Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I have resumed daily updates to my EDUCATION WATCH , GUN WATCH, and FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blogs -- now that my rather extended Christmas is over.

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


Good news about 2050

Slowdown in U.S. population growth will be beneficial in many ways

The Census Bureau issued the first results of the 2010 Census this week, showing that the U.S. growth in population in 2000-2010 was only 9.7%, the lowest decennial growth since the 1930s and the second lowest on record. This has modest if beneficial effects on our understanding of where the United States is today. However it has much more important effects on what kind of United States we will see in 2050, because the change in “slope” of the population curve makes a big difference to the outcome when extrapolated 40 years.

There is a “consensus” view of the United States in 2050, based partly on multi-culturalist wishful thinking and partly on extrapolation of the 13.2 percent population growth of the 1990s. The Census Bureau in 2009 estimated 2050 population at 439 million, but to the conventional thinkers that has always seemed too conservative – after all, if 1990-2000’s population growth rate had been repeated over the succeeding five decades, the population in 2050 would have been 523 million. Needless to say, in that case the United States would have become “majority minority” -- a prediction that first appeared in “Time” magazine after the 1990 census and has been repeated ad infinitum since.

The new census result blows such predictions out of the water. Admittedly, if population increase were 9.7% per decade over each of the next four decades 2050’s population would be 447 million, somewhat above the Census Bureau’s 2009 projection. However the second derivative of population needs to be considered as well as the first. The slowing of growth in the 2000s should continue at least well into the 2010s, making future growth rates much lower than projected. Since the 1980s’ population growth was only 9.8%, barely higher than this decade’s, and the trend had been steadily declining since the 1950s, it now appears that the 1990s growth of 13.2% was the anomaly, with the decade’s population artificially boosted perhaps by the tech bubble and certainly by the succession of illegal immigrant amnesties passed after 1986.

If the second derivative of population, roughly constant from 1960 to 1990 as the decadal population growth rate declined from 13.3% in the 1960s to 11.5% in the 1970s to 9.8% in the 1980s, had stayed that way, then the trajectory of population would have led to 8.1% growth in the 1990s, 6.3% growth in the 2000s and a population of 285.8 million today – 22.9 million below today’s actual population. We can imagine the difference to be made up mostly of today’s illegal immigrants, generally estimated at 12 million, plus the additional children born to the unexpectedly large immigrant population. In other words, the rapid population growth of 1990-2005 appears to have been a blip.

We can then project forward from 2010’s actual number an “inherent” population growth, assuming a constant second derivative (minus the 1990-2005 blip) and tight immigration law enforcement, and get a U.S. population in 2050 of a mere 333 million, with a slight decline in the 2040-2050 period. That intuitively seems far too low, but with immigration law enforcement likely to tighten at least in the short term, a 2050 population of below 400 million certainly now looks plausible, with the demographic split only moderately changed from today’s.

Ignoring the social effects of changing demographics, the economic effect of a lower population growth rate is very considerable, and mostly positive. First, with only 90 million new inhabitants in the next 40 years compared with the previous estimate of 130 million plus, only two thirds of the projected expenditure on schools, roads, housing, government offices and other infrastructure will be needed, saving perhaps $500 billion per annum (including housing and schools) in scarce capital resources that can be devoted to more economically productive capital investment in the nation’s businesses.

Second, with 10% fewer people around in 2050, the endowment of land and capital will be 10% greater per capita. In general, that should ensure that real wage rates even for the unskilled cease the unhappy slippage of the past few decades and start to increase again as Joe Sixpak once again claims his fair share of the nation’s ever-increasing output. Even between 2000 and 2010, the 0.1% lower than expected annual growth of population results arithmetically in a 0.1% higher annual; growth in real GDP per capita. That may not sound like much, but in the decade between the 2000 and 2010 census quarters, when real GDP per capita growth ran only at an appalling 0.69% per annum, an extra annual 0.1% makes a substantial difference, raising the per capita growth rate by a seventh. A slower rate of population growth in 2010-2050 implies a generally richer 2050, with higher per capita income growth and better opportunities at the bottom of the earnings pyramid, both unalloyed blessings.



An ex-Soviet immigrant goes Socratic on his liberal American critics

by Oleg Atbashian

The two women who showed up early for my book signing at a small bookstore in Houston, TX, never even bothered to open my book. Wearing knowing smiles, they engaged me in a bizarre discussion that wound up leaping all around the known and unknown universe. They hadn’t the slightest curiosity about my ideas as an ex-Soviet immigrant in America, or what I had to say about my experience working inside the two ideologically opposed systems. As it turned out, they had spotted my flyer in the store window the day before, and the book’s title — Shakedown Socialism — had enraged them so much that they decided to return the following day and give me a piece of their collective mind.

Their act almost made me feel as if I were back in the USSR, where the harassment of people with my opinions was the norm. The shorter, pudgier woman was the soloist bully, while her skinnier, older comrade provided backup vocals and noise effects. The duo’s repertoire was an eclectic collection of unoriginal talking points, each branded with an almost legible label: NPR, Air America, MSNBC, and so on. Not only were those mental fragments mismatched in key and rhythm; the very existence of harmony seemed an unfamiliar concept to them. But compared to the hard-core screaming I used to hear from card-carrying Soviet bullies, this was almost elevator music. If I had survived the original cast, I could certainly handle a watered-down remake.

Framed on their terms, the debate zigzagged from the evils of unbridled capitalism to global warming to Bush’s wars for oil to Sarah Palin’s stupidity. Since my opponents wouldn’t give me a chance to respond, I soon became bored and tried to entertain myself by redirecting the flow of mental detritus against itself in a way that would cause its own annihilation. I did that by asking questions.

I remembered an old trick invented in the fifth century B.C. by Socrates. Instead of telling people what he thought was true, Socrates asked seemingly simple questions that put his opponents on the path of finding the truth for themselves. Seeking genuine knowledge rather than mere victory in an argument, Socrates used his questions to cross-examine the hypotheses, assumptions, and axioms that subconsciously shaped the opinions of his opponents, drawing out the contradictions and inconsistencies they relied on.

As the two women faced my questions, their knowing smiles turned to scowls. Sometimes they would backtrack and correct their previous statements; sometimes, they would angrily storm out of the room in the manner of Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg on The View with Bill O’Reilly. After a while they would return with more talking points, and then they had to answer another logical question. My friends who witnessed the scene told me later they saw the shorter bully beginning to foam at the mouth....

I reminded my opponents about the existence of the scientific method of discovery — a logical device that had made Western civilization so successful in the past, but had now been abandoned by “progressive” thinkers. The resulting cognitive dissonance made them disoriented. In due course, they panicked and walked out, never to come back.

Much more HERE (Including sample questions)


The Icelandic Model Disproves “Too Big to Fail”

In 2008, there were two competing wisdoms about what to do about failing financial institutions in the wake of the economic crisis. The first said to do nothing and allow institutions that behaved irresponsibly and became overleveraged during the housing bubble to fail. The second said that those institutions were so interconnected, and that the losses they were facing were so insurmountable, that their failure would have spawned a worldwide depression. In short, they were too big to fail.

In the U.S., obviously, policymakers opted for bailing out the financial institutions. This, we are told, saved the nation and indeed, the world, from a complete economic collapse.

Others, like Iceland, refused to bail out the banks and let the bank’s bondholders eat the losses. Perhaps this is owed in part to the fierce liberty of the Icelandic people.... So, its decision to go against the grain and forego a banking bailout has become something of a testing ground economically. Who is better off, those who bailed out the financial sector, like Ireland, or those that did not, like Iceland?

Certainly, the case for “too big to fail” in Iceland would have been compelling. As noted by Bloomberg News, at the time the crisis hit in 2008, “the banks had debts equal to 10 times Iceland’s $12 billion GDP.” By the logic of “too big to fail,” Iceland’s decision to let the banks fail should have completely destroyed the economy. Businesses should have closed down shop completely from an inability to meet payroll as credit ceased to exist.

But that did not happen. Surely, a recession did follow the largest financial crisis per capita in human history. It immediately resulted in a massive devaluation of the Icelandic currency, the krona, in foreign exchange markets. And although the recession was steeper in terms of GDP compared to Ireland, its unemployment is and will remain lower, according to data by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development: 8.1 percent projected in 2011 for Iceland versus 13.6 percent for Ireland.

So too is Iceland’s budget picture better off than Ireland’s, according to the Bloomberg News report, citing European Commission estimates: “Iceland’s budget deficit will be 6.3 percent of gross domestic product this year… compared with the 32 percent shortfall in Ireland… [And] Iceland’s budget will be in surplus by 2012, compared with Ireland’s deficit of 9.1 percent of GDP”. How can this be?

“The difference is that in Iceland we allowed the banks to fail,” Iceland President Olafur Grimsson told Bloomberg Television. “These were private banks and we didn’t pump money into them in order to keep them going; the state did not shoulder the responsibility of the failed private banks.” ... According to the prevailing wisdom here across the pond, their failures should have been a financial doomsday.

But it wasn’t. Apparently, the damage that Wall Street can inflict on Main Street should it fail is not as cataclysmic as is widely believed. New York Times’ Paul Krugman makes the same point: “The moral of the story seems to be that if you’re going to have a crisis, it’s better to have a really, really bad one. Otherwise, you’ll end up taking the advice of people who assure you that even more suffering will cure what ails you.”

So, because Iceland let the financial institutions, and not the taxpayers, bear the losses of the financial collapse, the country remains essentially solvent. In contrast, Ireland is in deep trouble, and just had to accept an €85 billion bailout from the European Union. Shucks. Trillions of dollars later in bailouts and “stimulus,” should we have just done nothing after all?

In the U.S., the worst may yet be ahead, although, the current 9.8 percent unemployment rate and a national debt at almost 100 percent of the GDP is certainly bad enough. Our budget picture is so bad that the Federal Reserve will soon be, if it is not already, the top lender in the world to the U.S. government — more than China or Japan.

Moody’s has threatened to shift the credit outlook of the nation to negative as soon as 2011, and to downgrade our Triple-A credit rating by 2018 if the accumulation of debt is not reduced drastically.

This may ultimately result in a sovereign debt funding crisis where interest rates go through the roof, inflation too would rise, and the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency would be threatened.

Of course, it’s not too late, but if that happens, it may be that the U.S. traded a severe recession that would have resulted from letting financial institutions fall for a national default that threatens to destabilize the global economy once again. “Too big to fail” will have become too big to save. Certainly a recession, even a sharp one, would have been better than losing the status of the world’s economic superpower. Too bad we were not more like Iceland.



Is Basic Health Care a ‘Right’?

Here’s a letter to the Boston Globe from economist Donald J. Boudreaux

Ronald Pies, MD, asserts that every individual has a “right” to “basic health care” – meaning, a right to receive such care without paying for it (Letters, Dec. 26).

The rights that Americans wisely cherish as being essential for a free society require only the refraining from action. Your right to speak freely requires me simply not to stop you from speaking; it does not require me to supply your megaphone.

Not so with a “right” to “basic health care.” Elevating free access to a scarce good into a “right” imposes on strangers all manner of ill-defined positive obligations – obligations that necessarily violate other, proper rights. For example, perhaps my “right” to basic health care means that I can force Dr. Pies away from his worship service in order that he attend (free of charge!) to my ruptured spleen. Or perhaps it means that I have the “right” to pay for my health care by confiscating part of his income. If so, how much of his income does my “right” entitle me to confiscate? Who knows?

And if Dr. Pies is planning to retire, do I have the “right” to force him to continue to work so that the supply of basic health care doesn’t shrink? If Dr. Pies should die, am I entitled – again, to keep the supply of basic health care from shrinking – to force his children to study and practice medicine?

Does my right to basic health care imply that I can force my neighbor to pay for my cross-country skiing vacation on grounds that keeping fit is part of basic health care?

Talking about “rights” to scarce goods and services sounds right only to persons who are economically illiterate, politically naive, and suffering the juvenile delusion that reality is optional.



My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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