Contributor Post Created with Sketch. How are Tech-Libertarians Made?


180px-Nolan_chartJohn Walker left this comment in yesterday’s thread about modifying the Constitution:

One of the reasons operating system designers of my age tend to be the harder-edged kind of libertarians or anarchists is that we have seen, from our own experience, how top-down systems which try to plan and allocate resources among competing interests fail, in the same ways, every time they are tried. Set up a cost in which there is one or more step functions, and you will, in short order, see all kinds of schemes to game the system and unintended (though entirely predictable) consequences emerge. To operating system designers, a large amount of the dysfunction in social welfare schemes and phenomena such as the explosion of part-time work after the adoption of Obamacare were entirely foreseeable, because we’ve seen it all before.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. On the Scene, with Nobel Laureate Ivar Giaever


shutterstock_72959515Last week, I attended the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany as a member of the American delegation of young scientists. The purpose of the meeting was to promote the scientific exchange of ideas between nations and generations. Throughout the week, students from around the world discussed research in physics, chemistry, and medicine with each other, as well as the dozens of laureates in attendance.

Ivar Giaever — who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1973 for experimental discoveries characterizing electron tunneling — used the occasion to discuss global climate change. His remarks have recently been discussed by Dennis Prager, and shown up in various news stories. The content speaks for itself and, if you wish to listen for yourself, Giaever’s full, half hour lecture can be viewed below.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Fun with Bubbles: How Elon Musk and the Government are Recreating the Housing Crisis


BubbleFor all the arguments between liberals and conservatives on economic issues, most boil down to one core point of contention: conservatives realize that government doesn’t do a lot of things very well. One of those things government is not very good at, compared to the private sector and free individuals, is learning hard lessons. Case in point: bubbles.

The government loves blowing bubbles more than a small child. The difference is that when a child’s bubbles pop, they don’t erupt with enough force to shake the economic foundations of entire industries, regions, or the planet.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Book Review: “StarTram”


“StarTram” by Powell, Maise, and PellegrinoMagnetic levitation allows suspending a vehicle above a guideway by the force of magnetic repulsion. A train using magnetic levitation avoids the vibration, noise, and rolling resistance of wheels on rails; and its speed is limited only by air resistance and the amount of acceleration passengers consider tolerable. The Shanghai Maglev Train, in service since 2004, is the fastest train in commercial passenger service today, and travels at 431 km per hour in regular operation. Suppose you were able to somehow get rid of the air resistance and carry only cargo, which can tolerate high acceleration. It would appear that if the technical challenges could be met, the sky would be the limit. In this book the authors argue that the sky is just the start.

They propose a space launch system called StarTram, to be developed in two technological generations. The Generation 1 (Gen-1) system is for cargo only, and uses an evacuated launch tube 110 km long in an underground tunnel. This sounds ambitious, but the three tunnels under the English Channel total 150 km, and are much larger than that required for Star Tram. The launcher will be located at a site which allows the tube to run up a mountain, emerging in the thinner air at an altitude between 3 and 7 km. There will be an extreme sonic boom as the launch vehicle emerges from the launch tube at a velocity of around 8 km per second and flies upward through the atmosphere, so the launcher will have to be located in a region where the trajectory downrange for a sufficient distance is unpopulated. Several candidate sites on different continents are proposed.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. A Bit of a Cyber-Coincidence?


CJZ15QgUwAAhRWmFirst United’s flights are halted owing to a “glitch,” and now the NYSE?

Trading in all securities were halted on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday following earlier reports of technical difficulties, although NYSE-listed issues was still trading on other exchanges.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. How Green Was My Fracking


turbine_county_fracking_county_scrIn The Telegraph, Christopher Booker points out that being Green means you are willfully murdering wildlife:

When Professor David MacKay stepped down as chief scientific adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) last year, he produced a report comparing the environmental impact of a fracking site to that of wind farms. Over 25 years, he calculated, a single “shale gas pad” covering five acres, with a drilling rig 85ft high (only needed for less than a year), would produce as much energy as 87 giant wind turbines, covering 5.6 square miles and visible up to 20 miles away. Yet, to the greenies, the first of these, capable of producing energy whenever needed, without a penny of subsidy, is anathema; while the second, producing electricity very unreliably in return for millions of pounds in subsidies, fills them with rapture.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Environmental Imperialism


shutterstock_146843426The western Left has determined that people around the world must severely restrict their use of fossil fuels. Doing so would condemn billions of people to endless poverty. The “free” biomass fuels — wood, peat, and animal dung — that impoverished people in developing countries are forced to use exact terrible costs: the destruction of whole forests and jungles, loss of habitat and the attendant loss of flora and fauna, and respiratory problems and shortened lives from breathing smoke and fumes. As economist Deepak Lal stated in Poverty and Progress:

The greatest threat to the alleviation of the structural poverty of the Third World is the continuing campaign by western governments, egged on by some climate scientists and green activists, to curb greenhouse emissions… To put a limit on the use of fossil fuels without adequate economically viable alternatives is to condemn the Third World to perpetual structural poverty.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Laudato Si’: Now What Does a Catholic Do?


shutterstock_195361532For Catholics who advocate for free markets, Pope Francis has just made life extremely complicated. The Holy Father’s encyclical, Laudato Si’ — which I have only begun to read — contains statements that clearly indicate that the Pope has fallen in with the progressives. Although the encyclical still prohibits birth control, abortion, and euthanasia, Francis seems tone deaf to the constant demands of the left, particularly the environmental left, that the Church abandon her teachings and encourage the use of these prohibited techniques. The Pope also seems to have largely adopted the platform of the American Democratic Party. As a Republican, my stomach is queasy.

So what to do? As a Catholic, I must submit my personal convictions to the authority of the Magisterium– which means to the Pope insofar as he speaks within Church tradition on theological matters. That gives me some weasel room on Francis’s economic views. But not much room. A Catholic’s first duty is obedience, or as my daughter wrote in her new article for Catholic Exchange:


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Pope Francis Endorses Climate Science, Trashes Modernity


shutterstock_186370886As promised, the pope’s encyclical came out today, so I spent most of my morning reading and processing so I could say something useful about it. (Amusingly, I was recently pre-interviewed for an NPR panel on the topic, but they got spooked when they discovered that I’m a climate skeptic. Such disreputable views are obviously not suitable for NPR. So I had to wait and read the encyclical today, with the rest of the plebs.)

So here’s something you already knew: Pope Francis believes in climate change. Here’s something else you knew: he’s wary of free markets. Despite that, I found it a very enjoyable read. Neither climate change nor free markets were the central focus. It’s more of a meditation on the dehumanizing, technocratic tendencies of modernity. It occurred to me as I was reading that Pope Francis believes in climate change mainly for the same sorts of reasons that conservatives are prone to doom-and-gloom future projections: the progressive disregard for nature has advanced so far that it seems credible to him that the earth is on the brink of disaster.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Fun With Files


shutterstock_285175289China has scored an intelligence coup by breaking into the Office of Personnel Management database and making off with the files on millions of current and former government officials. Estimates of the number of officials whose information was taken range from a low of 4 million to 14 million. Of course, the Chinese are not going to be interested in every clerk in the bowels of the Department of Agriculture. But they will have gained access, according to reports, to the background information on all those who held sensitive national security positions in the government.

For those curious what the information contained in these files might be, here is the form for national security clearances. It basically asks for every place you have ever lived, everywhere you have gone to school and worked, any groups you have joined, the names of anyone who has known you in any of these stages of your life, extended family members, contacts with foreigners, medical information, legal affairs, and so on. The form is 120 pages.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Brawndo-world


Brawndo-worldTwenty years ago, Hollywood feared a world with too much water. Dennis Hopper’s jet skis chased Kevin Costner’s trimaran across the endless seas of Waterworld as they searched for dry land and their lost careers.

The filmmakers got the prediction wrong as California is nothing but dry land and it’s hard to find water for crops, lawns, and golf courses. Before long, the state might take inspiration from another movie, irrigating their plants with Brawndo (it’s got electrolytes). Until then, Sacramento is looking for a more manageable solution.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Climate Skeptics, Your Brains Just Aren’t Fully Evolved


brainLet’s face it. If you’re not freaking out over climate change, there’s something wrong with your brain. At least that’s what the climate alarmists think.

Brian Merchant’s article at’s Motherboard blog, “Apocalypse Neuro: Why Our Brains Don’t Process the Gravest Threats to Humanity” discusses the ways primitive brains just can’t handle the looming threat of climate change.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. And Rob Thought His Mail Was Troubling…


At least our cofounder is being harassed by domestic collectivists. I’ve been targeted by the international variety:


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Is There Really a Great Stagnation? The Problem of Measuring Economic Growth in America’s Digital Economy


shutterstock_282670979Last month, Goldman Sachs economists Jan Hatzius and Kris Dawsey put out a research report arguing US government statistics understate GDP growth because they understate productivity growth. Over the past five years, productivity growth has averaged 0.6% annually vs. 2.6% over the prior 15 years. Here’s the gist of Goldman’s argument in “Productivity Paradox v2.0″:

— Measured productivity growth has slowed sharply in recent years, and we have reduced our working assumption for the underlying trend to 1½%. This is the same sluggish rate that prevailed from 1973 to 1995 and stands well below the long-term US average of 2¼%. The proximate cause of the slowdown is a slump in the measured contribution from information technology.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Pancakes So Good They’ll Make You Smile


IhopFor the first time in 20 years, the International House of Pancakes has a new logo! The Valhalla of after-bar-closing-time munchies, fluffy carbs, and sticky sucrose has introduced an IHOP red and blue mark that concedes nothing in glitz to uber-modern companies like Google, Citigroup, or Ubuntu and is about to show the American marketing world just how far the smile can actually be taken.

It is all just a little bit spooky.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Uncommon Knowledge: Senator John Hoeven on Energy


In the newest installment of Uncommon Knowledge — filmed earlier this year in Washington — I sit down with North Dakota Senator (and former governor) John Hoeven for a master class on energy policy. The Keystone pipeline, fracking, how domestic energy policy affects America’s dealings with the Middle East — Senator Hoeven covers it all in our conversation below.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Congress Fiddles with Monster Rockets, While Human Spaceflight Burns


Art_of_SLS_launchOver at PJMedia this past weekend, I have yet another piece on what a godawful mess the civil space program is, in its ongoing dependence on the Russians.

Just in the past six years, the Russians have now had sixteen space mission failures, one of which had NASA actually contemplating temporarily abandoning the ISS in 2011. Their industry is beset by strikes, underpaid workers, and the need to rapidly reproduce hardware that in the past would have been acquired from Ukraine, the flow of which has been interrupted by Russia’s ongoing war on that nation. In addition, as reported in a story this past weekend, there is also massive corruption. With each failure, there is a management shakeup, but the underlying systemic quality problems never seem to get fixed.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Exxon CEO Pushes Back Against Environmentalists


RexTillersonAt a recent annual shareholders meeting, Rex Tillerson, Exxon’s longtime Chairman and CEO, did something very unusual for a business executive: he questioned the global warming hysteria.

Tillerson said that models predicting the effects of global warming “just aren’t that good,” and that it would be very difficult for the world to meet aggressive emission-reduction targets. He further noted that technology can help deal with rising sea levels or changing weather patterns “that may or may not be induced by climate change.” Tillerson added, “Mankind has this enormous capacity to deal with adversity. I know that is an unsatisfactory answer to a lot of people, but it’s an answer that a scientist and an engineer would give you.”


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Breaking: Our Government Is Incompetent


shutterstock_163871150Gee, I’m glad these folks now run our health care:

Chinese hackers breached the computer system of the Office of Personnel Management in December, officials said Thursday, and the agency will notify some 4 million current and former federal employees that their personal data may have been compromised.