A threat to national vitality is what [James] Pethokoukis calls “the precautionary principle.” It holds that significant undertakings should not begin until threats of damage from them are fully understood. Due caution is, of course, wise, but much of the exhilaration of life comes from not knowing — not being able to know — what is over the horizon. Undue anxiety about possible consequences of innovations breeds what Brink Lindsey of the Niskanen Center calls “the anti-Promethean backlash.” Technology — e.g., the internet — can be injurious and abused, but it is, on balance, mightily beneficial, and not to be blamed for human abuses of it.
Many of today’s anticipatory anxieties about artificial intelligence might be well-founded, but not its threat to cause enormous joblessness. Until the middle of the last century, many women were telephone operators. Displaced by mechanical switching technology, they moved on to other jobs. Pethokoukis says ATMs led to increased bank teller jobs as it became cheaper to open bank branches.
Vitality that translates into economic growth can be transformative. “The difference between an economy growing at 2 percent for the next fifty years and growing at 4 percent over that span is,” Pethokoukis notes, “massive — a $60 trillion economy in 2076 versus $160 trillion.”
A prudent society does not assume that such things are achievable. However, a dynamic society does not allow anxieties about the future to constrict is horizons, or to seek security in the embrace of the state.
In his second contribution to the Cato Institute’s superb “Defending Globalization” project, Colin Grabow explains that “globalization’s expansion is due not only to policy choices but also to private initiatives and technological advancements that have diminished the role of distance as a barrier to trade.” Two slices:
The numbers speak for themselves. According to a 2023 paper, transport costs by weight declined by 33–39 percent from 1970 to 2014, while transport costs by value declined 48–62 percent. Other measures indicate that ocean shipping, which carries around 80 percent of international goods trade by volume, saw costs decline by just over 50 percent from 1974 to 2016, while air cargo costs fell 78 percent from 1970 to 2019.
Containers also provided other benefits, such as deterring pilferage, by making the cargo less accessible (recalling his stint on a merchant ship prior to widespread containerization, author Christopher Buckley noted that “you knew what cargoes you were carrying because you could see them, smell them, touch them, and on occasion, help yourself to them,” while the wages of New York dockworkers were jokingly said to be “twenty dollars a day and all the Scotch you could carry home”). Increased ease of cargo handling also meant fewer damaged goods, which, along with reduced thievery, resulted in reduced insurance costs. As one example, shipping between Australia and Europe saw insurance costs fall from an average of $0.24 per ton to $0.04 per ton from 1965 to 1971.
While media coverage tends to hype the benefits of climate policy, it plays down the costs, which Mr. [Richard] Tol’s analysis shows are substantial. Based on the latest cost estimates of emission reductions from the United Nations climate panel, he finds that fully delivering on the 1.5-degree Paris promise will cost 4.5% of global GDP each year by midcentury and 5.5% by 2100. This means that likely climate policy costs will be much higher than the likely benefits for every year throughout this century and into the next. Under any realistic assumptions, the Paris agreement fails a basic cost-benefit test.
The reality would likely be worse than Mr. Tol’s estimate. He unrealistically assumes governments will implement policies that meet these temperature targets at the lowest possible cost, such as a globally uniform, increasing carbon tax. In real life, climate policy has been needlessly expensive, with a plethora of inefficient, disconnected measures such as electric-vehicle subsidies. Studies show that the policies actually being enacted to curb carbon emissions will cost more than twice the theoretical expense Mr. Tol outlines.
Ultimately, Thunberg owns her morally twisted positions and affirmatively harmful activism. But, after having suffered through half a decade of this arrant moral nonsense only to have it predictably revealed (like a noxious corpse-flower bloom) that, atop her insane environmental beliefs, she is driven also by a loathing for Jews, my eyes turn to all those that elevated a child and helped warp her into this. Everyone who participated in this spectacle is indicted in one way or another.
“Let me be clear: To any corporation that has not brought their prices back down—even as inflation has come down, even as supply chains have been rebuilt—it’s time to stop the price gouging,” Biden warned, imploring them to “giv[e] the American consumer a break.”
[DBx: If a physicist from M.I.T., Cornell, or Cal Tech publicly scolded gravity for causing people who fall off ladders to break their arm and legs – and then told gravity to stop hurting people in this manner – everyone would immediately understand this ‘scientist’ to be a ridiculous kook unworthy of attention. This ‘scientist’s’ lofty position would neither mask nor excuse his Everestian ignorance. Yet presidents of the United States routinely issue quackery no less absurd, but continue to be treated with respect by at least half of the population.]
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 79 percent of independent workers prefer their current work arrangements and only 1 in 10 would rather be W-2 employees. The majority are supplementary earners who already have full-time jobs, meaning that reclassification policies— which would make their contract relationships illegal — would likely eliminate their valued side gigs.
Mike Munger wisely observes about Argentina that it “has daunting problems, but it is also possessed of many highly educated and motivated people, and an impressive array of natural resources. The level of wrenching social change that will be required means that success is years away, if it happens at all. But achieving a separation of money and state is an important first step.”
Many DEI offices prioritize a particular ideology—that of intersectionality—which analyzes how various identities contribute to the construction of the oppressed and oppressor. Through that prism, Jews do not fit into the oppressed class, but rather are placed in the oppressor class of privilege. Indeed, Jews are seen (correctly) as one of the groups that built Western Civilization. And from the identitarian perspective, Western Civilization is at best complicit in the harms that have been visited on various groups—women, Blacks, and gays, among others.