Jots with dots 9/24

Ezekiel Emanuel had gained some mention in the last week for making the case he should die at 75. It’s in the Atlantic. Basically, it’s an observation on the quality of life given elderly infirmity. Like, ya know, if you’re going to be beset by creaky hips and shingles at some point in your dotage, you might as well die before that happens. I paraphrase. But I’m not sure I believe that’s his greatest motivation. In the past when arguing for ACA, this fellow made elaborate arguments about the redistribution of health care. Essentially he’d like to see it redistributed from the old to young. Given finite amounts, that’s not without wisdom. But the reality is, there’s enough resources to tend to most everyone in some ways. Thus his enthusiasm for the pessimistic, Malthusian, dystopic scenario comes off as quite creepy.

Damon Linker makes a nice rebuttal, and I agree with him. http://theweek.com/article/index/268589/should-you-hope-to-die-at-75-absolutely-not

I don’t agree with or have any affection for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but she’s formidable as a codger. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/09/ginsburgs-reason-not-to-retire-makes-no-sense.html Someone ought to ask Emanuel if shes still good enough toi stay in the game.

Jim Webb http://hotair.com/archives/2014/09/23/jim-webb-im-seriously-thinking-of-running-for-president-as-a-democrat/ The rule these days must be kinda that Democrat candidates should be scholarly like Pres. Bartlett. Pres. Obama is, superficially, he having been a seminar lecturer. Webb is moreso, he’s written his own books on deep stuff. Hillary doesn’t compare so favorably.

Carbon taxes. That is the ‘simple view’ of the carbon tax as a typical tax disincentive. But I don’t think that’s how it plays out practically. With this, we are talking about the difference between how a tax disincentive can be used to discourage certain types of activity vs how taxes might be used to discourage activity on the whole. We are also talking immutable laws of man.

There is an amount of work to be done to fulfill the material / food / heat output needs of the people we have. Work is activity and the work side is where carbon and BTU’s are expressed. If that work to output ratio can be improved over the course of time, that’s great. But we don’t take productivity gains and make them fallow. We exploit new work to output efficiencies to make more stuff, and we go on to have better material lives and more free time. That’s what we do.

Work consumes BTUs and carbon, and the work baseline is difficult to compress. I’d say impossible. If you make work more efficient, you end up using more carbon to do more, albeit more efficiently.

But say you’re going to try with a carbon tax, to either compress the work baseline or to encourage that people get more work out of their carbon expenditure. They may in fact go get more efficient machines to use less carbon. But they’ll probably get more productive machines, use less people, and take the labor savings to pay the tax. The last thing they do is decrease the amount of those ethereal ‘work’ units expended. Inasmuch as carbon is tethered to ‘work’, I just don’t see it ever going down.

Last thing is, fossil fuels subsidize all the fanciful renewals we play around with, because you get the most efficient amount of work and BTUs out of fossil fuels. Even if say wind and corn were scalable and could provide the amount of power you needed, I find it hard to believe society bypasses the most efficient process for ‘work’ so that they can expend resources, which are always needed elsewhere, on less efficient ‘work’.

But environmentalists do believe that’s possible, that we’re going to use the less efficient process and we’re going to do less ‘work’. And it’s like believing in a perpetual motion machine. You tell me who’s got a better grasp of ‘science’, who’s a flat earther.

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One thought on “Jots with dots 9/24

  1. pm1956

    But carbon is not necessarily tethered to work. We do work with energy (BTU’s if you like). There are non carbon forms of energy already–nuclear, geothermal, wind, solar. Really, carbon is just a stored form of solar energy.

    I will grant you that there are some people (often environmentalists, frequently with heavy religious overtones) who would like to reduce consumption overall. They happen to think that we all have too many things, etc. Jesus was apparently also of this mindset. I think it is crap, as do you.

    But you are engaging in over generalization here.

    Further, there is nothing inherently “efficient” about carbon based energy. Oh, and corn/ethanol is a form of carbon based nergy, and one of the more inefficient ones at that.

    Really, you are thinking about this wrong. The problem (in econ speak) is that carbon based energy has negative externalities that are not factored into the costs of carbon based energy. Those externalities are the impact of the residue of burning carbon–the release of Co2 into the atmosphere and the problems of global warming. C lassic economic policy says if there are negative externalities such that the real costs of something are less than the actual costs, then you use tax policy to adjust those costs and make them equal. This is basic econ 101 stuff. This is why the idea of a carbon tax is really a conservative idea.

    See : http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/16/business/16view.html

    Reply

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