6/30/2012

Some Advice to the U.N. About Global Warming

 
UN? Here’s how to get your mojo back on global warming:
(1) Stop holding sustainability conferences in the world’s most exotic locales, like Rio, and stop booking yourselves into five-star hotels on everybody else’s dime. People’s BS detectors are pretty much set on “high” all the time these days, given the beleaguered state of the global economy.
When you preach that everyone else needs to adopt a more modest lifestyle while living high off the public teat and emitting enough greenhouse gases to choke a whale, you undercut your credibility.


(2) Stop organizing conferences attended by 50,000 people. Seriously, 50,000? That’s a fuster cluck, not a meeting.


(3) Stop pushing ways to make fossil fuels more expensive (through carbon taxes and the ineffective and corrupt cap-and-trade market in Europe) and start pushing ways to make renewable energy less expensive.
The economics are simple. Tell people your entire plan for saving the planet means they have to go into fuel poverty and sell their first born to pay their electricity bills, and they’ll tell you to go intercourse yourself.
On the other hand, make it economically worthwhile for them to help save the planet and, just as if you’d invented a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.


(4) Accept reality. For now, admit wind turbines and solar panels aren’t ready for prime time, meaning mass use in developed, industrial economies. They can’t supply enough power, they can’t supply it reliably, they only last as long as the government subsidies do and they have to be backed up by fossil fuel energy, anyway.
The real fuels of the future, as Robert Bryce explains in his book Power Hungry, are low-emitting natural gas (from both conventional and shale sources) and non-emitting nuclear power, at least until renewable energy advances to the point where it is cost competitive with fossil fuels.


(5) Stop confusing weather with climate, or at least start disassociating yourselves from greens and “environmentalists” with degrees in political science and feminist studies, who do. Start explaining to people that just because they experience a hot summer or a cold winter in their neck of the woods, that’s not proof of climate change, that there’s a difference between global and regional warming and cooling, and that North American auto sales have nothing to do with hurricane frequency.


(6) Stop trying to guilt people into using less energy. It’s one thing to campaign against the greed of oil companies, whom everyone knows fix the price of gasoline, no matter how many government competition bureaus claim they don’t.
But it’s quite another to tell someone who has no other way of getting to work than driving his car, so he can pay his taxes, so his government can fund the UN, that he’s a planet killer for doing so. After a while, people just stop listening.


(7) Finally, start telling the truth. That man-made global warming is a problem, but not an existential one and only one of many global problems we face, that can all best be addressed by rational, economically sensible policies, and not by running around like Chicken Littles with our heads cut off, screaming “the sky is falling” or rather, “the planet is burning”, while bankrupting ourselves in the process.

6/29/2012

Obamacare: How To Do Healthcare Right

The Danish health care system is the nightmare of any anti-government free market believer -- it's a tax-funded state-run universal health care system. Denmark provides "free" health care to all residents, funded through taxes.

There is an optional private health care sector, but it is tiny compared with the vastly larger public system that is used by most of the population. Users pay for a few procedures, such as fertility treatments (from the third attempt onwards) and non-essential cosmetic surgery, as well as most of their own dental care and a portion of prescription medication.    Apothecaries are privately owned, but doctors" visits and hospitalization, including tests, treatment, follow-up care, and some medication, are fully covered.

The Danish health care system is not cheap. According to OECD's Health Data 2009, Denmark's health cost per person, public and private, was $3,512. But in the US the cost is more than double at $7,290! In addition, Danish health care covers everybody - 100 percent of the population-while in the U.S. fewer than 80 percent of citizens are covered, and often only partially. So basically the U.S. system costs more than twice as much and still leaves nearly a quarter of the population in the lurch if they need any medical care. In fact, the U.S. could get universal coverage and still save about 1 trillion dollars per year on health care.

So what makes Danish health care so cheap? It's not because it's of poorer quality. According to international surveys, more than 90 percent of Danes are totally satisfied with their health care, and it uses the most advanced methods available anywhere. And per capita there are more hospital beds and doctors than in the U.S. It's mainly cheap because it's a lot simpler to manage. There are no medical insurance companies or lawyers operating for profit, or financial background checks. There are no uninsured, so there is no paperwork if you get sick or injured.    Some proof of identity-citizenship or residence status - is all you need. And Danes are still free to pick their own family doctors, as long as they choose one within their own geographical area, and they have a choice of hospitals and in certain cases can even opt for treatment abroad.    Of course Denmark's universal health care means a higher overall tax bill and that healthy people are paying for the treatment of sick people through their taxes. But because the system is simpler and less profit-oriented, it ends up being cheaper for everybody.

U.S. health care is the most expensive system on earth and incredibly wasteful. Of course the Danish or Scandinavian welfare systems have a radically different social model. But Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries clearly prove that a government-run system can provide its population with superior care without being inefficient, bloated, or costly. Stronger state regulations ensure that the money pouring through the system ends up where it's supposed to: with doctors and health care providers.  The pharmaceutical industry still gets its fair share since medication is still bought on the free market. This rewards innovation.

In the U.S., health care financing is siphoned off by lawyers, administrators, and insurance companies; the cost of lobbying lawmakers and advertising is astronomical.    The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that does not support universal health care for its citizens. A greater degree of government involvement in health care might be un-American, but when the American system has abjectly failed, a refusal to look abroad for better models is simply self-defeating.

A good public healthcare system starts with learning to control unit costs. Obamacare, that monstrosity that was jammed down our throats by the Congress with little debate and lawmakers openly admitting they never ever read the bill, does nothing to control costs. We can do better.

Unique Google Search Operators You May Not Have Seen

Google (and most other search engines) have special operators and search url suffixes that many internet users are unaware of. Here is a fresh list for your searching pleasure.

intitle: Restricts the search to the titles of the web pages, for example if you want to search for the web pages having WordPress or Blogging in the title, use the syntax intitle:WordPress or intitle: “digital photography” (multiple words can be grouped into a phrase by putting them inside quotes).

inurl: If you include this keyword in your query, Google will restrict the results to documents containing that word in the URL (address of the website). The query inurl:teaching will return documents that mention the words teaching in their URL.

intext: The query using intext:term results in documents containing the term in the text/content. For instance: intext:Globalization will return documents mentioning the term globalization. Additionally, you can use allintext:term with phrases or combination of words.

site: If you want to search for a specific site or domain, use the site keyword as follows — site:microsoft.com for site specific search and site:edu for enlisting domain specific sites.

link: The query link:http://www.example.com enlists the pages that point to the specified URL http://www.example.com. For example, to find pages that point to Google Dictionary enter the query link:www.google.com/dictionary.

filetype: Use this to search for a particular file-type. Use filetype:suffix wherein you need to specify the extension of file as a suffix. This special syntax enables Google to search for all the files whose names end in specified suffix. filetype:pdf searches for all the Adobe Acrobat files.

related: The query related:URL enlists the web pages similar to the web page you specify as the URL. For instance, related:www.wikipedia.com will list web pages that are similar to the Wikipedia home page.

define: If your search query contains define:term, Google displays the definitions of the term from across the  pages on the web. This search operator is useful for finding definitions of words, phrases and acronyms. This comes as a handy dictionary.

Range Specific Search: If you want to search for some news or innovations in certain particular time period, use two periods in succession without space like “..“. To enlist what was in news from 15th Aug 2011-15th Sept 2011, you can frame your query as news 15/08/2011..15/09/2011.

safesearch: If you want to exclude unsafe, profanity, and other types of hate content stuff from your search results, use the syntax safesearch:term.

Google cached version of a url:  cache:url

To locate pages that contain links to related searches, backlinks, and pages containing the url:  info:url

To restrict the search to links and not in text or title:  allinlinks:keyword

To search only specified file types:  filetype:filetypes

In order to view the name and address of a phone number:  phone:keyword

To lookup the search query in a stock index: stock:keyword

Some Interesting [Near] Realtime Google Search Operators:

This list shows what they do:

&tbs=rltm:1 [real time results, not currently operational]
&tbs=qdr:s [past second]
&tbs=qdr:n [past minute]
&tbs=qdr:h [past hour]
&tbs=qdr:d [past 24 hours (day)]
&tbs=qdr:w [past week]
&tbs=qdr:m [past month]
&tbs=qdr:y [past year]

A numerical value can be added to the end of the s, n, h, d, w, m, y to specify number of unit. For example, s30 will search past 30 seconds, n30 for past 30 minutes, h12 for past 12 hours, y2 for past 2 years.

Google+ Profile Search:
https://www.google.com/search?q=ASP.NET&tbs=prfl:e  Note the “&tbs=prfl:e” suffix.

filter=0    Eliminates the “omitted results” or “similar results” filter, and allows all results to show in the SERP.

s_q=should+contain    The results should contain all of the words entered, same as normal search
as_epq=must+include    It’s the exact phrase that you’re looking for. It can also be entered in brackets like “must include”
as_oq=any+of+these    The results should contain any of these words, the search operator is OR
as_eq=none+of+these    The results should contain none of these words, the search operator is -
as_dt=e    What as_eq is for queries as_dt is for operators, as_dt=e excludes the following operator, as_dt=i includes it, e.g. as_dt=e&as_filetype=pdf returns results excluding pdfs, can also be entered using the - in front of the operator
as_filetype=pdf    Returns results of a certain filetype, e.g. pdf, can be entered into query filetype:
as_lq    Returns a sample of links to any site, also usable via the link: command
as_sitesearch    Search a specified site, you can also use the operator site:
as_rq    Shows a sample of related websites, also addressable using related:
as_occt=any    Specify where keywords shall occur on the page
any
title
body
url
links
as_nlo=1    Numbers range starts with 1
as_nhi=44    Numbers range ends with 44 a range. It can be typed into the search bar using 2 full stops .. between the first and last number
as_rights=cc_attribute    This attribute limits the search results to pages that have certain rights. It is quite useful for things like image or graphics search. The possible attributes are:
cc_publicdomain
cc_attribute
cc_sharealike
cc_noncommercial
cc_nonderived
You can combine all of these attributes in one query putting them in brackets and combining them via the | character.
num=100    Sets the number of results per page. It can only be used if Google Instant results are turned off. Instant limits results to 10 per page.

pws=0    Parameter that allows you to turn-off personalization
cd=2    Passes down the keyword rank clicked. In analytics suites this can come in handy if you’d like to track the keyword rank. A guide how this can be applied can be found here
pq=previous+query    Shows the previous query. This parameter appears when switching queries during one Google session. It might be quite valuable to extract this parameter for analytics purposes to detect search chains. 
oq=original+query    Shows the original query. Try searching for one thing, say sunflowers and then searching on for sunflower seeds. You’ll notice in the URL that a parameter oq=sunflower+X appears. X might be “seeds” or just nil depending on whether or not you have clicked on the Google suggest query. The query parameter will show the full query “&q=sunflower+seeds”, though.
filter=0    Include omitted results
complete=0    Turn auto-suggest on or off
nfpr=1    Turn off auto-correction of spelling
ncr=1    No country redirect: Allows you to set the Google country engine you would like to use despite your current geographic location. Though it works best if no Google cookie has been set yet.
safe=on    Turns the adult content filter on or off
biw=1920    Browser inner width, here 1920px
bih=832    Browser inner height, here 832px
start=30    Show results rankings from this number, so 30 is page three for 10 results per page
sa=    User search behavior parameter
sa=N – User searched
sa=X – User clicked on related searches in the SERP
btnG=”Search”    Text that appears on the search button (customization option for including search on one’s own site), here “Search”
newwindow=1    Open the results in a new window
navclient/client/sourceid=ie7    Where the search originated from, e.g.:
navclient – Google toolbar
navclient-ff – Google search toolbar for Firefox
firefox-a – Firefox search box
chrome
rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official    Source of query with version of the client and language set.

source=univ    Google navigational parameter specifying where you came from, here universal search
tbo=1    Always show search tools in the left sidebar
prmd=    Parameter that determines which of Google’s vertical search engines are suggested in the left sidebar besides web, they can be combined, the most important ones are:
prmd=a – only applications
prmd=b – only books
prmd=c – only places
prmd=d – only discussions
prmd=i – only images
prmd=n – only news
prmd=s – only shopping
prmd=p – only patents
prmd=u – none (only web)
prmd=v – only video
stick=    The stick parameter is one of the newest additions that we will likely see more and more. It encodes the knowledge graph box that is shown on the right next to many different queries. Try playing around with it.
Example: https://www.google.com/search?q=sex&stick=H4sIAAAAAAAAAONgVuLQz9U3MCkvLAIAW7x_LwwAAAA  - this uses the unique identifier for Marilyn Monroe

6/23/2012

Are Consumers the Real Job Creators?

I’ve seen several pieces over the last week that maintain this as economic fact:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/johntharvey/2012/06/17/job-creators/

http://whowhatwhy.com/2012/05/27/rich-guy-on-how-middle-class-are-the-job-creators/

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/06/17/1100766/--The-Only-Real-Job-Creators-Are-Consumers

I think what happens here is that some liberal blogger, professor or pundit writes something like this and then everybody else jumps aboard and starts echoing the meme without doing any critical thinking.

Consumers do drive an economy, but these authors miss the mark. Lots of businesses happen to be consumers of other businesses. So when you tax businesses and pass legislation that makes it harder for business to succeed, businesses stop buying things, which ultimately hurts consumer spending.

All of this does not even touch on the fact that small businesses are the true engine of growth for this country. And, most small businesses are taxed like individuals, i.e., the owners pay the tax.

The notion that we can somehow "create" demand is a fallacy. The notion that cutting government spending will not improve the economy is a fallacy. The government doesn’t have any money, so every dollar they spend is a claim against the savings of their citizens. The less of these claims that exist, the better off financially the people will be and they can adjust their outlook accordingly.

Workers are hired for one reason: the employer feels the added value (such as profit) they bring in, outweighs their cost – that’s it. If you could hire someone for $50k a year but they bring in $200k more a year in business or production then you would keep hiring as many people like that as possible.

Keynesianism makes sense, until you actually think about it. Demand does not come out of thin air like magic which most Keynesians believe. Demand comes from production, demand does not come from demand.

The 2008 crash occurred because we actually tricked ourselves into thinking borrowed money equaled productive capacity. It no more equaled that than borrowing against a future paycheck equals a raise. If you do this long enough eventually you have to cut back hard, and it’s painful, hence 2008.

By the logic of Keynesians we could solve all of our world’s problems if we just built a new aircraft carrier. This ship would not add any productive capacity to our economy but it would also not have a final completion date or price tag. It would thus cost unlimited amount of money and as a result generate an unlimited amount of jobs. It would move the aggregate demand curve off the charts. We would call this ship the USS Paul Krugman and it would be our path to utopia.

Consumers do drive an economy. However, how does a consumer receive his fuel (money)? By having a job. How does he attain this gainful employment? Because a business has a need for him. How does a business decide it needs an employee? Because it decides to expand. How does a business expand? By receiving the money to do so. How do they receive said money? By having a tax and regulatory environment that encourages growth. The consumer needs the business for work, and the business needs the consumer to buy from it. Unfortunately, we have proven that taxing businesses and wealthy individuals does not prove to be a feasible long-term solution. We may raise revenue in the short-term, but in the long-term, we have a disappearing middle-class. This is why even though top tax rates have ranged from a low of 28% to a high of 92% over the last 60 years, the revenue to the government as a percentage of GDP has remarkably stayed at about 18 percent.

One last point – we are not in a free market economy right now and look at the mess we’re in. The government, via the FED, controls the most important pricing discovery mechanism in capitalism. We can’t return to prosperity until interest rates are allowed to be determined by market forces and we stop the Keynesian tinkering with interest rates and money-printing stimulus programs.

6/15/2012

What Keynes Really Said

According to Keynes, the root cause of economic downturns is insufficient aggregate demand. During  World War II and it's immediate aftermath, Keynes was immensely influential. By the 1970's when the great inflation was unfolding,even Keynes' chief critics such as Milton Friedman or Robert Mundell still retained many Keynesian assumptions. With the crisis of 2008, Keynesian policies came back with a bang and reoccupied center stage.

Following the Crash of 2008, these policies are no longer satisfactory. If the entire global economy is to follow Keynesian medicine, which requires more money printing, spending, borrowing and bailing out - on top of all the money printing, spending and borrowing that preceded the crisis, then we need to look at them with fresh and critical eyes.

The place to begin is with what Keynes actually said.

First of all, Keynes did not believe that fiscal stimulus alone could ‘kick’ the economy into full employment equilibrium as many of his modern day proponents, such as Paul Krugman, claim. Keynes viewed fiscal stimulus as a short-term stop-gap more than anything; viable to get the economy going and keep people in employment, but not sustainable in the long run.

Keynes himself in his writings is often obscure, even at first glance self-contradictory. In some cases, very close examination reveals that Keynes was not actually contradicting himself. Often he was simply being sloppy, although sometimes he seems to be intentionally opaque, rather like former US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan used to be when testifying to Congress. Opacity has its uses in politics, especially when there is a logical difficulty to obscure or evade.

Keynes stated that Interest rates are too high.

"The rate of interest is not self-adjusting at a level best suited to the social advantage but constantly tends to rise too high. . "

This is a frontal assault on the entire price system.

Keynes does not define any of his terms. He does not say what the "social advantage" is. He does not tell us how we will know when interest rates have fallen far enough. Nevertheless, he has told us something important—that the price system cannot be trusted.

It is important to keep in mind that interest rates are a price, the price of borrowed money. They are not only a price; they are one of the most important prices in an economy. All prices are interconnected, but this price in particular affects all other prices.

Keynes stated that by continually lowering interest rates, we can abolish slumps and enjoy a state of perpetual quasi-boom. It may appear extraordinary that a school of thought should exist which finds the solution for the trade cycle in checking the boom in its early stages by a higher rate of interest. The remedy for the boom is not a higher rate of interest but a lower rate of interest! For that may enable the boom to last. The right remedy for the trade cycle is not to be found in abolishing booms and thus keeping us permanently in a semi-slump; but in abolishing slumps and thus keeping us permanently in a quasi-boom.

This, of course, is precisely the formula for creating inflations, bubbles, and crashes.   If printing "a bit more money", as economist Paul Krugman often maintains, will "cure" a "massive economic slump," then only the tiniest amount of newly printed money should be needed to keep a boom going. But this has not proved to be the case. In fact, larger and larger amounts of new money are needed to keep a bubble from popping. Eventually all the debt associated with the new money becomes too great a burden for the economy and everything collapses. 

But the central paradox of Keynesianism is that it attempts to “fix” the price and profit system — by subverting it. No free price or profit relationship is left untouched.  Keynes wanted interest rate controls,subsidies, direct or indirect currency controls, asset price floors, wage floors, executive compensation controls, direct price controls, trade barriers, and interference with the profit system.

President Obama says "I strongly believe in a free market system". Unfortunately he doesn't understand, in his Keynesian righteousness, that he has been jamming big sticks into the spokes of the market wheel, then loudly exclaiming that the wheel is not moving and is in urgent need of government repair.