Renewable Resources: Phony Economics

September 18, 2007 by

“Renewable resources” are supposed to be superior to “non-renewable” resources because, well, they’re renewable!!!  Those who advocate renewable resources are responsible, care about the earth and care about leaving something to future generations.  Those who just use resources without regard to renewability, therefore, must not care- they want to party like it’s 1999, damn the consequences, the waste, and the future generations.    If this is a gross over-simplification, let me know.

I’m fed up with the notion that “renewable” = superior.  I’m fed up with the notion of “renewable.”  Resources are resources, and their value or usefulness exists in the minds of people who use the resources to fulfill their goals.  If there is less of a resource than people could make use of, it is an economic good and people will economize its use based on its cost.  Hence the only relevant indicator of superiority of a resource is it’s cost, not whether it’s “renewable.” 

Let’s take a quick example: the corn interests and (some?) greens push ethanol, because it’s renewable!!  Renewable means: we can always make more, as opposed to oil, which, they predict, will all be gone someday.  However, for the time being, we can make more oil as well, and it’s cheaper to make a gallon of gasoline or diesel than a gallon of corn alcohol, and you get more energy from it to boot!  So enough about the corn-hucksters’ claims of superiority.  The main issue for me and, I contend, most people, is cost, not some empty claim of “renewability” which amounts to moral posturing.  When the oil runs out, actually long before the oil runs out, it’s price will rise, and ethanol will become more and more attractive.  At some point perhaps ethanol will become economical, but at that point I won’t need the corn-hucksters’ notion of moral superiorty, of “caring about the earth” or what have you, to compel me to use their product.  I’ve already got a far more superior concern- cost- which, it turns out, is a far better motivator for getting the most out of resources, whether “renewable” or not. 

Economists ought to say, “Don’t tell me it’s renewable.  Tell me it’s cost-effective.”

I suppose it’s a sign of extreme wealthiness when people can afford to economize resources based on moral claims and not solely on money costs, but it bugs me immensly when these greens/renewable advocates tell me that I should care about whether a resource is renewable.  I don’t.

Paying people to carry to term

March 26, 2007 by

The texas legislature is back in session and you know what that means.  District lines being redrawn?  Babies kissed?  Steak dinners?  No? Well at least there are some interesting laws being passed and proposed.  Check this one out.  Lets hear some opinions.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070324/od_nm/texas_abortion1_dc;_ylt=An_3gyEfoUwnTV6Sr3qjMzMSH9EA

Hindered Point of View

February 15, 2007 by

texashpv1.jpgThe Christian right has attacked Texas governor Rick Perry for promoting promiscuity by making the HPV vaccine mandatory for all sixth grade girls.

 http://www.economist.com/world/na/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8677214

I disagree with the fact that this policy significantly promotes promiscuity.  It reduces the chances of developing cervical cancer from a virus most people don’t even know exists.  It does so for only half of the population.  The female population has essentially been given a new health risk and a new risk reducer at the same time, causing very little change.  This still leaves teens facing unwanted pregnancy, AIDS and a laundry list of other STD’s. 

Making this policy “mandatory” means all girls entering sixth grade must receive the shot or get a parent’s signature to opt out of it.  I doubt many of these horribly offended parents will actually put their money where there mouth is when it comes time to vaccinate their daughters.   According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey the probability of being sexually active is just less than 50% for all girls, grade 9 – 12.   Most of these parents are betting on their children as sure things, whereas a Vegas bookie would at best give them even money that their kid stays chaste.

The American Social Health Association estimates 75% of all sexually active people will contract one form of HPV or another in his or her lifetime (keep in mind many forms of the virus show no symptoms and/or can be harmless).  This is no small portion of the population.  As a parent trying to minimize losses, which path should one take?  If the child remains sexually inactive, the results are the same.  One can opt out of vaccination at no cost.  On the other hand, a parent can insure the childs safety by paying the costs associated with vaccinating the child.  This is now less socially awkward, more abundant in supply, and most likely subsidized because the State of Texas has required it.  If the child does have sex, there are two possible scenarios for parents: 

A) The parent vaccinated the child:
Result:
  The disappointment in a child who is sexually active. 

B) The parent did not vaccinate the child:
Result:  The disappointment in a child who is sexually active, guilt about not doing all in your power to protect that child,  and an increased cancer risk (also your fault).  

This is a no-brainer.  It would be great if every parent could trust their child to be sexually inactive before adulthood.  That just is not the case.  If it were, we wouldn’t need to discuss this problem at such length.  Health policies like this are not made to encourage premarital sex, they exist to provide insurance against some of its side effects.  Parents should take the insurance.  It’s more than worth it.

Kaiser Family Foundation Fact Sheet:
http://www.kff.org/youthhivstds/upload/U-S-Teen-Sexual-Activity-Fact-Sheet.pdf

American Social Health Association HPV Fact Sheet:
http://www.ashastd.org/learn/learn_hpv_facts.cfm

My dark secret that could destroy us all.

February 12, 2007 by

I specifically seek out Lyndon LaRouche literature.  If I see a group of them singing about fascists and Dutch bankers, I respond with a magazine request.  I like LaRouche because there is something deeply satisfying about belonging to a gobal conspiracy directed by William F. Buckley, Jr. and his anglo-Dutch fascist financiers.  The writing is absolutely absurd.  If Dan Brown had included Nazis and bankers LaRouche would have either lionized him or accused him of plagarism.

They never learn.

February 12, 2007 by

The quagmire continues.

You can’t force democracy upon people.

Discrimination by other means?

February 12, 2007 by

Tonight I went to an un-named bar. I was wearing a red poof ball hat. (think South Park) Upon entering the establishment I was instructed to remove my beanie. I asked why and was told that the following are not allowed: bandanas, dew-rags, beanies, and backward caps. I have no idea why. I almost told the bouncer to go-to-hell, but my friend was particularly thirsty and I retreated to comb my hair. It was a dive bar and my only speculation is that they wanted to harass groups that are known for wearing: bandanas, dew-rags, beanies and backward caps. Any thoughts on other reasons?

Minimum Wage Laws

February 11, 2007 by

Looks like the minimum wage is hurting entry level workers in Arizona.

The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult

February 11, 2007 by

For those wondering about the “Mozart was a red” post, here is the source.

Murray Rothbard attacks the “Cult of Rand” and likens them to the Communists that she so bitterly hated.  Rothbard is an anarchist and his capitalist beliefs are unimpeachable.  Whenever you hear the name of Rand, pause, and remember Rothbard.

Better Late than Never

February 11, 2007 by

Jane Galt wonders how some can be against mandatory HPV vaccinations.

I am going to ignore moral or religious arguments and ask why should it be mandatory?  This is not a problem of public goods and free riders; all benefits accrue to the vacinated.

Crazy

February 6, 2007 by

Just goes to support my belief that criminals make their decision using a much shorter time horizon.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070206/od_nm/japan_police_theft_dc_1

Dim Bulbs in California.

February 1, 2007 by

I am not a good libertarian largely because this offends me more than the war on drugs. While I deeply oppose drug prohibition, it does not provoke the same visceral reaction as light-bulb prohibition. The small meddling is vastly more insulting than the large meddling. I am tempted to believe that it is a moral failing.

Role of Government

January 31, 2007 by

What is the role of government.  As I said earlier, I say to provide services/goods for the country that the country will not provide when left alone.  (Which includes safety brought about by helmets for example).  I know Eli disagrees, and Stew.  What do people think?  This is another way to see how libertarian you are I think.

Mozart was a red.

January 31, 2007 by

I am not a good little libertarian; I have a confesion to make. I am dating a woman whom I did not clear with my Objectivist overlords. I am sorry please do not have Dave write me a letter of condemnation and banishment. I realize my emotions signify my loathing of reason and my hatred of life. I apologize. I will attend twice as many meetings and start smoking.

Sincerely,

Stewart

Safety Regulations

January 31, 2007 by

That little libertarian questionnaire made me think again about the oh so interesting question of safety regulation.  The first inclination of a good small government economist is to say “thats ridiculous of course they should have no regulations on safety”.  This is an area though where I think we may need some regulation (though it could be state, local, or even company regulation if the company is brave enough). 

We’ll use the safety helmet requirement for example.  If there is no requirement then there will likely be a machismo factor, or a coordination failure.  “I don’t need a helmet” in other words it maximizes individual utility to not be the only one wearing a helmet, though they’d like to.  There is a factor of worrying about being made fun of for wearing it.  “hey helmet boy, afraid a wrench is going to fall on your head”, the risk of this is high enough to outweigh the benefit of wearing the helmet.  Every worker you can think of having this internal struggle, thus we have an equilibrium where few to none wear helmets.  Regulation can serve to correct the coordination problem with very little inaction costs.  Few refuse to wear it cause they won’t be made fun of for wearing it, and their utility is better for they have no fear of being mocked and they get the utility of better expected safety.  An improvement I’d say.  “They could just self regulate right, agree all together to wear helmets” no that is the reason it is a coordination failure problem. chances are no one has the incentive to initiate the self-regulation.  Imagine the taunting “little poor jimmy wants us all to wear a helmet, throw your wrench at him”.  Poor Jimmy.  I think the role of govt is to do for society what society would like to be done, but can’t do on its own.  This is one of the few times I’m for regulation.  There are actually papers written on this exact subject.  If any is HIGHLY interested (your utility of knowing the paper is greater than the hassle for me to dig through my old labor papers) Ill look it up for you. 

Bayesian updating malfunctions

January 30, 2007 by

I think my Bayesian updating isn’t working right due to the cold weather.  I experience day after day of sub freezing weather and then the next day get up and see sun and think, its going to be warmer today.  Every additional cold day is making me think the next is more likely going to be warm.  I need an adjustment.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.