito||



    there will be direct economic consequences such as repairing after disasters like katrina and limited rainfall, variant temperature in americas foodbowl.


    TTAPS.

    If you have never heard of it, you've no credibility on this issue.

  • mark||

    true that, hal.

    Germany recently successfully implemented a simple "green" intervention which had the effect of moving Germans to solar power without too much direct investment by the government. How did they do this? By guaranteeing an artificially high price to private owners of solar cells. This created demand for solar cells which in turn created new industries in Germany. The cost of the "feed-in" tariffs is applied to consumers' power bills and so far has generated little public complaint.

    You can argue there was still a deadweight loss economically but I must say, as far as freedom and small government go, that is a model intervention. Compare it to Bush's $2T war in Iraq.

    How about Chinese energy policy? Brining a new coal plant online every week. Seems like they're not scared of "global warming", and probably view it as a welcome distraction in the rich world as they secure economic resources.

    Meanwhile in America our politicians soak themselves in Big Corn, Big Oil, Big 3, and union influence while pissing on Dirty Coal. As always the people are fucked.

  • ||

    "how could it possibly be cheaper to adapt to the problem instead of mitigating it? is it cheaper to treat everyone who has common colds or not treat any and cure the fewer patients whose colds develop into deadly cases? the answer, of course, is the former."

    I laughed when I read this. It's actually a beautiful analogy. Global warming is the common cold - non deadly, at worst annoying, and in any case, incurable. But that doesn't stop ole george crane from insisting ona massive government program to mitigate the non-fixable, non-problem.

  • ||

    "Germany recently successfully implemented a simple "green" intervention which had the effect of moving Germans to solar power without too much direct investment by the government."

    Germany has some fringe benefits that let them do this that the USA just doesn't have. For one, they keep oil absurdly over-priced with very high taxes, keeping the needed subsidy for solar to be competitive much smaller to cover the disadvantage spread. Two, they are a net exporter...that country has a net inflow of cash worth hundreds of billions a year from the rest of the world.

    This lets them blow money they seemingly don't have on socialism-lite. Its one of the biggest reasons they can get away with their socialized health care etc. They have the same generational time-bomb at work, but right now they have a positive balance sheet as a country.

    Anything the USA did like that would have to incorporate the cost of borrowing the money. As a business, America has negative cash flow and Germany has positive cash-flow. That's powerful.

    And just for the record, Germany is Europe's coal-box bar none.

  • Paul||

    Obama still officially intends to "help create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future." Exactly where that projection comes from is a mystery.



    Greg Nickels math.

    Here, in this neighborhood, we have x million square feet of office space that could be developed. When that's developed, we divide the office space by the standard cubicle size, and thus we'll be about to roughly fit x thousand cubicles in that office space. Therefore, this plan will create x thousand jobs.

  • Neu Mejican||

    How about Chinese energy policy? Brining a new coal plant online every week. Seems like they're not scared of "global warming", and probably view it as a welcome distraction in the rich world as they secure economic resources.

    They are, actually, quite aggressive in their pursuit of greener alternatives. They are expanding their energy capacity at a quick pace, and much of that is being done with sources other than coal. I believe they are currently the largest investor in wind of any country, for instance.

    China can be criticized on a lot of levels, but they take global warming seriously. And seem to be serious about using 21st century technology to meet their energy needs.

  • Paul||

    Neu,

    Paridoxically, China doesn't have the same barriers to pursue such chancy (my word) technologies for greener power than the developed Western world imposes.

    for instance, they won't run into any opposition to the environmental impacts (real or imagined) that come along with certain alternative energy schemes such as wind or hydro power. Three Gorges dam is a prime example of that. Three Gorges will produce a lot of power for China, but a project like that would never pass muster here in the U.S., or probably any industrialized European nation, for that matter. Between the environmental and cultural damage (thousand year old villages being drowned under a man-made lake) would be a total non-starter in the West.

    In addition, China won't run into the stumbling blocks for land aquisition or 'view degradation' that humungous wind farms do in this country. Also, China may implement these alternatives in a failure mode and push through with them, where a free economy might discover their inefficiences- Ie, how much energy does it take to run a wind farm? Service it, build new turbines, etc.?

    All of these things pose much smaller concerns to the Chinese political machine.

  • ||

    "China can be criticized on a lot of levels, but they take global warming seriously. And seem to be serious about using 21st century technology to meet their energy needs."

    China overtook the United States as the biggest "gasser" in the world I think, last year? They love coal. Their chopstick habit is where a lot of forests go, and they're sucking the water table in the north dry. Gobi desert grows every year and swallows whole villages along the way.

    There has been talk about European countries making progress on reducing their offending emissions. But its a global thing, and really what's going on is lots of heavy, polluting industry is being exported to China and India, and the environmental problems with it. It doesn't go away, it just moves across the drink.

    So long as people in the west want to live as well as they do, and so long as the rest the world scurries to enjoy the same, greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise as a globally measured index. Dubya was not particularly intelligent, but the rationale for not getting all up in Kyoto's crawl space was sound: If the two countries with almost half the world's people are rapidly industrializing (at any cost) it makes no sense to cut ourselves off at the economic knees to achieve essentially no reduction of CO2 emissions on a global level.

  • ||

    NM, Wanting clean energy doesn't necessarily mean they take global warming seriously. It could be that they're just tired of choking on dirty air.

  • ||

    "However, Reason Magazine apparently still likes to throw spokes in the wheels of those who have a good chance to stop global warming. Bush didn't even want to try."

    How typical of the global warming cultists. Demonize opponents and repeat the same cliches hoping that they'll become gospel if stated enough times.

  • ||

    Time and again when you present the American people with the cold hard facts, they prefer fiction. We want low taxes AND high levels of services. Politicans that spreak the truth usually don't make it far.

    Sad, yes, do I wish it would change, of course. But Obama certainly isn't doing anything different than any of the rest.

    If he actually takes some action on things like entilitment reform, and a national energy policy, that would be good enough for me.

  • ||

    If he actually takes some action on things like entilitment reform, and a national energy policy, that would be good enough for me.

    Even if his entitlement reform is to expand entitlements (already in the pipe with the SCHIPS expansion, and a truly gargantuan national health bill is on the way).

    And if his national energy policy is to exert more and more state micromanagement over the energy markets?

    That's good enough for you? Funny, its more like a worst case scenario for me.

  • ||

    If we didn't need to do them, he might promote doing different things that we need to do, but it seems unlikely he would be pushing unneeded activities as the primary mode of job creation.

    Begs the question - only if these green projects are needed, would your argument hold, but you just assume they are needed.

  • Paul||

    Even if his entitlement reform is to expand entitlements (already in the pipe with the SCHIPS expansion, and a truly gargantuan national health bill is on the way).

    Like getting rid of that damned Bush "No Child Left Behind" thing means making NCLB bigger, badder, longer, and uncut.

  • ||

    There is no evidence that Obama would push for these programs just because they create jobs.

    Since he promised to create 2.5 million jobs and since the rhetoric coming from his economic advisers is focused on job creation, the raison d'etre of economic activity in their minds, it does not make sense to say that "job creation" is not the primary argument for these projects.

    His argument is that we need to do these things anyway and that doing them has the additional benefit of creating jobs.

    His argument is flawed - "we" don't need to do anything. Just because his government wants to spend money on them does not mean ipso facto "we" need those projects.

  • mark||

    HAL,

    greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise as a globally measured index

    True. But which greenhouse gases are we talking about? CO2? Water vapor? Methane? Perhaps the gas inside plasma TV's, I hear that's supposed to have thousands of times the heat-trapping effect of CO2. And does it matter? These gases can be shown to have a "greenhouse" effect but it's still very much an open question what effect it is, and how large.

    The hysteria over global warming is going to do far more damage to our politics and international relations than any greenhouse warming actually will do. As an example, look at political discussions about "clean coal." Instead of talking about ways to burn coal without releasing particles and radiation, "clean coal" means burning coal without releasing CO2 (a nearly impossible goal to achieve).

  • Neu Mejican||

    Francisco Torres | January 28, 2009, 3:36pm | #
    There is no evidence that Obama would push for these programs just because they create jobs.

    Since he promised to create 2.5 million jobs and since the rhetoric coming from his economic advisers is focused on job creation, the raison d'etre of economic activity in their minds, it does not make sense to say that "job creation" is not the primary argument for these projects.

    His argument is that we need to do these things anyway and that doing them has the additional benefit of creating jobs.

    His argument is flawed - "we" don't need to do anything. Just because his government wants to spend money on them does not mean ipso facto "we" need those projects.



    Even if the primary motivation is job creation, it does not mean that Obama thinks any and every type of spending makes sense.

    It works like this.

    We need to create some jobs by spending money on things that we need.

    [looks around; identifies a need]

    We need some of this stuff, let's spend money hiring people to make that.



    It does not look like this.

    We need to spend some money to create jobs. Anything will do.

    [breaks a few windows]

    Let's fix these.

  • ||

    Neu,
    Even if the primary motivation is job creation, it does not mean that Obama thinks any and every type of spending makes sense.

    You missed the point: The argument BEGS THE QUESTION in any case. There is no way to know what *we* need, Neu, that's impossible - you simply assume Il Duce knows in order to argue that he can choose an appropriate program. Nobody can be clever enough to know what people need - that can only be known by each individual. That is why the market works like it does: through the decisions and actions of individuals. A person that thinks that he knows what people need is an arrogant bastard.

  • ||

    @mark:

    "True. But which greenhouse gases are we talking about? CO2? Water vapor? Methane? Perhaps the gas inside plasma TV's, I hear that's supposed to have thousands of times the heat-trapping effect of CO2. And does it matter? These gases can be shown to have a "greenhouse" effect but it's still very much an open question what effect it is, and how large."

    You might have gotten the wrong impression here. I'm very much a AGW skeptic. But the intent of my old post's point was to illustrate the stupidity of the Kyoto treaty's exclusion of India and China.

    Even if you drank the Kool-Aid and bought into this pseudo-scientific fad, Kyoto is STILL useless. Measures to address mythical boogeymen like CO2 emissions should at least contemplate reducing CO2 emissions, and Kyoto doesn't and didn't. This Copenhagen GlobalWarmCon thing later this year will be just as useless, because the up-and-coming emitters will be no-shows there as well. I have a bad feeling that we're going to be party to whatever moronic paper comes out of that confab though.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Francisco Torres,

    I detect some arrogance in your response.

    As for knowing what "we" need, you are confusing the issues.

    The needs of individuals as individuals do not align perfectly with the needs of the community, but that does not mean that it is impossible to determine what the community needs.

    In addition, "a person" is not deciding what the community needs...the community is. The process under discussion is not a benevolent dictatorship.

  • ||

    As for knowing what "we" need, you are confusing the issues.

    I don't think so, Neu. See below.

    The needs of individuals as individuals do not align perfectly with the needs of the community, but that does not mean that it is impossible to determine what the community needs.

    The community is just the name given to the individuals that choose to live together, so how can individuals have one collective need if they are not A collective - just individuals? The problem here, Neu, is that you are considering the community as a true entity despite of the individuals that form it, in order to argue for a community need. Again, this is begging the question.

    In addition, "a person" is not deciding what the community needs...the community is. The process under discussion is not a benevolent dictatorship.

    You must be jesting. The "community" is deciding? By what virtue? [Leaving aside the obvious logical impossibility of having a community make decisions, when only MINDS make decisions, and only individuals have minds as far as it is known.]

  • Neu Mejican||

    Francisco Torres,

    Well...as seems common in our interchanges, you are working with some pretty idiosyncratic notions of what words mean.

    If a community is not a "true entity," then neither is an individual.

    The community is just the name given to the individuals that choose to live together, so how can individuals have one collective need if they are not A collective - just individuals?

    Are you really saying that a group of individuals can't have a group need because the group is made up of individuals?

    Do you realize how circular that is?

    logical impossibility of having a community make decisions, when only MINDS make decisions,

    I don't think you know what the words "logical" or "impossibility" mean...and I am sure you don't have a good sense of the concept of "agency."

    To follow from your logic above, since a MIND is just a name for a collection of actions by a collection of individual neurons, how can the MIND be said to make a decision?

  • Neu Mejican||

    FT,

    Another way to approach an analysis of your argument is this.

    You are working under the assumption that several pretty questionable assertions are "understood."

    Groups don't exist so they don't have needs?

    Groups don't exist so they don't make decisions?

    Both depend upon it being "given" that groups don't exist as "true entities."

    Poppycock.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Some fairly uncontroversial assertions.

    People are social animals that live in groups.

    Groups of people have needs.

    Groups of people make decisions about how best to meet these needs.

    If you are going to base your argument on the idea that these assertions are, in fact, incorrect assumptions, then you, my friend, are the one that needs to do the heavy lifting in making your case.

  • ||

    Well...as seems common in our interchanges, you are working with some pretty idiosyncratic notions of what words mean.

    If a community is not a "true entity," then neither is an individual.


    By what virtue?

    Are you really saying that a group of individuals can't have a group need because the group is made up of individuals?

    Do you realize how circular that is?


    The individuals can have a need that they share and work as a group to obtain it. However, that does not make the concept of Group suddenly exist with needs, like a person. That is the problem that arises when talking about community needs and actions as if you're talking about a person.


    I don't think you know what the words "logical" or "impossibility" mean...and I am sure you don't have a good sense of the concept of "agency."

    I do. Please do not obfuscate.


    To follow from your logic above, since a MIND is just a name for a collection of actions by a collection of individual neurons, how can the MIND be said to make a decision?


    Neu, neurons do not ACT. And individuals are not like neurons, if you pretend to argue by analogy. It is true the brain is composed of neurons, but the mind is the total function of those neurons. You cannot compare a group of individuals that act and think differently (and may share common goals) with the elements of a brain.

    Groups don't exist so they don't have needs?

    Groups exist if we understand we're talking about individuals who happen to live in groups. The group itself will not have "needs". Only the individuals have needs.

    Groups don't exist so they don't make decisions?

    Only acting individuals make decisions. The decisions in the aggregate you may cal group decision, but the Group does not make a decision. To better understand it: ducks fly together in a flock, but it is not THE flock that's flying the ducks.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Francisco,

    Neu, neurons do not ACT. And individuals are not like neurons, if you pretend to argue by analogy. It is true the brain is composed of neurons, but the mind is the total function of those neurons. You cannot compare a group of individuals that act and think differently (and may share common goals) with the elements of a brain.

  • Neu Mejican||



    Oops...here's the rest.



    Actually, I can make this comparison. Both social groups and brains are complex adaptive systems and share many important features. In many important ways, the complex individual entities that make up the system are equivalent, whether you are talking individual humans or individual neurons.

    As for neurons ACTING, they clearly "do things (aka ACT)."

    Are you conflating "intention" with "action?"

    Only the individuals have needs.

    Sorry, I don't buy your unsupported premise here, no matter how many times you repeat it.

    Groups have needs.
    Individuals have needs.

    The group's needs ARE NOT a simple sum of the needs of the individuals that make up the group.

  • ||

    "Are you really saying that a group of individuals can't have a group need because the group is made up of individuals?

    Do you realize how circular that is?"


    Groups themselves don't have needs. They exist to facilitate things that many individuals want but no single individual can procure on his own. These can be collectively useful things like a canal or individually useful things, like a car. Keeping individuals at least accountable in some way for heinous things they committ against other individuals is the other fundamental need of a group, and is a sad perversion of groups it seems. Altruism is not a group need but a group choice. It is idealized behavior with a group, but there are problems with human behavior this way in groups.

    Details of governance aside, all groups work like a pyramid scheme with the individuals' heirarchy - with many on the bottom and it all funnelling to one Grand Poobah fellow at the top. This leads to individuals who use the group to favor themselves, without real merit. One thing that is disengenious about any politician is the claim they are helping me, that they're doing it for poor me. Hillary Clinton has apparently been "fighting" for me, my kids, I think everyone under the sun if I'm not mistaken. I've even heard her tell me how much she's "sacrificed" for all of us. But the biggest benefactor of Hillary Clinton's efforts - if I'm not mistaken - would surely be Hillary Clinton, bar none.

    The other problem with groups-as-individuals is it leads to this type of statement: "Citibank got $50,000,000,000 from the Treasury today to keep from going under." That statement is total bullshit. Henry Paulson decided for various factors to give his BUDDIES (including Prince Al-Waleed of Saudi Arabia) down at Citibank to keep some of the "group's" cashola and in a sweet-heart deal so they could keep their jobs and maintain equity value. Even used a tiny bit of that scratch to buy a Dassault Falcon on the side, for "Citibank" of course. Yum. That's one hell of a group need.

  • ||

    Francisco is right, "group needs" is shorthand for "needs shared by all members" or even by a majority. It's a fallacy to impute the group with a separate identity all it's own. Is there an example of a group need which the individuals that compose it do not have?

  • ||

    but Hal - what if I rephrased: "The collection of people running Citibank got $50,000,000,000 from the Treasury today so they could continue operating and not get liquidated causing more layoffs and losses throughout the broader economy."

    It fixes the problem of referring to citigroup as an individual, but adds my personal opinion as to whether it was a good idea or not. In short, I agree with you, but I'm not charged about your example.

  • Chad||

    Cost? What cost? I have to pay a whopping ONE POINT SIX CENTS per kwh extra for green electricity in Michigan. Yes, a whopping ONE POINT SIX CENTS.

    I know what you are thinking. That extra five bucks a month I pay must be absolutely devastating for me. I mean, that's like one less trip to Starbuck's! And add that on to the five bucks I have to spend each month to offset my auto emissions....I mean, how could anyone survive that? Clearly, our economy would be CRUSHED into the DIRT if we all had to give up $10/month to avoid destroying the planet while we choke on our own fumes.

    Wind is far, far cheaper than un-subsidized coal, nuclear, and natural gas. Even solar is competitive with the true cost of coal - and solar prices are expected to drop ~15-20% this year as massive new supplies come online.

    We can either get with the future, lead the way, and make big profits...or find ourselves buying all the equipment from our German and Chinese overlords twenty years down the road because we let them have a head start.

    And don't give me any BS about "storage" or "intermitent" or "baseload". We have been storing electricity in pumped-water facilities for generations for precisely this reason, and have done so cheaply, safely, and on massive scales.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Is there an example of a group need which the individuals that compose it do not have?

    A system of communication, for starters.

  • Neu Mejican||

    It's a fallacy to impute the group with a separate identity all it's own.

    No, it is not.

    There is danger, of course, if you lose sight of the difference between the needs of the group and the needs of the individuals, but the group is as much a "true entity" as the individuals which make it up.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Francisco,

    I think I have identified the source of our problem.

    That is the problem that arises when talking about community needs and actions as if you're talking about a person.

    I am not talking about group needs and actions as if the group was a person...I am talking about the group needs and actions as if the group is a group.

    You are the one that seems to be conflating the levels inappropriately.

    This seems to come from your strange notion that only individuals have needs, make decisions, or act.

  • ||

    "It fixes the problem of referring to citigroup as an individual, but adds my personal opinion as to whether it was a good idea or not. In short, I agree with you, but I'm not charged about your example."

    Even if you think the idea of bailing these large banks out is a necessary evil - a "group need" in the context of this thread - the fix on who gets bailed is set by individuals.

    Citigroup is a better example than most. Wachovia goes under, but those guys aren't based in Manhattan and they don't have the strings, I guess. Where the individual interest comes into play is that Citigroup had a midnight deal to "buy" Wachovia for a song, with guarantees from the Government. That fell through when Wells Fargo succeeded with an unsolicited bid. But then three weeks later or so Citigroup needed a massive bail to avoid becoming the identical fate the befell Wachovia.

    Is it just me or is Citigroup getting the better deal here than Wachovia from Uncle Sam? Uncle Sam tries to guarantee its growth one day by letting another bank die and then in the same month has to save it from collapsing entirely via similar death?

    Obviously individuals and their interests are driving this process some way, and its corrupt and inefficient. This behavior is a pretty universal trait of group-need being manipulated by connected individuals in the group, and is why I used Citigroup as a good example of that unfortunate pattern.

  • Marvin Minsky||

    Doesn't anyone read my books anymore?

    The mind is a society.

  • ||

    "Is there an example of a group need which the individuals that compose it do not have?

    A system of communication, for starters."

    So individuals don't need a system of communication? I mean, I need H&R - it's like crack...

  • Neu Mejican||

    domoarrigato,

    Individuals don't need a system of communication unless they want to form a group.

    You have, however, identified a need that individual humans have: they need to be members of groups.

  • ||

    okayy....

    so individuals need to be members of groups, and they developed communication to do so. what does the group need again?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Mr. Roboto,

    The group needs a system by which its members can communicate.

    What's so difficult?

    It is the group that needs the system of communication. Communication, by definition, is an act that occurs only in a group. Without the group, there is no need for the system of communication.

    Again, there is a difference between the need of the individual and the need of the group.

  • ||

    "Individuals don't need a system of communication unless they want to form a group.

    You have, however, identified a need that individual humans have: they need to be members of groups."

    I'd have to agree with domoarrigato here. Groups are the answer for certain individual needs (even communication), its why they exist. Group needs - if any - arise from the defects humans begin displaying towards each other in groups.

    When I'm by myself, I don't need or want any kind of government. When viewed that way, everyone's a libertarian by default.

    Put us in a group though, and soon one is taking something from another. Or one of us "mysteriously" develops a literal knife-in-back problem (health care...group need!) via one of the unsavory humans in the group.

    Now we all need a government. This is where we disagree on the what, how, when, etc. of such a system. Now we're not all libertarians anymore.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Hal-9000

    I don't think I see all group needs arising out of the bad behavior of the individuals, but otherwise I am pretty comfortable with that description (it recognizes that individual needs and group needs are animals of a different type).

  • ||

    I go to LA Sports Club in Washington DC and have a locker in the "executive" locker room which has overstuffed chairs, coffee, cable TV etc.

    I regularly watch the cable news chattering monkey shows with 50 and 60 year old former aparatchicks from Jimmy Carter's White House and Teddy Kennedy's office.

    One of these peeps yesterday was in the gym in the evening when he is usually there in the morning, and I said hello to this Carter crony geezer and said "You're usually here earlier." And he said "yes, and I really cannot work out this late. I need to come in the morning. And that is how Obama is too -- he can only work out in the morning!"

    So I said, teasing him about his fixation: "What did Obama have for breakfast this morning?"

    Uncomprehending, he said, "Oh I am sure someone covered that, someone has that story" and began flipping the channel to MSNBC to see if indeed David Gregory and Chris Matthews would in fact be discussing the menu.

  • ||

    Bailout 2008, a poem by David Jeffrey

    Like a bloodied warrior,
    laying broken and torn.

    Like a dying soldier, hopeless and forlorn.

    But the blood, it be green,
    the color of money.

    And the soldier is an economy,
    and it is anything but funny.

    Broken are it's people and shattered are their dreams.

    Thanks to the ultra rich and their full proof schemes.

    It is a tragedy with more pain to come.

    Finance will be Hell, and their wills will be done.

  • ||

    Actually not the worst idea talking jobs, whether green or purple. Stuffing insulation, replacing windows, udating HVAC sytems in US and 200 or 500billion over 10 years would be putting our money to good use. You may notice I'm not referring to saving the universe. Jobs and warm homes in winter, cool in summer. And $ saved by result while taxes paid on jobs.

    Take some time and criticize Obama spending our money in Afghanistan War plus the trillion dollars the military will want to fix what's broke.

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