From one of the founders of modern economics. From p.114 in the physical book (1895) which I'm sure the library shouldn't let me take out - it's an antique! It's got errata pasted in by hand. Online here. The first three paras are quite dry, but give a good outline of the full meaning of 'general' analysis in economics. As far as I can tell, we're some way from knowing all the answers, especially as regards the general effect of - say - energy cost changes. It picks up at para four, 'How should we act so as to increase the good and diminish the evil influences of economic freedom?' Later, 'taking it for granted that a more equal distribution of wealth is to be desired...', ho ho, how quaint!
I should have been at Glasto, watching Elbow as the sun set over Shepton Mallet. But no. So, here instead -
Putting aside the practicalities, listening to Rifkin made me think back to a recent post, where Hayek is pointing the finger at scientists and engineers, claiming they have some natural affinity with totalitarianism.
But then, Hayek's big argument is also about distributed power. Political and energy power are never far apart - I mean, that's a truism, isn't it? Nothing radical there. Given that, what sort of energy systems would Hayek's ideal world have?
For myself, I think we've probably got the mix of centralised and distributed exactly back to front. It suits all the large energy and state players that way, but what we need is good economies of scale for producing the components of the distributed system. There's an interesting spatial effect from economies of scale too: you increase the value density - transport costs as a proportion of overall value drops. You can shift stuff further. Magic!
Freedom of information: a jolly good thing, we can all agree. In the states, they're being used to try and get all of Mann's emails: the Washington Post had a recent editorial on it - followed quickly by WUWT lamenting the `bigoted' nature of the article. (The writer does at least seem to acknowledge that FOIAs can be used improperly, an argument that seems to apply only when people they don't like use it.)
The weird element to all this for me has always been the attempts to use FOI requests to actually gain data: as if academics were generally an awfully uncooperative bunch. I keep on having the following dialogue pop into my head...
How most people ask for the time:
p1: excuse me, do you have the time?
p2: yup, it's half past one.
p2: no worries.
How a climate skeptic asks for the time:
p1: (from some distance away, with a megaphone).
You! You in the street! Tell me the time!
p2: Errr. Half past one?
p1: What, exactly half past one? I find that very hard to believe.
p2: Well, it's actually one twenty-n...
p1: I KNEW IT!! You lying sonofabitch! Try to pull the wool over my eyes, would you? Who do you work for?
p1: Government, I bet. That watch belongs to the people. You can't keep the truth from us. Put the watch in a paper bag and throw it over.
p2: Look, it's now gone one thirty, do you think you could...
p1: Trying to change your story now, are you? Right, that's it - I demand to see all documentation relating to the purchase of the watch, and all your emails in case you've ever said anything to anyone about the watch.
p2: What? Why? How is that going to help you find out the time? Listen, there's a clock over there on the town hall building...
p1: Government clock! You guys are all synchronised, don't try and pull that one on me. Your watch is clearly a fraud. Only 450 million other government watches to go and the entire edifice of state lies will be exposed...
p2: Look, why don't you go and buy your own watch, then?
p1: Why would I do that? I paid for *your* watch.
At the heart of many scientists - but not all scientists - lies the heart of a totalitarian planner. One can see them now, beavering away, alone, unknown, in their laboratories. And now, through the great global warming swindle they can influence policy, they can set agendas, they can reach into everyone's lives; they can, like Lenin, proclaim "what must be done". While the humanities had a sort of warm-hearted, muddle-headed leftism, the sciences carry with them no such feeling for humanity. And it is not a new phenomenon. We should not forget that some of the strongest supporters of totalitarian regimes in the last century have been scientists and, in return, the State lavishes praise, money and respectability on them.
Interestingly, Phelps quotes Hayek; here's the original; there's a lovely extra snippet where Hayek hints that scientists and engineers are peculiarly susceptible to the fascist siren song:
It is well known that particularly the scientists and engineers, who had so loudly claimed to be the leaders on the march to a new and better world, submitted more readily than almost any other class to the new tyranny.
From some comments at initforthegold:
Question from Grant - "how can raising the temperature be other than good?" This is an area I'd like to learn more about myself: what are the likely impacts, and what's the scope for us taking action to avoid the negative impacts or adapt to them if we have to?
Here, I avoid discussing ways of measuring impacts, though there are a lot of places to start looking to answer your question. The IPCC, of course, has written entire reports on 'impacts, adaptation and vulnerability', as well as mitigation. The Copenhagen Diagnosis is good place to get an overview of the physical impacts and associated risks.
I think you can avoid a lot of the confusion about measuring impacts by remembering one thing: risk is expensive. Even if we had 100% certainty about global temperature changes, we wouldn't know exactly what the regional impacts were going to be. Starting in the present, this means insurers are calling for action. Without it, as they point out, it will become massively expensive, or just plain impossible, to insure against climate-related outcomes. One thing about insurers: you can be reasonably certain they've looked into the issue pretty thoroughly.
Risk has always been expensive: a study back in the 70s looked at the village of Daiikera in Rajasthan, near Jodphur. Monsoons mean an unreliable quantity of rain. The result: farmers cultivated many distant plots to hedge their bets because they knew only some would produce. The more carbon we put into the atmosphere, the more we face exactly this situation: any one food-producing region is going to be more at risk, and the cost of managing that risk will continue to rise. The Chicago Exchange has its roots in this kind of hedging, for producing egg and butter; the World Bank's work on agricultural risk nicely outlines various ways it can be managed, but none are free. I know I'm repeating myself, but - climate change just makes all this more and more expensive.
I dipped a toe into climate skeptics' blogland this morning. There goes the morning. Starting here with Derek Tipp, who I found a while back via the Freedom Association. He links to a story in the Asian Correspondent asking, ‘what happened to the climate refugees?’
Of course, WUWT got onto this as well – “the UN ‘disappears’ 50 million climate refugees, then botches the disappearing attempt.” (We’ll come back to the disappearance in a moment.) The internets eats them both up: forty thousand results for the original, six thousand for WUWT’s take on it.
The claim from the original Asian Correspondent article: “In 2005, the United Nations Environment Programme predicted that climate change would create 50 million climate refugees by 2010.” This is supposedly refuted by claiming that four islands – the Bahamas, St. Lucia, Seychelles and the Solomon Islands – have seen their populations increase. To spare the suspense: (1) based on the references the article is pointing to, no, UNEP did not predict that at all. (2) Census data from four tropical islands is not a good way to check, especially when you haven't checked what it is you're checking.
I tried out Windows 7's own speech recognition software for the first time yesterday, and I'm nearly, almost, amazed. It'll take a little while to work out what I really think about it. It is, overall, probably faster than typing. But typing is a very different process. I'm reminded of Julia Cameron saying that it's all about getting stuff down, not thinking stuff up - the direction's important. Speaking feels like thinking something up. I guess that could change with practice, but the error-rate of typing doesn't interfere with the flow in quite the same way. (Don't interrupt the flow, man... )
I just did a quick one-off test. The paragraph below is the opener for an awesome 1979 geography textbook, 'people, pattern, process', by Keith Chapman, from the days when human geography was just starting to wonder what all this critical theory business might be about. The one I include here was spoken, and I've left in all the errors it made, with corrections in square brackets. Despite my best efforts at newscaster-speak, I still mumble, and perhaps the mic isn't great (just a bog-standard headset) - but this is still pretty impressive given that I didn't need to lift a finger. So: spoken averaged 83 words per minute. I read that people can speak at 120, but that would be a fair old rush. My typing attempt averaged 40 wpm: I'm quick in short bursts but pretty error-prone so I spend a lot of time correcting, but the end product is at least accurate. That 83wpm doesn't include going back through and fixing things.
Even so, pretty impressive. Somehow, even 'Star-trekkers' presented no problem. The program also goes through and indexes your documents, so it's been managing very well at replicating both my own academic language and idiosyncracies (including 'workinz'... perhaps not ideal.) It also allows for easy correction, which it learns from, but that does of course slow things down.
When I have the money, paid speech software might be worth a go if it would improve on this already pretty smart program. But we'll see: perhaps, as I say, it doesn't come down to speed. Words through fingers are different to words aloud. Anyway, here's the speech program's attempt at interpreting my reading, done in 1 min 53 seconds as opposed to about four minutes of hapless typing:
Good science fiction should maintain a credible link between reality and imagination. A productive think of it as [should be: theme for writers of] science fiction has been man's ability to jump be on [beyond] the barriers imposed by the dimensions which define his existence - space and time. Thus HG Wells time traveller could project himself but [both] forward and backward in time. The 'transport are' [transporter] of the starship enterprise enables Captain Kirk [it knows that's a name...?] and his crew to travel through space instantaneously, although it has been known to permit simultaneous movement in both dimensions! [star trek episode in-joke in first para, wow!] Geography may appear to have little in common with such whorls [worlds. I prefer Window's word] of the imagination, but his [its] position as an academic discipline is related to its explicit concern with spatial relationships of objects and events at the surface of the earth. The universal availability of the kind of technology at the disposal of the Star-trekkers would transform these relationships by effectively nullifying the role of distance as an obstacle to movement between one place and another.
Much too long for a comment, responding to this at transition.net:
On the energy in petrol: the quote above we're checking is "a 40 litre fill-up at a petrol station is the equivalent of about four years of human manual work". So the question is: how much human work does 40 litres of petrol equate to? I get it to be 41 days, or about 1 day per litre. It also turns out, at current UK fuel prices, direct people-power would be a hundred times more expensive than liquid fuel! So -
Let's look at diesel, so we can compare humans to a diesel generator. I'm only dealing with the work that can be done directly here, not embodied energy or calorific value. Bang goes the theory's human powered station did this brilliantly. Here's a useful image from that page, listing number of cyclists and the wattage required. Note: we all output about 100 watts even at rest: that chart works out as cyclists' average 120 watts *useable* output, so they're being required to do at least 150-200 watts - but as I say, it's the work done we're interested in.
(Note also: they could have set it up with twice the number of cyclists to give them an easy time, but keeping it around 120 watts each made sure people had to really work at peak loads. Much better telly!)
The basic fact from that: you can get about 120 watts (0.12 kw) of electricity from a cyclist, if you're working them. How does that compare to a diesel generator? Wikipedia and this conversion chart work out about the same value: about 3 kw hours per litre. 40 litres is thus 120 kwh. Our cyclist at 0.12 kw would output 120 kwh in a nice round 1000 hours, or 41 days with no breaks. At which point they'd probably want a little lie-down.
That's handy: it means 1 litre of diesel is equivalent to 1 day's cycling, if we're getting that cyclist to generate electricity. (Note: the diesel chart range varies between 2.93 and 3.66 kwh/litre, depending on size of generator, for 1/2-load, by my calculations. Same kinds of load changes would likely apply to cycle-power, but let's not worry about that right now...)
Now, average UK household daily electricity use is about 9 or 10 kwh I believe. That would be, what, 3 or 4 litres of diesel. At current prices that's £4.20 - £5.60. Minimum wage is £5.93 at the moment. 10 kwh is one cyclist going for just over 83 hours. Presuming you have a team of them in your basement, and they're not paid for lallygagging, that'd be £492 a day. (I guess they'd have to buy their own energy drinks from that...)
So that's a small comfort: diesel prices would have to increase a hundred-fold before human domestic power stations become a viable option! (obviously all ceteris paribus: plenty of other things would go awry a looong time before oil prices got anywhere near that cost, but it's a fun comparison. For a given definition of 'fun'.)