Jim Manzi’s Cherry Pick

This follows on to previous discussion of Manzi here. Manzi’s original piece is at The New Republic.

First off, what are integrated assessment models?

The DICE model, developed by William Nordhaus, is a dynamic integrated model of climate change in which a single world producer-consumer makes choices between current consumption, investing in productive capital, and reducing emissions to slow climate change. [more]

Manzi’s Folly and Economics in General

Remarkably, an IPCC WGII report (see p 17) shows the “cost” of a 4 degree C temperature increase to be on the order of 3% of net economic output.

Jim Manzi uses this assertion to conclude that Waxman-Markey is a bad idea. I would go further. If 3% were a measure of anything realistic it would be hard to argue for the sort of policy measure that we are all so urgently arguing for. [more]

Seeking Realistic Economic Scenarios

I find it enervating to listen to economists trying to explain our circumstances without reference to resource constraints, as if resources were a separate topic. Krugman’s backing of Waxman-Markey carries some weight with me, but not as much as it would if he didn’t totally neglect resource constraints.

Some of the things Tidal has said in comments here fit in with this point of view; essentially driving the collapse of the Ponzi scheme is the fact that our ability to borrow from the future is now facing substantive limits which it did not face before. [more]

The Great Relaxation Revisited

I have tried to make the case that an economic slowdown properly handled can be a good thing on balance, even though it will be certainly stressful in the short run for people who are unprepared for it. I proposed repackaging the whole business, dropping the depressing words “depression” and “recession” in favor of “relaxation”, on the presumption that the level of activity in the most advanced economies is already excessive. [more]

The Tautology and Its Weaknesses

A given economic growth rate can be sustainable only if the average impact per unit wealth declines at an equal or greater rate.

I argue that this is certainly true if one grants that a sustainable behavior must be sustainable indefinitely.

Shortly after coming to this pretty firm conclusion and wondering how smug to feel about it, I realized that it’s just a consequence of the old I = PAT tautology, due to Ehrlich and Holdren (yes that Holdren). [more]

The Problem and the Problem with the Problem


The prolific (and arguably indispensable) Joe Romm has a terrifying summary about global warming which appears to me to be pretty much on the mark.

Joe believes that people who understand the situation in this way should stick together. Given the scope of the problem, and the vast difference between the perspectives of those few who understand it and those many who don’t, you’d think we ought to stick together through thick and thin. [more]

Is Money Itself a Ponzi Scheme?

Here’s an alternative view of economics that I heard in a talk, written up by Douglas Rushkoff. The most interesting point to me is this one:

Local currencies favored local transactions, and worked against the interests of large corporations working from far away. In order to secure their own position as well as that of their chartered monopolies, monarchs began to make local currencies illegal, and force locals to instead use “coin of the realm.” These centralized currencies worked the opposite way. [more]

Economists Trying to Control the Discourse

You would think the situation might call for a revisiting of conventional notions, a moment of introspection, an admission that perhaps past advice may have been not entirely of the finest caliber.

You might think so but, well, no.

David Leonhardt, in an unusually early preview of this week’s New York Times Magazine:

But while Washington has been preoccupied with stimulus and bailouts, another, equally important issue has received far less attention — and the resolution of it is far more uncertain. [more]

Can Computation Help Solve the Economic Crisis?


Thanks to “Tidal” for pointing out the fascinating essay by a similar title, CAN SCIENCE HELP SOLVE THE ECONOMIC CRISIS? by Brown, Kauffman, Palmrose and Smolin. I mostly agree with their perspective (I have a few quibbles about what “equilibrium” means) enthusiastically, and I appreciate the kick it gave me to express what I have come up with so far myself. [more]

Asking the Right Questions

From Herman Daly’s keynote to the AMS workshop on Federal Climate Policy:

However, it is useful to back up a bit and remember an observation by physicist John Wheeler, “We make the world by the questions we ask”. What are the questions asked by the climate models, and what kind of world are they making, and what other questions might we ask that would make other worlds? [more]

It’s Raining and It’s Windy and I’m Sad

The rest of the cartoon (H/T Dot Earth) is here. Another timely toon here.

H/T Atmoz for the title of this posting.

The NY Times points to an audio production of an outsider’s asking stupid questions about finance. It promises to be very interesting.

I thought I’d capture my opinions about what I’ll call the wtf, by which I mean the current financial/political situation, before listening to that report. [more]

Buying back its own shares

Whatever else Microsoft will achieve by buying back $40 bn of its own shares, it has certainly achieved demonstrating how confused I am about finance.

It seems to me if a company “buys back” 10% of its shares, the remaining shares are worth 10/9 of what they were before, and the company has billions of dollars less to use. [more]

Great Moments in Unintentional Irony

In a more or less typical “economists who agree with my preconceptions are reasonable, economists who don’t, aren’t, and climate science doesn’t really exist” essay, someone calling himself the Skeptical Optimist manages this wonderful blurt:

GW news is too frequently contaminated by confirmation bias, belief preservation, and rehearsed political dogma. I stop reading as soon as I detect any of that, which means I skip a lot of GW “news.”)

I was glad to see Freeman Dyson’s recent review…

(Link added by your humble editor. [more]

Why Criticize Economics

Suppose you believe the things that most people who understand the science believe:

that the changes we are imposing on the world are huge and dangerous
that the impacts follow the causes by some decades
that we have a moral obligation not to trash the whole planet in the future

Then suppose you grant that, as an especially egregious op-ed by Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal has it today:

Our political system has been looking at the problem of climate change for a generation, and lack of action is not due to the machinations of big oil – but to the inability of policy to bridge a giant chasm between proposed costs and benefits. [more]