Kids, Government And Climate

David French at NRO alerted us to this article by Roy Scranton, a professor at Notre Dame, in the NYT.  Roy’s title is Raising My Child In A Doomed World.  Really, we are not making this up.  David does a nice job calming folks down and reminding us that suicide is not the proper reaction to climate change.  You should read all both David, to see a reasonable response, and Roy to see what at least some of the climate folks seem to believe.

In case you don’t we will give you a taste.  Roy has just had a daughter and he is worried about climate change although his book mentioned in his introduction, we haven’t read it, is essays on war and climate change.  The section we found most interesting was this:

To stop emitting waste carbon completely within the next five or 10 years, we would need to radically reorient almost all human economic and social production, a task that’s scarcely imaginable, much less feasible. It would demand centralized control of key economic sectors [why just limit yourself to key sectors], enormous state investment in carbon capture and sequestration and global coordination on a scale never before seen,

Again, you should really read the whole thing to see that the above quote is not unusual.  Roy appears to believe that the only possible solution is 1984.  Roy is worried that he has doomed his daughter to live on a dystopian planet and his plan is to ensure that she does.

We hope that Roy’s daughter will never endure the government he suggests.


Government Versus Private

George Leef at NRO Corner is trying to get you to read an article at at the Martin Center.  He starts out with this:

It isn’t easy for any private institution to survive when it has to compete with government-funded institutions. That’s very much the case when it comes to private schools.

We suppose we could give George extra credit for the word easy.  It isn’t easy to compete with other private institutions either.  As we see it, it is easier to compete with government-funded institutions.  Federal Express and UPS seem to be doing fine.  Yale, Stanford, and Hillsdale seem to be doing just fine.

The difference between private institutions and government-funded ones is that the former can go bankrupt while the latter get many more chances to survive.  Jim Geraghty’s The Weed Agency is a wonderful fictional account of how a government agency survives.  It is easier to compete with government-funded institutions because they don’t have an incentive to change.  Their centralized decision making process also makes it difficult for them to change.

What is true is that a poorly run government-funded school is more likely to survive than a poorly run or underfunded private school.  We think that is the advantage of private institutions.  We think George should appreciate that.

Politics And Corporations

Those pesky corporations, allowed by Citizens United, are at it again exercising their right to free speech.  Just to remind you of the case:

The United States Supreme Court held (5–4) on January 21, 2010 that the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for communications by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporationslabor unions, and other associations.

Really, the vote was 5-4 so we were that close to losing a basic freedom.  Well, we think it really was two basic freedoms: speech and association.  Recently we got this email from Airbnb.  We have only excluded the signatures:

The US Supreme Court decided to uphold the travel ban. We are profoundly disappointed by the Court’s decision. The travel ban is a policy that goes against our mission and values — to restrict travel based on a person’s nationality or religion is wrong.

And while this news is a setback, we will continue the fight with organizations that are helping those impacted. Airbnb will be matching donations to the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) up to a total of $150,000 through September 30, 2018 to support their work advocating for systemic change and legal pathways for those affected by the travel ban. If you’d like to join us, you can donate here.

We believe that travel is a transformative and powerful experience and that building bridges between cultures and communities creates a more innovative, collaborative and inspired world. At Airbnb, we are so grateful to our community who will continue to open doors around the world so that together, we can travel forward.

We are glad that Airbnb didn’t lose their right to speak to their customers and others on political issues. We are glad that the court made the decision on the legal issues rather Airbnb’s mantra of travel is good.   We are travel fans too but it should have nothing to do with the legal decision the court made.  We will continue to use Airbnb despite our differences.

Competitiveness in MLB

Ben Fredericton at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch brings a big baseball issue back into the limelight.  Every sport requires that teams be competitive.  Fans will lose interest if one baseball team wins 130 games.  Local fans will lose interest if the local team loses 130 games.  Ben is fired up and says:

Pointing fingers at the media coverage won’t help. Fans have better ways to spend their money than by watching bad baseball. Even if their team tanks right, like the Cubs and Astros, the empty seats will be waiting when the momentum turns.

Until baseball finds a way to reward competitive teams, or punish the ones that don’t mind losing, there will be clubs that repel fans at home and on the road.

We are not convinced of Ben’s assertion that “tanking right” is a bad idea.  His example of the Cubs and the Astros seem to be doing fine.
Competition has been an issue for some time.  It was a big concern of the Commissioner’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Baseball Economics.  Because of revenue sharing teams can be profitable without drawing many fans at home.  As many teams have shown, like the Astros, Cubs, and Pirates, it is a reasonable strategy to sell off established players and build for the future.  Tanking can and does work.  Tanking can also be very profitable for owners even if it doesn’t produce winning teams in the future.  The problem for Ben and everyone else is that it is hard to identify good tanking (creating a better team in the future) and bad tanking (just doing it for the money).
The problem for Ben and MLB is that there aren’t any good options.  You could hire MWG at exorbitant rates and we could decide who to penalize and who to absolve but baseball prospects are notoriously hard to evaluate.  Relegation is a great idea but where are the teams to promote?  The farm system in baseball where the MLB teams control almost all minor league teams means there are no real opportunities for promotion to MLB within the US.
One relegation solution would be to allow international teams into MLB.  We create a league with, say, ten teams in various cities outside the US.  The top three go into MLB and the bottom three MLB teams go into the international league.  It is unlikely to come about because the small market teams will stop it but it is a real solution.


A Venezuela Reminder

Kevin Williamson is on the Venezuela beat at NRO.  It has the electronic marker of socialism-always-fails.  Nice.  Do read the whole thing.  Kevin channels Jonah’s new book (the review is currently in the works) when he concludes about the aberration of capitalism’s great enrichment of humans:

That’s because being rich is temporary. Countries, like families, can go from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves — and it need not take three generations. As the Scots say: “The father buys, the son builds, the grandchild sells, and his son begs.” A nation that is not building is on its way to begging. Venezuela is already there.

In a 2006 poll conducted by the University of Chicago, Venezuelans led the world in national pride. One wonders what they would say now, if they weren’t too terrorized to speak. It is difficult to be proud when you are scared, hungry, and miserable.

Funny thing: The second-proudest nation in that poll was the United States.

We need to avoid Venezuela.  As many folks have pointed out the problem with socialism is socialism. It never works as NRO points out.  The problem with capitalism is capitalists.  Capitalism works but capitalists, like Harry Brock in Born Yesterday (another review from APT in the works) make folks reluctant to embrace capitalism.  Keep reading Kevin will help us make the critical decisions.

Common Sense Is Not Common

We came across a six-week old opinion piece from Rhea Suh in Detroit Free Press.  Here is how she starts out:

We all want to buy less gasoline for our daily commute, grocery run or trip to the beach. We want to promote innovation, create jobs and leave our children a livable world.

Well, let’s start with the first sentence.  We suppose theoretically it might be true.  We would like to buy less gas.  Even more, we would like to pay less for gas.  But our actions are exactly the opposite.  MPG goes down as MPG go above 50:

While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph.

You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas.

We tried an experiment this weekend.  On a trip with 220 miles of highway driving we set the cruise control at the speed limit, 70 MPH.  Excluding commercial vehicles, RV, and folks towing stuff (not many of any of those) we passed seven vehicles.  We couldn’t count all the cars that passed us but it was several hundred.  We got the nice improvement on MPG that each one of those vehicles passed up.

Then there are the vehicles that we are driving.  It is obvious on the highway that there are lots of big ones.  This list for 2016 shows the top three sellers as pick-up trucks.  So folks are driving big vehicles fast.  Their actions show that they don’t care much about the amount of gas they use.

Then there is the second sentence about promoting innovation, jobs, and a livable world.  That doesn’t seem universal given the actions of the previous administration but Rhea puts it as a difference of opinion when she reports:

On Tuesday, Pruitt announced plans to weaken the successful clean car and fuel economy standards the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Transportation Department put in place in 2012.  [Emphasis added]

We have no doubt that Pruit’s actions will promote innovation, jobs, and a livable planet but Rhea thinks we can regulate the economy to success.  Here is a fun irony from her:

And, building on the success of its all-electric Chevy Bolt, General Motors is planning to add 20 new electric models by 2023.

Sidebar: We got confused between a Volt and a Bolt.  We actually saw one of the former on our trip.  We are yet to make the acquaintance of the latter.  End Sidebar.

Success? Well we can’t find Bolt sales but HybridCars tells us

The first-generation extended-range electric Volt was launched late 2010 for model year 2011 and sold just 7,671 units during a protracted rollout. Its peak sales in 2012 amounted to 23,461 units. In 2013, sales were flat with 23,094 units; in 2014 they dropped to 18,805 units, and in 2015 as word of the pending second-generation Volt spread, sales were just 15,393.

The only success of the Volt is in garnering subsidies.  This estimate of over $250,000 per car might be high but electric vehicles are highly subsidized.  We are delighted that the current administration has cut back on the foolish regulations of the previous administration that would reduce innovation, jobs, and safety.  We often disagree with The Donald but here he is on the correct side and perhaps too reticent.  A more interesting question is: why does the federal government have any interest in the average MPG of any auto maker?  Let’s go the common sense route and continue to reduce regulations.

Great Terminology

The great terminology is not Intellectual Dark Web even though it is a useful term.  It comes from Holman W. Jenkins, jr. at WSJ.  He says:

Careers like Mr. Cuomo’s are built on running down what might be called “good policy” political capital. Mr. Cuomo is using up the state’s margin of energy survival to burnish his green potentials. He is sacrificing upstate’s economy to burnish his green credentials.

We agree.  Later Holman says:

This is the good-policy capital buffer at work. Mr. Cuomo is doing statewide what Mayor David Dinkins did for New York City in the early 1990s, using up the buffer. [Emphasis added]

Well said.  We think the term we have bolded, good-policy capital buffer, is great.  It fits with our conception of the growth fairy.  When you engage in good policy you feed the growth fairy and when you engage in bad policy you starve the growth fairy.  A great example of bad policy was the Obama requirement to raise MPG standards (CAFE) to 54.5.  Interestingly, the Washington Post called it uncontroversial.  Foolish would have been kind.  Fortunately, The Donald and friends have been undoing Obama’s handiwork.  The linked author is not happy but you should be.  The connection is not always instantaneous but it gives a buffer to all the anti-growth things that governments do.  Let’s call it the good-policy capital buffer in the future.