Pharyngula

The problem with the waffling middle

i-8a6e49581760c3e6f7c98bf1462d4c35-centrists.gif

Comments

  1. #1 Richard Harris, FCD
    August 16, 2007

    Now, if you changed ‘kittens’ for ‘imams, priests, & rabbis’, I’d go with the first option. Will their gods smite me now?

  2. #2 Wasps
    August 16, 2007

    No way!

    The real compromise is to cut all of the kittens in half and blend half of them from the waist-up and the other half from the waist-down.

  3. #3 JJR
    August 16, 2007

    Not wholly unrelated to this, and of possible interest:

    NEUTRALITY, OBJECTIVITY AND
    THE POLITICAL CENTER

    by Rory Litwin
    Progressive Librarian, Issue number 21, Winter 2003

    http://libr.org/pl/21_Litwin.html

  4. #4 John Pieret
    August 16, 2007

    Now, if you changed ‘kittens’ for ‘imams, priests, & rabbis’, I’d go with the first option.

    Ah! A much more realistic scenerio. Perhaps us “sensible centerists” should just step back and let you unsensible extremists get about the business of putting each other in the blender. Shall we start a pool over who winds up in the Waring?

  5. #5 Mike Nilsen
    August 16, 2007

    It’s Joe Lieberman!

    p.s. – never blend kittens unless you’re actually going to drink it.

  6. #6 Fernando Magyar
    August 16, 2007

    Can someone do a god of your choice in a blender like the frog in a blender?

    http://www.atomfilms.com/films/joe_cartoon.jsp

  7. #7 csrster
    August 16, 2007

    Blend them all. God will know his own.

  8. #8 Mike O'Risal
    August 16, 2007

    Wasps said:

    The real compromise is to cut all of the kittens in half and blend half of them from the waist-up and the other half from the waist-down.

    This is a dogmatic position clearly concocted by an Anterial-Posterial Transectional Blenderist. A true centrist would have acknowledged that it’s equally important to include Dorsal-Ventral Transectionalists under the big tent of Intelligent Liquefaction.

  9. #9 True Bob
    August 16, 2007

    Well it’s not a kitten, but probably as close as you’ll see

    http://www.willitblend.com/videos.aspx?type=unsafe&video=pigsfeet

    And it doesn’t go to waste, either

  10. #10 True Bob
    August 16, 2007

    Wasps #2 and Mike #8, do you have something against the Internal-External Transectional Blenderist community?

  11. #11 MikeJ
    August 16, 2007

    “‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” Rev 3:16

  12. #12 Cogito
    August 16, 2007

    [Kang]Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others![/Kang]

  13. #13 Brian
    August 16, 2007

    OK, who DOS’ed the RichardDawkins.net site? I’ve tried to access it, but get a “too many connections” message. Maybe that priests curse has worked, but on the wrong heathen….

  14. #14 Ian H Spedding FCD
    August 16, 2007

    Can you say ‘strawman’?

    Can you say ‘false dichotomy’?

    Centrism is not the same as appeasement. It means discouraging extremists of any stripe of putting any living creature in a blender (except each other, perhaps)


    “The same qualities which made him one of the last to enter the war, made him one of the last who would quit it before the full victory of a righteous cause was won.”

    Winston Churchill on Neville Chamberlain, House of Commons, 12 Vovember 1940.

  15. #15 CalGeorge
    August 16, 2007

    The Elephant is obviously heavily invested in the stock of blender manufacturers.

  16. #16 Left_Wing_Fox
    August 16, 2007

    Ian: The comic is specifically mocking the vision of “centrism” propagated by the media and politicians in the United states today, where an otherwise moderate position “let’s NOT put kittens in blenders”, is considered the opposing extreme from “Let’s put kittens in blenders”. A genuine opposing extremist position is “Anyone proposing such a thing should be put in a blender!”

  17. #17 Derek James
    August 16, 2007

    So compromise is stupid and any centrist position is waffling? Um. If only all policy issues were as subtle as blending kittens. Sheesh.

    So, on gun control, you’re either in favor of allowing people to own tanks, jets, and thermonuclear devices, OR the most dangerous thing they’re allowed to own is butter knives (sufficiently blunted)? Any other position in the continuum makes you an indecisive idiot?

    I would think readers of this blog (and its author) would be intelligent enough to note that some policies entail discrete positions while others necessarily allow for positions along a continuum.

  18. #18 Rose Colored Glasses
    August 16, 2007

    The kitten collection and the kitten blending will all be done through no-bid contracts. Assume $100,000 per kitten, and figure how many kittens there are, and you’ll understand that this is about greed, not kittens.

  19. #19 Russell
    August 16, 2007

    Hmmmmm. So if on one side of me are the wingnuts who want to ban evolution and mandate prayer in public schools, and on the other side of me are the socialists who think we could run an economy by giving every worker a minimum $40K salary, or whatever is required to provide decent living for family of four, then what do you call someone who thinks [i]both[/i] ideas are stupid? While it may sometimes seem so, given the current administration, it’s not as if the right has a monopoly on stupidity.

  20. #20 wildcardjack
    August 16, 2007

    This also relates to the mandatory false dichotomy rules being proposed, also known as “equal airtime”.

    Could you imagine having to give equal airtime to rape advocates, dog fighting advocates, and having to find time in any debates on religion include everyone, from Atheist to Zoroastrians?

    That is why you cannot mandate equal airtime for opposing or diverse viewpoints, but you can make a fuss if your group has been left out.

  21. #21 Russell Blackford
    August 16, 2007

    @ #13 … I can’t access Richard Dawkins’ site, either. Same message. Presumably, the rain of fire and brimstone from heaven must have taken its toll at last.

    I love kittens, so I hope no actual kittens were harmed for this thread.

  22. #22 Jen
    August 16, 2007

    Ian, Derek, Russell [not Blackford]:

    Before this turns into a feeding frenzy, please look again at the very reasonable explanation given in #16 by Left Wing Fox. The comic is NOT mocking all centrist or continuum-based positions…it is mocking a very specific trend lately of taking what used to be considered moderate positions (i.e. “don’t blend kittens”) and spinning them to look radical and partisan. It is mocking the concept that the exact center position is ALWAYS more correct than either “extreme.”

  23. #23 jeffk
    August 16, 2007

    Some people are missing the point. This cartoon clearly doesn’t apply to every issue in existence. The point is that there are plenty of examples where there’s a RIGHT way to do something, as evidenced by science or research (eg, not putting kittens in blenders, not teaching creationism), and so splitting the difference doesn’t make you sensible. A lot of people in this country seem to think that’s the case; I would go so far as saying that they’re often more “smug” about it than their left or right-wing counterparts, because they have this cute little formula that makes us all crazies, rather than examining the problem at hand and taking a position that isn’t predicated on the arbitrary beliefs of other people.

    Imagine “centrist” behavior in science. It would be silly, because nature doesn’t care what we think. Now, politics and science are clearly very different, but I think it’s fair to say that often political questions can be resolved scientifically, or at least rationally – not that it’s simple, but that there’s something resembling the best way to act out there and it’s our job to find it. And that involves science and reason, not simply taking the averaged opinions of every jackass.

    This is the exact same reason I hate the whole “we need political balance in academia” thing. Because the so-called balance is arbitrary and false.

  24. #24 justawriter
    August 16, 2007

    Ian, your own words show how you miss the point…

    [Centrism] means discouraging extremists of any stripe of putting any living creature in a blender

    That is exactly the “extreme” vision being expounded by the second character. The cartoon is satirizing how in our system the moderate view of most Americans is cast as “extremist” and then subverted by “centrists” who adopt a position which carries the effect, if not the rhetoric, of implementing the extreme position. (by which I mean, there is little difference to the kitten whether it is whole or half blended.)

  25. #25 Linden Tea
    August 16, 2007

    This reminds me of the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror from 1996. An alien wearing a Bob Dole suit is making a speech:

    Alien-Dole: Abortions for all!
    Crowd: BOOOO!
    Alien-Dole: Very well… No abortions for anyone!
    Crowd: BOOOO!
    Alien-Dole: Hmm… Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others!
    Crowd: YAAAYYY!!

  26. #26 Bob O'H
    August 16, 2007

    Whilst there does seem to be something of a straw man about the cartoon, it does remind me of Truman’s exasperated comment “Give me a one-handed economist!”

    Bob

  27. #27 Kristjan Wager
    August 16, 2007

    We should send that cartoon to the author of this piece of crap:

    Compromise underrated, and it starts with us

    Many creationism vs. evolution columns have appeared in print recently. People on either side are passionate. You may have various reasons to believe like you do. You were taught this belief in school, by your parents or your friends.

    People serious about their beliefs research them. I am writing this column to get you to evaluate what and why you believe. If your belief is serious, you should research all aspects of it – yes, even the other side.

    I purposely read columns from all sides of an argument, because that is how I evaluate my beliefs. I want to know how others think and their reasons why. When we understand each other it brings us around to a softer stand and, thereafter, compromise. We are not compromising our beliefs; we are adjusting them because of what we learn.

    So, we should compromise. Ok, I have a suggestion – if the Creationists shut up and stop spreading lies/anti-science, we won’t have anything to do with them? Sounds reasonable, right?

  28. #28 Timothy
    August 16, 2007

    “Hmmmmm. So if on one side of me are the wingnuts who want to ban evolution and mandate prayer in public schools, and on the other side of me are the socialists who think we could run an economy by giving every worker a minimum $40K salary, or whatever is required to provide decent living for family of four, then what do you call someone who thinks [i]both[/i] ideas are stupid? While it may sometimes seem so, given the current administration, it’s not as if the right has a monopoly on stupidity.”

    It’s certainly a much better use of our money than starting wars. Probably cheaper as well.

    I think you’ve mixed up your opposing views though. On the opposite side of the evolution banners are reasonable people who believe in what is observable. On the opposite side of the “give everyone 40k” folks are the idiots who think there should be no minimum wage and that “the market” should sort it out.

    If we’re combining these two situations I’d have to side with the scientists who want to give everyone 40k than with any sort of middle ground, because the “other side” is just batshit insane.

    So I’d say someone who thinks that both ideas are stupid is either commenting on more than one range of ideas or is a complete idiot. This is a similar, though even more extreme, distortion than the idiots who try to pit communism against democracy, when the opposite of communism is some form of capitalism.

  29. #29 paperwight
    August 16, 2007

    This was roughly what I was getting at in “Death or Cake” a couple years ago.

    Sadly, my talents are limited in many ways, but in the instant case, I am limited to text — I cannot draw worth a damn.

  30. #30 Sarcastro
    August 16, 2007

    Props to Rusty Condieff:

    Record Company Guy (RCG): What I want to talk to you about is the album cover to Guerrillas in the Midst.

    Tasty Tatse: Now that’s fly.

    Ice Cold: That’s pretty live with all them cops with their butts up in the air like that. And us standing over them. Right, Friesch?

    Friesch (Manager, on phone): Hang on a second. What exactly? How many cops on the pile?

    Ice Cold: Fifteen.

    Friesch: Fifteen. And you want?

    RCG: None.

    Friesch: None? Why don’t we split the difference? Seven.

  31. #31 Phoenix Woman
    August 16, 2007

    Timothy, don’t interrupt the man! Can’t you see he’s busy building strawmen to battle?

    There’s no point in mentioning to somebody like him that the rich (especially the richest thereof) have been getting much, much richer (and often, as in the case of the Waltons of Wal-Mart infamy, by deliberately screwing us all) over the past few decades of conservative triumphalist economics even as real wages for the rest of us have fallen and even college-educated workers find themselves less and less able to keep their heads above water, much less live better than their parents did.

  32. #32 tony
    August 16, 2007

    The thing about kittens (re blending) is that they are a renewable resource, so obviously this is a ‘green’ position, too!

    The ‘non blending’ argument is simply and obviously unsustainable, since *simple grade school math* can easily demonstrate that we will eventually be overrun if we don’t do something *now* about the growing kitten problem.

  33. #33 Alvaro
    August 16, 2007

    #23 and 24: thanks for the clarification. I had initially seen the “us vs. them” (atheism vs. religion) interpretation, but the one you propose can also fit.

    Hmmmm, am I being a sensible centrist now?

    PS: i agree on the absurdity of the media paradigm of always and only providing a “balanced” perspective. I want data-based insights, not parroting!

  34. #34 tony
    August 16, 2007

    Alvaro: You want *data-based insights*…. but whose data? How do you verify/authenticate sources? Are some data sources more valuable/authoritative than others?

    You’re simply shifting the goal-posts. It’s not the lack of data that makes this an issue… it’s the extreme partisanship (and ubiquity) of the reportage.

  35. #35 FungiFromYuggoth
    August 16, 2007

    Are some data sources more valuable/authoritative than others?

    Yes. This has been another installment of simple answers to stupid questions.

    This would mean that the “celebrity pundit” might have to go away, to be replaced by expert pundits. And that journalists might have to do some work, and some wanna-be journalists might not be skilled enough to differentiate between shit and shinola.

    It’s not rocket science, except when it is, and even then there are rocket scientists who can help write about it.

  36. #36 Derek James
    August 16, 2007

    jeffk wrote: Imagine “centrist” behavior in science. It would be silly, because nature doesn’t care what we think.

    You mean like holding a position in the neverending nature vs. nurture debate? It only makes sense to hold an extreme position? That either all behaviors in humans are either hard-wired or completely learned?

    Or how about punctuated equilibrium vs. gradualism. It couldn’t be that some traits are brought about by relatively “sudden” changes and others span a much longer period of evolutionary time.

    Yeah, centrist positions in science would just be silly.

  37. #37 kmarissa
    August 16, 2007

    Derek, do you choose those centrist positions due to evidence behind those centrist positions themselves, or solely because they’re right in the middle of two other “extreme” viewpoints?

  38. #38 jeffk
    August 16, 2007

    Yeah, centrist positions in science would just be silly.

    I think it was fairly obvious, but if it wasn’t, what I meant was centrist-for-the-sake-of-centrist. Nobody would claim anything as silly as “centrist positions are never right”. The claim is that they’re not right BECAUSE they’re centrist.

  39. #39 kmarissa
    August 16, 2007

    jeffk, it WAS obvious, particularly as you said “‘centrist’ behavior”, and not “centrist position” in the first place.

  40. #40 Derek James
    August 16, 2007

    Eh, I interpreted the cartoon and PZ’s tag as primarily being critical of centrism as opposed to pandering. You could just as easily make fun of extremism-for-the-sake-of-extremism.

    I suppose I’m somewhat sensitive to discussing what I consider moderate views on issues like drug policy or gun control only to be yelled at “Shit or get off the pot! You can’t have it both ways, ya damn fence sitter!”

    If a similar sentiment isn’t being expressed here, then mea culpa and it’s all good.

  41. #41 kmarissa
    August 16, 2007

    Derek, sorry to jump on you too hard. But seriously, the comic DID say, “And you decide to split the difference by saying this…” Pretty clearly using the two “extremes” as THE basis for deciding the “correct” answer. It just seems like a number of people on this thread are inadvertently or deliberately misreading it, and then attacking the idea that ANY middle position is bad.

  42. #42 Andrés
    August 16, 2007

    Damn, I hate those extremist let’s-not-blend-any-kittensists! Because, you know, not blending any kittens is just as bad as blending all of them!

  43. #43 Andrés
    August 16, 2007

    Damn, I hate those extremist let’s-not-blend-any-kittensists! Because, you know, not blending any kittens is just as bad as blending all of them!

  44. #44 jeffk
    August 16, 2007

    Fair enough. Despite being a militant-athiest/liberal, my gun control views could probably be described as “moderate” or “centrist”. Not to jack the thread, just to make the point that I subscribe to some centrist views, but not *because* they’re centrist.

  45. #45 Raging Braytard
    August 16, 2007

    See, this is why Ed is so forking awesome. He’s moderate, not a Dem or Repub. That means his opinion is more valid and intelligent, because he’s in the middle. And he takes up a lot of the middle, so that makes him really, really awesome.

  46. #46 Fatboy
    August 16, 2007

    Re #30. Hilarious reference. Now I’m going to be stuck the rest of the day thinking of quotes from that movie.

  47. #47 Ed Darrell
    August 16, 2007

    But, where would be find a blender that big?

  48. #48 Brian Macker
    August 16, 2007

    Why the elephant? Are republicans advocating the blending of kittens for scientific purposes? Isn’t this very blog anti-Antivivisectionist?

    No, I think the kitten blending is a stand in for the Iraq war in some peoples minds. I find all this political demonization tiresome. Often pacifists are extremists too. So the centrists on the issue of war are making the right choice.

  49. #49 BlueMako
    August 16, 2007

    Foe some reason, my first thought was “why is that eagle wearing a hat?”…

  50. #50 leandra
    August 16, 2007

    Wait, why is the bird arguing against kitten blendering?

  51. #51 Rick Pikul
    August 16, 2007

    Why the elephant? Because the ideas DCS has in mind for this strip are generally being put forward by the Republicans and the Republician base.

    Why the hat? Because Joe the Liberal Eagle has always worn a beret, it initially was a linkage to things French, (this was at the time of things like “Freedom Fries”).

    If you have detailed questions about the strip, there is a thread about it on the I Read This forum, (link is on the strip/blog’s home page).

  52. #52 frog
    August 16, 2007

    Cartoon hits it on the money! That’s why the Repubs (and particularly their fascist wing) have taken over the country. The “liberals” have been tolerant of intolerance, and have been unwilling to openly advance an agenda.

    Whenever I hear the comment that politician “X” is too “partisan”, I feel like exploding. The bastards are supposed to be partisan – the other choice is a non-partisan system, like they have in such fine nations as North Korea and Cuba.

    I want partisans. That’s politics, and politics is democracy. F*ck one party states and everyone who dreams of them.

  53. #53 uriel
    August 17, 2007

    Well, to combine my responses to two threads into one, for the sake of convience, and because they seem somewhat related:

    Whenever I hear the comment that politician “X” is too “partisan”, I feel like exploding. The bastards are supposed to be partisan – the other choice is a non-partisan system, like they have in such fine nations as North Korea and Cuba

    In a word, bullshit.

    For anyone who posses the vaguest precursors of intelligent thought, such a claim is trivially absurd. The idea that the current political parties- with their desperate clinging to cults of personality and knee-jerk rejection of ideas based on nothing more than the consonant appearing between the parens after x’s persons name- are striving towards anything resembling reason or truth, is quite frankly, absurd. The fact is that party politics in this country is nothing more than a facile divide and conquer sort of opportunism and a self-serving nodding wink at the gullibility of the electorate.

    It’s about votes. Truth is tertiary, at best.

    Or are you really going to try and claim that post-modernist equivocation, the abject rejection of actual history in favor of unsupported tenants of conflict theory, and railing against multi-nationals as the sole locus of all that is evil represents a completely reasoned perspective? And that AIDS denialism, paranoid delusions about the machinations of “Big Pharma” and nods towards 9/11 truthism are any less woo-based than millennialism, AIDS as holy retribution, or the idea that the terrorists hate our freedom? ‘Cause, frankly, I feel that all those positions equally, and demonstrably, absurd.

    The problem seems to be that far too many make the mistake of thinking that “religious-type” thinking only correlates with religious belief, or having a (R) after your name, or whatever. Unfortunately,the ability to reject reality in favor of some pie in the sky ideal of what you would like to pretend things should be is a non-partisan, and non-denominational, trait.

    Frankly, that’s the whole problem with the responses to this and the earlier “endarkenment” post- far too many around here think they represent some shinning light of reason, yet are just as are guilty of the exact same nonsensical, faith-based, “it’s true because I said so, and I’m smart,” kind of thinking. Problem being, these positions are different from the hardcore christo-fundies only in the specifics, not in the intent.

    Really- just switch the main focus from xtianity to islam, and a lot of the posters here would be perfectly at home on Debbie Schlussel’s or Dinish D’dsouaza’s little worlds of hate. Which is nothing to be proud of.

    Or perhaps there is some very distinct difference between calls for bumper-stickers calling for “f*ing the skull of mohamad” and those that call for “f*ing the skull of jesus.” Or hell, “f*ing the skull of Darwin.” I suppose it’s possible I’m missing the subtleties. I somehow doubt it.

    And again- I’m to some degree combining responses to multiple threads/comments here. Mea culpa. On the other hand, the ideas, as they’ve played out, they aren’t that divorced.

  54. #54 Nullifidian
    August 17, 2007

    I’m shocked that on a blog devoted to science, you all simply cannot see the best middle path.

    Take a cat, put it in a blender, then position a hammer held up by a single radioactive atom above the “puree” button. Place this contraption out of sight, and then proclaim, as a sensible centrist, that this is the optimal situation: Schroedinger’s Cat in a Blender.

  55. #55 Lee Harrison
    August 17, 2007

    You know, the great thing about jokes is that they don’t actually HAVE to apply 100% correctly to all conceivable situations – come to think of it, there’s not much else that has to do that, either.

    Jokes are kind of like frogs – once you disect them to find out how they work, they stop working…

    Oh, and Russell (#19)- you do realise that you created your own strawman when you presented two entirely unrelated issues as if they were opposing poles, right?

  56. #56 Brian Macker
    August 17, 2007

    “The problem seems to be that far too many make the mistake of thinking that “religious-type” thinking only correlates with religious belief, or having a (R) after your name, or whatever. Unfortunately,the ability to reject reality in favor of some pie in the sky ideal of what you would like to pretend things should be is a non-partisan, and non-denominational, trait.”

    Exactly, there are a lot of people treating politics (and science – think global warming) like religion. They scream facist and spout theories that are based on the most tenuous of evidence. Just because someone else has mad a different decision from you doesn’t mean there is some alterior evil background motive for their actions. Yeah, sure our government was actually behind 9/11 so we could get middle east oil.

    That’s crazy, especially since it appears that we set to blame the Saudis by loading the plane with Saudi terrorist. After all that trouble we then refrained from going after the largest and most easily “stolen” oil regions with the sweetest oil to instead move into of all places, Iraq. Then we didn’t steal the oil on the cheap but instead not only let oil seek market prices but also turned all the proceeds over to the Iraqi people, plus spent billions of our own money building up their infrastructure. Yeah, that sounds like the actions of a conquering country raping the resources of it’s victims. NOT!

    Can’t tell that to some people because their marxist/postmodernist/pacifist religion is that Republicans are all motivated by greed. Which is insane really, and a gross overgeneralization.

    Then we have what are normally rational people like Dawkins and Myers who I respect for their scientific views making idiotic and frankly looney political claims. WTF is that about? Get used to the idea that other people have their own worldviews. That is what motivates them not their “evilness”.

    In the case of conservatives there is a strong intellectual and scientific underpinning to certain beliefs that runs contrary to the political religion of the liberals. Hayek, Popper, and many economists know why liberal government programs just don’t work but hell the liberals just can’t accept the science. In fact, they often aren’t even aware of it.

    That’s it for that discussion. Oh, and by the way one of these lead religious evangelicals (on the global warming front) just had a big hole punched in his data. Turns out he had a Y2K but in his climate model. That after a shrill attack on Bush.

    “NASA has now silently released corrected figures, and the changes are truly astounding. The warmest year on record is now 1934. 1998 (long trumpeted by the media as record-breaking) moves to second place. 1921 takes third. In fact, 5 of the 10 warmest years on record now all occur before World War II. Anthony Watts has put the new data in chart form, along with a more detailed summary of the events”

    What’s funny is that this whole global warming crisis is more an economic issue than a issue of climate. The impacts are economic and the “solutions” are economic. That, I am sure, Bush understands and is why he downplays the ridiculously hyper chicken-little level of fear mongering that is going on. Not because he is evil to the core, or a complete fool. Two ridiculous notions.

    My opinion is that humans are having some upward effect on temperatures but that there really is nothing to panic about, with the best solutions not requiring any kind of intrusive Kyoto type plan.

    In fact such a plan would be counterproductive and result the release of even more CO2 per unit of human satisfaction, the reverse of what is desired. Communist countries with planned economies were and are the worse polluters for what were quite poorly running economies.

    That kind of efficiency is desired by only some people. Others really would like to see us back to some kind of tribal society with no cars, no industry, no chemicals, etc. You know, back to nature. I’ve known plenty like that and they are usually liberals. They find this truth so obvious that anyone who is actually pro-capitalism is seen as some kind of evil monster.

  57. #57 Steve_C
    August 17, 2007

    Blah blah blah.

    That’s not what the science says. Once again someone who won’t listen to the scientist because it interferes with his reality.

    Must be a republican or a winger.

    What’s worse. He seems to be a Bush fan.

    Idiot.

  58. #58 Eamon Knight
    August 17, 2007

    Wait, why is the bird arguing against kitten blendering?
    Because eagles prefer their meat fresh and warm, and like to tear it apart themselves?

  59. #59 frog
    August 17, 2007

    Macker:

    In the case of conservatives there is a strong intellectual and scientific underpinning to certain beliefs that runs contrary to the political religion of the liberals. Hayek, Popper, and many economists know why liberal government programs just don’t work but hell the liberals just can’t accept the science. In fact, they often aren’t even aware of it.

    Where’s the science? Are you saying that Hayek is scientific? Give me the damn equations that will predict the direction and volatility of any given market, with very few tunable parameters. Otherwise, just shut-up.

    Most of economics isn’t a science – it’s mostly damn curve-fitting. The whole underpinnings of the “science” are the supply and demand curves, which are about the most absurd things imaginable. I’m not saying that supply and demand don’t play a role in price – but the equations that are generally used are simple BS. The economy is not at equilibrium. It’s a dissipative, complex system and any sort of equilibrium explanation is just simply absurd, childish and unscientific. In other words, just pure propaganda.

    It’s simple. Do investors look for equilibrium to invest? No, they precisely look at non-steady state, non-equilibrium markets – that’s where you can make money, rather than just trying to extract asymmetric value. And look at the markets – find me a steady state one and I’ll be damned surprised if it’s not due to non-market forces or moribund.

    Libertarian philosophy is about as intellectually bankrupt as Bolshevikism. And about as dangerous.

  60. #60 FungiFromYuggoth
    August 17, 2007

    Brian, I cannot count the number of mistakes you’ve made in your post. I’m just going to look at the NASA climate error.

    As I said earlier, some data is better than other data – and long-term public quantitative data is an example of something that’s better. Fixing the error in the NASA climate model is an example of what open scientific discussion can accomplish – although it didn’t really change any of the information.

    So the mistake (caused by changing measurement systems – not a Y2K bug) didn’t actually shift things much. It’s true that now 5 of the 10 warmest years in the US now take place before WWII. But before the correction, 4 of the 10 did, and 1934 and 1998 are still in a statistical tie for for first place.

    The part you may need to sit down for is that the United States is not the world. Globally, the climate change numbers shifted a couple of percent.

    Good policies don’t need lies to back them up. The policies you’re defending, you’re supporting with (someone else’s) lies. The conclusion is left as an exercise for the student…

  61. #61 Sastra
    August 17, 2007

    This post reminded me of my experiences this weekend, manning a humanist/atheist booth at a local outdoor fair. It was a basically “liberal” crowd, and 3 people who came by made the same (tired) point: “Yes, the fundamentalists are on one extreme. But Dawkins and Harris and all you atheists — you’re on the other extreme, with no God at all. Isn’t it more likely that the truth is in the middle: God exists, but it’s nothing like the fundamentalists think it is, it’s all vague and loving and obscure and tolerant and did you know quantum physics is finding out that the Universe is all about Consciousness?”

    “Some people say there is a God: others say there is no God. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.” (William Butler Yeats)

    “God exists, but, it’s all, you know — weird like. And nice.” I call this the Argument from the Middle. One extreme is too much God; another extreme is too little God; therefore God exists in the warm, fuzzy middle where I am — just enough God.

    When it comes to the topic of religion, an awful lot of people seem to think that truth is going to be decided by applying a Principle of Moderation. It’s all about finding balance, harmony, compromise. How could this not work? Hasn’t it always worked when you tried it, and your life got back on track?

    They’re confusing rules for getting on in the world with determining facts about what really exists — of course. And that’s just what you get when you keep insisting that the proper “domain” of religion is morals and meaning. Religion is how we live our lives, and all that.

    Dawkins’s Law of Adversarial Debate:
    When two incompatible beliefs are advocated with equal intensity, the truth does not lie half way between them.

  62. #62 Brian Macker
    August 17, 2007

    Steve_C,

    Actually, I think Bush is probably about as bright as you. I think he is doing a terrible job on the economy just like Clinton. He should have fired Greenspan. I think the current credit expansion is going to backfire and pretty soon. I’d talk about what he’s done wrong but I doubt you’d understand based on the deductions in your last post.

  63. #63 Brian Macker
    August 17, 2007

    “Give me the damn equations that will predict the direction and volatility of any given market, with very few tunable parameters. Otherwise, just shut-up.”

    This statement indicates your ignorance. Economics is a science more similar to biology than physics. That statement makes about as much sense as a Creationist saying “Show me the equations that will predict the direction and variance in the evolution of a species.” Of course, my hypothetical creationist is a lot more polite.

    If fact, Hayek’s (and others) theories predict that the kind of equations you desire are futile. There are other kinds of predictions that can be made but nothing like you want. Hayek is famous for predicting that socialist systems can’t do economic calculation and that only a pricing system can do that.

    The rest of your post was an ignorant diatribe. You seem to wallow in your ignorance with statements like, “Most of economics isn’t a science – it’s mostly damn curve-fitting.” It’s clear you are totally unaware that there are different schools of economists. Just like there are Lamarckians (or were) and Darwinists of various stripes there are Classicalist, Keynesians, Marxists, Monetarists, and Austrians of various stripes. Marxists and Keynesians don’t really count as economists but actually are more akin to astrologists.

    “The whole underpinnings of the “science” are the supply and demand curves, which are about the most absurd things imaginable. I’m not saying that supply and demand don’t play a role in price – but the equations that are generally used are simple BS. The economy is not at equilibrium. It’s a dissipative, complex system and any sort of equilibrium explanation is just simply absurd, childish and unscientific. In other words, just pure propaganda.

    See that’s your ignorance showing. Hayek is an Austrian and that school doesn’t use “equations” in the way you describe. Nor do they speak of the economy being a “equilibrium”.

    “Libertarian philosophy is about as intellectually bankrupt as Bolshevikism. And about as dangerous.”

    Yeah, because everyone knows that setting up your own postal delivery service and working as an abolitionist, or helping third world countries correct their economic mistakes, or being against the “war on terror”, those things that libertarians do, everyone knows they are the moral equivalent of slaughtering tens of millions of people. Yes everyone knows that libertarians are well, equivalent to Fascists!!!

    Yes everyone knows of the long list of monstrous libertarian dictators which dwarfs the list of socialist dictators. National Socialism, Fascism, Bathism, Bolshevikism, and Communism all being forms of socialism there really isn’t that long a list of Socialist monsters to choose from. The Socialists list is quite short really in comparison to that most memorable list of Libertarian monsters every school child knows about. Why a list like Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Kim Jung, Castro, Che Guevara, Chavez, Mugabe, Kim Jong-il and his dad, Saddam Hussein, Hafez Assad, etc. would be tiny in comparison.

    Why don’t you provide us with a list of thirteen Libertarians of such caliber? Perhaps you can also recite a list of Libertarian inspired atrocities for us to remind us of our childhood lessons?

    BTW, it’s rude to tell people to shut-up, address them directly by their last name, and as was the point of my post, imply, no outright claim, they are the equivalent of facists. So Mr. Frog perhaps you should take your own advice before displaying your behavior for all to see.

  64. #64 Steve_C
    August 17, 2007

    Someone is a bit sensitive.

    And long winded.

    At least Clinton go the budget in line.

    You demonstrated you’re inanity with your absurd evaluation of the global warming problem. Yeah Bush hasn’t done shit about it because he’s cautious… rrriiiight.
    He’s a fucking oil man.

    Why don’t you just say the Sun is the cause of the global warming problem. It’s about as astute.

    No one said Libertarians were fascists, only that the attittudes were dangerous.

    Ya big baby.

    Next you’ll be telling us all the worst dictators were atheists.

  65. #65 Brian Macker
    August 17, 2007

    Fungi,

    “Brian, I cannot count the number of mistakes you’ve made in your post”

    Well, you only challenged one claim I actually made. The one about Y2K. Which leaves me wondering about your counting skills.

    I said, “My opinion is that humans are having some upward effect on temperatures …”. Was this one of the “fungily” uncountable mistakes you found?

    The rest of your claims are moot really, at least to my arguments. These guys are so secretive over at NASA that it leaves me wondering why you are so confident in their results. Do you have access to the actual computer programs they ran? The guy who claims he found it spotted a discontinuity in Jan 1999, he wrote NASA, and now they’ve changed their numbers and sent him a response indicating they have credited him for finding the problem. If only they’d publish their actual algorithm we’d know if they had a Y2K problem, or not. Sure it might be due to a human equivalent of a Y2K problem, putting the wrong numbers in. That doesn’t inspire confidence either. Don’t expect to know the actual answer too soon.

    I understand the rest of what you’ve said and am perfectly aware that temperatures, as far as we know are going up. They are just not going up as fast and as hard as several of the discredited studies have claimed, like that lame hockey stick mistake. I work with computers and the idea that you can simulate something as complex as climate and forecast with the accuracy they claim is ridiculous. It’s especially ridiculous when the input data is suspect. The reason I believe temps are rising has little to do with those complex climate models. The ones they use to scare the crap out of people.

    BTW, when I was a kid in college in the late ’70s I worked for a company that collected data via weather balloons for the government. Their control over the data was terrible. When I pointed out how error prone the data entry methods were they moved me to unloading and loading trailers. They delivered a message to me via another data entry person working there not to rock the boat. I went to the supervisor and asked why my suggestions wouldn’t help in error detection. He was more interested in not looking bad and said they had processed too much data the old way. He wanted to maintain the same level of errors. He said he’d talk to his boss. I’m sure the owners weren’t too interested in their company going up in smoke, so to the loading dock for me.

    These were not acts of people who were interested in accuracy or even ethical behavior. I didn’t have much visibility into the business but they had about eight people doing data entry and they were processing lots of tapes, piled around like so much junk. This was in St. James, NY on the Gyrodyne property. I don’t remember the company name as I wasn’t required any more shortly thereafter.

    I could have typed in total crap and no one would have been the wiser. Assuming everyone was honest there were still problems because they had us using calculators and sheets of formulas to make calculations. We had no clue what the numbers meant or what the purpose of the formulas were. So there was no way to check our work, or the numbers coming from prior stages.

    So much for your nonsense about me falling for the lies of others. I have firsthand experience with the level of quality control on the data.

    Besides the issue really is a matter of economics not climate. Sure we can put Al Gore’s 5-year plan in place to try to save some marginal beach front homes of the rich and subsidized. Not that it would do any good but it certainly would make Gore rich selling his carbon offsets. What the human cost however? We know how quickly people die by the tens of millions when we strive to reign in capitalisms “excesses”.

    What’s our experience with climate change? Oh yeah, we came out of the Ice Age. Let’s hope things don’t go as they normally do during an interglacial. You know a 20k period of warm before the refreeze. We’re around 10K in now. Perhaps we should be pumping out more greenhouse gases.

  66. #66 True Bob
    August 17, 2007

    Brian, I don’t know where you get your info, but the Iraqi people do not get the “oil proceeds”. Iraq’s Parliament-in-absence hasn’t yet approved the law we insist upon, where OIL companies get the $ (IIRC 75% – not even comparable to other oil producing countries ~10%). It’s not even clear that the oil coming out of Iraq is yet being metered, so “market cost” is easily manipulated. Is oil 3X as hard to get now? It’s about 3X the cost since shrubco came to power. Remember the oil crisis and long lines at the pumps, and stations running out of fuel in the 70s? Fuel a-plenty now, but ka-ching! it’s expensive. Ponderous.

    Also, note that the billions spent came from WE the PEOPLE, and it is benefiting, um, who, exactly? Not Iraq or it’s citizens, and not we Murkan people, that’s very clear. Oil industry seems to be doing quite well, though. Just saying.

    Nothing personal, but I believe our pResident deserves impeachment. And not for lying about something formerly a perk of office.

  67. #67 True Bob
    August 17, 2007

    Brian,

    The warming skeptic identified the error source:

    http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20070815/nasa_blogger_070815/20070815/?hub=TorontoHome

    NASA asserts that both before and after, the relative ranking was within the margin of error:

    http://www.geotimes.org/aug07/article.html?id=WebExtra081607_2.html

    It appears that the data error was not correcting for time-of-day of measurements. I haven’t looked, but NASA says it’s all public info. Care to go dig into it?

  68. #68 frog
    August 17, 2007

    Well Macker,

    “Give me the damn equations that will predict the direction and volatility of any given market, with very few tunable parameters. Otherwise, just shut-up.”

    This statement indicates your ignorance. Economics is a science more similar to biology than physics. That statement makes about as much sense as a Creationist saying “Show me the equations that will predict the direction and variance in the evolution of a species.” Of course, my hypothetical creationist is a lot more polite.

    And the not-so-theoretical libertarian appears to know very little about biology. There is work on variance and evolutionary constraints. For example, you can predict to a high degree the number of anti-cancer genes given an organism and tissue of a given size. Google retinoblastoma and probability. Evolution may be highly contingent, but that only makes it like the weather – there are limits to your predictions, but those limits can be formalized. Just like in physics.

    Ever hear of Hardy-Weinberg? Google it – it’s exactly equations describing natural selection vs. alternative forms of evolution. Or Hodgkin and Huxley? We’ve had very precise equations on the propagation of cellular electrical signals for half-a-century know. Or all the work done in modeling population dynamics? That stuff ties directly into the real scientific work done in economics, as opposed to Libertarian blatherings on generic markets and “self-correction” without ever having worked out a single op-amp problem an under what conditions you can blow out the circuit.

    If fact, Hayek’s (and others) theories predict that the kind of equations you desire are futile. There are other kinds of predictions that can be made but nothing like you want. Hayek is famous for predicting that socialist systems can’t do economic calculation and that only a pricing system can do that.

    They “predicted” exactly what? What Hayek did is prognosticate, like any futurist trying to earn a paycheck. If Hayek actually said that equations are futile, he’s a worse fool than I thought. Science is equations and measurements – everything else is either art or politics. Once again, equations have limits. But if you have a material system, a deterministic system that doesn’t involve magic fairies, then it is described by equations that also tell us the limits of our predictions based on our inherent ignorance. It may take centuries or millenia to turn economics into a science – but then physics was pounded on for 5000 years before it really became a science. As I said, weather, weather, weather. Or on the other end, atomic behavior. All systems with complex webs of interactions that ‘limit’ our predictions, but in predictable ways.

    Communists clearly did do economic calculations. The Soviets had huge growth rates coming out of WWII, but then went moribund in the ’60’s. They were great at planning big projects and keeping them going. What they were terrible at was collecting decentralized information (not so different from huge companies and monopolies, whether “natural” or not). They were great at building iron works, terrible at building fax machines.

    And “only a pricing system” can do economic calculation? You need to get out a bit more. There are numerous exchange systems that collect decentralized information, from pig population growth rates (see New Guinea) to open-source software development. Unless you’re going to claim that anything that collects decentralized data is a “pricing system”. The inverse true scotsman, another refuge of religious ideas.

    The rest of your post was an ignorant diatribe. You seem to wallow in your ignorance with statements like, “Most of economics isn’t a science – it’s mostly damn curve-fitting.” It’s clear you are totally unaware that there are different schools of economists. Just like there are Lamarckians (or were) and Darwinists of various stripes there are Classicalist, Keynesians, Marxists, Monetarists, and Austrians of various stripes. Marxists and Keynesians don’t really count as economists but actually are more akin to astrologists.

    “The whole underpinnings of the “science” are the supply and demand curves, which are about the most absurd things imaginable. I’m not saying that supply and demand don’t play a role in price – but the equations that are generally used are simple BS. The economy is not at equilibrium. It’s a dissipative, complex system and any sort of equilibrium explanation is just simply absurd, childish and unscientific. In other words, just pure propaganda. ”

    See that’s your ignorance showing. Hayek is an Austrian and that school doesn’t use “equations” in the way you describe. Nor do they speak of the economy being a “equilibrium”.

    So the Austrians abandoned supply and demand? And they have no equations to replace them with, just what the magic fairies say inside their heads? Gah, philosophy is the last refuge of the scoundrel. A science is empirical. That means you observe things and then put those measurements into equations which allow you to predict things. Deriving things from your own little set of anecdotes and “natural law” is another way of pulling things out of your ass, and is even less intellectually satisfying than the Marxist dialectic, another example of going from anecdotes and “natural law”. We know how that turned out, hey Libertarian?

    And your disdain of Keynesians just shows how this is just a religious crusade. Yes, their formalism are immature and misleading, but at least they tried to do science. You know, things like measurement instead of just mind-reading.

    “Libertarian philosophy is about as intellectually bankrupt as Bolshevikism. And about as dangerous.”

    Yeah, because everyone knows that setting up your own postal delivery service and working as an abolitionist, or helping third world countries correct their economic mistakes, or being against the “war on terror”, those things that libertarians do, everyone knows they are the moral equivalent of slaughtering tens of millions of people. Yes everyone knows that libertarians are well, equivalent to Fascists!!!

    Yes everyone knows of the long list of monstrous libertarian dictators which dwarfs the list of socialist dictators. National Socialism, Fascism, Bathism, Bolshevikism, and Communism all being forms of socialism there really isn’t that long a list of Socialist monsters to choose from. The Socialists list is quite short really in comparison to that most memorable list of Libertarian monsters every school child knows about. Why a list like Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Kim Jung, Castro, Che Guevara, Chavez, Mugabe, Kim Jong-il and his dad, Saddam Hussein, Hafez Assad, etc. would be tiny in comparison.

    You do know what intellectually bankrupt is, don’t you? Like Christianity is intellectually bankrupt, but that doesn’t imply that they are moral monsters – that’s a completely different question. And you do know that there are lots of reds out there running around try to stop slavery today, develop third-world economies, and so on and so forth? They’re not all cold-blooded killers. But since Libertarianism is more like a religion than a science, the “other” isn’t just different, they must all be damned savage heathens.

    All your list of communist monsters says is that they’ve been more successful than Libertarians at taking over countries, so far… But I can give you an equally long list of capitalist monsters (heard of the Irish potato famine?), conservative monsters (just pick any Latin American country), fascist monsters…

    Why don’t you provide us with a list of thirteen Libertarians of such caliber? Perhaps you can also recite a list of Libertarian inspired atrocities for us to remind us of our childhood lessons?

    So I guess you don’t want credit for anything done by any American presidents or congresses or capitalist-fundamentalist political movements? No true scotsman and all that I guess. Well, then you can’t claim the good they did either then… No “Founding Fathers” for you, just the dregs of 18th century philosophers who were trying to start the founding of a science, which you’ve then taken as a religion.

    So Mackey, I don’t claim that Libertarians are, in general fascists. But if Libertarians were to succeed in actually controlling the government, I prophecy (like your sainted Hayek) that we would be in for another dystopian nightmare with one true philosophy which is then a science (who else claimed that philosophical musings and utopian yearnings were “objective science” without proposing any equations?).

    There were no Communist monsters until the 20th century, even though their lineage goes back to the 1830’s. And as evidence I proffer the overwhelming support of Libertarians for such fools as Reagan and Bush (in his early years). Most Reds would never have described themselves as trying to build a Soviet style state, but somehow that philosophy ended up doing it anyhow, and they got co-opted. Even now, there are plenty of Libertarians who still support Bush and his Terror war — is it the Kool-Aid? The saint worship? The lack of empirical basis? Hah, sweet, sweet faith – it numbs the pain…

  69. #69 Brian Macker
    August 17, 2007

    Steve_C,

    Wrong again. I am an atheist. If I were as nasty and unthinking as you perhaps I would be less verbose. It wouldn’t have taken me those whole six lines. I could have responded with two short words.

    You call me an idiot,start making wild guesses as to my opinions and then call me touchy when I respond in what was a comparibly more civil manner. I did all that in a post smaller than your current response. Some people. I guess it’s the anonymous poster effect, or perhaps the effect I was complaining about in my original comment, political derangement.

    Sorry dude, if you knew anything you’d know that Clinton’s powers over the budget were minimal. You do understand who controls the purse strings in our system of government, don’t you? Apparently not.

    The Clinton years were ones fueled by a loose Fed. When you have fiat monetary system you can play these kinds of games. Only problem is they lead to bubbles. Like the internet bubble, and the current housing bubble. Historical examples of monetary inflation would be tulip mania (non-fiat) and the South Sea Bubble (fiat).

    Sorry for writing so much. I wouldn’t want you to learn anything.

  70. #70 Steve_C
    August 17, 2007

    From you?

    Unlikely.

  71. #71 frog
    August 17, 2007

    Macker#1:

    Actually, I think Bush is probably about as bright as you. I think he is doing a terrible job on the economy just like Clinton.

    Macker#2:

    Sorry dude, if you knew anything you’d know that Clinton’s powers over the budget were minimal. You do understand who controls the purse strings in our system of government, don’t you? Apparently not.

    ????

    The budget and the Fed are the two primary systems of controlling the national economy. The Fed is quite independent – how many Fed chairmen have been let go recently? It’s been a sinecure since Volcker – short of a complete melt-down, they sit and sit and sit…

    Oh by the way Macker, you do know that Greenspan thinks of himself as a Libertarian, don’t you? There you see Libertarianism in practice, not theory. Not much like the “theory”, now is it?

  72. #72 frog
    August 17, 2007

    Macker:

    The Clinton years were ones fueled by a loose Fed. When you have fiat monetary system you can play these kinds of games. Only problem is they lead to bubbles. Like the internet bubble, and the current housing bubble. Historical examples of monetary inflation would be tulip mania (non-fiat) and the South Sea Bubble (fiat).

    Don’t you see the feedback loops? Can’t you see that these “bubbles” are a system of amplifiers, tied together? They’re not “games”, they’re inherent to systems like markets. Someday, someone will actually derive the differential equations that describe these behaviors – they’re inherent in system non-equilibrium systems like these. They don’t find “maximal economic productivity” – economic productivity is just one constraint on the system, among many.

    Haven’t you heard of hysteresis? The old biological story is that in a population of wolves and rabbits, you get boom and bust cycles in population, partly due to the lag in wolf generations vs. rabbit generations. The biological equivalent of “economic efficiency” is not the determining factor (maximizing population size), because the feedback loops in the system make that impossible. A forest ranger could actually do a better job in this case of maximizing rabbit and wolf populations by managing the system and avoiding the boom bust cycles.

    It’s not an equilibrium system – only equilibrium systems search out maxima and minima like Libertarians would have the economy do. In non-equilibrium systems, you can quite easily get into persistent sub-optimal states that look exactly like a badly managed system. Information theory is much nastier than what simple-minded economists would have you believe – particularly the ones who present the false dichotomy between unfettered markets and communist totalitarianism.

  73. #73 Brian Macker
    August 17, 2007

    Frog,

    I took population genetics Stony Brook University and aced it. So I’m familiar with all that. You haven’t told me anything I don’t know.

    Do you have formulas that are going to predict what the human genome is going to look like in one hundred years or a thousand. You know a prediction on a non-closed system with no control over any variables. I know what can be done and can’t. You can’t do the analogous math precisely because the information is distributed over time and space with complex inputs.

    You compare apples to oranges. This actually shows you don’t understand one or the other. I’ll go with economics as your area of special ignorance.

    Your comments on Hayek are an embarrassment. It’s obvious you know nothing on the topic. Economic calculation is a technical term. This economics stuff is really beyond your ken. No, the communists were not able to do economic calculation, you need a pricing system for that. It’s a issue of self organized complexity, and distributed information. The theories behind this stuff is as beautiful as any other scientific or mathematical disciple. Biology has borrowed heavily from economics, so I wouldn’t get too uppity.

    Hayek won a Nobel Prize for his work. Yeah, he’s just some lame futurist. Several of the others I’ve mentioned were also Nobel Prize winners, and top intellectuals.

    Nobody respects Keynesians anymore [not even you apparently]. Their theory went up in smoke with stagflation, which they claimed was impossible.

    Of course, Keynesians never had a stable theory in the first place, it was often ad-hoc like various pseudo-sciences. Plus it was ludicrous, about as sensible as thinking that cutting the tails off mice would be heritable. He actually suggested throwing money out of helicopters as being something good for an economy.

    Read Hazlett for a cutting critique of Keynes. He demolishes Keynes well before the stagflation nail went into that coffin.

    So the Austrians abandoned supply and demand?
    Actually, no they just don’t believe it’s based on continuous formulas, nor do they think you can calculate velocities and equilibrium stuff. That was Keynes. You spent a large portion of your first post denigrating Keynes and you didn’t even know it. Then you say write this beauty of a statement:

    “And your disdain of Keynesians just shows how this is just a religious crusade.”

    I guess that means you are on a religious crusade. You are the one who are denigrating the Keynesian method. Do you feel stupid now? You should.

    However, I’m not here to give you an education. Just be aware that Austrians dispute with supply and demand curves is that the numbers involved are ordinals not cardinals. Supply and demand curves are semi useful fictions. They are not required to prove that price controls cause shortages, and surpluses. One can do that with the ordinal math. Nor does it require stability.

    I think I’ve spent enough time on your nasty diatribe. I might or might not read the rest. I’m really not learning anything from it and I prefer more worthy or at least more humble opponents. I’m not interested in talking with someone who thinks Libertarians are on the level of mass murderers, and uses the term Libertarian as if it were derogatory.

    I entertain discussions with uncivil and anonymous commenters for only so long before I pull the plug. You want to discuss this further you post your real name, which I think will tend to tone down your attitude as a side effect. People don’t tend to behave like this when they are publicly known, except perhaps if they work for some advocacy group.

    That goes for you too Steve and Fungi.

  74. #74 Steve_C
    August 17, 2007

    *sniff* *sniff*

    *pout*

    I don’t think anyone is going to miss you.

  75. #75 Brian Macker
    August 17, 2007

    In response to your last post. The business cycle was figured out long ago by the Austrians. Hayek exponded quite a bit on the Credit Cycle. See his book “Prices and Production”, or Mises “Theory of Money and Credit”.

    The problem is solved. Markets do seek equilibrium with a non-fiat or free banking monetary system. It’s fiat currency and non-market fractional reserve banking that leads to out of control business cycles. Mises predicted the Great Depression. Hows that for prediction. The Austrians also predicted the existence of stagflation. That among other predictions.

    “Information theory is much nastier than what simple-minded economists would have you believe – particularly the ones who present the false dichotomy between unfettered markets and communist totalitarianism.”

    You are still speaking from the position of ignorance. You haven’t even read the theories. They are far from simple minded. It’s actually the economists that are more in your camp with regards to mixed economies that take the more simple minded approach.

  76. #76 Brian Macker
    August 17, 2007

    “Greenspan thinks of himself as a Libertarian, don’t you?”

    And? Mother Teresa considered herself a humaniarian. Hitchens put that notion to rest. Greenspan was a Monetarist not an Austrian. He used to be an Objectivist and they hate Libertarians. He’s pretty universally reviled by Libertarians. Hell, Bill Maher calls himself a Libertarian, and he doesn’t know squat about economics.

    You are confusing two categories. Libertarian is in the category politics, while Austrian is in the category Economist.

    You will notice however that Greenspan didn’t set up any gulags.

    FYI, I’m more an Austrian than a Libertarian. I have disagreements with both. I don’t like some Austrian’s a-prioritism, and libertarians get under my skin on quite a few issues.

  77. #77 frog
    August 17, 2007

    Macker:

    Use real names? How do you know my name ain’t Marianne Frog?

    I knew quite well that I was dissing the Keynesians. I was contrasting the failed attempt (as was quite clear) to actually develop a mathematical approach to the Austrian’s disdain of real mathematical models (in general and not all, of course).

    “No, the communists were not able to do economic calculation, you need a pricing system for that. It’s a issue of self organized complexity, and distributed information”. You can’t just just speak ex cathedra on this. As I said, read up on New Guinea (Rappaport, “Pigs for the Ancestors”). There are many methods of economic calculation that are not “priced based”. Economic calculation is simply an economics term for positive and negative feedbacks; trying to hide behind jargon stinks. Those even exist within the most centralized communist regime. To reduce economic calculation to transfer of currency is either an unwarranted assumption, or trivially untrue. Systems work with feedback, whether they have one kind of discrete variable or a multitude of not directly fungible ones. Don’t you know that even in Soviet Russia there were self-organized economic links between car production decisions and the price of women’s underwear?

    Your statement on predicting the human genome x years ahead still misses the point – of course we can’t predict it precisely. But we can predict how different it will be – how many neutral base changes there will be, how many non-neutral changes there will be if selective pressure continue at current rate (and we collected more data), which regions are fairly impervious to change, which regions are linked… That’s what I demand of economics. Give me equations that predict the size of market fluctuations, the length of boom-bust cycles, the different frequencies in the fluctuations… If those equations exist, I would be well pleased to have a pointer.

    Compare your link on an abstract to a review on Austrian ideas on the business cycle with the Wikipedia page on Hardy-Weinberg. If the materials therein are of the same caliber… well, then I would be thoroughly unimpressed. It’s just not good when you get more meat on Wikipedia.

    Additionally, how do you know which economists are in my “camp”? Just as you accused Steve_C of over-reaching, you jump into the same hot water. I’ve seen little work that would be in my “camp” – it’s definitely not the work of any of the dominant “schools”. You didn’t understand my little rabbit tale, did you?

    Then “Markets do seek equilibrium with a non-fiat or free banking monetary system.” That’s just trivially untrue, it’s an assumption in all the systems, and untestable as long as no explicit equations are proferred. Point me to something like Hardy-Weinberg, where we can show which allele-frequencies are close to equilibrium over some given time regime; there we can actually test semi-equilibrium conditions.

    And don’t give me the “Hayek won a Nobel prize,” the argument from authority won’t fly. Give me his equations: put up! Postmodern literary theorist also win the Nobel prize for lit – that doesn’t mean their novels are worth a damn.

    Last, but not least: the game of ordinal value vs. cardinal value is an illusory silliness derived from mathematical unsophistication. Cardinal utility is simply a different mapping of the ordinal space. You can map any damn space on any other one, as long as you’re careful about what information you’re are losing or gaining in the process. The silliness about “equations” comes from the same pseudo-mathematical thought:

    Rothbard on the assumption of continuity:
    “”Most writers on economics consider this assumption a harmless, but potentially very useful, fiction, and point to its great success in the field of physics… The crucial difference is that physics deals with inanimate objects that move but do not act.””

    Such complete hogwash. You can, and must use calculus, in large systems that are self-organizing. You just have to include the errors, themselves equations that fine mathematicians have worked out. But to avoid actually doing empirical work, but creating the illusion of scientific work, Libertarians theorist have latched on to these ideas. These are political, and not scientific positions. Do dielectric calculations without calculus — there you have “self-energizing” elements. Calculate protein interactions with simple ordinal calculations. Calculus isn’t all of mathematics — but equations are the heart.

    Most economics, and the Austrian in particular, smells just like postmodern theory. Lot’s of jargon, lot’s of “subtle” semantic arguments, but at the end of the day there’s no payoff. The best is no more sophisticated than the silly kinetic models in biology, and the worst looks more like pre-Newtonian physics, with rocks wanting to go towards the earth.

  78. #78 Brian Macker
    August 18, 2007

    “How do you know my name ain’t Marianne Frog?”

    Cute.

    “I knew quite well that I was dissing the Keynesians.”

    The way to the path is not paved with lies froghopper. Don’t fake it using Wikipedia. You need to be intellectually honest if you want to reduce your error. To you it’s all one big fuzz at this point. A confusing mishmash of unknown jargon.

    “trying to hide behind jargon stinks.”

    It’s called using scientific terminology. It’s done so that when we talk about scientific concepts we don’t confuse them with commonly used terms and ideas. Sometimes a common word is used but with a different meaning. It’s not to equivocate or hide behind jargon. It’s to be precise in our discussions.

    Thus, for instance the word “scarce”, “rational”, “shortage” and yes “economic calculation” mean something. They don’t mean the same things as they do in an everyday conversation. Just like a “strange” quark isn’t queer, a “scarce” “good” is not necessarily rare.

    You can’t have it both ways here. You can’t claim that you know all the stuff already and also claim I’m hiding behind jargon. These words have precise meaning and you aren’t using the words correctly.

    You want something that is predictable. Well economics says that if you have price controls and you set the ceiling below the natural market price then you will have shortages. The shortages are then accompanied by waiting on lines.

    So during the 1970s when we had price controls for gas. The government set a maximum price at which gas could be sold and we ended up with shortages and waiting on lines to get the gas.

    The easy way to see that the Soviets were not doing economic calculation what that there were all these lines throughout the system. Lines can take various forms, from actual lines of people waiting to buy goods, to waiting lists, to rationing cards, etc. The reason this occurs is that there are more people who want to buy the good at the lower price than can be served. Quite obvious really.

    Likewise at the lower price there are less producers that want to make the item. Mugabe is ignoring this economic law as we speak and destroying his country just like the Soviets. He thinks he can set prices by fiat and have a functioning economy. He can’t.

    Economic theory tells you the correct actions in this situation. Don’t steal farms from farmers and hand them over to thugs. Don’t set price ceilings for goods in the market or producers will stop producing them.

    Tens of millions of people have perished due to smug distain for economic theory. Mock at your peril.

    A book on Antropology just doesn’t cut it when trying to understand these concepts. If those tribesmen use any form of money then they are doing economic calculation via the money, if not then they have a barter economy. Barter economies are less efficient and also don’t do the kind of economic calculation that monetary systems can do.

  79. #79 True Bob
    August 18, 2007

    So during the 1970s when we had price controls for gas. The government set a maximum price at which gas could be sold and we ended up with shortages and waiting on lines to get the gas.

    Untrue, Brian.

    We had shortages completely unrelated to Nixon’s price controls. The OPEC embargo drove availability down, and OPEC price increases drove prices up. The USA was specifically targeted by OPEC.

    These were political actions on OPEC’s part, related to Western support for Israel. No economics were involved.

    Nixon’s price controls applied to known oil supplies, not newly discovered ones. It was a government effort to force new oil exploration. This was also accompanied by national 55 mph speed limit and creation of the famous and largely now stagnant CAFE standards.

  80. #80 Brian Macker
    August 18, 2007

    “Last, but not least: the game of ordinal value vs. cardinal value is an illusory silliness derived from mathematical unsophistication.”

    This is just more ignorance on your part. You don’t understand the problems being solved.

    “Cardinal utility is simply a different mapping of the ordinal space. “

    Oh, please. Again you don’t know what you are talking about. I’m not going to tell you how this is used in ecomomics because you are so arrogant I want you to keep twisting in the wind. I will give you a different example.

    Ordinals only provide ranking and are not commensurable the way cardnals are.

    If some kids ran a race and I told you that Joe ran the mile in four minutes, Sue in seven minutes. Then a second mile race occurred with Tim running in five minutes and Alex running in eight.

    Now you can say that Joe runs faster than Tim and that Joe is twice as fast as Alex. You can also draw a graph.

    If on the other hand the only information you had was that two races where run and that in the first race Joe came in first and Sue second, while in the second race Tim came in first and Alex second you can’t answer those questions, nor can you draw a graph. Ordinals don’t work the way cardinals do.

    Economics works it’s way up from ordinals not cardinals. It’s different than physics.

  81. #81 j.t.delaney
    August 18, 2007

    Didn’t we just hear from another pedantic Libertarian make the same sort of ridiculous statement that the Austrian school of economics was a more rigorous discipline than biology? This all sounds awfully familiar…

  82. #82 Bill_from_defcon
    August 18, 2007

    If one ‘side’ is saying something like this:

    *I think we should KILL all of the babies by abortion.

    And the other side is saying this:

    ? Oh no. We shouldn’t do that.

    And the demos and the Libbies request that we split the difference by saying,

    ? I believe we should only rip apart half of the babies…

    Then the liberal press and deathcom.con will say, killing babies is a choice and the more babies that are murdered the stronger the constitution becomes.

    YOU ARE SICK.

  83. #83 Carlie
    August 18, 2007

    [biting knuckles] Don’t feed the troll, don’t feed the troll, don’t feed the troll….

  84. #84 Brian Macker
    August 19, 2007

    J.T.Delaney,

    Your comment is typical of this crowd so far. I tell you that economics is a science and does have things to say about economics that need to be listened to. You interpret that as my claiming that biology isn’t a rigorous science. Why don’t you point out the section of my comments which lead you to such a ridiculous claim? I think biology in many ways is more “hard” than physics, at least with the claims made. I find dubious the claims made about knowing conditions nanoseconds or picoseconds after the start of the big bang. Then I will attempt to expand further in such areas so people like you don’t make such mistakes.

    The lynx/hare predatory/prey cycles are simple in comparison to what’s going on in the business cycle. It isn’t the same kind of simple game. The underlying issues driving the cycles are completely different. The point is not that biology or physics is inferior. The point is that some of the methodologies utilized in those disciplines are not applicable to economics. Nor should the expectations of the theories be the same. Stick a gas in a room at the same temperature and pressure then change conditions and it will behave exactly the same. People are actors and that isn’t the way they behave.

    To apply the methodologies and expectations biology or physics to economics is not the correct approach. Worse yet is applying a science to the wrong problem. One shouldn’t use biology to decide economic issues. Just because the laws of economics doesn’t satisfy the expectations a biologist has doesn’t mean they are not none-the-less laws. Hard and fast laws.

    So when the U.S. government set price caps on gasoline during the seventies the precise results as predicted by the economic laws happened. Those predictions are shortages, lines and failure to distribute goods. The very rise in the costs oil and gas are also predicted from prior events, loose monetary policy.

    Similar events occurred recently. The Feds loose policy during the Clinton administration is what lead to the internet bubble and the resulting rise in all commodity prices and not just gas prices. Other things are predicted by theory are also happening. Things such as a weak dollar, a trade deficit, and the value of the metals in our coins rising (at this being more than the nominal face value). They originally stamped pennies out of copper instead of gold because it’s a cheap base metal and therefore like paper can be inflated. During the 70’s with inflation the nominal face value of the penny did not keep up with rising copper prices so people were melting them down. So the government switched to zinc so they could continue debasing the currency. Funny thing now is that the amount of zinc in a penny costs two cents now.

    The same policies are being followed now as before except for setting price ceilings on gasoline. That is why we do not have lines at the gas pumps, with average Joes heating their swimming pools in Texas while average Joes were freezing to death in the north. If you get the same price for heating oil in Texas as in North then why bother paying for shipping, storage, delivery and transaction costs involved in getting the oil from where it’s produced to where it’s needed?

    So back in the 70s instead of paying the higher prices that should result from an increased stock of money we waited on lines.

    What is especially disturbing this round of credit expansion (from the perspective of an American) is that other policies were being followed that tend to mask the expansion. The opening trade relations due to the Reagan/Thacher revolution means that much of the expansion is being absorbed by the emerging economies (emerging from under the cloud of socialism). While our corporations are investing heavily overseas the U.S government and the common citizen via an increase in borrowing is more than offsetting that. There will come a point where the realization will occur that repayment is unlikely. It’s not like a regular borrower because in this case the borrower can print his own money. So the next stage in this credit expansion is inflation, a weak dollar and overseas holders of dollars wishing to dump them. Last round during the 70’s there wasn’t a hell of a lot of foreign holders of dollars.

    All in all our presidents tend to be economic dolts. Nixon, a republican, was one of the worst with his communist style wage and price controls, and he set the stage for the inflation levels of the Carter years. Carter was no better. It was Reagan and Paul Volker that ended this.

    This time around it will not be as easy to get back on track. Alan Greenspan ignored the Austrians and when with Monetarist theory. Monetarist theory is prone to being fooled by the very events that occurred from the 80’s till today. That theory fails to see foreign cash absorption. You are going to pay the price for that economic mistake. We are going to see a housing crisis which has been predicted for several years now by the Austrians. There are extreme problems with both Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac, hedge funds, etc.

    This kind of stock jobbing is historically repeated, over and over. Happened in the aftermath of the French revolution and at that very time there were voices screaming not to screw with the currency. The powers that be didn’t listen and backed their currency with an endless stream of new assets, using the land taken from the Church to back the currency. Yeah, that makes sense. What stupidity.

    The Monetarists think they can just stop inflation by raising interest rates now. However they don’t realize that they have disturbed the structure of production. The low interest rates have set the incentive for people to over invest in long term capital. Things like houses, and internet companies. Sure people need both but not in the quantities being build.

    It will soon be discovered that these are overpriced and then the fun begins as the asset prices drop. Then the political pressure begins just like in post-revolutionary France for government action. The action that will have the most pressure will be to do precisely the wrong thing, keep inflating the currency, to prop up the prices.

    This will maintain the prices of those initially inflated assets that experienced the initial unequally distributed inflation that naturally occurs when you inject money (after all not everybody gets the new dollars). No problem there. The thing is the extra money will now start driving up othe prices.

    I also don’t think the average liberal realizes to what extent inflation robs from the little guy. In the imagination of the liberal it’s the “rich” that have all the cash and loan it to the poor. Thus they imagine the advantage inflation gives to the debtor [after all he pays in cheaper dollars … paying back a loan on a $400,000 house when inflation means a two bedroom goes for $2,000,000 and the average salary in the US is $100,000 sometime in the future] means that the rich get screwed. That is not however the case.

    It is actually the more wealthy that are the greatest debtors (in terms of cash) and most of the assets of the very wealthy are tied up in hard assets used to produce goods for the common man. Many average Joes were richer than Donald Trump on a liquidation basis for most of Trumps lifetime. He lives on borrowed cash, invested in production assets.

    So it is the very ignorance of economics of the average Joe and the left is going to cause the wrong steps to be taken to reign in the currently looming crisis. There is going to be enormous pressure for price caps by people like “True Bob” above who think the rising prices are due to greedy oil executives. Also from people who think that a little inflation is good medicine. But the cat is out of the bag already. Future inflation levels are already to a large extent set by prior policy going all the way back to the timeframe of Clinton.

    The economy is not a turn on a dime sort of system. Unlike hares and lynxes people look to interest rates to make long term plans. How many people are going to be screwed when rates start rising as predicted by theory when they are holding variable rate mortgages? Lots. Can we predict exactly how many and the political effects, etc. No. Why? Because it’s not just a matter of a stable environment producing so many lynxes per year and so many hares.

    Economics cannot predict what actions actual human actors will take. The theories do not say that the president will put someone in charge of the Fed who is loose on monetary policy or tight. There was no way to predict that Reagan would be elected and Volcker would be put in place, nor to predict exactly what they would try to do nor accomplish.

    Your comment itself carries about as much weight as a creationist saying the same thing when a evolutionist shows up on a I.D. forum.

    “Didn’t we just hear from another pedantic Evolutionist make the same sort of ridiculous statement that the Evolution was a more rigorous discipline than I.D.? This all sounds awfully familiar…”

    Actually, it’s your responses that sound familiar. The no-nothing responses are deafening.

    Finally, I am not saying that the human race is going to go extinct or something. We’re just in for rough times with inflation and whoever is president next is going to look bad no matter what they do and especially if they do the right thing.

    As an individual you can do some thing about it. Switch to a fixed rate loan for one thing. You’ll thank me later if you do. The monetarists are wrong – they don’t have inflation licked (and are not currently measuring it correctly). You trust them at the peril of your pocketbook.

    I don’t think it’s because they are evil. They just have a different world view. They believe in theories that are incorrect and will lead to error. There are incentives in place that tend to cause the government to spend cash and inflate. It’s not about evil individuals and all about bad incentives and institutional structures. We really shouldn’t have a Fed and it doesn’t matter who’s in charge the incentives are bad. Hell if I were president the current situation would put me in a bad place. Do I stop the inflation knowing full well it will expose the malinvestments and lead to a deep recession, or do I inflate and harm poor people and increase the malinvestments to higher levels and leave the problem for the next president? Bush has knowingly or unknowingly done the latter.

    Climate change is a minor blip on the radar, something that from an economic viewpoint is just another input. If you really want to “save species” then you better learn about economics because man is just another organism and if you don’t know his survival strategy you can predict the outcomes of your policies. Some environmentalists grew up and recognized this, many are just using environmentalism as an excuse to push socialism.

    I’ve watched as policies that were suppose to save the elephants and rhinos, instead caused an acceleration of their decline. All because the people involved don’t understand economic incentives. It’s sad really. They changed the incentives so it didn’t pay to keep elephants around anymore. They forced the countries that had good policies and large stocks to move over to the socialist models practiced by the ones that had already decimated their stocks. Too bad the background on this can’t be communicated in a snarky two liner comment, or some political slogan, or a T-shirt with a picture of some mass murderer and homophobe like Che Guevara.

  85. #85 Brian Macker
    August 19, 2007

    “I don’t think anyone is going to miss you.”

    You are what I call a “comments enforcer”. Their the ones that try to crank up the the level of emotion and flaming on a comment thread to drive out opposing ideas on what are ultimately non-intellectual grounds.

    I get the same kinds of comments from the extremists in every crowd and the includes Libertarians, and even Austrian economists. Yes, people who lack intellectual honesty and humility are in every crowd.

  86. #86 Brian Macker
    August 19, 2007

    “The budget and the Fed are the two primary systems of controlling the national economy. The Fed is quite independent – how many Fed chairmen have been let go recently? It’s been a sinecure since Volcker – short of a complete melt-down, they sit and sit and sit…”

    Precisely the point. Clinton didn’t ‘control’ the economy. You can’t take credit for that which you don’t control. So what’s your point? Address your comment to the other guy.

  87. #87 Brian Macker
    August 19, 2007

    Bill_from_defcon is a good example of why I’m against this type of cartoon, and the demonization that goes with it. Just substitute fetus for kitten and donkey for elephant and Myers wouldn’t be posting it, even though it makes the same point.

  88. #88 Brian Macker
    August 19, 2007

    Carlie,

    You are another enforcer. Trolls bait like your co-enforcer does. I’m expresssing honest opinions.

  89. #89 True Bob
    August 19, 2007

    Brian,

    You are entitled to your own theories and analysis, you are not entitled to your own facts.

    The 70s price controls were a response to OPEC’s actions, not some glorious socialist plot. The shortages were (again) driven by OPEC’s embargo and price adjustments.

    Reagan and Volcker may have been involved in inflation changes, but would you agree that it was worth the trade in national debt? Do you agree that national debt means nothing (and from your remarks about printing new money and inflation, you cannot logically agree)? If not, then you should like Clinton much more than Reagan, Bush the Smarter, and Shrubco.

    Brian, you don’t know me at all. Have I suggested price caps? No. Are oil companies run by greedy bastards? Like just about every other corporation, yes. How does your neutral planning and analysis predict that corporate executive salaries would be 400 times the Average Joe’s now, when 50 years ago it was only 40 times AJ’s?

    Assuming just a little knowledge, why would anyone stay in an adjustable rate loan? It seems a bit ignorant to assume that everyone has the means to swap out their loans when they feel like it, or that they have the education to recognize when they are in trouble.

    Economics cannot predict what actions actual human actors will take.

    Since the economy is composed of transactions among human actors, what can economic theory predict? It sounds like a war plan – it never survives first contact with the enemy. I hope you agree that corporations are also human actors and not autonomous robots.

    I’m not saying economic theory is BS, I’m saying that you are using specious arguments and cherry pick your facts. I also suggest that you have a political bias in your assumptions. If inflation hurts the little guy so much, why single out liberals as ignorant of it?

  90. #90 Brian Macker
    August 19, 2007

    True Bob,

    I have a different understanding of what it means for a people to benefit from their natural resources.

    Using your definition of getting the oil proceeds I’d like to know where my cut of all that Texas and Alaskan oil is, not to mention all the Coal, Gas, and mineral proceeds. Damn, it’s not going to me the average American so it must have been going to some foreign power, not us Americans.

    You know some of those corporations are international, some Canadian. When will those Canadians stop exploiting Americans?

    The reality is that if the purpose of the invasion was to expropriate Iraqi wealth for the U.S. it isn’t working. You are aware that there a dolts out there who believe thatq the U.S. is as wealthy as it is because we are imperialists? That’s nonsense and ahistorical.

    Of course you can always interpret the U.S. going into a country to enforce contracts as imperialism but it just isn’t the same thing. If a country like Venezualia doesn’t have the capital or technology to find and develop their resources they invite in foriegn help. The fact that the Spanish stole the land from the natives three hundered years ago isn’t the fault of the new investors. Many of these banana republics invited private U.S. investors in to build railroads and infrastructure, then backed out of the voluntarily agreed to deals (as voluntary as can be expected given their political institutions).

    Foreign investors only have only so much control over our overseas investments as is amply displayed by the fact of the nationalizations after WWI, Chavez, Niger, and the endless array of other thefts of foreign investments inspired by Socialist dogma.

    Hell Communist dogma is such that there is no allowance for just ownership of capital at all. You see it’s the worker class and not the captialist that actually make everything. Therefore any slice of the economic pie taken from productions based on the ownership of capital is just plain olde exploitation.

    Of course, this suffers from numerous fallacies. One being that the capital saved by Capitalists was never earned by working. Two that people always fall into one class or the other, and can’t shift or be members of both. I’m in both classes since I have savings invested in captital. Three the mistake being that captialists don’t work. Believe me it is hard work determining where to invest your earnings. Four not realizing that the time cost of money, and risk deserve payment in their own right. Fifth not realizing that the capitalists very captial is mostly invested in producing goods for the commong man, and not luxury goods like pyramids, palaces to Saddam, or statues to Lenin.

    I think it’s a little lame to whine about exploitation when the cash (and with it capital goods) is running the other way, into Iraq. One can just as easily argue that the Iraqis and Saudis are exploiting us and corrupting our political institutions.

    “We had shortages completely unrelated to Nixon’s price controls. The OPEC embargo drove availability down, and OPEC price increases drove prices up. The USA was specifically targeted by OPEC.
    These were political actions on OPEC’s part, related to Western support for Israel.”

    Shortage is an economic term that you are apparently unfamilar with. Had we done nothing in resoponse to this prices would have risen, but no shortages would have occurred.

    Your interpretation of the 70s oil crisis is also lame. I knew damn well that the prices that were capped were domestic supplies. They were still price ceilings and still had the same effect, shortages and lines. The percentage of domestic oil production was higher back then.

    If we put price caps on now we will have a shortage and lines. We don’t have that now. I can go out an buy as much gas as I have the means to do so. A shortage is when I have the cash but can’t get the goods.

    Why on earth do you think capping the price on our domestic supplies wouldn’t have an effect, especially when the rest of the supplies were just nationalized by other governments and they were raising prices? If no price caps were maintained then domestic producers would have produced more, actually shipped the product where it was needed, actually refined more product, etc.

    In fact even with the lower production numbers we can just cap domestic prices at a sufficiently low price to cause a shortage, even now.

    Your argument is absolutely silly from an economic point of view.

    During this period I remember a story where Corning Glass or some other producer of fiberglass insulation was not able to produce product. Captialism was working as the price signals from rising fuel costs were causing people to upgrade their insulation causing a rise in prices in the fiberglass market. This normally would lead to increased production in response to the price signal. At which point Corning could bid more for fuel in order to produce more insulation. However, the price controls on domestic oil prevented this from happening.

    Why again should a domestic oil producer pump, store and refine the crude plus transport it below cost? On the margin it made no sense. So only the domestic stocks

    Understanding things from a scientific viewpoint involves intepreting your observations. Observations are not pure truth spilling in on you. Popper understood this when he developed his philosophical theories about science.

    I remember back when the oil crisis occurred there were many journalistic reports of how the oil industry was hoarding oil. Well, yes the oil industry has to store oil for efficient oil processing, so they always had all these tanks anyway. There wasn’t some damn boom in the construction of storage tanks (and that’s the falsify observation to the journalist reports) just to hold oil off the market. You see observation is based on theory to begin with. There was no incentive to sell existing stocks at prevailing prices. It costs money to refine and distribute oil and the price controls made it more profitable to do the wrong thing.

    “Nixon’s price controls applied to known oil supplies, not newly discovered ones. It was a government effort to force new oil exploration”

    I said Nixon was an economic dolt and I mean it. Lowering the price producers can get for their product lowers production, period. The was the direct, short term, and main effect of the caps. Exploring for oil is a long process and by the time it comes on line well it’s subject to the same kind of interference. Nixon was setting a precident that indicated the government was willing to screw domestic producers and you think that will increase domestic investment? That’s completely backwards.

    Government doesn’t have the kind of control that non-economists think it does. Economics is about the laws of herding cats, actors who have individual interests. You can try to do this with a stick but it’s better to put out a warm bowl of milk.

    Humans can predict and often the triggering event can cause the effect prior to its actual occurance, especially if it’s predicable. Thus the enactment of the Smoot Hawley tariffs was a trigger for the Great Depression (the stage for which was set in motion by prior monetary inflation). They didn’t have to be signed and in place for people to react. They only needed to know that in principle trade barriers were going up.

    Do Lynxes and Hares act in this way? Do they predict future population levels and adjust their production of offspring? Do they realize that since trappers have moved in to take out the Lynxes that they should adjust accordingly? Hell, no.

    Oil producers aren’t stupid rabbits, and do take risk into account. Leftist politics (Nixon was lefist in his economic policies and perhaps his military too since he promised to end the war) is risky to captital. Thus you will a response from the people controlling the production goods. Make it impossible to build refineries or to capture the profits and they don’t get built. Make the proposition of ever being able to collect on an investment and the production goes down.

    “This was also accompanied by national 55 mph speed limit and creation of the famous and largely now stagnant CAFE standards.”

    I was there, OK, I know. I’m in my late forties. Why you think that should or would have any effect on shortages I have now damn clue. Shortages are caused by attempts to screw with the market price. A 55 mph speed limit and the CAFE standards lower demand directly and would have zero effect on shortages unless they happened to be so onerous that they caused demand to drop sufficiently to cause the market price to drop below the government set price ceiling. That didn’t happen and wasn’t likely to.

    So you see the same things I do with an untrained eye and see different. So what. How is that different than the creationist interpreting the fossil record the way they do or the radiological evidence?

    A hard and fast rule of economics is that if you set a price ceiling above the market price it will have no effect, the minute is either placed below the market, or the market price shifts upwards for other reasons you will get shortages, and reduced production below what would have happend in the unfettered market.

    Shortages being defined as having consumers willing to buy more product at the artificially low price and producers unwilling to produce and sell at that low price. Which is why we see Mugabe’s thugs breaking into stores to enforce the selling of the stores inventory at the below market prices he set, and we see the lines of people outside the stores waiting to get one. It’s obvious legalized looting really at the early stages. Then as the producers stop producing there is nothing to loot and only the lines remain. Then one can blame those evil producers for trying to cheat the consumer, and of hoarding raw materials. Socialism at it’s best.

    If only Clinton had reigned in the Fed, not harrassed women, not pardoned a bunch of crooks, and not slaughtered a bunch of otherwise law abiding religous fanatics, then I would have been happy with him.

    My list for Bush is much longer. I don’t like the idea that as an atheist I am a second class citizen. I don’t like his inflationary policies. I think invading Iraq although not a moral mistake was a grandly stupid idea and I think he is mismanaging it. I thought maintainig a embargo on Iraq was a mistake from the get go. Bush’s trade policy sucks, as does his immigration policy. His science policies are for the most part also wrong. He is lining the pockets of his pals (as do they all). I don’t like faith based initiatives. I hate his stance on terrorism. I absolutely loath his legal manuverings and spin on torture (again I forgot Clinton no better).

    So I don’t like all the insinuations that I’m pro-Bush just because I don’t think it is useful to demonize the guy, or anyone else, unless they are following outright evil policy.

    Clinton wasn’t the second coming of satan and neither is Bush. They are what you would expect from the political class, and you would probably do the same if you wanted to run the place. All of you. You’d screw up in various ways. You’d hide your positions on certian issues to get elected. You’d be swayed by bad information (like all the Democrats you can see on video sword rattling against Saddam before 9/11).

    So tone it the down. Bush isn’t Hitler and we don’t live under Fascism. That was my point and it’s not directed at “True Bill” or anyone else in particular unless you are actually doing it.

    My other point is you probably don’t know economics well and someones actions can be motivated by their understanding of the world and not because they are inherently “evil”.

    The minute Bush moves from stupidity to outright dictatorial power grab then that is the point I will ascribe his behavior to evil. There are certain acts that one does that moves beyond a line which you must be aware you are doing wrong.

    I don’t think Bush is beyond that line although I could be persuaded by evidence. I think for instance that Abu Girab was a issue of lack of control over some idiots, and poor training. Bush has shown a tendency to correct and not aggrevate such situations. Although I think he set a tone in which they were likely I didn’t think he ordered them. Show me the orders and I’ll change my position.

    Of course, given certain evidence I’d have to change my position on Clinton too. If you think moving prisoners into third party countries for torture makes a person pure evil, then well both Clinton and Bush did so. I personally think is a severe moral error but I see why they did it. They thought they had a moral delimma where the choice was torture a bad guy or an innocent dies. I think that is a mistake. I’d rather convince instead of demonizing all Democrats or Republicans.

  91. #91 woozy
    August 19, 2007

    #86

    Bill_from_defcon is a good example of why I’m against this type of cartoon, and the demonization that goes with it. Just substitute fetus for kitten and donkey for elephant and Myers wouldn’t be posting it, even though it makes the same point.

    Well, yes and no. Replacing the donkey for the elephant would switch it from anti-gop to anti-democrat but the common anti-democrat complaint is that they are wimpy, or they are bloatedly complacent, or favor special interests rather over good old american values, or they hate america, or whatever, but few would claim they are indifferently cruel and evil. Nor can one really claim the current situation is one of “sensible centrists” pandering to the dems.

    A more likely anti-democrat cartoon would be something like a donkey saying “Let’s herring slap dancing the national pasttime and illegalize football”. The conservative eagle (with a farmer’s hat rather than a beret) says, “No, let’s not.” The sensible centrist says “Lets not illegalize either and let the market decide”. The the donkey yells “Intolerant racist closed-minded conservative!”

    Or, maybe, the cartoon should be a donkey saying “Let’s kill all gerbils” and the elephant saying “Let’s kill all hamsters” and the sensible centrist saying “Let’s do neither” and the donkey saying “Why do you so-called ‘centrists’ always blatently favor the GOP?”

    If one replaced kittens with fetuses the cartoon goes from a generic exageration of blanket bad ideas (“blend kittens” = generic bad republican idea) to a specific anti-abortion cartoon rather than an anti-gop hypocracy cartoon. Suggesting replacing kitten with fetuses is a good argument against the cartoon by pointing out there are other moral absolutes that work against the cartoonists ideals. Actually replacing kittents with fetuses makes a fairly weak anti-abortion cartoon as the pro-abortionists don’t claim that all babies should be killed but just that mothers should be allowed to kill their own babies.

    Yes, I, like you, tend to dislike generic “the other side is evil/bad/stupid” cartoons where the sides are arbitrary. On the other hand, I think it’s fair to feel toadying “sensible centrists” sucking up to the GOP is valid gripe.

    As to Myers not posting it if it were anti-abortion or anti-dem, well… so what, it’s just a cartoon and this is just a blog, right?

    ======
    For the record,
    I used deliberated anti-dem, anti-abortion, language and imagery above for the sake of attempting to be objective and “seeing things from the other side”. I am in fact a registered democrat (albeit it very chagrinned and unimpressed with the current state of the party) and am rather adamantly pro-abortion.

    And I, personally (i.e. IMHO), think a more accurate (and funny) cartoon would be:
    elephant: Let’s blend all kittens.
    eagle: Let’s not.
    elephant: You’re such an extremist. I could have asked for blending all kittens AND all puppies but I was willing to compromise.
    sensible centrist: Let’s meet in the middle. We *don’t* blend any puppies, we *do* blend all kittens *but* we use the lowest setting.
    elephant: Well, that’s a compromise but I can live with it. Deal!

  92. #92 True Bob
    August 19, 2007

    Brian, if I understand you, OPEC, controlling ~70% (more than double their current share) of the world’s oil at the time, enacting an embargo and price hikes on the US, had NO effect on supply. Please clarify. I do not disagree about price controls being a negative incentive for new investment. But those price controls did NOT apply to known sources of oil, i.e. OPEC oil.

    I think you are ignoring a major element of our historical foreign policy in your political commentary. Many of our sources for resources (all kinds, not just oil) were developed by our intrepid investors and their explorers. But, rather than fair dealing, those resources then get controlled by Local Warlord X (who becomes President, or Shah, or whatever), propped up by our military and military aid (training, equipment, etc), in order to ensure that the US gets unfettered access to cheap goods, while providing tin pot dictator with his sense of glory and life of luxury. Is this truly fair use or open competition? Is this a constant or variable in your economic modeling? How does your economic modeling account for human rights conditions?

    I never said being a corporate executive was easy. I imply it isn’t 10X harder than Joe Average’s job NOW than it was 50 years ago.

    Also, you use the terms socialism and communism pretty freely. There are and have been No True Socialist and No True Communist countries (as I’m sure you’ll note, no True Capitalist Countries either). It seems more like you slam concepts you disagree with, with these terms as pejoratives

    Blather freely, but other than jargon, all I’m hearing from you is a screed. Show some predictions. The fact that all economy is human action, but you note human action is unpredictable, is making me lean towards the “economics is an art, not science” camp. Probably more like a vastly immature science, with insanely numerous variables. If economics IS a science, you must be pretty wealthy, right?

  93. #93 frog
    August 19, 2007

    Macker,

    Ah, the esoteric “economic calculation,” which in plain English is simply the feedback between use and opportunity cost. That’s it – no magic, no need for jargon. Just a feedback loop. But buried in your ideology, you make mountains out of molehills. Just as the Reds find some obscure variety of “class warfare” in everything…

    The same with your oh-so-fine distinction between ordinal and cardinal. They’re just integer points on a number line – you can map back and forth. There are “distances” in any metric, which you try to wipe away by fiat. That’ll only work inside your religion – the rest of us need not respect your dogma’s that say a strict (or non-strict) ordering can not be converted into a distance metric.

    But the big whopper is:

    A book on Antropology just doesn’t cut it when trying to understand these concepts. If those tribesmen use any form of money then they are doing economic calculation via the money, if not then they have a barter economy. Barter economies are less efficient and also don’t do the kind of economic calculation that monetary systems can do.

    This simply shows how far outside of science your Austrian religion is. In science, that’s exactly what we do. When trying to tease out a principle, we start with a simplified case to experiment with. If you can’t do that, you can’t do science – which of course is exactly what your saints claim – that measurements can’t be made, that “econometrics” are non-sense. But without experiments and measurements, no science.

    In biology, one doesn’t start by trying to explain all cases simultaneously (particularly by praexology or some such philosophical nonsense). If you want to understand ecosystems, you start with an isolated island. If you want to understand cell physiology, you start with bacteria. That’s what you do in a science, something Libertarians seem to understand about as well as their Marxist comrades.

    A real science of economics would have to make an intensive study of small scale economies where it is even imaginable to unlink all the interactions. But since neither Libertarians, nor Marxist, nor almost any of the other shades have a real interest in basic research but prefer to act as shills for some political grouping, such research is unfortunately rare. In this respect, economists on the left have actually more intellectual honesty – there actually exist some who have followed that program. But the rest, it’s humbug. For god’s sake, no one even has a decent metric for unemployment!

    Just try to understand a computer using an economist approach (particularly Austrian). Or even a thermostat. Even game theory (ah, it uses cardinal numbers!) is mostly excluded from your angels on a head of a pin approach, when that kind of work should be the primary underpinnings of any economic approach.

    Catholics, Marxists, postmodern intellectuals and Libertarians! They talk a good game, but… it’s all the same 3rd century pre-scientific nonsense.

    And you’ve got to love the “prediction” that price-controls will lead to shortages. Even Marxist economists predict that… The question is the size of those shortages, the ripple effect on the rest of the economy, whether the excess capacity is redirected, and in what way… You know, testable predictions beyond the trivial knowledge that people will produce less if you lower their income. I predict that people will produce less if they’re starving! Maybe I deserve a Nobel for such incisive analysis.

  94. #94 Brian Macker
    August 27, 2007

    Frog, True Bob,

    You are both economic illiterates. Neither of you grasps any of the concepts. Bob, you still don’t understand what a shortage is after I explained it in detail. It’s sad really. Frog, you are the saddest of all since in your hubris you think that economics is just some mind game, while at the same time expecting it to what predict computer behavior and the behavior of thermostats. Really sad.

    Economics predicts things all the time. Like if you’re a socialist dictator that sets prices by fiat like Mugabe then you’ll get shortages. I can’t help it if you guys are too thick to tell the difference between shortages, scarcity, and a reduction in production.

    Had there been no price controls in the 1970s there wouldn’t have been a problem with lines, prices would have risen to the point where some consumers consumed less and some producers produced more with a resulting end to the shortage, plain and simple economic fact. This is economics 101 guys. You can’t figure this simple stuff out and yet you think you can understand the business cycle. Quite unrealistic.

  95. #95 Brian Macker
    August 28, 2007

    “Brian, if I understand you, OPEC, controlling ~70% (more than double their current share) of the world’s oil at the time, enacting an embargo and price hikes on the US, had NO effect on supply. Please clarify. I do not disagree about price controls being a negative incentive for new investment.

    No you don’t understand me. “Oil supply” and “shortage” are not synonymous. One can lower the oil supply without triggering a shortage or having “lines”.

    But those price controls did NOT apply to known sources of oil, i.e. OPEC oil.”

    As a matter of fact they did. Direct gas prices at the pump were capped. Nixon’s price controls:

    Phase I, which lasted from August 1971 through November 1971, applied to allwages and prices throughout the economy. Fortunately, global oil prices during thosethree months were stable so Phase I had only a minor effect on oil markets.

    Phase II, which lasted from November 1971 through January 1973, allowed all firms, except those in the oil or gas sectors, to increase prices above Phase I ceilings to reflect increases in production costs. Multiproduct firms outside of the oil industry were also given some flexibility to freely price individual product lines as long as they comported with a weighted average of firm-wide price increases. Heating oil shortages arose during the winter of 1972-1973, but most other oil products were unaffected by the price controls given that global prices remained soft during this period as well.

    Phase III, which lasted from January 1973 through August 1973, initially made Phase II price controls voluntary, albeit with heavy political pressure to encourage compliance. A jump in heating oil prices in early 1973, however, caused the Nixon administration in March 1973 to issue “Special Rule No. 1,” which reimposed strict price controls on the 23 largest domestic oil companies, which accounted for 95 percent of the industry’s gross sales. Smaller oil firms, however, were exempt.

    Special Rule No. 1 and the subsequent phase III price controls had a significant effect on the market because most independent gasoline stations at that time received their fuel from the 23 large companies. Because the largest companies were subject to price controls – and because provisions in Phase III prevented them from recouping the rising costs of crude imports if they refined the crude into products – the large companies reduced their imports of crude and their sale of refined products to others. Independent marketers, distributors, and other bulk consumers accordingly found it increasingly difficult to find fuel for their customers, setting off political demands for sharing shortages equally. That pressure resulted in the passage of the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act in November 1973.

    There were price controls not only on crude but refined products like home heating oil and gas. Those price controls applied regardless of the source of the crude, foreign or domestic.

    In fact the policies followed subsequently were also stupid and caused incentives for oil companies to increase foreign oil imports and reduce the use of domestic crude. This generally happens with these idiot politicians. They try to violate economic law, which is as real as any laws of physics, when the resulting consequences happen they try to enact another law in an attempt to force the economics to work in the way they want it to instead of the way it actually does work. . Which causes additional problems of other kinds.

    The Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act of 1973 EPAA was adopted to address the anger expressed by owners of independent gas stations who were cut off by the majors because of the latter’s rational response to the incentives created by Special Rule # 1 and Phase III. Thus a central element of the legislation was a freeze on buyer-seller relationships as they existed in 1972. Any substantive changes in buyer-seller relationships or ownership required federal approval, enmeshing regulators in many of the day-to-day operations of the industry. EPAA also enacted a two-tier system of price controls on domestic oil. Oil that had previously been discovered and developed was defined as “old oil” and the price for that oil was strictly controlled.30 “New oil,” on the other hand, was decontrolled.31 In November 1973, all stripper oil (defined as oil coming from oil coming from wells that produced fewer than 10 barrels of oil per day) was also released from the price control regime. The EPAA created an important allocation problem. Imported oil was the most expensive source of crude necessary to meet domestic demand, and it was not subject to price controls. Hence, the cost of imported oil determined the marginal costs (price) for gasoline sold in the United States. But many refiners had access to domestic “old” oil, which was subject to price controls. Accordingly, refiners who had access to “old” oil made much larger profits on their gasoline sales than refiners who depended on “new,” stripper, or imported crude oil.

    In response, the Federal Energy Administration (FEA) adopted an “old oil entitlements” program in December 1974. The federal government issued entitlements on a monthly basis to individual refineries. Entitlements were granted to equate each refinery’s access to “old” oil to the national average refinery access to “old” oil. Those refineries that used more controlled oil as a percentage of operations than the industry average had to buy entitlements from those refineries that used less than the average amount of controlled oil.

    An important consequence of this program was to increase imports. That’s because the best way for many refineries to reduce its reliance on “old” old so that they were entitled to subsidies (payments from other refineries) was to increase imports. The incentive to increase imports continued until the value of entitlement tickets equaled the value of the rents created by the price controls (the difference between the world price for oil and controlled prices times the volume of old oil).

    I think you are ignoring a major element of our historical foreign policy in your political commentary.

    I think you overestimate a foreign powers ability to control a trading partner by a long shot. I know all about the way businesses and our government has to get in bed with dictators. You make it seem like there were easy options at the time these things were happening. You are aware of Nazi’s and communists and other bad guys that were after some of these resources. Do you really think the U.S. has the power to go it alone and defeat every dictator on the planet at once? Hell we were in bed with Stalin to defeat Hitler during WWII. Your demands of your fellow Americans are ludicrous. What exactly is your “solution”, stop importing oil?

    “Also, you use the terms socialism and communism pretty freely. There are and have been No True Socialist and No True Communist countries (as I’m sure you’ll note, no True Capitalist Countries either). It seems more like you slam concepts you disagree with, with these terms as pejoratives”

    Communism is a pejorative because of the behavior of Communists, and the fact that following the rules of the ideology, which try to violate economic law, leads to disaster and famine. The only reason there has been no “true” Communist countries is that because the more you try to implement the policies of communism the more the country sinks into ruin. Thus the U.S.S.R. had to back off collectivization of farms just so people wouldn’t starve to death. Well, after tens of millions had starved to death is more like it.

    The only time socialism is not a pejorative, like in National Socialist, or Fascist is when it’s got a qualifier like “Democratic” in front of it, which means it’s isn’t true socialism either.

    “Show some predictions.”
    I predict heavy levels of inflation in the following ten to fifteen years due to the policies of Clinton and Bush.

    If economics IS a science, you must be pretty wealthy, right?

    Let’s see if I answer yes then you’ll then be using that to argue that I’m biased for the rich.

    It’s kind of an ignorant comment because if it was true then you’d expect all scientists to be rich. After all, if it’s a “science” then the geologists should be getting rich from finding oil all by themselves, meterologists from predicting the weather and gambling on futures, biologists by predicting plant disease and pest cycles and betting on cereal futures, etc.

    I already told you that the science says you can’t do the kind of prediction you have in mind, but you are not listening. Sure I was able to predict the rise in price of precious metals back in the Clinton days, and yes I bought a substantial amount of the stuff back when prices were half what they are now. I’ve been predicting a housing crash since the boom started due to Greenspan’s inflationary policies. It’s starting to play out. You can go over to some of those Austrian sites and investment advisors and you will see they have been right in their predictions on how the economy is playing out right now. These are very gross predictions however. Something you could make money on over a lifetime and not some get rich quick nonsense.

  96. #96 Brian Macker
    August 28, 2007

    “The same with your oh-so-fine distinction between ordinal and cardinal. They’re just integer points on a number line – you can map back and forth. There are “distances” in any metric, which you try to wipe away by fiat. That’ll only work inside your religion – the rest of us need not respect your dogma’s that say a strict (or non-strict) ordering can not be converted into a distance metric. This simply shows how far outside of science your Austrian religion is.”

    Spoken like a true crank. How many times have I hear Creationists call science, religion, and claim that scientists believe on the basis of faith.

    I gave you an example where it was clear that ordinals are different than cardinals, however without letting the cat out of the bag because I wanted you to show even more of your ignorance on the subject. I showed that you couldn’t map ordinals to cardinals in the case of two different races.

    In fact even if three runners run a single race you cannot map ordinals to cardinals merely on the basis of knowing the ordinals. Just because the one guy came in third doesn’t mean he was three times as slow, or that he arrived at the finish line exactly as far behind the second place finisher as the second place finisher did from the first.

    Now perhaps you could time them and use the cardinals to map to the ordinals but not the reverse. The situation is much worse in economics because at the lowest levels there are no cardinals to be had at all.

    Suppose I’m giving out free stuff to children in a class, a doll, a toy car, and a squirt gun. I ask them each to order them by preference. Well not only will the same items be ordered different by each kid but the preferences between them will be less or more strong. Furthermore there are no “units” to be had. Exactly how do you measure how much Billy wants the squirt gun over how much Sally wants the doll? You can’t because they are incommensurable.

    There is no mapping to be had from ordinals to cardinals because there just aren’t any cardinals. It is well understood by Austrians how prices arise from these ordinals but the method by which this happens means that the use of cardinal math is unworkable. That along with the shifting valuations people put on things makes the kind of math used by physicists inapplicable.

    Now I understand that this is about as unintuitive as quantum physics but that’s the way it is. Just because intuitively you think this must be based on cardinals doesn’t mean you are right. You are just self deluded.

    An economy actually works like a massive kind of multiprocessor supercomputer with hundreds of millions of processors sending signals via prices. Those prices are carrier waves for much more information than is intuitively apparent. Similar to the Einsteinian space time mollusk, a single price is a multidimensional entity spread over space and time, passing various levels of signals to the various processors. When the government steps in and sets up price controls it essentially flattens the mollusk wherever it tries to send a strong signal. The effect being that the supercomputer has dead spaces.

    Goods essentially roll down hill along the curves of the ever shifting mollusk. Thus when the government in the 70’s set oil price controls the mollusk, it raised the areas of the mollusk in the Northeast which was normally the low point in order to make oil move in that direction. So the oil stopped flowing.

    That you are unaware of all this is not surprising. Most people are ignorant of economics. What’s embarrassing is that you think you know what you are talking about. You don’t, and I haven’t even scratched the surface.

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