Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Review: The End of Growth

Review: The End of Growth
Author: Richard Heinberg
Published Date: Sept. 2011

  Infinite growth is an infrequently employed practice over the long term: cancer, black holes, and 21st century economists are the only subscribers that come to my mind.  The End of Growth addresses the economists specifically not by locking horns and declaring their models inaccurate, but by simply walking through the consequences should our society continue to follow their proscriptions. 

  The central insight is that the temporary bout of exponential growth humanity has been experiencing for the last 100 years has been made possible by cheap, hydrocarbon based energy.  Because of limited resources, and the environmental impact we've created so far, this growth cannot continue.  We are already reaching the point where less coal and oil of lesser quality is available at a increasingly high cost of extraction.  It is further stipulates that our debt based economy has vaulted off the tail end of the energy boom in an attempt to continue simulating infinite growth.  We are now at the unhappy nexus of "peak debt" as well as peak oil, peak water, peak rare earth metals, etc.  This doesn't make for a gloomy read though; the book is filled with ideas and examples on how humanity can transition to a steady state economy and culture.

  I agree with The End of Growth in that technology and innovation will not be able to save us from the pain inherent in the transition to steady state.  My response to the Rational Optimists is that there is diminishing returns and higher costs for every subsequent technology advance.  When the work of a whole office floor's worth of accountants could be done by one PC in the same time, the cost of accounting departments shrank greatly.  What is the next step? Were the efficiency gains as great?  Since the cost will never be zero, and each processor innovation will cost more, there does exist a point where innovation and technology just can't make much more of a difference.

  The End of Growth is a well cited book full of data and further readings.  His neutral tone achieves the commendable ideal of learning objectively from any source, regardless of that sources popular associations on the political spectrum.  I'd recommend this book to anyone and everyone.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Blog Post Review: Regulation Is Not Fungible

Blog Post : Regulation Is Not Fungible
Author:  Rhymes with Cars and Girls
Published Date: November 20, 2011

  Finding articles like this is why I rarely find the conviction to post original material myself.  Someone, somewhere has already said it, and said it better.  I'm not familiar with this particular blog or it's authors so I can't vouch for any of the other posts or the opinions they may espouse elsewhere, but this particular entry put into words something I've tried to express in conversations about government a long time.

  "I’m sure I could be convinced that there need to be some different or other regulations, but ‘more’ is not a synonym for this, and in any event you still need to individually defend any given regulation on its merits to be making an actual point."

  Have you ever found yourself discussing the financial crisis (or any topic intersecting government and commerce) with someone who seems to be possessed by the idea that we just need "less regulation" and that government only interferes with the free market?  Have you ever heard someone say that the antecedent event to any market wobble is invariable a "deregulating" of this or that sector?  As long as this person isn't your boss, wife, you might consider sending them this profanity laden post that more or less sticks to the facts about discussing regulations in a general sense.  Namely, regulations are not fungible.

  The belief that "no one ‘regulation’ is really distinguishable from any other", the author contents, really just means "we’re all just too lazy to speak/think about any single regulation in particular, we think that’s fine and it shouldn’t prevent us from spewing our uninformed lazy opinions".  In most cases I have to agree.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Is Anonymous Speech Worth Protecting?

Blog Post Review:  "Outing" People with Controversial Views Means Less Speech
Author: Andy Sanders
Published: 7/21/2001

  The "Make No Law" blog had a post with a very succinct description of why anonymous speech should be ( and has been) protected.

"[People]can decide where they stand on [an] issue without knowing where others stand, and they have no more right to know who is financially backing speech about [an issue] than they have a right to know which way anyone will vote on it.  But that’s the whole point--outing people who disagree with you on the issue.  Proponents of disclosure laws want to be able to demonize those on the other side, and they can’t do that without forcing them to disclose their identities."

  It would seem like disclosure laws actually allow for the dilution of intelligent speech by enabling demonizing arguments, which by their nature are fallacious.  The rest of the article centers on a recent change in the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board's disclosure policies where non-profits who donate over $5000 to ballot campaign committees must disclose any of THEIR donors who gave more than $1000.  That's quite the chain of custody over who is responsible for ballot campaign related political speech.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Rational Reactions to Revenge

 I suspect more than a few people are put ill at ease over the celebrations in the street after the putative assassination of OBL.  So here is a list of more rational, or at least interesting reactions from bloggers.

  Bradley Radko reflects on how a decade long hunt for what is now largely a figurehead has affected the US.

  Author and photoblogger Linh Dinh voices his thought process on Dissident Voice.

  Political Cartoonist, Mr. Fish, adds some context to his cynical reaction to the news.

  Washington's Blog provides the usual deluge of links and sources in questioning why the US has only just succeeded in finding (and killing) OBL.

  An evangelical pastor says, "Joyfully celebrating the killing of a killer who joyfully celebrated killing carries an irony that I hope will not be lost on us."

  It took until Monday afternoon before I saw the pictures and video of Americans celebrating the assassination outside the white house.  I find, in my gut, the same feeling of consternation I felt when I watched Bush Jr. with a megaphone chanting "USA, USA" on top of the World Trade Center rubble.  It seems like an odd symmetry to this violent man's path across my field of view.

Rather macabre for a first post.