Is Earth Hour Wantonly Wasteful?

by Don Boudreaux on March 27, 2011

in Cleaned by Capitalism, Complexity & Emergence, Environment, Standard of Living

Responding negatively to this post in which I encouraged people to leave their lights on last night as a means of celebrating Human Achievement Hour, Emerson White comments:

Wanton waste is not how humans achieved so much. How about you leave the lights that you are using on and leave the rest off so some brilliant capitalist can do something with the energy that you don’t waste.

I agree.  Wanton waste is not how humans achieved so much.  But as commentors vikingvista, Sandre, and Richard Stands point out, each in his different way, it’s not at all the case that turning on the lights for Human Achievement Hour is wasteful.  It is, instead, a productive matter of choice.

Those of us who celebrated Human Achievement Hour were indeed making a statement – expressing our opinions – as opposed to keeping the lights on merely to perform some narrowly utilitarian tasks.  But if this expressive action be wasteful, then it was no less wasteful for those who celebrated Earth Hour to express their opinions by turning their lights off.

According to the implicit logic in Emerson White’s comment, by arbitrarily going one whole hour with significantly reduced energy and artificial lighting, human labor was wantonly wasted.  Productive activities that could have been performed – doing the laundry, cleaning the basement, studying for that mechanical-engineering or poetry exam, tinkering in the garage on a project that might be the next-generation’s supercomputer – were arbitrarily not performed.  One full hour of human labor down the drain, never to be recovered.  For one entire hour, human labor was wasted for no purpose other than to make a political statement.  Wasting labor wantonly is not how humans achieved so much.  (Human labor, by the way, is one of the few resources that is becoming increasingly scarce over time.  As the real prices of petroleum, magnesium, coal, and most other ‘natural resources’ trend downward over time, the real price of human labor in industrialized and industrializing economies continues to rise.  So it is especially egregious to waste human labor.)

Of course, while I disagree with the factual and economic premises upon which Earth Hour is based, I do not really believe that Earth Hour celebrants were being wasteful.  Each of those (I think misguided) celebrants made and executed a private, peaceful choice for his or her own private, subjective reasons and, in the process, took no property of others.  Earth-Hour celebrants weren’t wasteful – but nor were Human Achievement Hour celebrants.

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Krishnan March 27, 2011 at 8:48 am

To some, consuming any resource means “wasting” that resource – they do not seem to understand how inanimate objects, inanimate things are turned into resources by the power of the human mind.

We should rename “Earth Day” as the “Julian Simon Day” – to remind the world of the power of human ingenuity and how that has changed and changing the world as we know it.

I suspect though that even when confronted with facts and the reality of what a “natural resource” is, they will see any consumption as waste – they will demand that we consume less to leave “natural resources” for others to enjoy – even if that means our creating even less “natural resources” for future generations to use/consume.

Imagine being able to design a machine that can safely and economically split water and use it for motive energy – the “earthies” will then rail about our using too much fresh water and making people “too free” and causing “noise pollution” or whatever – they will ALWAYS come up with something.

Gil March 27, 2011 at 11:31 am

Why yes on the grand scale of things fresh water is relatively rare. Water’s for drinking not fuel for cars. Just like corn should feeding people not feuling cars. You’d make water more expensive for the poor. Shame on you.

Krishnan March 27, 2011 at 11:38 am

Sorry – any use of fresh water (or water that can be made fresh using energy) other than for drinking is to be outlawed. These nuclear reactors use water for cooling – water is used for generating electricity as a heat transfer medium and through steam pushing turbines – I mean, humans have been using water for purposes other than for drinking and so water has become expensive … I did not realize the assault on water that way … Time to ban any use of water other than allowed by the elites who know everything.

dan March 28, 2011 at 12:38 am

But, is water really eliminated? Are the components of water broken apart and the atoms pulled apart so as to ‘use’ water and it never recycle back? I don’t know. Really. I am more likely to think that it is more of a case of using too much, too fast. The water does not have enuf time to recycle and make its way back into the lakes, river, and ponds before we are using most of it. I drink……..I relieve myself through urination, defecation, sweat, breath (moisture)………and the water in gas or liquid finds itself reconstituted and back into a pooled supply…. Or, have some uses split the atomic makeup not allowing for hydrogen and Oxygen components to reassemble and gather in such large amounts as to create lakes, etc.,….?

Gil March 28, 2011 at 2:03 am

Well if you want to drink your own urine then knock yourself out.

dan March 28, 2011 at 2:21 am

Water is reconstituted or recycled…….in all of its forms…..or with additives…pollutions or otherwise… is filtered by mother nature……the question is whether it is naturally recycled fast enough to replenish the supply. When water is used for any purpose, it is not gone forever.
I ask, when water is used for any ‘immoral’ purpose, where does it then go, that is no longer of use? POOF!!! disappears???

brotio March 28, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Well if you want to drink your own urine then knock yourself out.

I’ve got news for you, pal. Unless you live at the top of the mountain? If you get your water from a municipal supplier, you’re drinking downstream from someone else’s sewage treatment facility.

dan March 29, 2011 at 2:08 am

The earth is a natural acquifier and cleanser. We only need to make sure that we use in amounts that allow for replenishment. Prices in accordance with supply and demand will keep the use at a rate so as to account for its limited supply. A vehicle that uses water for motion times the population would use water at a a faster rate than woudl be replenished, unless we used salt water.

S_M_V March 27, 2011 at 9:08 am

How do you convince people that his statement is true:

“Human labor, by the way, is one of the few resources that is becoming increasingly scarce over time. As the real prices of petroleum, magnesium, coal, and most other ‘natural resources’ trend downward over time, the real price of human labor in industrialized and industrializing economies continues to rise. So it is especially egregious to waste human labor.”

While we have high unemployment.

I have tried several approaches and people still deep down believe that human labor is a homogeneous. So if someone is unemployed we can not have a labor shortage.

Krishnan March 27, 2011 at 9:39 am

My guess is that you cannot … in fact many people believe that since we have greater than zero unemployment, we need to shut down ALL immigration – so that the existing unemployed can find jobs with those that seek employees – (never mind whether or not they have the skills)

I imagine that every unemployed person has some skills that are worth something to someone – as long as the “price” is right. If an unemployed person demands $100 an hour and the “market” is willing to pay $20/hour and the unemployed person refuses to accept that, he/she will remain unemployed and so his/her skills will remain unused …

We can unleash human creativity and ingenuity if we let employers and employees come to any mutually agreeable contract between them -

dan March 28, 2011 at 12:48 am

There is not a lack of humans to conduct the labor, but a lack of enough incentives to get that human to ‘labor’. The continued entitlements incentivize humans to not conduct labor remain high enuf to require high compensations to incentivize a human to labor. If I get $10 an hour to stay at home and only conduct activities intent on pleasure or otherwise, why would I labor for another at $12 or $15 an hour, when considering that there are costs to leaving the home and laboring for that other person? The loss of ‘uninhibited excess time’ (free time) and costs associated with going to work (travel expenses, hygiene, sustence (cost of a lunchbag to carry your food and water), etc.,…….. It is more beneficial to not work than work with most of ‘needs’ or ‘wants’ given to you for not laboring.

MIchael E. Marotta March 27, 2011 at 9:14 am

I forgot to turn our lights on. I am not much for mass protests, or mass anything. I seem not to be alone. I told my wife about the prosecution of Bernard von NotHaus and how no one rose to his defense, not even Ron Paul for whom Norfed struck campaign dollars in 2008. She replied, “Libertarians are not communists.” So, turning on every light in the just slipped my mind. But we did have some lights on, of course, as we were not going dark for Earth Hour, either. In fact, among the lights that always shine is a string of “Christmas lights” in the living room window whose colors I change for the season. They were all green. They are now all blue. for Independence Day, they will be Red, White and Blue. We do not practice potlach, of course, but celebrations are not wasteful. They renew and rejuvenate.

W.E.Heasley March 27, 2011 at 10:24 am

Going back to Milton Friedman, those engaged in Human Achievement Hour had the freedom to choose many courses of action from merely leaving lights on that functioned to serve utilitarian endeavours to those making a political statement and/or both. Further those engaged in Earth Hour also had the freedom to choose.

However, the actual reasoning behind “freedom to choose” differs between the Human Achievement Hour and Earth Hour groups. The HAH group believes all should have the freedom to choose including the EH people. In essence the HAH group is protecting the EH group’s freedom to choose.

On the other hand, the EH group adds a stigma to not turning your lights out. That is, implicit to not turning your lights out is that you hate the planet, are pro- pollution, and hence you are in a negative group. Moreover, you should not be free to choose to leave your lights on for utilitarian or political reasons and you should join them in turning out your lights. Further, if they had their way you would be forced to join them. That is, EH is not interested in others ability to choose freely.

Greens are pretty simple to figure out if you use some Friedman, Hayek, Harold Demsetz, and Thomas Sowell. The greens are for central planning based on “experts”. The expert central planning proposition is based upon self-appointed intellectuals with “special knowledge”. That in the religion of earth worship, spontaneous order is straight out. That authoritarianism must replace spontaneous order. Finally the price system is to be disregarded and the greater good is the rationing mechanism.

muirgeo March 27, 2011 at 10:31 am

Both sides are simply using a symbolic jester to acknowledge their faiths. One has faith in the Invisible Hand God and one with faith in the human brain and the power of planning our destiny. My side claims the same brain power that created this computer can do better job planning for the future than the Invisible Hand God.

Pfloyd March 27, 2011 at 10:43 am

Speaking of symbolic jesters. . . .

jhodapp March 27, 2011 at 10:48 am

Wow, so basically you do support a totalitarian regime! You implied that in your reply. Why have democracy then and not replace voting with a dictator and a set of “expert” advisors to this dictator? The few brightest can then lead us to this “better” future.

muirgeo March 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Ahhh…yeah….riiiight… there is either no planning or totalitarian dictatorship. No that’s not what I implied. It is in fact all that your all-or-none, black or white, un-nuanced brain can come up with as a reply.

Better to try and label me a supporter of TOTALITARIAN DICTATORSHIPS!! then a pragmatist who supports people lead representative democracy. Grow up lil feller.

Methinks1776 March 27, 2011 at 1:13 pm

You know, whenever I see a thread dotted with little “gifts” from Muirdiot, I can’t help but be reminded of the sidewalks of Paris in the 1970′s and 80′s.

Jeff Neal March 27, 2011 at 1:54 pm


Why do you have to insult anyone who disagrees with you? Address the substance of some of the comments made to you comment or go pick a fight with someone else – there’s no one here interested in mud throwing. Take your own advice about growing up.

muirgeo March 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm

What are you talking about. 90% of the replies to me are personal attacks.

Why don’t you tell these people to simply not reply.

And in my reply above maybe you are right but look at how ridiculous the reply was suggesting I claimed we need a totalitarian regime.

brotio March 27, 2011 at 10:22 pm

What are you talking about. 90% of the replies to me are personal attacks.


Virtually everyone who responds to you rebuts your claims. That they also point out that you’re dishonest, malicious, and not very bright is just public service.

Sam Grove March 27, 2011 at 2:02 pm

who supports people lead representative democracy

I pleasant sounding and vague description of bureaucratic tyranny.

muirgeo March 27, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Sam… are you thriving or living under tyranny… I can’t tell.

I personally am thriving but I am concerned with the trends I see and the failure to think long term on the part of the market fundamentalist.

But seriously I’d like to know if you feel you are more thriving or more living under some sort of tyranny.

Jeff Neal March 27, 2011 at 2:35 pm

I’m not the site monitor, just picked up on your tone. If you want everyone else’s tone to improve, your more likely to get what you want if you watch yours – pretty simple.

jhodapp March 28, 2011 at 12:19 am

What part of your sentence “My side claims the same brain power that created this computer can do better job planning for the future than the Invisible Hand God.” did not imply less choice for the individual, more power to a central authority, and generally away from a democracy? So perhaps totalitarian was a bit of a stretch, and I’ll retract that statement, but perhaps you actually need to start replying with some substance to your statements and people might take you seriously.

Can you specifically show, and not with circumstantial evidence, how governments have and do plan their way (not through voting but from a legislative plan) to making people’s lives better. Of course this is subjective, what is better, and that’s precisely the point! Because “better” is in the eye of the beholder, it is better left to the individual even if the State could plan it.

Jeff Neal March 27, 2011 at 10:50 am


Please identify for me which brain ‘planned’ for the creation of the computer. Which government plan was the cause of Steve Jobs’s marketing genius or Bill Gates’s decision to leave Harvard in favor of his garage. And, while you’re at it, please tell me which great innovation is being planned right now and how much of your own money you have invested in that world-changing, perfectly planned innovation. And, with that vast knowledge you possess, tell me which one is after that one, and after that one, and after that one . . . And, lastly, why wasn’t that 3rd one planned first? I think it should have come 2nd, by God [of planning]!

vikingvista March 27, 2011 at 11:00 am

Indeed. He means other people planning your destiny.

Jeff Neal March 27, 2011 at 11:31 am

You’re correct – one clarification. He means other people (including HIMSELF) planning [my] destiny (while he lives free of any such planning by others).

vikingvista March 27, 2011 at 1:25 pm

A person who includes himself among those he wants imposed upon, claims both the moral status of the victim as well as the authority to be a spokesman for all victims of that imposition. In fact, he has the moral status of the victimizer, and that is who he is speaking for.

There is no equivalence between one who “accepts” an imposition, and one who does not.

This is a common collectivist tactic of sophistic persuasion.

muirgeo March 28, 2011 at 12:21 am

I have only one vote… just like you. Ideally any rules I may want passes I too have to live by.

Jeff Neal March 27, 2011 at 1:57 pm

We are on the same page.

muirgeo March 27, 2011 at 2:12 pm

With out the government that had a large part in funding and developing the microprocessor Steve Jobs would have been out of a job and Bill Gates might have graduated from Harvard.

Now you tell me which individual invented or planned the computer. There was NO individual or group of individuals who did so with out support from the government.

The development of the catalytic convertor is a story you should read about. Completely a government idea and private industry said it was impossible.

The best idea now that the government is working on that I can think of is to redo the electric grid to allow for the advancement of our energy delivery system. This would never happen left to private enterprise.

Private enterprise would have us believe that we need oil and that other sources of energy are not practical. But with them sitting of trillions of easy dollars it doesn’t make sense for them to develop less profitable source of energy. That kind of planning and change will come from a people lead government. If corporate interest were not so involved in the process we’d be much further along.

Finally there exist a bountiful number of examples of contributions to society and technological advancement from basic governmental research that might never have occurred if left solely to market forces.

In short government planning for long term needs is often superior to the market and I don’t understand why people like yourself deny the need for both good government and competitive market s with each re-enforcing and complementing the other.

Jeff Neal March 27, 2011 at 2:46 pm

The fact that the government had some incidental role in Apple or Microsoft does not prove that government should increase its role in the innovative endeavors of all companies.

To argue that, because some government actions have produced good outcomes, all things should be planned by the government, is not rational, and it suffers from an unfixable flaw – there is no accounting for the things that went undone because the government forced capital into its preferred ideas and away from others that might have been better.

Government is not populated by supermen. It is populated by moral, imperfect men and women – just like the private sector. However, government has powers the private sector does not and possessing it of control of economic activity invariably leads to tyranny – look at history. It happens gradually and over generations, so your “are you living under a tyranny?” hypothetical questions are neither convincing nor interesting.

Freedom, freedom, freedom. Nothing else matters, sir. That’s why people like me want the government to be hands off. The government can not be a disinterested player in the economy – it invariably attracts rent-seekers and power-hungry non-producers who want to control other people. If you’re watching March Madness, you’ll note that the referees never touch the ball while it’s in play. They enforce the rules, period. That’s how people like me want our government to behave, even if we might be able to convince the referee to trip our opponent on occasion, we don’t want him to have that power, because we’d hate it when it would be exercised against us.

Jeff Neal March 27, 2011 at 2:50 pm

correction…”government is populated by mortal, imperfect men and women . . .”

muirgeo March 27, 2011 at 3:13 pm

But see Jeff I didn’t say ALL THINGS should be planned by the government. Markets and government go hand in hand in my opinion. The best governments will allow markets to flourish but that is NOT necessary that which governs the least. The other needs of society and other externalities also must be considered.

I like the basketball analogy. How would the game go if there were no rules? Who are these tyrants requiring one to dribble the ball rather then walk or run any way they darn please. Who are they to impose possession limits or even the numbers of players we put out on the court? James Naismith was a tyrant. TYRANNY!!!

Jeff Neal March 27, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Don’t be silly. My basketball analogy implicitly acknowledged that there were rules – ergo referee.

Consider two facts: 1) Never in history has an interventionist government found that perfect point where it is interfering with the economy just the right amount, and 2) the most successful nation in history is founded on a document that attempts to say that the right amount is NONE.

Where do you stand?

JohnK March 27, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Markets and government go hand in hand in my opinion.

Except that they don’t.

Government is force.
Markets are choice.

Government is where people go when they want to impose their will upon others or when others are imposing their will upon them.
Markets are where people go when they want to try out their idea on others or find out what ideas other may have.

Markets offer choices, government takes them away.

Interaction with government involves telling others what to do or being told what to do.
Interaction with markets involves agreeing upon what you want to do or what you want someone else to do.

That’s not to say government has no place in markets. It does.
As the referee who reacts to force and fraud, and who reacts if a contract is not kept.

There should be no such thing as government action.
Only government reaction.

CalgaryGuy March 28, 2011 at 10:21 am

Muirgeo, in an anarcho-capitalist society there would still be “rules” akin to those in basketball. You wouldn’t be allowed to murder or steal from someone. What would change, going back to a basketball analogy would be to stop having the ref trip members of the leading team, “redistributing” points from one team to another and handicapping some players because “it’s not fair that Tiny Tim is only 5’3″ and can’t do as well as the 6’6″ guys so the ref has to even it up”

Jeff Neal March 27, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Oh, and on the improvement of the electrical grid or development of an alternative to oil and fossil fuels . . .

Why are you convinced that is a good thing? Why should you and whomever agrees with you tell the rest of us that our money should be spent on that exercise? If you and enough of your fellow lefties believe that, deploy your capital that way. And, if you’re right, charge me whatever the market will bear to connect to your new master grid. Meanwhile, I will do whatever I want to do with my money, not what you force me to do with my money.

As for the trillions of dollars that private enterprise is “sitting on” I ask you one question – can show me one company that has a pile of cash sitting in a mattress or otherwise not invested in a financial instrument? For you to think that cash deposited in a bank is not being properly deployed is naive. That money is invested – however that company’s management has chosen to invest it. Again, you’re free to do as you please with YOUR money. I ask only that you do me (and anyone who doesn’t agree with your decisions) the same favor. Leave our money alone. If you can, by your own private efforts, convince a number of people that you are right, more power to you. Do not use government power to redirect my capital to your preferred uses – that’s tyranny; whether you take 1% or 100% of my money, you’ve taken my money.

muirgeo March 28, 2011 at 12:33 am

“I ask only that you do me (and anyone who doesn’t agree with your decisions) the same favor. Leave our money alone.”

OK… we will leave your money alone when you agree to no police or fire protection, when you disconnect your sewer and water lines and when you never step on public property or use public roads again. Like wise none of your bank deposits can be insured and you are exempt from making any money that is linked to government contracts, You have to send your kids to private schools and pay out of state tuition for college with no access to federal loans. No 911 service for you and in fact you can’t even use dollars any more because they are made by the US treasury and you don’t want to pay for that. None of your inventions can be patented and you are not allowed to incorporate. Your electricity and gas will likely have to be shut down because of ties to government expense. No gas for your car because the government heavily subsidizes that. Have fun!

JohnK March 28, 2011 at 8:12 am

muir – you look so valiant as you slay that straw man! It runs a tingle up my leg! I swoon!

jhodapp March 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm

In reply to your list of government services that tax money pays for currently, if only our government did those services that you listed, I think us of the libertarian persuasion would be a bit happier. The list of egregious things that the government does like subsidies, meddling in people’s business, etc is part of the list that you left out.

Emil March 27, 2011 at 4:24 pm

“But with them sitting of trillions of easy dollars it doesn’t make sense for them to develop less profitable source of energy. ”

So if I understand this correctly, all companies and entrepreneurs have the same interests as the oil companies?

dan March 28, 2011 at 1:19 am

Notice, it took the free market to transform hundreds of billions of dollars govt R&D into something useful. Think about what the free market could have produced had the trillions of dollars not been stolen from it.

tkwelge March 27, 2011 at 8:50 pm

There is no evidence that increased government R&D spending within OECD nations has led to any increase in the rate of invention or productive efficiency. There is zero correlation between government R&D and GDP growth.

Even the creation of arpanet and various other government inventions were designed for purposes that didn’t have much to do with what they were eventually used for. Even if the government contributed to the creation of great things, it never happens as planned. It’s always an accident. Of course, that is how things work in the private sector too, but at least there isn’t anybody pretending to have planned the great accomplishments of the world there.

Long term planning is most effective outside of government. It is the government that consistently encourages a distortion of the time preference via fiscal and monetary policy, which again and again leads to the failure of the general economy. Under a truly free market, the time preference would be effective and growth would be balanced and efficient.

tkwelge March 27, 2011 at 8:57 pm

too high bad grammar, so sue me

dan March 28, 2011 at 1:09 am

Other sources of energy?
Oil is mostly used as a source of energy for motivation of vehicles. It is cheap, and would be even cheaper for the consumer if govt were not impeding the development. We use very little oil for generation of electricity. Govt idealogues wish to impose limitations to men’s choices in favor of the politicians own self-interest and ideas or theories. That is coerce or compulse men into their ideas and theories rather than play them out in the market to free choice of adherence. That is essentially regression to authoritarian or autocratic rule. The progess of society or evolving industries and that which they produce may be a bit slow to your liking, but the results fair far better and the resources are put to far better use than attempting to compulse change toward unproven, unreliable, or unwanted products. This is where resources lay wasted………. in misallocation by govt malfeasance.

dan March 28, 2011 at 1:15 am

That might never have occurred……. I would state the same about the free market a hundred times over and that govt interferences are likely to have stymied many societal and technological advancements. Look at the housing boom/bust. Govt interference has set US finances and societal improvements by several decades. All for the ignorance of ‘elitist’ Ivy League grads in govt positions who sought to create some type of egalatarianism in housing…..using stats, no less. Using incomplete stats, at that.
NO thank you……. I cannot afford to have govt interventionism. They create havoc in the market and the only thing they make equitable in society is the suffering.

tarran March 27, 2011 at 11:34 am

One has faith in the Invisible Hand God and one with faith in the human brain and the power of planning our destiny

Wow! The blistering ignorance of this statement is impressive!

I’ve actually heard George W Bush say smarter things than this,

And, even though it is a futile exercise to attempt to penetrate the shields of ignorance that keep your mind blisfully empty, I’ll explain.

Muirgeo, in a free market, everybody is free to implement their ideas to provide a new or improved service of good.

In your desired political order, a small subset of the population get to implement their ideas, subject to a veto by the people that might lose money because of these new ideas.

The comical thing is that you consider yourself to be rational, and accuse everyone else of engaging in the superstitious rationalizations you ladle out day in and day out.

I’m so glad I don’t live in CA. There’s no chance that I will have you treating me medically, and that gives me comfort.

muirgeo March 27, 2011 at 2:25 pm

You started your explanation with this, “Muirgeo, in a free market, everybody is free to implement their ideas to provide a new or improved service of good.”

I don’t think that is a true statement. Monopolies, political favoritism and externalities often tilt the balance in favor of those who have money and power and leaves many talented people stuck in lives of poverty or marginal production.

How is a child born into poverty free to “implement his ideas” if he never has access to a good education? YOURS is a society that ultimately results in a privileged class where the best thing one can do is to be sure unto which parents they are born. Your society… we’ve been there before leaves elderly to starve or freeze to death or to be sent to poor farms, it lets children work like slaves and sends workers to debtors prison…. Yo must read Charles Dickens stories and think they are happy fairy-tales where everyone lives happily ever after.

CalgaryGuy March 27, 2011 at 3:07 pm

You can’t claim the free market wouldn’t work because of political favoritism because guess what the “political” part of that expression refers to? In a free market ABSENT of government intervention there would be no political favoritism. Please tell me you are at least intelligent enough to see that.

Also, how is government not a big monopoly? Again, please tell me you understand that government = monopoly.

As for externalities, you do realize there are both positive and negative externalities, right? In your mind, government subsidizes education to get more of it, correct? So, what is the logical result of subsidizing unemployment?

muirgeo March 28, 2011 at 12:37 am

“In a free market ABSENT of government intervention there would be no political favoritism. ”

Yes and then all the Happy Pink Fairies could come out of hiding and sprinkle us with whatever the hell else you can think of to make you happy in LaLa Land.

Jeff Neal March 27, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Where is this America with elderly starving and freezing in large numbers?

No supporter of American ideals ever promised to eliminate poverty. Only dictators and tyrants ever make that promise.

What American ideals promise or attempt to produce is a world in which outcomes are not influenced by politics. That the ideal is sometimes overlooked by a lobbyist or campaign contributor who manages to find a powerful government official who is willing to use his power for ill does not argue for giving government more power, does it?

If you give the government more power, only the powerful will benefit from that gift. Is that your aim?

tarran March 27, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Muirgeo, practically every assertion you make is contradicted by the historical record. Every one. It’s quite impressive:

1) Under a free market, wealth does not get concentrated in the hands of a few. You may want to read the papers of an economist named Ludwig von Mises on something called the Socialist Calculation Problem to understand why.

2) You’ll note that in the comparatively laissez faire 19th century in the U.S:
a) The middle class exploded.
b) The children of the poor became rich (you might have heard of a bloke named Carnegie)
c) The old nobility lost its stranglehold on wealth.

3) And, the explosion of wealth also coincided with an explotion in the amount of education provided tochildren. And this continues today.

4) Interestingly enough, in slums throughout the world, one can find private schools with very low tuitions, some charitable ones that have no tuition, that are better tan the government run schools. This may shock you, but parents love their children, and many people are willing to teach the children of others because they think its important.

5) There has never been a monopoly that has existed outside of having government intervention propping it up. Oh, I know that sompanies like Alcoa have been called monopolies byt the government (through the dastardly act of doing such a good job that nobody was willing to enter the market). however, the definition of a monopoly is that competing firms are denied entry to the market place. History is littered with the corpses of businesses that gained market dominance in some field for a time, until someone came up with a better way to do things and made them obsolete.

6) How, in a free market do you get political favoritism? That requires a government violently expropriating wealth or preventing them from doing business with their chosen business partners.

7) It’s kind of comical hearing you claim that a strong government opens doors for all, when much of the political classes running the show are composed to the children of the people who came into power in the early 20th century.

8) I am amused by the way you sneer at the accomplishments of Edison, Carnegie, du Pont who rose from humble beginnings to make the world a much better place (and get rich in the process) – as if they would have had a chance in the latter half of the 20th century.

9) The least regulated sector of the economy is the IT sector. It’s also the most dynamic, provides ever more powerful goods and services and lower and lower costs, and has made forturnes for more self made people coming from humble beginnings than any other sector. And, according to you, it should be dominated by the kids of Hewlett and Packard.

I must say it’s kind of impressive how you stubbornly keep coming back here to have your cherished superstitions ripped apart. You may be an ignorant savage who desires to plunge us into a neo-feudalistic nightmare, but you are persistent.

Jeff Neal March 27, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Thank you, sir.

dan March 28, 2011 at 1:38 am

Don’t forget Woolworth……. poor farm boy, right? Became a wealthy, wealthy man……….. not from govt handouts…..
Not to mention the stupendous success of the internet…….
Govt spent billions to no avail and with no to little success.
In the open market place, it is now indispensible. It has been the catalyst for creation of trillions of dollars of wealth and millions upon millions of jobs. The interent in the hands of the free market has no been dispersed around the planet, being a catalyst to education and spurring rebellions in totalitarianistic territories. In the hands of the govt., the internet was a tool of minimal significance. In the hands of the free market, it is a world changing phenomena. Now govt wants to control it. They want to destroy and/or limit its effects. They will only stymie more innovations and prolong any progression or advancements.

Gil March 28, 2011 at 2:09 am

Every poor person grew to become amazingly wealthy. Yeah right!

dan March 28, 2011 at 1:27 am

‘How is a child born into poverty free to “implement his ideas” if he never has access to a good education?’-muirego
Why don’t you ask Dr. Thomas Sowell or Prof. Walter E Williams that question?
Hell, ask me that question. I too, was born into poverty and a school district that did not produce high levels of college bound students.
Yet, I live well. Yet, I express my ideas.
Govt entitlements have created dependency and more people living in poverty than not. Detroit!!! It is the ultimate liberal expirement that has been failing for 5 decades and counting. No matter how much more money is thrown into Detroit, is deteriorates further. The creation of govt dependency, of which I was almost a victim. Of which, hundreds of thousands are now and have been fleeing.

dan March 28, 2011 at 2:36 am

And every rich person grew up to be amazingly wealthy or even wealthy at all?
The poor choices made by others that put them into their lots in life are not of my doing. I am not their keeper. Aside from being born with a intellectual or physical dysfunction that impedes the ability of an individual, the only thing holding one back is himself/herself.
Muirego asserted that those born into poverty are locked in and cannot get out………. He is empirically incorrect. Having parents who sacrificed and put forth efforts or made good choices to the benefit of their offsprings opens up options for the individual but does not guarantee success. Poverty is not passed on from one generation to another like a physical trait similar to eye color. Those assumptions are typically made by the ignorant.
I corrected him. Millions of people have thrived or found success after being born to parents who have not. Poverty is usually a condition made by choices. Bad ones, I am sure, but bad choices, nonetheless. And, the stats on those living below poverty compared to those above poverty is inherently skewed and the information derived is likely to mislead you. Every year, people are moving up and down in the financial category. leaving one job for another that pays more, juming over the imaginary line of poverty, and at time falling back below it. Many go from $8 dollars an hour to $15 in just a couple of years…..many jump from $15 to over $20 in just as long……And still others may go from $20 (all the while getting educated or trained in a skill) to over $100,000 in just another couple of years……. But, if one puts forth little effort or none at all……….Then they remain where they are, indefinitely.

jhodapp March 28, 2011 at 12:35 pm

“Monopolies, political favoritism and externalities often tilt the balance in favor of those who have money and power and leaves many talented people stuck in lives of poverty or marginal production.”

You listed 3 things that the government is responsible for. Not all of the externalities are the cause of government, but a lot of them are. A small government suffers from less of these problems by definition than a larger government.

John V March 27, 2011 at 12:26 pm

“My side claims the same brain power that created this computer can do better job planning for the future than the Invisible Hand God.”

What a clusterF..K of bad logic.

Sam Grove March 27, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Again with your superficial interpretation imposed upon us free thinkers.
That “invisible hand” god is nothing more or less then the price coordinated economic activities of billions of people exercising their own intelligence in planning their own lives through the voluntary cooperative activity called trade which allows everyone to serve everyone else without the imposition of plans by elites (such as you suppose yourself to be) who cannot possibly carry out the detailed interaction that goes on between billions of thinking, planning people in the course of their daily lives.

If you really don’t get the nature of “invisible hand”, after repeated explanation, then you need to get a new brain, otherwise you are just making a feeble attack on an allegorical description of reality that makes you look either stupid or evil.

vikingvista March 27, 2011 at 1:31 pm

“stupid or evil”

The Cafe has volumes of evidence clearly showing that he is both.

brotio March 27, 2011 at 10:28 pm

And, why not point out examples of both! :)

Actually you deserve a tidal wave of crude to sweep you and your family away and if you live or don’t you should have nothing to say about it. – Yasafi to VikingVista, on July 11, 2010

And, one of my favorite muirpidities:

Suffice it to say individualism where ever it surfaces is ultimately self-destructive. – Posted by: muirgeo | Mar 15, 2008 11:29:41 AM

dan March 28, 2011 at 12:52 am

Even God allows for free choice, whereas ‘your side’ does not allow for free choice. Where God allows for individuals to choose, man steps in to command and use force, if necessary, to compulse. Another man can never make a decision for the collective that is better than the collective making a whole series of choices for themselves, based on their own self-interests.

jhodapp March 28, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Touche, well said. :)

crossofcrimson March 28, 2011 at 9:17 am

“Invisible Hand God”

Do you ever see the irony in that you seem to scarcely believe in the very self-interest you so often lament?

Bob March 27, 2011 at 11:47 am

When I first heard about Earth Hour my initial reaction was retaliation and thought about putting every electrical appliance on in conjunction with the Human Achievement Hour. I thought about it and decided that I would do nothing other than carry on as usual to not let either side effect my way of doing things. The global warming crowd would not get me to suffer possible injury due to lack of proper lighting and I would not waste money by turning on appliances that I didn’t need to satisfy a silly protest even though I agree with the Human Achievement crowds arguement.

jhodapp March 27, 2011 at 11:55 am

Well said and rational.

Seth March 27, 2011 at 12:44 pm

At the 4:30 mark in the Rosling TED video you linked to Rosling says he asks his students, “how many of you hand wash your jeans and your bed sheets? And no one raises their hands. Even the hardcore in the green movement use washing machine.”

At the the 7 minute mark Rosling explains the energy usage distribution across folks on the planet showing that the wealthiest (the folks that use washing machines) have a much higher usage than the poorest. He comments, “until they [greenies] have the same energy consumption per person [as the folks who still do wash their clothes by hand] they shouldn’t give advice to others what to do and what not to do.”

Gil March 28, 2011 at 2:11 am

Repeal the 1st Amendment then?

DG Lesvic March 27, 2011 at 1:14 pm


If this is the best our friends can come up with, isn’t it time for your harangue?

Andrew_M_Garland March 27, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Do Smart People Run The Market?

Academics and politicians routinely pose a question: Do you want us to provide rational, insightful, far-seeing management of your life and resources, or do you want to leave this to the unregulated, unplanned, hit-or-miss results of the market? They are smug in their belief that there is only one smart answer, that rational planning has to beat random action every time.

Of course, they spin the question to get their desired answer. The better question is: which do you choose as the primary way of dealing with the problems of life and of offering you methods and choices?

The choice is not between government planning or market non-planning.
The choice is between
(1) Government planning by the few through politics, or
(2) Market planning by millions with the knowledge and experience to create more value than they use up.

muirgeo March 27, 2011 at 6:59 pm

First of all government planning should NOT be by the few but by those same millions of consumers who are also voters. Markets need good rules to function effectively . The idea that unregulated markets are most efficient is blind to the facts of history as well as our present economic collapse. It’s irrelevant silliness based on nothing. Trickle down economics is hokum.

CalgaryGuy March 27, 2011 at 7:05 pm

You don’t seriously believe that the present economic collapse occurred in a completely free market absent of any regulations, do you?

DG Lesvic March 27, 2011 at 7:58 pm

“The disturbances caused by intervention are taken as proof of the inadequacy of the market economy and so become a pretext for more and stronger intervention.”
Wilhelm Röpke

The Big Lie of Hitler is that of all socialists, communist, fascist, liberal or pro-gressive, with the only difference the identity of the scapegoat as capitalist or Jew.

If the more “regulated,” socialist world is really such a workers’ paradise, why are the workers themselves so desperate to get away from it? Why must it put up walls to keep them in, and, the more unregulated, capitalist, to keep them out?

From Socialism at

tarran March 27, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Another thing that sails right over Muirgeo’s head.

Numerous people, fooled by massive money printing from the U.S. Central Bank, and discouraged from fearing bankrupcy by the repeated exercises of “the Greenspan Put” engaged ina bidding war that increased the prices of certain assetts and caused producer to heavily expand production.

This economic dislocation could only be repaired by people abandoning the behavior, which meant they stopped overpaying for real estate among other things. The collapse in the housing market is the way, in a free market, feedback systems eliminate economically destructive business processes.

Of course, like his idealogical comrade Herbert Hoover, Muirgeo thinks the immune response is the actual disease and wants to have resources violently comandeered to keep the old unprofitably systems functioning evermore. Prop up the housing prices, prevent banrupcies, print money to pay out of work construction workers to tear-up/resurface roads.

It’s terribly sad, really.

muirgeo March 28, 2011 at 12:41 am

Absolutely it occurred because of deregulation and poor regulation. You live in Canada… how’d your banks do?

dan March 28, 2011 at 2:16 am

Did not occur due to poor regulation and deregulation. Eliminate all of the regulations, but ensure that govt will no ‘bail out’ or buy any of the high risk loans, and the banks will not make such loans. Go back to the mid-90′s. you will see how govt officials were castigating banks because the govt was not seeing a particular statistic in a more politically correct form. The govt viewed any disparaties between white people being denied loans as % of the total white people requesting loans and that of the African-American denial of loans as having no other explanation but DISCRIMINATION. The govt had no proof of discrimination, only a statistic that they did not like. Even though, they failed to utter a mention of the Asian-American statistic in relation to denied loans, which beat Whites by 10% points. So, were banks discriminating against Whites?
Anywhooooo, the govt imposed pressure on banks to change these statistical disparaties. The govt removed barriers on banks. They lowered the required hard asset holdings from 15%-20% on outstanding loans to below 10%. They threatened legal action on grounds of racism. They (govt) had Fannie and Freddie incentivize loans with no money down and lowered loan qualifications by purchasing those high-risk loans, reliving the banks of the consequnces of default. The taxpayer would be on the hook. The govt imposed quotas of Lower Income candidates or minority individuals. The banks stood to make money on that which was likely to lose money. They were threatened with legal action. They were threatened with audits, public scorn…….. ACORN showed up in NY to protest and make accusations of ‘racism’.

crossofcrimson March 28, 2011 at 9:28 am

“Absolutely it occurred because of deregulation and poor regulation. You live in Canada… how’d your banks do?”

Does the realization that what are arguably the most regulated markets (finance, housing, health care, education) seem to to be the most inefficient and/or volatile ever give you pause for thought….or does the non-subtlety of that reality just kind of escape you?

CalgaryGuy March 28, 2011 at 10:01 am

Avoiding the question as usual, muirgeo. If it occurred due to “poor regulation” then it wasn’t a free market.

Absolutely Canadian banks did not do as badly as US banks, but that’s like saying because I don’t let my daughter out of the house and she doesn’t get pregnant then I must be a great parent and raised her right. If banks want to gamble with their own money, let them, but when government uses my money to bail them out that isn’t “free market”.

Andrew_M_Garland March 27, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Banks are the most regulated businesses in every country, and are intensely regulated, watched, and integrated into government action. So, why were banks at the center of the recent financial turmoil, and why did they need bailing out? Is it because they weren’t regulated enough?

If there wasn’t enough regulation to keep banks solvent, just how much regulation and of what type would work?

You say that “government planning should NOT be by the few but by the millions of consumers”. First, you use “should”, which is merely a wish. Second, how would you actually arrange that “should”.?

Methinks1776 March 28, 2011 at 11:27 am

As usual, he doesn’t understand what he’s saying.

Consumers, not regulators, are the ones who should be “regulating” the banks – not that he understands this.

He is completely (and unknowingly) correct about one thing – there is no such thing as “trickle down economics”. Since George Bush I gave that derogatory name to Reagan’s economic plan during their fight for the presidential candidacy, I have searched and never found a single scholarly work on “trickle down economics”. The fact that Bush didn’t understand what the hell Reagan was talking about should have given us pause in electing him and his offspring.

DG Lesvic March 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Great work.

Keep haranging.

Jeff Neal March 27, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Rules and laws are not the same thing as planning for predetermined outcomes. M- discussing things with you has become tiresome. You change the subject, you parse words to make a tangential point, you hide behind irrelevant factoids and generally pretend that we’re in some grad school class and none of this matters.

Uncle…you win. Just leave us alone and don’t pass any laws that make us think or act the way you want us to think or act – we’ll all do the same favor for you.


dan March 28, 2011 at 2:02 am

Still, out of 150 million voters, 75,000,001 would dictate to the other 74,999,999 as to what should be planned and then compulsed by the power of govt, of which should you in the minority fail or willingly fail to comply, will be subjected to punitive actions. To a particular degree, at the state level, the govt may impede market progress by intervening, so long as commerce within the country is not impeded. Federal govt has no legal role to intervene in the market. Only the charletons who have perverted the highest legal authority have managed to get federal govt into a position of intervening in the market place, of which they should not be doing.

Vog March 28, 2011 at 6:46 am

Don, I think that the “implied logic” you ascribed to Emerson White’s comments is incorrect. I read Emerson’s view as that you should use ALL the energy/lights you NEED for the hour, and not a “significantly reduced” amount of lighting as you put it. So ALL productive activities considered by Emerson (or you or me) could and would be performed. I believe that Emerson is saying do not switch on a light that you dont need – that doing so is wasteful and I agree. It is wasteful if it is just switched on to prove that you can.

Don March 29, 2011 at 9:22 pm

I’m quite sure that most of North Korea and Cuba participated in Earth Hour. What stalwarts of environmental conscience they are!

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