Monday, November 1, 2010

My Top Seven Wishes for what Congress can do for our Country

Introduction
 
I tend not to think of politics in terms of political parties, because most politicians that are Republicans or Democrats have as their main priority getting elected or getting re-elected. They do this by voting for legislation that they know is bad for the country, but good for keeping them and their party in office. How else do you explain a budget deficit of $13.6 trillion, or over $40 trillion in unfunded liabilities, or having military bases that even the military doesn't want?
 
So what should Congress do that would put the country before their own interests? Here is my Top Seven List of what Congress should do to improve our country and keep it as the best country in the world. How did I come up with number seven? I could come up with 100, but that would be overwhelming. But these seven are the most important. Besides, I like the number seven.
 
1) Pass a balanced-budget amendment
 
Year after year of budget deficits tells us that Congress cannot balance a budget. The $13.6 trillion national debt mentioned above comes out to over $120,000 of national debt per family. Did you know that you had that debt on top of whatever personal debts you have?
 
It's time for a balanced-budget amendment that requires Congress to pass only balanced budgets. The amendment should have an exception that allows for Congress to vote to deficit spend for a given year if 2/3rds of both houses vote to do so. This is needed in times of war, or a large natural disaster.
 
2) Real health care reform
 
Medicare, Medicaid, and 2,500 page health care plan that just passed are underfunded by over $40 trillion. And they don't provide health care for everyone, they don't remove the pre-existing condition problem that everyone hates, and they still tie much of health care with employment. Yet we spend about 16% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care.
 
Here's a simple solution that provides health care to all Americans, would be completely funded, would eliminate the pre-existing condition problem, and would de-couple health care with employment. The solution is for the federal government to take 10% of GDP, about $1.5 trillion, and put an equal amount of this into a Medical Care Account (MCA) for each American adult. This would be about $600 per month per adult. About half of this would be used to buy a high-deductible health insurance policy, and the other half to pay for medical expenses incurred before the deductible kicks in (and in most years, it wouldn't).
 
Insurance companies that grant policies under this plan must agree to cover any children the adult might have.

This plan would also replace all other health care subsidies.
 
I'll go into more detail in a future post, but that's the essence of it. Everyone would be covered, everyone could still choose whatever doctor or hospital they wished, and we'd save money all at the same time.
 
3) Bring our troops home
 
It's hard to believe but we have more than 350,000 troops deployed overseas in over 150 countries. I want the US to always have the best military in the world, yet I see no reason to have troops deployed overseas unless we are at war. Iraq didn't attack us, and Afghanistan didn't attack us. Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda did. So the only troops we should have overseas right now would be those who go after bin Laden and those members of Al Qaeda who are planning to attack us. And most of this can be done with our Special Forces and our intelligence apparatus, which have been especially effective since 9/11 in thwarting attacks against us by Al Qaeda.
 
If we did this, we'd need fewer troops, we'd have less hostility directed at us, and we could use some of the troops brought home to protect our borders and ports. I think we would actually have fewer attacks directed against us without troops stationed overseas.
 
And the US Navy still dominates the oceans, and can defend the US from attacks from just about anywhere in the world.
 
4) Transform Social Security into a sustainable retirement plan
 
Social Security was started by FDR in 1935 and the tax rate was 2%. It was meant to be a supplement to one's retirement income. Now the Social Security tax rate is 12.4%, and it is still only a supplement to one's income. And it's underfunded. Anyone saving 12.4% of their income should be able to retire on that alone. Instead, to retire gracefully, we need to have another retirement plan and save 10% in that. This is an incredible waste.
 
Transition to a system in which individuals are required to save 15% for their retirement. No more underfunding. And if I told you that most people would be millionaires when they retired, you wouldn't believe me, but it's true.  The transition might take decades, but the sooner we start, the better off we'll be.
 
Every month each of us would have more money to spend because we wouldn't have to put money into both Social Security and another retirement plan.
 
5) Replace the income tax with a Natural Resource and Pollution tax
 
We currently waste between $200 - $600 billion per year just because there's an income tax. This is money spent on tax attorneys, tax accountants, tax software, etc., just to pay income taxes. Furthermore, there is no rational basis for a tax on income. If a person earns X amount of money, then that money is theirs and no one else's.
 
On the other hand the natural resources of a country weren't created by anyone, so they can only be considered to belong to all of us. The best way to handle the natural resources is to allow individuals or companies who own them to pay a monthly tax on those resources that are not used up (mostly land) or to pay a one-time tax on resources that are used up, such as oil, gas, and minerals.
 
This would eliminate the IRS and all the problems created by having an income tax, and replace it with a tax that would have many beneficial side effects, such as encouraging conservation in order to minimize taxes.
 
6) Start building nuclear reactors now
 
We need inexpensive, reliable energy to be prosperous. Inexpensive energy is one of the single most important items that help the poor get out of poverty, because inexpensive energy reduces the cost of everything. Currently, there is only one source of non-polluting, reliable energy that can provide a steady base load of energy for our country. And that is energy generated from nuclear power. President Obama is providing loan guarantees to investors who provide money to build nuclear reactors. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has already approved two very good and very safe nuclear reactor designs. Congress just needs to remove any other remaining barriers to building them now.
 
In a decade or so, we'll have better battery-powered cars, and these can be charged with electricity generated by nuclear-powered plants. We'll then have most of of our energy be clean and safe. They also give off no CO2, and will make us independent of foreign oil.
 
If you're worried about radiation from them, don't be. In over 50 years, there has not been even a single death due to radiation in the United States as a result of commercial nuclear power plants.
 
7) Allowing all parents to choose their children's school
 
This is really a state issue, but it's so important that I'm including it here.
 
Currently, if you are well-to-do, you can send your child to whatever school you wish, if that school is willing to enroll your child. If you are not well off, you must send your child to the local public school, or possibly a public charter school. We've been trying for decades to improve public education, and everyone knows how that has gone. If you don't know, go see the documentary, Waiting for Superman.
 
The documentary shows the plight of the poor and how desperate they are to get into good schools. The writer suggests having more charter schools, which is fine. But the only sustainable answer is to have school choice for all parents, rich or poor. There is no doubt that it will eventually happen, so why not start doing it now? If we are going to subsidize education, then allow the parents the freedom to decide how their children are to be educated.
 
It's simple to do. Each state should take whatever it now spends on K-12 education. (In Texas it's about $9,000 per student per year). Then put this amount into an Educational Benefit Account for each child. The child's parents can then use this money to send their child to whatever public, private or parochial school that they feel will best suit their child. And they can change schools whenever they wish.
 
School's will crop up all over the place. Some will be bad and some will be good. But the bad ones will eventually go out of business, since parents will stop sending their children there. And that's what will lead to educational improvement in our country.
 
Conclusion
 
If Congress would do the above items, our country would once again be leading the way to making a better world for all.
 
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Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at tfarage@hotmail.com.
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Monday, October 4, 2010

Cuba has Finally Read 'Atlas Shrugged'

What does that mean?

It means that Cuba, one of the few remaining Communist countries, has finally begun to allow free enterprise.

What was the economic situation in Cuba?

Their economy has been about ready to collapse. Many workers in Cuba barely show up and they do little productive work when they do. In government offices in Havana, coffee and cigarette breaks last for hours. It's not that they are lazy, it's that they get paid about $20 per month, and have no motivation to work hard.

What specifically have they done to more toward freer markets?

Cuba has recently allowed beauticians and barbers to work for themselves. Drivers can operate their own taxis. Even some farmers have been allowed to own their own land. Of course, these are the people who are making a reasonable living. Also, Cuba just let go of 500,000 government workers, 10% of its government workforce.

Is this really a free market economy?

Certainly not, but it is a step closer. That seems to be the way it starts in all previously Communist countries.

What Communist countries are still remaining?

Mainly North Korea, although there are many countries that have such corrupt governments that they cannot be considered to have free markets.

What's so good about this?

For details about why free enterprise is the best system, see my blog entry about Economic Policy. The bottom line is that we are meant to be free. Therefore, governments whose main purpose is to protect each individual's freedom is the only sustainable form of government. After all, who has the right or authority to dictate how an adult should lead their life (as long as it is done in peace)?

Does this relate to the documentary, Waiting for Superman?

The documentary shows the plight of the poor and how desperate they are to get into good schools. The writer suggests having more charter schools, which is fine. But again, the only sustainable answer is to have school choice for all parents, rich or poor. There is no doubt that it will eventually happen, so why not start doing it now? If we are going to subsidize education, then allow the parents the freedom to decide how there children are educated.

Conclusion

In any area, the more free choices a person has for any product or service, the more those products and services tend to improve. Free enterprise, freedom or religion, freedom of education, free speech - all of these are natural rights, and should be protected by any good government. Hopefully, Cuba is taking its first steps in this direction.

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Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at tfarage@hotmail.com.
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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Government Based Upon Natural Law - (Part 7) - Economic Policy

What economic system should the United States have?

Really, the answer is none. The Constitution does not directly specify a particular economic system, although, as I’ll show below, it implies that the government cannot interfere with economic transactions. Two common terms are used to describe economies in which people are free to engage in whatever economic transactions they choose: “free enterprise” and “free-market economics”.

It is common to refer to our economy as a “free-market system”, even though it is not a system, because it is not defined or controlled by anyone, nor by the government. It’s just another aspect of freedom. That said, I won’t quibble with those words, and I’ll even use them.

Having free-market economies essentially means that the means of production are privately owned, and that buyers and sellers of goods and services can freely interact, as long as the interaction is voluntary and informed i.e. not coerced or fraudulent.

What about the term “capitalism”?

That term is frequently used, but I don’t particularly like it because a) it is not as descriptive as the ones given above, and b) Karl Marx used the term “capitalism” pejoratively. And since Marx came up with Communism, the worst of all economic systems, why use his terminology? But most people do use the word to mean free-market economics; I just wish they wouldn’t.

Why “free-market economics” and not just “free markets”?

Free markets should refer not only to free markets in the trade of goods and services (free-market economics), but also free markets of religion, speech, the press, friendship, etc. In order for us to be personally responsible, freedom is essential, otherwise someone or some group or the government will force us to do their bidding. Even God does not do this.

It is useful to think of free markets in this manner, because then it is easier to understand why the Constitution does not specify an economic system. Because our country is founded on the principle that its people should be free, the Constitution does not limit freedom, i.e. it does not limit free markets of any type. Thus, people in the U.S. are free to choose their belief system, are free to choose their friends, are free to speak and write about whatever they wish, are free to educate their children as they see fit (as long as they have the money to choose their own school). So free-market economics is just another aspect of freedom.

So are we free to murder or defraud someone out of their money?

Of course not. As always, when I use “free markets” or “freedom”, I always mean the freedom to live in peace. A person is not free to violate the freedoms of another. Thus, laws with respect to murder, stealing, rape, slavery, fraud, coercion, etc., are appropriate because someone who violates these laws violates another’s freedom. Similarly, reasonable laws with respect to protecting health and safety are also appropriate. Also reasonable environmental laws are appropriate, because if someone harms the environment, this could result in harm to others.

Is free enterprise the best economic system?

In the United States, thankfully, free enterprise is the only system that is allowed, because not allowing it would violate our freedom to live our lives as we see fit. It just refers to the fact that people are free to trade goods and services (including money) with whomever they want.

This also means that the Amish, for instance, are free to form a community, and to determine the rules for that community. If they wish to share equally among all goods produced, that is there right. But is also the right of an individual to leave the community if they don’t wish to be there any longer. So free enterprise implies the right to form a group that is socialistic or even Communistic. But no laws can force someone to do such.

(Just to be absolutely clear, laws that protect our freedoms – those that protect our life, liberty and property – are fine. For example, a health insurance company that fails to pay a covered claim is guilty of fraud, a form of theft. This is, and should be illegal. Also, laws that require a health insurance company to have the financial wherewithal to pay its claims are also good laws, since they protect individuals from paying for health insurance and then not getting the benefits they paid for. This also is a form of theft).

Another way to look at free-market economics is to compare it to free-market religion. The Constitution prohibits government from dictating one’s religion or any other beliefs. This is the only way for a good government to function. After all, why should the government (or anyone else) tell you what to believe or how to practice your religion? Similarly, why should the government (or anyone else) tell you whom to do business with, what business to do, or how to do it? If you and a hair salon agree that you will get a haircut for $12 or $500, that is no one else’s concern.

So, yes, free enterprise is the best economic system, because it is the only one that is in harmony with our right to be free. Really, that should be the end of the discussion. But it would be nice to know how free-market economics compares to other systems.

And how does free enterprise compare to other economic systems?

As is always the case, freedom in any area gives the best results overall. To be sure people make bad economic decisions, as they do in all areas of life. Yet, when government tries to protect us from ourselves by dictating what system to use, it always ends up being worse.

Many have said that free-markets economies are not perfect, and this is certainly true. This results from the fact that people are not perfect; thus, no system will be perfect. That said, free enterprise with a moral people results in the best economic system.

Even with people as imperfect as we are now, free-market economics is the best economic system. Here is the proof.

The people of the Soviet Union were no different than those in other countries, yet its economic system, Communism, created poverty for all but a few, who essentially took their money from those that worked for it.

Even more telling is that in the process of attempting to force communism on the world, Korea was split into North and South Korea, and Germany into East and West Germany. In 2009 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of communist North Korea was estimated to be about $1,800 per person, whereas the GDP of South Korea was estimated to be about $15,000 per person. The suffering of the people of North Korea continues to this day, all as a result of the (now defunct) Soviet Union.

Similarly, the GDP of communist East Germany was estimated to be about $21,000 per person when it merged with West Germany in 1990, whereas the GDP of West Germany at that time was estimated to be about $45,000 per person. (These amounts are both given in 2008 dollars).

These figures all show that free markets, are much better for its citizens than Communism/Socialism.

What is it about free enterprise that results in the most prosperity for the most people?

Free enterprise gives people the ability to choose which person or company they wish to buy their goods and services from. This results in a competition among sellers in order to gain buyers. And the only way to gain buyers in the long run is to provide better goods or services. Thus, free economic markets give rise to an ever increasing standard of living for those who are fortunate enough to live in a country that protects them. Even countries that have close to free economic markets, and don’t even have democracy, such as China, have seen their standard of living dramatically increase.

It is truly sad that the word “competition” has negative connotations in the minds of many Americans. Being free means being able to do as one pleases as long as such is done in peace. And this freedom results in competition, because anyone is free to start a business and sell their goods or services to whomever wishes to buy them. Competition ought to be regarded as something that makes life better for all those who are willing to work for the goods and services they receive.

Another example shows how important competition is. For most mammals, it is either the strongest males who can choose their mates, or it is the females who choose the fittest males to mate with. This competition among animals results in a hardier species. If nature uses competition to make it better, should we not consider it as something to be imitated?

Even among humans, young men and women compete for mates all over the world. What man or woman does not wish to have the best mate possible?

Of course, people often choose poorly when choosing mates, and they often choose poorly when buying goods and services. Nevertheless, free markets correct these problems better than any other system.

Good government protects our right to life and liberty and our right to our peacefully obtained possessions. When this happens, prosperity ensues.

What is in the Constitution that relates to economics?

Our Constitution implicitly assumes a free-market system. Mainly, this results from the fact that the Constitution limits the powers of the federal government to what is enumerated there. And nowhere does it give the federal government the power to control economic activity.

Also, Article I, section 10, clause 1 of the Constitution provides that “No State shall … pass any Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts.” In the early years of the nation, the Supreme Court's interpretations of this clause constrained state action, especially actions seeking to redistribute wealth.

And the “takings clause” required that when property was taken by the government, it can only be taken for “public use” and that just compensation be paid to the owner.

What are some examples of bad laws that restrict our economic freedoms?

There are many federal and State laws that restrict economic freedoms. They should have been ruled to be unconstitutional.

Some examples of these bad laws are laws that restrict competition in order to protect those who are already in a particular business. There are laws in many States that restrict who may sell funeral caskets, and some specify funeral casket requirements. Such laws do protect the health and safety of others; they protect the profits of the funeral homes who currently sell these caskets.

There are laws requiring a cosmetology license to braid hair. There are laws to require florists to get a license. There are laws to prevent new taxi companies from starting (even if the drivers have passed a taxi driver exam). In many states, even an individual who has passed the taxi driver exam, and who has a taxi that meets the State’s safety requirements, must still get a license to do business.

All of these laws were originally made by businesses lobbying for laws that limit competition. Some of these laws are finally being declared unconstitutional as the result of a number of fine charitable organizations, such as the Institute for Justice.

Conclusion

Give us (economic) liberty or give us a dead economy.

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FAQs

1) What about the natural resources of a country? Can individuals or companies do as they wish with them?

The natural resources of a country need to be dealt with in a special way, since they do not initially belong to anyone, because they were created by Nature. Such natural resources include land, minerals, oil, etc. Thus, they should be considered to be the property of all. The government may sell them or rent or lease them to private individuals or businesses, as it deems best. This means that the people as a whole are compensated for the private use of such resources. For land, a monthly land-use fee would be appropriate. For extractable resources such as oil, a reasonable tax per barrel of oil extracted would be fair.

Laws such as land-use laws, deed restrictions, and environmental laws can all be appropriate.

For more details about the best way to handle a country’s natural resources, see my blog entry devoted to this topic.

2) Should the government be the developers and extractors of our natural resources?

Government doing this would not violate economic freedom because it owns the natural resources. But history has shown that private business extracts natural resources more efficiently and more cheaply than does government.

For instance, Pemex, the oil company owned and run by the Mexican government, is a disaster. Mexico has a huge amount of oil, yet the company is in debt in excess of $42 billion in 2010. This has resulted in a lack of investments in adding adequate refining capacity. While exporting crude oil, Mexico imports expensive gasoline. Because of this, Mexico’s current president, President Calderon, made clear at the beginning of his presidency that he would try his best to open up the oil sector to private investment.

So, a good government should sell or lease its natural resources to private individuals or companies, regulate how they are used, and then tax them, so that all may benefit.

3) What about the collapse of the housing market? Didn’t greedy businesses give out mortgages that should not have been given in order to profit from them?

It’s certainly true that greed and unethical business practices occurred. But guess what was at the root of the problem? I’m sure you’re shocked to hear that it is the government. First, organizations started and controlled by the government, such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), provided mortgage insurance to the private mortgage companies who gave individuals’ mortgages. This alone was a mistake because there are and have been private mortgage insurance companies. So this is an example of the government interfering in the economy for no good reason.

But here’s the kicker: the federal government wanted to do some more social engineering. They wanted “the poor” and others who wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage in a free market, to be able to buy a home. So they passed laws telling the above government-controlled companies to give mortgage insurance for mortgages that no sane mortgage company would grant. And who pays when these mortgages go bad? Yes, you guessed correctly. You do.

Here is a specific example. A person could (at least before the housing market collapse) get an FHA insured mortgage by putting only 3% down! And even that could be a gift. And as time went by, the ratio of the cost of the mortgage to the income of the buyer was allowed to go up, sometimes over 40% of income. Finally, some of these mortgages required little documentation of income, or good credit. This was great for the mortgage companies who were profiting from all the mortgages they were providing. And laws made it so that they had to underwrite such bad mortgages if they wanted government-backed mortgage insurance. So of course the mortgage companies gave out loans to people they knew were bad risks – they had to.

This is yet another example of how government involvement in business is frequently disastrous. After, they don’t need to make a profit. They just need to get votes.

If you had extra money to invest, and you wanted to provide mortgages to people, how much of a down payment would you require so that you felt you made a good investment? I would require at least 10%, and would give a lower interest rate for 20% down. Furthermore, I’d make sure that the home buyer had enough income to pay the mortgage, and had good enough credit to prove that they would pay the mortgage. This is common sense to all, except for those who want the vote of those who couldn’t get a mortgage in a free market.

Did you hear the government blame itself for the collapse?

4) How should the government deal with man-made pollution?

By definition, man-made pollution consists of harmful substances. They are either released into the atmosphere, or enter the land or oceans. Since they are harmful, they should be dealt with by legislation. Laws should either restrict the amount of pollution, or tax it, or both. Click here for more information devoted to this topic.

5) We currently subsidize, among other things, schools and health care.  Do you think we should stop doing this?

No, but we should subsidize them differently than we do now.  Essentially, they should be subsidized in such a manner as to allow the recipients to have as much choice as possible, so that the benefits of free markets will manifest.  I've already written about the best way to subsidize education.  A future blog post will deal with a cost-effect way in which to provide health care for all.

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Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at tfarage@hotmail.com.

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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Global Warming Alarmists Struck Down but They Won't Admit It

So what happened that struck down the global warming alarmists?

Much more than I can give here. But since I wrote my last blog entry on why the war on global warming is a war on the poor, new information has come to light that. Just today (07/30/2010) a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) came out about the best evidence so far about global warming. It drew on research from 48 countries. The article came from Bloomberg News, and was entitled, Report: Warming is unmistakable. It starts with the usual alarmism about global warming. It’s not until the end of the article that we get the actual facts. After all, why let the facts get in the way?

I’ve written previously that the best evidence shows that the Earth is heating at the rate of about 3 degrees Fahrenheit (F) per century. And I’ve also said that it is possible that this may have a net positive value for humanity.

So what does the NOAA conclude from its most recent data? The Earth warmed about 1 degree F over the last 50 years. For those of you that are mathematically challenged that comes out to 2 degrees per century. Are you scared yet?

What about the prediction made by the global warming alarmists?

Not unexpectedly, the article did not mention the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) final report, and its predictions using various climate models? It also didn’t mention Al Gore’s predictions that he gave in his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

No, neither of these were mentioned, nor were any other previous predictions. I can only presume that the reason for this is that more people will realize that it is a waste of money to try to mitigate this level of global warming, especially if the mitigation method has to do with reducing our “carbon footprint.”

So let look at the United Nation’s IPCC final report and cut to the chase. One part of the report gives the various estimates of how much the temperature will increase by 2100. The estimates vary from 2 to 11 degrees F.

First, I’ll bet that you didn’t realize how much variability there was in the IPCC report. This variability wasn’t written about much, because most people would think, what kind of ridiculous prediction is that? Maybe they will soon predict that the Sun will come up in 2100. Actually, I have to give the authors of the final report credit for being honest about how little they knew about how much the temperature might change over the next century.

And let’s be honest here. The current evidence is that the Earth will warm 2 degrees F by 2100, and that is precisely the low end of the IPCC’s estimate. Kudos to them. However, their best estimate was 5 to 6 degrees F, so the Kudos are minimal. (Just to let you know the IPCC predicted that sea level would rise by 7 to 23 inches by 2100. If it ends up being at the low end, it would be about the same as the estimated rise during the 20th century of about a foot).

The estimate for the 20th century was that the temperature rose about 1 to 1.5 degrees F. Did anyone notice?

But what is the Earth does start warming faster than it has been over the last few decades?

This is certainly possible. It’s even possible (but less likely) that the Earth will cool. Notice that I haven’t predicted what the global temperature would be by 2100, I just extrapolated from current data. Frankly, I have no idea what the global temperature will be in 2100, and neither do you, or Al Gore, or anyone else.

But if the Earth does starting warming at rate of more than 3 degrees per century, it would probably be wise to attempt to mitigate this. Not by attempting to cut our carbon dioxide emissions, which my last blog pointed out will have no discernable effect. Rather there are cost-effective geo-engineering solutions that research is currently being done on. For more information on these see my blog post about global warming.

And if you want good solutions that will improve our environment, make us less dependent on foreign oil, and save us money, check out my post on Rational Environmentalism.

So why are there so many in the media and so many groups that are worried that we are “destroying the Earth?”

It’s hard to know exactly. Part of the reason, I believe is that people like to believe strongly in something, and believing that you are helping to save the Earth is quite motivating.

With respect to the media, it is natural for them to print the bad news, or at least try to make news sound bad, even when it isn’t. Such news sells better than a story about Girl Scout cookies.

But I also think that some people have an almost unconscious guilt that they are trying to assuage. They might feel guilty about the U.S. being so prosperous compared to most other countries, and that our prosperous ways are harming the Earth.

How can this be countered?

It can be countered by developing what might be called a “prosperity consciousness”. Let’s all look around objectively and see that the most prosperous nations have the highest standards of living, less pollution, less poverty, more choices, are better educated, and live longer and healthier lives than nations that are not as prosperous. And when some disaster occurs, they can deal with it much better than less prosperous countries.

We should want all good people of this world to be prosperous, and there are plenty of resources available on our planet to be able to do this.  This is the attitude that I'd like us all to adopt.
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Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. The views expressed herein are those of the author. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at tfarage@hotmail.com.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why the “War on Global Warming” is a “War on the Poor”

Haven’t you written about global warming before?

Yes. Click here for a link to that post, which contains more details than are given here, and would be a good background for this post.

The reason for this new post is that Congress is currently considering what is called a “cap-and-trade” tax. This is a form of a carbon tax that taxes industries that emit CO2. The purpose of this post is to show that any such tax will make everything more expensive, and yet do nothing to prevent global warming. So the poor will be harmed, and it will be for nothing.

Why will such a tax make everything more expensive?

Whenever we burn oil, natural gas, or coal to obtain energy, CO2 is given off. So any sort of carbon tax would increase the cost of energy since we obtain most of our energy from these sources. We frequently think of energy in terms of gasoline and electricity, and the price of those will certainly increase. But keep in mind that the chair you’re sitting on took energy to make. So the price of everything will increase with such a tax.

Won’t a cap-and-trade/carbon tax cause us switch to more “sustainable” forms of energy such as solar or wind?

Probably so. But these forms of energy supply only a small fraction of our energy needs, and they are still expensive. As solar and wind and other forms of energy become inexpensive, we will naturally start generating energy from them. But it will take decades before they become a significant source of energy. Until then, why create poverty?

But if a form of carbon tax will reduce our CO2 emissions, won’t that reduce global warming, and benefit all?

No, if the United States decreases its CO2 emissions, it will have no significant effect on global warming. There are many reasons for this. First, a few years ago, China became the leading emitter of CO2, and the amount they are giving off is growing substantially, whereas we are not substantially increasing our CO2. Likewise, India, other Asian countries, Africa and South America are all increasing their CO2. So even if we were to decrease our CO2 emissions by say 30%, this would have little effect on global CO2 concentration.

Even worse, projections from the last 30 years indicate that global temperatures would rise about 3 degrees Fahrenheit (F) by 2100, which may actually have a net benefit to humanity. The reason for this is that plants absorb CO2 during photosynthesis, and give off the oxygen that animals (and humans!) breathe. Atmospheric CO2 has gone from about 315 parts-per-million (ppm) in 1958 to 385 ppm in 2008. (This is about 38 molecules of CO2 per 100,000 molecules of air). Many greenhouse owners prefer to use 1000 ppm in their greenhouses because their plants grow better with that concentration of CO2. This indicates that increasing CO2 in our atmosphere will increase plant and tree growth, thus making food more plentiful and affordable.

And even though you’ve heard otherwise, the truth is that we still don’t know how much global warming manmade CO2 emissions are causing. You’ve certainly heard the almost hysterical pleas from Al Gore and others who consider manmade CO2 emissions an apocalypse waiting to happen. But what has happened?

Trends indicate a 3 degree F increase over the next century and a 1 to 2 foot rise in sea level. Does this sound apocalyptic to you? Have you noticed that dearth of articles in the last few years about how much global warming is occurring? The reason is that for a decade or so, there has been no global warming. How many articles have you seen about that? Have you noticed that instead of the term “global warming”, alarmists are using the term, “climate change.” This is safer for them since they can still talk about climate change when no global warming is happening. It’s also safe because the climate is always changing. But don’t be fooled. When you hear “climate change” that is almost always a euphemism for “manmade global warming.” Scientists and journalists who have done this ought to be ashamed, for they are hiding the truth.

Are there other reasons for not having a CO2 cap-and-trade tax?

Taxing CO2 will cost us money that we could be using for something valuable. There are “clean coal” initiatives that involve burning coal for electricity (of which the U.S. has hundreds of years’ worth), but that give off much less pollution. This sounds reasonable, except that these initiatives always involve removing the CO2 given off, which is expensive to do. If we eliminated the CO2 requirement, because it has no value, we could redefine “clean coal” as burning coal for energy and giving off very little pollution, such as sulfur dioxide, lead and mercury. This would be of benefit to us since these substances have been shown to be harmful.

Furthermore, the only current cost-effective way we have of generating pollution-free energy is with nuclear power. Streamlining the process for approving and building more nuclear power plants would have tremendous value. As well doing more research into more efficient and less expensive nuclear power plants would be of value. We have over a million years worth of nuclear fuel, mainly uranium and thorium. It would also make us less dependent on foreign oil, once we have good battery-powered cars.

What’s one more good reason for not having a CO2 cap-and-trade tax?

Because it will create poverty, it will do the opposite of what is intended: to make humanity better off. If global warming occurs to a harmful extent, then, just as when other disasters happen, the most prosperous countries will fare much better than the poorest countries. The lesson of the 2010 disastrous earthquake in Haiti was that it wasn’t the earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, it was poverty. Haiti did not have buildings or roads or the various types of infrastructure able to handle a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. In 1989, San Francisco had an almost identical earthquake, and around 60 people were killed. Prosperity matters a great deal, when it comes to dealing with any kind of disaster.

Prosperous countries will be in the best position to deal with whatever negative effects there might be due to global warming. Not only will these countries suffer less if significant global warming occurs, they will suffer less if any disaster occurs. In addition, prosperous countries rarely go to war with each other. It is easier just to trade with each other than to go to war.

I’ve heard from more than one good-hearted person that the Earth would be better off with fewer people, and that they don’t want the rest of the world to have the amenities that we have in the U.S. because it would “destroy the Earth.” This is truly a terrible attitude. Good people should want all other good people on Earth to be prosperous and to have access to the same products that we enjoy. If we do it right, there are plenty of natural resources to provide for all of us, and in a sustainable manner.

In a previous post I gave an environmental policy for the United States that will reduce pollution and CO2 emissions by at least 80% by 2050. And the surprising news about this is that it will create prosperity at the same time. This is about the most anyone could ask for, and it can be done without any form of carbon tax.

There are cost-effective ways to reduce global warming if we need be. (Click on the link at the start of this post to find out about them). But having a carbon tax is not one of them.

Conclusion

A cap-and-trade tax or any form of carbon tax will not benefit the environment, and will create poverty. Congress should reject any such taxes. Rather, it should endorse environmental policies that reduce pollution, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and create prosperity.
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Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at tfarage@hotmail.com.
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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Separation of Education and State

Don’t you mean, “Separation of Church and State?”

No, although they are related more closely than one might think. Here’s a quotation from the First Amendment of the Constitution with respect to religion: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This amendment prohibited Congress from creating a national religion, such as “The Church of the United States.” It also prohibited Congress from passing laws restricting the free exercise of religion.

Was this done because the Founding Fathers didn’t feel that religion was important?

Actually, it was just the opposite. The Founding Fathers felt that our country could not survive without strong religious and moral principles. But they felt that such personal beliefs about one’s faith should be up to the individual, and not dictated by the government. Additionally, they wanted to avoid infighting caused by differences in people’s beliefs, which would only be exacerbated by having laws related to religion.

Religion was too important to the Founding Fathers to have government involved in it.

How does this view relate to education?

The Founding Fathers felt that religion was essential to education. After all, how could one get a good education without a religious basis? Since all things flow from our Creator, so should all aspects of our lives.

What did the Founding Fathers actually say about religion and its role in education?

Sit back for a moment and enjoy the following quotations, some of which may surprise you.

In 1787, the year the Constitution was approved by Congress, they also passed the Northwest Ordinance. In it they outlawed slavery in the Northwest Territory, enumerated some basic human rights and also said:

“Article 3: Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

George Washington said in his Farwell Address:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports…. And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail to the exclusion or religious principle.”

In order to exclude the dissensions of individual denominations so as to make the teaching of religion a unifying cultural adhesive rather than a divisive apparatus, Thomas Jefferson wrote a bill for the “Establishing of Elementary Schools” in Virginia in which he wanted to emphasize that the only religious tenets that could be taught in public schools were those that were universally accepted by all faiths:

“No religious reading, instruction or exercise, shall be prescribed or practiced inconsistent with the tenets of any religious sect or denomination.”

Jefferson later proposed that the University of Virginia extend its facilities to the various denominations so that each student could worship and study in the church of his choice. He wrote:

“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed, by eliminating religious instruction, their only firm basis – a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?”

Benjamin Franklin wrote to the President of Yale University:

“Here is my creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion.”

These basic beliefs were shared by almost all of the Founding Fathers, and they sometimes referred to them as the “religion of America.” Samuel Adams said that “the religion of America is the religion of all mankind.” Thus they could be taught in schools without be offensive.

John Adams called these beliefs the general principles on which the American civilization had been founded.

Jefferson called these basic beliefs the principles “in which God has united us all.” With respect to the University of Virginia, he suggested that the responsibility for teaching:

"The proofs of the being of God, the creator, preserver, and supreme ruler of the universe, the author of all the relation of morality, and of the laws and obligations these infer, will be within the province of the professor of ethics.”

Doesn’t this contradict the idea of “Separation of Church and State?”

Not at all. The clauses of the Constitution given above were meant only to prohibit the federal government from passing laws interfering with religion. And the federal government has no authority with respect to education. The Founders expected that the States would deal with education and that schools would teach the basic religious principles given above.

So why don’t we teach these principles in our public schools today?

That’s a long story and has mainly to do with a number of Supreme Court decisions that restricted what public schools could teach with respect to religion.

Furthermore, even though Franklin’s general religious principles would be accepted by most Americans today, they would not be accepted by all. So between the decisions of the Supreme Court and the beliefs of the current U.S. population, it doesn’t appear that such religious principles will be taught again in public schools.

And to make my position clear, even though I agree with Franklin’s religious principles, I don’t want to force them (or any other belief system) on those who don’t agree with them. So it is no longer proper to teach such in public schools.

So what’s the problem? After all, parents can teach their children about religion, and so can churches.

It’s true that parents and churches can teach their children religion. The problem is that most children spend a great deal of time in school. And if their school doesn’t incorporate religion, children are put into an artificial position of keeping education separate from religion. This, frankly, is ridiculous. We are here as children of God to grow toward God, to love one another, and to help make the world a better place. These are the basic premises of most Americans and yet not a word of this can be taught in our public schools. This leads to a complete disconnect between our true, spiritual selves, and what we are being taught in schools. Without God, what is even the purpose of education?

So what should we do about this?

Because public schools are no longer a place where spiritual principles can or should be taught, and because it is not possible to separate spirituality from education, there is only one realistic answer.

And that answer is to separate out two different functions of government: that of subsidizing education and that of running schools. When we say "public education" we usually mean both, but this does not have to be so. Indeed, it should not be so.

Let government subsidize education by giving parents vouchers to send their child to the school of their choice. Then, if a school taught spiritual principles, there would be no reason for anyone to complain, because parents could send their child to a school that teaches whatever belief system they wish. Thus, there would be true freedom in education.

Furthermore, it would help to stop the artificial disconnect between our spiritual natures, and our other natures. Our bodies, minds and souls are meant to work together in our effort to grow toward God, and this cannot be done when we must forcibly keep spirituality out of schools. This has even spilled over into science, where it is frowned upon to even consider that God or his helpers might have been involved with the world. We have gotten to the point where Einstein’s idea that studying science was his attempt to understand the mind of God would today be considered prosaic, if not unscientific.

Yes, it is time now to separate government from education so that all parents (not just those who are well-off) may once again have their children taught as they deem best. For it is the parents who are ultimately responsible for their children’s moral, spiritual, and intellectual growth.

For detailed information about how school choice would work, click here for my blog post on this.

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Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at tfarage@hotmail.com.
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Friday, April 2, 2010

Government Based Upon Natural Law - (Part 12) - Education and Government


What is this post not about?

Because this is a part of my series on good government, my purpose here is not to discuss my ideas about the best way to educate children and adults. Posts about that will be given separately, and will not be part of my government series. My purpose here is to show what the relationship between government and education should be.

So what should the role for government in education be?

My long-term preference is that government not be involved at all in education. One of my core beliefs is that parents are responsible for their children.  Therefore, a child's education should be determined by his or her parents.  Most parents would choose a school that they believe would be best suited to their child.  Some would choose home schooling using the various resources that are available to them.

Not having the government involved in education may sound extreme to you, and you might be thinking, "Education is too important for the government not to be involved." But consider that the opposite may be true – that education is too important for the government to be involved. After all, our nation's Founders saw fit to incorporate the First Amendment into the U.S. Constitution. And it prohibits government from dictating one's religious beliefs, which may be the most important choice that a person has. It also prohibits government from inhibiting free speech and freedom of the press. One could easily imagine that the First Amendment could include a clause stating that, "The government shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of education as determined by the child's parents." In other words, along with freedom of religion and freedom of speech and many other freedoms, there should be the freedom to educate one's children as the parents see fit.

At the same time, I do believe that there should be a law requiring that parents must educate their children, without specifying how this should be done. A child without an education is severely handicapped.

Why not leave it at that, just as religion is left to each person's discretion?

There is one major difference between freedom of religion or speech on one hand, and freedom of education on the other: education costs money. And I'd hate to see a child not get an education because his or her parents don't have the money to provide one.

And what is the best way to provide that money, if parents are in need of it?

Government would provide the money to give a good education to all children. 

It would be easier to define the role of government in education if the definition of the term "public education" was made explicit. It actually has two distinct meanings, and it's important to distinguish between them.

The first meaning is that the education of our children is subsidized by the government.

The second meaning is that the government runs public schools. This means that it decides what to teach, what books to use, etc. Thus "government-subsidized education" and "government-run education" are distinct functions and should be treated as such, even though the term "public education" confusingly refers to both of these functions.

To keep the education of a child under their parents' control as much as possible, I would take 10% of the federal Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a measure of the value of all the goods and services that the U.S. produces in a year. So it's essentially a measure of national income. For 2009, the GDP was roughly $14 trillion, that is to say $14,000 billion. I'd like to see 10% of this spent on government-subsidized education, which would be $1.4 trillion per year (and then adjusted each year based upon the GDP). It's not easy to come up with exact figures, but this comes out to over $10,000 per child per year. And it includes children age 0 to 17.

Did you say children from ages 0 to 17?

Yes! The ages from 0 to 3 are the most important in a child's life, and these subsidies would allow many more mothers to be involved full-time with their child's education at this crucial time. And the ages from 4 to 6 are the second most important.

How would the parents be given this money?

Parents would be given this money in the form of a voucher that could be used to educate their child as they see fit. To start, it would likely be more acceptable if the parents were limited to accredited public, private, or parochial schools, at least after age 5. Each month, parents would transfer one month's worth of these voucher credits to the school they chose. If they were unhappy with the school, they could transfer their child to another school. Also, some of this money could be used for transportation to and from a school, so that transportation costs would not be a financial issue.

Would the government have any other role in education?

Yes. Each school that accepts vouchers should be required to post statistics (in writing and on the Internet) such as standardized test scores, drop-out rates, etc., so that parents have as much information as possible about the school. The government should oversee giving standardized tests to students to ensure that test results are accurate.

To be fair, comparing students at one school to another should not just depend on test results. Obviously, students who come from well-educated families do better, on average, than those who don't. And smarter kids do better than ones who aren't as smart. One way to take such factors into account is for the standardized tests to include a short portion that measures a student's IQ. This IQ score would not be given to anyone. It would only be used to compare students between schools. For instance, a school's report might include the statement, "Fourth Grade students with IQs from 90 to 100, who were at this school for at least two years, had an average math score of 57 on the given standardized test." This would better allow parents to compare scores across schools.

Also, the government should make advisors available to assist parents in picking a school for their child.
Why not just keep the system as it is now?

Right now, parents who are well off can live in a neighborhood that has good public schools, or they can send their child to the private or parochial school of their choice. So they already have school choice. The plan I've outlined here gives children of parents who are not as well off the same educational choices as well-off parents.

Will this program improve education?

We know from history that all products and services get better, on average, when people have a free choice as to which products and services to choose from. Monopolies tend not to improve as much. For instance, every communist country, in which the government runs all businesses, has been poor.

For poor people and much of the middle class, financial constraints virtually force them into putting their child in the local public school, whether or not they desire to do so. Now they would have a choice, and schools that are not good will not get enough money to survive. Likewise, these pressures will force schools to get rid of bad teachers and to better compensate good ones.

Furthermore, in areas where school choice is provided to poor parents, studies have shown that the public schools also improve. This is because they are trying to retain as many students as they can, or to win back former students.

What other advantages are there to this system?

All parents' values differ, and since they are responsible for their child's education, it should be up to them to pick a school that is in alignment with their values. This is impossible without school choice.

There is much discord created by having the various boards of education deciding which books a school will use, and how the children in the school will be taught. Additionally, more discord is created with respect to things like school prayer, sex education, religious and secular displays, and more. And the courts have been involved in a number of such decisions, even to the point where a court defined what "science" was. If parents choose their child's school, these problems mostly disappear. Just as it is impossible for government (or any group) to come up with the best religion, it is also impossible for the government (or any group) to come up with the best way to educate a child. Children differ in many ways, and allowing all parents school choice honors those differences.

Any other advantages you care to mention?

Now that you ask, there are some very important ones, only some of which I'll mention here. As alluded to above, it is impossible for a public school today to cater most of its parents' desires for their children. After all, the purpose of life is to grow toward God. A public school by law cannot teach anything about this (nor would it be possible to do so, given the various beliefs of the parents).

Probably the most important teachings of Christ are that a) we are to love God and love others (even our enemies), b) treat others as we would like to be treated, c) to use our talents to help make the world a better place, and d) that we reap what we sow. All of education should be incorporate these principles.

For instance, in discussing how to create a good corporation, it should be taught that a good corporation must create a product or service that is of positive value toward its customers. It should also be taught that its employees are to be treated as children of God, and rewarded according to their contributions to the company. In the long run, these are the only companies that will succeed.

What is something ridiculous that we barely think about these days with respect to the education of our children?

Many schools require their students to read "Grapes of Wrath", "Catcher in the Rye", "The Scarlet Letter" and many others. So let me ask you this: what book is at the top of the best seller list, year after year? It is "The Holy Bible."  It's the only book has sold over 1 billion copies. Estimates vary from 2.5 billion to over 6 billion copies sold. Is it not ridiculous that most children are not required to read it in school, or even worse, that they are forbidden to be taught about it? Again, it is not the fault of public schools since they must cater to all religions or no religion at all. There is not a realistic or reasonable way to teach the Bible in public schools. But it is not problem to do so in a private school. So parents can choose a school that teaches the Bible if they wish. And if parents who don't want their children to read it they can pick a school that doesn't teach the Bible.

What else would you like to see?
I'd certainly like parents who home school their children to be able to use this money as well. Studies about home-schooled children have shown them to be better in many ways compared to children educated in public schools. I do not mean this to be disrespectful of public schools because it is not really a fair comparison. Parents who home-school their children also tend to be more educated than parents who don't, on average. But my point is that home-schooling can provide children with an excellent education.

Parents who choose this option should also be required to have their children take the standardized tests along with all other children, so that parents who are not educating their children well at home can be dealt with.

Will this system guarantee that all children get a good education?

No. Some parents will misuse this money, and will find ways to direct it to non-educational purposes, or will choose a poor school. But this always occurs in any system, even a system that maximizes freedom.

Some people buy bad cars. But in a free market, cars and everything else will tend to get better. And I would expect educational innovation to soar after a few years of school choice.

As an aside, are there other subsidies that you'd like the government to provide?

Yes. Until our civilization advances enough, I believe that government should subsidize health care. My plan for this is given in a post about health care.

Additionally, I've previously described a Natural Resource Dividend. This is an amount of money that would be given each month to every American adult, to compensate for others' use of our common natural resources. For more details, see my post on the Natural Resource Tax.

The educational subsidy and the health-care subsidy would be the only subsidies that I would have the government provide. These, in addition to the Natural Resource Dividend, (which is technically not a subsidy, but acts like one) are the only ones I would have government provide. These would be sufficient to ensure that all have a reasonable and equal economic base.

Note also a very important point: every American would be given the same amount of money for each of these subsidies. This will save money by reducing the bureaucracy involved, and will satisfy the "general welfare" clause of the Constitution as well as the 14th Amendment, which are both meant to have laws apply equally to all citizens. (This would not stop the government from encouraging those who are well off to voluntarily refuse these subsidies in order to reduce the tax load).

Finally, even though this is not related to government, in addition to the above, I believe that all should tithe to an organization(s) that they believe are doing God's work – meaning organizations that they are helping to improve humanity.

Conclusion

In any area, the more free choices a person has for any product or service, the more those products and services tend to improve. Compare any product or service from 50 to 100 years ago, and you'll see that this is so.

Opening up education so that all parents have a choice as to how to educate their children, not just the well-off parents, is bound to improve educational innovation and practices, so that all children benefit. And then our world will benefit as well.

What can be more American than this? And what can be less American than not allowing this?

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Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at tfarage@hotmail.com.
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Friday, March 26, 2010

Government Based Upon Natural Law - (Part 11) - Global Warming


What is global warming, anyway?

It is the warming of the lower atmosphere over the entire Earth, averaged over a long period – at least a few decades. The Earth always warms in some areas and cools in others, even when no global warming or cooling is occurring. Thus it is important to realize that to say that global warming is occurring, it must be a warming of the entire Earth.

What are the causes of global warming or global cooling?

There are many factors that can cause the Earth to warm or cool, and it has done so throughout its history. From the amount of radiation given off by the Sun (which can vary) to volcanoes, to cloud cover, to eccentricities in Earth's rotation and orbit, many factors contribute to the Earth's temperature.

There are gasses called greenhouse gasses because they keep some of the Sun's energy from leaving the Earth. These can cause global warming. The main greenhouse gas is water vapor (the invisible water in the Earth's atmosphere). It has been estimated that without water vapor and clouds in our atmosphere, the Earth's temperature would be 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than it is now. (All temperatures given here are in degrees Fahrenheit). Carbon dioxide, methane, and some other gasses also cause global warming. The greenhouse gas that humans emit when burning fossil fuels that has the most significant effect on global warming is carbon dioxide.

What is anthropogenic (man-made) global warming (AGW)?

This refers to the amount of global warming that is the result of human activities. Since the mid part of the 20th century, humans have burned fossil fuels for energy, and this has increased steadily. It is now especially increasing due to the emergence of developing countries, and developing countries are expected to contribute most of the future increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. For instance, since 2006, China has been the main contributor of CO2, and China is building about one coal-burning plant per week! Aside from the burning of fossil fuels for energy, the cutting down of trees in the Amazon has been cited as a major reason for increased CO2 in the atmosphere, because all green plants and trees take in CO2 to "breathe." They convert CO2, water and sunlight into carbohydrates and oxygen, a process we know as photosynthesis. Animals then eat these plants because they can digest carbohydrates, and along with the oxygen they breathe, produce energy for their bodies, and then breathing out carbon dioxide. This is the oxygen cycle that we read about in school.

Another major contribution humans make to additional CO2 in the atmosphere is the result of out-of-control coal fires. Not infrequently, when we attempt to mine coal, it catches fire. Developing countries frequently do not have the ability to put them out, and coal fires are very hard to put out. It has been estimated that in China alone, coal fires give off about the same amount of CO2 as the U.S. does from our burning of fossil fuels.

What evidence do we have the humans are a cause of at least some global warming?

At the rate we are adding CO2 to the atmosphere, it is expected that the CO2 concentration will double from 325 parts-per-million (ppm) to 650 ppm by around 2060, mostly as a result of human burning of fossil fuels. Because CO2 is a greenhouse gas, this gives us reason to suspect that humans are contributing to global warming.

How much global warming has occurred until now?

During the 20th century, it's estimated that the Earth's average temperature increased 1 to 1.5 degrees, and that sea level rose about a foot. Satellite measurements of temperature for the 30 year period from 1979 to 2009 show that the Earth warmed about an average of 1 degree over that period.

How much global warming and sea-level rise does the evidence suggest will occur during the 21st century?

Extrapolating upon the warming trends given above, the Earth would warm from 2 to 4 degrees during the 21st century. A number of climatologists think that an increase of 3 degrees in global temperature will have a net positive effect on humanity, although there will be some negative effects in some areas. So if current trends continue, global warming is not likely to cause significant harm. For instance, if the Earth were to warm an average of 3 degrees, the U.S. Midwest, and Canada would have a longer growing seasons, as would Russia. This would contribute to the world food supply. Sea level is rising at a rate that would indicate a 1 to 2 foot increase during the 21st century. This is also not likely to cause significant harm.

If this is true, why is there so much concern over global warming?

As is well known, the media tends to fixate upon news that exaggerates the negative, and tend to report on stories that are alarmist, and ignore stories that are not. So, the scientific studies that show that global warming may not be a disaster tend to be under-reported. Have you noticed that the term, "climate change", has replaced "global warming" in many articles? Part of the reason for this is that the Earth has not warmed from 1997 to 2013, and this may go on longer. This is not to say that global warming will not occur – I believe that the evidence shows that it is occurring, just not at a rate that is cause for alarm.

What do climate models predict about global warming?

Climatologists have come up with many climate models in an attempt to predict how much global warming will occur. Most of these models predict temperatures will increase anywhere from 1 to 11 degrees during the 21st century, according to the United Nations' International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) final report. This is an enormous range of uncertainty, but such uncertainty is called for since these climate models have not been verified. Also, climate is a non-linear system, and is determined by many factors; climatologists are not certain how these factors interact. It may be that, like weather, we may be unable to predict climate decades into the future. (Due to the mathematically chaotic factors that produce our weather, it is impossible to predict it more than 10 or so days in advance. And that's not going to change with faster computers or more knowledge, because of the nature of scientifically chaotic systems. This may be the case with climate as well).

Could the Earth actually warm near the top end of the predictions?

Yes, it is possible. First, we know little about how to predict climate. Second, we know from past evidence that climate can change quickly, so an increase of 9 to 11 degrees over the next century cannot be ruled out.

What is the best way to mitigate the negative effects on humans if significant global warming does occur?

Cost-effective ways to reduce or even stop global warming will be given below. But it is very important to understand that if global warming occurs to a significant extent, then, just as when other disasters happen, the most prosperous countries fare much better than the poorest countries.

The lesson of the 2010 disastrous earthquake in Haiti was that it wasn't the earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, it was poverty. Haiti did not have buildings or roads or the various types of infrastructure able to handle a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. In 1989, San Francisco had an almost identical earthquake, and around 60 people were killed.

Prosperity matters a great deal, when it comes to dealing with any kind of disaster. Prosperous countries will be in the best position to deal with whatever negative effects there might be due to global warming. Not only will these countries suffer less if significant global warming occurs, they will suffer less if any disaster occurs. In addition, prosperous countries rarely go to war with each other. It is easier just to trade with each other than to go to war.

What are the best ways to make a country prosperous? The answer to that is beyond the scope of this monograph, but I've given a number of answers in my Political Platform Based Upon Natural Law series. The one-sentence answer is that the most prosperous countries are those that are closest to being free-market, constitutional democracies.

So what are some cost-effective ways that will stop any significant global warming this century?

There are a number of inexpensive solutions to global warming that will work even if warming is not man-made. I'll give two of the more promising ones. For more solutions or more details about the solutions I'll give below, get Steward Brand's Whole Earth Discipline. He is the author of The Whole Earth Catalog, one of the seminal environmental books of the 20th century.

The first choice of most climatologists involves employing stratospheric sulfates. The reason this is the first choice is that it is already known to work. In 1991, in the Philippines, Mount Pinatubo erupted, sending millions of tons of sulfur dioxide twenty miles up into the stratosphere. This soon created tiny sulfate droplets that absorbed and reflected sunlight. The next year, the entire planet cooled by about 1 degree!

After a 1998 presentation by Lowell Wood at a climate conference about this, climate modeler Ken Caldeira created some models to determine if a stratospheric-sulfate scheme would work, and the models suggested that it could work very well. His models indicated that if we would inject 10 gallons of sulfates per second into the stratosphere, we would be protected from global warming for the entire century. This is a relatively small amount since we are putting 100 million tons of sulfur dioxide per year into the atmosphere right now, and should have little or no negative side effects. And if we find after a while that it's not needed, we can stop and within a few years, things will be back to normal.

And what is the cost of this scheme? Estimates are around $30 billion dollars per year – almost an insignificant amount. By comparison, the U.S. federal government's budget was about $3.5 trillion in 2009, which is the same as 3,500 billion dollars, in a single year.

How can we be sure that the model's predictions are correct? We could inject a small amount of sulfur into the stratosphere in the Arctic, where warming is occurring now. Then we could measure the impact. If it works, we can ramp up the experiment until we're convinced that it is a viable solution.

One other solution to near-term global warming involves the idea of having a fleet of oceangoing cloud machines. There would be an estimated 1,500 unmanned ships that would spray sea-water droplets up into the clouds at a rate of 500 gallons per minute. This increase in cloud volume would be enough to reflect sufficient sunlight away from the Earth to offset a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere. The cost to build the ships: around $3 billion dollars. And the amount of the spray could be easily adjusted to accommodate however much warming is actually occurring.

The above geo-engineering solutions don't reduce global warming gasses, even though they will reduce or stop global warming.  What are some cost-effective ways that will stop global warming in the long run?

In my previous post I gave an environmental policy for the United States that will reduce pollution and CO2 emissions by at least 90% by 2060. And the surprising news about this is that it will create prosperity at the same time. This is about the most anyone could ask for.

The bad news is that the U.S. is unlikely to adopt these policies quickly enough, even though the policies are quite practical. The main part of the policy is to build natural gas power plants for the next 20 years or so, and then build nuclear power plants whenever we need more energy.

The better news is that nuclear power is growing very quickly world-wide. There are about 30 countries that are currently using nuclear power, and over 50 are planning on using it. Because of modern reactor design and the prevalence of uranium and thorium, as well as the development of cost-effective solar energy, it is likely that by the end of the century, very little pollution or human-caused CO2 will be given off.

The upshot of this is that by the next century there will be little or no greenhouse gasses given off.

Conclusion

The current evidence shows the Earth will warm about 3 degrees this century. If that turns out to be the case, it will likely be a net benefit to humanity. If we then follow the environmental policies that I've given in a previous post, humans will be contributing very little to whatever global warming may occur next century, and we will prosper at the same time.

And if global warming occurs at a rate that would lead to more than a 3 degree increase this century, there are a number of very inexpensive ways to deal with it, as I've given above. Therefore, with good policies, global warming should not be a significant problem. And with these same good policies, the people of the world will benefit greatly.
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Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at tfarage@hotmail.com.
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