William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Party’s Over, Baby: The Twilight of Abundance Reviewed

Not quite the end of the world.

The Twilight of Abundance: Why Life in the 21st Century Will Be Nasty, Brutish, and Short by David Archibald, visiting Fellow Institute of World Politics.

I am a curmudgeon, which is to say, a realist. Curmudgeons get a rough deal from society. Most think us permanently grimaced gloomy sourpusses whose only pleasures come from yelling at kids to get off our lawns and from contemplating the various awful ways the world will come to its inevitable and well-deserved end.

This is unfair. We are all those things, yes, but we are also healthy, robust souls. The inner peace which is a natural consequence of being right all the time—“I told you so” is ever on our lips—is why we live so long.

David Archibald is one of us, long may he live.

The good times, says he, the times of plenty and unbridled optimism, the times of cheap energy and unlimited economic growth, the times of warm summer afternoons and surplus crops, are over. What can we look forward to? Intemperate, possibly much colder, weather, failed crops, localized starvation, demographic collapse, mechanized theological disputes, increasing tribalization, wars of territorial conquest, societal conflicts, inflation, governmental encroachment—in other words, a return to normalcy. The End of History is not yet.

What can we do about it? Not much.

There is where Archibald excels. In the same manner as John Derbyshire’s classic We Are Doomed, Archibald sees no simple—read “ideological”—solutions, or, indeed, any solutions. He never, not even once, is tempted to say if only. If only everybody believed X, the world would be saved. If only the government acted, the world would be saved. If only if only. The closest he comes is to softly plead for government to get out of the way and let people figure things out for themselves. Which none of us think will happen.

Derbyshire showed us how Western culture will die (suicide), and Archibald outlines how the rest of the world will fare in the areas of climate, food, and political relations.

The frenzy that was Global Warming, which Archibald rightly calls a “millenarian cult”, is on its last legs. The notorious Climategate emails convinced all but bug-eyed zealots that the “peer-reviewed” “science” was largely a political concoction (Archibald provides a nice summary). The reason global warming was so eagerly embraced is because supporters loved the consequences—government should grow to handle the “crisis”—and because of religion—Gaia was pure until the cancer Man infected it, etc., etc.

Climate models have predicted temperatures that would go up, up, and away! Too bad for the models that the actual temperatures went the opposite direction (for almost 20 years now). Normally scientists abandon models which give failed predictions. When they don’t, which they haven’t, we’re right to suspect they’re not doing science.

Belief in manmade global warming depends on acting as if the laws of physics are suspended and we are living in a special time in which the climate is changing apart from the hand on man. In a sense we are actually living in a special time relative to the last 3 million years. The special time we live in is an interglacial period—a temporary respite in that ice age.

Archibald thinks the cool weather is caused by the sun, particularly the sunspot cycle, which has been shown to have a correlation with global temperatures. Periods with high numbers of sunspots are on average warmer: the last peak coincided with an increased temperature in the late 1990s, early 2000s (also the height of global warming panic). Periods with low numbers are on average colder. The correlation has proved regular and historically consequential.

We’re in a low period now, and, sure enough, it’s been a long cold winter. This low period is expected to last (according to reasonably good forecasts) for another one to two decades. And did I mention that another glaciation is on the way because of the earth’s orbital changes? It’ll be some time before it gets here, but the trend is down. Don’t put away the snow shovels.

Update [I goofed and mixed up volcanoes: Laki was in 1783 and caused grief, but the real ones was Tambora.] Then there was the Year Without A Summer, caused in 1816, eruption of Tambora. The dust blocked the summer sunlight and it never did get warm in the Northern hemisphere that year. Volcanoes do what volcanoes do, even in the presence of beneficent governments. The danger is that, if the sunspot-cold weather forecast is right and a volcano pops off, we could be in some pretty deep kimchee. The chance of this happening nobody knows. But even without the volcano, we should see colder weather.

That means smaller crop yields. Not such a big deal for countries like Canada (Archibald is never flustered and recommends they shift to winter wheat), USA, China, Russia, and a few others which provide enough for their citizens. But for a whole swath of nations which buy much of their food, there will be trouble. Here is a list of countries which import about two-thirds or more of their food: Afghanistan, Egypt, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Israel, Iraq, Iran. No curmudgeon worthy of his title will need more information than this. Readers who are still progressives will have to buy Archibald’s book to learn the exciting details.

Archibald reminds, “The world’s last major starvation event was the Indian drought of 1967, which killed about 1 million people.” He means the last weather-caused event. China holds the record, with Russia right behind, of killings by government; a good order-of-magnitude guess is 100 million slaughtered in the name of Equality (about these countries, more in a moment). Ireland also had notable troubles due to crop failures, and everyone knows about Africa. The takeaway point is the curmudgeon’s rule-of-thumb: if it happened before, it will happen again, and it’ll probably be worse.

When country A has something country B wants, like food or land, and country B doesn’t want to part with it, country A, if sufficiently emboldened, might try and seize the thing against country B’s wishes. Right, Vladimir? Or it could be that country A simply hates country B, or that country A wants to build up his street cred.

If shortages of energy and food appear, which is a good bet at least at regional levels, then troubles will begin. Add to that Iran’s hatred of Israel, China smarting from what they see as a hundred-some years of taking it in the neck from the world (Opium Wars, foreign support of Chiang Kai-shek, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, etc., etc.), Japan still feeling its oats (one last hurrah before the nurseries close forever?), Pakistan displeased with India and Afghanistan (“In what [in 1971] was called Operation Searchlight, the Pakistani army duly killed 3 million people in what is now Bangladesh”; if it happened before…), and don’t let’s forget Africa and the recommunisation of South America. Venezuelans are already forced to stand in food lines.

Archibald outlines various scenarios for the fun which awaits us, including an eleven-page Tom-Clancy-like account from Wing Commander Peter Mills (Royal Australian Air Force) of how China might unleash its inner dragon. It’s even money whether Iran or Pakistan is the first to use nukes, though it would be foolish to count the Middle Kingdom out.

How much oil is left? Nobody knows. A hint might be that production peaked a few years back. One reason is the old wells, of course, must eventually run low, and even dry. A second is an amok environmental movement which has put a halt to new drilling, has frightened governments into believing coal and natural gas will cause catastrophic global warming, has effectively barred investments in coal-to-liquid and natural gas technologies, and so on.

How about nuclear—boo!—power? Environmentalists can’t even hear that word—nuclear: boo!—without shivering out of their socks. Fukushima didn’t help proponents, either. I happened to be in San Francisco right after the plant popped off and witnessed a run on iodized salt in Chinatown. Blue cans of salt were rolling down Stockton street as people tore into boxes of the stuff. The frenzy was the direct fault of this country’s Surgeon General warning people that radiation—boo!—was on its way and that taking iodized salt was a good precaution. Too bad the statistics show radiation isn’t as harmful as Hollywood thinks, and is probably even beneficial at low levels.

The best route to energy “independence” is a government which gets out of the way of innovation. Good work is being done with thorium reactors, but you rarely hear of it. Instead we get an EPA (which arms its agents) which, while protecting puddles as “wet lands”, touts wind farms (Bye Bye Birdie) and electric cars. We also turn a good portion of our food into “clean” fuel.

A nice touch of Archibald’s is opening each chapter with a quotation from the Revelation of St John. This puts the reader in the right frame of mind—melancholy. This is the curmudgeon’s natural state, and so we find ourselves nodding when he concludes, “The age of abundance is now long over, and a much darker future awaits the unprepared.”

Will we, now suitably warned, thus prepare ourselves?

Of course not.

Update Lest the state sink its icy claws into me, I hereby inform you that Archibald kindly gave me a copy of his book.

Update Archibald an alarmist? Good grief! I would have thought regular readers would have been the first to agree that all is not well in the world.

50 Comments

  1. Ah another prediction of gloom and doom for the next decades. Is this still in fashion, or is it now relegated to curmudgeon conservatives? (it’s an old tradition! we must stick to it!)

  2. Briggs

    March 28, 2014 at 8:24 am

    Very well, Luis, tell us about the bright future which awaits us. Be sure to use plenty of historical evidence, preferably 20th Century history, to bolster your claims.

  3. If one were more inclined to quote pop culture, you could have titled this post:

    “Winter is coming”

    XD

  4. Briggs

    March 28, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Nate,

    One might be, but one has no idea from where that quotation arose. Hint?

  5. Virtually all current views of the future are dark, except that of the SciFi series “Star Trek” (which was notable overly optimistic). Let’s be honest, history shows we repeat the same mistakes over and over. We don’t learn. Besides, who want’s to read a completely boring novel on how wonderful things will be in the future when they’re wonderful now. Fiction is generally the opposite of the current state of man (note Jules Verne–optimistic in a not-so-optimistic time). So be happy the fiction and predictions are dark. It just means you’re fortunate enough to be living in the good times.

  6. I am an optimist. Many Doomsday scenarios have been predicted but so far have not materialized. I concede that Salvation will not appear until environmentalists lose their political clout and imbecilic, guilt-ridden, ghost-story-believing liberals are thrown out on their collective asses. So far technology has ridden to the rescue to, at least, postpone, Armageddon.

  7. Briggs

    March 28, 2014 at 8:50 am

    All,

    Archibald’s is not a Doomsday scenario, and it is not another environmental determinism screed. It is a prophecy that man will continue on his sorry path to the end. That things, while they might get better from time to time, will in general, and as they always have, be worse than we want them to be.

    How many people were killed by governments in the 20th century? How many enslaved? Is it rational to suppose that what happened before can and probably will happen again?

    Or should we all walk about with smiles carved into our faces.

    Really, let’s get gloom a chance!

  8. The ultimate curmudgeon,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04xOsNW7zTA

    Where is Gandalf when we need him? As a rebuttal there is this,

    http://www.amazon.ca/America-3-0-Rebooting-Prosperity-Century-Why/dp/1594036438

    Archibald sounds like Paul R. Ehrlich and we all know how successful his predictions were.

  9. Briggs

    March 28, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Scotian,

    Did you not just see Russia march into Ukraine? Or China’s new and increasing Navy?

    Ehrlich argued backwards from his Solution (government). Archibald says people will continue to be people.

  10. The future may or may not be sh**ty but one thing *definitely* is: our ability to predict it.

    See the work of Phil Tetlock on the track record of experts who make future predictions. Or if you want to read a good pop-science summary of it read Dan Gardner’s Future Babble.

  11. So the good times are over.
    The Earth is cooling, and we could be heading for the next ice age.
    We’re going to get lots more bad weather.
    The oil is running out.
    There will be crop failures, food and energy shortages, and this will lead to conflict and war.

    Yes, the 70s revival is in full swing! Takes me back to my childhood…

  12. Sheri, “Jules Verne–optimistic in a not-so-optimistic time”.
    Surely Jules Verne lived in a very optimistic time, 1828-1905. Pessimism was all the rage after the great war (WWI) and into the great depression, in literature at least, despite the roaring twenties.

    “Let’s be honest, history shows we repeat the same mistakes over and over. We don’t learn.” Does it really? In any case it is very difficult to know what lessons to learn from history and even historians seem incapable of this. Can we even know history in sufficient detail to learn meaningful lessons from it? Even if we could, different people would want different outcomes, i.e they would learn different things. I have never liked the cliche that “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it” as I believe that it is nonsense. Although maybe I am being unfair as it does not preclude the possibility that even those who do remember the past are also condemned to repeat it, often on purpose. The expression also seems to imply that only bad things, things to be avoided, occurred in the past and that nothing positive can be learned. We must build on the past in a methodical fashion where every step is reversible.

  13. Brigs, “Did you not just see Russia march into Ukraine?”
    Check the year end predictions to see if anyone foresaw this.

  14. Briggs

    March 28, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Paul,

    At least people’s haircuts will be more interesting.

    And indeed an ice age is on the way, but not (of course) for some time. Cause? Not humans. Oil production has plateaued. Cause? Governments, mostly; perhaps sources running low, too. Food is not now short in Western countries, and probably won’t be (says Archibald), but if does run short it will be because of weather and conflict, primarily the latter. But it is low in many non Western countries. Cause? Governments. Energy prices are increasing and production venturing into silly technologies. Cause? Governments.

    Solution? As I said: none. Governments are only increasing in size and power. What can stop this? Nothing.

    I think we need to understand the real difference between environmentalists and people trying to soberly assess possible futures. I have the idea that the only thing that would please this discussion is if we prophesy only Good Times.

  15. Briggs

    March 28, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Scotian,

    Yes. Let’s check. Sarah Palin comes to mind…Romney another…and, of course, there were plenty of others.

    How many (at the time) did the Media bruit? You know the answer.

    And are we perhaps arguing that because nobody predicted this war that therefore it didn’t happen?

  16. Briggs

    March 28, 2014 at 9:59 am

    All,

    Perhaps understandably, we’re focusing on climate. Let’s not. There’s plenty more fun to be had the old-fashioned way.

    Let’s consider these:

    https://twitter.com/mattstat/status/428524576721477632
    https://twitter.com/mattstat/status/429306190527332352
    https://twitter.com/mattstat/status/431086885503389696
    https://twitter.com/mattstat/status/440843972953387008

  17. “How many people were killed by governments in the 20th century?”

    Even determinists (*) know that governments in the C20th killed fewer than in previous centuries. Industry just allowed them to be more efficient. In spite of the violence, life in the C20th was, for many billions, more comfortable *and* far, far less violent than feudal Europe. Democracy also flourished in the same era.

    If you want to make an argument for the abolition of government, it should be made by identifying the wrong of such a relationship between people, not on the basis of the relationship between people and the Sun.

    “Oil production has plateaued. Cause? Governments, mostly; ”

    Has it really? http://www.indexmundi.com/energy.aspx?product=oil&graph=production It also declined in the 80s. Let’s not get twitchy.

    I’d agree if you said that the price had gone up, cause: governments invading other countries.

    Greens of course, argue that oil production rose, cause: governments. The favourite argument being that society is organised around our ‘addiction’ to fossil fuel.

    I take the point that green arguments preclude the possibility of producing more oil. And I’m glad someone is making that argument. But the most powerful argument for pulling more oil out of the ground is surely that it expands the possibilities of determining what we do with our lives — with or without government — not because it will save us from the Sun’s whims.

    (* = Well Pinker, anyway. He also seems to want to make the argument for inevitable progress, which might excite you.)

  18. Briggs

    March 28, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Ben,

    Right, I should have anticipated Pinker’s faulty statistics: http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=4417

    Archibald, as I said in the review, is all for more exploration and oil pumping. But who is holding these back? Like, say, that new pipeline? Government. Do you say government will somehow shrink and see the light? Doubtful.

  19. View from the Solent

    March 28, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Your enemies never sleep.
    “. in what is now Bandladesh”

    Bangladesh

  20. Briggs

    March 28, 2014 at 10:05 am

    View,

    Arrgh!

  21. “I think we need to understand the real difference between environmentalists and people trying to soberly assess possible futures. ”

    That’s what many environmentalists say. But why bother if, “Solution? As I said: none” is true?

    Too much is smuggled into prognostication. In Archibald’s case, as far as I understand it from your review, a political argument. The prognostication might just as well serve an argument for MORE government.

  22. Briggs

    March 28, 2014 at 10:07 am

    No, Ben. A bad misreading. I specifically said Archibald called for LESS.

  23. Briggs, “Archibald, as I said in the review, is all for more exploration and oil pumping.”

    I noted the same, and welcomed it. I disputed that oil had plateaued, or that any semblance of plateau is meaningful. In fact, environmentalism has been most unsuccessful in weaning us off the stuff.

    When the oil price was high in 2008, I remember hearing a prominent Green here in the UK speaking on the radio with the operator of a US oil field about the fact that oil was running out, and would soon hit $250/barrel. Both were rubbing their hands with glee. If it was TV, they might have been seen scratching each others’ backs.

    The high oil price, though, did create the possibility of new exploration and new forms of extraction. Just a few short years earlier, the price of oil was historically low, until political risk pushed the price up.

    “Do you say government will somehow shrink and see the light?”

    It may see the light. But it will be filtered through something or other. I’m less sure the government will shrink — certainly not of its own volition, in the US, or here in the UK/EU. It might even be the over-emphasis on the environment that cause people to make it go away a bit. My argument elsewhere is that governments have absorbed the green agenda, mostly because politicians lost their moral authority. The job of saving the planet rescued many from political oblivion. That’s why I am surprised by Archibald.

  24. Briggs

    March 28, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Ben,

    That governments have absorbed the green agenda is also Archibald’s (and my) opinion. That accounts in good part for the oil. And, as I say, for the fear of coal, gas, liquifaction technology, and nuclear power.

    But then there is also war. Such as wars of aggression in the East China Sea. And against Pakistan and its neighbors. And with Iran and Israel. And and and…

  25. Me: “The prognostication might just as well serve an argument for MORE government.”

    Briggs: “No, Ben. A bad misreading. I specifically said Archibald called for LESS.”

    The misreading is yours. I KNOW Archibald calls for LESS. But I said that his *prognostication* (not his remedy) MIGHT serve just as well for MORE.

    Hardin’s ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ suffered the same. It was offered as an argument for the abolition of public property — the best way on his view to protect the environment from ‘over-exploitation’. But it was easily turned into an argument for the abolition of private property on the basis that so many property owners didn’t have sufficient scope to manage it.

  26. Briggs, “And are we perhaps arguing that because nobody predicted this war that therefore it didn’t happen?” Where does this come from? In any case I was just asking about the prediction contest that you ran at year’s end. Sorry to misspell your name. I guess that your enemies are branching out. Even the most optimistic of us do not think that wars will cease to exist. I am not claiming personal optimism either: just linking to alternative opinion.

  27. “That governments have absorbed the green agenda is also Archibald’s (and my) opinion.”

    It’s mine, too, though it needs qualification. Why have governments absorbed the agenda? And to what extent and to what end? The Obama administration isn’t *that* green. If it were even as green as the EU, it would likely face civil war. (OK, I exaggerate, but you get my point). And even the EU has real trouble being as green as it says it wants to be. Curiously, the US has done more to reduce CO2 emissions, much to the red faces of EU Commissioners and their technocrats.

    Governments like the idea of overwhelming crises from without, be it Terror or Climate Change.

  28. Briggs

    March 28, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Ben,

    Oh dear. Anything can be used to call for more government. But I’ll say this: there surely will be calls for more government. That’s my prediction. I’m wiling to take bets with anybody who holds the opposite.

    As far as the Commons and enclosure goes. Best author I read on this is (no kidding) Patrick O’Brain in one of his Aubrey-Maturin novels. I’ll try and dig it up.

  29. Briggs

    March 28, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Scotian,

    Just think how happy we’d all be in our gloom if we embraced our inner curmudgeon!

  30. Briggs

    March 28, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Ben,

    You and I are sympatico on this.

  31. Nice article. Minor criticism: I wish you had used “projections” instead of “predictions” in reference to the issuances from the climate models as consistent observation of the distinction between a prediction and a projection helps to break the power of the equivocation fallacy over climatological arguments.

  32. I’ve got to think that vastly huger populations and vastly more effective (for good and evil) technology means the outcomes, at least, will be different, even if the forces driving history remain largely the same – what we used to call human nature.

    How? I don’t know. But wars 3,000 years ago more often than not involved tribes of at most a few million people trying to take each other’s stuff and land using rocks and maybe a few precious weapons of metal. They were unpleasantly reduced to killing each other up front and personal, which I suppose has its attractions but is hardly efficient.

    And it stayed pretty much the same for a long time. Only comparatively recently did killing vast numbers of people from a nice sanitary distance become feasible. (Although the charms of watching your victims die seems to present a persistent attraction to a certain crowd.)

    So, now – when the famines strike (I’d add an ‘if’, because for a good-size famine to really take hold in the modern world would require a simultaneous breakdown in government, farming and transportation – how likely? Who knows?) we won’t be treated to the sight of a demagogue inflaming his desperate population to personally invade, pillage and murder a neighbor – it will be less personal and colorful than that. And, in some ways, more ‘efficient’. As will the defense.

    Long way of saying: I don’t know if ‘returning to normal’ is the right way to think about it.

  33. “The frenzy that was Global Warming”
    What do you mean “that was”? The AGW zealots are loudly proclaiming that global warming has only paused and it will soon return with a vengeance.

  34. The good times are coming to an end–the apocalyptic perspective is a staple of humanity…just the flip side of the commonly misperception that those in the ancient world had things figured out & lived in a harmonious near-utopia….

    Some things never change….

    However, the essay & book have a disputable premise–that the 20th century really was one of abundance.

    It depends on how one looks at it relative to history.

    In ancient times EVERY civilization had its haves & have-nots…and those were unevenly distributed within the given city-states at any point in time. The quality of life differences between the two has been stark.

    Still is.

    What’s changed in the past few hundred years is that entire nation-states have, for the most part become prosperous while entire other nation-states & regions have been stranded with dismal economics & dismally stagnant quality of life prospects.

    While technological developments have made the “haves” even more prosperous than ever before, if one draws the boundary of consideration around the planet, rather than a nation-state, the overall pattern is much the same. Consider a stat from a few years ago:

    Everyday 30,000 people on this planet die of the diseases of poverty. A third of the planet’s population lacks electricity. A billion people have no clean water, we have half a billion people going to bed hungry every night.

    In many countries people are still executed for witchcraft…and the list can go on & on….

    The inevitable decline of the “West’s” lopsided prosperity was neatly summed up by an economist’s observation in the late 70s/early 80s:

    The USA and developed Europe (the “West”) were consuming about one-half the gross-world-product. If/as the under-developed world developed and competed for resources the “West” would necessarily have to do with less. The lopsided consumption needed to achieve & maintain the relative prosperity imbalances was unsustainable.

    A few years ago we saw that somewhat painfully economically as China’s economic boom & building binge was consuming, disproportionately, raw materials like copper, skewing familiar supply/demand prices & availability–raising prices for the West and limiting supply…thereby impeding the ability of the West to maintain, much less continue, its own situation.

    SO, it’s not just that things are going “bad” that makes things “bad”/”worse” in some region — increasing prosperity in depressed regions also drags down the developed world’s prosperity.

    There’s only so much room for success; to maintain a high standard of living & quality of life, a huge proportion of souls on this planet must be consigned to poverty & all its vicissitudes. At least for the foreseeable future.

  35. Briggs

    March 28, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Apropos: U.S. now producing more than 10 percent of the world’s crude oil.

    http://hotair.com/archives/2014/03/28/u-s-now-producing-more-than-10-percent-of-the-worlds-crude-oil/

  36. Briggs,
    Our friend Willis Eschenbach doesn’t share your confidence in the claims of volcanic effects on climate. See:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/07/30/new-data-old-claims-about-volcanoes/

    I find his analysis to be reasonably convincing.

  37. The future is bright. Governments in the 20th Century did what Governments did in previous centuries – only they had access to instant communication and rapid transportation.

    I remember seeing live satellite images of Yeltsin standing on a tank in the middle of Moscow and thinking “Wow, the world has changed. No longer can things like this be hidden from the world.”

    The truth is that most countries are trying to cast off the burden of socialism and embracing free(er) markets, but we still have a long way to go.

    Think what impact that the internet has had on “climate change”. Individual voices can communicate world wide and express their dissatisfaction with power-grabs by governments, corrupt scientist (and crony capitalist).

    Why are you a pessimist Briggs? You’ve been a player in one of the most revolutionary events ever.

  38. Briggs

    March 28, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Scotian,

    I’m going with my pal Willie Soon (and Stephen Yaskell) who wrote “Year with a summer”, “A weak solar maximum, a major volcanic eruption, and possibly even the wobbling of the Sun conspired to make the summer of 1816 one of the most miserable ever recorded.” In Mercury, May-June 2003.

  39. I’m with Matt Ridley on the future: It will be better than the past. Sure, there are many problems, especially with government benevolence. But still, I prefer to be optimistic. After all, you have to admit that technology offers much, and so much of what it offers is unpredictable.

  40. Noblesse Oblige

    March 28, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    I am as pessimistic as the next one. So pessimistic in fact that I foresee a gaggle of curmudgeons coming out of the woodwork seeking to capitalize on the fear that has gone out of the global warming balloon.

  41. Briggs

    March 29, 2014 at 6:33 am

    All,

    Headlines from today.

    China angrily denounces Japan for Russia-Crimea analogy

    Philippine supply ship evades Chinese blockade. ‘The Chinese radioed the Filipinos, telling them to stop. “You will take full responsibility for the consequences of your action,” the voice said in English.’

    Over a million flee South Sudan conflict: UN “The UN estimates five million people are in need of aid, with vast swathes of the countryside increasingly difficult to reach by road due to seasonal heavy rains.”

    Venezuelan leader says coup plot generals arrested “Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has added three generals to the growing list of people and entities he accuses of plotting against him.”

    I just did a few.

  42. Lol, well played Mr.Briggs, well played.

    Well perhaps then the discussion would be better served by discussing what led to abundance in the first place. In his very good and highly readable book “The Birth of Plenty” William Bernstein identifies 4 key developments that led to the rise of western prosperity:
    -Property rights
    -Scientific Rationalism
    -Capital Markets
    -Transportation/communication

    It’s a great read. I haven’t read it in a while but I suspect if it’s lacking anywhere it’s in the importance of the cohesiveness and trust levels within a society. http://www.amazon.com/Birth-Plenty-Prosperity-Modern-Created/dp/0071747044/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396098435&sr=1-1&keywords=birth+of+plenty

  43. Briggs

    March 29, 2014 at 8:23 am

    Aldous,

    I’m with in, more or less, on those points. But what do we have? Increasingly lack of respect for private property, great swaths of science given over to politics, capital wed to government (Too big to fail!). The last still holds: cheap travel and easy communication.

    But then the US just gave up control of the internet. So we’ll see.

  44. In the information age, the government will increasingly have difficulty maintaining control. Leviathon moves slow. Technology and information move fast. People will increasingly become frustrated and the requirement will be for lighter weight or little interference from the feds. Analagous to free flowing information and open trade bringing down socialist/totalitarian governments speed of information will bring down centralized government. What we see in the U.S is an ideology embedded in government in its death throes. Control of information(liberal press, political correctness, hate speech) and monitoring the free flow of it(NSA, attempts to monitor editorial boards) are just efforts to stem the tide of freedom from big brother as big brother rides his horse and the rest of society drives a Ferrari. Sorry to buck the curmudgeon trend, but large, centralized government is choking itself out. Nonsense like Obamacare is just another nail in its coffin. The pendulum is ready to swing back toward freedom.

  45. @Ken

    “There’s only so much room for success; to maintain a high standard of living & quality of life, a huge proportion of souls on this planet must be consigned to poverty & all its vicissitudes. At least for the foreseeable future.”

    Sounds like you think that economics is a zero-sum game? Some people win, some people lose?

  46. Read an interesting article in the last week claiming that Vlad the Pootie is expanding to the south in expectation of the cooling ahead as Russian scientists aren’t part of the Consensus and have been predicting a new LIA.

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