Global Warming & Food

On the edge of the Australian Outback sits the giant rice plant at Deniliquin, which once processed enough rice to feed 20 million people a year. The Mill is closed now, the victim of a six year drought which has ended Australia’s huge rice export business, caused world rice prices to rise drastically and led to food riots in Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Yemen. Now the Australian rice crop is not the only one affected by drought, but the loss of this huge source, plus the severe production shortage in the environmentally destroyed parts of Western China, is adding to the problem.

It is difficult to definitely link short-term changes in weather to long-term climate change, but the unusually severe drought is consistent with what climatologists predict will be a problem of increasing frequency.

Indeed, the chief executive of the National Farmers’ Federation in Australia, Ben Fargher, says, “Climate change is potentially the biggest risk to Australian agriculture.”

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0 Responses to Global Warming & Food

  1. Brian says:

    I find it interesting; the modern viewpoint that humans are above climate fluctuations. At the same time, archaeologists and historians can cite thousands of examples of cultures and large civilizations that collapsed due to changes in the local climate that caused food stocks to crash. Now with a population that is near the edge of sustainability and weather patterns that are changing worldwide, clearly there will continue to be crop shortages.

    In the past when climate patterns changed dramatically, the result was mass migrations to areas that were more hospitable. This was much easier when populations moved in the thousands, but today, it would be in the millions and no country is prepared for that scenario.

    Global warming and cooling have happened regularly throughout the geological history of our planet. ‘The Year Without a Summer’ in 1816 caused widespread famine in Europe and North America as did the ‘Little Ice Age’ roughly between the years 1300 and 1850 in Europe.

    There is enough food produced to feed the entire population of the world, but as with many assets, most do not get regular meals. Whether of not the warming trend continues, accelerates or flips around and starts cooling again, growing food will always be dependent on the weather. And we would be foolish to believe that famine and migrations are safely in our past.

  2. P. Cross says:

    California had a drought 15 yrs ago or so and everyone was very concerned about how long it went on. One of the weathermen in Sac. Made the point that California had historicaly had 4 to 6 hundred year droughts. The squeaky wheel is the first to get Government assistance and programs.


  3. Nikc says:

    Growing rice in Aus is as stupid as growing cotton. A huge waste of water.

  4. P. Cross says:

    Well after all it is their water and we don’t want them to jump us about how idiotic we are turning food grains into martini’s and putting it into gas tanks.

    Fuel milage goes down and starvation goes up, now theres a plan. Thats it, thats how they plan to do it. Less CO2, less methane and water vapor aspirated, it’s brilliant.

    I know, go back to bed.

  5. Morgan Warstler says:

    The economic choice is between biofuels and food prices. Global warming needn’t be considered yet as true, as has been pointed out above.

    And though, I think it is in our interest to have biofuels, but it certainly isn’t pretty.

  6. Dan says:

    The fact that Mack trucks have squashed frogs in the past does not make it impossible for a trotting hippo to squash a frog.

    Likewise, the fact that long-term droughts in the past were not caused by humans does not make it impossible for human activity to affect climate.

    It is even possible for a Mack truck to squash part of a frog, and as the frog tries to limp a way, a trotting hippo comes along and finishes the job.

    Beyond that little exercise in logic, however, I don’t propose to debate global warming with anyone. It’s like debating abortion or the Middle East or the fact that Foghat totally sucked.

    The squeakiest wheel calling for government assistance that I’ve heard recently has been the mortgage industry.

    Personally I have little doubt that the coming century will go down on record as even worse than the last. Due to several causes. When billions starve, people will look back to the days of the Second World War as no big deal.

    One of my frequent gedanken experiments is to try to imagine the world and its people in 2108 and how absurd we will appear to them. (I propose that we be remembered as the Age of Bling.) Another is to think about the hopelessly naive optimism of the world in 1908, oblivious to the gathering storms.

  7. Hugo says:

    I like your “Age of Bling”, Dan. I bet Tom Wolfe is gonna wish he’d beaten you to it. Also I appreciate your introducing me to a wholly unknown world in which Foghat’s suckitude is debatable.

    Your comparison to 1908 gave me a bit of a chill, actually. A lot of light bulbs—or in my case, tiny LED’s—went off. You could do a really interesting thought-piece stacking us side-by-side with 1908.

  8. Ken Ballweg says:

    Dan, there is a problem with trying to inject history lessons into the current moment. The young and the temporarily fortunate tend to feel immune to the forces that caused past massive changes because it is either too abstract (the young) or requires some responsibility to react better this time around (the temporarily fortunate). History repeats not because of inevitability, but because population increases dilute the collective memory to the point where people can no longer connect actions with consequences, or don’t want to because it would undercut their rationalization that they have everything under control.

    History is an ugly little horse trough where mostly geezers like me drink willingly. Good luck with leading others to it, let alone selling them on sipping.

  9. P. Cross says:

    Not to debate something is very much like and abortion, they both can deny something very worthwhile happening, one a life with a future, the other, knowledge that may help in the future. Since we can’t give birth as men then maybe knowledge?

    Now, I’m not saying that women don’t learn. whoo! that was close.

  10. Dan says:

    I’ll have whatever he’s having.

  11. MS says:

    Don’t miss Al Gore’s new show (at on our response to the immediate problems of Global Warming:

    Rather than complaining about the difficulty of this, Gore suggests we can be proud to be the generation that will do the hard work to create change internationally on this important issue.

  12. P. Cross says:

    I would say that the probability of a hippo stepping on a frog that has been injured by a Mac truck is about the same as man having an impact on the earth’s climate. Possible, logical but unlikely.

  13. P. Cross says:

    Go to for your carbon credits Al’s running a special.

  14. Pete Wolf says:

    And you reach this calculation about the likelihood of man having an impact on the global climate how exactly?

  15. Morgan Warstler says:

    Because I don’t trust the people saying it is happening, they all have solutions that reek of them gaining control. If in their solutions they gave up control, I’d pay much more attention.

    When they are serious, they’ll focus on massively lowering taxes on eco-technology improvements, NOT subsidies, not increasing taxes on the status quo. And I will ring that eco-bell, loudly.

    I will BELIEVE their science when it gains them nothing. That’s fair isn’t it?

  16. Alex says:

    I think anyone who has a science background and has actually studied the science comes readily to the conclusion that global warming is most certainly caused by man. In fact, there’s little room for doubt on that subject.

    I’m a conservative politically, but on this subject, I’m pretty radical as to what needs to be done. The urgency certainly increases if you spend some time evaluating the Greenland ice core samples, which show that climate change, once started, happens very, very fast.

    To those doubters, really, do your research. A good start is James Hansen of NASA, who has done a very good job of explaining a lot of these terms in layman’s language.

  17. P. Cross says:

    Sometime after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption I read in Scientific American that the volume of green house gases expelled was greater in magnitude than that of mankind in his history. What? As it turns out it doesn’t have to be a very large number

    95% of the greenhouse effect comes from water vapor. And it is 99.999% of natural origin. Man’s contribution = about .28% of the greenhouse effect, that’s a little over ¼ of 1% .
    I came upon this website if you are interested. it explains it better than I can.

    This is not how I came to the conclusion algore was running a scam it merely confirms it. You will never get this side from the American main stream Media. Never

  18. Dan says:

    I’m in favor of believing science that I judge to be true. For instance, I believe the science of nuclear fission. I’m opposed to nuclear energy because I think it’s terribly dangerous. But I don’t disbelieve the science because I’m opposed to its application. I don’t think that nuclear fission is a fiction because Dick Cheney stands to make a lot of money from it.

  19. P. Cross says:

    I thought it was about oil?

  20. Jon Taplin says:

    Boys and Girls- I feel like I’m in a meeting of a Kansas School Board trying to mandate the teaching of creationism. P. Cross, I go to church on Sundays, but if you feel like you are doing God’s work here amongst the science believers, I suggest you figure out something else to proselitize about. You are wasting our precious time and electricity.

  21. Morgan Warstler says:


    You aren’t the science believer as I PROVED logically above.

    If you believe truly believe in global warming, and you face a world full of Perry Cross and Morgan Warstler – you’ll convince us how serious the problem is, and how serious you are by suggesting all pure tax cut, anti-subsidy solutions.

    If you are serious enough to blog about it, take your half a loaf for now, and focus on the pro-market, anti-tax solutions – so I can BELIEVE you aren’t lying about global warming to promote socialism.

    That’s easy to do, the question is what do you care about most, socialism or the environment?

  22. John Hurt says:

    I don’t think this board is maintaining a proper level of insolence among its trolls.

  23. Pete Wolf says:

    I’m sorry Morgan, but your reasoning is flat out terrible. As I’ve pointed out before, the way to proceed in practical reasoning is:-

    A) Determine what the problem is.

    B) Determine what the potential solutions are.

    C) Weigh up the pros and cons of these various solutions relative to the seriousness of the problem and the seriousness of other issues relevant to it.

    This is how any honest and reasonable argument for pursuing any course of action proceeds. To argue from the potential solutions that have been put forward to claims about the status of the problem is UNREASONABLE, and as such has no force in any reasonable debate about what we should devote our resources to.

    Regardless of whether global warming is happening or not, and whether, if it is happening, it is caused by human activity, the arguments about these points are independent of the arguments about what solutions should be pursued. If these solutions are socialist ones, and if we deem it a big enough problem that such policies are warranted, then that’s that. If the best solutions are pro-market libertarian ones, then that’s that also.

    However, the argument is one in which these solutions are evaluated on their merits in relation to the conditions of the problem. There is no basis for excluding one set of solutions in advance, you have to eliminate those solutions by arguing for there inadequacy in relation to the specific problem and the halo of related issues that surround it. This argument may involve considerations about government control and what-not, but these considerations must be weighed up against things like environmental impacts and the like, in reasoned argument.

    To summarize, your concern with the problems of subsidies and government intervention may well be legitimate, but they do not automatically trump all other concerns.

    In many of the arguments you have presented in this forum you seem to have confused means and ends. You seem to see pro-market libertarian reforms as an end or a goal to be achieved in itself, and other concerns, be they about income inequality or environmental protection as secondary to this.

    Pro-market libertarian policies are a means to a end or goal. This goal is different in different cases, but in each separate case you must always put forward your policies as the BEST MEANS of reaching this goal. You can’t reject or re-evaluate goals because they are incompatible with your preferred means. You can only reject them because they are subordinated to other ends.


    As an aside on the whole water vapour thing, its been debunked quite a number of times, and I’ll provide a couple of links which cover it:-

    Short version:

    Long version:

  24. Dan says:

    It looks like Morgan caught us in our sordid, diabolical attempt to foist worldwide socialist tyranny on the world in the guise of saving the planet, just like he does every day.


  25. Jon Taplin says:

    Morgan-I truly appreciate your attempts to represent the anarcho-capitalistic POV. However if I believed the free market had all the answers, then logically from the first Arab Oil embargo of the Jerry Ford Era, the market would have created an alternative energy system. But it didn’t. So in Europe and Asia, they taxed gasoline to send the missing market signals that Oil had social costs (pollution, dependance on autocratic regimes, etc) that were not reflected in OPEC’s pricing schemes. They are now suffering far less than we are both because they are already 10X as efficient in their energy use and also have far less of a burden of extracting the precious oil by regime change for a bill of $2 trillion.

  26. STS says:

    Pete Wolf asks:

    And you reach this [frog/truck/hippo] calculation about the likelihood of man having an impact on the global climate how exactly?

    Morgan avoids answering with:

    Because I don’t trust the people saying it …

    Awesome statistical analysis. Take THAT you nasty IPCC!

    I will BELIEVE their science when it gains them nothing.

    Try this on: “I will BUY their [product] when it gains them nothing.” God knows profits are a sure sign of bad intentions 😉

    I’m generally a fan of the old “by their fruits shall ye know them” school of critical analysis, so I see the utility in the “bad motives” line of argument. But if you go around pitching the profit motive as the sole source of human salvation, you’re likely to confuse the audience when you pull a 180 just so you can drive your truck over Al Gore.

    With apologies to our host, as long as we are discussing hippos and religion, may I recommend this charming morsel from T.S. Eliot?

  27. Hugo says:

    John is right, bigod! Insolence or bust!

    Dan, how are you on Cold Fusion? Because that just may be about where we are on climatology, irrespective of the biggest botch of mass science “education” since Darwin the Younger. The hubris of the scientists is frequently breathtaking, and truly reaches well above a 9.6 in magnitude on the divine Olympic scale of human hubris.

    MS, Mr. Gore might have gone one better to point out that this particular society has produced several sea changes in environmental science, awareness and problem-solving since the mid-1960s, and that there is general agreement from across the diabolical points of the political pentagram to do still better collectively; so our bandy Nobelist might cease ushering in the sunrise. It rose in ~1966.

    Which puts me in mind of Ken Ballweg’s really astute observation on the disuse of history by great and growing collectivities. A chewy cud, Ken. Skoal!

  28. Adam says:


    Rice is utterly unsuitable for growing in Australia given the volume of water it requires. So blaming the industry downturn on climate change is a red herring.

    Similar to the cotton industry, it only started thanks to support from state governments that didn’t give a f*** about the environment. The Murray-Darling river system is about dead thanks to decades of unstustainable water removal for irrigation.

  29. Jon Taplin says:

    Adam- You may be right, but they were a huge producer for 25 years. I did a Series for PBS called “Cadillac Desert”, depicting the folly of our water policies. It will only get worse, and water wars may make Morgan’s Wars for Oil look like child’s play.

    Hugo and Ken-Thank you both for taking the long view and for your insolence! It was getting too current and too serious here.

  30. Morgan Warstler says:

    See I offer you half a loaf, I say, “I’ll agree with you one ANY global warming, eco-tech first step solution you propose, just make sure it doesn’t increase government.”

    You don’t say, “Lets kill agriculture-subsidies!”

    You don’t say, “Tax cuts on and green tech investments!”

    You bitch I won’t let state take over. How serious can you possibly be, if your policy isn’t to win over converts suspicious of your motives?

  31. Hugo says:

    Now Morgan, aren’t you being just a little hypocritical? It’s OK. We’re here to make sure you get the help you need.

    See, systems boffin that I am I’m looking at the last four months’ records for your Safeway Club Card and, let’s not be in denial here—you’re not exactly green, pal. More like fuscia. What’s with all the bottled water, Morgan? Do you have any idea of the Sasquatch print a habit like yours can leave on the face and in the lungs of our Mother Earth? Get a filter if you have to, ferevvinsakes! Better yet, buy an earthen jug from a local artisan and REUSE IT. You’ll be supporting the crafts and keeping your money local. Just make sure the ceramic wasn’t fired too long, and is free of lead-based glazes.

    And Morgan? I hate to bring this up, but LAMB? Come ON! Don’t you reckon there was a reason why Muir called sheep “hooved locusts?” Think about it. We’ll check back later.

    But a really easy way in which you could clean your own house before presuming to play the scientist, in a debate already CLOSED, would be for you to make a searching inventory of your excess use of toilet tissue. No kidding. This is serious stuff. The sea level’s rising and polar bear cubs are dying and here you are obviously using FAR MORE than the single daily square of tissue allotted us by the Nobelist Sheryl Crow. You can’t tell us that you haven’t HEARD about what things you NEED to do in your own life to take personal responsibility for the dying bear cubs and the choking Chinese athletes. Of COURSE you’re aware; you just need to be helped to truly open your eyes and see.

    It’s all right. You’d be surprised how many there are like you. I don’t know whether you are aware that tax incentives and tuition credits are available to those of you who are just a little behind the curve and need a little help to catch up. In many communities the most hopeful politicians are sponsoring initiatives to provide counseling and intervention as well, so if you find that your local human resources are inadequate, don’t panic: help may be on the way!

    For now just remember: Think Privately, Flush Globally!

    We’re here for you, Morgan.


    P.S. And don’t bother switching to H-E-B; we’ve got them covered too.

  32. Morgan Warstler says:

    it isn’t just me you gotta win over:

    “Donald Mates, an Iwo Jima veteran, told the Business & Media Institute on April 17 that using that photograph for that cause was a “disgrace.”

    “It’s an absolute disgrace,” Mates said. “Whoever did it is going to hell. That’s a mortal sin. God forbid he runs into a Marine that was an Iwo Jima survivor.”

    Mates also said making the comparison of World War II to global warming was erroneous and disrespectful.

    “The second world war we knew was there,” Mates said. “There’s a big discussion. Some say there is global warming, some say there isn’t. And to stick a tree in place of a flag on the Iwo Jima picture is just sacrilegious.”

    According to the American Veterans Center (AVC), Mates served in the 3rd Marine Division and fought in the battle of Iwo Jima, landing on Feb. 24, 1945.

    “A few days later, Mates’ eight-man patrol came under heavy assault from Japanese forces,” Tim Holbert, a spokesman for the AVC, said. “During fierce-hand-to-hand combat, Mates watched as his friend and fellow Marine, Jimmy Trimble, was killed in front of his eyes. Mates was severely wounded, and underwent repeated operations for shrapnel removal for over 30 years.”

    Lt. John Keith Wells, the leader of the platoon that raised the flags on Mt. Suribachi and co-author of “Give Me Fifty Marines Not Afraid to Die: Iwo Jima” wasn’t impressed with Time’s efforts.

    “That global warming is the biggest joke I’ve ever known,” Wells told the Business & Media Institute. “[W]e’ll stick a dadgum tree up somebody’s rear if they want that and think that’s going to cure something.”

    So, rule #1 is: Skip the socialism. #2: don’t offend vets.

    I myself am glad to have the vets on the anti-socialist side.

  33. Hugo says:

    That’s OK, Morgan, we can work with them via the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. All the candidates (and Sen. Webb too) promise much more funding for counseling, so it won’t be a problem to treat the denialists.

    Hey, watch your complex-carbo intake, would you? You’ll feel a lot better, and Our Gaia will thank you for it.

    In the end you’ll learn to love Big Mother.

    Be patient.

  34. Morgan Warstler says:

    Bio-fuels are painful:

    “PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: Hunger bashed in the front gate of Haiti’s presidential palace. Hunger poured onto the streets, burning tires and taking on soldiers and police. Hunger sent the country’s prime minister packing.

    Haiti’s hunger, that burn in the belly that so many here feel, has become fiercer than ever in recent days as global food prices spiral out of reach, spiking as much as 45 percent since the end of 2006 and turning Haitian staples such as beans, corn and rice into closely guarded treasures.

    Saint Louis Meriska’s children ate two spoonfuls of rice apiece as their only meal two days ago and then went without any food the following day. His eyes downcast, his own stomach empty, the unemployed father said forlornly, “They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. It’s humiliating and it makes you angry.”

    That anger is palpable across the globe. The food crisis not only is being felt among the poor, but also is eroding the gains of the working and middle classes, sowing volatile levels of discontent and putting new pressures on fragile governments.

    In Cairo, the military is being put to work baking bread as rising food prices threaten to become the spark that ignites wider anger at a repressive government. In Burkina Faso and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, food riots are breaking out like never before. And in reasonably prosperous Malaysia, the ruling coalition was nearly ousted by disgruntled voters who cited food and fuel hikes as their primary concerns.”

  35. Pete Wolf says:

    None of us (that I’m aware of) are claiming that biofuels are in any way a wise solution, either for reducing carbon emissions or for reducing dependence on oil.

    Most die-hard environmentalists are anti-biofuel, precisely because biofuels are a red herring as far as good environmental policy is concerned. We do so, not just because we see that there are many special interests (agro-business in particular) that are pushing them, but also because we see the facts of their negative impact on both the environment (deforestation being a major concern, especially in indonesia where rainforest is being slashed and burned to grow palms for palm oil, releasing insane amounts of carbon into the atmosphere), and the impact it has on food supplies, which many have been predicting for a while now.

    Just because we’re not Libertarian in the strong pro-market sense you are doesn’t mean that we support all ham-fisted attempts at government intervention, such as the stupid regulations mandating biofuel usage, or the massive subsidies given to European and American farmers. Nor does it mean that we’re against some of the solutions you put forward. I’m fully in favour of some kind of system of eco-tax breaks, most especially on enviro-friendly housing.

    However, seeing some bad market-intervening policies does not make all such policies bad ones. It doesn’t prevent us from putting forward other non-market based, or market-influencing solutions.

    Jon has already pointed out very astutely that its precisely because European governments have been passing effective regulations over the past 30 years that we are already more fuel efficient than the US. This isn’t to say we’re as good as we need to be, but simply that to become as good as we need to be (for both environmental and oil scarcity reasons) this path of regulating the market is the most effective. This means using a bunch of economic policy tools a lot wider than tax-breaks.

    As for your veteran anecdote, I’m not sure what relevance it has. Yes, there are people who disagree with us. Good for them. I’m happy to argue with them, but you’re not CONVINCING me of anything by bringing them up.

    If I were to give you quotes from all the people in the US who would like universal healthcare (there’s quite a lot of them), and say you’ve got to give up your pipe dream of a pure market-driven health system , and start putting forward some socialized policies to show me you’re serious, you’d be up in arms.

  36. P. Cross says:

    Jon,” Not to debate something is very much like and abortion“, was not and attempt on my part to introduce “Religion” into the fray. I am anti-socialist because it overwrites the Individual, offering the color of security and fairness for the collective. I used it as a metaphor not a simile. Inadvisably I might add.

    I do find it paradoxical that liberals are in favor of the individual’s right in this instance, which I agree with, as opposed to the collective banning of it. Its’ kind of a mater, antimater thing.

  37. Hugo says:

    P. Cross,

    Hear, hear. And a hearty rhubarbing from the restless back benches.

    I’ve always found it odd that libertarian dissenters are regarded as gadflies and picnic buzz-kills when really they’re strictly meat-and-potatoes creatures who serve not least to shoo the rest of us away from unearned desserts.

    I expect you’re right: it is a kind of matter/antimatter thing.

  38. Dan says:

    I don’t see any direct linkage between biofuels and hunger in Haiti. There is no food available, right now today, to send to Haiti, because every scrap of grain that we don’t eat we turn into biofuel?

    (I’m dead set against corn ethanol, for the record. It’s a sop for ADM and is counter-productive.)

  39. Dan says:

    What I should have said is, the spike in grain prices is directly attributable to biofuels, and only biofuels?

  40. I suppose it’s not too long before some really wacko theories come to light.

    Soyulent green anyone?

  41. Ken Ballweg says:

    Ah yes, Libertarian solutions; so effective in the fictive, untried, “If only we controlled the world we’d show you.” sense of all forms of utopianism.
    Unlike democratic socialism which has a track record, and produces populations that produce a greater sense of satisfaction with their nation than Americans have with ours, Libertarian solutions don’t have much real time evidence that Ann Ryand wrote anything other than fiction.

    Although Brian Barry does point to some test beds of the free market in action.

    “I think it must be conceded that it is possible to create a society in which the response to market failure is not a swing to socialism, but an exacerbation of individual efforts to stay ahead by making and spending yet more money. Does the public health service have long waiting lists and inadequate facilities? Buy private insurance. Has public transport broken down? Buy a car for each member of the family above driving age. Has the countryside been built over or the footpaths eradicated? Buy some elaborate exercise machinery and work out at home. Is air pollution intolerable? Buy an air-filtering unit and stay indoors. Is what comes out of the tap foul to the taste and chock-full of carcinogens? Buy bottled water. And so on. We know it can all happen because it has: I have been doing little more than describing Southern California.
    Now it is worth noticing two things about the private substitutes that I have described. The first is that in the aggregate they are probably much more expensive than would be the implementation of the appropriate public policy. The second is that they are extremely poor replacements for the missing outcomes of good public policy. Nevertheless, it is plain that the members of a society can become so alienated from one another, so mistrustful of any form of collective action, that they prefer to go it alone.”
    Brian Barry, The Continuing Relevance of Socialism

  42. Jon Taplin says:

    Ken- I do think the Social Democratic solutions that have been applied in Finland actually produce both an educated and healthy public as well as a very competitive industrial society. The World Economic Forum (no home for progressives) regularly rates Finland #1 or #2 in their Growth Competitiveness Index.

  43. Morgan Warstler says:

    You want to be like Finland!

    That’s it, nothing more…

  44. John Hurt says:

    Morgan What do you know about Oscar Wilde?

  45. P. Cross says:

    nooo pootatooes, South Beach

  46. Hugo says:

    Ken Ballweg,

    Aside from mocking proto-socialist Mission Creep for its tendency to cozy ever closer to happy-joyous social control by elites, I’d meant to liken those of Morgan’s breed to hedgehogs who remind just about everyone but Brian Berry that there are values still more fundamental than Happiness; so, libertarians as bearers of the caveat issued to Homo Economicus that one may well have wished for a political economy that “produces” far more than “populations that produce a greater sense of satisfaction with their nation.” For example, a nation that produces something other than happy produce.

  47. Ken Ballweg says:


    “Happy produce” as in smiling carrots?? You lost me on that last line.

    And “happiness” isn’t necessarily the standard for a nation that is doing well. Usually it involves a sense of satisfaction that those “still more fundamental values” are indeed being recognized and being met, and everything isn’t sacrificed to those who can make a buck and devil take the hindmost.

    I personally can buy many of the philosophical tenants of libertarianism , each person should be guaranteed the greatest possible liberty that would not interfere with the liberty of others, so that each person may maximize his or her happiness. But really, too many self identified libertarians are just narcissistic anarchists wanting to resuscitate the corpse of Laissez-faire capitalism because they imagine that if they were just unfettered, they could run with the wolves and other big boys.

  48. Pete Wolf says:

    Hugo, the problem of control by elites, or the undue influence of a given social group is a problem for democracy in general.

    There are plenty of socially democratic countries like Sweden, Denmark and Finland where you’ll find democratic systems in which the undue influence of any section of the population (not limited to business interests) is less than in the UK and US.

    It is of course in principle true that more socialist approaches to governance allow for more power to be exercised upon certain areas of the life of the populace (paradigmatically economic matters), but the issues of the limits of this power, and who (on balance) directs it, are issues with the democratic structures of the society. They are issues that turn up in all democracies regardless of their political leaning.

    With regard to the limits of power I totally endorse Ken’s point, that there’s much in Libertarianism to be championed. The idea of encouraging the greatest possible liberty is all else being equal, a good one. In addition the idea of certain inalienable rights of the individual that the state cannot impinge upon is a damn good one, that the US has in principle if not in practice got right.

    However, the second issue is the killer. Structuring a democracy such that it is, if not impossible, at least prohibitively difficult for any given section of society to gain undue influence upon the power that is exercised by government is not an easy one. I think it is perhaps the most important issue facing democracy in the present day. The question is what such a democratic system would look like, and what kind of policies and power structures would be required to sustain it.

    I think that Libertarian philosophies have no way of really answering this second problem, beyond simply assuming that somehow without government the populace will just equalize itself, and that excessive centres of power will not emerge without some pre-existing centralised influence.

    The problem for them is that, as I have hinted above, there might need to be some kind of ACTIVE forces within the democratic system maintaining what we might call the ‘diffusion of power’. The kinds of active forces that would be required would themselves have to be part of some centralised power structure, i.e. part of the government. Of course, this is anathema to Libertarianism.

    This all seems pretty pie in the sky unless I put forward any real suggestions as to how democratic systems should be structured, and what such ‘active forces’ of ‘power diffusion’ it would require. To do so here would both take too long and look more and more like utopian gesturing. But I will point at two such ‘active forces’ which do already exist to some degree and whose function is essential:-

    1) Anti-Monopoly regulation as well as Anti-Cartel regulation, which prevents the market from entering pathological situations where prices are artificially hiked and the populaces bargaining power is artificially reduced.

    2) Media Monopoly laws, which attempt to reduce the ability of any single source to gain control over the information on the basis of which the populace makes its political decisions, thus preventing said source from gaining an undue influence on the policy decisions made in the society.

    These are two functions which I’d argue are really essential in modern democracy if what we’re really after is avoiding “social control by elites” in any form. They’re also functions the use of which by government is being eroded by precisely the kind of free-market rhetoric that Libertarianism espouses. And, they’re functions which can only be properly effected by government.

  49. Morgan Warstler says:

    JH, I saw the movie, “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

    Pete, I think we need to recast the Iraq war as being an anti-cartel enforcement. You should help with the cause.

    As to libertarian mindsets, let’s just agree on $MAX, and stop pretending to admire the greedy desires of those disgusted with 18.1M government employees.

    Now that we have a set amount of limited money to spend, we need to figure out how to fairly help people, knowing full well they eventually will all die, and along the way be ungrateful because it is their due.

    Maybe then we should help the most grateful ones first. Maybe whoever bows down to your government largess most quickly should get to live the longest.

  50. John Hurt says:

    Dear Morgan

    Okay, so you’ve seen one movie based on a Sophocles play and one movie based on an Oscar Wilde play.

    How about Tennessee Williams? Have you seen any of his plays? Or movies? And Shakespeare?
    Or Samuel Beckett? Have you read any Rumi? The Act of Creation by Arthur Koestler? How about James Joyce? How about him? Ulysses? How about William Butler Yeats? What have you read of his stuff? Or, for a little of the truly deep stuff, how about SJ Perelman or James Thurber or Robert Benchley?

    I am curious, because, from what little I know of you from your writings, I am concerned that you have neglected your spiritual side. So to speak.

    I have to say that the greatest sociopolitical mind in history could not carry Oscar Wilde’s whatever it was he was carrying at the time. (And look how completely fucked up he was.)

    And if you think that is just all old stuff, name one poet today equal to Yeats, or a playwright equal to Beckett, or a painter of the caliber of Cézanne, or a songwriter equal to, let’s just say Homer.

    I await your response.

  51. P. Cross says:

    Yet to be discovered discontinuities as I see it make it almost impossible to say with any certainty what “is” is. Right now the earth may be warming, how many times has it cycled from warmer to colder in the last 4 billion years? We didn’t begin to comprehend the earth’s age until Hutton noticed a discontinuity in a rocky coast line on the English coast. Sea shells at the top of Everest, Snow ball Earth wasn’t possible or we’d still be frozen. That took a while until somebody mentioned Volcanism. How about the genetic bottle necks in our past, one day a geneticist hears a lecture about Toba and bling. Have they ever figured out what a chemical bond is? Not that it is, but how it works. Do they understand co2 absorption? They are just beginning to research methane hydrates on the ocean floor and the significance of them. How about plate tectonics, seafloor age and the ophilitic sequence? They just realized that there is huge volcano under the Antarctic ice sheet, well sha–zam that may be important in the greater scheme of things.

    To say that the importance of water vapor has been debunked by running computer models, when the significance of the variables used are still being debated and we haven’t even touched on the chaotic nature of the earth and it’s processes and you want to hold a gun to my head to make me conform to the socialist agenda because you are the chosen ones and it will make everyone happy. It’s entirely possible that tomorrow a geologist will stick his nose in a rock face, find an object hit it with his hammer and before he can “whoops my bad” our digital universe blinks out. Maybe it is an anti-matter kind of thing.

    You may feel that the issue of man’s involvement in the warming of the planet has been decided stamped and approved. NOT BY A LONG SHOT!

    It’s about POWER and how to create this utopian world for the proletariat. All other means seem to be to that end.

    Morgan, I hope you are very well paid, that goes for all of you too.

    John Hurt, The language! You did leave out “Carlos Castaneda”. I might suggest some “Buckminster Fuller” by your bed stand.

  52. Jon Taplin says:

    Pete Wolf-I appreciate you’re trying to delve into this “diffusion of power” issue. I sense from Hugo that this is the key issue for the “sons of liberty” on these pages. I think your prescription for at least some strictures on monopolies and cartels is a good starting place. It is hard for Morgan or P. Cross to imagine the concept of “market failures”, but I come across them every day and they usually involve the concentration of power that Hugo worries about–but in private hands not government officials.

  53. Pete Wolf says:

    Morgan: on its own terms the Iraq war so far has proven to be fairly inneffective (and will take some serious, potentially counter-productive, resources to become effective) at busting the OPEC cartel and bringing down the price of oil.

    However, regardless of this, its an illegitimate form of power. It is precisely an action that was taken outside of the regular established laws and structures of democratic oversight (both local and global). It represent the worst kind of exercise of the kind of unrestrained centralised power you claim to deplore. At the same time its the kind of action which is in principle unassimilable into a standardized or repeatable framework, such as the kind of anti-monopoly/anti-cartel legislation I was referring to. It’s this latter point which makes it in principle illegitimate as a tactic for economic regulation.


    P. Gross: the kind of argument you’re putting forward has little force. Of course, we can always in any case appeal to to the fact that we could discover something which changes the received body of opinion about that given topic. We can even appeal to the fact that it is very likely that we will find things that will change this received opinion.

    However, although you are right to imply that we can never predict how this body of opinion will change, this point plays against you. We can never know which bits will change and which bits will stay the same. It might be that our whole way of modeling CO2 absorption changes in the next ten years, but that the results we get are largely the same. Hell, new research might show just the opposite of what you want, it might reveal that the global warming effect is WORSE than was generally thought.

    All we can do is appeal to what we know, or what received opinion is now, and deal with changes as they appear, lest we eternally defer acting upon any kind of knowledge in any field.

    You might want to argue that somehow climate science is distinct from say microbiology, in that it has to deal with staggeringly more complex systems, and thus has to weigh far more variables, leading to a greater level of unpredictability or changeability. The problem for this approach is that climatology is never going to be simple, it will never be non-complex. So you’d again end up arguing that we perpetually have to defer acting on any claims made by climatologists at any point. This is stupid in a science which does have some proven predictive power (even if this power is somewhat less than that of microbiology).

    In summary, the argument from the changability of science is BAD.

    Moving on to water vapour, again, the simple point is that yes, water vapour is the main contributor to the retention of heat in the atmosphere (not 95%, but still the vast majority). However, this is the total heat retention of the planet, that which stops us from being a barren icy rock in space.

    What we’re interested in, is fluctuations in this total heat retention, which although they seem minor in relation to this total, mount to devastating climatic shifts.

    Water vapour does not contribute to these fluctuations in anyway except as a feedback mechanism. This is to say that it cannot CAUSE a shift, because of the speed at which the water cycle functions. Rather, the amount of water vapour in the air is sensitive to other factors which can cause fluctuations in temperature, e.g. CO2. If the CO2 in the atmosphere increases, this increases average temperature and this causes more water to evaporate which in turn can have a further potential effect on temperature (this is the feedback mentioned earlier).

    The significance of water vapour isn’t debunked by running computer models. It’s debunked by understanding what role it plays within the system. It isn’t a competitor for explaining the FLUCTUATIONS in overall temperature, despite being one of the principle factors in heat retention overall.

  54. Pete Wolf says:

    Jon – Sorry, was writing a post when you posted yours.

    I’d love to talk about this issue of “power diffusion” more. I haven’t got it all worked out, but I think there’s a lot needs saying about it. The central point I was trying to reinforce though, is that to facilitate the kind of decentralised self-organising systems that many of want, you sometimes need centralised regulation mechanisms to maintain their very decentralised character, and to prevent pathologies in their self-organisation (market failures, massive disinformation, etc.).

    This is just why we need democracy. Democracy is meant to provide that necessarily centralised power wielded in a decentralised way.

  55. Hugo says:

    Yep, Ken Ballweg, “happy produce”. The paradox of grammatical construction couldn’t be more intentional, nor its implications more grave.

  56. John Hurt says:

    P Cross, you sanctimonious prig. You are out of your mind. And I mean that in a sweet way.

  57. Morgan Warstler says:


    I can’t stand the idea of you worrying for me, so here let me pull my pants down… I spent years living in art community. Painters painting in my loft while I worked online, it’d be happening now if I didn’t have a family. Watching creation is crack, but…

    Hockney is correct, the old masters all were just tracers, using optical projection (new tech) to paint photo-realistic for the first time. This actually makes Hockney better than them in my book, for figuring it out, and I don’t even like hockney.

    I come from a family of artistic types, my favorite is a gal name Dawn Powell (pls look her up), and I have a goofy business hobby based on the math of poetry. You say ryhme master Yeats, I say Lateef (the truthspeaker):

    “We rock like Colorado
    You’re at it throwin’ bottles
    We give a fuck about your status
    Who you are tomorrow
    Whether you beg or borrow
    Or hit the super lotto
    Whether your girl look like a minga or a supermodel

    Feel the connectedness, energy, disprojected the weighted
    The whole collective consciousness
    Arise like helium oh
    Groovin’ out of the question
    Won’t disrespect him, but
    Our styles fuckin’ Posh like Dave Beckham c’mon”

    -fatboy slim’s wonderful night

    That’s g-e-n-i-u-s right there JH. g-e-n-i-u-s.

    My until recently non-violent grandma would slap you if she heard you say I’m missing my spiritual side. I spent years at college reading the classics and even spent my high school summers at St. John’s College where they just teach the friggin great books. So please forgive me if I respond usually talking about the movie version, I think it is funny, and besides, all I care about is the story anyway. It isn’t that I can’t “feel it” JH, it’s that well, that old stuff sucks. Ok, it doesn’t suck – it’s just not as good.

    Watch this, maybe it will help explain:

  58. John Hurt says:

    First off, Morgan, please don’t tell your grandmother I said you are missing your spiritual side. What I actually said was that I was concerned you might be neglecting your spiritual side. If your grandmother got all het up about that, well then she must be extremely ill tempered. Not only that, but one other person tried to slap me once, and I just lost all sense of proportion. So please, spare us all and stop misrepresenting people’s words. The very fact that she is your grandmother makes me love her, so ease up on the threats.

    Now, I give you Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, William Shakespeare, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Yeats, Perelman, Thurber, Benchley, and Homer and you come back with Fat Boy Slim?

    I’m into the old school Mr. Slim as well, but you might want to ask him if he would put himself in the list above. I’m also down with Dawn Powell.

    You say that the new stuff is better than the old stuff, but you offer no evidence.

    Hockney is no authority. He himself is a tracer of the highest or lowest order. Jackson Pollack is a great painter.

    What about Barnett Newman? There is a great painter and a first rate intellect. Here is something he said. “Time washes over the tip of the pyramid.” That is something, if you were half smart (and we all know you are), that you would take to heart.

    Here is something else for you. One plus one equals two, unless you are counting say, drops of water, in which case one plus one could equal one, or it could equal a fine mist.

    And as of right now I am changing my name to Tennessee William Shakespeare.

    (Oh, by the way, what did you think of the Pentagon institute, the National Defense University report, calling the Iraq War “a major debacle” ?)

  59. Morgan Warstler says:

    “To date, the war in Iraq is a classic case of failure to adopt and adapt prudent courses of action that balance ends, ways, and means. After the major combat operation, U.S. policy has been insolvent, with inadequate means for pursuing ambitious ends.”

    – from the report

    JH, in this light, I buy the “major debacle” analysis. We’d expect it from any hard nosed militarist, like STS’s TED talk from Barnett… Iraq was seriously screwed sideways. And we need to dramatically improve how we go project force, we don’t need to change IF and WHY we go project force.

    The mistake I think you’d make is in painting me as any more than a loyal cheerleader. I was in favor of the the war, I supported the surge, I think we can “win.”

    Do I wish and think we should have gotten to this moment faster? Yep. Do I think that we need to spend even more money to redefine American military strategy? Yes indeed.

    None of that equals, based on the reports on the ground, lets quit and go home. “Major debacle” does nothing to reinforce that. McCain is the one preaching it. Do we want to hang the first failures of the follow on strategy on GWB? Ok sure. Apart from that, what’s the point.

    You and I have covered my, what has to happen in the next 14 months, analysis. My cheerleading isn’t boundless, but right now, I read these reports daily, and they don’t read like the endless bad news ones we were getting before.

    As to you threatening my grandma and claiming that old stuff still matters. Well wait huh? Proof?

    Dude, I sent you to a video link where Lateef norman cook, and a juggler were infinitely more entertaining than watching T. Williams meter out the drunken clash of generations set in mid-20th century America.

    That was HIS time. And frankly JH, his time, the time of my grandmother, Dawn Powell’s time well it doesn’t hold a candle to today. This isn’t an indictment of the past, just a firm observation that no one now would truly prefer to live back then, and all of them would LOVE to live now.

    Today is better. Today is more fun. All the key benefits have been brought about by technology, including social mobility. There are more people now. And we are smarter. We have more time for creative endeavors. Which means artistically, doing something new, break through, happens more often. This doesn’t lessen previous break throughs, it just puts them in a context that isn’t hindered by the “old people speak to quality, and quality is never youth,” paradigm.

  60. Hugo says:

    Well it’s like this, Ken Ballweg,

    I find your remarks on the privatization of profligacy, as a response to the impoverishing undifferentiation of needs and desires, a damned subtle phenomenological analysis. What’s more, I bet you’re right.

    But the veggies get dicey when your defense of socialism opens with a sentence constructed around this assertion: “democratic socialism…produces populations that produce a greater sense of satisfaction…” See, for a statement like that to be made, first a number of preconditions must obtain, and only one of these is haste. I realize that yours were winged words which indeed already may have flown from your memory. But to me these words tell of a thousand assayable intentionalities, each carrying a specific valence and historicity. And in the parsing of your sentence, a kind of vivisection of the human spirit.

    (Please understand that I myself happen to be trained to plug my nomenclature into the bullhorn speakers of Heavy Planning for a real power rush every now and then. So it’s because of this, and not because I’m a planning prude, that I’d like to call for a little quiet in the house as we go on with the show. Consider me, then, Van Morrison for a day.)

    Permit me to ask, albeit somewhat annoyingly: What is the thing said in your sentence to have been “produced”? Is it happiness? Upon inspection, no. Is it satisfaction? No; not that either. Rather it is, in your casual phrasing, “a population” that has been and is in production. And it is this product, this produced population, that is better “capable of producing” in turn something nevertheless far short of Mr. Jefferson’s “happiness”, something even less than Mr. Jagger’s “satisfaction”; for you tell us that the vaunted byproduct of this more capable, produced “population” is “a greater sense of satisfaction”, Guaranteed! (Or your privacy back if population returned within 30 years. You pay only S&H. Offer not valid where Morgan’s restraints upon government apply.)

    So let the vivisectionist’s report reflect diagnosis of a process in which Mr. Jefferson’s ebulliently extralegal “happiness”, pursued lustily at the time of onset, had degenerated first into a barely functioning “satisfaction” before ultimately being reduced to the mere “sense” of “satisfaction”, a side effect of the produceable and improvable whole “populations” made or remade by the “socialist” technocrate sensate from an aggregate people composed of subparticles of raw human resources incapable of autonomous “happiness”.

    As William Irwin Thompson wrote three decades ago, “To manage men you have to grow them the way you do tomatoes. Choose varieties that can endure machine harvesting, and pick them when they are green and unripe.” Happy happy joy-fun tomatoes!

    And what of riper fruit? It is simply written off, an assumable wastage abandoned to the field, there to be ground by steel treads into a sanguine puree.

    Does this all seem a bit arch? Dear God, I hope so. And yet all of this has happened. This is what modern socialism—a socialism with a “track record” of producing populations that produce an increasing sense of satisfaction—did to its ripest fruit, in Beijing in 1989.

    The “ripest fruit” were not “a population”. Nor were they mere people. They were persons, rendered wastage because of their bold refusal to feel a “sense of satisfaction” merely because of their burgeoning economy. Some of them were my friends, my colleagues and students, and my co-conspirators—all of whom were murdered except for my boss, a dear friend who escaped that benighted country only after being dogged at every turn of a six-month overland journey by something that must have been quite like the continuous-input command-and-control model of systems management with which Mr. Beer had equipped Presidente Allende by the day on which that democratic socialist decided that while socialism is nice, strike-breaking pays.

    I feel sure that my friend the heroic Tiananmen escapee—the only person I’ve ever known who truly beat the system—would join me in making a plea to this brilliant and resourceful cyber-salon of Jon’s to consider the New Federalism in a radically humanistic language that bespeaks an intention to undertake a humane project with humane tools.

  61. Ken Ballweg says:

    I concede
    To your passionate screed…


    simply adopting the name of Democratic Socialism, whether Castro, Mao, Allende, Chavez, Stalin, or any of the others who nationalized production in order to consolidate power in order to assure those in power profit and stay in power are not DEMOCRATIC, therefore not democratic socialism. They are actually more akin to modern multi-national corporations who only care about the bottom line and their profit from it and damn the voters.

    Any nation that does not allow a vote of no confidence and subsequent eviction when it starts crushing the tomatoes is not democratic. Any government that promises the tomatoes wealth redistribution as a way to gain power, without any concern for the actual sharing of power crushing the “produce” (i.e. the producers of wealth that allowed that consolidation of power), is not Democratic, it’s a dictatorship, an oligarchy, an autocracy, or a Neo-con executive branch. Calling it Democratic Socialism is a PR spin worthy of the Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Mr. Goebbels himself. But that don’t make it democratic.

    Victor, if I may be so presumptuous as to call you by your given name (for I think after reading your above novel it’s safe to say that if you are not THE famous Mr. Hugo, then you are his very reincarnate soul) I do believe we are much closer to each other politically than not, though we differ in our choice of labels. I happen to believe that the collective can accomplish good things, if power hungry assholes don’t subvert the process, you appear to believe that the (collective of) individual(s) can accomplish good things, if power hungry assholes don’t subvert the process.

    If you examine those two assertions, you may see we are half way to agreement as to how to best help restore the smile to all us endangered tomatoes of the world. That would be find ways to limit the PHAs of the world.

    PS: I think we can also agree that we’ve jointly made a “sanguine puree” out of this produce metaphor.

  62. Rick Turner says:

    You want to bust the oil cartel, folks? It’s right there outside in the sunshine. All you’ve got to do is to give that fledgling industry the same breaks given to oil and nuke over the past 100 years. Or if you’re in the “L” camp, give that new industry the same break for the same dollars wasted just to set the playing field level, and then give no new technology any government funded breaks at all…if you’ve got the balls to do that.

    One of the huge problems with Libertarianism is that the libertarians want to start the good fight from the high ground given to them by the right…who gained it in incredibly non-libertarian ways. Yeah, I’d like to be the democratically elected king for life, too…after the voters are sure that their lives aren’t worth shit if they don’t vote for me….

  63. John Hurt says:

    Morgan, thank you for posting that link to that fantastic juggler jugging to my girlfriend’s favorite song. What new music do you like?

  64. P. Cross says:

    I’m jealous, I think you are have more fun than I am.

  65. Hugo says:

    Fun, P.Cross? In speaking of such terrible things?

  66. Hugo says:

    How is it that you’re not having enough fun, P. Cross, in your efforts to defend science against scientistic powerlust? Seems like it ought to be a barrel of laughs—like the good old days when the marriage of science and power kept audiences roaring for encore after encore.

  67. P. Cross says:

    Defending against the use of science in the lust for power. Mister Wisard, maybe. I as you enjoy the jowst.

  68. Hugo says:

    It is worrisome, though, what this says about the state of the Academy and of academic dogma. It’s becoming a Unified Spieled Theory at the point of a gun. Just when the university ideal is needed so desperately, the unversity has become the antithesis of its own originary thesis.

    So yeah, like you I can’t help but resort to Le Dans Macabre when the music comes to me, but I never wanted to know what it feels like to be Kurt Weill.

    No one seems to notice that the dangers to which you are pointing are the gravest dangers the World’s yet known. An ultra-sophisticated totalitarianism not from the outside in, but from the inside out. Makes one sigh for the good old days when the worst thing we had to worry about was the ever-present threat of instantaneous carbonization.

    See? There goes the gallows humor again…

  69. P. Cross says:


    Many years ago I had the privilege of attending a Buckminster Fuller lecture. Above all else what struck me was the thought process.
    He stated a conclusion, spent the next hour explaining how he came to that conclusion. He rolled it all out on the floor, went through it piece by piece, rolled it back up and in essence said “thats what I mean when I say we go out from the earth not up”.

    He thought about it, he didn’t just rip and read.

    The dinosaurs survived for 130 million years with up to 1000 ppm co2 or more in the atmosphere. Its plant food for crying out load.

    One of two known trolls

  70. Pete Wolf says:

    I don’t know why I bother, but given there’s a vaguely scientific argument put forward I might as well respond to it.

    If CO2 returned to 1000ppm or whatever, this would not destroy all life on earth, the global ecosystem adapts to things like this. The issue is not one of brute survival. However, the climatic changes that would take place and the subsequent adaptations would be of the kind that would totally turn human civilisation upside down.

    Unfortunately, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere doesn’t need to get anywhere near that much to create the kind of disturbances which would seriously change the living conditions to which many human societies have become accustomed to, and thus to cause serious social turmoil.

  71. Another Jon says:

    Hugo, I am not sure what past you are yearning for, but academia has always been and always will be based on dogma. This is not a bad thing necessarily. Hell, human nature is based on dogma….you know….the anthropic principle and all.

    There will always be schools of thought, based on some semblance of reality and academic rigor. And there will always be people who react against the norm. What history has proven to us is that the truth always rises to the top to encompass the whole of human understanding.

    This is not a static process….but we do not think the earth is flat anymore.

  72. Hugo says:

    A.J., I named that past which I’d prefer to the future we now enter, so I don’t know why you’re puzzled. And yes, of course academia has been about dogma; that’s why I enquired after the condition of academic dogma. The University was founded to explore dogma, over against dogmatism, and in that pursuit disallowed until quite recently only one thing: relativism. At no time in its history has the University ceased its stalking of dogmatism; whenever dogmatism got the upper hand in one part of the academy, the stalking would redouble in the other parts. All the more reason, it seemed to me, to ask P. Cross whether the University might recently have ceased stalking altogether in the face of the AGW stampede.

    My blog moniker, incidentally, honors hero Hugh de Ste-Victoire, a co-founder of the University and latitudinarian of the first order.

    I believe that the University, unawares, soon will meet the greatest challenge in its noble history. Now that’s very portentous, isn’t it, and I can’t even pinpoint the challenge; I merely feel it coming. The University has got to prevail. It’s the right institution at the right time and yet most scholars, and all lay persons, underestimate its seismic potential.

    That’s why I’m concerned that dogmatism may be infecting the community of scholars at this time, with AGW as a symptom of the infection. P. Cross describes—to me, chillingly—how Buckminster Fuller, a man standing outside the Academy, set a very high standard for scientific exposition in a democracy. And yet in various corners of the Quad one now finds scholars threatened with ruin for continuing to debate an hypothesis that is at best correlative and probabilistic. Years ago, when I was in graduate training no scientist would be caught dead declaring any scientific theory “closed”; to do so would have been considered quintessentially anti-scientific. Today, the rush from dataset to power diktat is instantaneous and the apologetics, from contemptuous to neglible. That’s why the Fuller anecdote chills.

    P. Cross and I kid around a lot (I suppose because the stakes are so high they’re overwhelming), but there is nothing more serious than a new idea coming suddenly to dominate academia, politics, economics, domestic life, even religion—en route to its stated intention to condition every remaining department of the lives of every human being—and yet still be somehow unassailable, incontestable, indisputable, inarguable. As you have just drawn from history several times, I presume you know that there is Western precedent for this frightful phenomenon.

    It’s this phenomenon, and not AGW, that is of the more urgent concern to me.

    Follow the power.

  73. P. Cross says:

    Talk about a discontinuity, our bright new digital world and the realities of our analog way of viewing it, they are at right angles to each other. I think it’s the interface/paradigm if you will.

    Instead of insisting that our educational systems produce inquiring independent minds who question, instead we are producing pedantic thinkers who are more interested in peer review than reality. After all sometimes the boot has to be emptied.

    Einstein spent his later years trying to disprove his earlier work. He had transcended his intellect enough to know that he could be wrong. What a guy.

    Overheard at a reception this weekend. “My tom tom couldn’t find this address”

    Hugo, music to my ears

  74. Hugo says:

    Set to the incomparable beat of the Tom Tom Club!

  75. Pingback: Libertarian Solutions to the Food Crisis « Jon Taplin’s Blog

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