Archive for April, 2010

Ideology on parade: To Mark Levin and conservatives, NRO's own climate expert is now a “Global Warming Zealot”?!

April 23rd, 2010 No comments

My goodness! Another Frumming at NRO!

So Jim Manzi, a conservative/libertarian and a reasoned critic of cap and trade – who has been retained by NRO and is on the National Review board of trustees – has, by criticizing poor climate science arguments by neocon polemicist Mark Levin, become Public Enemy No. 1!! Could the right do a better job of illustrating Julian Sanchez’s point about the right-wing circle-?

The pirana feeding is on; enjoy the show!

Says Andrew Sullivan:

April 22nd, 2010 @ 04 12
Jim Manzi Is A “Global Warming Zealot”?!
Yes, Jim Manzi, one of the most effective, data-driven critics of cap and trade is described thus on Mark Levin’s Facebook page and all Levin’s fans congratulate him for smacking down a “liberal” and an “eco-Marxist”!

So there you have it. When someone like Manzi is a left-wing zealot, then the right has simply ceased to be in any way rational. The circle has closed.

David Frum:

How wonderful to return to a free country, I thought as I stepped off the plane from Beijing at Washington Dulles. No more censorship, no more official lies, no more kowtowing to high officials who gained power by their mindless repetition of party dogma…

Then alas I opened my browser and read the dump-on-Manzi comments on NRO’s The Corner. Manzi had deviated from the One Correct Way of Mark Levin Thought, and all his former colleagues had been summoned together to Denounce and Struggle Against Him.

Not one stood up to be counted in Manzi’s defense, not even colleagues whom Manzi might have had reason to regard as close personal friends. (Take a second to notice whose bylines are missing from yesterday’s discussions.)

What makes this episode all the more remarkable is that Manzi is actually a member of NR’s board of trustees – i.e., somebody who might claim a little more scope to speak his mind. But even for trustees, there are limits, and Manzi crossed them.

It’s important to understand what exactly the limit is.

Manzi could have safely disputed Levin’s claims on global warming if he had observed a couple of conditions. First, acknowledge Liberty and Tyranny as a good and important book. Second, acknowledge Levin’s “service” (i.e., leadership) of the conservative cause. Third, isolate criticisms to one particular finite point – avoid drawing any larger conclusions – and be sure to wrap any criticisms in a blanket of compliments. Just because one particular chapter happens to be slovenly, ignorant, and hysterical should not lead you to question the intellectual merit of the book as a whole.


David Frum

Categories: climate change, Manzi Tags:

Wow; a type of climate science review we'll never see at Mises Blog; at NRO, Jim Manzi takes down "wingnuttery" by Mark Levin

April 23rd, 2010 No comments

Last week at the NYT, Ross Douthat, himself stirred by Julian Sanchez’s recent perception of a problem of “epistemic closure” (an ideologically sealed news and thought echochamber) on the Right , and threw down a gauntlet to conservative intellectuals:

“Conservative domestic policy would be in better shape if conservative magazines and conservative columnists were more willing to call out Republican politicians (and, to a lesser extent, conservative entertainers) for offering bromides instead of substance, and for pandering instead of grappling with real policy questions.”

In response, an astonishing thing happened: Jim Manzi, a relatively informed and sophisticated commentator on climate policies at Cato (who I’ve disagreed with a number of times and whom Douthat referred to as one of the Right’s “impressive younger thinkers”), took up the challenge and – at NRO’s The Corner – in the heart of “Planet Gore” country, produced an April 21 post that pulled no punches in dismantling the climate change discussion in Mark Levin’s bestselling Liberty and Tyranny. Manzi had the effrontery to refer to Levin’s science discussion as “awful” and “wingnuttery“!

Readers beware, a liberal serving of graphic excerpts of Manzi’s piece follows (emphasis added):

“I’m not expert on many topics the book addresses, so I flipped to its treatment of a subject that I’ve spent some time studying — global warming — in order to see how it treated a controversy in which I’m at least familiar with the various viewpoints and some of the technical detail.

“It was awful. It was so bad that it was like the proverbial clock that chimes 13 times — not only is it obviously wrong, but it is so wrong that it leads you to question every other piece of information it has ever provided.

“Levin argues that human-caused global warming is nothing to worry about, and merely an excuse for the Enviro-Statists (capitalization in the original) to seize more power. It reads like a bunch of pasted-together quotes and stories based on some quick Google searches by somebody who knows very little about the topic, and can’t be bothered to learn. After pages d\evoted to talking about prior global cooling fears, and some ridiculous or cynical comments by advocates for emissions restrictions (and one quote from Richard Lindzen, a very serious climate scientist who disputes the estimated magnitude of the greenhouse effect, but not its existence), he gets to the key question on page 184 (eBook edition):

‘[D]oes carbon dioxide actually affect temperature levels?’

“Levin does not attempt to answer this question by making a fundamental argument that proceeds from evidence available for common inspection through a defined line of logic to a scientific view. Instead, he argues from authority by citing experts who believe that the answer to this question is pretty much no. Who are they? An associate professor of astrophysics, a geologist, and an astronaut.

“But he says that these are just examples:

‘There are so many experts who reject the notion of man-made global warming and the historical claims about carbon dioxide they are too numerous to list here.’

“He goes on to cite a petition “rejecting the theory of human-caused global warming” sponsored by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine and signed by more than 31,000 scientists. There are a few problems with this survey that Levin doesn’t mention. More than 20,000 of these “scientists” lack PhDs in any field. There was very little quality control: At least one person signed it as Spice Girl Geri Halliwell. Scientific American did the hard work of actually contacting a sample of individual signatories, and estimated that there are about 200 climate scientists who agree with the statement in the petition among the signatories. And most important by far, the text of the petition is not close to Levin’s claim of rejecting the notion of man-made global warming. In the key sentence it says that signatories do not believe that there is compelling scientific evidence that human release of greenhouse gases will cause catastrophic heating and disruption of the earth’s climate. Depending on the definition of “catastrophic,” I could agree to that. Yet I don’t reject the notion of man-made global warming.

“On one side of the scale of Levin’s argument from authority, then, we have three scientists speaking outside their areas of central expertise, plus a dodgy petition. What’s on the other side of the scale that Levin doesn’t mention to his readers?

“Among the organizations that don’t reject the notion of man-made global warming are: the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; The Royal Society; the national science academies of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand. Russia, South Africa, and Sweden; the U.S. National Research Council; the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the American Chemical Society; the American Physical Society; the American Geophysical Union; and the World Meteorological Organization. That is, Levin’s argument from authority is empty.

“Of course, this roll call could be arbitrarily long and illustrious, and that does not make them right. Groupthink or corruption is always possible, and maybe the entire global scientific establishment is wrong. Does he think that these various scientists are somehow unaware that Newsweek had an article on global cooling in the 1970s? Or are they aware of the evidence in his book, but are too trapped by their assumptions to be able to incorporate this data rationally? Or does he believe that the whole thing is a con in which thousands of scientists have colluded across decades and continents to fool such gullible naifs as the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, numerous White House science advisors, Margaret Thatcher, and so on? Are the Queen of England and the Trilateral Commission in on it too?

“But what evidence does Levin present for any of this amazing incompetence or conspiracy beyond that already cited? None. He simply moves on to criticisms of proposed solutions. This is wingnuttery.

“[D]espite what intellectuals will often claim, most people (including me) don’t really want their assumptions challenged most of the time (e.g., the most intense readers of automobile ads are people who have just bought the advertised car, because they want to validate their already-made decision). I get that people often want comfort food when they read. Fair enough. But if you’re someone who read this book in order to help you form an honest opinion about global warming, then you were suckered. Liberty and Tyranny does not present a reasoned overview of the global warming debate; it doesn’t even present a reasoned argument for a specific point of view, other than that of willful ignorance. This section of the book is an almost perfect example of epistemic closure.”

Manzi’s piece brought a quick and flabbergasted reactions by NRO neocons Andy McCarthy, Kathryn Jean Lopez and Chris Horner, as noted by Julian Sanchez, Daniel Larison at American Conservative,
and others:

Said Larison:

“Jim Manzi made the mistake of taking up this challenge and applying intellectual rigor and honesty to a prominent conservative radio host’s book on a subject he understands fairly well. The inevitable circling-of-the-wagons that has followed illustrates perfectly the problem Manzi was trying to address in Levin’s work. Not only do Manzi’s colleagues automatically defend Levin’s sub-par arguments, but they regard it as horribly bad form to dare criticize those arguments with the vehemence that their poor quality would seem to merit.”

To be honest, I was surprised by Manzi’s bad form as well. That, if not his ideologically weak climate science views, ought certainly to exclude him from commenting at LvMI. On climate science, Hayek be darned: we want conservatives – nay – neocons! – on climate science.

Categories: climate change, Manzi Tags:

Get your parody critique while it lasts …. Hitler reacts to Google caving on removing Hitler parodies from YouTube

April 22nd, 2010 No comments

Well done!


Categories: Copyright parody Tags:

Finally an LvMI commentator who sees the elephant in the room: effective reform to rein in rampant moral hazard at banks means removing limited liability!

April 22nd, 2010 No comments

[It looks like I’m having formatting problems; sorry, readers!]

I left the following comment on Kevin Dowd’s excellent April 9 Mises Daily piece, “The Current Financial Crisis – and After”, a transcript of a talk he apparently made at the Paris Freedom Fest on September 13, 2009 (emphasis added):

TokyoTom April 22, 2010 at 8:27 am

Kevin, many thanks for this lucid, spot-on and frightening piece.

No one else has mentioned it, so allow me to focus on a piece of your essay that I think has very wide implications that our leading lights at LvMI have been doing their best to ignore: the moral hazard and risk-shifting generation that is INHERENT in the state grant of LIMITED LIABILITY to corporate shareholders, and that has helped to encourage irresponsible behavior and increasing (and ultimately unsuccessful) regulation in the banking sector. It has also fuelled the cycles of corporate regulation, rent-seeking and political corruption.

I couldn’t agree more strongly with what you said here:

“the financial-services industry needs serious reform. Hard to believe as it might be, there was once a time when the industry was conservative and respected, when it focused on providing straightforward financial “products” to its customers and did so well. We have got to get back to that. No more financial hydrogen bombs blowing up the financial system.

The key to this is corporate-governance reform. I am talking, not about tinkering with the number of nonexecutive directors or a new Sarbanes-Oxley, but radical reform to make the banks accountable and to rein in the moral hazards that have run rampant. And the key to good corporate governance is to remove limited liability: we should abolish the limited-liability statutes and give the bankers the strongest possible incentives to look after our money properly.”

I believe that, as argued by James Glassman and William Nolan in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last February that referred to von Hayek, unless and until owners and executives have “more skin in the game” – like the conservatively managed private partnership Brown Brothers Harriman, we will continue to ride a tiger of selfish risk-shifting, moral hazard, and ever more disruptive government regulation.

I have argued in a series of posts, starting with my review of Huebert and Block’s criticisms of Long, the state grant of limited liability to shareholders (in particular the grant vis-a-vis those injured by corporate acts and involuntary creditors, which is a pure grant from the state and cannot be contracted for) has led to a number of perverse results, which can be fairly clearly seen in the financial crisis.

I hope your post will contribute to a much more serious examination by Austrians of the role played by the state grant of limited liability to corporate shareholders in facilitating flawed and irresponsible risk-taking by executives and traders, as well as in perversely fuelling a vicious cycle of rent-seeking and further counterproductive regulation, both within and outside the financial sector.

[But I’m not holding my breath.]



Categories: limited liability Tags: