Socialist flat-earthers must wake up to reality

Matthew Parris in the Times; an opinion piece. However, the headline is incidental (and rather odd, since the article is mostly directed at Conservatives), what I wanted was the text, irritatingly pay-walled:


This vaguely chimes with recent discussions, especially about the wording of [[Climate change denial]] (and the fun over WUWT). It turns out that offers a prominent denier of global warming as an example of its definition of denier, as someone who denies something, especially someone who refuses to admit the truth of a concept or proposition that is supported by the majority of scientific or historical evidence.

I’m not entirely sure of the status of the idea that CCD (a) exists and (b) is discredited. (a) seems obvious; (b) perhaps ditto, but that will depend on where you stand. That (c) its so discredited as to join the list of things like creationism is of some interest.


* Climate denial undermines all science – 2010.


From this week’s Economist:


72 thoughts on “Socialist flat-earthers must wake up to reality”

  1. Interesting that another primary use of the concept of denial is in 12 step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. A person in “in denial” when they cannot bring themselves to admit that they have a problem even though it is painfully aware to all the people around them. Being “in denial” is a form of self deception. The first step to recovery and beginning to deal with the problem is to admit that one has a problem


  2. Great cartoon borrowed from the Economist there, WMC.

    Still chortling. I was only smiling – thinly – until I noticed the tortoise plodding in the wheel.


  3. Of the two junk science cousins, evolution and anthropogenic global warming (AGW), the latter is obviously far more worrisome. We’ll have no problems with the climate, of course, but rather we have a lot to worry about regarding the devastating tsunami of government regulation and taxation with which we’ll be “saved.” Comparatively, evolution indoctrination is a mere ripple from a pebble in the pond. Evo has no effect on our daily lives.

    Yes, those pushing the evolution and AGW agendas have strong socialist tendencies.
    But even the richest, less-socialist countries don’t like walking the talk. From the WSJ:

    “Environment editor John Vidal writing in the Guardian (U.K.), June 8:
    Five of the world’s seven richest countries have increased their coal use in the last five years despite demanding that poor countries slash their carbon emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change, new research shows.
    Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan and France together burned 16% more coal in 2013 than 2009 and are planning to further increase construction of coal-fired power stations. Only the US and Canada of the G7 countries meeting on Monday in Berlin have reduced coal consumption since the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009.
    The US has reduced its coal consumption by 8% largely because of fracking for shale gas. Overall, the G7 countries reduced coal consumption by less than 1% between 2009-2013, the Oxfam research shows.”

    Anyway, it’s 2015, so it’s already too late. At least according to ABC News in 2008.
    I hope you don’t live in New York City.
    This video is terrifying!


  4. “Of the two junk science cousins, evolution and anthropogenic global warming…”

    Heh. Thanks for the warning in the first sentence. No need reading the rest.


  5. #2

    Here’s a 12 step program that you WON’T find in the Deep South (Bible Belt):

    IMHO, humanity in general is in a state of denial (note ‘toon above). BTW, AlGoreIsFat is still a FF drunkard.

    William, too bad we can’t see the rest of that op-ed, because somehow Socialists/Socialism might come in at a later point in that op-ed in reference to denial.

    [The rest of the op-ed is about free market and private profit; is a slightly muddled, but adapted to UK audience, version of what Timmy says -W]


  6. A person in “in denial” when they cannot bring themselves to admit that they have a problem even though it is painfully aware to all the people around them.

    Like scientific organizations in Democratic captivity that deny there’s a problem with political monoliths functioning as trustees of bipartisan science policy ?


  7. #5

    We’ll have no problems with the climate, of course…”

    Heh. At least he’s sure, even if he’s wrong.

    Evo has no effect on our daily lives.

    Wonder if he’s ever taken an antibiotic?

    Yes, those pushing the evolution and AGW agendas have strong socialist tendencies.

    I do not think that word means what you think it means.

    From the WSJ:

    Denier obtains empirical data from newspaper opinion pages. I wonder why he’s here on ScienceBlogs?


  8. Matthew Parris’ commentary is the usual tripe. An example:

    … You cannot have a successful modern democracy without free-market economics. You cannot have free-market economics without the profit motive. You cannot have the profit motive without letting the pursuit of private profit weave itself intimately into the fabric of ordinary citizens’ lives. Until we face this, until we learn it morally as well as intellectually, we skew not only our politics but our habits of thought.

    Why is Adam Smith not held out to schoolchildren as Charles Darwin is: as a scientist whose analysis is now the consensus among most thinking people? …”

    As with most libertarian-leaning economic commentary it completely ignores the fact that many of our most important technological advances would have been long-delayed if not impossible without *socialism* – one could easily rewrite the first sentence quoted as : You cannot have a successful modern democracy without socialism.

    Indeed, it’s difficult to claim that socialism was roundly defeated when 30%, 40%, 50% and even larger percentages of GDP are routinely government expenditures throughout the developed world.

    And Parris also shows an all too typical lack of appreciation for Adam Smith. To those of Parris’ ilk, Smith is just a name with ‘free-markets’ stenciled on it. I wholeheartedly agree we need to teach Adam Smith in greater detail. I hope a couple of the following quotes from Smith are highlighted in any such syllabus:

    “When the regulation, therefore, is in support of the workman, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters.”

    “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, clothe and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed and lodged.”

    “It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expence, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.”

    “But those exertions of the natural liberty of a few individuals, which might endanger the security of the whole society, are, and ought to be, restrained by the laws of all governments, of the most free as well as of the most despotical. The obligation of building party walls, in order to prevent the communication of fire, is a violation of natural liberty exactly of the same kind with the regulations of the banking trade which are here proposed.”

    Somehow I don’t think Matthew Parris’ has actually read much of Smith. Smith’s idea of free-markets was guided by a desire for the greater good – explicitly and with government interference when necessary, invisible hand notwithstanding. Those who usually cite him have divorced morality from economics.

    [I think you’re confused. You’re making the usual mistakes: that Govt expenditure should count as “socialism”, and that libertarians insist on no regulation at all -W]


  9. To Kevin O’Neill #14:

    “Somehow I don’t think Matthew Parris’ has actually read much of Smith. Smith’s idea of free-markets was guided by a desire for the greater good – explicitly and with government interference when necessary, invisible hand notwithstanding. Those who usually cite him have divorced morality from economics.”

    Ah, but the Devil’s in the details, isn’t it, Kevin?


  10. [I think you’re confused. You’re making the usual mistakes: that Govt expenditure should count as “socialism”, and that libertarians insist on no regulation at all -W]

    No, I’m not. It’s Parris and his like that are confused – and you as well I suppose since you seem to be defending him. Every advanced/successful economic system in the modern world has elements that are both capitalist and socialist. And in most of the G-7 the split is roughly 50-50.

    Government spending as a percentage of GDP is not a perfect proxy for socialism – it will tend to slightly overstate the case, but it’s a good first order approximation.

    [but it’s a good first order approximation – you say that as though its obvious, or well known. To me its neither. Please cite some sources for what, to me, looks like a weird assertion -W]


  11. > the usual mistakes
    >> you say that as though its obvious, or well known.
    >> To me its neither.

    I believe you’re illustrating the “two nations separated by a common language” problem there.

    In Britan you’ve had policies and political parties and government to define what socialism means. In the US, only the rare student of history has any idea what it used to mean here.

    Ask around more than 50 miles inland and you’ll find the word ‘socialism’ used to apply to the New Deal and Obamacare — any government too big to drown in the bathtub.


  12. Hank’s two nations with a common language remark hits on a problem with the Papal encyclical.

    The controversies that arise from condensing massive climate studies could be largely avoided by catering to the Vatican’s taste, and issuing the next IPCC as a Latin vulgate to be read aloud on TV, with an Attic Executive Summary the Curia can compare to their copies of Aristotle’s Meteorologika.


  13. > [but it’s a good first order approximation – you say that as though its obvious, or well known. To me its neither…..]

    Oh c’mon. You can use Google. Here are some representative numbers for the USA with links still in my browser history:

    Education 7%
    Social Security 5%
    Military 3.8%
    Transportation & Water Infrastructure 2.5%
    Law Enforcement 1.6%
    Public Health 8%
    Poverty Assistance (non-healthcare) 2.5%

    [No; sorry. Firstly, any time you find yourself saying “oh, you can use google” there are two possibilities. (a) you’re talking to someone too stupid or lazy to be worth talking to; if you believe that, you shouldn’t be here; or (b) you’re being lazy yourself and not bothering to make your point properly.

    (b) is the case.

    I asked you to support your assertion. You’ve pointed at some percentages, which are irrelevant. Please actually support your assertion -W]


  14. Sorry – I wasn’t clear that the percentages above are percent of GDP.

    Without delving into any of the myriad of smaller components that probably add another 2 or 3 %, we can apply a fiscal multiplier of 1.5 to see that a simple estimate of the US socialist economy is approximately half of GDP.

    These are numbers I’ve basically known my entire adult life – approaching 4 decades now. How does one even pretend to talk intelligently about economics without knowing their general boundaries?


  15. > [….I asked you to support your assertion. You’ve pointed at some percentages, which are irrelevant. Please actually support your assertion -W]

    US Government spending in 2010, 2011, 2012 was 40% of GDP, 39% and 37% respectively.

    30.4* 1.5 = 45.6

    That is a decent first order approximation.

    If you have a *real* objection, perhaps you should just state it clearly. Though by now it’s obvious you simply don’t like the result.

    [You asserted that Government spending as a percentage of GDP is not a perfect proxy for socialism… but it’s a good first order approximation. You’ve offered no evidence for that at all. Its obvious that percentages can’t offer any support for you claim. I don’t see why govt spending is any kind of proxy for socialism at all -W]


  16. [You’re confusing debt with spending -W]

    The debt is the epiphenomenal consequence of communitarians like Obama spending as much of the taxpayer’s money as possible while issuing as many bonds as they can.



    “… Obama’s 45 percent rise is nearly equal in dollar terms to his predecessor’s 85 percent increase — because Obama started from a much higher base….
    … the rise started long before Obama took office.
    In fact, the upward trend began with Ronald Reagan’s fiscal 1982 budget, declined somewhat from fiscal 1997 through 2001, and resumed the upward climb with George W. Bush’s first budget in fiscal 2002 (which started Oct. 1, 2001).
    And the rise accelerated as the economy slid into the worst recession since the Great Depression, starting in December 2007. …”

    Hey, you can’t keep control of Middle East oil _and_ feed the big banks without selling a few bonds here and, well, here.


  18. A little OT, but important to note. I smell corruption.

    “Tories to end onshore windfarm subsidies in 2016”

    They favor fracking the moors, solar (inefficient in UK for obvious reasons), Chinese nuclear, etc.

    [There’s no need for corruption. The Tories don’t like wind farms (unless they’re part of the minority benefiting financially). Far more Tories are living in the countryside range-rover owning types who just don’t want to see windfarms -W]


  19. I’m guessing that WC is questioning Kevin about Socialism because Socialism, as officially defined as “a social and economic system characterised by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy” doesn’t exist. Certainly not in the USA.

    In USA terms, “socialism” is anything that does not directly benefit the owners of big corporations and other wealthy people.

    I think Kevin is right to criticize MP, but you can stop with the first quoted sentence ““… You cannot have a successful modern democracy without free-market economics.” Where in the world do we have free-market economics?
    In fact it seems clear you can have a successful modern economy without free market economics — in fact it seems to be a requirement that you DO NOT have free market economics. As recognized by Adam Smith, pure free market economics leads to undue power of capitol over labor.

    As an aside, take a look at a UK Libertarian comment about climate change.

    ” It looks like science because they have graphs and statistics and old men with beards and fancy titles and reports but it’s not science.”
    “Now, to be perfectly frank, I have very little idea of what most of that means. I have no idea if any of those scientists are deliberately being misleading, and what’s more I never will. It’s too complicated for me.”

    The Libertarian solution is for individuals to sue whoever is causing climate change. Whereever they are. And some how force payment of damages, using voluntarianism.

    I guess the people in the UK are OK at seeing this for the patent stupidity that it is… There are maybe 1000 Libertarian party members in the UK.

    [You’re being too purist. Asserting that the UK, or the US, isn’t a free market economy because it isn’t a *pure* free market economy just isn’t helpful. The sentence you quote from MP – ”You cannot have a successful modern democracy without free-market economics” – is indeed weird, but not for the reasons you give: its weird because its making a connection between two orthogonal things: democracy, and market economics. That’s why I said he’d garbled things. Asserting instead that ”You cannot have a successful modern economy without free-market economics” is sensible.

    ”UK Libertarian comment about climate change” – why? What’s the point? Libertarianism is a ”political / economic” philosophy / attitude, its orthogonal to science. The opinions of some weird fringe groupuscle in the UK on climate science are of interest to no-one -W]


  20. JBL,
    Someone clue me in: are Russell Seitz’s comments real or tongue-in-cheek?
    Yes 🙂


  21. WC: “Asserting instead that ”You cannot have a successful modern economy without free-market economics” is sensible.”
    Well, not really. This makes as much sense as Americans claiming that Obama is a socialist. We don’t have a free-market economy, and in fact it is exactly the point that regulation is required to keep the system working. This is a point that US right-wingers and Libertarian types mangle, the same way they mangle “socialism”.

    [I disagree. No-one, AFAIK, equates “free market economics” with total absence of regulation. Its exactly the same stance as the denialists, who insist that “climate change denial” must mean “you say we deny the climate ever changes”, which isn’t true, therefore we can’t be denialists, ner ner.

    for classical economists such as Adam Smith the term “free market” does not necessarily refer to a market free from government interference, but rather free from all forms of economic privilege, monopolies and artificial scarcities.[3] This implies that economic rents, i.e. profits generated from lack of perfect competition, must be reduced or eliminated as much as possible through free competition.

    The opposite of markets is non-markets / central planning, not socialism -W]


  22. Technically speaking, isn’t ownership the defining difference between textbook socialism and monopoly? In socialism the people own everything. In a monopoly Bob owns everything.


  23. Words are slippery. On top of that, Marx may have thought the means of production were the only crucial parts of the economy, but he’s been out of touch with recent developments. And FWIW, if you think production includes such minor items as electricity and water, then we do have some socialism here in the US.

    If we use the term “non-free market” instead, then it’s obvious a large percent of the economy, even in 1890s America, falls in that category. And while libertarians don’t necessarily have a problem with the non-profit part of the economy, it’s worthwhile to point out that capitalism isn’t the organizing force of society there.

    I have no idea if Parris is an off-the-deep-end libertarian who thinks government regulation should end at stopping violence, enforcing contracts, and resolving tort lawsuits. Regardless, far short of that point for the rest of us, the simplistic argument that ‘free market is better’ is just going for knee-jerk reactions from voters who aren’t thinking too much about the issues.

    And regardless of all that, I am glad that Parris is pushing for sanity about climate change.


  24. > two orthogonal things: democracy, and market economics.
    I recall some time back reading that from observation to date, democracy leads to market economics, but market economics doesn’t lead to democracy.


  25. Russell Seitz:

    communitarians like Obama

    Ah, so Obama’s a “communitarian”. Can you define that term so that it describes all people who are communitarians, while excluding all people who are not communitarians? Or do you merely sort all people into a set of communitarians and a set of non-communitarians?


  26. Russell:

    Mal should take his cel phone to a Renaissance Weekend or Chataqua meeting and send us some pictures.

    So, if Obama doesn’t appear in the pictures, he’s not a communitarian. Alrighty, then.


  27. I think the word you’re looking for would be “communivore.”

    Notice the sharing economy; write software useful to coordinate sharing; rake a little off of every transaction. Uber! etc.


  28. Relevant short story — this and the next 3 pages. The scene is a gathering of very rich people who believe they need to fix the economy before the world falls apart, but — how?

    “… that’s the question we should ask. How do we make creating a sustainable planet profitable?” He held up a hand. “And by the way—whatever the physical problems might be, jobs, education, climate, clean air, clean water, and everything that follows when those challenges aren’t met, poverty, hunger, disease, famine, whatever—the economics of implementing the solution will always be the largest part of the question. If we can make it profitable, we can make it inevitable—but even that isn’t a complete answer. How do we make it happen without concentrating an inordinate amount of wealth in the pockets of a privileged minority?

    “You’ve all seen that simulation, too. 90% of the wealth must be available to 90% of the people. So we not only have to create a profit, we have to pass that profit onto those who help create it. And that means a redesign of the economic system …. what mechanisms do you create to address it?”…

    [“90% of the wealth must be available to 90% of the people” – I missed the bit that justifies that -W]


  29. Evo has no effect on our daily lives.

    Besides the fact that it does – as antibiotic/pesticide resistances indicate, and as domestication indicates, and as three-toed skink viviparity indicates, and as the translocation of Podarcis sicula to the island of Pod Mrčaru indicates, and as so many other examples indicate – evolution is, on the macro scale, a process that occurs on a similarly macro time-scale. Effectively See Noevo cannot see evolution because he’s too small to see it – too small in time, and too small in understanding.

    There’s no removing a monkey’s hands from his eyes if he really doesn’t want to see…

    And climate change is a similar package. Most of its changes occur on scales of time that are imperceptible to the senses of an unaware Homo, but they are profoundly important for the evolutionary fitness of said Homo. Pretending that the planet isn’t warming doesn’t make it so – it just means that the pretender feels better about having participated in reducing his own fitness and the fitness of a huge chunk of plantary biodiversity…

    And natural selection has something to say about that.


  30. See also:
    Business Week’s Ashlee Vance’s just-published “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” sees these two Musk-branded companies, plus SolarCity, soaring as global models for a new kind of prosperity. He quotes Larry Page about Musk (p.353): “If you have all this money, which presumably you’re going to give away and couldn’t even spend it all if you wanted to, why then are you devoting your time to a company that’s not really doing anything good? That’s why I find Elon to be an inspiring example. He said, ‘Well, what should I really do in this world? Solve cars, global warming, and make humans multiplanetary.’ I mean those are pretty compelling goals, and now he has businesses to do that.”

    Now I still think Solar City would make more sense if they took the model described in that short story I linked to above — don’t just claim people’s rooftops for solar forever and give them a one-time discount, instead cut them in on the profits, forever, for giving that real estate over to solar photovoltaic use, give them a share of stock. Hello, Elon?


  31. that last quote is from this blogger’s post:
    who writes, further:

    “Our idea? To assemble virtually and physically a few dozen high-energy people who are already, via equity, employment, ownership, or aspiration, members of Tesla’s unofficial “business ecosystem.” Our working group can spread messages of urgency and optimism about meeting climate change challenges. As people fortunate enough to have resources and influence, we can give back. Our ever-more fossil-fuel-free lives can show how sustainable goals and business models are profitable and fun — and gain us more fulfilling days and better futures.
    In what sense “unofficial?” Unlike the worthy Tesla Motors Club, this is not about the company or its cars — it’s about people who self-identify with Tesla and its goals.
    Though Tesla’s executives and directors are likely to be aligned with our goals, we won’t seek their approval. And we don’t expect many current employees to be Initiators. (Some of us were part of in 2004. When we decided to add batteries to Priuses to fix them, we didn’t ask Toyota for permission — we just said, “Follow what we do.” And five years later, we declared initial victory as many automakers committed to mass-produce plug-in hybrids.)
    The formation and activities of our TeslaFans ClimateClub can offer a model for others. Looking ahead to this December’s Climate Summit, people in many industries may feel good about their companies’ commitment to sustainable operations, supply chains, and products. Yet they may see that’s not enough and wonder, “How can we go further — beyond Business As Usual?” Imagine if consumers, investors, employees, and executives all showed up in Paris to tell governments, organizations, and scientists their giant companies are all-in on the global transformations we need!”


  32. So remind me again, what was it happened in 1970?

    [ paints a similar picture; and the losses are quite surprising -W]


  33. Mal :

    So, if Obama doesn’t appear in the pictures, he’s not a communitarian. Alrighty, then.

    No Mal, it’s because he’s too polite to upstage Secretary Clinton.


  34. > the losses are quite surprising -W]

    The sudden flatlining of household electricity use in 1970 after a long uptrend coincides with the first Earth Day. Hmmmm …. coincidence?

    And while it’s early days yet, it’s possible we’ll see a change in the inefficiency of transporting electricity as well, finally:

    “August 10, 2009 San Francisco, CA —
    The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Friday set in motion a U.S. Department of Energy agreement to review the existing energy efficiency standards for electricity distribution transformers …”

    Both shareholder-owned utilities and citizen groups and states joined together in that lawsuit against the Bush-era Dep’t of Energy — to raise the lowest common denominator.

    Without the rule change, no utility dared take on the immediate cost of buying anything but the cheapest, least efficient transformers — for fear of shareholder lawsuits.

    Those transformers last decades in service.

    If they can raise the transformer efficiency by requiring it under the Dep’t of Energy regulations, the payback for buying more efficient transformers is considerable over time.


  35. That makes me the man who peaked too soon. I worked hard on transformer efficiency and got the shaft eventually. Much of the losses are caused by stupidity in heat treating magnetic core materials. Without efficiency improvements the other remedy is to use a larger transformer for lower loads. The operating paradigm has been to buy the lowest-cost-to-own-and-operate-per-lifetime-of-transformer.


  36. > lowest-cost-to-own-and-operate-per-lifetime-of-transformer

    How does efficiency figure into that calculation?


  37. So, how about a topic on economic parasites and their management?

    From an interveiw with Kim Stanley Robinson:

    In 300 Years, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Science Fiction May Not Be Fiction
    The author talks about climate change, capitalism, and the other circa-2013 concerns that underpin his award-winning novels about “the solar system in the next few centuries.”

    (Click the link, it’s worth actually reading the whole interview rather than just the bits I’ve excerpted below)

    A: “…. Mondragon, which works economically as a system of nested co-ops, including its banks, so that the community is structured as something not capitalist in the usual sense. It’s worth studying Mondragon’s system to see if there are positive aspects of life there that can be scaled to larger communities, and indeed the world; worth it because capitalism as practiced now is not only strip-mining the biosphere and wrecking it, but it also distributes the useful effects of human labor and natural resources and life-support systems in a grotesque way, very far from justice or sustainability.

    So we should be on the hunt for how to structure a post-capitalist world, and there are not that many real-world clues.

    It’s been my habit for many books now, starting back in the 1980s, to explore various post-capitalist scenarios to see what they might reveal.

    The idea that economic systems contain elements of their precursors and their successors is a version of Raymond Williams’s idea of the residual and emergent ….

    … residual and emergent do not equate to bad and good, that it is more complex than that, and really the idea is more a tool of historical or sociological analysis, a way of seeing.

    With capitalism, we can say that it has very strong residual elements of feudalism. It’s as if feudalism liquefied and the basis of power moved from land to money, but with the injustice of the huge hierarchical feudal differences between rich and poor still intact. What is emergent in capitalism is harder to identify, but there may be something to the idea of the global village, also the education of the entire world population, so that everyone knows the world situation and wants justice, that may be leading the way to a more just global society…..”

    Q: In 2312, you refer to our present era as “The Dithering,” citing our refusal to accept and deal with climate change. Is there a relationship between entrenchment in our current economic system and how we address climate change?

    A: There certainly is, and this is a very important question. Capitalism is a system of power and ownership that privileges a few in a hierarchical way, and it has in it no good controls or regulation concerning its damage to the biosphere ….

    So this suggests legal changes imposed by democratic government, which are more and more urgently needed. The free market can’t do it because it isn’t free, but in fact a particular legal system completely inadequate to the situation, and the prices we concoct for things are completely unresponsive to physical realities.

    So we are in quite a bit of trouble here, because capitalism is a cultural dominant and the current global way of conducting things, world law, and yet completely inadequate to the situation we face.
    Speaking specifically of climate change ….

    … we also have identified about 2500 gigatons of carbon that we can access and burn. And there are people out there who own this carbon, and in the capitalist system there is nothing that keeps them from mining and burning these 2500 gigatons, and there are people who will be making their best efforts to do just that. They think it will be profitable and they will be individually rich enough to dodge any bad consequences, and science will find a way, etc. These people are wrong but they will persist past the point where the damage they are doing will be easily undone….

    … I am saying that democracy and science are stronger than capitalism. It is an assertion we are going to have to test to see if it is true or not. It will be a fight. It is the fight of the 21st century like the fight against totalitarianism was the fight of the 20th century. Indeed we did not definitively win that fight, because capitalism is a new kind of totalitarian system, fully capable of buying up democracy and science, and trying now to do so…..

    See also:

    Prometheus unbound, at last – ‎2005

    [But I think what you’re demonstrating is the problems with listening to novelists. Just as we shouldn’t give any special status to economists talking about GW, or climatologists talking about economics, we shouldn’t privilege SciFi authors talking about capitalism or free markets, especially when they’re clearly doing so in a manner too crude to say anything useful -w]


  38. Ok, what I’m looking for is something about how living communities manage economic parasites. Mondragon? The British political system? Anthills or naked mole rats? Where are the examples?

    I don’t mean prevent or avoid parasites, which I’d guess impossible; I mean deal with, live with, or (as per Freefall) aim them.

    KSR, above: “… various post-capitalist scenarios …. What is emergent in capitalism is harder to identify …. the education of the entire world population ….”

    I’m assuming (for the exercise) here that we’d agree that the capitalism that emerged from the first Great Depression was different from the capitalism of the first Gilded Age, and that we haven’t yet seen clearly what changes will happen from here going forward.

    And I’m assuming that we’d agree that business as usual is subject to Stein’s Law.

    So — is there a conversation to have, somewhere? Or can someone point me toward where it’s happening with people aware of climate science, if not here?

    [My theory, espoused before, its that we’re too rich to bother clean off our parasites: though there wasn’t universal agreement about what constituted a parasite -W]


  39. Oh, and I realize that “… the education of the entire world population ….” isn’t a foregone conclusion either.

    It’s easy to spin, filter, and twist information available online; we don’t know that universal education will be available, despite Tom Paine.

    Smart sheep is an oxymoron, right?


  40. Oh.

    “when you start to think along these lines, it becomes very hard to decide who is actually creating all the wealth….
    … Some say that the public sector is a parasite that depends on the wealth generated by the private sector. And we can probably all agree that there is a point at which the public sector can overwhelm and crowd out the private sphere. But look at the problem from a different point in the circle. Who educates the private sector workers? Who keeps them healthy (in Europe at least)? Who provides the roads and public transport? Who provides the legal system that guarantees property rights or the police that patrol the streets? All functions provided by the public sector….”

    This reminds me of an observation of some decades ago — before the web indexed everything — that over several centuries, the best predictor of revolution was how skewed the distribution of wealth was. Beyond some fairly predictable amount, revolution happened. The only two exceptions at the time to that rule were: the USSR and USA.

    (Aside: this may illustrate that situation as it progressed: )

    I see Putin on record that the US is the parasite on the global economy.

    So — perhaps parasitism is the act of hoarding money, decreasing its “velocity” to zero, sitting on the pile like Scrooge McDuck?


  41. > hoarding money

    Or, of course, hoarding indebtedness owed — same effect.
    And debt, as something in one’s portfolio, is better protected from rust and moth and etc. than most any real tangible ‘valuable’ (Greece to the contrary).


  42. As near as I can see global warming(aka climate change, anthropogenic global warming, catastrophic global warming,

    [No, that’s a term made up by the septics. Its a useful term, because people self-categorise -W]

    climate weirding, climate disruption….) is based on the ~0.6 deg C change in global average temperature anomaly between about 1975 and 2000. That period is the only noticeable change in recent temperature histories that coincides with the major production of CO2 from fossil fuels. Prior to approx. 1930 fossil fuel use is thought to be too small to have had an impact on the climate.
    Some caveats: the main sources of this data all point to the uncertainties involved in the collection, tabulation, coverage, and reliability of the data and the uncertainty in estimating global average temperature and whether such an estimate has any utility in studying climate.
    Thermodynamics involved in the climate are virtually all physical processes and subject to basic thermodynamics, where the reference temperature for all processes is degK. As such the amounts of energy are involved are in the range of 0.2%(0.6/273). Since climate changes of 10-12 degC (4+%)are involved in the glaciation process the current temperature changes don’t seem highly significant compared to the know recent history of the climate.

    Climate processes are poorly understood being bounded, non-linear, and chaotic. If the processes were well understood only one or two models would be necessary, not a hundred or more- only a few of which agree to any reasonable extent.

    Basic mathematics for describing climate processes, such as the Navier-Stokes equation have not been solved. They can only be approximated by numerical methods which introduce further questions. We also have very limited time periods to study-1850-present. Temperature proxy methods introduce more variability and uncertainty when trying to study prior climate.

    This is not to say that the world is not warming or the climate changing. Only that so far the results seem to very uncertain and still open to a lot of discussion and more critical study.


  43. George Mullerelili:

    This is not to say that the world is not warming or the climate changing. Only that so far the results seem to very uncertain and still open to a lot of discussion and more critical study.

    Wow. How could the peer community of expert climate scientists have overlooked that? If anything can overturn the consensus, that will!


  44. George Mullerelili, congratulations on a good effort at pseudoscientific gobbledegook. My classmates and I used to compose stuff like that in grade 7, just for fun.



    —-excerpt follows—-

    I wanted to think about how utopia might start from our current conditions; to describe, in effect, the start of a scientific revolution. Not the Scientific Revolution of the early modern period, but rather a new revolution, enacted by scientists in the world we live in now.

    I had also come to feel that many people, and especially many of my leftist colleagues, thought of science as merely the instrument of power — as the most active and effective wing of capitalism. This now struck me as wrong. To me it seemed that we actually exist in a situation that can better be described as ‘science versus capitalism’: a world in which smaller progressive concepts such as environmentalism, environmental justice, social justice, democracy itself — all these were going to be defeated together, unless they were aligned with the one great power that might yet still successfully oppose a completely capitalist future, which was science. I was thinking with a very broad brush at this point, almost mythologically you might say, but it struck me as an interesting story to tell, a new story with some possible analytic value. So I wrote the Science in the Capital trilogy with these thoughts in mind.

    Having written that book, describing science as a crucial utopian force, I began to ask myself: but what is science? And how did it start? That led me to Galileo, as some kind of ‘first scientist’, and thus eventually to my most recent novel, Galileo’s Dream (2009). It is not a utopian novel, I am relieved to say, but it is a novel about science and history, and their interaction; and it is a science fiction novel.

    So that’s my account of this aspect of my career; how, despite my uneasiness concerning utopia as a literary genre, I have nevertheless been writing them for a long time. I am one of the very few serial offenders, you might say, at least in modern times. It has been a source of stress to me, I admit, for there is no doubt in my mind that a ‘utopian novel’ is a strange project, a bastard form — an amalgam of two genres which are in many respects not at all compatible. It’s like saying, ‘Let’s make a new genre — we’ll throw together architectural blueprints and soap operas’. That’s obviously a bad idea. And yet there it is: that absurd hybrid is the utopian novel.

    But the problem really is even worse than that. It involves a version of David Hume’s ‘is–ought problem’: there is the world as it is, and the world as it ought to be. It is difficult to see how they connect, which is Hume’s concern; but the novel, it seems at first glance, is about the world as it is. So if you want above all to write good novels, then what is should be the subject matter; it’s a matter of fidelity to the real. So realism becomes the default preferred form for the novel. And it’s the novel that matters to me; I don’t care about utopia per se — it’s literature that I love, and the novel in particular. So for a long time I experienced the utopian imperative that I somehow put on myself as a burden, because I felt the reason we read novels, indeed the reason we love all art, is that it gives us the real. I knew this was philosophically difficult territory, but my love of literature had to do with a sense of recognition — the moment of reading when you say, ‘Yes that’s right; that’s the way the world is; this book has illuminated the real’. To hold a mirror up to nature, as Hamlet says to the players. That’s what art seems to be for.


  46. Weather blogger Cliff Mass, Washington State:

    “Sunday, July 12, 2015
    Carbon Tax Initiative in Washington State
    It is rare these days for an environmental proposal to get support from both sides of the political spectrum.
    And it is even rarer that such wide support deals with a new tax.
    But such a proposal that may soon go to the voters of Washington State:
    a carbon tax initiative.
    Let me tell you about this idea and why I support it….”


  47. P.S.:

    Philosophizing with a Hammer: Reply to Binmore, Davis & Klaes
    Philip Mirowski
    (.DOC file)

    “… the controversies covered in the book: the role of war in giving our lives meaning; the pitiless postwar politics of socialism and capitalism; the contemporary predicament of being stuck in the USA with an economic orthodoxy steeped in mercenary cynicism while posing as personally benevolent; the prospect of a ‘naturalized epistemology’ juxtaposed with the gleeful fin-de-siècle dashing of humanist ambitions characteristic of the American social sciences; not to mention the palpable degeneration of the quality of economic argumentation over the course of the last half- century….”

    Shorter: “rational actors!? surely you jest”

    As I usually try to say around this point in a thread, I’ll stop now.


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