Category: International relations

Kamerat Sanders har fel om Sverige

Rainer Zitelmann:

In 1989, as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie Sanders praised the Cuban revolution in a public statement. “For better or for worse, the Cuban revolution is a very profound and very deep revolution. Much deeper than I had understood,” Sanders wrote. “More interesting than their providing their people with free health care, free education, free housing … is that they are in fact creating a very different value system than the one we are familiar with.”

After a trip to the Soviet Union in 1988, Sanders also praised many aspects of the Russian socialist system. But today he stresses that when he talks about “socialism,” he isn’t referring to a system like in the Soviet Union.

Democrats like Bernie Sanders tend to hold up Scandinavian countries as their dream examples of “socialism.” Either socialists like Sanders don’t know enough about Scandinavian countries’ economies or they hope that huge swathes of the American public know too little about them. That’s why it’s so informative to take a look at economic developments in Scandinavia. For a long time, Sweden was regarded as a model of “democratic socialism” and the perfect example of a counter-model to American capitalism.

Spoiler alert: Modern Sweden is not a socialist country. According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2019 Index of Economic Freedom ranking, Sweden is among the 20 most market-oriented economies in the world. With an “Economic Freedom Score” of 75.2, Sweden has a similar level of economic freedom to the United States (76.8) and ranks ahead of South Korea and Germany.

The image of Sweden and other Scandinavian countries as strongholds of socialism harks back to the 1970s and 1980s. During the period of socialist welfare-state expansion from 1970 to 1991, Sweden dropped far behind many of its European competitors. Sweden’s economic growth rate was lower than in a number of other countries, including Italy, France, Germany, the UK and the Netherlands. From fourth place in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) per-capita GDP ranking in 1970, socialist-era Sweden had dropped to 16th place by 1995.

In the decade from 1965 to 1975, the number of civil servants swelled from 700,000 to 1.2 million, a rise that was accompanied by increasing government intervention in economic affairs and the creation of a number of new regulatory authorities. Between 1970 and 1984, the public sector absorbed the entire growth of the Swedish workforce, with the largest number of new jobs created in the social services sector.

In order to understand the full extent of Sweden’s disastrous flirtation with socialism, it is well worth taking a closer look at the development of two key groups: In 1960, for every 100 “market-financed” Swedes (i.e. those who derived their income predominantly from private enterprise), there were 38 who were “tax-financed” (i.e. dependent on the public sector for their income, whether as civil servants or as welfare recipients). Thirty years later, that number had risen to 151. During the same period, the total number of employed or self-employed in the market-financed sector fell from just under 3 million to just under 2.6 million, while the total number of tax-financed Swedes grew from 1.1 million to 3.9 million. These figures reflect Sweden’s move away from a capitalist free-market economy to a socialist model during that period.

Politicians, such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who call for drastic tax increases on the rich, would be well advised to take a closer look at how such policies played out in Sweden. The socialist agenda damaged the Swedish economy and resulted in prominent entrepreneurs leaving the country in frustration. Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad was one of them. The marginal income tax rate of 85% was supplemented by a wealth tax on his personal assets, which forced him to borrow money from his own company in order to pay his taxes.

To pay back his debts to Ikea, Kamprad planned to sell one of the small companies he owned to Ikea at a profit. At the time this was a common practice among Swedish entrepreneurs as they attempted to reduce their wealth tax burden. As Kamprad was preparing the sale, the government made changes to tax legislation. And they did so retroactively. He was stuck with the costs and furious at his country’s unfair treatment of entrepreneurs. In 1974, he moved to Denmark and later to Switzerland, where he spent the next few decades—for a time as the wealthiest man in Europe. Kamprad didn’t return to Sweden to live and pay taxes until 2013—a textbook example of how countries cut their own throats by imposing excessive taxes on the rich.

Many excesses of the welfare state were equally absurd, including the generous sick pay. As well as statutory payments, most employees in Sweden received additional sickness benefit under company agreements and their collective agreements, which meant that those who took sick leave ended up with a larger paycheck than a healthy person who came to work every day. Unsurprisingly, Sweden held the OECD record for the highest rate of non-working adults in the labor force for several decades. Equally unsurprisingly, spikes in the rate of absence due to sickness frequently coincided with major sporting events. Even during the 2002 soccer World Cup—by which time reforms had already reversed the very worst excesses—the number of sick days increased by 41% among male workers.

From the 1990s, however, a counter-movement emerged in Sweden to push back against the clearly catastrophic effects of “democratic socialism.” There was a major tax reform in Sweden in 1990/91:

–      corporate taxes were slashed almost in half;

–      the tax on share dividends was abolished;

–      capital gains from shares were taxed at a greatly reduced rate, which was later eliminated completely; and

–      the top marginal income tax rate was cut by a third.

While income tax rates have come down considerably from their peak in the 1970s and 1980, they are still higher than in many other countries. However, what many don’t realize is that other taxes have been completely abolished in Sweden, including:

–      wealth taxes; and

–      inheritance and gift taxes.

In stark contrast, socialists of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren’s ilk want to drastically increase wealth and inheritance taxes in the United States.

The Swedish population willingly accepted that stripping back the welfare system would result in a more drastic decline in equality than almost anywhere else in the world. The Gini coefficient, a widely used measure of income distribution, grew by around 30% between the mid-1980s and the late 2000s. Only New Zealand recorded a similar growth in inequality during the same period. As a result, Sweden lost its ranking as the world’s most egalitarian country. But this did not seem to bother the Swedes all that much. After all, despite the significant decline in equality compared with Sweden’s socialist phase, prosperity increased for the vast majority.

Great moments in weekend journalism

The Hill reports about this ridiculous editorial decision:

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The Washington Post changed the headline on its obituary for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi after initially calling him an “austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State.”

The Post changed its headline for the obituary at least twice Sunday, starting by describing al-Baghdadi as the “Islamic State’s terrorist-in-chief.” The newspaper then adjusted the headline to call al-Baghdadi the “austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State,” sparking some backlash on social media.

The headline has now been updated to describe al-Baghdadi as the “extremist leader of Islamic State.”

The Washington Examiner called out the Post for referring to al-Baghdadi as an “austere scholar.” While the Examiner acknowledged that the Post said al-Baghdadi led the terrorist organization with “shocking brutality,” the Examiner also noted that the Post spent most of the obituary focused on his academic career rather than his role in ISIS.

“The man who would become the founding leader of the world’s most brutal terrorist group spent his early adult years as an obscure academic, aiming for a quiet life as a professor of Islamic law,” the obituary reads.

Kristine Coratti Kelly, a spokesperson for the Post, tweeted that the headline “should never have read that way and we changed it quickly.”

President Trump confirmed al-Baghdadi’s death Sunday morning at a press conference, saying he died in a U.S. military raid in Syria.

“The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him,” the president said during the press conference.

The corrected version …

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… and the recorrected version …

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… are one or two more than would have happened had a Democrat been president. Remember the orgy of congratulations when Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden? Such things feed Trump’s assertion that the media is the enemy of the country when the media fails to recognize not a victory for whoever is president, but an American military victory.

The reason I’m not part of the celebration is that Middle Eastern terrorist groups seem to easily replace their deceased leaders. Perhaps that suggests a larger required response.

Meanwhile, Business Insider reports:

People are parodying The Washington Post after the newspaper referred to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group, as an “austere religious scholar” in a headline about his death. …

The headline change also inspired people to write parody headlines, under the hashtag #WaPoDeathNotices, describing the deaths of other notorious figures like the Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the “Harry Potter” villain Voldemort.

Saddam Hussein, successful politician, oil baron and noted tough boss, dead at 69. #WaPoDeathNotices

He saw a country wracked by poverty, illiteracy & disease. So he lead a revolution that uplifted the lives of millions. RIP #FidelCastro

Genghis Khan, noted traveler, dies at 64.

Osama bin Laden, father of 23, killed in home invasion #WaPoDeathNotices

Charles Manson, community organizer, dead at 83 #WaPoDeathNotices

Mussolini, proud patriot, loved pasta, hated meat hooks. Died aged 61 #WaPoDeathNotices

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, wealth re-distributors in the banking sector, died today from extreme air conditioning.

Hannibal Lecter, well-known forensic psychiatrist and food connoisseur dead at 81. #WaPoDeathNotices

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who once participated in the Boston marathon, has died #WaPoDeathNotices

Voldemort, austere wizard who overcame a severe facial deformity to achieve dark lordship, dead at 71 #WaPoDeathNotices

The original whistle blower, Judas Iscariot, dead at 41. #WaPoDeathNotices

Ted Bundy, Noted Ladies’ Man and Women’s Rights Activist, Found Dead in Chair

Kristine Coratti Kelly, The Washington Post’s vice president of communications, tweeted on Sunday that the headline “should never have read that way” and that editors “changed it quickly.”

That might be the funniest tweet of all.

Хиллари становится старческой

Tobias Hoonhout, who does not write for The Onion, the Babylon Bee or one of the other satire websites:

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted that the Russians are attempting to undermine the 2020 election by backing Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii) as a third-party candidate, stating “she’s the favorite of the Russians.”

Appearing on Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s podcast, Clinton made a number of claims regarding Russian meddling in U.S. elections, including that Gabbard’s substantial social-media support relies on Russian bots. Gabbard was the most-searched candidate after the first and second Democratic debates.

“I think they’ve got their eye on someone who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate,” Clinton said on the podcast. “She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.”

Clinton’s comments come after Gabbard called the coverage of her campaign by The New York Times and CNN “completely despicable” during the fourth Democratic debate Tuesday night.

“The New York Times and CNN have also smeared veterans like myself for calling to an end to this regime-change war,” Gabbard told the crowd in Ohio. “Just two days ago, the New York Times put out an article saying I am a Russian asset and an Assad apologist and all these different smears. This morning, a CNN commentator said on national television that I’m an asset of Russia.”

In August, Gabbard also told CNN that she would not run as a third-party candidate if she does not win the Democratic nomination.

Clinton also labelled Green Party candidate Jill Stein a “Russian asset” and suggested on the podcast that Gabbard is playing a similar role in this election.
“They know they can’t win without a third-party candidate . . . I will guarantee you they will have a vigorous third-party challenge in the key states that they most needed,” Clinton declared.

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election, the Clinton campaign followed Jill Stein’s demands for a recount in Wisconsin, which ultimately gave Trump 131 more votes.

“Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology, we had not planned to exercise this option ourselves, but now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides,” campaign lawyer Marc Elias said at the time.

Sometimes you read something and think to yourself, “What?”

Gabbard had a response:

A musical response comes to mind:

Not a conservative Democrat

For some reason conservatives have been saying nice things about Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard because she’s not anti-religion like the rest of the Democratic field.

But, says Shay Khatiri:

Tulsi Gabbard is many things, but among them is this unfortunate fact: She is the ideological heir Ramsey Clark, LBJ’s attorney general who found it in his heart to defend Saddam Hussein, Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, Charles Taylor, and Slobodan Milošević against the depredations and aggressions of the United States.

During Wednesday night’s debate, Gabbard followed in Clark’s footsteps by defending Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator with half a million deaths on his hands, and counting.

Who’s really to blame for the slaughter of the Kurds now underway in northern Syria? America and its pursuit of “regime-change war.”

“Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hands,” Gabbard declared. “But so do many of the politicians in our country from both parties who have supported this ongoing regime-change war in Syria that started in 2011.” The only politician from the Democratic party with any possible responsibility for the current situation with the Kurds is President Barack Obama.

But while Gabbard may be crazy, she’s not crazy. So she didn’t accuse Obama of having blood on his hands by name from the debate stage. Maybe she’s saving that for her convention speech.

Gabbard has the uncommon ability to say untruths with a calm, soothing voice while staring directly into a television camera.

For example:

  • There are four people with “blood on their hands” in northern Syria. The first is Bashar al-Assad, who has bombed and shot hundreds of thousands of his own people. The second is Recep Erdogan, who initiated military strikes against the Kurds just a few days ago. The other two are Vladimir Putin and Ali Khamenei. Gabbard had nothing to say about any of them.
  • There has never been a U.S. “war” against Syria, let alone a war dedicated to regime change.
  • U.S. involvement in Syria peaked at 2,500 troops and is now down to 1,000. The involvement has been almost completely counterterrorism against the Islamic State, shamefully and unofficially, through a mutual understanding with Assad, Iran, and Russia.
  • There is indeed a “regime-change war” in Syria. It was begun in 2011 by the Syrian people, who have fought it entirely on their own, again to our shame.
  • The American counterterrorism operation that Gabbard is talking about didn’t begin until 2014.
  • Gabbard also claimed that the Syrian refugee crisis is somehow a product of America’s involvement—as if it wasn’t Assad’s gassing of his own people which led millions to flee the country.

Either Gabbard doesn’t understand any of this, in which case she’s a dupe. Or she does understand it, in which she’s a liar.

Whatever Gabbard says, the truth is that since 2014, American policy in Syria has been a mess. President Obama stated that “Assad must go.” But that turned out to be a wish, not a policy. When push came to shove, Obama decided to punt on the matter, despite encouragements from his secretaries of State and Defense and the director of the CIA.

President Trump’s policy has officially been that regime change is not a priority. Then-ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley declared this on national television. Five days after that assurance, Assad once against used chemical weapons against his people.

When Pete Buttigieg pushed back against Gabbard’s bizarre comments, she countered that people such as Buttigieg wanted “U.S. troops in Syria for an indefinite period of time to continue this regime change war” and that this desire has undermined America’s national security.

Again, this is exactly wrong. It is the lack of action in Syria that has undermined our national security: by giving rise to the Islamic State; by sitting silent as the refugee crisis in Europe unfolded; by further destabilizing our relationship with Turkey—a country that has access to our military secrets.

But Gabbard didn’t just criticize American military intervention—she attacked even the use of sanctions against our adversaries. She called them “draconian” and called the sanctions regime a “modern-day siege.” There is plenty to be said about how our excessive use of sanctions could backfire. But sanctions are not a “modern-day siege.”

They’re an alternative to hard power.

If you oppose both military intervention and sanctions, then what tools is America left with? And without America’s ability to influence the course of events to further the cause of human rights, murderers such as Assad will operate with total impunity.

But then, surely that’s the point.

Celebrating United Nations Month with red ink

Fox News:

The United Nations is facing its worst cash crisis in nearly a decade and is warning that it may be unable to pay its bills by the end of the month, while urging member states to pay their contributions to the world body immediately.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote to member states this week, saying that as of the end of September, they have only paid 70 percent of budget contributions, compared with 78 percent at this time last year.

“The Organization runs the risk of depleting its liquidity reserves by the end of the month and defaulting on payments to staff and vendors,” a statement by Guterres spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

“Stressing the Charter obligation of Member States, the Secretary-General thanked the Member States who have paid their regular budget assessments, which is now 129, and urged those who have not paid to do so urgently and in full,” the statement said. “This is the only way to avoid a default that could risk disrupting operations globally. The Secretary-General further asked governments to address the underlying reasons for the crisis and agree on measures to put the United Nations on a sound financial footing.”

While the U.S. is one of the countries that have not paid its contribution in full, an official from the U.S. Mission to the U.N. told Fox News that is in part because of differences in U.S. and U.N. fiscal years.

“To date this year, we have contributed over $600 million to UN peacekeeping operations, and will be providing the vast majority of the $674 million we owe to the 2019 regular budget this fall, as we have in past years,” the official said. “Overall the United States, as the largest contributor to the UN, contributes roughly $10 billion annually in assessed and voluntary contributions across the United Nations system.”

The official also said the U.S. has been clear that no single member should pay for more than a quarter of the U.N. budget. (The U.S. currently pays approximately 22 percent of the U.N.’s operating budget.) …

Guterres, meanwhile, says he has requested other measures, including reductions in travel, postponement of spending, and postponing conferences and other meetings.

The U.S. is unlikely to step in to help solve the problem anytime soon. The Trump administration has pushed for a re-evaluation of the U.N. budget and has been skeptical of the U.N.’s alignment with U.S. interests.

A recent State Department report found that the U.N. General Assembly is out of sync with U.S. interests in more than two-thirds of votes taken in 2018.

It is unclear why the U.S. should support an institution that doesn’t support the U.S., particularly the blatantly anti-American UNESCO. It is also unclear why the U.S. should support an institution that elevates human rights-abusing countries to not only be members of, but chair, the UN Human Rights Council.

It has been suggested elsewhere that it may be time for the U.S. and other Western countries to form their own organization of countries that believe in democratic and economic rights, unlike the vast majority of UN-member countries. This would be a good Trump project.

 

Talk instead of action

Jeremy Clarkson:

When a teenage girl has an angry, tearful strop, most parents just send them to their rooms until they’ve calmed down.

However, when 16-year-old Greta Thunberg got on to the stage at the UN this week and had a full-on adolescent meltdown, she was deafened by the applause.

Not from me she wasn’t.

Because I was in the bog, being sick.

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood,” she sobbed.

“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?”

Right, well in the immortal words of Samuel L Jackson: “Allow me to retort.”

How dare we? No. How dare you sail to America on a carbon fibre yacht that you didn’t build which cost £15million, that you didn’t earn, and which has a back-up diesel engine that you didn’t mention.

I’m sorry Ms Thunberg, but if you’re going to lay into my generation, you must accept it when I lay into you and yours.

What about the pills you take when you have a headache?

What about the clean water that comes out of your tap? What about the food you can buy at any time of the day and night?

No 16-year-old was responsible for any of that.

What about the aid missions currently being run in some of the poorest countries of the world, or the drugs that help keep Aids at bay?

Think about all the movies you’ve enjoyed. Movies made by grown-ups. And all those comedians who’ve made you laugh.

And then pause for a moment to consider how soundly you sleep at night, knowing that adults are building and servicing and flying Sweden’s fighter planes. To keep you safe.

We gave you mobile phones and laptops and the internet. We created the social media you use every day and we run the banks that pay for it all.

So how dare you stand there and lecture us, you spoilt brat.

And yes, you are spoilt because when you told your mum and dad to stop using planes and give up meat, they didn’t behave like sane parents and ignore you. They actually said, “Yes, dear.” And did.

What they should have done is point out that life is tragic.

Some people are born bright and some are born stupid.

Some are beautiful and some are not.

Some have rich parents who give them everything but love.

Some have poor parents who have nothing to give except love.

Now shut up and let them get on with it.

This is how the world works. It’s how the world has always worked.

And banging your fists on the table won’t change a thing. You’ll learn that when you’ve got a few more years under your belt.

I agree with you that the world is heating up. You may even be right that man has something to do with it.

And there is no doubt that as deserts eat into currently habitable places in Africa and the Middle East, Europe will face an unimaginable refugee crisis.

Something needs to be done about that. So how’s this for an idea. Get back to school as quickly as possible and work hard in your science lectures.

Because science is what will solve the problem eventually. Not scowling and having screaming ab-dabs every five minutes.

Many thousands of people who you had the temerity to blame this week are trying to do exactly what you want.

So be a good girl, shut up and let them get on with it.

Anyone who has watched Clarkson on the original version of the BBC’s “TopGear” would expect something this acerbic from Clarkson. Shikma Dalmia writes less acerbically:

Every global climate summit to date has featured lots of tough talk but little action. The United Nations confab in New York that just wrapped up is no different. Nor will anything change in the future unless climate change warriors stop insisting that the world go on an energy diet—and start offering cheaper and cleaner energy options that don’t require a lifestyle where transcontinental travel means a boat like the one that the 16-year-old Greta Thunberg took from Sweden to rebuke the world’s leaders.

Human-caused global warming is real, but activists have to get real too. They think that they can spur action by simply exaggerating the urgency of climate change. Thunberg insisted that if drastic action to cut emissions isn’t taken now, basically the planet as we know it will cease to exist. Likewise, Green New Dealers like Rep. Alexander Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) have been saying that the planet has an “expiration date.”

But anyone who has watched Game of Thrones knows that dialing up apocalypse talk alone can’t overcome the collective action problem preventing action on climate change. In that drama, Queen Cersei chooses to free-ride rather than join other kingdoms in fighting the forces of Armageddon.

Climate change activists are confronting the same problem—and the more they exaggerate the sacrifices required, the more they’ll exacerbate it.

The Sixth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that preserving the planet as we know it will require keeping the global mean surface temperature at no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above the average temperature in the 19th century before the industrial revolution. This is a more stringent target than that set during the 2015 Paris Accords whose goal was to hold the temperature increase to 2 degrees Centigrade.

Allowing emissions to rise more than that would mean planetary change and disruptions, to be sure. For example, coral reefs would be damaged, storms may be worse, and Arctic ice may melt in summers. But it is not clear that this will lead to planetary catastrophe by making cyclones more fierce or droughts more severe, causing mass death. Climate warriors, however, refuse to make such distinctions.

In order to hold the temperature to the 1.5 degrees threshold, the IPCC calculated that the world would have to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 40 to 50 percent by 2030 and completely by 2050. This will mean a total transition from fossil fuels to renewables like wind and solar by 2050, a goal that Ocasio-Cortez has wholeheartedly embraced for the United States.

What would the price tag for this be?

As per the IPCC’s own calculations, around $2.4 trillion annually between 2016 and 2035 in 2010 dollars—or about 2.5 percent of the global GDP. To understand just how daunting that is, consider that the total energy investments in the world amount to only around $1.7 trillion right now—which means that the world is being asked to make an additional $45 trillion in investments over 19 years to generate the same amount of energy and improve energy efficiency. The higher costs will mean scaling back First World lifestyles, of course. But they will also mean forcing Third World countries, where many people don’t even have electricity, to stay stuck in poverty for many more decades to help out generations a hundred years from now.

This may be a good long-term investment but the upfront costs—both monetary and human—are formidable which makes the politics of climate change intractable. That’s why the New York conference didn’t go anywhere. The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked countries to up the commitments they’d made four years ago in Paris. Only 65 countries obliged. The biggest polluters just shrugged.

America didn’t even request a speaking slot at the event because that would have meant laying out concrete plans for actual cuts. The Australian prime minister was in town but didn’t bother showing up. China failed to announce new targets and renewed its calls that developed countries go first—no doubt because it doesn’t want to put an anchor around its already limping economy. Likewise, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Trump’s new best friend, outlined more investments in renewables but remains committed to coal projects for the foreseeable future. And the European Union, historically a leader in pushing for emission cuts, didn’t signal any intention to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

Climate activists are blaming much of this on Trump’s Paris pullout. But that’s head-in-the-sand evasion because even if Trump were the Joan of Arc of climate change, he couldn’t ensure results. America enthusiastically led the way for the 1997 Kyoto Treaty that convinced many countries to pledge cuts, but almost none delivered before President George Bush bailed. And the reason is those that dutifully made the cuts would end up harming their economy for no gain if others didn’t follow through. So it was more expedient to promise and leave.

Climate activists are now counting on woke capital to bring these countries to heel by withholding investments from polluting nations. And several asset fund managers did indeed commit to a net-zero emissions portfolio by 2050. But the investor community as a whole is going to face the same collective action problem that the international community is confronting; namely, that if one of them foregoes lucrative investments, there will be just that much more temptation for others.

The better way might be offering clean fuel options that are so attractive that consumers simply can’t turn them down. Phone users did not switch from landlines to cell phones because they were forced to do so. They did so automatically and voluntarily because the new technology offered massive advantages relative to the costs that the old one didn’t.

Something equivalent needs to happen on the energy front to make fossil fuels obsolete. The most promising alternative on the horizon so far isn’t renewables, but nuclear. Yet environmentalists are mostly opposed to it. This was reasonable when nuclear’s upfront capital costs—namely to build layers of safety in reactors—were astronomical and options to safely dispose of spent radioactive fuel weren’t great. But the new generation of nuclear reactors is overcoming at least some of these problems. For example, Bill Gate’s Terrapower, a traveling wave reactor, is experimenting with using depleted uranium, a waste product leftover from conventional reactors.

The most revolutionary fuels are ones that no one can even imagine yet. But they will only materialize if today’s young environmental activists don’t skip school to spend two weeks boating across the ocean to attend a summit. Rather than lecturing world leaders, they’d help more if they stayed in class, listened, and learned in order to become future innovators.

How white liberals kill poor people

Ryan McMaken:

[Last] Monday, celebrity climate activist Greta Thunberg delivered a speech to the UN Climate Action summit in New York. Thunberg demanded drastic cuts in carbon emissions of more than 50 percent over the next ten years.

It is unclear to whom exactly she was directing her comments, although she also filed a legal complaint with the UN on Monday, demanding five countries (namely Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey) more swiftly adopt larger cuts in carbon emissions. The complaint is legally based on a 1989 agreement, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, under which Thunberg claims the human rights of children are being violated by too-high carbon emissions in the named countries.

Thunberg seems unaware, however, that in poor and developing countries, carbon emissions are more a lifeline to children than they are a threat.

It’s one thing to criticize France and Germany for their carbon emissions. Those are relatively wealthy countries where few families are reduced to third-world-style grinding poverty when their governments make energy production — and thus most consumer goods and services — more expensive through carbon-reduction mandates and regulations. But even in the rich world, a drastic cut like that demanded by Thunberg would relegate many households now living on the margins to a life of greatly increased hardship.

That’s a price Thunberg is willing to have first-world poor people pay.

But her inclusion of countries like Brazil and Turkey on this list is bizarre and borders on the sadistic — assuming she actually knows about the situation in those places.

While some areas of Brazil and Turkey contain neighborhoods that approach first-world conditions, both countries are still characterized by large populations living in the sorts of poverty that European children could scarcely comprehend.

But thanks to industrialization and economic globalization —  countries can, and do, climb  out of poverty.

In recent decades, countries like Turkey, Malaysia, Brazil, Thailand, and Mexico — once poverty-stricken third-world countries — are now middle-income countries. Moreover, in these countries most of the population will in coming decades likely achieve what we considered to be first-world standards of living in the twentieth century.

At least, that’s what will happen if people with Thunberg’s position don’t get their way.

The challenge here arises from the fact that for a middle-income or poor country, cheap energy consumption — made possible overwhelmingly by fossil fuels — is often a proxy for economic growth.

After all, if a country wants to get richer, it has to create things of value. At the lower- and middle- income level, that usually means making things such as vehicles, computers, or other types of machinery. This has certainly been the case in Mexico, Malaysia, and Turkey.

But for countries like these, the only economical way to produce these things is by using fossil fuels.

Thus it is not a coincidence that carbon-emissions growth and economic growth track together. …

We no longer see this close a relationship between the two factors in wealthy countries. This is due to the fact many first-world (and post-Soviet) countries make broader use of nuclear power, and because high income countries have more heavily abandoned coal in favor of less-carbon intensive fuels like natural gas.2

It is thanks to this fossil-fuel powered industrialization over the past thirty years that extreme poverty and other symptoms of economic under-development have been so reduced.

For example, according to the World Bank, worldwide extreme poverty was reduced from 35 percent to 11 percent, from 1990 to 2013. We also find that access to clean water has increased, literacy has increased, and life expectancy has increased — especially in lower-income areas that have been most rapidly industrializing in recent decades. In spite of constant claims of impending doom, global health continues to improve.

Just as carbon emissions track with economic growth in middle income countries, child mortality tends to fall as carbon emissions increase. …

Industrialization isn’t the only factor behind reducing child mortality, of course. But it is certainly a major factor. Industrialization sustains modern health care amenities such as climate controlled hospitals, and it increases access to clean water and sanitation systems.

Thunberg, unfortunately, ignores all of this, mocking the idea of economic growth as a “fairytale.” But for people in the developing world, money and economic growth — two things Thunberg apparently` thinks are contemptible — translates into a longer and better life. In other words, economic development means happiness for regular people, since, as Ludwig von Mises pointed out, “Most mothers feel happier if their children survive, and most people feel happier without tuberculosis than with it.”

Thunberg’s blithe disregard for the benefits of economic growth is not uncommon for people from wealthy countries who are already living in an industrialized world built by the fossil fuels of yesteryear. For them, they associate additional economic growth with access to high fashion and luxury cars. But for the billions of human beings living outside these places, fossil-fuel-driven industrialization can be the difference between life and death.

And yet, Greta Thunberg has seen fit to attack countries like Brazil and Turkey for not more enthusiastically cutting off their primary means to quickly deliver a more sanitary, more well-fed, and less deadly way of life for ordinary people.

The Chinese know the benefits of economic growth especially well. A country that was literally starving to death during the 1970s, China rapidly industrialized after abandoning Mao’s communism for a system of limited and regulated market capitalism. But even this small market-based lifeline — sustained by fossil fuels — quickly and substantially pulled a billion people out of a tenuous existence previously threatened regularly by famine and economic deprivation.

Today, China is the world’s largest carbon emitter — by far — with total carbon emissions double that of the United States. And while the US and the EU have been cutting emissions, China won’t even pledge to cap its emissions any time before 2030. (And a pledge doesn’t mean it will actually happen.) India meanwhile, more than doubled its carbon emissions between 2000 and 2014, and its prime minister refuses to pledge to cut its coal-fired power generation.

And who can blame these countries? First-world school children may think it’s fine to lecture Chinese factory workers about the need to cut back their standard of living, but such comments are likely to fall on deaf ears if climate policy means destroying the so-called “fairytale” of economic growth.5

As one Chinese resident said in response to Thunberg on China’s social media platform Weibo: “If the economy doesn’t grow, what do us people living in developing countries eat?”

Advocates for drastic cuts in emissions might retort: “even if our policies do make people poorer, they’d be a lot worse off with global warming!”

Would they though?

At the UN, Thunberg thundered, “People are suffering. People are dying [because of climate change.]” But that isolated assertion doesn’t tell us what we need to know when it comes to climate-change policy.

The question that does matter is his: if the world implements drastic Thunbergian climate change policies will the policies themselves do more harm than good?

The answer may very well not be in the climate activists’ favor. After all, the costs of climate change must be measured compared to the costs of climate change policy. If economic growth is stifled by climate policy — and a hundred million people lose out on clean water and safe housing as a result — that’s a pretty big cost.

After all, the benefits of cheap energy — most of provided by fossil fuels — are already apparent. Life expectancy continues to go up — and is expected to keep making the biggest gains in the developing world. Child mortality continues to go down. For the first time in history, the average Chinese peasant isn’t forced to scratch out a subsistence-level existence on a rice paddy. Thanks to cheap electricity, women in middle income countries don’t have to spend their days cleaning clothes by hand without washing machines. Children don’t have to drink cholera-tainted water.

It’s easy to sit before a group of wealthy politicians and say “how dare you” for not implementing one’s desired climate policy. It might be slightly harder to tell a Bangladeshi tee-shirt factory worker that she’s had it too good, and we need to put the brakes on economic growth. For her own good, of course.

And this has been the problem with climate-change policy all along. Although the burden of proof is on them for wanting to coerce billions into their global economic-management scheme, the climate-change activists have never convincingly made the case that the downside of climate change is worse than the downside of crippling industrializing economies.

This is why the activists so commonly rely on over-the-top claims of total global destruction. One need not waste any time on weighing the options if the only choices presented are “do what we want” or “face total global extinction.”

But even climate change activists can’t agree the Armageddon approach is accurate.  Last year, for example, Scientific American published “Should We Chill Out About Global Warming?” by John Horgan which explores the idea “that continued progress in science and other realms will help us overcome environmental problems.”

Specifically, Horgan looks at two recent writers on the topic, Steven Pinker and Will Boisvert. Neither Pinker nor Boisvert could be said to have libertarian credentials, and neither take the position that there is no climate change. Both assume that climate change will lead to difficulties.

Both, however, also conclude that the challenges posed by climate change do not require the presence of a global climate dictatorship. Moreover, human societies are already motivated to do the sorts of things that will be essential in overcoming climate-change challenges that may arise.

That is, pursuing higher standards of living through technological innovation is the key to dealing with climate change.

But that innovation isn’t fostered by shaking a finger at Brazilian laborers and telling them to forget about a family car or household appliances or travel at vacation time.

That isn’t likely to be a winning strategy outside the world of self-hating first-world suburbanites. It appears many Indians and Brazilians and Chinese are willing to risk the global warming for a chance at experiencing even a small piece of what wealthy first-world climate activists have been enjoying all their lives.

 

The correct way for parents to respond to Greta

Scott Adams:

Dear Children,

I’m sorry adults have frightened you about climate change and how it might affect your future. You might be less afraid if you knew some facts that adults intentionally do not explain to you. I’ll tell you here.

The news was once a source of real information, or so we thought. But in the modern world, the news people discovered they can make more money by presenting scary news regardless of whether it is true or not. Today, much of the news on the right and the left is opinion that is meant to scare you, not inform you, because scary things get more attention, and that makes the news business more profitable. The same is true for people who write books; authors often make books scary so you will buy them. Most adults know all the scariness is not real. Most kids do not. You just learned it.

Nuclear energy used to be dangerous, back in the olden days. Today’s nuclear power plants (the ones built in the past 20 years all over the world) have killed zero people, and are considered the safest form of energy in the world. More people have died installing solar panels and falling off roofs than have died from nuclear power problems anywhere in the world for the past few decades. And nuclear energy is the obvious way to address climate change, say most of the smartest adults in the world, because it can provide abundant, cheap, clean energy with zero carbon emissions.

Nuclear energy as a solution to climate change is one of the rare solutions backed by several Democrats running for president and nearly all Republicans. Please note that two Democrats in favor of nuclear energy (Corey Booker and Andrew Yang) are among the youngest and smartest in the game. To be fair, the oldest Democrat running for president, Joe Biden, also supports nuclear energy because he is well-informed.

If you are worried about nuclear waste, you probably should not be. Every country with nuclear energy (and there are lots of them) successfully stores their nuclear waste. If you put all the nuclear waste in the world in one place, it would fit on one football field. It isn’t a big problem. And new nuclear power designs will actually eat that nuclear waste and turn it into electricity, so the total amount of waste could come way down.

The United Nations estimates that the economic impact of climate change will reduce the economy by 10% in eighty years. What they don’t tell you is that the economy will be about five times bigger and better by then, so you won’t even notice the 10% that didn’t happen. And that worst case is only if we do nothing to address climate change, which is not the case.

A number of companies have recently built machines that can suck CO2 right out of the air. At the moment, using those machines would be too expensive. But as they come down in cost and improve in efficiency, we have a solution already in hand should it ever be needed. It would be expensive, but there is no real risk of CO2 ruining the world now that we know how to remove any excess from the atmosphere. (Plants need CO2 to thrive, so we don’t want to remove too much. Greenhouses actually pump in CO2 to make plants grow better.)

Scientists tell us that we could reduce climate risks by planting more trees. (A lot more.) That’s all doable, should the world decide it is necessary. There are a number of other companies and technologies that also address climate change in a variety of ways. Any one of the approaches I mentioned (nuclear energy, CO2 scrubbers, planting trees) could be enough to address any climate risks, but there are dozens of ways of dealing with climate change, and more coming every day.

Throughout all modern history, when we humans see a problem coming from far away, we have a 100% success rate in solving it. Climate change is no different. All the right people are working hard at a wide variety of solutions and already know how to get there, meaning more nuclear power plus CO2 scrubbers, plus lots of green power from solar, wind, and more.

If you are worried about rising sea levels, don’t be. The smartest and richest people in the world are still buying property on the beach. They don’t see the problem. And if sea levels do rise, it will happen slowly enough for people to adjust.

Adults sometimes like to use children to carry their messages because it makes it hard for the other side to criticize them without seeming like monsters. If adults have encouraged you to panic about climate change without telling you what I am telling you here, they do not have your best interests at heart. They are using you.

When you ask adults about nuclear energy, expect them to have old understanding about it, meaning they don’t know the newer nuclear energy technologies are the safest energy on the planet.

What I told you today is not always understood even by adults. You are now smarter than most adults on the topic of climate.

How do we know Adams is right? The Competitive Enterprise Institute has compiled this list of wrong climate predictions over the past 50 years. But hey, anybody can have a bad half-century.

Listening to children at your own peril

David Harsanyi:

Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg lives in the healthiest, wealthiest, safest, and most peaceful era humans have ever known. She is one of the luckiest people ever to have lived.

In a just world, Thunberg would be at the United Nations thanking capitalist countries for bequeathing her this remarkable inheritance. Instead, she, like millions of other indoctrinated kids her age, act as if they live in a uniquely broken world on the precipice of disaster. This is a tragedy.

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” Thunberg lectured the world. And maybe she’s right. We’ve failed her by raising a generation of pagans who’ve filled the vacuum left by the absence of faith, not with rationality, but with a cultish worship of Mother Earth and the state. Although, to be fair, the Bible-thumping evangelical’s moral certitude is nothing but a rickety edifice compared to the moral conviction of a Greta Thunberg.

It’s not, of course, her fault. Adults have spent a year creating a 16-year-old because her soundbites comport with their belief system. It was “something about her raw honesty around a message of blunt-force fear [that] turned this girl from invisible to global,” says CNN in a news report about a child with a narrow, age-appropriate, grasp of the world.

It should be noted that “blunt-force fear” is indeed the correct way to describe the concerted misinformation that Thunberg has likely been subjected to since nursery school. There probably isn’t a public school in America that hasn’t plied the panic-stricken talk of environmental disaster in their auditoriums over and over again. New York City and other school systems offer millions of kids an excused absence so they could participate in political climate marches this week, as if it were a religious or patriotic holiday.

We’ve finally convinced a generation of Americans to be Malthusians. According to Scott Rasmussen’s polling, nearly 30 percent of voters now claim to believe that it’s “at least somewhat likely” that the earth will become uninhabitable and humanity will be wiped out over the next 10-15 years. Half of voters under 35 believe it is likely we are on the edge of extinction. Is there any wonder why our youngest generation has a foreboding sense of doom?

It’s the fault of ideologues who obsess over every weather event as if it were Armageddon, ignoring the massive moral upside of carbon-fueled modernity. It’s the fault of the politicians, too cowardly to tell voters that their utopian visions of a world run on solar panels and windmills is fairy tale.

It’s the fault of media that constantly ignores overwhelming evidence that, on balance, climate change isn’t undermining human flourishing. By nearly every quantifiable measure, in fact, we are better off because of fossil fuels — though there is no way to measure the human spirit, I’m afraid.

Thunberg might do well to sail her stern gaze and billowing anger to India or China and wag her finger at the billions of people who no longer want to live in poverty and destitution. Because if climate change is irreversible in the next 10-12 years, as cultists claim, it can be blamed in large part on the historic growth we’ve seen in developing nations.

China’s emissions from aviation and maritime trade alone are twice that of the United States, and more than the entire emissions of most nations in the world. But, sure, let’s ban straws as an act of contrition.

Boomers, of course, have failed on plenty of fronts, but the idea that an entire generation of Americans should have chosen poverty over prosperity to placate the vacuous complaints of privileged future teenagers is absurd. No generation would do it. Until recently, no advanced nation has embraced Luddism. Although these days, Democrats who advocate for bans on fossil fuels and carbon-mitigating technologies such as fracking and nuclear energy are working on it.

Climate activists could learn something from Thunberg’s honesty, though. She argues that “money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth” have to come to an end. The emission cuts that environmentalists insist are needed to save the earth would mean economic devastation and the end of hundreds of years of economic growth. This is a tradeoff progressives pretend doesn’t exist.

And Thunberg’s dream for the future means technocratic regimes will have to displace capitalistic societies. We can see this future in the radical environmentalist plans of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s New Green Deal, one supported by leading Democratic Party candidates. It’s authoritarianism. There is no other way to describe a regulatory regime that dictates exactly what Americans can consume, sell, drive, eat, and work on.

One imagines that most Americans, through their actions, will continue to reject these regressive ideas. One reason they should is so that Greta Thunberg’s generation won’t have to suffer needlessly.

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