Attacking what they don’t understand, liberals go after Whole Foods’ CEO yet again

Posted on January 4th, 2010 by bile
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I respect both responsible CEOs and dedicated Libertarians when they stick to their guns. But Mackey’s stance on climate change is more akin to his devotion to “Grofian breathing” than his views on the role of government. If Mackey is truly wedded to the notion of pursuing self interest, his opposition to climate change action is self-defeating and just downright dumb.

Now I’m not saying that all those who question climate change are “stupid.” Some are talented scientists who simply want more time to conduct research on the subject. Others, such as Exxon CEOs, are cravenly smart to create the bad science upon which other deniers often base their claims. Judgment aside, they are looking after personal futures, basing actions upon self interest as proscribed by Rand and others.

But Mackey himself has no good, self-interested reason to deny climate change. On a purely profits-based level, his company could come back from the boycott he precipitated earlier this year by trumpeting the cause of climate change.

In rather stereotypical fashion the American Left is attacking what they don’t understand nor care to learn. They see self interest as only monetary and are unable to comprehend that 1) money is a means to an end, that end is decreased uneasement 2) understanding marginal utility one can see that even if Mackey is kicked out as CEO he will continue to be a wealthy individual and has little need for increased wealth unless he is reckless with his current fortune 3) that perhaps his desire to bring about a freer world is more important then material wellbeing at least beyond what he currently has therefore he is utilizing his above average position of influence in an attempt to spread libertarian ideas. If the world goes to shit in the statist / fascisistic / authoritarian way… his millions will do him little good.

Is it really so difficult to do an ounce of study in the topic you plan on criticizing someone about? The author couldn’t even get the capitalization right on libertarian.

The role of ideal types in Austrian Business Cycle theory and how it relates to the 2008 recession

Posted on July 10th, 2009 by bile
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On Wednesday and Thursday I read Steven Horwitz’s working paper “The Microeconomic Foundations of Macroeconomic Disorder: An Astrian Perspective on the Great Recession of 2008” and Horwitz and Gene Callahan’s working paper “The Role of Ideal Types in Austrian Business Cycle Theory.” If you have the time and interest I’d recommend checking them out 40 pages combined, with references. The reason I’m bothering to post about them is that they both cover, in different ways, misunderstandings of the Austrian business cycle theory and it amazes me that after nearly 100 years in existance in one form or another there is still such a difficulty. It’s as if Krugman and others never even bothered to read Mises and other’s works. Perhaps they didn’t and that’s the problem.

However, it could be more than that. Perhaps written economic theory isn’t as far along as I thought. For years I’ve talked about how government indecisiveness on policy and the fact that there are large market players (ie the Federal Reserve) likely helped prolong the Great Depression along with other panics in which those two got involved. I figured those were well established theorys but it turns out that it was only in 2006 that Robert Higgs coined the term “regime uncertainty” and in the 90′s and 00′s ideal type of the “Big Player” by Koppl, Yeager and Butos. Perhaps it just took a while till someone actually wrote papers regarding those topics… but it seems odd that those concepts aren’t more established. Then again I could just be ignorant of their history. I’ve not done any addition research into them.

Game theory researchers misuse rationality, again, in simplistic tests

Posted on June 29th, 2009 by bile
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Game theory has provided researchers in a variety of fields, from psychology to economics, an opportunity to test human behaviors under controlled conditions. It allows big questions—are humans rational actors when money’s on the line, for example—to be tested in situations where behaviors that deviate from expectations are easy to detect. The Ultimatum Game is one example of these experiments, and it has been used to show that humans aren’t purely rational when it comes to monetary decisions, as they appear willing to make financial sacrifices in order to punish others in the name of fairness. A paper that will appear at PNAS this week takes things a step further and shows that people will still reject unfair monetary offers, even when the only one they punish is themselves.

The basic rules of the Ultimatum Game are simple. One person is given a stack of cash, and told to divide it between themselves and a second party. That second party is then given the chance to accept or reject the offer; if it’s rejected, neither of them get any money. Clearly, any of this free money should be better than nothing, so under assumptions of strictly rational behavior, you might expect all offers to be accepted.

They’re not.

Read More…

The conspiracy folks are going to have fun over this: lithium in drinking water help reduce suicides

Posted on May 1st, 2009 by bile
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Very low levels of lithium in drinking water may help prevent suicide in the general population, according to a new study. The study has prompted calls for further research into the possibility of adding lithium to drinking supplies – like water fluoridation to improve dental health.

Researchers at Oita University in Japan measured natural lithium levels in tap water in 18 communities in the surrounding region of southern Japan. Writing in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the researchers said: “Our study suggests that very low levels of lithium in drinking water can lower the risk of suicide. Very low levels may possess an anti-suicidal effect.”

There are many who claim that the whole chemtrail thing is partly to pacify the public by putting lithium in the water. If you’ve ever seen anyone who takes a lot of lithium you may have an understanding as to why people take that position.

Lithium may very well reduce suicidal tendencies but the government has no role whatsoever in modifying water supplies. Fluoride or otherwise.

Bio-plastics causing issues

Posted on April 27th, 2008 by bile
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The worldwide effort by supermarkets and industry to replace conventional oil-based plastic with eco-friendly “bioplastics” made from plants is causing environmental problems and consumer confusion, according to a Guardian study.

The substitutes can increase emissions of greenhouse gases on landfill sites, some need high temperatures to decompose and others cannot be recycled in Britain.

Many of the bioplastics are also contributing to the global food crisis by taking over large areas of land previously used to grow crops for human consumption.

The market for bioplastics, which are made from maize, sugarcane, wheat and other crops, is growing by 20-30% a year.

The industry, which uses words such as “sustainable”, “biodegradeable”, “compostable” and “recyclable” to describe its products, says bioplastics make carbon savings of 30-80% compared with conventional oil-based plastics and can extend the shelf-life of food.

Concern centres on corn-based packaging made with polylactic acid (Pla). Made from GM crops, it looks identical to conventional polyethylene terephthalate (Pet) plastic and is produced by US company NatureWorks. The company is jointly owned by Cargill, the world’s second largest biofuel producer, and Teijin, one of the world’s largest plastic manufacturers.

Pla is used by some of the biggest supermarkets and food companies, including Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and Del Monte. It is used by Marks & Spencer to package organic foods, salads, snacks, desserts, and fruit and vegetables.

It is also used to bottle Belu mineral water, which is endorsed by environmentalists because the brand’s owners invest all profits in water projects in poor countries. Wal-Mart has said it plans to use 114m Pla containers over the course of a year.

While Pla is said to offer more disposal options, the Guardian has found that it will barely break down on landfill sites, and can only be composted in the handful of anaerobic digesters which exist in Britain, but which do not take any packaging. In addition, if Pla is sent to UK recycling works in large quantities, it can contaminate the waste stream, reportedly making other recycled plastics unsaleable.

Last year Innocent drinks stopped using Pla because commercial composting was “not yet a mainstream option” in the UK.

Anson, one of Britain’s largest suppliers of plastic food packaging, switched back to conventional plastic after testing Pla

in sandwich packs. Sainsbury’s has decided not to use it, saying Pla is made with GM corn. “No local authority is collecting compostable packaging at the moment. Composters do not want it,” a spokesman said.

Britain’s supermarkets compete to claim the greatest commitment to the environment with plant-based products. The bioplastics industry expects rising oil prices to help it compete with conventional plastics, with Europe using about 50,000 tonnes of bioplastics a year.

Concern is mounting because the new generation of biodegradable plastics ends up on landfill sites, where they degrade without oxygen, releasing methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. This week the US national oceanic and atmospheric administration reported a sharp increase in global methane emissions last year.

I’m not sure that the government is subsidizing this bio-plastic but I don’t doubt it given the same parent company gets lots of subsidies to create corn based ethanol. Looks to me not enough research went into this bio-plastic plan. How much does one want to bet the idea was pushed on the stores by people who didn’t know better or just wanted to look like they were green? If you look at even the IPCC reports there is little or nothing that can be done which would make a significant impact on the current trends, assuming we have any significant impact on this trend in the first place. If we just let the market work, as the scarcity of oil increases so will the prices and customers will demand a better product. That process will be more drawn out and likely a lot more reliable then this current ram rod method we are receiving from the government. There would be real incentives to get it right for the long haul and those who don’t get it right won’t be subsidized by the government and their impact will be minor. These unintended consequences seem to occur very regularly in the government central planning system.

Bosco’s Book Bin – Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches

Posted on April 22nd, 2008 by bosco
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Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture The most recent political book I’ve read is Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches: The Riddles of Culture on loan from Blog of Bile’s very own xyz.  It is a collection of short essays in the field of anthropology and sociology.  Each essay attempts to shatter preconceived notions and explain in greater detail human actions which the author has deemed befuddling.  Amongst the topics discussed are cows as sacred animals, pig lovers and haters, primitive warfare, the idea of an aggressive male, extreme consumption and extreme donation, cargo cults, a history of messiahs, the violent origins of Christianity, early witchcraft and witch trials, and the contemporary resurgence of disdain for objectivity.

The book is a relatively easy and quick read, only slowing down at the end where the author feels it necessary to defend himself from the hordes of sandal-wearing druggies that are going to attack him.  The author is selling his theories as to why certain anomalies in culture exist.  Unfortunately due to the imperfect nature of his science the results are quite subjective.  Despite Mr. Harris’ ardent pleas for objectivity at the end of the book I find some of his explanations to be lacking in sufficient evidence to support his claims of causation.

On a positive note, he does an excellent job of introducing the history surrounding these topics.  There is a lot of good information in the book, mostly revolving around things that are not easily disputed such as recorded history.  This book is an excellent catalyst for debate.

Rather than go through each topic, here are some of the highlights that stick in my mind:

  • A good analysis of childbirth and war are used to attempt to explain why males are dominant in most of our societies.
  • Some interesting history of egalitarianism, reciprocity and “the big man” in primitive societies.
  • A decent early history of Christianity, including the movements leading up to it and Paul’s initial reformation of the church following the death of Jesus.
  • A scathing essay on the futility of modern movements attempting to change society by changing individual consciousness.  Scathing is an understatement, perhaps scalding, blistering or even face-melting would be more appropriate.  I think this is the essay bile would enjoy most.

Here are some problems I had with the book:

  • He starts with a good premise, “I hope to present probable and reasonable solutions, not certainties.”  But by the end of the book he is so wrapped up in defending himself he comes across like an early evangelical minister telling “God’s honest truth”.
  • Don’t quote the King James translation of the bible when entering into debate over the origins of Christianity.  Sometimes Mr. Harris addresses the original Aramaic, but at other times he seems to disregard the translation process that led to the quotes he chooses to use.  This part of the book could use bolstering.