David R. Henderson  

My Optimisms and Pessimisms

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Some of the comments on Bryan's post about what he is optimistic or pessimistic about motivated me to give a much shorter list. I've always thought I was an optimistic person. Then I met Bryan. Still I have a few things. First, the pessimistic ones, though.

1. I think that we will have more TSA attacks on our freedom unrelated to airports. See here for the Amtrak raid and here for the Tennessee surveillance. On a somewhat optimistic note, see here for Amtrak "firing" TSA.

2. I also think that whoever is President of the United States from 2013 to 2017 will purposely kill more Americans abroad without a trial, as President Obama has done.

OK, that's most of the pessimism.

On the optimistic side, two pessimistic commenters on Bryan's post made me realize just how optimistic I am.

3. I am optimistic about secure energy sources.

4. Unlike Chris Koresko, I'm optimistic that there will be no nuclear attack anywhere in the world in the next ten years. In fact, I'll make him a 2/1 bet on that.

5. Finally, I'm optimistic that average living standards in the world and in the United States will be higher in 10 years.


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CATEGORIES: Growth: Consequences



COMMENTS (13 to date)
Joao Neto writes:

A 2/1 bet means that you assign a 33% chance of a nuclear attack in the next 10 years. Either you are being way too conservative in the bet or you are not that optimistic :-)

Cheers,

David R. Henderson writes:

@Joao Neto,
A 2/1 bet means that you assign a 33% chance of a nuclear attack in the next 10 years. Either you are being way too conservative in the bet or you are not that optimistic :-)
No it doesn’t. Think about why.

Chris Koresko writes:

David Henderson: Unlike Chris Koresko, I'm optimistic that there will be no nuclear attack anywhere in the world in the next ten years. In fact, I'll make him a 2/1 bet on that.

I'm inclined refuse that bet, because of three significant reservations:

First, my fear (that we won't get through the next decade without a nuclear attack anywhere) reflects not only my guess at the likelihood of such an attack (which is about 30%, i.e., pretty close to the odds you're offering) but also the potentially catastrophic consequences it could bring. Don't imagine that the worst-case scenario is a few million casualties in a dense city; a successful EMP attack could collapse technological civilization across a continent. If my admittedly vague memory serves, a panel of physicists have testified before Congress that such an attack could kill a third of the U.S. population over the course of a few months.

Second, we haven't agreed on what constitutes a nuclear attack. Does it have to be a fission or fusion bomb, or is a so-called "dirty bomb" enough? Does the bomb have to actually detonate, and achieve a rapid chain reaction, or is a still-destructive dud enough? How about one that's found and disarmed before it goes off?

Finally, if I win I probably won't be in any mood to collect.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Chris Koresko,
Dirty bomb is fine, but it has to detonate. If it kills as few as 10 people, you win. I’ll raise the odds to 4 to 1.

John writes:

Unfortunately, you have already lost the nuclear attack bet. The United States uses nuclear weapons on the battlefield on a daily basis. The only difference between what we call "depleted uranium" and conventional nuclear weapons is the size and depth of U-235 content, but it still has about 60% the radioactivity of fresh uranium.

"Fresh uranium" - Great band name?

rpl writes:

Sorry, John, but that's just ignorant. A "nuclear" weapon operates by fission or fusion. Depleted uranium is capable of neither. Depleted uranium weapons may very well be bad things that we shouldn't use, but you're not doing your credibility any favors by deliberately conflating them with the sorts of weapons that can level cities.

Besides that, the principal health risk from depleted uranium is from heavy metal poisoning, not radioactivity, so the "nuclear" label is doubly inaccurate.

David R. Henderson writes:

@John,
I tend to agree with the substance, if not the tone, of rpl’s comment, but, in any case, this is not what I meant and I’m pretty sure it’s not what Chris meant.

rpl writes:

David and John,

Sorry about the tone. I'm not sure why that one set me off so, but it really annoyed me for some reason. That's no excuse for rudeness, though.

Chris Koresko writes:

David Henderson: Dirty bomb is fine, but it has to detonate. If it kills as few as 10 people, you win. I’ll raise the odds to 4 to 1.

OK, you're on. I will pay you the sum of $25 on or around October 26, 2021 if no nuclear attack has killed 10 or more people anywhere in the world between now and that date, on the condition that you agree to pay me the sum of $100 soon after any such attack occurs between now and that date. The bet is nullified if either of us becomes incapacitated or dies before the debt comes due, or if neither of us remembers the bet within two weeks of the debt coming due.

Deal?

David R. Henderson writes:

@rpl,
Thanks so much. You’re a gentleman.
@Chris Koresko,
Deal.

Steve writes:

I'll give anyone a million to one odds that civilization as we know it does not come to an end for any reason, nuclear strike included, in the next 10 years.

Any takers?

David R. Henderson writes:

@Steve,
There’s an obvious problem: unless you post a bond, how would I collect? Also, what do you mean by “civilization as we know it?” Does it mean civilization vanishes in which case there’s no I to collect or you to collect from.

John writes:

@rpl Is it a question of operative mechanism, or the actual function of the weapon? The short term consequences to the targeted area are pretty similar, if not the long term. Maybe we're having a fission/fusion argument, I don't know - I thought we were having a "nuclear weapons" argument.

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