Archive for science

Recapping the interesting and significant news of this past week.

Anthony Gregory asks, “You call this a war? I’ll show you a war.” He contends that we are prone to forget the atrocities of today’s wars because they are so distant to our daily lives. This is the most important link you can read from this weekly news post.

David Theroux, President of the Independent Institute, did an interview this week with To the Source about C.S. Lewis and the State.

One of my heroes, Stephan Kinsella, did an amazing interview with The Daily Bell this week on libertarianism and intellectual property. It is a superb read with a great many further links and resources for the interested reader.

In other IP news, Summit Entertainment is apparently claiming to own the date “November 20, 2009” and issued a DMCA takedown on art created on that day. No kidding.

Have you heard that Tide is now being used like money on the black market? Talk about money laundering…

I’m a science fiction fan, so here’s something for other SF lovers out there: Top 10 Best Retorts in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Remember Kony 2012, or is that old news at this point? Here is another perspective on Kony and the White Savior Industrial Complex.

Are you involved in the Ron Paul 2012 presidential campaign in some way? Here is a new book you can download for free that might interest you.

There was a lot going on at home this week (in particular, my wife was in town!) so posting time was scarce. But if you didn’t visit LCC this week, here is what you missed:

Have some relevant news and links you want to share? Post in the comments below. I read every comment and respond to almost all of them. Let me know what you’re thinking!

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News of the Week

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Recapping the interesting and significant news of this past week.

From the nanny-state department…

The Feds have now mandated that all new cars must be built with rear-view cameras by 2014. It’s for the children, people! We have to do EVERYTHING for the children to keep them “safe” no matter the cost!

The corrupt and insane Austin City Council (where I live) passed a plastic AND paper bag ban this past Friday morning (a 2 a.m. bill, no shame I guess). Here is what one of my friends had to say about it:

Plastic bags are an incredible benefit to society, allowing for a cheap, efficient, and more environmentally-friendly way to transport goods and later be recycled for all sorts of other uses, from acting as lining in a trash receptacle to cleaning up after pets. Furthermore, they are less burdensome for waste management and landfills.

Thank you, City of Austin, for saving humanity from a better tomorrow.

My sentiments exactly.

Ever wondered how much it cost to build the Death Star from Star Wars? Wonder no longer. I’m telling you, statism is EXPENSIVE!

More Star Wars fun… Over at the Young Americans for Liberty blog, Zach Foster has begun a series of articles about Star Wars and Austrian economics. If you are a fan of either, this series will probably be fun for you.

The International Students for Liberty Conference was hosted just a few weekends ago in Washington D.C. (If you have been around LCC for a while, you know that I love SFL and have been quite involved with them over the past few years.) A major highlight of the conference was the Stossel show taping an entire episode with all the students. It was pretty interesting, and there was even a little controversy. You can view the episode in its entirety here:

Did you visit LCC this week? Here’s what you missed if not:

Have some relevant news and links you want to share? Post in the comments below. I read every comment and respond to almost all of them. Let me know what you’re thinking!

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Recapping the interesting and significant news of this past week.

Last week I mentioned that I would be defending my PhD Thesis in Chemical Engineering. Well, I passed! The DOCTOR is IN!

Have you joined the Christian libertarian Facebook Group yet? There has been a lot of interesting discussion going on in this group, and you are welcome to join in. Just this week alone we added nearly 100 members, totaling to over 400! It’s a great time to be a Christian libertarian, so please add yourself to this great group of people (and “Like” the LCC page while you’re at it).

Onward to the real news…

Joe Carter at the Acton Institute PowerBlog writes about Gleaner Technology, borrowing the principle of “gleaning” from scripture (see Deut. 24:19) to describe basic technologies that can help the poor in unique ways. It’s a bit of a stretch, but I appreciate this idea nonetheless. His first example: solar bottle lights.

Wired published some neat articles on science in the past week. There has been some significant controversy surrounding a find in a lab in Italy where neutrinos were traveling faster than the speed of light (this would have been a monumental discovery). But, turns out it could be just a faulty cable. Wired also wrote about a rare book fair where some original copies of the greatest works of science written hundreds of years ago were displayed and sold. It is really neat to observe how humanity has progressed in this arena.

In other random science news, Slate reports that shale oil has been a major boon to the production of petroleum products. It’s nice to see this immensely innovative process recognized. Of course, it also disparages “peak oil” alarmists (the new Malthusians, I think). People forget that basic economics explains so much of what goes on in these types of industries sometimes, you know, supply and demand changes tend to incentivize new, unanticipated means to production?

James Madison came up in two interesting articles this past week. First, Ray Nothstine at Acton writes about Madison and religious conscience. I would add that Madison is right, but it is because of the principle of self-ownership. Second, Tom Woods reviews Kevin Gutzman’s latest book on Madison at – it’s a great article that you should definitely check out.

Did you know that the Feds raided the Gibson Guitar Company’s factory in Tennessee TWICE in the past 3 years for an obscure violation of the Lacey act? What is more, they still have not been charged with a crime! I suppose I am particularly infuriated because I am a guitarist, but this is pretty outrageous. ReasonTV made the following video to report on their plight. It is nice to see Rand Paul come to their defense in the Senate.

Rand Paul also blocked an egregious synthetic drug ban in the Senate. This is a good move by Rand, for sure.

Did you visit LCC this week? Here’s what you missed if not:

Have some relevant news and links you want to share? Post in the comments below. I read every comment and respond to almost all of them. Let me know what you’re thinking!

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I was recently asked to interview with a student seeking different viewpoints on political aspects of climate change and alternative energy. Here’s what we talked about… (my answers are in italics)

1.  With concern to the energy industry, where do you stand on the argument that free markets will provide the most economically efficient solution possible?

Libertarians agree with this argument. Knowledge is distributed in society, and thus it is logically impossible to consolidate it into a central planning authority that can make right decisions. Only with a pricing system free from government constraints can an economically efficient solution emerge.

2. It has been argued that intervention in markets, through the imposition of subsidies, results in misallocation of resources and wastes taxpayer money. Is this true with regard to the energy industry? Why or why not?

This is absolutely true. There is no exception for the energy industry that allows it to circumnavigate the problems of economic interventionism. Thus, libertarians advocate the deregulation of the energy industry to allow for free competition, stricter enforcement of property rights to de-incentivize pollution by companies (i.e. full restitution of damages), and abolition of all industrial subsidies whether for alternative energy or traditional energy companies.

3. In regard to economic welfare and prosperity, is there a distinction to be made between what is beneficial from a social and environmental perspective, and what is beneficial from a business perspective?

There is no distinction to be made, because on a truly free market actors operate to harmonize other actors needs with their own. This is the essence of trade — that we voluntarily exchange goods and services with each other and thereby make our lives better. The social and environmental problems that arise are primarily the result of governments not enforcing property rights, such as permitting pollution that hurts people or stealing people’s rightfully owned property with eminent domain.

4. In economic language a good is said to have a negative externality when the private cost to producers or consumers do not reflect the total social costs resulting from the production or consumption of the good.
a) Would you consider climate change to constitute a negative externality tied to the production and consumption of energy?
b) If so, what is your position regarding the efficacy of alternative energy subsidies in dealing with the problem of climate change?
c) Are there alternative solutions to the problem of climate change and the externality problem more generally?

Assuming that climate change is anthropogenic (you’ll have to forgive me, as a scientist I am inherently skeptical), it is indeed possible for it to constitute a negative externality, but as with all negative externalities it is caused by a lack of adequate property rights protections. See my recent peer-reviewed work on transportation pollution.

Given that climate change is a negative externality, that still does not indicate that the government should tax either corporations or individuals in order to provide monies for alternative energy subsidies. If climate change truly is an issue of property rights violations, than this provides a super-incentive for energy producers to be investing into alternative energy research from the outset, and need no subsidies to motivate them.

Finally, as many scientists have noted, especially Bjorn Lomborg, climate change may have positive externalities as well as negatives. How are you going to determine which to focus on?

The most general solution that I can proffer, and that I promote in my peer-reviewed article, is to get back to strict property rights enforcement via nuisance laws and pollution laws. In other words, damage someone’s property and you pay them restitution.

5. Can alternative energy incentives be an effective tool for reducing dependence on foreign oil? Why or why not?

If by incentives you mean subsidies, then I would say NO. Subsidies tend to discourage competition on the free market for such goods and services.

6. A separate solution to subsidizing alternative energy would be to tax carbon dioxide emissions. The implementation of a “carbon tax” could bring the private costs of CO2 intensive energy more closely in line with total resulting social costs, and thus make alternative energy more competitive with conventional production methods.  Where do you weigh in on the implementation of a carbon tax as opposed to subsidization of alternative energy or reliance on the free market?

On the carbon tax question, I would answer absolutely not! Given the hazards of interventionism as outlined above, carbon taxes are completely and utterly useless toward actually accomplishing anything given politicians and the laws of economics. Carbon taxes will not work and never will work.

7.        Which values have served you best, in your analysis of whether financial incentives for alternative energy are desirable?

I’m not entirely sure what you mean in this question, but if you are asking what informs my views the most on this issue then I would say economic law. Trying to circumvent the laws of economics in this arena is like trying to defeat gravity by throwing things up in the air. It is patently impossible.

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News of the Week: Jan. 2-8, 2011

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Recapping the interesting and significant news of this past week.

Anita Acavalos has an article at the Cobden Centre on the provision of science by the free market. Her conclusions are very similar to my own in my paper on Science and the Free Market in the Journal of Liberty and Society.

I love books like Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers that describe how extraordinary people accomplish extraordinary things. The Mises Institute released a reprint book this week in this genre: How They Succeeded. It looks really cool.

There is no law in America anymore.

Austin people are smart. Challenge accepted.

Finally, my favorite comic of the week. As you have probably noted in these links, I’m a big fan of Pearls Before Swine.


Share your news and links in the comments!

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