Lack of caution

I finally decided to write this after reading Oregon County Decides to Go Native by DA. My thesis is: we’re too confident of our ability to survive changes, and are too inclined to make risky changes, or fail to invest is safety.

This might surprise some of you who misread Economics and Climatology? or On getting out more. In some senses, “economics” is the full-throttle never-mind-the-dangers end of the spectrum, though you could argue that, at least in theory, it builds in some caution. But, as usual, it isn’t the economics, its the politics that is the problem. Which inevitably comes round to “its the electorate that is the problem” as DA’s story nicely shows.

What I was thinking was that in the “Goode Olde Dayes” of grinding rural poverty on the land for 80% of the population, anyone or any region who got too carried away trying out exciting new ideas without a decent backstop stood a fair chance of starving to death when their new crop failed. We’ve pretty well lost that caution: few people think we’re in any danger of starving to death, and those who do are generally treated as wild-eyed wackos. I don’t think its particularly likely myself, at least not any time in the near future. The danger is more that we have an apparently resilient society, but perhaps it isn’t as resilient as we think. There is a finance analogue to this too, in that people have somehow come to believe that the Euro mess will have a happy ending, possibly if everyone keeps insisting that All Will Be Well. But it might not be.

But there is safety in diversity. The residents of Josephine County (pop: 83,000), in southwestern Oregon are safe (in the long term, as a bloc; possibly not in the short term as individuals). If their experiment goes horribly wrong they can leave, or the Feds will step in. And it will be an interesting experiment, for good or ill.

Comments

  1. #1 TheGoodLocust
    2012/05/18

    Well, I live adjacent to Josephine County and travel there fairly often. Crime rates are generally quite low in such areas and the citizens, myself included, are quite capable of ventilating any violent criminals.

    I do agree with your point that we sometimes overestimate our ability to adapt, but I think risk is often required to truly make economic progress.

    Ideally the rural counties in Oregon could get back to logging. The barred owl is now being killed because that is the latest bogeyman regarding the decline of the spotted owl.

    I find this unlikely though since even if the Federal government became less intrusive the economic and social refugees that flood Oregon from California consistently vote to strip away the economic rights of rural communities in Oregon.

    Isn’t it odd that people bloc vote towards policies and parties that directly caused the flight from their home? You’d think they’d understand that they are going to wreck their new new home as well, but I guess it is easier to move bodies than it is to move minds.

  2. #2 mt
    2012/05/18

    “In some senses, “economics” is the full-throttle never-mind-the-dangers end of the spectrum”

    Sure. But then what are we disagreeing about?

    [I tried to address that in “On getting out more”. I was about as blunt as I was comfortable with there -W]

  3. #3 dhogaza
    2012/05/18

    Well, you can count on the good locust for not knowing WTF he’s talking about.

    “even if the federal government became less intrusive …” TGL seems to be unaware that the timberland in question is federally owned. It’s unlikely – nor would it be right – for the federal government to be “unintrusive” in the management of its property. Sort of like failing to paint naval ships, or to make sure they’re manned by well-trained sailors, or the like.

    Regardless, the old-style logging was running out even before the campaign was won to preserve a relatively small percentage of the 5% of old growth that was left. In the end, we’ll be left with about 2% of the old growth that was here when europeans arrived 150 years ago.

    Harvesting the rest would hardly solve the economic problems, and the timber industry was already starting to convert its mills to handle second growth before the battle was joined.

  4. #4 Russell
    2012/05/18

    John Aubrey’s Remains of Gentilism and Judaism (1680) defined merrie Englande’s good olde Dayes as the time when country folk revered “The Holy Mawle which they fancy hung behind the church door which when the father was seaventie the sonne might fetch to knock his father in the head as effete and of no more use.”

  5. #5 dhogaza
    2012/05/18

    William:

    Actually, there’s a good chance the federal payments will come through, better than even odds I think. The Republicans blocking it will figure out that the county votes heavily Republican in time.

    If their experiment goes horribly wrong they can leave, or the Feds will step in. And it will be an interesting experiment, for good or ill.

    It’s not an experiment, it’s desperation.

    Unemployment is high, the end of much of logging on federal lands cost a lot of people their jobs, both directly and indirectly. The federal payments that started in 2000 made up for the direct revenue to local government that came from the county’s share of federal timber receipts, but did not replace the revenue made by timber companies, thus the loss of jobs etc. While their property taxes are unreasonably low, the fact is that many feel they can’t afford even a modest increase. They’re too close to the edge, financially.

    And of course “they can just move” sounds hunky-dory until you realize that many have no skills outside the timber industry, don’t have the finacial resources to move where there are jobs (which have much higher living costs), etc. This solution is akin to suggesting all the greeks move to germany where their finacial problems will magically disappear …

  6. #6 Paul Kelly
    2012/05/18

    Some background.

  7. #7 TheGoodLocust
    2012/05/18

    @Dhogaza “TGL seems to be unaware that the timberland in question is federally owned. It’s unlikely – nor would it be right – for the federal government to be “unintrusive” in the management of its property.”

    That excuse doesn’t work for me. The land is owned by the people. Ideally they should be selling it or allowing some sort of homesteading. Instead the Federal government just holds onto vast holdings of land in the western US:

    http://strangemaps.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/map-owns_the_west.jpg

    Saying “no” is not “management.”

    Their policies are barely better than the hunting on the king’s land crap – huge reserves of forest and meat unavailable for the starving peasants. Federal agencies seem to care very little for actually allowing economic growth to occur.

    [There are no starving peasants -W]

  8. #8 TheGoodLocust
    2012/05/18

    “[There are no starving peasants -W]”

    That was a metaphor for 44% of the adult population in the US not working:

    http://nation.foxnews.com/rush-limbaugh/2012/05/07/obamanomics-88-million-us-adults-not-working

    [Oh come now, you can’t use Faux news, much less Rush, as a source -W]

    Less patriarchal “management” from the government would help. Less matriarchal “help” would improve things even further.

  9. #9 bluegrue
    2012/05/19

    @TGL: To quote Rush:
    > The number of people, adults, not working in this country is 88 million, out of an adult population of 200 million.

    The labor force participation rate that Rush is harping on is calculated for the entire population aged 16 or higher [1]. The 200 million is only the age group between 18 and 65 years old [2]. Rush takes the not working portion INCLUDING retirees and applies that percentage to the group EXCLUDING retirees to come up with his 88 million not working. Crooks and liars.

    [1] http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300000
    [2] http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-03.pdf

  10. #10 scatter
    2012/05/19

    “The danger is more that we have an apparently resilient society, but perhaps it isn’t as resilient as we think”

    I think that’s putting it mildly. With Just In Time business practices the world is effectively run right on the edge 24/7. It doesn’t take much for substantial disruption to occur – there is very little slack built into the system.

    Chatham House produced an interesting report looking at this earlier in the year:

    http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/public/Research/Energy,%20Environment%20and%20Development/r0112_highimpact.pdf

    [Weelll yes, but how true is that? Consider the Japanese tsunami: that was a pretty major event, but the world as a whole barely noticed. A while earlier some Indonesian event wiped out most of the hard disk manufacturing, and prices rose a bit, but the world as a whole hardly blinked. So I agree: the potential is definitely there -W]

  11. #11 GregH
    2012/05/19

    Not only do we demand economic growth, but it has to be the same kind we had in the past: laisser-faire, winner-take-all growth, so that men can be men again DAMMIT!

  12. #12 Hank Roberts
    2012/05/19

    > ideally … selling … homesteading
    — locust

    > “Many rural counties have great swaths of federal forests”
    — OregonLive

    Pity there’s no “commons” protection in land use nowadays.
    Oh, wait, that’s what the national forests _are_.

  13. #13 TheGoodLocust
    2012/05/19

    @WMC “[Oh come now, you can’t use Faux news, much less Rush, as a source -W]”

    That seems like a quibble. I’ve found Fox News to be less dishonest that other news sources.

    [Faux / Rush is worthless. Please only quote them if you want to talk to someone else -W]

    In any case, the point is that, for the US anyway, the number of people working is at its lowest rate in 30 years.

    @Bluegrue “Rush takes the not working portion INCLUDING retirees and applies that percentage to the group EXCLUDING retirees to come up with his 88 million not working. Crooks and liars.”

    Sounds like he may have made a mistake, but let’s not jump the gun here – I need some clarification. The link for the labor participation rate doesn’t say how it is calculated.

    How do you know it includes retirees?

    @Hank Roberts “Pity there’s no “commons” protection in land use nowadays.
    Oh, wait, that’s what the national forests _are_.”

    Private land is where the petroleum industry is booming since Obama’s regulatory agencies are “protecting” the US from a healthy economy on Federal lands.

    I’d rather do without that brand of “protection.”

    Natural gas prices have plummeted thanks to efforts on private lands.

  14. #14 Hank Roberts
    2012/05/19

    http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/worldfood/images/home_graph_3.jpg

    “By mid-2008, international food prices had skyrocketed to their highest level in 30 years. This, coupled with the global economic downturn, pushed millions more people into poverty and hunger.

    In December 2010, the FAO food price index rose above its 2008 peak. The index dropped to an 11-month low in October 2011, but food prices still remain generally higher than last year and very volatile….”
    http://www.fao.org/isfp/isfp-home/en/

    [You need to make a coherent argument, not just quote apparently irrelevant statistics -W]

  15. #15 Hank Roberts
    2012/05/19

    > Private land is where the petroleum industry is booming
    > … I’d rather do without that brand of “protection.”

    Letting the best be the enemy of the good rarely works out.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/05/18/bc-800-year-tree.html

    “consistent budget cuts over the last decade mean park rangers rarely monitor remote sites such as the Carmanah-Walbran Provincial Park”

  16. #17 Hank Roberts
    2012/05/19

    FAO documents what the financial shock did to food availability in poor countries — drastic cost increase — followed by a brief decrease and now a sustained greater increase.

    A big enough problem can make a lot of people hungry and they can’t _all_ move somewhere nicer.

    Tsunamis, no big problem, someone else will sell you expensive cameras or disk drives.

    Financial system breakdown, more of a problem, for more people, and more directly related to having enough to eat.

    That problem looked solved briefly (food prices dropped) and now looks like there’s more bad news to come (food prices are way, way up again).

    More at the link.

  17. #18 TheGoodLocust
    2012/05/19

    @WMC “[You need to make a coherent argument, not just quote apparently irrelevant statistics -W]”

    I think his point may have been in opposition to your statement that we have no starving peasants – hard to say but that’s what the facts imply. I’d probably assign some blame to the biofuel scam as well as the inflationary policies of the Federal Reserve.

    In any case, I think you are overly harsh on Fox. I’ll try not to quote them to you in the future, but you should realize their reputation is merely the result of a Soros-funded propaganda operation.

    @Hank Roberts Don’t your links prove my point then? The Federal government is not a good steward of the land.

    There are numerous examples of private land being better preserved than government land for completely selfish reasons. I know a lot of private land in the SE US has been managed extraordinarily well and at great expense because they wanted to preserve the habitat for the prey they hunt.

    Similarly, in Texas they have massive herds of African antelope that are going extinct in Africa. These were created and managed on public land for the purpose of hunting.

    Now the government is going stop them from doing that because they are “endangered” even though they created those herds in the first place:

    http://dailycaller.com/2012/02/26/texas-hunting-ranchers-fight-for-right-to-save-african-antelope-species/

    The point is that there is a huge difference between intent and results, which is a large part of the difference, I think, between liberal and conservative ideologies.

  18. #19 bluegrue
    2012/05/19

    @TGL
    Hint: The page reads “Age: 16 years and over”
    If that ain’t enough: There is a search box on that page. Copy and paste “Civilian labor force participation rate” into the search box on that very page and hit “search”. Or just click this finely crafted link:

    http://data.bls.gov/search/query/results?q=Civilian+labor+force+participation+rate

    The first hit takes you the following table.
    http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_303.htm
    Civilian labor force participation rate by age, sex, race and ethnicity. Oh lookee, there are even categories “75 and older”.

    Enough of the teasing. Why can’t you do that yourself? Why do you just leave it at “How do you know it includes retirees?” Why this complete and utter lack of basic curiosity? I just don’t understand it.

    I don’t buy “mistake”. Rush makes his money with this kind of “mistake”.

  19. #20 Harry
    2012/05/20

    We are continually told, preventing global warming would be a disaster for the global economy.

    [Some people say this, and I guess they pay for their shills to say it continually. But plenty of other businesses just say that all they need is a stable regime -W]

    The global economy will have no trouble, though, in adapting to the results of climate change. In fact, that’s what is so good about an economy, it is the best way we have of adapting to anything.

  20. #21 Harry
    2012/05/20

    “[Some people say this, and I guess they pay for their shills to say it continually. But plenty of other businesses just say that all they need is a stable regime -W]”

    It depends on where you live. Some countries accept that the science is probably the best way to go, others think it’s all just a massive attack on our sacred way of life. In Australia, we are all set to undo a carbon tax that is now law, but no one knows when, all in the name of political expediency. Business would love to know some certainty, but political greed is much more powerful than rational economic considerations. The tax is being pilloried as a political act of economic genocide, that will be overturned at the first chance. The problem is that business does not know what will happen, or when.

    [True enough. This is, effectively, just special pleading from some businesses. And the electorate are dumb enough to believe it. Having a dumb electorate is a big problem. I know people who are smart enough to work in software but still dumb enough to believe the septic junk -W]

  21. #22 Nick Palmer
    2012/05/20

    @Harry
    “The global economy will have no trouble, though, in adapting to the results of climate change. In fact, that’s what is so good about an economy, it is the best way we have of adapting to anything”

    That’s true as far as the abstract concept of “the economy” goes. However, what we end up with if we do nothing to avoid further climate change just might be an economy that is very unpleasant and difficult to live in for subjects of that economy.

    I suspect your comment is from the same stable of thought as those who believe that we will be able to adapt to anything that happens because life has survived ice ages, meteor impacts, mass extinction events etc before – trouble is they seem strangely unaware that that process of adaptation would involve a whole lot of death, difficulty and screaming regret for billions…

  22. #23 TheGoodLocust
    2012/05/20

    @Bluegrue Okay, I’m looking at this and am not understanding your beef.

    The workforce participation rate for everyone over 16 is 63.6%. The population over 16 is 243.275 million, which means 154.723 million of them are working and about 88.5 million are not working – slightly higher than what Rush said.

    I do not understand where the mistake in this is or why you’d call Rush a “crook and liar” over this – both of these numbers include people over 65 (some of whom may be retired).

    @Nick “I suspect your comment is from the same stable of thought as those who believe that we will be able to adapt to anything that happens because life has survived ice ages, meteor impacts, mass extinction events etc before – trouble is they seem strangely unaware that that process of adaptation would involve a whole lot of death, difficulty and screaming regret for billions…”

    I guess we’ll have to weigh the risks of damage between:

    1) Centralized economic planning to prevent climate change – perhaps with parallels to Mao and Stalin’s economic and agricultural “reforms”

    2)Allowing people to adapt to a possible increase in temperature over the course of a century – like we did during the last 100 years

    Luckily we can learn from history in both instances and see what the results have been and where the real risk lies. I would love to see the various models that tell us how much warming is going to be stopped by various carbon taxes.

    [It is weird that your choices don’t include the obvious one, carbon taxes -W]

  23. #24 TheGoodLocust
    2012/05/20

    @WMC “[It is weird that your choices don’t include the obvious one, carbon taxes -W]”

    I put that under option 1 for two reasons:

    1) A carbon tax that would be sufficient to reduce carbon in the atmosphere would be so massive as to completely warp the economy in a way as or more drastic than true central planning. It would, in essence, be central planning by effectively banning certain industries and the industries that rely on them.

    2) A modest carbon tax would not reduce the ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, which would lead to demands from environmentalists for central planning because the carbon tax isn’t working.

    That sort of step-by-step progression of policies towards a true goal is rather common among liberal organizations who understand that their end goal is too radical for people to initially accept.

    [Sigh. You’re as ignorant about carbon tax as some of the other folk are about economics. Putting a carbon tax under “Mao and Stalin’s” policies isn’t an attempt to have a serious discussion; its just silly -W]

  24. #25 TheGoodLocust
    2012/05/20

    “[Sigh. You’re as ignorant about carbon tax as some of the other folk are about economics. Putting a carbon tax under “Mao and Stalin’s” policies isn’t an attempt to have a serious discussion; its just silly -W]”

    Do you think a carbon tax is going to reduce the level of CO2 in the atmosphere?

    How would it accomplish such a feat?

    [You second question is very odd. Taken literally, it implies you’re completely ignorant of economics. I can’t be bothered to start from such a level, so instead I’ll just assume you’re just talking in shorthand.

    You’d need to start by implementing one. Lets assume that is done, and that it is implemented at a reasonable level – perhaps at the $80 / t (from memory) that Stern suggests for the costs. In that case: yes, it would undoubtedly reduce emissions. It would also cause a rebalancing of the economy because (obviously) that tax would be offset against other taxes, so that (say) income taxes would be reduced to compensate. So all those sad peasants you and Rush are so concerned about (don’t worry, I know neither you nor he really care about poor folk) will have a better chance of a job, and get to keep more of their income – marvellous -W]

  25. #26 TheGoodLocust
    2012/05/20

    @WMC “In that case: yes, it would undoubtedly reduce emissions.”

    Ah, but that wasn’t the question. I was asking if it would reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere or at least stop their growth.

    [Your reply makes no sense. CO2 levels are coupled to emissions. Reducing emissions reduces CO2 levels growth. If you reduce them enough, then levels will go down over time -W]

    If it can’t do either of those things then it would be ineffective at stopping warming. At most it would slow the rate and that is presuming, as some on your side do, that the warming isn’t in “transit” in the ocean.

    [That last point made no sense to me at all. Is it some “skeptic” meme that I’m not familiar with? -W]

    “It would also cause a rebalancing of the economy…”

    Wasn’t that my point? That a carbon tax would warp the economy by destroying some industries in favor of others?

    [Think of it as creative destruction -W]

    That is centralized planning without taking the responsibility for it.

    “…that tax would be offset against other taxes, so that (say) income taxes would be reduced to compensate.”

    Their energy costs would go up but their incomes would also go up so they could still buy as much or nearly as much energy as they need.

    This sounds like having your cake and eating it too.

    If their incomes increase to compensate for more expensive energy then where are the emission reductions occurring?

    [You’re as bad as the greenies! You too know nothing about economics, you too are substituting wishful thinking, but a different sort of wish. This is really basic stuff… you increase the price of something, people tend to use less of it in favour of something else -W]

    You’d have to tax fossil fuels to the point where they are far more expensive than solar, wind and the backups needed. This would be difficult since as solar and wind are bought the materials needed for them will become more expensive due to supply and demand.

    The economies of scale you think will happen won’t compensate for that diseconomy of scale.

    “So all those sad peasants you and Rush are so concerned about (don’t worry, I know neither you nor he really care about poor folk) will have a better chance of a job, and get to keep more of their income – marvellous”

    People care in different ways. Cheap energy and few regulations are the key to vibrant economies in wealthier nations. This will help everyone; the rich and the poor.

    I’m not sure why you are being so hostile with me regarding this disagreement.

    In any case have a nice day. I’m off to see the solar eclipse after I hike to the top of a large local plateau.

  26. #27 bluegrue
    2012/05/20

    TGL,
    according to the statistics the percentage of adults (i.e over 16) not working is 36.4%, according to Rush it’s 44%. Do you see now, what I mean?

    There’s more to this, but before I explain, I’d like to know your gut feeling, what the labor force participation ratio should be in a society that you consider good. I’m not looking for elaborate calculations, but a shoot from the hip. What should the ratio be for a) 16 to 65, b) 65 and over? Rounded to 10% or so will do nicely.

  27. #28 Nick Palmer
    2012/05/20

    @TheGoodLocust

    “A carbon tax that would be sufficient to reduce carbon in the atmosphere would be so massive as to completely warp the economy in a way as or more drastic than true central planning”

    The economy is severely warped now because there is no economic price put on the damage that excess carbon emissions are doing and will increasingly do to “the commons”. Putting a price on carbon will de-warp (straighten up) the economy. Carbon emitting technologies will become relatively more expensive, green energy sources will become relatively cheaper – without any of the “central planning” that freaks you out.

  28. #29 dhogaza
    2012/05/20

    TGL:

    That excuse doesn’t work for me. The land is owned by the people. Ideally they should be selling it or allowing some sort of homesteading. Instead the Federal government just holds onto vast holdings of land in the western US

    Homesteading … yeah, farming those thin-soiled, steep, rugged, siskiyous would be an easy way for a modern family to make their living. Can we force them to farm their lands but exclude them from the federal subsidies used to make so much corporate farming profitable? We wouldn’t want another boondoggle like was see with federal grazing programs where federal lands are leased to cattle ranchers at about 20% of market price, thus costing taxpayers like me money out of our pockets, would we?

    I mean, images like this make it clear that the Siskiyous are just like america’s breadbasket in Kansas and Nebraska, well suited to the use of tractors, etc.

    Of course, if the American people largely favored selling off our federal timberlands, it would get done. But support for federal lands and the alphabet soup of laws that control their management are widely supported by citizens in both parties, and even in Oregon, there’s roughly 70% support for old growth protection, endangered species protection, etc. In the 1980s support for US Forest Service policies as practiced ran about 2/3 in favor in Oregon, but this flipped to the current state as it became clear that the USFS wasn’t following the law but rather was logging at a rate of about twice the legally-mandated sustainable yield rate and lying about it (and on top of that ignoring the US Forest Management Act which requires the USFS to conserve species, and of course the Endangered Species Act though it was actually the USFMA that led to the injunction against logging old growth in Oregon).

    When Clinton put the first biologist ever in charge of the USFS, a man who was so devoted to the USFS that, as people said, he wore green underwear, his first address to all-hands began by saying:

    1. We will tell the truth
    2. We will obey the law

    These two points came as a startling revelation in the Service, welcomed by biologists, reviled by timber managers.

    Anyway, it’s a pity that counties like Josephine and Douglas are finally suffering the consequences of the lawless forest management practices of the past. This conscious decision to ignore federal laws explicitly passed to set the framework for federal timber managment policies led to a large bubble in local economies.

    As is often the case, this bubble burst, though the reason for the bursting was a bit unusual (i.e. courts forcing the US government to finally start obeying the law).

    The answer isn’t to stop obeying the law again. The answer could be to change the law making timber production the only use of federal forests – ha ha, that ain’t going to happen, even if Romney wins and Repubs control both houses! Sorry. Paul Kelley’s linked article quotes one county commissioner as essentially saying that the only real solution is to open up the forests to the previous (illegal) practices. Sorry, that ain’t going to happen, either.

    As long as the counties continue to think this way and continue to live in the past, they’re doomed to poverty.

    I do believe Congress should continue the tax payments, though …

  29. #30 TheGoodLocust
    2012/05/21

    @WMC “If you reduce them enough, then levels will go down over time -W]”

    Natural and “permanent” carbon sequestration takes a very long time. Any level of fossil fuel use should increase carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

    You would have to have a carbon tax that makes using such fuels impossible in order to stop the growth of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    [That is all silly -W]

    “[That last point made no sense to me at all. Is it some “skeptic” meme that I’m not familiar with? -W]”

    Doesn’t Trenberth believe that there is missing heat somewhere? Perhaps in the deep oceans?

    [If you want to provide a reference, please do. A reference to a vague memory of yours isn’t good enough -W]

    “[Think of it as creative destruction -W]”

    I think backdoor central planning sounds more accurate, but I can understand why the comparison to traditional central planning would make one cringe.

    “This is really basic stuff… you increase the price of something, people tend to use less of it in favour of something else -W]”

    I was saying that a modest carbon tax with an equivalent reduction in income taxes would not cause people to use less fossil fuels. This is because solar/wind/etc would still be far more expensive and unreliable. This is especially true when one considers the price of natural gas in the US.

    [That is rubbish. Why are you bothering to write it? -W]

    It would takes a massively ridiculous carbon tax to stop the use of natural gas – outlawing the industry in everything but name only. It would warp the economy drastically and make people rely on expensive and unreliable power sources.

    @Bluegrue “according to the statistics the percentage of adults (i.e over 16) not working is 36.4%, according to Rush it’s 44%. Do you see now, what I mean?”

    Yes, I looked back at the original article and see the math error you were talking about.

    “There’s more to this, but before I explain, I’d like to know your gut feeling, what the labor force participation ratio should be in a society that you consider good. I’m not looking for elaborate calculations, but a shoot from the hip. What should the ratio be for a) 16 to 65, b) 65 and over? Rounded to 10% or so will do nicely.”

    Hard to say, it is a very complex subject that I haven’t really looked into.

    My initial impression would be that it should ideally be about 80%. My guess is that about 5% of the adult population would be mentally or physically disabled to the point where they can’t work or have too much difficulty finding work – a lot of people exaggerate such disabilities though.

    Add a small portion of the population to the unemployed so industries have a pool of workers from which to extract labor for business growth. Add a portion of people that choose to be and are capable of retiring themselves. Add another portion for women/men who are stay-at-home parents and that’s how I get my guesstimate.

    The real world doesn’t work that way though. Most of the difference would be due to various entitlements like food stamps, social security, alimony/”child support” and psychological and cultural problems that cause leeching. A lack of work is also a factor during poor economic times.

    @Nick Palmer “The economy is severely warped now because there is no economic price put on the damage that excess carbon emissions are doing and will increasingly do to “the commons”. ”

    I do not believe there is damage caused by “excess carbon emissions.” Even if that were the case then a carbon tax should be collected and pooled like insurance and then paid out to fix damage caused by carbon emissions.

    But that is not the plan. The plan is to stop fossil fuel usage.

    “Carbon emitting technologies will become relatively more expensive, green energy sources will become relatively cheaper – without any of the “central planning” that freaks you out.”

    Taxing one industry out of existence to favor another is a form of central planning. Central planning has shown itself to be massively flawed because the people in charge make far more incorrect than correct decisions.

    Please address my previous point about how green energy sources like solar, wind and their backup batteries would become vastly more expensive as the rare earth minerals used in their production become even more in demand as fossil fuel use is taxed out of existence.

    @dhogaza “Can we force them to farm their lands but exclude them from the federal subsidies used to make so much corporate farming profitable?”

    I’m against all subsidies. I’m not against tax breaks.

    “I mean, images like this make it clear that the Siskiyous are just like america’s breadbasket in Kansas and Nebraska, well suited to the use of tractors, etc.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LongjiTerraces.jpg

    In any case, I’ve seen many cattle in such terrain.

    Also, I said “some type of homesteading.” Essentially, if someone can make an area more economically valuable in some way – mineral extraction, lumber harvesting, farming, ranching, sky resort/tourist attraction, vineyard, etc. then they can get the land for free.

    “Of course, if the American people largely favored selling off our federal timberlands, it would get done.”

    We favor legalizing marijuana:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/150149/record-high-americans-favor-legalizing-marijuana.aspx

    Of course Americans also tend to believe in God too:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/147887/americans-continue-believe-god.aspx

    I guess that makes them right in both instances? Why isn’t marijuana legal yet?

    “As is often the case, this bubble burst, though the reason for the bursting was a bit unusual (i.e. courts forcing the US government to finally start obeying the law).”

    That is certainly an amusing definition – define an economy as a bubble because the government can outlaw it?

    Ridiculous.

    “As long as the counties continue to think this way and continue to live in the past, they’re doomed to poverty.”

    I can only imagine how you’ll similarly denigrate coal communities for “living in the past” if you manage to get the government to outlaw their livelihoods as well.

  30. #31 Hank Roberts
    2012/05/21

    Good story, that was Jack Ward Thomas, an ecologist — worthy of a direct quote and cite:

    … six principles: “Obey the law. Tell the truth. Implement ecosystem management. Development new knowledge, synthesize research, and apply it to management of natural resources. Build a Forest Service organization for the 21st century. Trust and make full use of our hard-working, expert workforce.”

    Jack Ward Thomas goes to Washington: the scientist made famous by the spotted owl becomes chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

  31. #32 mt
    2012/05/21

    “You would have to have a carbon tax that makes using such fuels impossible in order to stop the growth of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    [That is all silly -W]”

    Misfortunately, Locust is, to first order, correct.

    That is to say, his silliness is not there. Concentrations are approximately cumulative. The time constant of natural decay of CO2 is partly long (deep ocean overturning) and partly very very long (limestone formation). Any emission at all amounts to an increment in atmospheric concentration and an increment in oceanic acidity.

    Net carbon emissions need to go to zero in a few decades or we are in big trouble. Locust’s view is that no amount of environmental damage is sufficient to close down important industries. This view drives the rest of it. But that is indeed the question. How much damage is enough to motivate shutting down the coal industry altogether (to take the specific, most obvious instance), how long should it take, and who should get compensated how much?

    This leads us to the question of whether any tax is adequate. Carbon emissions under present circumstances may be a necessary evil, but they remain evil. Any tax that is not designed to function effectively as a cap will probably fail. Essentially the rate has to quickly become so “draconian” (to use the wingers’ favorite word) that no fossil fuel usage is economic whatsoever, at least in the absence of sequestration.

    How Locust proceeds from there to the idea that we are helpless in the face of this problem is purely a consequence of ideology. The use of boogeymen like Mao is explicitly intended to make rational consideration of the problem suspect. Nobody likes to be cast as subversive after all. It’s demagoguery itself, linking any opposition to dictatorship.

    We ought to be free to weigh the costs on both sides. Locust does not recognize the freedom of action of collective interest over individual interest. This suits the coal companies nicely under present circumstances, and suits any interest at risk of regulation.

    But that doesn’t make him wrong. Net carbon emissions must go to very nearly zero or the world will become dramatically damaged. The damage process has already started, and will continue to accelerate for a few decades. There is no stopping what is already on the books for thirty years. We are discussing bending the curve down in the future and preserving some semblance of a natural world into coming centuries. Against this goal is the right of anonymous corporate entities and their owners to conduct commerce. Somehow they blow this up to a cause of freedom against tyranny. We shouldn’t be bullied out of thinking about this without such an absurdly overwrought emotional load. This is serious.

    And the fact is, even if 350 is not the correct target for concentrations, 0 is the correct target for net emissions. There’s nothing silly about that.

    [TGL is wrong to say that its all-or-nothing, which is what he is doing. It is, I think, from him a very ideological standpoint -W]

  32. #33 Rattus Norvegicus
    2012/05/21

    TGL,

    Regarding labor force participation rates it pretty easy to look up the historical rates at the BLS site. If you had bothered to do this you would have seen that for the past decade it has been around 66% give or take a few tenths. Lately it has dropped to a bit over 63%, which is quite low when compared with the last couple of decades during which it has bounced between roughly 66% and 67%.

    There are some good reasons for this:

    1) Workers discouraged by the recession
    2) Young people deciding to give college a try rather than entering the workforce immediately.
    3) Older laid off workers returning to school for retraining.
    4) An increase in early retirements by workers nearing age 62 who have been laid off.

    Take a look at the BLS site and never, never, never trust Fox News.

  33. #34 bluegrue
    2012/05/21

    From TGL

    Hard to say, it is a very complex subject that I haven’t really looked into.

    My initial impression would be that it should ideally be about 80%. My guess is that about 5% of the adult population would be mentally or physically disabled to the point where they can’t work or have too much difficulty finding work – a lot of people exaggerate such disabilities though.

    Add a small portion of the population to the unemployed so industries have a pool of workers from which to extract labor for business growth. Add a portion of people that choose to be and are capable of retiring themselves. Add another portion for women/men who are stay-at-home parents and that’s how I get my guesstimate.

    The real world doesn’t work that way though. Most of the difference would be due to various entitlements like food stamps, social security, alimony/”child support” and psychological and cultural problems that cause leeching. A lack of work is also a factor during poor economic times.

    Thanks for the reply, which was more detailed than I had asked you for, thank you for taking this extra effort.

    You are pretty good at nailing the 80% labor force participation rate (LFPR), which corresponds to the level attained in the age cohort of 25 to 54 years and corresponds to your reasoning offered. However, at other age cohorts results differ drastically, both currently as well as historically. Above 55 years you have a steep decline to about 30% at 65 to 70 years old and go lower to about 10% at the age of 75 to 80. (See second image further down)

    Rush does not tell you any of that, but just leaves you with the impression that the larger part of the 88 million not working ought to find a job. Let’s look at the historic numbers of LFPR.
    http://i48.tinypic.com/id5g5f.gif
    Current values are down to the mid-term values of the Reagan administration. Assuming LFPR could be raised to the all time high at the end of the Clinton administration it would still be 80 million adults not working. 8 million people is a huge number, but still a far cry from 88 million.

    So what has changed? Let’s look at the age distribution
    http://i50.tinypic.com/59x7bp.png
    The LFPR between 25 and 55 kept pretty much stable, however in the 2010 data appreciably more old people are still working, even in the above 75 year category. At the same time LPFR for the younger people has plummeted. That’s the consequence of the economic crisis that we still suffer.

    BTW, it has always been my impression, that the ideal of the Conservatives is the doing fine single-income family, where the worker retires between 65 and 70. In the unlikely case that the entire population aged 25 to 55 falls into that category you’d end up with a LFPR of 50%. Only if you have singles or multiple-income families do you get higher than that. Looks like Rush is convinced that single-income families are not good enough to supply the economic power, as he is calling for higher LFPR. ;-)

  34. #35 Rattus Norvegicus
    2012/05/21

    Second graph is interesting. Guess it goes to show that reading a lot of stories in the news about people in their early sixties choosing to retire after a layoff and unsuccessful job search are just anecdotes. And as we all know, the plural of anecdote is not data.

  35. #36 dhogaza
    2012/05/21

    Hank:

    Good story, that was Jack Ward Thomas, an ecologist

    Yes, and I’m embarrassed I didn’t have his name on the tip of my tongue when I posted above, because he’s a man I greatly admire.

  36. #37 dhogaza
    2012/05/21

    Hank:

    Good story, that was Jack Ward Thomas, an ecologist

    Yes, and I’m embarrassed I didn’t have his name on the tip of my tongue when I posted above, because he’s a man I greatly admire.

    TGL:

    In any case, I’ve seen many cattle in such terrain.

    AUM leases for cattle are already common on our national forests … generally on the more open ponderosa pine forests east of the Cascades. The siskiyous would be a hard place to graze many cattle, other than the valleys, many of which are privately owned already.

    Ah, yes, terracing, I’m sure non-mechanized farming of terraces would compete well with the industrial agriculture practiced elsewhere in the US … especially terraces created from these forests and their very lousy (from the ag point of view) soils.

  37. #38 Hank Roberts
    2012/05/21

    > I’ve seen many cattle in such terrain.

    But not for more than a few years.
    The the landslides start.
    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=grazing+steep+slope+landslide

    I started 20 years ago restoring topsoil on a mountain site that had lost a foot of topsoil in the past century, and had about 2/3 of an inch left — “one more big fire away from being gravel for centuries” according to the experienced local agency people I asked for advice.

    It’s a very slow process. It’s doable. The best advice on what to actually do, I got from Spanish and Portugese forestry people who were already preparing for global warming, expecting more big fires (and have been getting them since then).

    You don’t put cows on that kind of slope, if you want to keep it. Nor kill off the top predators.

    “The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf’s job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.

    We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness. The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes, and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run….”

    Aldo Leopold, from “Thinking Like a Mountain”

  38. #39 David B. Benson
    2012/05/21

    The correct target for fossil carbon emissions is a negative number, at least for a long time to come.

  39. #40 bluegrue
    2012/05/23

    So this is the new look. Looks clean, but the comments are no longer numbered and don’t have an easily accessible anchor either. Will make referring to a comment harder, as the times are possibly localized to the reader’s time zone. Oh well, worse could have happened.

    I expect your newer posts to show up eventually. In the unlikely case that you should need a copy feel free to e-mail me.

  40. #41 Brian Schmidt
    United States
    2012/05/23

    It’s way back in the thread now, but barred owls have been known for many years to be far more opportunistic than spotted. That doesn’t give them much advantage in deep old-growth forest, but it does help them a lot in matrix environments of clear-cuts, second-growth of varying ages, and small old-growth areas. This matrix is how we’ve transformed the Northwest, so managing barred owls is going to be an issue for decades.

    They also hybridize with spotted owls, which further complicates the issue.

    I was told all this by a spotted owl biologist around 1995.

  41. #42 Russell
    2012/05/23

    David B. Benson

    May 21, 10:05 pm
    The correct target for fossil carbon emissions is a negative number, at least for a long time to come.

    Does David favor CO2 compressing windmills back to back with nuclear powered diethylamine plants, or plantations of Dysonesque diamond trees to provide white photovoltaic cells for his passive solar roof?

  42. #43 Hank Roberts
    Small blue dot near Sol
    2012/05/23

    timestamp check, 1:30am where I am.

    So no web address line any longer; how do you know who’s who?

  43. #44 Rank Hobbits
    yep, your timestamp's GMT all right
    2012/05/23

    g’night

    [Did you mean to put “yep, your timestamp’s GMT all right” in the “location” bit? -W]

  44. #45 Hank Roberts
    location, location, location ...
    2012/05/23

    Just wondered whether “location” used any kind of logic (the old system took a URL in the third line)
    but apparently anything typed into that line is accepted now.

    So last night it looked like Gravatar is being used along with the email address for identification?

    It immediately took the first post using my real name and email, but the second post with the fake name with the same email got held for authentication (thankew).

    This morning the Gravatar picture’s not showing up.

    [I took them out, because they annoy me. However, it still seems to be leaving space for them. Best if you put comments like this on the new post, though -W]

    Just wondering. Pity there’s no way to link to an individual response now.

    [Actually there is. Yours is http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2012/05/18/lack-of-caution/#comment-20691 However, that isn’t being displayed to you -W]

  45. #46 Adam
    2012/05/24

    If you use FFX then inspect element will give you the comment number, which can be used in links. Don’t know if I get that as part of an add-on or if it’s in the vanilla install – I tend to lose track and there’s no obvious add-on I have that might include it.

    Not much use for referring to a comment up thread though.

    Incidentally, “yep, your timestamp’s GMT all right” gives quite a range of locations.

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