Arnold Kling  

More than Corn--it's Wood Chips!

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Forget Oil Econ 101. Steven Pearlstein writes that the President's State of the Union


rhetoric about energy independence, cars running on alternative energy and ending our addiction to Mideast Oil -- that could have come straight from the mouth of Jimmy Carter.

Indeed, it has come to this. While Iran pursues nuclear weapons, our President rhapsodizes about wood chips, stalks, and switch grass.

If anyone asks me to evaluate our country's leadership today, I now have my answer: wood chips.

UPDATE: This is how I reacted last night--TCS put it up this morning.


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TRACKBACKS (3 to date)
TrackBack URL: http://econlog.econlib.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/447
The author at Cold Spring Shops in a related article titled I'LL NEVER LACK FOR WORK. writes:
    It's easier to be an energy economist when the Chicago Tribune's coverage of the State of the Union address is Bush: U. S. 'addicted to oil.' [Tracked on February 1, 2006 5:09 PM]
COMMENTS (44 to date)
daveg writes:

That's just your puppet boy's strings being pulled by Bill Kristol and the neocons who have been talking about the energy issue as securety issue for the last year or so.

They have decided that all that money in the hands of arabs is not good for Israel, and the US need to do something about it.

Sometimes, for some people, interest other than economic ones prevail, I guess.

Randy writes:

I just read an article the other day to the effect that making ethanol from plant fibers (grass, wood, etc.) has a much greater payback than that produced from corn. Enough greater to make it economically feasible. Sorry, no link. But it got my attention, and so did the President mentioning it in the state of the union. Energy from grass clippings... Think about it. Then remember that people used to think that oil was a nuisance.

T.R. Elliott writes:

Political pandering as you describe is not significantly different from the pandering that libertarian cornucopian Julian-Simon-esque economists engage in. They make people believe that free markets lead to an almost religious nirvana. Similar to communists who promised heaven on earth, the Julian Simons of the world promise similarly.

Both are naive.

Libertarian economists, in order to further their often reasonable and mostly sensible agenda, have signed on to zealouts who promise more than the market can deliver. The market will deliver what it can deliver. Nothing more. All great ideas notwithstanding.

So I think libertarian economists in the Julian Simon tradition deserve some of the blame for this degraded and uninformed political pandering.

There is more discussion on this point at James Hamilton's blog as well.

Boonton writes:

I have no problem chiding 'libertarian economists' when and if they make heaven on earth claims. But economics is not like soda, there's some ideology and certainly disagreements but many arguments are long since settled in the practical sense. Protectionism is one example. The idea of 'energy autarky' ...errr sorry...'energy independence' has long since been shown to be a fool's errand.

David Thomson writes:

“They have decided that all that money in the hands of arabs is not good for Israel.”

You should be ashamed of yourself. Did you get that out of your copy of the “Protocols of Zion?”

“...that could have come straight from the mouth of Jimmy Carter.”

Yup, that’s true. George W. Bush is essentially a Ripon Republican. He regrettably thinks that big government can solve many of our problems. However, let’s not get carried away. President Bush will most assuredly do whatever needs to be done concerning Iran. This is a wartime president! One should never get confused on that point.

T.R. Elliott writes:

Boonton: I agree to a degree. What I'm saying is that the idea of cheap energy may be something the markets cannot deliver. Libertarian free market types are unwilling to be honest about the fact that markets cannot deliver the impossible. Folks like Julian Simon--and Caplan does as well--argue that ideas are not material and therefore represent an unbounded source of cornucopia.

There is merit to the idea. But not the religious attachment that characterizes the marketing and advertising segment of the libertarian program.

An honest libertarian will admit that--nanotechnology and similar advances notwithstanding--energy may become dear in the comings years and, possibly for the indefinite future. They don't know.

Mcwop writes:

The market does not need to deliver cheap energy, and may not be able to as TR Elliot rightly points out. But, the market can adapt in other ways. I could buy a more fuel efficient car thus using less of the more expensive energy, either keeping my fuel expenditures level or lowering the expense. I could dump my car and move next door to where I work, and ride a bike eliminating the fuel expense. If energy gets expensive enough, then these behaviors will probably be more common.

David Thomson writes:

This is absolutely fascinating. Nobody after me has taken to task daveg’s slanderous anti-Semitic remarks. Is anti-Semitism today just taken for granted?

T.R. Elliott writes:

McWop: I completely agree. Though I don't know it for a fact, I suspect that market forces would have produced a much different transportation system if the govt had not gotten into the business of building roads years ago. We may have ended up with a much more sensible transportation and living environment. Perhaps not. I'm not sure.

But market forces should be allowed to play out with respect to energy. I'm all for it. But the results we get may include strong drags on economic growth. That is also an outcome that must be considered possible.

Boonton writes:
Boonton: I agree to a degree. What I'm saying is that the idea of cheap energy may be something the markets cannot deliver. Libertarian free market types are unwilling to be honest about the fact that markets cannot deliver the impossible. Folks like Julian Simon--and Caplan does as well--argue that ideas are not material and therefore represent an unbounded source of cornucopia.

I'm not sure you really follow this thought thru. Cheap energy relative to what? Of course we would love it if energy was free but that will never happen no matter what economic system we use. So cheap energy must be relative to the cost under some other system but there's no evidence that energy provided from a non-market system is any cheaper...in fact it is almost always more expensive.

I don't think libertarians are somehow irrationally immune to the idea that an energy source may run our or that instability in world politics may make it artificially scarce. Nor do economists refuse to believe something like that may happen. In fact, economists will be the first to jump on the question of what are the implications of such a thing happening.

I don't think that Bush presented anything new or useful in that regard. It's the usual showboating stuff that feels good but lacks useful substance.

Daveg writes:

Mr. Thomson, do you read Bill Kristol?

Does it surprise you that someone from supposedly pro free market group like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) would advocate the energy policies under discussion here?

It certainly surprises me.

And I am not sure what you are referring to about anti-Semitic? I mentioned a group of people who call themselves neo-cons and Israel.

Do you contend that it is not possible to dispute US policy towards Israel without being anti-Semitic?

Do you contend neocons and Jewish people are Do you contend neocons and Jewish people are sunomous?

Daveg writes:

Here is some coverage of Bill Kristol and his gang:

HAWKS ASCENDANT

In the current Bush administration, however, WINEP's influence has been outflanked on the right by individuals linked to more monolithically neo-conservative and hawkish think tanks like the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), established in 1997 and chaired by William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard. Before they entered the administration, JINSA's board of advisors included Cheney, Undersecretary of State John Bolton and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. Richard Perle, recently compelled to resign from the chairmanship of the quasi-governmental Defense Policy Board under a cloud of scandal, still serves on the board of JINSA. PNAC affiliates include Cheney and his chief of staff Lewis Libby, Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, Bolton, special envoy to "Free Iraqis" Zalmay Khalilzad, Secretary of State Colin Powell's deputy Richard Armitage and Elliott Abrams, a rehabilitated Iran-contra criminal who now serves as National Security Council adviser for the Middle East. JINSA and PNAC, along with a similar think tank called the Center for Security Policy, combine WINEP's vocal advocacy for the US-Israeli alliance with calls for greatly increased US defense spending and unapologetic US intervention abroad.

Source: Link

As an economist, your understanding of events would be enhanced by an understanding the different players involved in the game.

Mcwop writes:
TR Elliott Writes I suspect that market forces would have produced a much different transportation system if the govt had not gotten into the business of building roads years ago.

I like this comment, and is something I have always pondered. In fact when roads were not readily availble, eentrepreneurs did in fact move to build transportation solutions. Asa Whitney promoted the transacontinental railroad, the Vanderbilts made ocean transportation cheap, and privately owned toll or turnpike roads popped up during the early 1800's.

Steve writes:

Daveg..you need to read Arnold's type "m" vs. type "o" arguments article.

Daveg writes:

I would be happy to, Steve Do you have a Link?

And here is another great quote from that article by the Stanford Professor:

For its part, on January 26, 1998, PNAC sent a letter to President Bill Clinton urging that he launch a war against Iraq. The signatories included Kristol, Cheney, Libby, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bolton, Perle, Abrams, Khalilzad and Armitage. Unhappy that Clinton did not take their advice, the same group repeated their proposals in letters to Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Senate majority leader Trent Lott on May 29, 1998. The result of efforts by PNAC and others was the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act of November 1998, which announced the switch in US Iraq policy from disarmament to regime change. This legislation was adopted weeks before Clinton ordered the UNSCOM inspectors out of Iraq and launched Operation Desert Fox –- four days of intensive bombing.

Think about this. All this took place years before 9/11!!! Why the concern with Iraq years before 9/11???

There were lots of american security issues on the table at the time including N. Korea.

Daveg writes:

Do you contend neocons and Jewish people are Do you contend neocons and Jewish people are sunomous?

I corrected this sentence but somehow it didn't get into the editor. It should read:

"Do you contend the neocons and the Jewish people are synonymous?"

spencer writes:

Why did it take you so long?

Afterall, this is the same man that in 2003 gave large tax credit for small businesses to buy SUVs and promised that Iraqi oil revenues would pay for his excellent adventure.

Robert Schwartz writes:

Say, I smell spomething funny. Is that a troll in here?

David Thomson: the name of the logical fallacy is post hoc ergo proctor hoc.

Daveg writes:

David Thomson: the name of the logical fallacy is post hoc ergo proctor hoc.

You can argue that Bill Kristol does not have a lot of influence with the White house. You would be wrong, but you could argue that.

However, pulling the anti-Semitic card to try to stiffle debate is not productive, nor will it lead you to an understanding of what is motivating Bush in this case.

You do want to understand what is motivating him, don't you?

Brad Hutchings writes:

Sorry David. Just got here. I don't think daveg's remarks are anti-Semitic, in and of themselves. His assigning of primary loyalty to Israel to Kristol and other neo-Cons is just shallow analysis, perhaps tainted by some kind of inferiority complex.

The fact is that while trade has historically and continues to break down barriers between us and other countries in the world (Japan, Germana, Vietnam, China, China, India, China). we have a peculiar problem with oil rich nations in the Middle East, where the market emboldens their leaders to be beligerent. Put simply, Iran is posturing because it's profitable. Every time Ahmadinejad passes gas, the speculators freak and drive the price of crude up. So he's switched to Mexican food in spades. If he didn't have oil, he'd have to get his country making things we'd gladly buy from them and it would change his attitude a lot.

That prominent neocons who are advocating reducing dependence on Middle Eastern oil as a security issue are ethnically Jewish is certainly more than coincidence. They more clearly recognize and defend that, in the scheme of things, Israel is a more worthwhile country and society than Iran is right now, and they're not shy about pointing it out. But just because they may have an inclination of bias doesn't make them wrong. That's where daveg's inuendo is sloppy.

Robert Prather writes:

I'm a free market supporter and see no problem with Bush's proposal as long as he's referring to basic research. In spite of the snarky attitude, Bush's reference to woodchips is not as fanciful as suggested.

The technology for flex-fuel engines already exists (it's in use as well) and with time it's possible that people could pull up to a pump and choose between a strong ethanol mix and gasoline, depending on which is cheaper.

Daveg writes:

Sorry David. Just got here. I don't think daveg's remarks are anti-Semitic, in and of themselves. His assigning of primary loyalty to Israel to Kristol and other neo-Cons is just shallow analysis, perhaps tainted by some kind of inferiority complex.

With guys like this defending me, I guess I don't need attackers!

Really, I don't base my belief of Bill Kristol's bias on his religion or ethnic background, but rather on the huge volume of materials I have read both from him and about him.

That is the difference between pre-judging someone (prejudice) and judging someone after collecting facts and making a call. And regardless of my conclusion, the fact that Bill is Jewish says nothing about other Jews. Perhaps people are extrapolating in their own mind?

Put another way, it is certainly true that being Jewish doesn't make you bias towards Israel or disloyal to the US (it is amazing I even have to make this point), but it is also certainly true that it is possible for a disloyal person to be Jewish.

Can you follow that?

When judging someones characture you give everyone the benefit of the doubt and then watch how they act. That is what I have done with Bill Kristol, and based on his actions I have concluded that he has a extreme interest in the well being of Israel. This interest is sufficient for him to propose policies such as more expensive oil that are overall harmful to the US and the people living there.

And based on Arnold Klings opinion, these policies are also economically unsound.

Given that ask yourself this: is Bill Kristol an economic neophyte, or could something else being motivating him.

liberty writes:

>Think about this. All this took place years before 9/11!!! Why the concern with Iraq years before 9/11???

Because Saddam Hussein had:

1. Already invaded neighbors in the past
2. Used chemical weapons on his own people
3. Been ignoring resolutions, probably hiding WMD, not allowing inspectors to do their job
4. Helped terrorists and paid the families of suicide bombers - and yes, we were already concerned about terrorists getting WMD before 9/11
5. We'd already been to war with him and didn't finish the job

Why do you think? Because the eeevil Jews had a conspiracy going??

Daveg writes:

That prominent neocons who are advocating reducing dependence on Middle Eastern oil as a security issue are ethnically Jewish is certainly more than coincidence. They more clearly recognize and defend that, in the scheme of things, Israel is a more worthwhile country and society than Iran is right now, and they're not shy about pointing it out. But just because they may have an inclination of bias doesn't make them wrong. That's where daveg's inuendo is sloppy.

Brad, I would to say that the highlighted statement above is more "anti-Semitic" than anything I have written.

At the very least it assumes Jews have some sort of "natural" bias towards Israel.

I never ever asserted anything of the kind and absolutely reject the connotations behind such an assertion.

Daveg writes:

Why do you think? Because the eeevil Jews had a conspiracy going??

God, the reading comprehension on this blog is dismal.

I said Bill Kristol and his neocon friends were concerned about the well being of Israel.

Bill Kriston != Jews.

Is that a difficult concept?

I really don’t want to debate Iraq here, but since you brought it up lets look at your assertions:

1. Already invaded neighbors in the past

2. Used chemical weapons on his own people

3. Been ignoring resolutions, probably hiding WMD, not allowing inspectors to do their job

4. Helped terrorists and paid the families of suicide bombers - and yes, we were already concerned about terrorists getting WMD before 9/11

5. We'd already been to war with him and didn't finish the job

My responses:

1) Yes, Iraq invaded another country and we repelled them and left. I think that was the correct action. Your point?

2) Many countries inflict horrible consequences on their people and neighbors and we do not invade. Ever hear of Rwanda? Many many more people were killed in this conflict than Iraq. Many Many more.

3) You should be embarrassed to argue WMD at this point.

4) If we were concerned about terrorist pre 9/11 don't you think the focus should have Afghanistan, hmmm? Isn't the Israeli focus of people like Kristol part of the reason we overlooked Afghanistan?

5) The fact that we went to war with Iraq before has no baring on whether we should have invaded them years later.

Vorn writes:

Kling's TCS column is definitely interesting. I especially like the idea of doing something aggressive with respect to Iran's oil capacity if it keeps on with its negative and threatening behavior.

However, one thing that I think Kling gets wrong is to criticize the idea of doing research on alternative energy solutions without any particularized showing of a scientific basis for that criticism. Economics is quite useful, but it does not answer all questions a priori. This it seems to me, sounds like an area that calls out for domain-specific knowledge before one can intelligently make a decision with respect to the costs and benefits of the proposal. Sometimes, government funding of basic science HAS lead to great progress, after all. It takes actual specific scientific knowledge rather than merely economic knowledge to due a proper cost benefit analysis in these sorts of cases.

With respect to the idea, by some other commenters, that government not developing roads might have lead to a superior traffic system, I just wonder what the person who wrote this was smoking. Must be some good stuff.

In Boston, we have a bridge, called the Charles River Bridge that was the subject of a famous Supreme Court case. Basically, this bridge WAS funded at public expense, just not with tax dollars. Essentially, to give private investors the incentives they needed to construct this bridge, they gave the proprieters a legal monopoly. Without a monopoly, there would have been an insufficient incentive to build the bridge -- why build a bridge if there is a risk that the government might build a competitive bridge that will charge no tolls? Also, there is less of an incentive to build a bridge with the threat of possible private competition than with a guaranteed monopoly. Later, the monopoly became increasingly problematic as the population of Boston grew and the bridges capacity failed to meet the need for transportation across the river.

In any case, granting a monopoly is pretty much equivalent to a use tax. Only the public pays something more than the marginal cost of their use to a private party rather than the government.

In general, a private road system would be a bad idea. Why? Because the barriers to entry are so high and the physical possibility and political tolerance for multiple competitors would be limited. The predictable result would prices that were much greater than either the marginal cost, the average variable, or the average total cost of use.

Sometimes the free market is NOT the most efficient means of providing services. This may be true when private parties are unable to capture all the positive externalities from transactions. It would also be true when there are physical natural limits to competition, as would be the case with private roads.

Brad Hutchings writes:

Talk about a reading comprehension problem:

At the very least it assumes Jews have some sort of "natural" bias towards Israel.

No, it recognizes that these particular Jews probably do have such a bias (natural or not, who cares?), but then remember, I said, just because they are Jewish and have the bias doesn't make them wrong. I know Jews who would tell you that Israel is the problem, not the solution. I'm not Jewish, definitely not religious, and my attitude is that if Isreal is the problem, then tough beans. They're the only civilized country in the region and we are better off without the rest. A culture or religion that blows up its own kids, enslaves its own women, and can't stomach a little satire will not and should not survive in the post-Magellan world. Even if they're sitting on most of the cheap energy.

Mcwop writes:
Vorn writes: With respect to the idea, by some other commenters, that government not developing roads might have lead to a superior traffic system, I just wonder what the person who wrote this was smoking. Must be some good stuff.

Thanks Vorn. Nice intellectually dishonest comment. Read some history of transportation, private people began building transport before the government did based on demand. There is no reason not to think that if allowed, private people will solve (and have solved) some transport problems. Problem is that government does stupid things like granting monopolies preventing the market from working (or dumb laws such as the Wright Amendment).

There are plenty of examples too - UPS, FedEx, Southwest etc...

Mcwop writes:

Vorn here are some additional thoughts to my original comment of EXPLORING the idea of “what if the government did not build the highway system”. I never concluded (nor did TR) that the private system would necessarily be better. We just won’t know, will we? Maybe there would be no highway system, but a better train system connecting more dense cities. It is an interesting concept to explore

Vorn writes:

Mcwop,

What was intellectually dishonest or inaccurate about my quote? I said that suggested that "the government not developing roads might have lead to a superior traffic system." (italics added). Isn't this exactly what you did suggest, that in the absence of government building of roads that private parties may have developed a superior system?

Here is the main conceptual problem with that idea that does not involve government granting monopolies. The question is, how would competition evolve in such a system?

Lets consider different situtaions. First, a subdivision. Well, there wouldn't be much competition, presumably, a subdivision would find it convenient to build and maintain just one set of roads precisely because competition (multiple route and multiple roads with restricted access to prevent non-paying access) to get from point A to B in a subdivision is impractical.

What about the larger environment? How many different private routes from point A to B would be tolerated by our political system? (Yes, private roads would need to operate within our political system. They would not have a license to make themselves nuisances and destroy the property values of others.) Not many. There are large costs in terms of externalities for every additional route. Further, on a physical level, there is a limit to the number of redundant routes. Finally, consumers of transportation would find themselves staying on a particular road, access to which they already paid for when changing from one road system to another would actually be optimal. Further, controlling access would be a major cost in terms of inconvenience, everytime you wanted to switch from one vendors to another road would involve toll collection. Perhaps this problem could be ameliorated with modern technology, but as a historical problem, there would be no substitute for toll booths with human beings collecting tolls and physically controlling access. In any case, with modern technology or not, the number of access points would have to be limited, because each access point would need to collect tolls or (in a modern context, determine the identity of cars entering the road electronically.)

Bottom-line, this is obviously a really bad idea. One need not experiment with this in the real world, all one need do is perform a little thought experiment. In the end, you would have, at most, only a few private providers of roads and as a result they would be in a position to charge high prices and build lousy roads. Especially since as a physical matter, it is quite likey that the transportations networks of these private companies would not overlap. It would not be possible to get to every location using company As roads that you can get to using companies Bs roads. These companies would have a lot of market power, would charge high prices, build poor quality roads whenever possible, would severely limit the number of access points to their roads due to the need to have toll booths to ensure payment, and would require consumers to take inefficient routes to avoid switching from company As roads to company Bs roads.

Ivan Kirigin writes:

Of all the possible proposals for energy policy, his plan is by far the best option.

Funding _research_ is very exactly what the federal government should be doing. If you have a breakthrough, making an alternative energy _cheaper_ than oil, then the market will follow.

Not that this BREAKS OIL ECON 101!

Substantially reducing demand for oil in the US because there is a cheaper alternative will not cause other countries to buy the oil in greater quantities at lower prices - they will ALSO choose the cheaper alternative.

The Mid East would then have far less revenue. Not zero ... but it doesn't need to be zero.

Robert Schwartz writes:

The stench of troll is just overpowering.

David Thomson writes:

“No, it recognizes that these particular Jews probably do have such a bias (natural or not, who cares?)”

You are missing the point. It is outrageous to suggest that American neocons like myself do not place the interests of the United States over Israel. We are Americans, first, last, and foremost. Only American-Jews are normally described as being more loyal to another country than this one.

daveg writes:

You are missing the point. It is outrageous to suggest that American neocons like myself do not place the interests of the United States over Israel. We are Americans, first, last, and foremost. Only American-Jews are normally described as being more loyal to another country than this one.

See the slight of hand there? He starts out talking about American Neocons and then closes with a statement about American Jews.

I specifically use the word "neocon" becuase that is the group I meant to discuss.

He is equating the two, not me! Words mean something. Read the words.

And I didn't say neocons were disloyal, but the foreign policy neocons are obsessed with the middle east and the safety of Israel. This obsession makes them poor decision makers who set forth, for example, economically unsound energy policies like the one propossed by Bush the other night.

Let me give you another example of poor decision making by the neocons.

Did you know that Wolfowitz wanted to invade Iraq after 9/11 instead of invading Afghanistan??? You can look it up in Richard Clark's book.

Think what would have happened if we followed his advice. We would be in the current mess in Iraq and Afghaniston would still be ruled by the Taliban!

These people are not clear thinkers becuase they have a bias that makes them unable to see the big picture when it comes to the middle east.

daveg writes:

Heh, looks like the energy "program" was just food for fools (kind of like bubba bait for neocons) after all:

One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

What the president meant, they said in a conference call with reporters, was that alternative fuels could displace an amount of oil imports equivalent to most of what America is expected to import from the Middle East in 2025.

...

"This was purely an example," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said.

He said the broad goal was to displace foreign oil imports, from anywhere, with domestic alternatives. He acknowledged that oil is a freely traded commodity bought and sold globally by private firms. Consequently, it would be very difficult to reduce imports from any single region, especially the most oil-rich region on Earth.

Asked why the president used the words "the Middle East" when he didn't really mean them, one administration official said Bush wanted to dramatize the issue in a way that "every American sitting out there listening to the speech understands." The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he feared that his remarks might get him in trouble.

Knight-Ridder

daveg writes:

Great quote that seems to apply to this blog entry:

I wonder why libertarians generally get more excited about rather minor restraints on capitalism by people who believe in private property - than they do about wars and all sorts of unjust aggression by the state.

Yeah, I wonder that too.

Link

liberty writes:

>I wonder why libertarians generally get more excited about rather minor restraints on capitalism by people who believe in private property - than they do about wars and all sorts of unjust aggression by the state.

It would depend on the war or the aggression. If you mean freeing 50 million people from brutal and dangerous tyrants, I think the war is more important, probably, than many minor restraints on capitalism. If you mean war and agression by a brutal dictator such as Saddam going in to Kuwait, again, more important that we go and stop it. If you mean a single cruise missile attack on a bunch of terrorists, since it usually doesn't work anyway, I would trade it for the loosening of almost any restraint on capitalism.

See, its all about what each incident leads to. A free country in the middle east could lead to a lot more free countries, free people, free markets: the spread of freedom which will make their lives infinitely better and ours too; while the economic restraints can lead to a much less free society right here, if we interpret them as consitutional and expected and even "good" then ultimately they will lead to Socialism; and finally a cruise missile strike usually doesn't lead to anything.

Daveg writes:

See, its all about what each incident leads to.

As a so called libetarian, why do you have such trust in your government's abilty to select enemies, initiate military action, kill, spy and all sorts of other nastry activies, all performed in the name of rescuing, liberating or some other such nonesense, yet you don't think the government has no ability nor right to regulate even minor aspects of the economy such as whether Wal-Mart should provide health care?

Doesn't sound too consistent to me.

liberty writes:

>As a so called libetarian, why do you have such trust in your government's abilty to select enemies, initiate military action, kill, spy and all sorts of other nastry activies, all performed in the name of rescuing, liberating or some other such nonesense, yet you don't think the government has no ability nor right to regulate even minor aspects of the economy such as whether Wal-Mart should provide health care?

Doesn't sound too consistent to me.

First off, I said nothing about spying. If you mean spying on the enemy, I'm ok with it, on US citizens, that is different, though my jury is still out on this ongoing incident.

As for fighting a war, it isn't trust in the government in picking enemies - I'll take each on its own terms. I do not trust them to pick, I decide. As for Saddam - evil. Afghanistan - evil. Communists - evil. If he tried to fight a war with some European democratic state or Taiwan or India or something, I would certainly protest.

As for economics, regulating *any* company or passing a law to regulate prices - its not about the company in particular, its a basic right. Just because I don't like a particular person doesn't mean that government should be able to regulate their speech - its the same thing with economics. Just because you don't like Wal-Mart doesn't mean that their property rights or their speech should be regulated.

If you still don't get it, why not read the econ paper on Ayn Rand:
http://www.gmu.edu/departments/economics/bcaplan/rand.doc

Daveg writes:

As for fighting a war, it isn't trust in the government in picking enemies - I'll take each on its own terms. I do not trust them to pick, I decide. As for Saddam - evil. Afghanistan - evil. Communists - evil. If he tried to fight a war with some European democratic state or Taiwan or India or something, I would certainly protest.

You decide? Sure you do. Do you think it is even possible for you to get enough information to decide whether a country is "good" or "bad" and whether it should be invaded or allowed to stand?

No one is the world, let alone you, knows this information.

For example, I bet you though Iraq had WMD, didn't you Mr. All Knowing, All Seeing...?

And anyway, you didn't decide. The "government" did. The government that, as a libertarian, you should have little faith in and want restrained to the greatest degree possibe, if you are indeed a libertarian.

liberty writes:

>You decide? Sure you do. Do you think it is even possible for you to get enough information to decide whether a country is "good" or "bad" and whether it should be invaded or allowed to stand?

You don't think the difference between a murderous tyrant and a democrat state isn't obvious?

>For example, I bet you though Iraq had WMD, didn't you Mr. All Knowing, All Seeing...?

That's Ms. All Knowing All Seeing, please.

>And anyway, you didn't decide. The "government" did. The government that, as a libertarian, you should have little faith in and want restrained to the greatest degree possibe, if you are indeed a libertarian.

So the government should have no power to declare war? Or we should restrain such that war is only allowed in the case of our being attacked first? That would be an awfully stupid move, if you ask me.

No. Government should be restrained from growing, from taking on duties outside of the basic role of government and from restraining what the people may do. But it should not be heavily restrained within its limited role: the protection of the people's rights of life, liberty and property.

To protect liberty you cannot set up a police state - then the people would not be free - but you need police, courts and prisons. So, the rights of the people are enumerated in a constitution and within those rights, police are given the role of catching criminals, etc. Laws apply equally to all citizens. To protect property you have laws that do so and th police, courts and prisons to take care of thieves. To protect life and liberty (and property in the case of communists!), you must also protect against outside countries. This is obvious in the case of defense, but less obvious in other cases. You need a militaryand a congress who will vote for or against war. Congress need not have much greater role than this - if the constitution were followed closely they would have few other decisions.

If you think tat under my system we should only fight defensive wars, think a little deeper. Before WWII if congress had seen Hitler as a building threat and taken him out when he was still weak, how many American lives would we have saved? Any bully tyrant who kills his own people and has gone to war with neighbors and has been sanctioned by others for these deeds is a perfectly good target. You don't want to wait for them to build power. Whichever one seems like the biggest threat should be considered. In the case of Iraq, wWMD or none he was a threat, and without him, with a free country in its place, having taken out terrorists who wanted to take over the country, we will be ahead of where we started. A free country in the middle east will be a major ally of importance.

If we were isolationist instead, we allow chaos to brew across the world, we would have no free allies, we would not last long.

Imagine a world where South Korea was part of North Korea and the Soviet Union, unburdoned by our presence in Vietnam had taken it over easily and moved on to Thailand and then India. It could rape those countries for food and slavery and hence did not fall in the 1990. Europe is pro-Socialist and hence as much allied with the Soviets as with us. And Milosivik was never stopped. Iraq invaded Kuwait.

Who are our allies in that scenario? Who are our trading partners? How soon until the Soviets use their base in Cuba to launch an attack against us?

(Of course we would have chosen what to do about the base in Cuba based on your more limited sense of pure defense strategy, but how many times would we have to fend them off by our own borders as they keep gaining in strength and rebuilding it?)

daveg writes:

You don't think the difference between a murderous tyrant and a democrat state isn't obvious?

No, I don't. How did you come to the conclusion that Iraq was such a state - by reading the New York Times?

But it turns out that Judith Miller, who wrote many of the prewar Iraq artciles, was being spoon fed the information but the neocons within the Bush administration.

That is, she was being spoon fed from the "government" that as a libertarian you should not trust.

Since that time we have learned that the information is bogus, that her main source of information - scotter libby - has resigned in shame because he found it necessary to lie three times to a federal investigator, and that Judith Miller has resigned from the NYT.

So, tell me again how you can tell the difference between the tyrants and the free states?

And that is not to say that I think free governments should attack other "non-free" states, assuming we could know such a thing, but let's leave that debate for another time.

liberty writes:

>>You don't think the difference between a murderous tyrant and a democrat state isn't obvious?

>Since that time we have learned that the information is bogus, that her main source of information - scotter libby - has resigned in shame because he found it necessary to lie three times to a federal investigator, and that Judith Miller has resigned from the NYT.

I don't read the NY Times, but you can read from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International or the UN or your choice of international agency or group about Saddam and it has been proven many times over that he was if anything worse than we thought.

Here is some evidence to chew on:
http://www.usaid.gov/iraq/legacyofterror.html
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/27000.htm
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB167/
http://www.upi.com/inc/view.php?StoryID=20040312-074010-1766r
http://www.hrw.org/reports/1992/iraq0292.htm
http://hrw.org/english/docs/2003/04/07/iraq5508.htm
http://hrw.org/reports/2003/iraq0503/
http://www.hrw.org/press/2003/01/iraq012503.htm
http://www.massgraves.info/

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