The idea that climate scientists are in it for the cash has deep ideological roots?

Or, "world is not as I like it shocker; villain must be found!". Again; sigh.

In this case the normally sensible Graham Readfearn in the Graun has picked up the unfortunately not very sensible Nancy MacLean's "Democracy in chains"2 and run with it. GR is sad about cynicism about the motives of public servants, including government-backed climate scientists and so is attracted to "reasons" why this might be so; and of course he like all right-thinking people hates the very word "Koch"; the combination is irresistible.

If you read GR's article is is fairly clear that he isn't familiar with what he's talking about; he says frankly at one point In an interview at the Brisbane writers festival, MacLean told me... and it looks like much of the "information" is just parrotting MacLean. If you're actually interested in the history of Mont Pelerin, then you're better off reading The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression; or in the rather-more-likely event of you not feeling up to it, just my report on it. If you're interested in public choice theory then you're better off reading the Wiki article than the caricature in GR's article. OTOH, if you don't like Libertarians or their ilk but do like having your prejudices confirmed, by all means stick with the Graun.

What "public choice theory" actually does is recommend considering politicians (and other "public servants") as human beings like any others, rather than as idealised nobility. To some this is anathema; as GR's article quotes, Prof Steven Kelman, at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy school of government, wrote that Buchanan’s view was a “terrible caricature of reality” and belied the public spirit of elected representatives and government officials. This is akin to the level of discourse in the UK, where nurses are always "angels"1.

So all of GR's point boils down to Suggesting that climate scientists are pushing a line about global warming because their salaries depend on it is a popular talking point that deniers love to throw around... But to suggest global warming exists only because climate scientists need the money, you need to ignore... [all the obvious things]. But (just like NMcL's duff book) GR has failed to make the connections. There's no connection made between PCT and denialism. The logical level is "PCT would tend to suggest X, denialists say X, therefore denialists are led by PCT". This is simplistic to the point of silliness. Denialists aren't sophisticated enough to be led by PCT; but they do possess the very minimal level of intelligence required to copy someone else's obvious idea that it might be possible to smear scientists motives.

This is Exxon type thinking all over again. "Our problems are caused by super-villains" type stuff. They aren't. They are caused by a whole complicated interlocking problems amongst which ranks highly the self-interest of the vast bulk of the populace; and our broken political systems. And PCT points towards the underlying problems with said broken political systems; and we won't fix them by denying it.


1. Until they get convicted, at which point they become "angels of death" :-). This is not to say that public officials are never motivated by a spirit of service. Many are. But many are not; and treating the entire system as though it was composed of those who are so motivated is an error.

2. I wasn't intending to argue about the book here unless you want to. I do need to point out that The book documents how wealthy conservatives... with the objective, MacLean says, of undermining the functions of government in the United States is a fundamental error. MacLean's enemies3 certainly want to organise things differently to her; but are more nearly constitutionalists. It isn't clear to me if NMcL is just using the std.propaganda technique of lying about her enemies, or simply doesn't understand them. If you want the rebuttals to the book, the obvious source I know of is Don Boudreaux.

3. As in, "people she regards as her enemy".


* The World Turned Upside Down (and what to do about it)
* Win for Climate Science and the AAUP: Today the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected attempts by a “free market” legal foundation to use public records requests to compel faculty members to release emails related to their climate research.
* The left has a problem with public choice economics.

More like this

More politics, but since it is cunningly disguised as a reply to mt's Twitter rant, I think I may get away with it. You should go off and read mt's post, for context. But not for content; much as I like his take on the science I can never agree with his take on the politics. Here's a sample: One…
I am genuinely amused at this caricature of scientists from a creationist site. How many of you believed these things? Everyone is biased. Scientists just happen to be biased in favor of reality, and have a set of tools that help them overcome predispositions that might lead them into error (Non-…
Or, Timmy in the Torygraph. Its a bit broken I'm afraid, though it manages to get some obvious things right. But before I start on the actual matter, we need to sweep away some of the dross. It starts Perhaps we can sit down and discuss this climate change thing like the adults we are? Put the…
Or, in fuller, Why are there people who seem hell-bent on denying anthropogenic global warming?; What are the deniers trying to achieve?; Why do they post comments on your article that totally defy not only science, but also common sense? These are not easy questions to answer accurately. But its…

I was amused by the Peltzman quote in your link beginning: "Economists know what steps would improve the efficiency of HSE..."

[For those confused by which of my many links you're referring to, the answer is -W]

Economists know a great many things, unfortunately most of them directly contradict things other economists "know." This would be more convincing if one substituted for "Economists know" the phrase "Some guys I agree with think."

One reason many parts of economics are best classified as pseudoscience is the kind of grandiloquent nonsense spouted by the Peltzmans of the world.

[I think you're wrong; that your careless dismissal of economics mirrors the attitude towards climatology seen amongst the septics. Which is to feel free to dismiss anything they disagree with. Try reading ref 1 -W]

Somewhat lead footed, perhaps you meant led by PCT?

[Thanks; fixed -W]

"OTOH, if you don’t like Libertarians or their ilk but do like having your prejudices confirmed, by all means stick with the Graun."

Well, I don't like Libertarians or their ilk, mostly because their clocks stopped like over two centuries ago. Really old and bad thinking bores me to no end, societies have changed with industrialization science technology engineering math leading to extreme and ongoing homo sapiens population growth. Wherein 99.44% couldn't fix a car or build a house. Social media. Console games. Facebook. Twitter. Apple the toy company.

But hey, maybe in the "so called" future there will be Libertarian robots and their automata ilk. Now that would be a real improvement. Built by Germans. They'll be called Libertardian Funnybots.

OTOH, the GR piece appears to be a conspiracy theory. I hate conspiracy theories much more so than I do Libertarians and their ilk.

In fact, this post is from the "so called" future, from a very depressed Funnybot, as no one laughs in the "so called" future, thus this post will only make sense if you are also from the "so called" future.

By Francis E Sargent (not verified) on 15 Sep 2017 #permalink

Hmm? Well, I read your recommendation, and while no flash of enlightenment struck me from my horse, I did note that my blog's epigraph is a fragment of the Yeats he quoted .

I don't dismiss all of economics by any means, but when an advocate of a slightly fringe view in economics proclaims that "Economists [those he happens to agree with] know" something that has rarely been tested, and when tested has proved less than a panacea, my suspicions mount.

A good case in point is the much touted carbon emission certificates. They have been tried, they have been gamed, and some people have made a lot of money, but dramatic carbon emission declines have not appeared. Perhaps they will work sometime, but the data isn't there.

[You mean stuff like the ETS? I think it is stupid, as I've said -W]

Well I read it three (no not too, as I'm likely to be the 3rd person in total to date to have actually read the entire boorish thing).

With stuff like ...
"People write me asking how I can be religious given that I’m so smart. Not sure there is a more back-handed compliment than that one."

Well, I don't know that individual at all, don't really care if the individual is religious or not, doesn't really matter to me. Whatever, the individual does not impress me as being "so smart" instead they seem to be kind of less than average.

Like here ...
"So here are a few practical things I’d suggest for how to behave on Twitter, Facebook, and at social gatherings that are threatening to end in shouting matches or worse"

The most obvious one word answer is ... DON'T!

Then they mention Jordan B Peterson for 'eff sake, not once but twice even.

Been there, done that. I have a FIPPA I've been meaning to send off to the UoT on some very strange unpublished scholarship by said "reds under his bed" professor ...

There's a part in that clip, where The Rebel Media Group garbled what their interviewee said, that part (@~9:30 into the video) goes something like this (full transcript, by yours truly, freely available via email) ...

"Give me a real-life example of a PC egalitarian, we all know what the PC police {are full of bullshit}, what's a real tangible example of a PC egalitarian?

The "are full of bullshit" is the part redacted (or garbled or silenced).

The only thing published by these two is a very poorly constructed and deeply flawed MS thesis (I would have failed anyone who can't even construct a table properly) and three conference talks (no, not papers, just talks with slides).

They have NOT published ANY peer reviewed scholarship to date on PC authoritarians (You know PC authoritarians like Abraham Lincoln and FDR and LBJ, none of which, last time I checked were Marxist) versus PC egalitarians. Thus my maybe-kind-of-oh-what-the-heck-who-cares-never-to-be-sent FIPPA request (It's all written up all I need to do is send them $5CN and email the Word and Excel documents).

Peterson is just another a Youtube 'ho just like PewDiePie!

Psychologists are kind of like economists, all they are lacking is a Nobel Prize (I'd give that one two thumbs up, seeing as how the Nobel Prize in economics is a sham award) ...…

By Francis E Sargent (not verified) on 15 Sep 2017 #permalink

For those who think that Public Choice Theory has no application. Try reading Parkinson's Law again (C. Northcote Parkinson of course). His description of how and why a bureaucracy operates is public choice theory.

By Tim Worstall (not verified) on 16 Sep 2017 #permalink

@-"The idea that climate scientists are in it for the cash has deep ideological roots?"

A headline posed as a question usually means the writer thinks the answer is 'No'.

But if it has roots in an ideology that is in opposition to a prevailing concept of the motivation of scientists, or politicians and nurses it is presumably the Hobbesian vision of independent economic agents in perpetual competition.

[Hobbes has very little to say about economics. Or indeed the organisation of society in general, other than Law -W]

The alternative to seeing scientists as self-interested autonomous actors, is that they are participents in a communal enterprise. That reciprical cooperation is an evolutionary stable stratergy.

Nurses are 'angels' not from any inherent moral qualities, but because the social institution they work within is (usually) directed towards reciprical, collabrative, mutual benefit.

Not free rational agents pursing maximum individual gain.

[It seems odd to think that they must be one or the other. Individuals have different motivations at different times and in different situations; or indeed, different competing motivations at the same time. The same is true of groups. But you're still talking about FRAPMIG; you really ought to try reading some of the public choice theory some time; it would make your attacks on it more interesting if you were more informed -W]

" But you’re still talking about FRAPMIG; you really ought to try reading some of the public choice theory some time; it would make your attacks on it more interesting if you were more informed -W"

I did read the Wiki on PCT, which was banal, glib and shallow. I would be delighted to be better informed on the subject, if I had any idea what FRAPMIG was !

[That's a strange thing to say. Did you mean the wiki article was, or it's subject? As for the acronym, "free rational agents pursing maximum individual gain" -W]

Amusingly Eli (or rather Jules) has direct evidence that members of the Mt. Perelin Society are quite happy to engage in denial for bucks
Even though Richard E. Wagner was the first author, Robert Tollison invoiced the Tobacco Institute for a book

. The third and fourth invoice charged $36,250, so probably the industry paid $145,000 for the book. Exactly the amount the authors proposed

Buchanan essay $20,000
11 essays (chs. 1-9, 11-12) 75,000
Organizing, Editorial, and Management Fees
(including finding and working with publisher).
Dick Wagner 25,000
Bob Tollison 25,000

James M. Buchanan probably earned more because he held a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, explaining his high market value: how many people would dare to say a Noble Prize winning economist is wrong on economy

Buchanan, of course, was one of the founding members of the Mont Pelerin Society

[And is therefore responsible for all that the members do? I'm confused by the "James M. Buchanan probably earned more..." You're suggesting I think that JMB was paid too, but I don't see clear evidence for that. Do you understand what that text means? -W]

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 17 Sep 2017 #permalink


By Francis E Sargent (not verified) on 17 Sep 2017 #permalink

I'm a loser again. Sad.

By Francis E Sargent (not verified) on 17 Sep 2017 #permalink

" [That’s a strange thing to say. Did you mean the wiki article was, or it’s subject?"


@-" As for the acronym, “free rational agents pursing maximum individual gain"

Ah. I cited 'FRAPMIG' as an example of the mythic idealised and non-existent social actor concept that has purchase in some of the murkier areas of economics.

Bit like the idea that nurses have moral qualities it mistakes the trees for the wood.. People adopt moralities, but they are emergent properties of societies, not individuals.

Dick Alley explains this better than anyone else I have seen. He says that all scientists are a little bit egotistical and there are very few who wouldn't like to become famous as the person who overturned a core principle in their discipline. He says that if Albert Einstein had said "Ya know? Newton is right about everything.", there wouldn't be a statue of him in Washington.

By Elmo Craven (not verified) on 18 Sep 2017 #permalink

He was paid 20K$ the other 11 got 75K$/11. Eli presumes you can do the math. If he didn't get the money, obviously the other GMU liberationists took it. C'mon. Buchanan wrote the chapter and got 20K$ for it.

[Actually, looking closer, you don't know that: what the doc says is that there was a proposal for X costing Y, and two invoices for $Y/4 exist. But even accepting the B did write his chapter, I'd like to actually read it before condemning him for it. If I follow the refs, I find ( that the proposed book would be about earmarking (aka, I think, hypothecation) which is a std thing. Perhaps the book appeared as Charging for Government (Routledge Revivals): User charges and earmarked taxes in principle and practice. That's Wagner, in 1991, which is about the right date; and Tollison wrote a chapter, as did Buchanan; probably "The constitutional economics of earmarking". But I can't find it online, and unless you push me harder I'm unlikely to bother ordering it specially -W]

Anyhow, Dick Army certainly is into denying that people have anything to do with climate change and also one of the Mt. Pelerin boys

[Yeeeessss, but I'm not sure you're quite making sense here. Lots of people deny climate change. Are you suggesting that anyone has suggested that no-one from MPS does? Also, I've never heard of him. Did you mean Dick Armey? I've never heard of him, either -W]

Larry Arnn is a Heartland Institute climate scientist denigrater for sure

Want Eli to shoot more of your fish?

[Not unless there's some point to it -W]

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 18 Sep 2017 #permalink