Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

For "a human being, the question 'to be or not to be,' is the question 'to think or not to think.'" Ayn Rand

31 March 2008

Canadian Brain Tumor Treatment

If you are a Canadian living in Ontario (population 12.5 million) and you are suspected of possibly having a brain tumor, what does the Single-Payer Health Care System there provide for your diagnosis and treatment? It starts with a 3 month wait for an MRI to see if you have a tumor. Then if you do, you have another wait for surgery. The combined wait is often 8 months, which is much too long for some types of brain tumors. Presently, there is an alternative. You might go to Buffalo, NY, for instance, and get the complete treatment in less than one month. However, if Americans vote for a Single-Payer System, we will wind up with similar deadly delays in treatment and Canadians will have to die. Oh, yes and so will Americans, even those willing to pay for their medical costs. There is a video clip here on one Canadian gentleman's story.

I was directed to this video by Walter E. William's website.

30 March 2008

A Long-Term Perspective on Global Temperatures

A while back I read the book Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1,500 Years by S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2007). This book marshals a wealth of information about past temperature changes on Earth. The awesome power of those temperature changes and some of the consequences for mankind are important lessons for us all to learn.

In their review of the ancient climate history, they note 100s of millions of years when the Earth was very much warmer than today. A mere 2 million years ago, the Earth settled into a pattern due to the Earth's orbit and relationship with the sun of Ice Ages lasting commonly 90,000 to 100,000 years. These were terminated with brief warm periods or interglacials of 10,000 to 20,000 years length. The onset of the glacial periods is slow, but the end of an Ice Age is often abrupt. The average global temperature rises 5 to 7 degrees Celsius in the interglacial period.

The last Ice Age was at its coldest about 17,000 to 21,000 years ago. About 14,000 years ago there was a sudden temperature increase. The ice sheet began retreating and sea levels began to rise. About 12,500 years ago, there was a return to a new Ice Age called the Younger Dryas, with the cooling occurring in a mere 100 year timespan. 11,500 years ago there was another sudden warming, producing the present interglacial period, called the Holocene. Following this, much of mankind was able to make significant advances in knowledge and technology.

The Climate Optimum was from 9,000 to 5,000 years ago and most of the Earth was warmer and wetter than it is today. There may have been a brief colder and drier period about 8,200 years ago, which especially affected Africa. About 2,600 years ago, there was a cooling, though the period stayed humid.

More recently, from 600 to 200 BC, there was a cool period. This was followed by the Roman Warming from 200 BC to 600 AD. The Dark Ages were characterized by another cold period, which contributed to an increase in human misery, lasting from 600 to 900 AD. This was followed by the Medieval Warming (or the Little Climate Optimum) from 900 to 1300. Then from 1300 to 1850 mankind suffered through the Little Ice Age, which had a slight warming period (1400 to 1550) which still left temperatures below the recent temperature averages.

Since the end of the Little Ice Age, the Earth's temperature has continued to undergo temperature cycles. From 1850 to 1940 there was warming, with a particularly large temperature increase from 1920 to 1940. From 1940 to 1975 there was cooling and many experts were worrying about or predicting the onset of the next Ice Age. In 1976 and until 1978, there was a sudden warming. Since 1979, surface thermometers on land have shown a significant warming but weather balloons and satellites have shown much less warming. To this, we can add that from 1999 to the present, there has been a slight cooling. If you reference this interval to 2001, there has been no net change in surface temperature.

The Global Warming alarmists are fond of talking about the increase in temperature since 1850 or what they call the start of the Industrial Age. Or they start the clock in 1900 or in 1975 when warming cycles were underway. What they never point out to the reader or listener is that other periods as warm or warmer have played an important role in man's history. They also do not point out that man commonly flourished best in these warmer periods, such as the Roman Warming (Greek and Roman civilizations), the Medieval Warming when food production increased and so did the human population, and certainly man has prospered and the population has grown tremendously since 1850 and the end of the Little Ice Age. Perhaps a little warming is a good thing!

There is a great document called A Global Warming Primer produced by the National Center for Policy Analysis, which gives a graphic presentation about greenhouse gases, tracks temperatures back for 600 million years, and tracks CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere back 550 million years. This gives a perspective on the ability of the Earth to change its temperature readily without the help of man. It also shows that through most of these years, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and the average temperature of the Earth do not track one another! So, there are mechanisms to bring about large temperature changes which do not depend upon carbon dioxide concentrations. Through most of this period, the Earth's temperature and its CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere were much higher than they have been in the last 400,000 years.

However, in the last 400,000 years, there has been a correlation between the CO2 levels and the average temperature. But, we are not sure which serves as the cause and which is the effect. The CO2 concentrations and the temperature appear to have about a 120,000 year cycle in this time, which is about the same as that due to adding the glacial periods to the interglacial periods. Clearly, man was not causing these cycles. Presently, the CO2 levels are high compared to other times in this short 400,000 year period, but there is a time in each of the previous 4 cycles, when the CO2 concentrations were comparable or higher.

More recently, the CO2 concentration has steadily increased since about 1760, with a generally increasing rate since 1850. The temperature has mostly increased since then, but its curve does not have the shape of the CO2 curve. The CO2 increase has been rapid since 1950, but as we discussed above, the temperature was cooling from 1940 to 1975. There was certainly a failure to show correlation in that time frame.

Recently, it has become clear that increases in CO2 tend to bring on increases in water vapor and that this usually results in sufficient cloud cover that sufficiently more sunlight is reflected off into space to cause a cooling response to increased levels of CO2. This is still not a well-understood effect. Water vapor itself is a greenhouse gas and makes up 95% of all greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But, when it forms clouds, they help to hold heat in at night while reflecting the heating rays of the sun in the daytime. The empirical evidence is that increasing water vapor seems generally to lead to a cooling effect. Part of this is due to the heat absorbed by a water molecule in becoming a vapor rather than liquid. The other part is the added reflectivity of the clouds.

A Global Warming Primer also gives a chart to show the Per Capita emission of CO2 by country. The U.S. is one of the highest per capital emitters, but Australia and Canada are not far behind. We are considerably higher than Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. I wonder what is the reason for this grouping. Perhaps it has to do with the density of the population, the expanse of the country, and the amount of farming done. Note that Australia and Canada, like the U. S., do considerable farming, they are big, expansive countries, and people are scattered over large distances. Well, just shoot us all for living where we do! Oh, and while we are at it, how about the rest of the world doing without the huge amounts of food that we produce and export. It costs a lot of energy to produce so much food. It is also interesting to look at the chart that shows how U. S. CO2 emission increases compare with those of the European Union in recent years. The E. U.s increases are much greater.

There are also charts showing sea level rise, the range of estimates for ice mass loss or growth in Greenland and Antarctica, the number of hurricanes by category of severity, and the number of weather-related deaths which seems to have peaked in the 1920s and 1930s when we had a previous high temperature spell, but have been much lower in the recent supposed period of increased temperature. There is a chart showing the U. S. land area affected by droughts since 1895, showing peaks in the 1930s, the late 1950s, and then again in early 1990s. The late 1950s were a cooling period, so there is no correlation here with rising temperatures. There is also a chart showing the benefits of increased CO2 levels for plants, especially those with suboptimal water. Then there are charts showing how little effect the Kyoto Protocol will have on temperature change, malaria, hunger, and coastal flooding.

The perspective given by all of these facts should make us hesitant to accept the claim that man is causing global warming by emitting CO2, without clear and certain evidence that this is the case. A few half-baked computer models which cannot predict the temperatures of the past should not be trusted to predict those of the future and to dictate policy with respect to reductions in our individual rights. If you want to reduce my rights, you had better have a very strong, rational argument for doing so. Do not attempt this with the flimsy arguments of the anti-man Global Warming alarmists.

28 March 2008

Ocean Cooling with Expansion?

While visiting Robert Bidinotto's Blog, I found a note he had written on an account called The Mystery of Global Warming's Missing Heat by Richard Harris of NPR. This article discusses the Argo buoy system finding that the oceans are not only not warming, but they are if anything cooling slightly. But, Harris goes on to note that in the last 4 years in which these measurements were made, the oceans also rose about 0.5 inches. It is said there that this is a lot. In general, the Global Warming alarmists have been cranking up the fear that there will be very great sea level increases due to man emitting more CO2 into the atmosphere. Certainly 0.5 inch is not a lot, except that those of this alarmist mindset have a tendency to project change at the rate measured over short times far into the future if it is consistent with catastrophe. Ofttimes, they will even assume positive feedbacks that amplify the rate of change in the future.

Wikipedia has an article called Sea Level Rise. There is a plot on the first page showing the rise in sea level since the last Glacial Maximum about 21,000 years ago. There has been a rise of sea level of about 125 meters since then. However, for the last 7,000 years, there has been little change in sea level, but there is a slightly positive slope to the data since then. Since about 1910, there has been a roughly linear increase in sea level of about 20 cm or a bit less than 8 inches, according to the first graph in the article, titled Recent Sea Level Rise. If you examine the fluctuations in that curve, you will see that in the mid-1980s to the early 1990s there is a sudden dip in sea level followed by a rapid increase. These changes were at least 3 cm, or about 1.2 inches. Still, the overall averaged curve before and after that time is approximately linear. With this perspective, a 0.5 inch change in 4 years is not a reason to throw industry and the automobile upon the scrapheap. They would love to tie humans down to propelling grind stones by walking in circles hour after hour and put horses back on our roads.

The NPR article mentions ice melting in Antarctica and Greenland as a possible reason for the sea level increase in the last 4 years, since there has been no thermal expansion of the ocean water due to increased temperature in that time. However, with most of Antarctica experiencing an increase in ice cap thickness, while only the western peninsula is losing ice, it is not clear that the Antarctica effect is very large or even a positive one. Greenland also has areas of receding glaciers and others with ice thickness increases. There has been recent growth of ice in western Greenland and in the interior regions, while there has been loss of ice near the sea on the eastern side. What is the net effect on the sea level?

There are other factors that affect sea level:

  • Sediment washed into the seas
  • Changes in the salinity of ocean water
  • Changes in the amount of dissolved gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide.
  • Earth rotational variations or Chandler wobble
  • El Nino/southern oscillation
  • Tectonic plate movements
  • Volcanic creation of new land masses in the ocean
  • Earthquakes dropping land into the sea or opening new chasms undersea
  • Atmospheric humidity
  • Changes in water in lakes, rivers, soil, and minerals on land
These factors are not commonly going to be constant over any 4 year period of time. The Wikipedia article also notes that the TOPEX and JASON satellites making sea level measurements since 1992 have determined a 2.9 +- 0.4 mm sea level rise since 1992. This is an error of about 14% and the error over any four-year period is probably substantially larger. So, there is likely to be significant error in the 0.5 inch measurement.

It would be very interesting if a contributor to the sea level rise proved to be an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide dissolved in the oceans. Since the CO2 in the atmosphere has increased in the last 4 years and the ocean temperature has not, the equilibrium in the exchange of CO2 molecules between the oceans and the atmosphere will be shifted due to the present higher concentration in the atmosphere. This means that the oceans will dissolve more carbon dioxide and that will increase the volume of the ocean waters. I do not know the size of this effect and whether it is a substantial part of a 0.5 inch rise in sea level, however. It would be interesting to learn something about the magnitude of this effect.

27 March 2008

Charity Stronger Among Republicans

George Will, in a commentary called Conservatives More Liberal Givers, discusses a book by Professor Authur C. Brooks of Syracuse University entitled Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism. This author may have been surprised by his results, but I have long argued that this appeared to be the case. Some key findings were:
  • Conservative-headed households gave 30% more to charity than liberal families, despite the fact that liberal families had incomes 6% higher.
  • Conservatives donate more blood and more time to charities.
  • Bush carried 24 of 25 states against Kerry where charitable giving was above average.
  • Those who reject the idea that government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality, give 4 times more to charity than those who agree with that idea.
The article then goes into a discussion of the influence of religion and the role of government and how this affects people's charitable giving. On the issue of the role of government, I have long argued that the most people's attitude about that comes from an examination of themselves. It is their own character which is projected onto others or their desire for power that drives them into believing either in a limited role for government or for a broad and activist role for government. Consequently, while a strong correlation with charitable giving exists, the cause and the effect have been interchanged in the discussion in Will's commentary.

Essentially, most conservatives believe in individual rights and that individuals are generally capable of managing their own lives and choosing their own values. They believe that a man can live in liberty and pursue his own happiness without using force to wrest what he wants from his neighbor. He believes that with hard work, rational thinking, and the right values, he will likely be able to define and secure his own happiness. Admittedly, there are some conservatives also who have a low opinion of many of their fellow men, but they are a minority.

Liberals are more bifurcated. Most believe that many of their fellow men are not capable of managing their own lives rationally. Interestingly enough, even though they are better educated and wealthier on average, they have a rather low opinion of themselves. They are rather appalled that they have such materialistic values and feel guilty for their wealth. Some feel guilty because they believe they are the oppressors who hold the poor in subjugation. Some actually feel guilt for using the power of government to shift wealth from others to themselves. Some feel guilty because they have such a low opinion of so many others, which is something that those with a low opinion of themselves are inclined toward. It makes them feel that they are better in comparison. They are especially inclined to have a low opinion of blacks and Hispanics, because they view them as such helpless victims. Those who accept victimhood and those who project it upon others are the worst racists.

Yet despite all this guilt, they are not inclined toward personal acts of charity and this conflicts with their conviction that they should feel more maternally for the many they think are not able to adequately care for themselves. They see many of their neighbors, or at least those living in the poorer neighborhoods, as victims and as helpless. So how do they resolve this conflict between having materialistic values and feeling guilty for doing so little to help the many victims they see around them? Well, they toss this burden onto everyone's shoulders by claiming it is the role of government to care for the needy and the victims. Of course, there are also some liberals who love being victims and using that to put a claim on the products of the hard work of others and using it as an excuse for not having proven to be very productive members of society.

Those in favor of maternalistic government feel very good about themselves, even as they put zoning requirements in place that make it difficult for the poorer folks to own decent homes and as they slap high taxes on gasoline to make it harder for the poorer folks to get to work or to take vacations. Yes they love themselves for being enlightened liberals even as they use eminent domain to take the apartments of the poor and turn them into upscale shopping malls or apartments. They feel the cheap thrill of giving the poor a living wage, even as the minimum wages prices those with poor educations and no work experience out of the market. They love themselves even more as they boost the cost of cars with requirements for higher fuel efficiency and more safety features. They feel so morally superior as they use the force of government to maintain the social security system to transfer wealth from the young to the old, who are usually actually wealthier, despite the popular mythology. They bask in their own sunlight as they dictate to health care professionals how they will deliver health care to those on Medicare. They buy carbon credits as the poor do without energy or pay much more for it than they should in the name of preventing greenhouse gas emissions.

It makes them feel great that they can use their vote, rather more than their own money or time, to alleviate their guilt. It is also very important to them that with their maternalistic or paternalistic desires, they also become the intellectual and caring elite who set the direction of government programs. Since they already suffer from a low self-esteem and have a generally low opinion of others, when they are put in charge of government programs, they find myriad ways to direct the money to other liberals who are already well-off. But little actually goes to those the laws intend it to go to. See for instance the huge sums that go into the Washington, DC public schools for the education of children and how ineffectively the money is used. Or see how effective the huge sums of money directed at government programs for the development of alternative energy sources have been. See how many liberals favor high taxes, but prove to be the best at using deductions so they pay little of the taxes. Isn't it incongruous that those who favor high taxes should be so diligent in seeking to reduce their own tax payments?

The conservative is more likely to have a core respect for other humans and to believe that when someone is briefly down in their luck, that they are worthy of help. But they do not believe in helping people who are chronically down on their luck. They are inclined to believe that that is likely to be due to a defect of character, unless their is a severe illness. The defects of another's character are not their responsibility. Thus, they reject the idea that every black or Hispanic or poor person deserves special help. No, they, like everyone else, are capable of managing their own lives. They deserve to be treated equally before the law, but they are not to be given special condescending privileges. It is reasonable to expect them to think for themselves and to work as hard as anyone else. This expectation is the foundation of the respect for others that limited government presupposes. The conservative does not boost his own self-esteem by looking down on others. He also does not wallow in envy of others.

The modern progressive or liberal is a person of a different character from most conservatives and it is not at all surprising how this relates to how they assess others and any charitable relationships they may have. The conservative gives of himself and does not presume to use force to take from others and then claim that as his act of charity. Unfortunately, the fascist liberals do just that. Charity does not really consist of stealing from some to give the stolen goods to others one does not respect. Charity is the act of voluntarily helping someone that one has reason to believe is worthy of respect as a human being. It is an act directed at those we believe to share our fundamental value of life itself. One cannot share that value if one does not generally use one's rational faculty to identify the nature of reality and one's relationship with it. Man must act purposefully to achieve the value of his life, his liberty, and his pursuit of happiness. When he does these things, he is worthy of respect and worthy of our help when he suffers one of the set-backs that life can bring on unexpectedly. Of course, most such set-backs are handled by the rational individual by himself, but some we can all understand can be overwhelming and we may choose to help when we can. This is a matter of personal choice, however, and not a universal dictate to be imposed by government wielding a gun, as the liberals would have it.

26 March 2008

The Cooling Oceans and Unwarmed Atmosphere

When I brought up FireFox to check my e-mail this afternoon, I was greeted with a Yahoo video on the collapse of a part of the Wilkens Ice Shelf on the Western Peninsula of Antarctica of an ice area the size of Manhattan. It was said that at least one scientist said this is further proof of Global Warming. Well, there has long been a focus on this peninsular region of Antarctica due to loss of ice and, indeed, this part of Antarctica has lost ice for years. However, this area is a very small part of Antarctica and the vast majority of Antarctica has been increasing its ice mass for many years!

A couple of interesting commentaries have just surfaced which I would direct your attention to. In the first, Lorne Gunter wrote in the National Post in Canada, about the ocean temperature readings made in great proliferation by 3,000 Argo buoys since they were first deployed in 2003. They drift in the oceans at a depth of 2,000 meters and then about every 10 days they spend 6 hours rising to the surface, taking temperature data in each layer of the sea, and they broadcast their data to satellites, before sinking back to a 2000 meter depth. What have these ocean monitors found since 2003? There has been a slight cooling of the average ocean temperature! Given that CO2 levels in the atmosphere have continued to rise, this is a bit of a problem for the Man-is-wrecking-the-Earth-with-greenhouse-gases crowd. Apparently, 80 to 90% of the global warming due to CO2 is supposed to be warming of the oceans, which are then supposed to heat the atmosphere. This article also notes that NASA has 8 weather satellites that take 300,000 temperature readings every day all over the earth, compared to a mere 7,000 measurements by Earth ground stations, [too often located near population centers.] The satellites over 30 years have found only a 0.14 degree Centigrade per decade temperature increase on average.

Christopher Pearson wrote an interview with Jennifer Marohasy, a biologist and senior fellow of the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne, Australia published in The Australian. Marohasy notes that referenced to 1998, the earths average temperature has since fallen and if you take 2002 as your reference point, the temperature has been about constant since then. Then she notes that the NASA Aqua satellite launched in 2002 has provided data on temperature, cloud cover, and water vapor which contradicts a key assumption of the global warming computer models. The models have all thought that increasing CO2 would produce warming, which would produce more water vapor, [and since 95% of all greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is water vapor,] this would lead to accelerated heating of the atmosphere. WRONG! The Aqua satellite data shows that the increase in water vapor leads to a counteracting cooling. Thus, in engineering terms, the assumed positive feedback is really a negative feedback. [This reduction of the CO2 greenhouse effect is presumably due to increased cloud cover with increased water vapor and the reflection of considerable radiation of the sun back into space by the clouds.]

[These brackets indicate my additional comments relative to the information in these articles.]

Thanks to Robert Tracinski who pointed these two articles out in his TIA Daily.

It will be fascinating to watch the process of many of the careless, and often immoral, scientists backing away from their errors and this emotional declaration that man is ruining the earth by using fuels that create CO2. The response of the politicians will be even more interesting and more important. They have so many plans to ride roughshod over the rights of the individual in the name of saving the planet and thereby some elite portion of the animal kingdom, which will largely not include the human part. Should cooling continue, we will hear that we must prepare for the coming Ice Age and that this will require fascist socialist control of all human activity by an international government! Scaremongers are very resourceful and they will not hesitate to convince the People to give up their rights as the only way to prevent one crisis or another. The fascist have long used the fears induced by crises, often made up, to mobilize the people in one common effort, while minimizing their tendency to use reason. This technique has been taught in fascist and socialist circles for more than 100 years and used by Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Mussolini, Lenin, FDR, Hitler, Kennedy (The Missile Gap, etc.), LBJ, and Clinton (Its the economy, stupid!, even as the economy was improving already from a much smaller dip than I Feel Your Pain Clinton made it out to be.)

24 March 2008

Corn for Real Food or Energy Myth?

The ethanol scam, con, fraud, boondoggle, looting, tax, myth, price inflater is a study in governmental willingness to set obviously wrongheaded policies in law in the name of the General Welfare. Ethanol is being sold as a route to energy independence and as a way to reduce pollution. Its consequences for food production and costs are too rarely discussed among Americans. Its cost is too little understood. There are glaring problems with the mandated requirements for present and further ethanol use, which must be known to the politicians who have given us the ethanol laws. A shocking immorality is revealed in this story. This story is rich in the lesson that politicians cannot be entrusted with the Public Interest or the General Welfare without the most severe limitations of their power, such as are imposed by the Constitution, but whose provisions they ignore. This is not surprising, since Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson began a long history of blatantly ignoring the limits of their power and trained Congress to do the same.

Let us follow the story of Congress and their mandates for ethanol use and their subsidies to encourage its production and use. Archer Daniels Midland began pushing for the use of ethanol as a fuel additive to reduce pollution in the 1970s. In the early 1980s, they were producing 175 million gallons of ethanol a year. ADM established a close working relationship with Sen. Bob Dole (Rep., Kansas) and gave the Republicans more than $1 million in the 1992 election and Democrats about $455,000. Bob Dole then helped ADM and corn farmers to line up billions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks. The Cato Institute estimated that almost half of the profits of ADM were the result of product sales protected by or or subsidized by government in 1995. The 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline mixture E10 was required, especially in the winter months, in areas deemed to have a smog problem, under the rationale that the ethanol additive burned more cleanly.

The 2005 Energy Policy Act requires refiners to use 7.5 billion gallons of biofuels and specifically 250 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2012. This cellulosic ethanol is ethanol made from plants or plant parts other than the corn fruit and the sugar of sugar cane. In 2006, ADM produced more than 1 billion gallons of ethanol. 200 subsidies and tax breaks were providing between $5.1 and $6.8 billion to make sales of ethanol possible. In June, Congress passed The American Fuels Act of 2007, which had been introduced by Barack Obama (Dem., IL), Tom Harkin (Dem., IA), and Richard Lugar (Rep., IN) to mandate increased use of biodiesel and provides tax credits for the production of cellulosic ethanol. This law requires the production of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022. Of this amount only 15 billion gallons of ethanol are expected to come from corn, since that will be a bit more than half the present corn crop. The remaining 21 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel must come from other sources, which have not been developed. When introduced, the proposed bill was even more outrageous: it called for a mandate of 60 billion gallons of biofuels by 2030! Former Sen. Edwards called for 65 billion gallons of biofuels by 2025. Sen. Clinton voted against ethanol 17 times before she began her presidential campaign and turned into a supporter. Sen. McCain, who had been a doubter, became more positive when his campaign was well underway. Obama, Edwards, Clinton, and McCain were driven by the desire for votes in the Iowa caucuses. President Bush has been an enthusiastic supporter since his 2006 State of the Union address.

None of the sources of ethanol or biodiesel are even close to being economical and competitive with fossil fuels and nuclear power.
The least subsidized source is ethanol from sugar cane, but we grow little sugar cane in the U.S. Brazil grows more than any other country and produces the cheapest ethanol, but it is nonetheless heavily subsidized in Brazil where a dictator first established the ethanol use requirement in 1975. There they directly subsidize hydrous-ethanol (5% water), ban diesel-powered cars, put a 21.5% import duty on foreign ethanol, and provide an alcohol storage program. They also provided subsidies to car manufacturers who made cars capable of running on ethanol concentrations which started at 10% and grew to numbers as high as 26%, though this number varies through the 20 to 26% range under democratically elected governments. Because of this commitment to ethanol, Brazil has found that ethanol made from corn in the U.S. is cheaper than ethanol made from sugar cane in more marginal land brought under production for the purpose in Brazil. They import American ethanol, despite the protective tariff!

So where does ethanol production, essentially that from corn, stand in the U.S.? About 5.4 billion gallons per year (bgy) was produced in 2006. Most of this went into the E10 gasoline fuel mix, which is 90% gasoline. The Congressional mandate is for 9 bgy in 2008, 15.2 bgy in 2012, and finally 36 bgy in 2022. This is a hugely ambitious program and yet the 36 bgy will provide the energy equivalent of 7% of current oil use. And that figure is a figment of the imagination for a number of reasons which we will examine.

Ethanol from corn requires energy to produce it. This energy needs to be measured to understand what part of the enormous effort to create 36 bgy of ethanol will actually result in a net energy gain. What fraction of the 7% substituted for gasoline in cars can really be realized as new energy? Corn requires plowing, fertilizing, and harvesting, which commonly uses diesel fuel on the farm. The fertilizer requires that large amounts of natural gas be used to make it. This fertilizer then has to be transported to the farm. Further fuel is often used to irrigate the corn fields. The corn when harvested has to be delivered to the fermentation plants where it will be converted into ethanol and that process requires fuel to generate heat and energy to handle and move materials. Waste water has to be disposed of and cleaned up. Once the ethanol is made, it cannot be transported in relatively efficient gas pipelines because its water content makes it incompatible with the seals and other materials of pipelines. So, more expensive transport by truck and train is required.

Studies of the net gain in energy from ethanol vary, but the highest estimates are that it produces 1.3 times as much energy as it takes to obtain it. More realistic and recent estimates have tended to conclude that one gets about an equal amount of energy, so there is no net gain at all. A recent study by researchers at Cornell University and the University of California - Berkeley found that it took 29% more energy to produce ethanol from corn than it gave back! What is more, as more and more land is devoted to corn production for ethanol, more and more of the land will be less and less suitable and productive. The amounts of fertilizer and irrigation water needed will increase. The distance to markets may also increase. So more and more energy will be required and the process of producing net energy will become tougher and improbable. So the idea that ethanol is renewable energy is entirely wrongheaded. There is always an exchange of used coal, gasoline, diesel, and electric power for an approximately equal amount of energy in the form of ethanol.

In order to achieve this magnificent goal of zero net energy, we will soon be subsidizing the manufacture of ethanol and other biofuels to the tune of $8.6 billion per year. These subsidizes are further supplemented by tax-exempt bonds to finance ethanol plant construction, loan guarantees, state vehicle fleet purchases of biofuel-using vehicles, irrigation water subsidized by government, and the benefit of the state and federal mandates that require the use of ethanol whether it is economical or not.

This failure to create net additional energy using ethanol, makes a lie of the idea that ethanol will help to make the U.S. more independent of unreliable and unfriendly governments with control of oil resources. There are still more problems with this argument. First, if the object is to have more options for energy, then we clearly should not exclude Brazilian ethanol from the U.S. market by imposing a $.54 per gallon tariff on it. Second, corn-derived ethanol depends mostly on the corn crop output of the Midwest, which is generally a more risky outcome than is the international supply of oil. Based on data from 1960 to 2005, corn yields may readily decline by 11.9% in a given year, while the corresponding year to year equally likely decline for oil from the Middle East is 6.8%. In one out of every 20 years, corn yields can be expected to decline by 31.8%, while the corresponding oil decline would only be 14.9%. A further problem is that corn yields tend to fall if it is too hot in August. Such heat calls for more total energy use to cool homes and cars, which may result in more ethanol use when less future ethanol can be produced due to lower corn yields.

This same failure to create net additional energy also places limits on the argument that we can reduce the amount of money going to oil-rich Muslim countries where that money is used against us by Muslim terrorists and despotic governments by using more ethanol instead of oil. There may be some substitution of coal and natural gas for oil in the making of the ethanol, but these are often substitutes in other of our energy needs anyway. That is, coal and natural gas are used in many industrial processes and in generating electric power in competition with oil. If we use coal and natural gas to create ethanol, we increase their demand and their prices, which then makes oil look more attractive where it can be used as an alternative.

Ethanol has been touted as a means to reduce smog and pollution, as mentioned above. However, a 2006 study by Robert Niven of the Australian Defense Force Academy shows that E10 increases the total emissions of hydrocarbons and toxic compounds relative to gasoline, when evaporative emissions are fully accounted for. E85 is even worse. There is a slight advantage to using E10 with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, if you ignore the energy used to produce it in the first place, but it is microscopic at about a 1 to 5% level. This apparent low level advantage means that it costs about $250/ton to decrease greenhouse gases, according to the International Energy Agency. This is ridiculously expensive, and it actually is much more expensive given that this neglects the greenhouse gases emitted when using the other energy sources used to produce the ethanol. In fact, taking that into account will mean that the use of ethanol will create almost two times as much greenhouse gases as gasoline does.

A given volume of ethanol will produce about 66% as much energy as an equal volume of gasoline. This means that when ethanol is mixed with gasoline, a driver on the road must stop more often to refill his vehicle's tank. In the workplace, this is a cause of decreased productivity. For already busy people, this is a waste of time. For a given amount of transportation need, there must then be more fuel tankers on the road and on the rails and larger fuel storage facilities at refineries, shipping centers, and at the local gas stations to handle the larger volumes of fuel. There must also be more pumps and gas stations to pump it into vehicle tanks. Our time and scarce resources must be devoted to satisfying these requirements.

So, in the interest of a zero-sum game with respect to energy and an increase in greenhouse gases, we are converting valuable foods into vapors. What are the consequences of doing this?

Corn production for food purposes and for ethanol production use was subsidized, according to the Environmental Working Group, to the tune of $9.4 billion dollars in 2005. Note that this is larger than the ethanol subsidy numbers given above because it includes the normal subsidies for corn food production which does not go into ethanol. Corn for food is the most heavily subsidized of the major crops. This money is provided by heavier taxes and earns the taxpayer higher food prices in the grocery store, since some of it is in the form of price supports and it discourages productivity improvements. Corn costs more there as a result and so does corn syrup, corn oil, and meats such as beef, pork, and chicken which depend upon corn feed products very heavily. All the products with these as ingredients cost more because of these subsidies.

Distillers can produce 2.7 gallons of ethanol from one bushel of corn. American farmers produced 10.5 billion bushels of corn in 2006. If the entire corn crop of 2006 were turned into ethanol, only 28.3 billion gallons of ethanol would result. This would leave us short of the 36 bgy requirement for 2022. Of course, corn will still need to be used for food purposes in 2022 and the thought is that only 15 bgy of the required 36 bgy of ethanol will come from corn. Assuming that other ethanol sources are developed, this requires that the capacity to produce another 9.6 bgy of corn ethanol be developed by 2022. This requires an increase in corn production by 34% relative to 2006, while falsely assuming that our food needs will not increase also between now and 2022. This in turn means that huge tracts of farmland will either have to be diverted from growing other crops or from ranching or that much of the land once farmed long ago in the U.S. and now returned to forests will have to become farmland again.

Much of the land in the U.S. no longer farmed went out of production because it was less suitable for farming than the more efficient lands now being farmed. The loss of forests, which have increased greatly since the early 1900s, will be very substantial. These forests help to remove CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow and remove much more than does land planted in corn. So, those who believe that an increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is a terrible thing, will see some negative effect here. The less suitable farm lands which will be returned to production will require larger amounts of fertilizer, pesticides, and water in general than does the land presently under till for corn. This means that the ethanol produced from this corn will cost more, that more pollution from fertilizer and pesticides will occur, and that more precious water will be used and contaminated. Even on optimal corn-growing farmland, it takes 1700 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol. Another effect has already been observed: land will be planted in corn and rather than rotating with soybeans or another legume, it will be planted in corn again. This will mean that presently good farmland will either need more fertilizer or it will wear out. Meanwhile, the price of farmland suitable for growing corn has increased dramatically, which has increased the costs for those newcomers who would buy farmland to put to use in growing corn either for food or ethanol. The value of farmland in Iowa increased 18% in 2007.

From 2001 to 2006, the percentage of the U.S. corn crop used for ethanol production rose from 3% to 20%. As a result of limited increases in total corn production, the futures price of corn rose by 80% in 2006 alone. University of Minnesota economists C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer wrote an article for Foreign Affairs entitled "How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor." They note that filling the gas tank of a SUV with pure ethanol made from corn takes 450 pounds of corn. This is enough calories to feed a person for a year. The price of beef, pork, and poultry rose more than 3% in the first 5 months of 2007. Tortilla prices rose 60% in Mexico, causing food riots. Butter prices increased 40% in Europe. Pork prices rose 20% in China. All this because the U.S. is the biggest exporter of food in the world. Much of our corn crop has always been exported, but now that it draws higher prices as future ethanol, it is boosting the cost of foods dependent upon corn around the world. Runge and Senauer believe 600 million additional people may go hungry by 2025 due to the increased use of corn to produce ethanol.

Dennis T. Avery, director of global food issues at the Hudson Institute, says "We would effectively be burning food as auto fuel in a world that is not fully well-fed now, and whose food demand will more than double in the next 40 years." Because of the recent advances in many Third World countries, 2 billion people are making the transition from grain diets to meat diets. It takes a lot of corn to feed livestock and to produce the meat they are seeking. The U.S. has been the biggest exporter of this meat and has the potential to profit greatly from the further growth of this market. That cannot happen if we shoot ourselves in the foot by making our meat prices too high due to our escalating corn costs. The market for exported corn products such as corn, corn oil, and high-fructose corn syrup and the products made from them (Coca-Cola, etc.) is also a large one. This is not good for either us or the rest of the world.

On top of this, we tax ourselves heavily to provide for the ethanol subsidies and protections, we endure higher car fuel prices, pay higher food prices, and we have to build new kinds of cars, new kinds of refineries, new storage tanks, new tanker trucks, new rail cars, we use more water, we cause more pollution, and we create more greenhouse gases. So, why do we do this when none of the widely claimed energy advantages hold water when examined? It is because the governments and the politicians who run them always want more power and are eager to hand out goodies to special interests such as ADM and the corn farmers in this case, as long as they can get away with selling a myth to the public.

The mandate for increased ethanol use is adding to the present forces pushing us toward a possible recession. It adds to fuel and food costs and causes much economic uncertainty about the future, which causes less business investment and encourages consumers to spend less on goods and services other than food and fuel. We must kill this ethanol myth. That a representative republic can fall for such a scam is disgraceful. We must prove that we can be fooled only sometimes and for awhile, but then we come awake and exercise our rational faculties and finally Stand Sure against the con artists.

16 March 2008

Walter E. Williams

Walter E. Williams, Professor of Economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, is one of my heroes. He is a brilliant, cunning, and lucid defender of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and of the critical need to limit the powers of government in order to secure those rights. He is an effective defender of free markets and of the Capitalist system as the means to provide for a society without the use of force in most areas of our lives. He argues his case clearly and with great moral passion. He also has a passion for economics and thinking in a very rational and analytical manner. He is an acute observer of the facts of reality and he checks his evaluations of the consequences of all sorts of economic, marketplace, and government actions carefully and through many layers of consequences. Walter Williams is a very well-grounded man. He is a friend of Thomas Sowell, another economist of remarkable intellect and a fascinating historian. Walter Williams has a website here which usually has a number of interesting articles or the text of talks. His thoughts on a wide range of political, economic, and cultural issues are a pleasure to read. He will enlighten you, both through his effective teaching and as in lighting a fire under you!

Some may know that Prof. Williams sometimes substitutes for Rush Limbaugh on his talk radio show. I came to know him through his newspaper column, which is fortunately frequently published in the Washington Times. For six years he was the department head of the Economics Dept. at George Mason University which produced a couple of good Noble prize winners in economics. On his web page there is a link lower down to a TNI interview, which makes for interesting reading on his general thoughts and his background as an black individualist. TNI is The New Individualist, a magazine published by The Atlas Society, whose editor-in-chief is a friend, Robert Bidinotto. There was a movement to draft him to run for President, which he scotched, saying that his wife threatened to assassinate him if he consented to do so. He loves his wife dearly, so he has refused to be drafted. I suspect that he is only too aware that the job is an impossible one as well. But, if he were somehow to run and to escape all assassination attempts, voting for him would be the proudest vote of my life. Walter Williams is a good man.

15 March 2008

The Kyoto Protocol on Global Warming

Internet Al Gore told the climate jamboree held last year in Bali, "My own country the United States is principally responsible for obstructing progress here." Let us examine what the rest of the world has actually done and what the US has done between the signing in Kyoto in 1997 and 2004.

  • Non-water vapor greenhouse gas emissions world-wide increased 18%.
  • Treaty signing nations increased emissions 21.1%.
  • Emissions from non-signing nations increased 10%.
  • Emissions of the European Union nations increased 8.0%.
  • Emissions in the US increased 6.6%.

If we look at the data between 2000 and 2004, we see a trend looking forward for the US vs. the European Union:

  • Emissions increase in the European Union of 5.8%.
  • Emissions increase in the US of 1.7%.
The much smaller increases in the US occurred despite a larger population growth and faster economic growth.

Apparently, the Kyoto Protocol, which actually will do very little to change the world's temperature, serves as a holier-than-thou cover for nations who are adding to greenhouse gas emissions much faster than the US is. Just about everywhere you look in this Global Warming Scare, you find dishonesty. You also find that it is a tool used to belittle the US and for other nations and the UN to try to gain control of the US.

13 March 2008

Another Call for Energy Cut-off

Once again a couple of computer climate modeling groups have reached a Sky Is Falling conclusion that the generation of further carbon dioxide will have drastic long-term warming effects on the environment. A modeler named Schmittner, the lead author of a 14 February article in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles and an Oregon State University professor, said that the Earth will warm by 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 if we do nothing to greatly limit carbon dioxide emissions. He says that if we do not limit them to zero until 2300, the temperature will rise by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Wow!!!! This would be alarming.

This computer model was run to make predictions 2,000 years into the future. However, did this same model receive the obvious test that should be made on any such model? Did they apply it to a starting time of 2,000 years ago and see if it accurately predicted the climate from then until now? Well, no. None of the models we hear so much about are ever tested in this way, or if they are, the results are not reported. This tells us all these modelers are playing games, rather than trying to seriously address reality. What is more, many of them are clearly drawn to these games for their ability to gain them attention when the model outcome is some drastic event. This gains them publicity and funding for more playing.

I just read how this work was reported by the Washington Post here. The only word of caution in considering these studies was given by Brian O'Neill of the National Center for Atmospheric Research who allowed that there were some uncertainties about the strength of the natural carbon cycle and the dynamics of ocean warming, which would affect the accuracy of the modeling predictions. Ha!!!! That really takes the cake. With even the smallest uncertainties, 2000 year predictions of climate are extremely dubious. These papers claim that natural cycles remove about 1/2 of the human CO2 emissions within a hundred years. I suspect that this occurs much faster than this. For one thing, as minerals become more hydrated, as they will with warming, they commonly soak up large amounts of CO2. I do not believe any of the computer models include this effect in their algorithms. I also do not think that the issues relating to the huge heat capacity differences between the oceans and the atmosphere are properly dealt with. These modelers are usually much better computer programmers than they are scientists.

There are repeated calls for drastic reductions in carbon output mentioned in the Washington Post article. What they really mean is carbon dioxide output, since all of the carbon was really there ahead of any action by man. The article notes that the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change called on industrialized nations to cut their emissions by 80 to 95% by 2050. The world as a whole was told to cut emissions by 50 to 80%. The Senate is poised to vote in June to reduce U.S. emissions by 70% by 2050. Hillary R. Clinton and Barack H. Obama are calling for an 80% reduction. John McCain wants a 60% reduction. I hope you are thinking about how this will change your lifestyle and that of your children.

Now if the temperature of the Earth actually were to increase by 15 degrees Fahrenheit, this would be a bad thing, but in the last 600 million years, the planet has more often been 15 degrees or more warmer than it has been as cool as it is now. These modelers have made some serious errors. First, adding CO2 to the atmosphere starting at very low concentrations causes the temperature to increase fairly rapidly. But, by the time the concentration is what it is now, which actually is very low compared to the average of the past 550 million years when man made no contributions, the effect of adding more CO2 in increasing the temperature is very low. There is another problem: It is very difficult to cause a temperature increase in the tropics because of the cooling effect of increased water evaporation as the temperature is increased and because of the increased cloud cover that results. For the same reason, it will be very difficult to increase the temperature in the temperate zones by 15 degrees with man's limited means, which would make them much more like the tropical zones. Now, water evaporated in the tropics adds to cloud cover in the other parts of the world. Under the drastic warming conditions predicted in these computer models, the whole world would be producing much more water vapor and cloud cover. The surface of the earth would see much less direct sunlight and the cooling will be great.

The modelers commonly think that the addition of CO2 to the atmosphere caused the temperature increase from 1975 to 2001, but most of that increase was really caused by an increase in radiation from the sun. Richard Willson of Columbia University and NASA, reported that the sun's radiation increased by 0.05% each decade from 1978 to 2003. The research I discussed in my last note further shows that the temperature of the earth is dominated by the sun. Yet groups such as these modelers believe the temperature increase from 1975 to 2001 was caused by CO2 increases, so they are overestimating the effects of CO2. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased smoothly since 1850 and some of that is because the earth is warming after the Little Ice Age ended. CO2 is emitted by the oceans, which hold vast amounts of dissolved CO2, as the oceans warm. Some of additional CO2 increase is due to man. However, we must not forget that in some Ice Ages, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere was 16 times what it is now! One would think that would stop an Ice Age in its tracks if CO2 has the ability to increase temperature as these computer models predict! There is much evidence that these computer modelers overestimate the effects of CO2 in the atmosphere over and over. They have a long history now of having to reduce the size of earlier predicted temperature increases.

This brings up another interesting issue. We might actually want to warm the planet with CO2 emissions if that could be done without too much effort! Why??? The last major Ice Age ended about 11,000 years ago. All of human civilization and almost all of our development of knowledge has occurred in the more human-friendly conditions since then. There are now 6.8 billion people on Earth. How many of these people would survive even 100s of years into the next Ice Age? Why should you think about that? Because in the last 400,000 years the human-friendly warm periods commonly last about 10,000 years and the Ice Ages last about 70,000 to 90,000 years. Since we are at 11,000 years and the 2,000 year prediction of the computer model discussed above would put us at 13,000 years, we might very well be looking for all the warmth we can find then.

The climate of the Earth is critically important to man and his future. We should make a very concerted effort to understand it. That starts by being willing to critically observe the earth's history of climate change. It also means that we examine theories effecting the climate with an objective evaluation, rather than a religious zeal often borne of a bias against man's activities. We need to remember that the reason the Earth's climate is important is because the quality of man's life is dependent upon it. If we act in a panic to lower the quality of man's life without a sound knowledge of the complex issues affecting the climate, we are actually more likely to do harm than to do good.

12 March 2008

Climate Sensitivity to Solar Radiation Variability

Nicola Scafetta, a research associate at Duke University in the Physics Department, and Bruce West, chief scientist in the mathematical and information science directorate in the US Army Research Office, Research Triangle Park, NC wrote an opinion piece in the March 2008 issue of Physics Today entitled "Is climate sensitive to solar variability?" The results of their research into the coupling of variations in the radiation of the sun to temperature changes near the surface of the earth show that there is a strong coupling from 1950 to the present.

From 1950 to 1977, the principal variation with a minimal smoothing of the data appears to be due to variations in solar radiation and clearly shows the 11-year cycle of the Sun's radiation. The data they use shows a very small temperature increase over that time, though other data sets I have seen show a temperature decrease then. This probably means that the surface temperature data sets they are using have not been properly corrected for the fact that far too many temperature measuring stations are affected more and more by urban growth and the change from white washing stations to painting them with latex paints. From 1977 to the present, it is clear that the cycles in the solar radiation are seen in the earth's surface temperatures also, so the solar contribution is clearly significant. Then depending on which data sets are used, the Sun may account for up to 69% of the temperature increase since 1977. A part of the difference is again probably just error due to the influence of urban settings to bias temperatures upward.

Once again scientists who dispute the idea that the global warming since the 1970s has been primarily caused by man's emission of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere are unlikely to receive either much media attention or the attention of politicians. Meanwhile calls for drastic governmental controls on the economy and on how we live our lives are justified on this largely unexamined myth that man is baking and killing the planet Earth. These government activities and the fright of future such actions is part of what is preventing new business investment. It is primarily a slowdown in business investment which is causing the marked slowdown of the economy recently. The increase in food prices is also hurting and a large part of the recent increases in food prices are brought on by the ridiculous subsidies to encourage the use of corn to make ethanol and legal requirements to use more and more of it in fuel for our vehicles. A future essay will be on that subject.

09 March 2008

Politics -- The Big Picture

Basically, politics concerns itself primarily about when to use the government monopoly on the use of force to make people take one action or another or to refrain from taking one action or another. George Washington put the matter clearly: "Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."

So, why do we even need such a dangerous servant as is government? Our Declaration of Independence says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." Essentially, the Declaration of Independence says that government deserves only to exist for the purpose of securing (both protecting and fostering) the right of the individual to his life, his liberty, and to pursue what he deems to be those goals which will give him happiness. When government errs from these Principles, it is to be altered or abolished. This is very strong and clear language.

The government designed to accomplish the principle of securing the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was described in The Constitution of The United States of America. That document describes a government of strictly limited powers so that it could not evolve as most governments do to add more and more powers until it looms threateningly over the interests of the people and fails to protect their lives, their liberty, and their pursuit of happiness. The Framers of the Constitution largely objected to adding a Bill of Rights, because they feared they could not list all of the particular rights of the people and any omission might be viewed as giving the government the power to abridge the right of the people which was omitted. They argued that there was no need to assert that the individual had freedom of speech, because it was clear that the government had not been explicitly given the power to limit the freedom of speech. Therefore, it could not do so. These objectors to a Bill of Rights proved right in this argument, but they also proved wrong in thinking that the people would continue to understand why it was a critically important principle that the government powers be very rigorously held to those explicitly listed in The Constitution. Amendment IX of the Bill of Rights was included for the purpose of upholding the principle that "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." This is never cited in defense of our liberties, however.

So, we started with a government of strictly limited powers which was formed to secure the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of the individual. This was a government to be confined in its actions and its use of force to this principle. This was a government of strict principle and to be judged, as a man is, on how well it lived up to its principles. All men were to judge it on this basis. All men were empowered to alter it or abolish it if it failed to live up to this principle.

What disaster befell our great experiment in limited government? How did it come to fail to live up to its principle that its sole purpose was to secure the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the individual? Almost immediately, unprincipled men sought to use the government to deliver special favors to them, provided by the government use of force. Pork barrel projects were put before the very first session of Congress and some were approved. Government tried, as government always does, to expand its powers. There was great temptation to ignore The Constitution from the beginning. Indeed, there were soon those who argued that the "Elastic Clause", now about the only aspect of the Constitution taught in our government-run public schools, gave the government the power to do anything that it claimed was in the Public Welfare. If this were the case, the Founders of our country and the Framers of the Constitution argued, then why had they worked so hard to enumerate the powers of the government? Many, many of them denied that the interpretation now given by voracious government was ever intended by the Framers. Indeed, it is transparently clear from the structure and the purpose clearly designed in The Constitution, that there is no such thing as an "Elastic Clause". But, when Congress today justifies any bill they pass, it is almost always said simply that it is deemed to be for the Public Welfare.

The fatal error in the language of The Constitution occurs in Article. 1., Section. 8. "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;" and the section continues with the enumerated list of powers. Now, if one chooses to take this clause out-of-context, then it is plausible that this is an elastic clause. But an in-context reading causes one to understand that the Framers held that the general Welfare was served and only served by a government of very strictly delimited powers. It was intended that the enumerated powers would be further constrained by a requirement that they be exercised in a manner consistent with the public welfare. This phrase was never intended to open the floodgates and to allow government to do whatever it wished to do. One has no need for a constitution at all, if one once decides to interpret this clause as giving the power to use force against the people with nothing more than the claim that it is for their own good, in the aggregate. It is clear that when only the general Welfare limits the power of government, then it is free to become a fascist government, which governments always claim that they act for the people, even as they ignore the right of any given individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

When government is on longer limited by principles widely held and proclaimed by most every individual, then it is no longer restrained in its use of force. Such government is especially not reason. It is free to be dangerous and it requires a constant watchful vigilance. It grows ever bigger and more intrusive as law after law is proposed by pragmatic men lacking principles. Many of these laws are turned down, but since there are always special interests seeking their special interest, the pressure is always applied for the passage of laws injurious to the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the individuals who cannot afford the time from their lives to be ever vigilant of the serpent now in their workplace, on the roads, in the fields, in their yards and homes, and sometimes in their bedrooms and bathrooms. The more the scale of government grows, the less able the voter is to maintain even a semblance of vigilance. He cannot keep track of the many laws proposed or even those that are approved. In recognition of the hopelessness of his situation, he simply stops caring about politics. It is too demanding and too depressing.

There is more to how this came to be and much of what I am about to describe can be learned in greater detail from Liberal Fascism (Doubleday, 2007) by Jonah Goldberg. Beginning with the French Revolution, much influenced by the socialist and nationalist Rousseau, fascist socialism reared it ugly head in human affairs. That revolution was widely admired even in the United States, though less and less as the horrific bloodlust continued, until even the French turned to Napoleon to save themselves from it. He was not much of a savior as it turned out, but he was to be preferred to Robespierre. Both were examples of the fascist admiration for strong, enlightened leaders who would show the ignorant masses the way by giving voice to the "general will." This admiration for such leaders is actually very widespread through the Progressives (Teddy Roosevelt & Woodrow Wilson), the Liberals (Franklin Delano Roosevelt & Harry Truman), the Communists (Lenin, Stalin, Krushchev, Mao, Pol Pot), and the Fascists (Mussolini, General Franco, Hitler [Nazi really]), socialists all.

Bismarck, of Prussia, was much admired in the latter 1800s in the US. Many young men went to Prussia for a college education and learned of his socialist government and public schools. They returned to the United States and often worked hard to copy his social programs and his public schools. In general, socialists of almost all variations worked hard to force compulsory public schools upon communities and states. They viewed this as the ideal way to mold citizens who would be amenable to socialism and to separate them from their parents who were too conservative for the Progressives. Some people favored public schools as a way to counter the influence of the Catholics and almost everyone thought them a good means to provide Americans with common characteristics. Among those characteristics was a weakening of moral principles and a substitution of pragmatism. William James and John Dewey worked hard for public schools and John Dewey is worshiped in most teacher's education colleges to this day.

William James taught that living in accordance with principles was stultifying. It was proper to be a pragmatist and whatever actually worked was the thing to do. Or, even whatever one believed worked was the thing to do. The will to believe was elevated over reality and pragmatism over principles. Dewey followed in his footsteps and especially pushed this vision forward in public education.

William James wrote the popular essay "The Moral Equivalent of War", which we hear repeated as a socialist phrase all the time, as in the War on Drugs, the War Against Obesity, the War Against Poverty, and the War Against Cancer. James, however, was advocating militarism as a pragmatic expedient to organize societies with a single, desirable purpose. His Will to Believe was meshed with Friedrich Nietzsche's Will to Power by Sorel, who much influenced Mussolini. Sorel transformed socialist revolutionary politics into a religion in which myth was used to capture the emotions of the ignorant masses to get them to join in the socialist revolution. Mussolini, following William James and Sorel, was called the "Prophet of the Pragmatic Era in Politics", the title of a 1926 article in Political Science Quarterly. James was very interested in the development of pragmatic theory in Italy which led to Mussolini's development of fascism. He also taught Herbert Croly at Harvard University, who went on to become the editor of the New Republic, which was to promote and develop the ideas of Teddy Roosevelt when he was the leader of the Progressive Party.

The New Republic was a cornerstone publication of the Progressives and then the Liberals in the United States. Croly was a pragmatist who believed in a socialist aristocracy and national spiritual rebirth, the use of national myths to motivate the people, contempt for parliamentary democracy, hatred of individualism, the need to treat society like an army and to make politics a religion, military expansion, and great revolutionaries. Like Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, he argued that national life should be like a school with severe coercive measures. Like Roosevelt, he welcomed wars, many of them, as a means of progress; meaning an easy way to gain the implementation of socialist programs.

Croly made John Dewey the resident philosopher of the New Republic. Dewey publicized pragmatism and pushed for interventionist wars. Dewey also pushed for kindergartens (note the German for child in kinder) in order to remove children from their parents as early as possible to shape them into compliant social organs, a part of the people without being individuals. Child welfare agencies sprung up to further lessen the influence of parents. Dewey and President Wilson agreed that the purpose of education was to make children as unlike their fathers as possible. Dewey pushed for governmental experimentation on the people, as did Wilson and FDR.

President Wilson was quite the Progressive Leader, a real piece of work. Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck was one of Wilson's early heroes. Though he believed that giving blacks the right to vote was a terrible mistake, he also admired Abraham Lincoln because he centralized the government, implemented a draft, suspended habeas corpus, and sort of let loose the radical Republicans after the war. Wilson was fascinated with power, just as modern Liberals are. Power was God's instrument on earth, so it was to be admired. Wilson wrote Congressional Government when a student at the heavily Prussian-influenced Johns Hopkins University. He wanted the US to change to a parliamentary democracy so the legislature would have fewer checks to its power. He changed his mind when he was impressed by Teddy Roosevelt's being able to develop the power of the Presidency with his oratory. He became one of a long line of Progressives/Liberals who firmly believed in the Imperial Presidency. George Washington had to be spining in his grave. Wilson believed that society was one organic whole without room for those who would not behave. The government's purpose was to control your private thoughts, your home, and everything else about the organic whole of society. The Constitution either had to adapt to the organic redeemer state or be cast aside. He demanded that artificial barriers in our antiquated system of checks and balances be dropped and mocked the Founding Fathers. He said that "living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and practice. Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of Life .... it must develop." In his essay Leaders of Men, Wilson said the true leader uses the masses like tools, whose passions must govern their actions, not their minds, so he must be a great demagogue. "Men are as clay in the hands of the consummate leader." Only very concrete concepts can impress their dull minds. When President, Wilson, as Roosevelt had before him, greatly expanded the role of government and of the Presidency, far beyond the bounds of the Constitution.

FDR continued this progression, but the later story will be developed later.

By this time in history, America is already well down the road to a "pragmatic" abrogation of the Constitution as the defining document of government and its powers. We no longer had a government of principle and principle was waning everywhere. Shortsighted pragmatism ruled the affairs of Americans in politics and government.

Our politicians sometimes led the ignorant masses to new socialist programs and sometimes they simply took advantage of the propaganda widely taught in the public government schools with their conflict of interest with respect to the expansion of government power. As education became weaker and weaker and individuals of strength became more rare, the masses were more easily duped and controlled by the leaders. Fancy, pleasant sounding names were put on bills passed in the legislature, which only the lobbyists had read and which accomplished nothing like what the name of the bill suggested. The people were so overwhelmed with a mass of bills and new laws that it became hopeless for them to keep up with what was going on. In time, it was also hopeless for the full-time politicians to keep up with what they were passing. The Congress and the President gave up one of the most important tasks they had in checks and balances by refusing to even consider if a bill was Constitutional. They left that task entirely to the Supreme Court. In the early days of the Republic, the usual reason a President vetoed a bill was because he thought it unconstitutional. But how else could he uphold his pledge to "faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

When the people had principles from the Constitution to judge whether a proposed law was within the bounds of government power, it was possible to relatively easily glean out those laws that did not match the very limited powers of government. As the general welfare became the only criterion used to determine the range of laws and powers, the socialist concept of the organic whole displaced the interests of the individual. Pragmatism made politics a game that people played for power and privilege. Public schools were designed to promote big government, to dumb down the population, and make its graduates part of the organic whole, while lacking individuality. This is how the people of the United States came to be ignorant, overwhelmed with new and old laws, pandered to by politicians, bilked by special interests, and generally clay in the hands of its pragmatic, unprincipled, demagogic leaders.

There is only one way out: A return to the clear principles of our Constitution which was designed to protect the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the individual by carefully limiting the power of government to a few enumerated powers. Everything else can be managed within the free enterprise, free market system of voluntary action by many, many specialized and individualized Americans. Then we will have to review all of our laws and straighten them out.