Matt Ridley on How Fossil Fuels are Greening the Planet

“[H]alf of that greening comes from carbon dioxide itself. In other words, the fact that we’re putting more carbon dioxide into the air means there’s more fuel to grow plants and when a plant has more carbon dioxide in yet doesn’t have to open its pores so much so it doesn’t lose so much water in absorbing the carbon dioxide that it needs to grow and so there’s tons of experiments now showing that plants grow faster if there’s more carbon dioxide in the air; roughly speaking on average for a 200 parts per million increase in carbon dioxide in the air you get a 30% improvement in plant growth. That’s experiments both in the field and in the laboratory. So it’s really quite a remarkable phenomenon here because of the burning of fossil fuels we’re making the planet greener. It’s an astonishing discovery I think. I think it’s rather amazing and of course it’s an incredibly unwelcome discovery for the environmental movement. They don’t want to hear this at all and how is it possible…” – Matt Ridley

Peter Schwartz on Trump’s Perversion of the America First Principle

Writes Peter Schwartz at TheHill on ‘America First:’ Rethinking the meaning of self-interest:

On his latest foreign trip to Asia, President Trump again invoked the idea of “America first.” As someone who is repelled by Trump and his presidency, I am a little reluctant to justify something he nominally upholds. But, actually, his support for it is all the more reason it needs to be clarified and defended — defended not only against those who criticize it, but against those, like Trump, who embrace it for the wrong reasons.

Schwartz succinctly identifies that “America First” means a policy of “taking action to defend the individual rights of Americans” and that to sacrifice those inalienable rights for “the nation” is a contradiction in terms.

A nation’s self-interest consists of the interests of its citizens. And there is one fundamental social value that is in everyone’s interest: individual freedom. The ultimate goal of American foreign policy — the end to which all alliances and confrontations are the means — is the preservation of Americans’ freedom against attacks from abroad. “America first” is a policy of taking action to defend the individual rights of Americans — the rights to their property, to their liberty, to their lives — when they are physically threatened.

Concomitantly, it is a policy of refusing to sacrifice those rights by elevating the needs of other nations above our own. 

Schwartz then shows that “Trump’s interpretation of ‘America first’ is shaped by the collectivist notion of economic nationalism”:

A foreign policy based on self-interest, therefore, embraces free trade, with everyone (leaving aside dealings with countries that pose military dangers to us) allowed to seek out the best products at the lowest prices — which is, incidentally, how the entire society prospers. This is radically different from Trump’s outlook. Trump cannot conceive of trade as being mutually beneficial. Instead, he argues that one party’s gain comes only at another’s loss. His ideal is the conniving wheeler-dealer, master of the “art of the deal,” who manages to put one over on his partner. His view of human interaction is that one must be either victimizer or victim, predator or prey. So he calls on the government to intervene and decide who is to be favored and who is to be sacrificed.

Read the rest:  ‘America First:’ Rethinking the meaning of self-interest

Onkar Ghate: Why Ayn Rand Would Have Despised a President Trump

Philosopher Onkar Ghate at The Ayn Rand Institute has a penetrating article on the anti-intellectualism of President Trump, aptly titled “Why Ayn Rand Would Have Despised a President Trump“. Quoting from the article:

Trump’s salient characteristic as a political figure is anti-intellectuality. Because Rand saw this mentality as on the rise (she called it the anti-conceptual mentality), she had a lot to say about it, and it’s illuminating how much of it fits Trump.

In Rand’s terms, to be intellectual is to sustain through life the conviction that ideas matter. This means that knowledge, abstract principles, justice and truth are of personal importance to you, embedded in everything you value and informing your every action. “To take ideas seriously,” Rand says, “means that you intend to live by, to practice, any idea you accept as true.”

This is a demanding responsibility. To be intellectual requires real independence of judgment and enduring honesty and integrity. It’s not just that Trump lacks these virtues; in comparison to, say, Jefferson, Washington or Madison, most of today’s politicians do. It’s that Trump projects disdain for these virtues.

On cable news, it’s now a regular feature for reporters like CNN’s Anderson Cooper to catalog Trump’s latest lies. But to call them lies misses the point. A liar retains some respect for the truth: he tries to conceal his lies, weave a web of deception and make it difficult for his victims to discover the facts. Trump does none of this.

He states, for instance, that his inauguration crowd was the largest ever — when photos of his and past inaugurations are easily accessible. He declares to a national audience that “nobody has more respect for women than I do, nobody” — when the Billy Bush tape of him boasting that he grabs women “by the pussy” is fresh in everyone’s mind. In defense of his Saturday Charlottesville statement, he says that unlike others he waits for the facts to come in before making judgments — when his Twitter outbursts are read by millions.

Trump makes no distinction between truth and falsity, between statements backed by evidence and statements unsupported by any evidence. This is why you can’t catch him in a lie. He doesn’t care.

Rand puts it like this: to an anti-intellectual mentality words are not instruments of knowledge but tools of manipulation. Trump’s description of how he came to use the phrase “Drain the swamp” captures this kind of attitude perfectly.

The phrase, of course, in this context is hollow. By his own admission, Trump was part of the swamp, a master at playing every side of a corrupt political system. To drain the swamp would be to get rid of people like him — not elect them to the presidency. But somebody suggested to Trump that he use the phrase. “I said, ‘Oh, that’s so hokey. That is so terrible.’ I said, ‘All right, I’ll try it.’ So, like, a month ago I said, ‘Drain the swamp.’ The place went crazy. I said, ‘Whoa, watch this.’ Then I said [it] again. Then I started saying it like I meant it, right? And then I said it, I started loving it.”

Onkar’s entire article is worth a read.

Salsman: No Required Tradeoff Between Inflation Rate and Jobless Rate

It’s No Mystery Why the Fed Sees Low Inflation as a Mystery – The Daily Capitalist

The Wall Street Journal reports that Fed head “Yellen Defends Fed Rate-Rise Plan Despite ‘Mystery’ of Low Inflation.” For Yellen, it’s a “mystery” that the U.S. today enjoys, simultaneously, a low rate of inflation (1.9%) and unemployment (4.4%). It’s a fact, yet “theoretically” impossible, per Yellen, so she’ll keep raising the Fed’s policy interest rate, hoping to prevent further declines in the jobless rate. Get it?

Here’s why Yellen’s silly mystery is no mystery at all, at least to those who know something about the good and bad of economic theory and know some economic history too. For decades, Keynesian economists and their dominant textbooks have pushed the erroneous claim, to millions of students (including many now working at the Fed), that there’s an inevitable, unavoidable “trade-off” between a nation’s inflation rate and jobless rate. This bogus “cost-push” theory of inflation asserts that a low jobless rate somehow boosts labor’s “bargaining power” versus Scrooge-like employers, who eventually buckle under and concede to pay higher wage rates but, intent on preserving profit margins, also raise prices (thus inflation). The alleged tradeoff is captured by the so-called “Phillips Curve.” It’s in Yellen’s head.

In fact, inflation is a purely monetary phenomenon; technically, it’s a decline in the purchasing power of money caused by the interplay between the supply of and demand for money. Its effect is a general rise in prices. The main determiners of money supply are its monopoly issuers: today’s central banks (including the Fed).  Contrary to what the Phillips Curve myth implies, inflation is not caused by real factors – i.e., by a greater proportion of folks working to produce things or by faster rates of growth in economic output. In fact, stability in the value (or purchasing power) of money, much like stability in the rule of law and policy, fosters better growth and employment. Such stability is also beneficial for profits and equities.

Read the rest.

Inequality Debate Ignores Fundamental Distinction Between Politics and Production

From: Richest 1% own over half the world’s wealth – Business Insider

The world’s richest 1% of families and individuals hold over half of global wealth, according to a new report from Credit Suisse. The report suggests inequality is still worsening some eight years after the worst global recession in decades.[…]

“The bottom half of adults collectively own less than 1% of total wealth, the richest decile (top 10% of adults) owns 88% of global assets, and the top percentile alone accounts for half of total household wealth,” the Credit Suisse report said.[…]

In most countries, including the US, a large wealth gap translates into those at the top accruing political power, which in turn can lead to policies that reinforce benefits for the wealthy.

The real question is: how many used political power to acquire wealth as opposed to honestly producing it economically? If someone created the wealth — like a Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Jeff Bezos — then they rightfully own the assets they created.

Billionaire politicians and dictators (Castro, Putin, etc.) who earned their money through political means — theft and cronyism — do not.

Sadly Business Insider, like much of the anti-capitalist press, does not make that distinction.