Thursday, September 29, 2011

O Canada

Canadian Commission on climate change

O Canada.

It seems that you are badly in need of some of our leaders. Leaders with a "can do" attitude who don't let a few facts and figures get in the way of progress. The bright side for you good folks is that many of us would be happy to send them north of the border. I can see by that confused look on your face you will need a bit of background on this.

Apparently your National Roundtable (commission consisting of business leaders, academics and researchers) recently issued a report claiming that climate change is going to cost Canada billions per year in the coming decades. These costs will incur from diseased forests and the resulting loss of timber, flooding as the sea rises, and on and on.

Luckily we in America are blessed with a plethora of leaders who do not recognize climate change as a real problem. For those Canadians not accustomed to edgy innovative American-style problem solving, let me spell it out. We will give you our climate non-believers who can set your energy policy and bingo presto- you are ahead of the game to the tune of tens of billions of dollars! Or for those of you who still think in Brit-speak, tens of thousands of millions.

I would like to caution you that the contract will call for you to keep them. Please see the no-take-backs clause. Also there is no warranty stated or implied. What you see is what you get.

So how about it. Think of it as a gift. Rather like when the French gave us the statue of Liberty. I can assure you, though the politicians will age and wither, the effects of their good ideas and sound policies will last for many generations. Come on, be a good neighbor. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

BBC news anchors gobsmacked.

After viewing the short video at the above link and upon brief consideration, we can see that capitalism is a conscienceless activity. Is this not the very definition of sociopath? Without conscience. Thus, the system that occupies much of the human and non-human resources of this planet is sociopathic. There are two tricky bits here. The first is, when we use the term sociopath, as applied to a human, we assume (and rightly so) an almost one-to-one correlation with sociopathy and, what we will briefly refer to as, evil. The other problem is our difficulty seeing the otherwise obvious fact that the game can be without conscience while many or most of the participants in the game are not sociopaths. For my money, (excuse that little tehehehe moment) this is a clear demonstration of both emergent properties and unintended consequences. That is to say, the finished product (capitalism) adds up to more than the value of the individual components- but not necessarily in an optimal way. Also the behavior and outcomes of the system do not reliably result in net enhancements for all the parties concerned.

Now, are there variations of capitalism where constraints are placed on certain behaviors and it is, to some degree, regulated? Sure. Can such constraints and regulations blunt the negative effects of the conscienceless system? Often. Can humans apply policies that take advantage of the system's positive traits and apply the results for the benefit of societies? Arguably. There are places in the world where this is done with varying degrees of success. One could argue that a thoughtful observer might learn from the more successful examples and bring some of this knowledge to bear in places that are currently experiencing difficulty. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Elizabeth Warren is great. I would only argue that her list is too short. How about this, you were healthy enough to pursue your wealth, in part, because of the government involvement in health care and disease prevention. The CDC comes to mind. Not enough? Your efforts were not hindered by unnecessary tragedy and disease afflicting your spouse and children. Again think CDC along with others that do things like provide safety standards for everything from the stove in your home to the luxurious and outsized SUV that takes your offspring to school and soccer practice. What about the bridges and tunnels travelled by that same SUV?  Who employs the engineers and other personnel that set standards for and inspect those bits of infrastructure? The list goes on and on.

The problem is that Ms. Warren's message will fall on two kinds of ears. The ears of certain types of successful  people and the ears of everyone else. In the ears of the former group, everything in their personal reality whispers to them, "you are wonderful and deserve every dime you acquire". (Think of a luxury SUV commercial and you'll hear some of the whispers.) Even rational words spoken by a calm qualified person are unlikely to penetrate such invisible but formidable armor. This argument, though important to realize, leads those of us endowed with the 'other ears' to infer that we could simply out vote such people with our superior numbers. The sticky bit of the problem is that many of our neighbors who share the more common ears quietly strive to hear the siren-whispers of those same voices.