Thursday, June 29, 2006

I love stories like this, LXIII

Can you imagine suing the school district over homework? It happened in The Peoples' Republic of Madison, WI. Thankfully both courts that have heard the case have thrown it out:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A state appeals court on Tuesday upheld a lower court's decision throwing out a lawsuit filed by a father and son who said students shouldn't be required to do homework over the summer.

The kid was in an honors math class which gives extra credit as it is. The appeals court said:
"The Larsons have utterly failed to present an arguable legal basis showing why their case should not have been dismissed,'' the appeals court said. "Summer homework - particularly for an honors class for which students receive additional credit - fits comfortably within the range of what is reasonable.''

Gad! Some people! You'd think that an honors math student would want to study more calculus! I know I would!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Gavrilo Princip's big day

This is the anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914, the event that precipitated the First World War. Here is the description of the event in the article on the assassin, Gavrilo Princip, from the Encyclopaedia Britannica:
Gavrilo Princip

born July 25 [July 13, Old Style], 1894, Obljaj, Bosnia
died April 28, 1918, Theresienstadt, Austria

South Slav nationalist who assassinated Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his consort, Sophie, Duchess von Hohenberg (née Chotek), at Sarajevo, Bosnia, on June 28, 1914. Princip's act gave Austria-Hungary the excuse that it had sought for opening hostilities against Serbia and thus precipitated World War I. In Yugoslavia—the South Slav state that he had envisioned—Princip came to be regarded as a national hero.

Born into a Bosnian Serb peasant family, Princip was trained in terrorism by the Serbian secret society known as the Black Hand (true name Ujedinjenje ili Smrt, “Union or Death”). Wanting to destroy Austro-Hungarian rule in the Balkans and to unite the South Slav peoples into a federal nation, he believed that the first step must be the assassination of a member of the Habsburg imperial family or a high official of the government.

Having learned that Francis Ferdinand, as inspector general of the imperial army, would pay an official visit to Sarajevo in June 1914, Princip, his associate Nedjelko Cabrinovic, and four other revolutionaries awaited the archduke's procession on June 28. Cabrinovic threw a bomb that bounced off the archduke's car and exploded beneath the next vehicle. A short time later, while driving to a hospital to visit an officer wounded by the bomb, Francis Ferdinand and Sophie were shot to death by Princip, who said he had aimed not at the duchess but at General Oskar Potiorek, military governor of Bosnia. Austria-Hungary held Serbia responsible and declared war July 28.

After a trial in Sarajevo, Princip was sentenced (Oct. 28, 1914) to 20 years' imprisonment, the maximum penalty allowed for a person under the age of 20 on the day of his crime. Probably tubercular before his imprisonment, Princip underwent amputation of an arm because of tuberculosis of the bone and died in a hospital near his prison.

"Princip, Gavrilo." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. 28 June 2006 (

Anthro-centric global scare-mongering, IX

Is the science accurate or isn't it? This AP article claims that it is:
The former vice president's movie ["An Inconvenient Truth"] ... mostly got the science right, said all 19 climate scientists who had seen the movie or read the book and answered questions from The Associated Press.

First thing I wondered was, what book? Is AP talking about "Earth in the Balance"? Then I looked it up on Amazon and found that, yes, there's a companion book with the same title as the movie. I was amused that the Amazon "Best Value" deal for this book didn't pair it up with EITB, but with "The World is Flat".

But putting aside all that, here's another report, this time from the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works:
In the interest of full disclosure, the AP should release the names of the “more than 100 top climate researchers” they attempted to contact to review “An Inconvenient Truth.” AP should also name all 19 scientists who gave Gore “five stars for accuracy.” AP claims 19 scientists viewed Gore’s movie, but it only quotes five of them in its article. AP should also release the names of the so-called scientific “skeptics” they claim to have contacted.

This, of course, sounds like a political screed. But to me "An Inconvenient Truth" is a political screed.

Someday there's going to have to be a decision made as to whether we're going to actually find out what's causing the current warming trend. Is North America absorbing more CO2 than it produces? Are we overdue for an ice age?

If all you see are the missing legs of this soldier...

...then there's not much for us to talk about.

Staff Sergeant Christian Bagge lost parts of both legs to a roadside bomb in the Iraq desert. When President Bush visited him in the Brooke Army Medical Center last January, he promised Bush that they'd go running together.

If all you see are the missing legs of this soldier, then I'd say that there's a piece missing from your soul.

Make the pledge

From the Center for Small Government comes a new pledge to make this coming 4th of July, a new Declaration of Independence: the Small Government PledgeSM. I did. How about you?

By Carla Howell and Michael Cloud

56 Individuals signed the original Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence was NOT simply a strong expression of political opinion.

It was NOT an attempt to influence, persuade or lobby the King or Government of Great Britain.

It was NOT a mere petition. It said, "We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury."

The Declaration of Independence "published and declared" that the "United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great-Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved…"

Then the 56 Signers backed up the declaration with their personal commitments. They wrote, "And for the support of this Declaration…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

To the British government, it was an Act of Treason.

They risked everything. Their homes could be confiscated or burned. Their families might be arrested and imprisoned. They faced the gallows. IF they failed.

Yet their bold declaration and pledge set in motion the events that led to Independence, Liberty, and the United States of America.

If you were alive then, if you had the opportunity, would you have taken the risks those 56 Signers took? Would YOU have signed the Declaration of Independence?

We hope you would have. We hope we would have, too.

But now you have the opportunity to sign the NEW Declaration of Independence: the Small Government Pledge*.

The NEW Declaration of Independence does NOT require you to risk your life, liberty, or property.

It does NOT demand that you sacrifice your life or earnings for the cause of liberty.

It does NOT require you to suffer to advance or achieve liberty.

The only way to expand liberty is to shrink government. The only way to restore liberty is make government small.

The only way you can get small government is to vote small government. And that begins with taking - and living by - the Small Government Pledge*:

The Small Government Pledge* makes sure that every choice you make, every vote you cast moves toward small government and liberty.

The Small Government Pledge* is an ACTION pledge, not just a statement of belief, principles, or positions.

It's simple and direct.

Do you sincerely want to make government small? If so, take the Small Government Pledge*!

The Small Government Pledge*

"I vote small government. Every issue. Every time. No exceptions. No excuses.

"Here's what the Small Government Pledge* means:

1. I will vote for and support only those candidates who consistently vote for small government; who work to make government smaller than it is today. For candidates who have never served in office, I will vote only for those who campaign to make government smaller than it is today.

2. I will vote against and refuse to support every candidate who votes to sustain or enlarge today's Big Government - or campaigns for it.

3. I will vote in every federal, state, and local election. If necessary, I'll get an absentee ballot. I'll find out about the choices on my ballot - and make sure I always vote small government.

4. If there is no small government candidate on the ballot, I will either write in and vote for a small government candidate or leave the ballot blank for that office.

5. I will vote for every ballot initiative and referendum that shrinks the size, spending, taxes, scope, or power of today's Big Government.

6. I will vote against every ballot initiative, referendum, and bond that increases the size, spending, taxes, scope, or power of today's Big Government."

Will you celebrate this 4th of July by reading and signing the NEW Declaration of Independence – the Small Government Pledge*?

Click here to take the Small Government Pledge* and get a printable certificate you can sign and hang on your wall:

Have you already signed the Small Government Pledge*? Check by clicking here:

2006 Copyright Carla Howell and Michael Cloud
* "small government is possible", "small government is beautiful", "Small Government Pledge" and "Small Government News" are Service Marks (SM) of Carla Howell and Michael Cloud. "Personal Responsibility Sets Us Free" is a Service Mark of Michael Cloud.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I love stories like this, LXII

Oh, dear! No more dodgeball. No more touch football. No more tag, fer cry-yi! Your children will be spared the potential bumps and bruises of these vicious recess games:
In January, Freedom Elementary School in Cheyenne prohibited tag at recess because it "progresses easily into slapping and hitting and pushing instead of just touching," Principal Cindy Farwell says.

Well, I guess so. Maybe if the schools would get with it and supply protective padding for the kids that want to play tag. Perhaps Everlast could come up with a variation on its sparring gear for boxing and adapt it for grade school games of tag. We wouldn't want the kids to get skinned knees or anything, or suffer the trauma of actually being tagged and shouted at derisively: "You're it!" Oh, the humanity!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Excellent op-ed

From the Washington Times, an excellent op-ed by Diana West called "Deluded America". The point she makes is that these days we seem to believe that war shouldn't sully one's hands; and that morally superior people
never "humiliate" prisoners, never kill civilians, never torture or incarcerate jihadists. Indeed, they would like to kill, I mean, prosecute, or at least tie the hands of, anyone who does. This, of course, only enhances their own moral superiority. But it doesn't win wars. And it won't save civilization.

Why not? Because such smugness masks a massive moral paralysis. The morally superior (read: paralyzed) don't really take sides, don't really believe one culture is qualitatively better or worse than the other. They don't even believe one culture is just plain different from the other. Only in this atmosphere of politically correct and perpetually adolescent non-judgmentalism could anyone believe, for example, that compelling, forcing or torturing a jihadist terrorist to get information to save a city undermines our "values" in any way. It undermines nothing — except the jihad.

Do such tactics diminish our inviolate sanctimony? You bet. But so what? The alternative is to follow our precious rules and hope the barbarians will leave us alone, or, perhaps, not deal with us too harshly. Fond hope. Consider the 21st-century return of (I still can't quite believe it) beheadings. The first French Republic aside, who on God's modern green earth ever imagined a head being hacked off the human body before we were confronted with Islamic jihad? Civilization itself is forever dimmed — again.

During the last Presidential campaign, John Kerry said
We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives but they're a nuisance.

That was just one of the things – that 9/10 attitude – that caused me to vote for Bush.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

My sentiments exactly

We haven't watched any television for 6-1/2 years. The last football game I watched was Green Bay's loss to Denver in the Super Bowl. Occasionally I'll feel a twinge when I know that the British Open Golf tournament or the Masters is on TV, but it soon passes.

I've become aware that soccer has gained in popularity, what with the term "soccer mom" and all. I'm also aware that the World Cup is going on right now.

But when I read about the U.S. losing to Ghana in a game "they had to win", I was somewhat less than interested. Now I see that James Taranto of Best of the Web Today feels the same way:
At first this Associated Press dispatch sounded like bad news:
There was no glory for the United States at this year's World Cup, only frustration and failure.

Done in by their own mistakes and a crucial penalty call, the Americans lost to Ghana 2-1 Thursday in a game they had to win to advance past the tournament's first round.

But don't worry. We did some research, and it turns out they were only playing soccer. And let's be honest: People who play soccer deserve to lose to Ghana.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

More on protectionism

After I posted my correspondence with Jerry Pournelle I got a couple of comments from one of my most faithful readers, Susan H. in Kentucky. Since she refuses to get a Blogger account so that she has a proper signature, I just know it's her. So, when you see "Anonymous" below, think "Susan":

Anonymous said...
I wish I could remember all the "jobs" I've had over the years. And here I am, pushing 50 and learning a new trade because computer publishing is on the wane. My market doesn't have the same ramifications of global exodus as many manufacturing industries, but technical publishing is definitely in trouble. (It will fix itself, but not in time for me.) Why protect those in global bubbles, but not me? Personally, I don't want the protection, but the question's valid.

Steve Erbach said...Susan (at least, I presume it's Susan),
When you say the technical publishing is in trouble, do you mean that fewer hardcopy books are being published, or that fewer copies of books are selling...? I subscribe to Safari Books Online and I find that it's very handy. The publishers, I'm sure, get some pittance every month for every book of theirs that winds up on subscribers' bookshelves. Looks to me like the Safari model might be a model for, say, new fiction or cookbooks, too. Yes, one has to have a computer to access the books, but as wireless becomes more prevalent and portable e-book readers get lighter and more convenient, there'll be fewer books in the brick-and-mortar bookstores.

I'm going to quote from a correspondent on Pournelle's site regarding the changes in publishing. He was reacting to my job exportation post:
In my view, book publishing has already changed. Conventional book publishing is a mass market phenomenon, which seeks to satisfy all initial demands by choking every channel of distribution. The result of this is overprinting of those few titles that do make it through the marketing department's gauntlet of what they think will sell. (Forget about literary merit. That has been delegated to the professional agents who must pass on all entries to this race and have exclusive rights of presentation. Since they can only make a living by presenting 'best sellers' the midlist has disappeared, as has the careful nurture of new talent for the long term. Maxwell Perkins is very dead at this point.) This crisis especially affects fiction, which is forced into defined genres that must meet these same expectations, and a marketplace where non-fiction is the preferred flavor. Since the incremental cost of printing another book shrinks as the the quantity goes up, the result is a glut of books.

Because of the doctrine in law called 'First Sale', no further author royalties will be paid, and because of the disintermediation provided by the Internet, a secondary market in used copies quickly springs up, driving the price on some as low as a penny when the new copies cost as much as thirty dollars. This puts authors in a nice little squeeze. Selling the next book depends very much on whether or not the advance for the present one has been 'earned out'. Complicating that is the fact that the size of the advance dictates the size of the promotional budget. If that is not adequate, then unsold copies soon crowd the remainder sales table. No one maintains a backlist anymore. For tax reasons, as well as the fact that storage costs.

The disintermediation in the marketplace provided by on-line booksellers has led to the gradual disappearance of the small independent bookstore. Only chains have the economies of scale to survive the costs of direct retailing and their selection pales next to that of Amazon and the rest. Indeed, the 80/20 rule applies here, with most of the books on the shelves selling so seldom that they are known in the trade as 'wallpaper'. Retailers cannot make up the difference with special orders or even better coffee. If one is going to go to the trouble of ordering a book, then the Internet provides a much easier and more convenient method. And people who used to sell books to used book stores now have found that Amazon and eBay give them a much more diverse and profitable channel. So the used book store has retreated from the street to the spare bedroom, with a marketplace that is open 24/7. I do this myself a little, and most of my stock comes from library and other charity sales. Most of it is work long out of print, so the canard that used book sales on the Internet hurt those of new books is not entirely accurate. Again the 80/20 rules applies.

The future of publishing may be changed by the advent of 'print on demand' books. Many small presses have already taken this route since it allows them to closely match supply to demand. E-books will continue to be a niche category because they really have to be printed out to be read with any ease. (I speak as the publisher of these.) What e-books do provide is another form of disintermediation by eliminating the conventional publishers from the equation. As they demand more perfect, ready to sell, texts, the advantage in small publications shifts to the author who is willing to to make a more direct connection to the consumer. Amazon Shorts is a case in point. I am not the only author who is serializing a novel there, and one was recently dropped in six parts at once. The genius of this program is that it allows everything to be printed out and gives authors a much higher royalty than conventional publishing. with its multiple levels of distribution, allows. My current novel, in 14 parts, will ultimately pay me a better per copy royalty than conventional hardbound publication probably will. And there are no remainders. It is no coincidence that Amazon now has its own "Print on Demand" book printing company.

So what is to be done, is for authors to become better business people and embrace these changes in the marketplace and the technology for delivering text to customers and give serious consideration to not letting old school publishers and agents dictate the terms by which their work is published. Supply and demand is a sword with more than one edge.


Francis Hamit


Steve Erbach
The Town Crank

Anonymous said...
Nice analyzation, but the question was about protecting markets, not making it in the publishing industry. :)

Everything changes -- I've never had a job where we all sat tight and repeated our mantra day in and day out -- you adjust, change, or you die. I just haven't been fortunate enough to be in a business that didn't have to adjust to changing technology or the market. I don't see why anyone would want to protect a global market from the innovations forced by the market.

Steve Erbach said...
Nice analyzation, but the question was about protecting markets, not making it in the publishing industry. :)

Heh! I admit that I focused only on your remark about technical publishing being in trouble.
I don't see why anyone would want to protect a global market from the innovations forced by the market.

I don't see how anyone could protect a "global market"! There's a global market for automobiles, so, I suppose, the individual companies and countries that benefit from that market are interested in shutting out competition for personal transportation.

Say that somebody invented a really practical, safe, inexpensive, and roomy hovercraft that could not only glide down city streets but could scoot over water and rough terrain. I imagine that the existing lobbying muscle of the auto industry could see to it (since the legislators are covered with auto industy pocket lint) that hovercraft were subjected to extraordinary regulatory requirements that would raise the bar for hovercraft manufacturers and make it tougher for them to make headway.

Is that what you're talking about? If not, would you care to expand?

Steve Erbach
The Town Crank

I'll add to this if there's any more.

FWIW, ladies and gentlemen, WMD in Iraq

Here is a 129 KB PDF of a 4-page fax sent from the House Permanent Committee on Intelligence to Senator Rick Santorum's office. Quite a few chemical "weapons munitions" have been found since the Iraqi incursion.

So, did President Bush lie about WMD's considering that it appears that Saddam Hussein managed to get rid of most but not all of them? "About 500" have been found in three years. How many more are in the hands of the Islamo-fascists?

More on this here and here. Oh! Goodness! That first one is a Fox News story! That couldn't be true, could it?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Anthro-centric global scare-mongering, VIII

Two items, actually. This morning I saw a blurb from the China Daily, of all places. Stephen Hawking, the noted astrophysicist, was in Beijing giving a talk before a group of 500 students. Besides saying that he thought that Chinese women were beautiful, Hawking opined that he was
"very worried about global warming." He said he was afraid that Earth "might end up like Venus, at 250 degrees centigrade and raining sulfuric acid."

Ooookaaay. Considering that that's the way the earth started out, maybe he's got a point.

Next, a call to arms from ABC News:
Has your life been directly affected by global warming?

We want to hear and see your stories. Have you noticed changes in your own backyard or hometown? The differences can be large or small — altered blooming schedules, unusual animals that have arrived in your community, higher water levels encroaching on your property.

Show us what you've seen. You can include video material of the environmental change, or simply tell your story via webcam.

I can just see it: somebody with a webcam shows a bunch of wilted flowers, or a pool of standing water that, gasp!, wasn't there last year at this time!!!!!

All I can say is, Oh, gawd!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Mini-discussion with Jerry Pournelle on jobs

Pournelle carries on an open-ended discussion on the hidden costs involved in manufacturing jobs bleeding away from the U.S. to other countries. He has advocated a 10% "revenue" tariff to act as a barrier to other countries unloading goods here that we have no chance of making at the same price. Those are just a couple of points he talks about.

I jumped into the discussion a couple of weeks ago and was rewarded with some reaction. First I wrote to his web site:
Subject: Walter Williams on Creative Destruction

Dear Jerry,

I've read most of your comments about the abandonment, more or less, of the skilled worker in America, the people that made up a goodly portion of the middle class that have now been cast aside for efficiency's sake. That is, their jobs have leaked away to the Far East. What is to be done with this expanding pool of skilled workers that now have no useful role to play, since their jobs have been filled by, perhaps, several people making a puny fraction of what that skilled worker made?

I know that you're looking for an answer. I don't have one to offer, at least for the question you're posing. I think that "creative destruction" covers the the situation as presented, though the question as to the human cost will settle itself over time.

For example, this brief piece by Walter Williams on "Disappearing Manufacturing Jobs", makes the point. The point being one that we've all heard many times: should something have been done for the buggy whip manufacturers or the whalebone corset manufacturers or the lamp oil manufacturers? What should have been done over the period that our agricultural sector shrank from 41% of the population at the turn of the 20th century down to 2% in the 21st century? (Of course, some will point out that there sure seem to be a lot of illegal immigrants in agriculture, but that's a side issue!) Williams asks what happened to the switchboard operators of the 70s. Anyone can add to this list. American RAM manufacturing jobs, American TV and electronics manufacturing jobs, crafts industry (needles and thread, crocheting, rug hooking, doll making, artificial flowers) manufacturing jobs, flower-picking jobs, office supplies manufacturing jobs, auto manufacturing jobs, many of these jobs no longer exist in this country. But how is it that we're still able to buy all of this stuff? Is it because we're borrowing money that can't be paid back? Or is it because we continue to offer things to other countries through our own changing comparitive advantages? I'm certain that the reasons are many, but it sure looks to me like our economy props up a goodly portion of the world.

I try to visualize just what sorts of things would happen to us if we slapped tariffs on everything to allow us to, what? Catch our economic breaths? Restore pensions and health insurance? The industries that overspent on all sorts of things, whether it was fancy-schmancy world headquarters or gold-plated pension plans or expensive product features were bound to fail in world markets eventually. It's that creative destruction that catches up with them.

The only thing that is NOT creatively destroyed anywhere in the entire world is government. And since only government can impose a tariff, I'm sure they'll get around to it during the next administration.

What do you envision would be the result of such a tariff? The preservation of jobs? How many jobs will be lost because the tariff raises the price high enough that less of those protected goods are purchased? I would say just look at the steel tariffs from the early days of the Bush administration. What did they do for us? How many jobs were saved?

I've considered that maybe a 10% tariff would help provide job training for those people most threatened by job losses. But then I wondered whether we'd just be setting up another bureaucracy that would never close up shop but would ask for larger and larger budgets year after year. Pournelle's Iron Law triumphs again. I don't have the answers, but a temporary measure like a 10% tariff for revenue wouldn't do much more than reduce consumption so that that 10% would eventually be counter-balanced by job reductions to offset the reduced demand.

Is it worth trying? Well, sure, pick an industry that's hurting and "save" it with a 10% revenue tariff. I'll make a Julian Simon bet that in 10 years that industry will be less of a factor in the economy than it is today since cheaper and more efficient alternatives will have been found, and that that industry will employ fewer people than today. Matter of fact, I wish there indeed were a way to test this. Simon had a much easier time of it with the bet he had with Ehrlich. They just had to monitor the commodities markets.

What about book publishing? What if the market for books changed so much that the traditional author/publisher relationship were altered significantly? I mean, hardback book publishing would decline in favor of paperback, then paperbacks would decline in favor of e-books, then e-books would decline in favor of video. You, personally, may not be affected by those sorts of changes in the industry because you have so many areas and interests to write about...and you're in the, shall we say, sunset of your career. But doesn't it seem reasonable to assume that public buying trends regarding book publishing will change beyond recognition? What, if anything, should be done about that?

As a sample of the changing nature of publishing, I just posted a book review of John Derbyshire's new book, "Unknown Quantity" on this week. That's the second of two reviews I've written in two years. Out of curiosity I checked my "ranking". I am currently ranked 259,373rd. I don't know how many reviewers there are, but I do know that the top reviewers have posted more than 10,000 book reviews each! To me it seems one of the easiest ways to get "published" that I know of, except for blogging. But if one posts a book review of a new book right away, the chances are a lot of people interested in that book will read it.

Anyway, I've gotten off the track. Again, I wish there were a way to gather more information about the effects of a limited tariff such as you suggest.


Steve Erbach
Neenah, WI

Pournelle's reply:
If one's god is Mammon, then maximization of consumption is clearly the proper goal.

I had this conversation with Dr. David Friedman, an old friend among the sanest people I know, last week; it is a repeat conversations I always have with economists: what are the TRUE COSTS of Free Trade in a world in which there are political realities? What is the economic cost of anomie? When you export a job, the benefits are to those who import and sell the goods, and to their customers; when you support the person whose job has been exported by giving him a place at the public trough, who bears the cost? What are those costs? And what is the cost of taking an independent, self-supporting, taxpaying citizen and converting him into a public burden who knows that he is no longer contributing to his society; is no longer the breadwinner for his family? Who knows now that the only way to "get a raise" is to support even greater "social spending"?

What is the economic cost of anomie? I have never heard an answer from the economists.

Nor have I heard an analysis that distinguishes between a job lost due to technological change – the classic buggy whip maker – and a job lost to an overseas sweat shop that pollutes the environment and pays the highest wages in its region – and those are paltry. Creative destruction of poverty in Canton, China is a Good Thing; but is it good for Canton, Ohio? I have seen few analyses that even address these questions.

I then wrote a reply:
Subject: Creative Destruction

Dear Jerry,

» it is a repeat conversations I always have with economists: what are the TRUE COSTS of Free Trade in a world in which there are political realities? What is the economic cost of anomie? When you export a job, the benefits are to those who import and sell the goods, and to their customers; when you support the person whose job has been exported by giving him a place at the public trough, who bears the cost? What are those costs? And what is the cost of taking an independent, self-supporting, taxpaying citizen and converting him into a public burden who knows that he is no longer contributing to his society; is no longer the breadwinner for his family? Who knows now that the only way to "get a raise" is to support even greater "social spending"? «

I hesitate to suggest this, but I think you've just set up a false dichotomy; that is, we either preserve the jobs of those "independent, self-supporting, taxpaying" citizens, or they go on the dole.

As I said in my letter, I don't have any answers. I haven't taught economics as you have; so if YOU don't have any answers, I have exactly zero chance of coming up with any.

However, Dr. Williams makes a point that is germaine to your concern:

"Imagine for a moment that technology hadn't destroyed most of the jobs of those 41 percent of Americans working in agriculture in 1900. Where in the world would we have gotten the manpower to make all those goods produced now that weren't even imagined in 1900? Jobs destroyed through the market forces of creative destruction make us all better off, and that applies also to job destruction that comes from peaceable, voluntary exchange with people in different cities, states and countries."

Now I'm going to indulge in standing up a straw man...fair warning: Are you saying that perhaps this present phenomenon of the export of jobs "to an overseas sweat shop that pollutes the environment and pays the highest wages in its region" is so different in kind from anything that has gone before that we're in danger of [FILL IN THE BLANK WITH HORRIFYING FUTURE SHOCK-TYPE CATACLYSMIC SOCIAL UPHEAVAL]?

I loved your book, "A Step Farther Out". If you accept the erection of my straw man, it would sure seem as if you reject the premises on which you based your book. Or am I now guilty of offering up a red herring?


Steve Erbach

To which he replied:
Yes. I am saying that there is a fundamental difference between having a job go out of existence because not needed, and having it exported to a place that has no environmental laws, no minimum wages, no health care; precisely in the same way as it would be different if we imported slaves to do someone's job, then conscripted him into the army to help suppress the slaves.

And finally I wrote this:
Re: Creative Destruction

Dear Jerry,

Your reply stayed with me this past week until I was re-reading Paul Johnson's "A History of the American People". He wrote about the rapid loss of manufacturing share the U.S. experienced in the 70's, as well as the "spate of regulatory legislation passed by Congress in the 1960s and 1970s." As a result American business productivity suffered. The decade of 1967-1977 saw American manufacturing productivity grow by only 27% compared with 70% in West Germany, 72% in France, and 107% in Japan.

Then I realized that you'd put your finger right on it: "no environmental laws, no minimum wages, no health care". That is, we have regulated ourselves out of competitiveness. That's why jobs are being exported to the Far East. Our worker productivity is very high, but it comes at the expense of doing more with fewer workers...because it's become more difficult to employ so many and stay competitive with the amazing regulatory load.

I note that at present EU countries typically have a higher unemployment rate than the U.S. does, as well as high regulatory and tax requirements...and lower productivity. The U.S. was socked by a big regulatory load dropped on us during the 70s so that we fell behind in productivity versus the Euros. But Euro businesses haven't taken to heart the lessons of American businesses confronted with the changing regulatory climate.

A friend of mine wrote during an e-mail discussion that European workers "are healthier, living longer, have lower rates of infant mortality, eat better quality food, are less obese, have access to public transportation and education of which we can only dream." To which I replied, "What I see are the crazy high tax rates, the nationwide strikes, the high unemployment rate, the low worker productivity, the near bankruptcy of their governments, the immigrant unrest that surpasses our own..." So, do European democratic socialist countries have the answer to job exportation? That is, by a greater imposition of the custodial state (as Herrnstein and Murray termed it) than we have in this country?

It looks to me as if the exportation of jobs from our shores is the price we pay for trying to stem the tide of the custodial state.


Steve Erbach

I tried to summarize all this for a friend yesterday. Mostly I feel that there can be no "solution" to the shift in middle-class manufacturing jobs bleeding away. It looks to me like we've decided that "all men are created equal" can be achieved retroactively through legislation, regulation, and taxation. We are, by God!, going to make sure that everyone has an equal shot at everything. So since manufacturing jobs are more hazardous than office jobs, we responded by establishing OSHA and imposing a regulatory bureaucracy. Since there was too much emphasis on male-only sports in public colleges, we responded by establishing the Title IX bureaucracy. Since medical care is beyond the means of lots of folks, we responded with the Medicare / Medicaid / insurance bureaucracies.

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy is the explanation for why manufacturing jobs have fled our shores. We can't be competitive if Indian iron foundries, for example, allow their workers to wear nothing but loincloths. Or where shoe factories in the Far East employ natives at a tiny fraction of what the ILGWU workers used to make over here. We have regulated ourselves out of competitiveness. To stay in business, corporations employ overseas workers in manufacturing because if the stuff was made in the U.S.A., no one would buy it because it'd be too expensive.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Recent commentary: Delayed information

How do you feel about the delayed public release of information in stories such as the VA data theft and Haditha massacre?

(published 12-Jun-2006, Appleton Post-Crescent)

I remember feelings I had during the Cheney shooting incident: bemusement and distaste. Bemused by the astounding uproar in the national media over the so-called coverup...and distaste for the media, not that that's hard. I read about JFK in Paul Johnson's excellent "A History of the American People". Nobody thought anything of the press covering for Kennedy during his campaign and for his entire time in office: his philandering, back problems, health problems, etc. Information has been delayed for as long as news has been gathered. Consider, too, the stories rushed into print or on-the-air without complete fact-checking. An excellent recent example -- one that a certain CBS producer just won't admit -- was the story based on phony documents asserting that President Bush was AWOL during his National Guard stint. All I can say is that it's tough all over, but the press is doing its job.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Anthro-centric global scare-mongering, VII

The College Republicans at Oklahoma University have the right idea for honoring Al Gore's new movie, "An Inconvenient Truth": give away free snow cones for "Global Cooling Day".
Stage an event like this one to grab the attention of your campus and raise awareness on the real facts of the global warming phenomenon. Engage with students and debunk some of the myths and cool the hyperbole surrounding the issue.

Of course, the adults in the global warming movement are not amused:
"The College Republicans' beach parties mocking global warming are just another example of the misplaced priorities and short- sightedness of the Republican Party," said College Democrats of America President Grant Woodard. "The College Republicans' ignorance toward the seriousness of global warming and climate change shows a Party more focused on partying than talking seriously about the issues facing young people across America. While College Republicans party on this summer, College Democrats will be knocking on doors, working to get Democrats elected nationwide. With young leadership like this, Republicans should prepare to get burned in the upcoming elections."

Oh, dear! Dr. Bill Gray of Colorado State University has the right attitude, I think. He was interviewed by David Harsanyi of the Denver Post:
Gray is perhaps the world's foremost hurricane expert. His Tropical Storm Forecast sets the standard. Yet, his criticism of the global warming "hoax" makes him an outcast.

"They've been brainwashing us for 20 years," Gray says. "Starting with the nuclear winter and now with the global warming. This scare will also run its course. In 15-20 years, we'll look back and see what a hoax this was."

Gray directs me to a 1975 Newsweek article that whipped up a different fear: a coming ice age.

"Climatologists," reads the piece, "are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change. ... The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality."

Thank God they did nothing. Imagine how warm we'd be?


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sad news for fans of WHAMCO

A few weeks ago I announced that my WHAMCO site was complete. That is, every WHAMCO radio commercial had been re-recorded in Windows Media format with all the pops and clicks from the original LP's removed by Lee Withers of KONA in Washington.

Well, yesterday Mr. Withers wrote me with sad news about the death of Steven B. Williams, the glorious announcer voice of the Denver radio team: from ABC Radio: "At one time the morning team of STEVEN B. and THE HAWK were big in the ratings in Denver. Steven B. Williams moved to California 5 years ago and ended up working in a winery. Now his body has been found floating in the ocean off Catalina Island with a gunshot wound to the torso. The owner of a winery where he used to work said he was a great guy and that getting the news was strange because he was just about to call Williams to see if he'd come back to work for him. Police have no motive, no suspects, and aren't even sure where to start looking."

Best laugh of the week, I

I normally read Walter Williams' columns for a breath of fresh air when all the jabber about evil profits and evil Walmart and evil corporations gets me down. Today I read his May 31st column on why we're not being gouged at the gas pump. Dr. Williams uses an extremely easy to understand line of reasoning:
Say you owned a small 10-pound inventory of coffee that you purchased for $3 a pound. Each week you'd sell me a pound for $3.25. Suppose a freeze in Brazil destroyed half of its coffee crop, causing the world price of coffee to immediately rise to $5 a pound. You still have coffee that you purchased before the jump in prices. When I stop by to buy another pound of coffee from you, how much will you charge me? I'm betting that you're going to charge me at least $5 a pound. Why? Because that's today's cost to replace your inventory.

The best laugh of the week came at the end of the column:
CEOs tend to be cowards when dealing with politicians and environmental extremists, but I have a recommendation that requires only a modicum of courage. At each gasoline station they should put up photos, perhaps videos, of penguins, caribou, polar bears and other critters frolicking along Alaska's coastal plain. Then have a voice-over or caption reading:

Don't be selfish. Your paying $3, $4 and $5 a gallon for gas keeps these critters happy and their play space clear of oil rigs.

Can you dig it? Penguins in Alaska!! I'm still chuckling!

Next: cloned jockeys on cloned mules?

What better was to demonstrate a scientific achievement than a sporting event? Two mules cloned from the same champion racer (mule racing? Yes sir!) finished 1st in their respective heats in a recent race in Nevada:
Idaho Gem covered his 350-yard sprint Saturday in 21.817 seconds, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over five rivals. Idaho Star was less than three hundredths of a second faster, finishing in 21.790 seconds to win by a half length over four competitors.

"For both to win first, it is awesome," said Don Jacklin, an Idaho businessman who helped finance the cloning project. "I think it is going to open a lot of eyes as far as cloning. I think the race experience will go a long way to show what cloning can do."

Fixing horse -- well, mule -- races by cloning past champions. Now that's genius!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Egg on the face: Greenpeace

I've heard of people being embarrassed by sending out letters that weren't in final form, but this one takes the cake. A Greenpeace fact sheet distributed during President Bush's tour of Pennsylvania promoting atomic energy said that "This volatile and dangerous source of energy" was not the answer to our energy needs and that nuclear reactors posed a threat. But then came the rough draft phase of the fact sheet:
In the twenty years since the Chernobyl tragedy, the world's worst nuclear accident, there have been nearly [FILL IN ALARMIST AND ARMAGEDDONIST FACTOID HERE]

The fact sheet was evidently rushed to the laser printer without too much proofing. That "fill in the blank" remark was, apparently, a joke inserted by a Greenpeace staffer.

As far as egg on the face, I just wish these outfits had as much of a sense of humor as James Carville does. Carville smashed an egg on his head on "Meet the Press" after the 2004 Presidential election to symbolize how wrong his predictions were. Not that Greenpeace will ever admit that they're wrong about atomic power...