Sunday, October 04, 2015

Falling Murder Rates: An Artifact of Better Trauma Care or Falling Crime? by Clayton E. Cramer :: SSRN

Falling Murder Rates: An Artifact of Better Trauma Care or Falling Crime? by Clayton E. Cramer :: SSRN

Abstract: In some circles, the dramatic fall in U.S.. murder rates since 1980 is not evidence of falling crime rates but improved trauma care for gunshot victims. This paper demonstrates that the decline in murder rates is caused by reductions in violent crime rates.

The Facts About Pope’s Meeting With Kim Davis - Matt Barber - Page full

The Facts About Pope’s Meeting With Kim Davis - Matt Barber - Page full

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Earth Day: 22 Ways to Think about the Climate-Change Debate | Foundation for Economic Education

Earth Day: 22 Ways to Think about the Climate-Change Debate | Foundation for Economic Education

Reasonable people can disagree about the nature and extent of climate change. But no one should sally forth into this hostile territory without reason and reflection.

“Some scientists make ‘period, end of story’ claims,” writes biologist and naturalist Daniel Botkin in the Wall Street Journal, “that human-induced global warming definitely, absolutely either is or isn’t happening.”

These scientists, as well as the network of activists and cronies their science supports, I will refer to as the Climate Orthodoxy. These are the folks who urge, generally, that (a) global warming is occurring, (b) it is almost entirely man-made, and (c) it is occurring at a rate and severity that makes it an impending planetary emergency requiring political action. A Climate Agnostic questions at least one of those premises.

Trying to point out the problems of the Climate Orthodoxy to its adherents is like trying to talk the Archbishop of Canterbury into questioning the existence of God. In that green temple, many climatologists and climate activists have become one in the same: fueled both by government grants and zealous fervor.

Room for debate

But the debate must go on, even as the atmosphere for dialogue gets increasingly polluted. The sacralization of climate is being used as a great loophole in the rule of law, an apology for bad science (and even worse economics), and an excuse to do anything and everything to have and keep power.

Those with a reasoned agnosticism about the claims of the Climate Orthodoxy will find themselves in debate. It’s April 22nd — Earth Day. So I want to offer 22 ways to think about the climate-change debate. I hope these points will give those willing to question man-made climate change some aid and comfort.

1. Consider the whole enchilada

First, let’s zoom out a few orders of magnitude to look at the Climate Orthodoxy as a series of dots that must be connected, or better, a series of premises that must be accepted in their totality.
  • The earth is warming.
  • The earth is warming primarily due to the influence of human beings engaged in production and energy use.
  • Scientists are able to limn most of the important phenomena associated with a warming climate, disentangling the human from the natural influence, extending backward well into the past.
  • Scientists are able then to simulate most of the phenomena associated with a warming earth and make reasonable predictions, within the range of a degree or two, into the future about 100 years.
  • Other kinds of scientists are able to repackage this information and make certain kinds of global predictions about the dangers a couple of degrees will make over that hundred years.
  • Economists are able to repackage those predictions and make yet further predictions about the economic costs and benefits that accompany those global predictions.
  • Other economists then make further predictions based on what the world might be like if the first set of economists is right in its predictions (which were based on the other scientists’ predictions, and so on) — and then they propose what the world might look like if certain policies were implemented.
  • Policymakers are able to take those economists’ predictions and set policies that will ensure what is best for the people and the planet on net.
  • Those policies are implemented in such a way that they work. They have global unanimity, no defections, no corruption, and a lessoning of carbon-dioxide output that has a real effect on the rate of climate change — enough to pull the world out of danger.
  • Those policies are worth the costs they will impose on the peoples of the world, especially the poorest.
That is a lot to swallow. And yet, it appears that the Climate Orthodoxy requires we accept all of it. Otherwise, why would the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publish a document called “Summary for Policymakers”?

2. Models are not evidence

The problem with models is that they are not reality. Whenever we try to model complex systems like the climate, we’re only getting a simulacrum of a system, designed to represent projected scenarios. So when a climatologist presents a model as evidence, he is playing a kind of game. He wants you to think, by dint of computer wizardry, that he has drawn for you a picture of the world as it is. But he hasn’t. And if observation of surface temperatures over the last 18 years has shown one thing, it’s that climate models have been inadequate tools for forecasting complex natural phenomena.

3. Forecast is not observation

In the first IPCC assessment of 1992, the authors wrote, “Scenarios are not predictions of the future and should not be used as such.” Whether one views the models as predictions or as scenarios, the evidence is barely within the most conservative of these in the most recent assessment, which is essentially designed to hide good news.

When one attempts to forecast — that is, to tell the future — one is not engaging in observation. That is not to claim that prediction isn’t a part of the scientific enterprise; it’s simply to say that when one’s predictions (or scenarios) are off, one’s theory is suspect, and it must be modified and tested again. Any theory, and any forecast scenarios on which it’s based, have to be tested in the crucible of observation. The Climate Orthodoxy has thus far failed that test.

4. Climate systems are complex

As I alluded to above, climate systems are complex systems. And complex systems are notoriously immune to certain types of prediction and forecast. As Edward Lorenz famously taught us when he coined the term “butterfly effect,” the slightest changes in initial conditions can give rise to wild, unpredictable outcomes in the system. It’s no different for a simulation. “I realized,” said Lorenz of his findings, “that any physical system that behaved non-periodically would be unpredictable.” Now, those concerned about climate change will try to use this perspective to suggest changes to the atmosphere could cause wild, unpredictable climatic catastrophes. And that might turn out to be true. (But it might not. We’ll discuss Pascal’s Climate Wager later.) What we should be concerned about for now is how easy it is for a single tiny error (or purposeful fudge) in a climate model to generate ranges that, though they can feed hysteria, are out of touch with reality.

5. Garbage in equals garbage out

Complex systems also make modeling difficult to undertake because a model is a kind of simulation whose success turns on the accuracy of inputs. Computer scientists have an apt saying for such simulations: “Garbage in, garbage out.” If any of your variables are in error, your results are suspect. And the more variables you introduce, the more likely you are to introduce errors. But for the model to resemble reality, you have to be more granular by including more and more variables that represent causal relationships in the world. As more variables get introduced, the likelihood of introducing false inputs goes up proportionally. And those errors compound. In The Black Swan, Nicolas Nassim Taleb writes:
Simply, we are facing nonlinearities and magnifications of errors coming from the so-called butterfly effects ... actually discovered by Lorenz using weather forecasting models. Small changes in input, coming from measurement error, can lead to massively divergent projections — and that generously assumes we have the right equations.

In other words, the lower “res” the model, the less it conforms to reality’s details. The higher “res” the model, the more likely it is to be infected with errors. This is one of the great paradoxes of modeling.

6. Data can be detached

The problem with numbers is that they’re sometimes detached from the phenomena they’re meant to describe. If we see a record of a person’s body temperature from 1969 — at 99.1 degrees — we might assume he had a fever. But knowing the context of that measurement may lead us to tell a different story about what caused his temperature at that time: for example, that the man had been sitting in a hot tub. Climate data from the past can offer even less context, clarity, and accuracy.

But let’s suppose all the world’s thermometers — both satellite and land — have neither heat-island effects nor any other distortions, and that they offer an accurate description of the earth’s temperature. Let us also assume that the temperature readings over the last hundred years are completely accurate and represent the planet as a whole, and that the temperature data derived from inferential methods such as ice core samples and tree rings also paint an accurate picture of surface temperatures well into the past, which is doubtful.

We are still left with a problem: We cannot simply look at the outputs of the climate system (temperature), because they are linked to all-important inputs — that is, those factors that caused any changes in temperature. The inability for climate scientists to tell a more conclusive causal story about factors in past warming is another reason to remain agnostic about trends over longer timescales.

7. Decomposability is a virtual impossibility

Another serious problem with the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is that, if it is a theory at all, it seems to be a cluster of interconnected theories and interconnected models. Let that settle for a moment. Consider that the IPCC, the central climate-science organization whose job is to give the definitive word on climate change, has to assemble the work of hundreds, maybe thousands, of scientists and weave it into a comprehensive report. But as Norgaard and Baer write in Bioscience, “Models developed and heretofore interpreted within individual scientific communities are taken out of their hands, modified, and used with other models in ways over which the original scientific communities no longer have control.”

Now, in stitching together the various individual theories, studies, and models of such a diverse and inevitably error-prone community, the problem goes deeper. Never mind that the IPCC central committee has deep incentives to interpret the data in a way that creates the impression of a single, uniform theory. Suppose that every climate scientist that gets picked by the IPCC for its report claims 95 percent confidence. Even if each scientist were 95 percent certain of his particular prediction or set of parameters, we can’t be so certain about the agglomeration of 10 scientists’ opinions about disparate phenomena, much less 50. Nor can any given scientist be 95 percent confident about the work of any other scientist.

8. Stats stand in for certainty

People crave certainty, and politicians want to provide it. So when we hear that a scientist is 95 percent confident about his or her conclusions, we feel like that’s close enough, derived as it presumably is through some sort of statistical analysis. “Yet since things are ultimately uncertain,” writes theoretical mathematician William Byers:
We satisfy this need by creating artificial islands of certainty. We create models of reality and then insist that the models are reality. It is not that science, mathematics, and statistics do not provide useful information about the real world. The problem lies in making excessive claims for the validity of these methods and models and believing them to be absolutely certain.

Byers’s book The Blind Spot: Science and the Crisis of Uncertainty is a welcome antidote to this sort of scientific hubris.

Climatologist Judith Curry put matters a little differently. When a journalist asked her how the 95 percent number was determined, she replied, “The 95% is basically expert judgment, it is a negotiated figure among the authors. The increase from 90–95% means that they are more certain. How they can justify this is beyond me.”

The reporter then asked if it was really all so subjective. Curry’s reply: “As far as I know, this is what goes on. All this has never been documented.”

9. AGW might not be a theory at all

What makes a scientific theory a theory at all? This has been debated among philosophers of science, but most people generally agree that a certain set of minimum criteria should be in place. Among them, at least, are these:
  1. Is the theory testable? Can we formulate hypotheses grounded in the theory, then figure out a way to test the hypotheses?
  2. Is the theory falsifiable? Is there evidence that could call the theory into question? What evidence would exclude the theory?
  3. Does the theory unify? Does the theory unify seemingly unrelated phenomena under a single explanatory framework?
AGW is not testable in any laboratory sense, of course, but many natural phenomena are not. And yet we’ve already discussed the problems of testing models against available evidence — considering the models’ hypotheses and seeing whether these track with what we can observe. One might argue that models stand for hypotheses, and suffice for a testability criterion. But this is unclear.

Perhaps the most damning of the three for AGW is the falsifiability criterion. That is, the Orthodoxy has created a situation in which models play a major role in the theoretical framework. But when the models fail to track with observation, the Orthodoxy claims the timescales are not sufficient to determine a climate trend — for example, that discussing the pause of the last 18 years is “cherry picking.” Fair enough. But then what sort of data would count to falsify the theory? And what, going forward, is a time scale sufficient to determine a climate trend? 100 years?

If we accept these longer timescales as sufficient to smooth out natural variability, we might reasonably ask the Orthodoxy to remain agnostic about AGW while another 70 years of data come in. (After all, they have had to rely on spurious proxies to “trick” temperature trends in the past.) But the Orthodoxy then changes tack and argues that’s too long to wait! After all, we might be going through an emergency that requires immediate action. So, despite the insufficient timescale, they expect everyone to accept the climate consensus as the basis for policymakers’ faith-based initiatives.

Finally, does AGW unify diverse phenomena under a single explanatory framework? AGW is meant to explain everything from ocean acidification to melting sea ice, to rising sea levels, to regional desertification. The trouble is with the explanatory part. When taken in isolation, each of these purported consequences of global warming either aren’t happening as predicted, or, if they are, they can be explained by factors outside AGW theory. So it’s not clear that AGW satisfies any unification criterion, either.

10. It’s matter of degree

What if the Climate Orthodoxy is wrong and the “lukewarmists” like Judith Curry turn out to be right? If we look at the empirical data over the last 30 years or so, they might be. As Rational Optimist author writes, “I found myself persuaded by the middle-of-the-road, ‘lukewarm’ argument — that CO2-induced warming is likely but it won’t be large, fast or damaging.” The Climate Orthodoxy might have been hyperventilating over a degree of warming over a century. (And, of course, policies driven by hysteria could mean the poorest people might be prevented from joining the middle class for the sake of an almost imperceptible change.)

11. Pascal’s Climate Wager

Suppose we all agreed that 100 years of accurate temperature data would be sufficient to determine a climate trend. The Climate Orthodoxy argues that we must act now to prevent climate change, in case they are right. People familiar with theology will recall this is the analogous to Pascal’s Wager, in which 17th-century Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal tells us we’d better believe in God, Heaven, and Hell. If we believe and we’re wrong, we haven’t lost anything, according to Pascal. But if we disbelieve and we’re wrong, we have eternity to suffer. Similarly, we must believe, suffer, and sacrifice now to stave off climate change.

There are a number of problems with this rationale, but the biggest one is rather ironic. There is no viable political climate solution currently on the table that is capable of mitigating any predicted warming. Taking the IPCC’s own assumptions, Patrick Michaels and Paul “Chip” Knappenberger found that there is no winning “wager” here:
Assuming the IPCC’s value for climate sensitivity (i.e., disregarding the recent scientific literature) and completely stopping all carbon dioxide emissions in the US between now and the year 2050 and keeping them at zero, will only reduce the amount of global warming by just over a tenth of a degree (out of a total projected rise of 2.619°C between 2010 and 2100).

If you think that a rise of 2.482°C is vastly preferable to a rise of 2.619°C then all you have to do is set the carbon tax large enough to drive U.S. emissions to zero by mid-century — oh yeah, and sell that tax to the American people.

So even if all the models turn out to be true, there is little we can do with policy at this point. So unlike Pascal’s Wager, there is no amount of repenting and belief that could save us. We’re either all going to climate hell, anyway, or something ain’t right. The whole conversation about “climate action” appears to be moot at this point. Don’t believe it? Check the Handy Dandy Climate Temperature Savings Calculator.

12. The debate is not over, and the science is not settled

Freeman Dyson, a brilliant theoretical physicist, is no man of the right. But he is intellectually honest enough to wear the mantel of “heretic.” Here’s why:
I am especially unimpressed by the claim that a prediction of rapid and dangerous warming is “settled science,” as firm as evolution or gravity. How could it be? It is a prediction! No prediction, let alone in a multi-causal, chaotic and poorly understood system like the global climate, should ever be treated as gospel. With the exception of eclipses, there is virtually nothing scientists can say with certainty about the future. It is absurd to argue that one cannot disagree with a forecast. Is the Bank of England’s inflation forecast infallible?

Indeed. And to say that the debate is over is not to say that those willing to debate have nothing to say. It is rather to say that you have turned off your curiosity, your humility, and your willingness to engage in discourse so that you can get what you want.

And what should we say about all this “consensus” talk? Science writer Ronald Bailey (no agnostic about climate change) wisely says:
One should always keep in mind that a scientific consensus crucially determines and limits the questions researchers ask. And one should always worry about to what degree supporters of any given scientific consensus risk succumbing to confirmation bias. In any case, the credibility of scientific research is not ultimately determined by how many researchers agree with it or how often it is cited by like-minded colleagues, but whether or not it conforms to reality.

13. Climate science isn’t climate policy

One of the biggest problems with the Climate Orthodoxy is that one set of experts that is cocksure about the science really has no expertise in the economics of climate change or in climate-change policy. How in the world is an expert in albedo effects going to have anything meaningful to say about whether climate change is good or bad for the world today — much less 50 years into the future? This profound disconnect has never stopped scientists like James Hansen from advocating for certain types of policies.

Seeing this disconnect, however, the Orthodoxy has begun training up so-called specialists in the economics of climate change, led by such “experts” as Sir Nicholas Stern, whose models and predictions are the stuff of both speculation and spectacle. More tempered in his prognostications is Yale’s William Nordhaus, but economists such as Robert Murphy offer very good reasons to question Nordhaus’s almanac, as well.

If you think modeling the climate is hard, try modeling an economy. As economist Arnold Kling writes,
I think that if the press were aware of the intellectual history and lack of scientific standing of the models, it would cease rounding up these usual suspects. Macroeconometrics stands discredited among mainstream academic economists. Applying macroeconometric models to questions of fiscal policy is the equivalent of using pre-Copernican astronomy to launch a satellite or using bleeding to treat an infection.

Whatever the pedigree of the economist, his laurels, or his letters, mixing macrometeorology with macroeconomics is like trying to read tea leaves.

14. The climate orthodoxy is inherently corruptive

Here’s the heretic Dyson again:
The politicians and the public expect science to provide answers to the problems. Scientific experts are paid and encouraged to provide answers. The public does not have much use for a scientist who says, “Sorry, but we don’t know.”

He’s right. It is nearly impossible to inoculate science from the influence of those who pay the bills. As I wrote in “The Climate Complex Strikes Back” (Freeman, February 2015), “That government money shouldn’t corrupt is just another application of the unicorn fallacy so common among well-meaning greens.” And it’s even tougher not to develop blind spots and biases when those who fund you claim to be on the side of the angels. That is why we must put our faith not in centralized hierarchies of experts but in the Republic of Science itself.

15. Reasoned agnosticism is not “denial”

Godwin’s law surfaces quickly in the debates about global warming. Here’s Botkin again:
For me, the extreme limit of this attitude was expressed by economist Paul Krugman, also a Nobel laureate, who wrote in his New York Times column in June, “Betraying the Planet” that “as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.” What had begun as a true scientific question with possibly major practical implications had become accepted as an infallible belief (or if you’re on the other side, an infallible disbelief), and any further questions were met, Joe-McCarthy style, “with me or agin me.”

Of course, the term “denier” is meant to evoke Holocaust denial.

16. AGW might be beneficial on net

If Stern and Nordhaus (see #11) can engage in economic speculation, then we can, too. In fact, when we look back at warmer periods in the history of civilization, we see relative flourishing.

According to Matt Ridley, writing in the UK Spectator, Professor Richard Tol of Sussex University aggregated 14 major academic papers about the future effects of climate change. Tol determined that things look rosier than the Orthodoxy would have us believe:
Professor Tol calculated that climate change would be beneficial up to 2.2°C of warming from 2009 (when he wrote his paper). This means approximately 3°C from pre-industrial levels, since about 0.8°C of warming has happened in the last 150 years.

And in a more recent paper, Tol looks back over the last 100 years. He concludes that climate change raised human and environmental welfare during the 20th century:
By how much? He calculates by 1.4 per cent of global economic output, rising to 1.5 per cent by 2025. For some people, this means the difference between survival and starvation.

Sure, it’s speculative, even looking back. But isn’t it just as likely that there will be benefits as costs? It might turn out that if the planet does warm a couple of degrees, there will be new forms of flourishing.

17. One hundred years of certitude

One wonders what people in 1915 would have thought about our lives today. The pace of technological change has been staggering. And though a few people tried to make predictions, they were not cut out for the task. Likewise, we cannot readily say what forms of energy we’ll use, and what technologies they will power. As Troy University economist Daniel Sutter reminds us,
A dynamic market economy will feature too much creative destruction to allow detailed planning for the distant future. Nothing is sure in a market economy ten years from now, much less 100 years, and discounting in cost-benefit analysis simply reflects this reality. The economic future becomes more predictable when government controls economic activity, but then stagnation results. Discounting in climate change economics tells us to create wealth to protect future generations. Economic freedom and the institutions of the market economy, not central planning of energy use, is the prudent policy approach to a changing climate.
Inherent in our inability adequately to plan and predict is a recommendation that we adapt instead.

18. Adaptation as policy prescription

If the climate is warming some, and it might be, then what is the best policy? One can make a powerful case for adaptation. Adaptation is not about doing nothing. It means liberalizing the world on a number of dimensions of economic freedom to ensure that countries are rich enough to be resilient. A wealthy and adaptive people like the Dutch can figure out how to live with rising waters. A rich and resilient people like the Hong Kong Chinese can figure out how to build a city-state on a rock in 50 years. A rich and resilient citizenry of the world should be able to handle what a degree or two of change in average global temperature has in store for us — especially as we will undergo untold technological transformations over the next decade or two.

19. Climate policy has a defector problem

The problem with climate-change policies like carbon taxes is that they require near-global unanimity to work. That is, if the United States adopts a carbon tax, energy becomes more expensive for Americans. But if energy becomes more expensive here, it might be less expensive in other parts of the world. And, indeed, businesses and the energy industry will engage in energy arbitrage. Developing countries like India, China, Brazil, and Russia will welcome these energy arbitrageurs with open arms. They might develop even as we stagnate. And they should: they are lifting billions of people out of poverty. But there’s a problem here for climate policy. Every signatory to a climate treaty has strong incentives to defect. And as defectors do their thing, carbon continues to pour into the atmosphere. Nothing changes to mitigate climate change; industry simply shifts around.

20. Climate policy has an efficacy problem

Suppose we don’t accept Pascal’s Climate Wager and we conclude that no climate policy under consideration will do much to mitigate warming. Those who claim that action is vital respond to this claim by saying, “We have to start somewhere!” But if you’re conceding that no policy under consideration does very much, why would you start with a failed policy? It appears to be more empty rhetoric used to justify an unprecedented level of taxation designed to feed some of the most insatiable and predatory governments in the world.

21. Climate policy has a corruption problem

Earlier, I suggested that the Climate Orthodoxy has a corruptive influence on science. We shouldn’t stop there. The “climate industrial complex“ is large and growing. Scores of green energy companies are on the take, donating campaign contributions to politicians who control the purse strings at the Department of Energy. Legacy energy utilities lick their chops, seeing opportunities to game the system in a carbon-tax environment that is unfavorable to their competitors. Traders get in on energy credit schemes. Green NGOs play “Baptists” to all the corporate “bootleggers,” and when you scrutinize it all — including the billions of dollars the federal government pours into the “science” — the whole things starts to smell like one festering pile of corruption.

22. The confidence game

If you’re feeling uncertain, consider that the Climate Orthodoxy has to do everything it can to pull members of the public like you into assent. Here’s one final nod to Dyson:
The public prefers to listen to scientists who give confident answers to questions and make confident predictions of what will happen as a result of human activities. So it happens that the experts who talk publicly about politically contentious questions tend to speak more clearly than they think. They make confident predictions about the future, and end up believing their own predictions. Their predictions become dogmas, which they do not question. The public is led to believe that the fashionable scientific dogmas are true, and it may sometimes happen that they are wrong. That is why heretics who question the dogmas are needed.

If you are a Climate Agnostic, that’s okay. (You won’t burn at the stake; you’ll merely burn in the heat of a baking planet.)

Postscript: We are creative conservationists

As the world changes for this reason or that, we are growing richer, stronger, smarter, and more resilient. We are becoming more conscious about the environment and its natural treasures. On almost every environmental dimension — including air quality, water quality, the extent of forestland, and the return of wildlife — things are getting better. Whether you think most of these gains are a consequence of environmental regulations or improvements in market efficiencies, one thing is clear: wealthier is healthier. We should continue to cherish the beauty of the planet and continue to grow economically so we can afford to protect its wonders. Being agnostic about climate change does not require that we stop loving Planet Earth, it only means keeping a cool head and an open mind, even when the discourse overheats.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

In Economics, Good Outcomes Matter -- Not Intentions | National Review Online

In Economics, Good Outcomes Matter -- Not Intentions | National Review Online

News item: There is a new cholesterol-control drug on the market, Repatha, which is enormously beneficial to people who suffer serious side effects from the statins commonly used to control cholesterol or who derive no benefit from statins. Some 17 million Britons are potential beneficiaries of the drug, but they will not be able to use it, because the United Kingdom’s version of Sarah Palin’s death panel — which bears the pleasingly Orwellian name NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence — says it is too expensive. The United Kingdom’s single-payer health-care system is effectively a monopoly, and not an especially effective one: Cardiovascular-disease mortality rates in the United Kingdom are nearly 40 percent higher than in the United States. That’s not nice. And it isn’t what was supposed to happen. News item: Between raising its in-house minimum wage to $9 an hour and increasing its spending on training, Walmart took on an extra $1 billion in expenses and subsequently failed to meet its earnings expectations. As the back-to-school rush gives way to the buildup to Christmas, Walmart employees around the country are seeing their hours trimmed as the company tries to recoup some of the losses it imposed on itself. Employees say they are being sent home early from their shifts or told to take extra-long unpaid lunch breaks, and they say that individual stores have been ordered to cuts hundreds or even thousands of man-hours. That’s not what was supposed to happen.

News item: “An unprecedented number of Californians left for other states during the last decade, according to new tax-return data from the Internal Revenue Service,” the Sacramento Bee reports. “About 5 million Californians left between 2004 and 2013. Roughly 3.9 million people came here from other states during that period, for a net population loss of more than 1 million people.” A quarter of that net loss was to Texas, where a state income-tax rate of 0.00 percent and low cost of housing stand in contrast with California. That’s not what was supposed to happen.


It falls largely to persnickety, unpleasant eat-your-spinach types, and to certain happy souls blessedly liberated from the romance of politics by events and experience, to document that what is supposed to happen and what happens are not the same thing. Britons and Canadians and Americans can go on all they like about their “right” to health care, but calling something a right does not make it any less scarce (indeed, it is absolutely meaningless to proclaim a “right” to any scarce good), and whether you choose an anything-goes free market or an Anglo-Soviet single-payer monopoly model, there is going to be rationing, normally through the instrument of price. The only question is whether you get to make that decision for yourself or whether an Orwellian NICE guy makes it for you. You can raise wages at Walmart in the na├»ve expectation that there will be no consequences — in much the same way that all manner of bad decisions begin with the exhortation, “Here, hold my beer.” But there will be consequences. You can loot California until the only people comfortable living there are too rich to care or too poor to care, but the people between those limits have cars, and they know where the local U-Haul office is.  

In the social sciences, the term of art for these developments is “unintended consequences.” Some unintended consequences are unforeseeable, but many are not. They are at least partly foreseeable, even if unintended, and our good intentions do not entitle us to blind ourselves to reality. Demand curves slope downward: When you raise the price of something — a ton of coal, an hour of labor — then the quantity demanded will be lower than it would have been at a lower price. The occasional intellectually honest progressive (an increasingly rare species, unhappily) will admit this, and will frankly accept that certain trade-offs, such as extending the power of labor unions or regulators or other political allies, are worth the price extracted, in this case the misery and privation of poor people denied work and a chance at self-sufficiency. Every schemer fancies himself a chess grandmaster, and if you are wondering which of the chessmen you are in his grand conception of the universe, count on it being one of the little round-headed ones in the front row.

That we can be reasonably sure that there will be unintended consequences does not mean that we know what they will be; these things are unpredictable by nature. Walmart might attempt to recoup some of its higher labor costs through reduced man-hours of labor, but it might as easily seek to shift costs onto vendors and suppliers, especially smaller firms that depend on Walmart for much or most of their distribution. (It is less likely that Walmart will attempt to pass on costs to customers through higher prices; lower prices are fundamental to its business model. The same is broadly true of fast-food companies.) Those firms will, in turn, try to shift costs to their own vendors, suppliers, customers, employees, etc. Taking a checkout clerk in Fontana, Kan., from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour might, through roundabout cost-shifting, reduce the income of a logistics specialist in Fontana, Calif., or that of a hotelier in Fontana, Switzerland. What you can be sure of is that the experimental standard — ceteris paribus — will not apply. The world will not sit still while you adjust your favorite variable.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Science Fiction Fans Are Fighting About Politics. It’s Not the End of the Universe - Hit & Run :

Science Fiction Fans Are Fighting About Politics. It’s Not the End of the Universe - Hit & Run :

What were the Puppies after? That depends on who you ask. Detractors say the groups were both reactionary movements, driven by conservative white males angry about recent Hugo awards going to stories by and about a more diverse group of individuals. Last year’s Best Novel winner, for example, was Ann Leckie’s book Ancillary Justice, a space opera revenge story set in a colonialist society that does not distinguish between genders and uses only female pronouns; the winning short story was about a Chinese man who reveals to his family that he’s gay. Puppy opponents argue that these sorts of stories are praiseworthy, necessary, and valuable if science fiction is to expand its audience beyond the educated white male cohort that has traditionally dominated science fiction readership.

The two groups of Puppies see themselves differently. The Sad Puppies tend to argue that their aim is not really political at all—that instead they generally prefer stories without intensely political messages, and want to see the Hugos award fiction that emphasizes science and adventure and reader enjoyment, rather than a more literary emphasis on social and political themes. In an interview with Wired, Correia said that the group’s name comes from the joke that “at the leading cause of puppy-related sadness was boring message-fic winning awards.” He and Torgerson have argued that too much focus on diversity becomes a goal unto itself, and can distract from the true quality of a work.


The Rabid Puppies take a more aggressive approach, one that is openly hostile to the idea of diversity, and which is often laden with sexist, misogynist, and homophobic over- and undertones. As Wired’s story makes clear, Vox Day’s approach is intentionally designed to be outrageous; he says that he that wants to offend people, to stir up trouble, to cause chaos and destruction. He also admits that some of his followers are not really science fiction fans, but people who agree with his political agenda and want to help him wreck the awards system. “I wanted to leave a big smoking hole where the Hugo Awards were,” he told Wired before the awards were announced.

Given Vox Day’s obnoxious character and stated intent, it is not surprising that many viewed the Puppies as a threat to the Hugos and even to the wider world of science fiction and fandom. And while the aims of the two groups differ, they were, in the minds of most opponents, essentially the same.

That’s unfair in some ways, but not entirely unreasonable either. While Torgersen and Correia did attempt to separate themselves from the Rabid Puppies movement, they also at times seemed to suggest that they were fighting a common battle. And there was definitely overlap between supporters of the two Puppies groups; outside of the group’s leaders, it could be hard to distinguish between the two. Most any of the Sad Puppies could have been Rabid, and some acted as though they were.

And so the response from their opponents was to reject the Puppies—both of them—entirely, via the unprecedented number of No Awards. Since Saturday night, Puppies supporters have argued that the No Awards themselves constitute a threat to sci-fi, a radical and destructive action that essentially declares it’s preferable to have no awards at all than to let the Puppies have their way.

But it seems to me that the response from the Hugo voters was not really different in kind than what the Puppies did themselves. The Puppies have stressed, in the face of arguments that they cheated or took advantage of a loophole, that their block voting tactic was allowed by the rules. It was—but it was also a violation of Hugo norms. The same can be said about the No Award votes. Viewing the Puppies as a threat, the Hugo voters responded in kind.

The 2015 Hugo Awards: Some Thoughts - BLACKFIVE

The 2015 Hugo Awards: Some Thoughts - BLACKFIVE

There a few things in this world that truly make me mad. I'm not talking the things in life that can make us spark. There are lots of things in this world that can make me spark, and there is a reason that my nickname in early high school was "Spark Plug" and "Sparky." Those who truly knew me, however, knew that the problem was not when I sparked, which was soon over, but when I got very quiet and coldly precise.

This morning, I awoke to very unsurprising news about the Hugo awards. I am disappointed, but honestly expected nothing less from the Social Justice Bullies and related ilk. Indeed, I'm more surprised that one or two categories more didn't get no award -- the equivalent of destroying the village to save it. That was their plan almost from the start, since those labeled "Wrong Fan" dared to get more fans involved in a dying award that represented the thoughts of less than 600 "Right Fans" who bought supporting or full memberships to the World Science Fiction Conventions -- which is where and how the Hugo awards are decided. For those truly interested, note the attendance figures for the WorldCon over the last 30 years, note the numbers of people who actually voted in the Hugo process, and then note the size of conventions like DragonCon, the various ComicCons, and such.


Where I'm not sparking is with how things were handled. First, there was the biased and childish panel that preceded the Hugos. Second, was the awards ceremony itself. That one or more Hugo nominees walked out early (along with other professionals) says it all. The deliberate and willful disrespect, and bias, shown says it all for me.

So, for me, it's on. For those of you ignorant enough to buy into the Social Justice Bullies lie that the Puppies were all angry white men, I simply point out that the Puppies were far more diverse than those that opposed them. For a group of "neo-nazis" as an employee of Tor books called them (us, honestly), there sure are a lot of mutts in the group, and a lot females too. In fact, one author attacked in this manner actually fought real neo-nazis and injustice, and has the wounds to show it. Another author also schooled the idiots with the real deal. I further note that only one, repeat ONE, reporter writing on the subject of the Puppies had the courage and integrity to actually interview the wonderful Sarah A. Hoyt, who is not a white male. That Larry Correia is far more a mutt than I am, and hardly a lily-white male (unlike most of those attacking him). That strawman Larry is not just a jerk, but an asshole and I want at least ten of the ribbons saying he is a jerk. I could go on, but it is easy to pick apart the slanders, libels, and lies heaped upon them, Brad Torgersen, and others -- for those with interest in the truth that is.

The blatant disrespect and insult offered to Toni last night is the final straw. You attacked a friend.

So, I'm in on Sad Puppies 4. If you want to destroy WorldCon and the Hugo awards, you will have your chance and you will own the results. My hope, faint though it is, remains to make the awards truly relevant again as a means of promoting good writing, editing, and other efforts regardless of the message.

Meantime, my limited funds will be my vote and those funds will not be spent at Tor (or Forge), or probably with MacMillan as a whole. Tom Doherty: I doubt you remember me, but we have met and I found you to be a likable person who seemed to have integrity and honor. I am sorry to do this, but your employees have engaged in what I believe to be slander, libel, and more -- and, yes, I use those terms advisedly and with full knowledge of the difference between them. That they have also sought to harm some of your own writers... WorldCon, your bias is showing. For my author friends with Tor or MacMillan, sorry, but I will not support them as much as I want to support you.

I plan to spend with publishers who put out good books/stories first, and message second. I plan to buy from Baen; I plan to buy from other publishers and those who also publish independently, such as Sarah A. Hoyt, Kate Paulk, Cedar Sanderson, Amanda S. Green, Dave Freer, Jim Butcher, Tom Kratman, John Ringo, John C. Wright, and Michael Z. Williamson. With traditional publishing tanking, voting with my money has a far larger effect.

Now, I've wasted enough time on an award that most likely can't be saved. This is time that could have seen a couple thousand words written on the new novel I'm frantically trying to write, revise, and submit. It likely would be a far better use of my time, but I will not let stand the attacks on Toni, Sarah, and other friends. Choose as you will, my money vote is cast.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

GayPatriot » SJW’s Ruin SciFi Writing Awards

GayPatriot » SJW’s Ruin SciFi Writing Awards

The Federalist


This Puppy has been Muzzled | Cedar Writes

This Puppy has been Muzzled | Cedar Writes

Anti-harassment policies are all the rage at SF conventions nowadays. Some authors have stated they will refuse to attend any conventions that don't have such policies in place.

This lady feels harassed and threatened.

I can never again go to a ‘literary’ con and feel safe. These are the people who have spent months dragging people I know and respect through the mud, and my name with them. Calling me a token woman, and the other women who were on the ballot with me. Because we didn’t fit their narrative. I have no power, they have it all, and they revel in it. They have no qualms about punching down, making sure unwanted fans don’t get their noses into the establishment.

Today, they dance and celebrate, because they won. They won by voting no award as a bloc, while accusing the Sad Puppies of having done so.


Now? I’d be afraid to go to WorldCon. They have shown how they feel, and they will treat any threats to their position with… theft, suppression of free speech, mockery, and more. There are people who will never again be able to publish traditionally because of this. And not everyone has the options to be an independent, to have the freedom I so cherish.

I can’t be involved any longer.
Theoretically, convention committee members should be subject to the kind of discipline they prescribe in the harassment policies they advocate. However, my theory is that those who demand such policies never intend that they, themselves, would ever be subject to them.  Rules are for other people.

Honey Badger Brigade | Nerds bite back!

Honey Badger Brigade | Nerds bite back!

More on the Daisy Hill Hugo Farm and the Manger Puppies.

For Your Reading Pleasure | John C. Wright's Journal

For Your Reading Pleasure | John C. Wright's Journal

More from the Daisy Hill Hugo Farm:
The Manger Puppies strike!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Hugo Awards: Why The #WaronNerds Is A War on Art

The Hugo Awards: Why The #WaronNerds Is A War on Art

What’s the difference between ISIS and social justice warriors? Well, one recruits its members from the most pathetic, disaffected, pathological members of society, claims to stand against shadowy conspiracies and bullying by the West, and destroys revered cultural institutions in fits of fanaticism.

The others are unhinged terrorists in the Middle East?

Over the past year, the social justice movement, which at one point had set itself up as an insurmountable cultural juggernaut, bent on remaking every art form or subculture in its own image, has degenerated into a farce. That farce reached new heights this past Saturday night, when the voters of the prestigious Hugo Awards, in a fit of ideologically-motivated pique, refused to give any awards at all in no less than five different categories – including Best Short Story and Best Novella. As context, the Hugos had only refused to offer an award in any category five times in the award’s 60 year history.

How The “Sad Puppies” Got Their Name

The reason was that a group of disaffected science fiction fans calling themselves collectively the “Sad Puppies” (along with a more radical submovement calling itself the “Rabid Puppies”) had actually forced the Hugos to include works on the voting ballot that were popular with fans, rather than simply works by authors with acceptable politics, or connections to the right publishing house.

To put this in perspective, imagine that the Academy Awards voters had refused to pick a winner for “Best Director” or “Best Picture” at all because none of the films were about gay rights or personally endorsed by Harvey Weinstein. And imagine a very flummoxed presenter standing onstage at the Academy Awards having to say, “And the award goes to…no one?”

In the interest of evenhandedness, I should note that the Sad Puppies employed controversial tactics in trying to force consideration of authors and works they saw as underappreciated. Many claimed that the sort of organized voter drive employed by the Puppies ran contrary to the spirit of how the Hugo Awards were supposed to work. Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin was particularly vocal about this complaint:
If the Sad Puppies wanted to start their own award… for Best Conservative SF, or Best Space Opera, or Best Military SF, or Best Old-Fashioned SF the Way It Used to Be… whatever it is they are actually looking for… hey, I don’t think anyone would have any objections to that. I certainly wouldn’t. More power to them.
But that’s not what they are doing here, it seems to me. Instead they seem to want to take the Hugos and turn them into their own awards. Hey, anyone is welcome to join worldcon, to become part of worldcon fandom… but judging by the comments on the Torgesen and Correia sites, a lot of the Puppies seem to actively hate worldcon and the people who attend it and want nothing to do with us. They want to determine who gets the Ditmars, but they don’t want to be Australians.

Martin is absolutely right to be concerned that ideologically driven actors might seek to invade and colonize communities whose values, interests, and members they hold in contempt. Ask any video game fan familiar with the developers of the video game Sunset, who openly tweeted their disgust and contempt for gamers when their game failed to sell.

Why A ‘No Award’ Sweep Will Kill The Hugos

However, whatever Martin’s reasonable concerns about ideological entryism into a community he loved, he also wasn’t shy about denouncing the idea of refusing to give out awards at all. In fact, his blog post on that topic makes him sound a bit like the canary in the intergalactic spice mine:
I’ve been voting on the Hugos since the 1970s, and I use NO AWARD every year, usually in about a third of the categories. However, I have seldom (not NEVER, just seldom) placed it first. I rank the finalists that I think worthy of the rocket above NO AWARD, and the ones I think unworthy below it. That’s the way I intend to use the option this year as well, in spite of the slatemaking campaigns that buggered the nomination process to the seven hells and back.

NO AWARD is a scalpel, not a bludgeon. Voting NO AWARD on everything down the line… or even (the lesser option) on everything that appeared on either Puppy slate… well, I don’t think it is smart, I don’t think it is fair, and I know damned well that a NO AWARD sweep will kill the Hugos.

Whatever one thinks of Martin’s (very liberal) politics, it’s hard to deny that his thoughts are at least consistent with the principles of free discussion and free association inherent in modern liberalism. While they disagreed about tactics, these are principles that Martin held in common with the Sad Puppies.

After all, when it came to free discussion, the Puppies’ main complaint was less that ideological disagreement decreased a work’s quality, and more that their own ideologies were being unfairly considered a strike against their work, even when their work did nothing to reflect those ideologies. And as for free association, their objection to the dominance of publishing houses like TOR books seems to have boiled down to a concern that cliquishness was preventing even people who actually did want to be part of the community from joining it.

Where’s The Beef?

Had this fight been had on Martin and the Puppies’ terms it would’ve been nothing more than a family quarrel between Sci-Fi nerds. Indeed, Martin himself refused to believe it was anything else and thought the Puppies were blowing it out of proportion. “Where’s the beef?” he asked incredulously in response to their complaints.

Then came the actual Hugo Awards, and the beef was served up on a silver platter, slow-roasted in the mulish anger of social justice commissars, and garnished with absurd, self-immolating tweets and blog posts. Witness the “Puppy-Free Hugo Award Voter’s Guide” put out by Leftist Sci-Fi author Deirdre Saoirse Moen. Unsurprisingly, it includes many categories where Moen suggests simply voting “No Award,” including the aforementioned “Best Novella” and “Best Short Story” categories.

Freelance writer Phil Sandifer, meanwhile, seems to have been the most honest exponent of what the anti-Puppy voters were thinking, since he openly professed to support voting “No Award” for every category. Witness these quotes of his from Twitter:
Phil Sandifer @PhilSandifer So hey, SJWs, we just made history, doubling the total number of No Awards ever in a stunning anti-fascist victory. Go us. #HugoAwards

Phil Sandifer @PhilSandifer Let's be clear: circumstances like this are why the No Award mechanism exists. #HugoAwards

Phil Sandifer @PhilSandifer Right, so, on to the next battle: keeping dogshit off the ballot entirely next year. #HugoAwards

Phil Sandifer @PhilSandifer One more year of holding the line against fascist entryists, and then we all get to go back to being fans. #HugoAwards #EPH

Phil Sandifer @PhilSandifer I admit to voting exclusively authors whose politics do not utterly repel me. #HugoAwards …
I think it’s fair to say that if people like Sandifer are the people in charge of picking who gets to be the heir of Robert Heinlein or Ursula K. LeGuin, then the Sad Puppies had every reason to be concerned that quality had been eclipsed by politics. Sandifer, for his part, didn’t bother denying this, saying only that “Politics is a form of quality” before calling his critics “effing morons.”

Excluding Authors Because Of Their Personal Political Beliefs Is A Bad Idea Except, of course, that Sandifer was talking about voting, not based on the political messages in books, but based on what the authors believed. As any Sci-Fi fan knows, excluding authors with right wing or even openly racist politics would exclude some of the greatest authors in the history of the genre, including Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and even an author whose 125th birthday was (ironically) being celebrated just this past week – H.P. Lovecraft. When your standard for who deserves to be awarded by the Sci-Fi community actively writes out some of that community’s idols, you may want to consider that you’re not engaged in art criticism so much as McCarthyist blacklisting. Ironic behavior from a self-avowed Marxist, but then, irony is not a strong suit of people like Sandifer.

Sad Puppy sympathizers have since excoriated Sandifer over Twitter for these sentiments. However, there is an overlooked tweet from him that shows just how little this fight actually revolves around fighting entryism:
Phil Sandifer @PhilSandifer Also, @femfreq would have gotten on the ballot if not for the Puppies.
If you don’t know, @femfreq is the Twitter handle of the aforementioned feminist game critic Anita Sarkeesian, a woman who not only openly professed contempt for video games before trying to rebrand herself as a lifelong gamer, but actively discredited herself among much of the games media with her hysterical outbursts about the level of violence in the forthcoming “DOOM” game. In short, Sarkeesian is the definition of an ideologically motivated entryist. Hers is the bloody shirt that Sandifer waves to justify the very act that even an ideological fellow traveler said would “kill the Hugos.”

The Social Justice Left Is A Schoolyard Bully

In the past, I have written extensively about the degree to which the Social Justice Left, rather like a schoolyard bully, began its fanatical crusade by targeting art forms and subcultures most often enjoyed by nerds, seeing them as a low status, easy target. If nerds are the “sad puppies,” then the Left saw them as proverbial Chihuahuas. Unfortunately, as the rise of the actual Sad Puppies and the year-long counter-crusade known as #Gamergate shows, these “puppies” are more like abused Dobermans that have been backed into a corner, and who are now mauling their tormentors. The Left’s #WaronNerds was supposed to be a blitzkrieg. It has become an overwhelming rout for those who instigated it.

However, perhaps due to war weariness or simple desire to avoid politics, many members of the gaming or Sci-Fi communities have tried to adopt a “why can’t we all just get along?” approach. They’ve tried to argue that the best solution is for their communities to have room for both social justice warriors and old school nerd traditionalists.

The Hugo Awards have shown us that this is impossible. The Social Justice Left will not be satisfied unless it has complete control over the spaces it infiltrates. If it cannot control a space, it will burn it down and salt the earth. If they could, they would probably torch every script of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew for being anti-feminist, every score of Mozart’s The Magic Flute for its unflattering depiction of its one mulatto character, every print of Apelles’ Venus Anadyomene for catering to the male gaze, and every other work that portrays, or was written by, someone with objectionable politics. This book burning bonfire of the vacuous would be large enough to be seen from space, if the satellites weren’t taken down for being too phallic.

What Nerds Can Teach The Rest Of Us

Nerd communities have seen proof that social justice politics cannot be tolerated, because it will sooner immolate the very institutions it inhabits than tolerate the existence of disparate elements. The utter destruction of the Hugo Awards is a warning not just to nerds, but to Western Civilization that social justice is anti-social, anti-justice, and anti-just about everything else. It is to the body politic what an autoimmune disease is to the human body.

Thanks to the Hugo Awards, the nerds now know that you cannot make a treaty with a cancer. You can only treat it by stopping its spread. When will the rest of us figure it out?

Photo Hugo Awards 2015. Via livestream:

Mytheos Holt is a contributor to The Federalist and a senior fellow at the Institute for Liberty. Yes, Mytheos is his real name.

Hugo Awards and Sad Puppies: Has Political Correctness Invaded Science Fiction?

Hugo Awards and Sad Puppies: Has Political Correctness Invaded Science Fiction?

There is controversy surrounding this year’s Hugo Awards, the prestigious science fiction prize which will be handed out this Saturday and whose previous winners have included Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick and Robert Heinlein. This year’s ballot has many names on it that liberals and the media have denounced as racist and reactionary white men.

The group in question counter that they are not reactionary, racist, or even white, and that the reporting on the entire episode has been atrocious.

The group of writers, calling themselves the “Sad Puppies” – a satire on liberalism’s penchant for appealing to emotion over logic – successfully got themselves on the Hugo ballot, and then nominated, by appealing to the fans who vote for the award. The Sad Puppies unofficial leader is Brad Torgerson, author of “The Chaplain’s War” and other works and a U.S. Army Reserve Warrant Officer. Torgerson, who has been nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula, another prestigious sci-fi prize, told one interviewer, “It became plainly obvious, especially after 2010, that a lot of the classic works of the old days - there's no way they could possibly make it in the current climate because the current climate was all about affirmative action.”

“Message was eating story,” John C. Wright, who got on the ballot via the Puppies’ campaign and is nominated for five Hugos this year, told CNS News. “It’s about that and not political correctness. It’s not that there are certain themes explored in science fiction, it’s that the authors of many of works are being rewarded for advancing an agenda while the craftsmanship of the work is lacking. The question should not be about politics, the question should simply be, are your stories good or bad? People were getting prizes and the craftsmanship just wasn't there.”

Wright notes that the media coverage of the Sad Puppies controversy has been riddled with errors. One of the most egregious cases appeared in Entertainment Weekly, which had to issue a lengthy correction:

CORRECTION: After misinterpreting reports in other news publications, EW published an unfair and inaccurate depiction of the Sad Puppies voting slate, which does, in fact, include many women and writers of color. As Sad Puppies’ Brad Torgerson explained to EW, the slate includes both women and non-caucasian writers, including Rajnar Vajra, Larry Correia, Annie Bellet, Kary English, Toni Weisskopf, Ann Sowards, Megan Gray, Sheila Gilbert, Jennifer Brozek, Cedar Sanderson, and Amanda Green.

Despite the corrections, argues Wright, the media continues to report that the Sad Puppies is an attack on women and minorities.

The Hugo is given out Saturday in a ceremony at the INB Performing Arts Center in Spokane, Washington.