Monday, November 9, 2009

Keep It Simple, Stupid

Bjorn Lomborg continues his crusade addressing the criminal misallocation of the world's resources. His article in the WSJ today centers on a destitute Bangladeshi family living in a refugee camp and the irrelevance global warming programs have for them and billions of others around the globe.

Getting basic sanitation and safe drinking water to the three billion people around the world who do not have it now would cost nearly $4 billion a year. By contrast, cuts in global carbon emissions that aim to limit global temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius over the next century would cost $40 trillion a year by 2100. These cuts will do nothing to increase the number of people with access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Cutting carbon emissions will likely increase water scarcity, because global warming is expected to increase average rainfall levels around the world.
For Mrs. Begum, the choice is simple. After global warming was explained to her, she said: "When my kids haven't got enough to eat, I don't think global warming will be an issue I will be thinking about."

The whole global warming meshegas is speculative at best and (my view) a massive, exploitative, anti-capitalist hoax at worst. But even those wringing their hands over the phantom human misery to come seem blissfully disinterested in the real widespread misery that exists right now. If Al Gore really wanted to "save the world" he would advocate for programs to provide the poor with adequate sanitation and clean water (and several other humanitarian measures - for details check out Lomborg's, "Global Crises, Global Solutions"). But then he wouldn't be able to prosper from the trading of carbon offsets or bask in the praise and admiration of the world's intellectual elite for his slick, deceptive propaganda productions.

Keep in mind that Lomborg accepts the basic global warming narrative - humans are responsible for excessive atmospheric CO2 which is the principal cause of global warming and this, in turn, will cause overall negative natural effects worldwide. He rejects the catastrophic scenarios being promoted by fear mongering climate change profiteers. And he disagrees vehemently on how to counter those negative effects, arguing that simpler, much more efficient measures than cutting carbon emissions are available. Measures that would produce more effective results at a fraction of the cost.

I've noted this before, but for an entertaining thirty minutes (Lomborg is a very good speaker) go to the website and watch his talk delivered 12/8/2008. There are other Lomborg videos on the site, but this is a particularly good one.

Also (again previously noted) if you can find a copy of "The Great Global Warming Swindle" watch it to see and hear a strong counter argument to the current "consensus" on climate change.

OK. Switching gears. Why am I bringing this up again now? Well, there was the Lomborg article that appeared today and I wanted to comment on that. But aside from that, there's this.

It seems to me that the approach to problem solving taken by whatever term you wish to use - progressives, activists, liberals - follows a typical pattern. First, the claim that the problem is of such large magnitude that only an effort of similar magnitude will suffice in addressing it. Then the creation of a crisis atmosphere - if the problem is not fixed soon, there'll be grievous, possibly apocalyptic consequences. Then the proposal to construct a large, complex, expensive architecture involving a vast public bureaucracy to manage the situation. And, finally, bringing private enterprise into the public sphere so that it can be closely regulated and utilized as a source of funding.

This is the mechanism by which environmental activists justify and plan to undo much of the world's industrial machinery and replace it with a 19th century counterpart. It's what compels legislators to construct an 800 billion dollar, thousand page morass of busywork (and constituency pleasing) projects that make up a "stimulus" package.

One doesn't have to be overly cynical to notice that almost any problem, or imagined problem, could be transmogrified into a crisis to provide an excuse to implement a radical solution. Or that progressives are not really interested in correcting systemic flaws but in overhauling the entire system itself. Does any intelligent person seriously believe that it takes a two thousand page bill costing trillions of dollars to raise the proportion of the medically insured from 83% to 96%?

So you might ask, what about the two landmark social projects of the twentieth century, FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society, as examples of progressive problem solving? Well, both those projects had numerous, extensive and damaging flaws and for arguments showcasing them, see, for example, Amity Schlaes', "The Forgotten Man" or Jim Powell's, "FDR's Folly", and Thomas Sowell's, "Economic Facts and Fallacies" (or any of his other numerous essays on the causes and cures of poverty). But even if these efforts produced some good, and they did, the question is not whether we should have undertaken them or done nothing at all. This is the false dichotomy that President Obama frequently presents when pushing his agenda. The question is rather, whether we should have taken more limited and focused approaches to fixing what was broken than by radically and (in many cases) permanently altering the system.

Deaths by infection at hospitals dropped dramatically when doctors, nurses and other health personnel began the practice of fastidiously washing their hands. It's very often the simplest measure that provides a solution to even the most seemingly intractable problem. Alas, pursuing the goal of a sparsely populated, egalitarian paradise, powered by low carbon emission fuels, is the unattainable, undesirable objective of the activists inhabiting our political, scientific and academic institutions, not problem solving. Unfortunately, we're often left with the disastrous results.

Just as an aside, speaking of the unattainable.
The other day after the unemployment numbers were released President Obama made the statement that "I will not rest until every American who wants a job can get a job."
There are three possible rational reactions to this statement.
1. Uh Oh.
2, Why didn't he just say, "I will not rest."
3. Why does Barack Obama, more so than even the most shameless, self-promoting, self-absorbed politician, come out with the most mind-numbingly asinine pronouncements thinking that he'll appear concerned for the common folk with whom he has nothing in common, and for whom he cares even less, when he is obviously just a preening phony.

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