Thoughts on economics and liberty

Tag: Environment

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Emotion won’t fix the environment. Understanding economics will.

Came across this emotional pitch by 12 year old Severn Cullis-Suzuki

Despite her well-intentioned emotionalism, Severn had much to learn about how the environment works.

Julian Simon would have addressed her concerns very well. I hope she has read Simon by now. I hope she has started understanding economics.

The environment is getting better, not worse. The ozone hole, for instance, has been largely fixed (although some argue that it wasn't a problem in the first place).

Either way, it has been proven CONCLUSIVELY (and REPEATEDLY) that what Julian Simon said is correct: “More People, Greater Wealth, Expanded Resources, Cleaner Environment.” [Source

Indeed, many people (Malthusians) have tried to refute Julian Simon, but ALL have been refuted by the facts. 

True, without ANY humans, the environment would definitely be "clean". But would we care for such an environment – where the are are no humans at all?

When humans come in, you can expect some deterioration at first, but with greater education, freedom and wealth, the environment always improves.

Today, for instance, the FINEST environment you can get is perhaps found in Australia: pristine lands, with well-preserved wild life. Even dogs and cats are well looked after. Perhaps even goldfish. And yet Australia is also one of the wealthiest societies on earth. 

Prosperity and environmental quality are NOT mutually exclusive. Thus, India which is desperately poor (for its OWN fault – having chosen socialism) also has a terrible environment.

I've discussed this earlier here. Do read it (the images are posted here once again – for a picture is worth a thousand words). No prizes for guessing which of the images below is from India.


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To preserve tigers, let’s consume them. To save tigers, let’s sell them.

Here’s an excellent article that talks about exactly what I’ve been saying, but in addition, this article is also supported by data about an actual – and unsustainable – increase in tiger population. Such an increase can’t be continued unless we allow trade in tigers. The more the tigers that consumed, the more the tigers that are produced. This is the same as the argument about trees: the more the paper that is consumed, the more the trees that are produced. these ideas are not intuitive to most people, but this is the TRUTH about markets.

Instead of paying incompetent bureaucrats to ‘preserve’ the Indian tiger for posterity (a losing battle since the government CANNOT manage such things), and also losing hundreds of lives in a futile battle against poachers, let’s privatise forests and allow tiger (and rhino, etc.) breeding as part regulated trade in these animals in the open market. Let’s scrap all agreements against trade in most animals/animal products (things like whales are different since they can’t be artificially bred).

If we follow the dictates of the market, then tigers will multiply like rabbits. I guarantee that! Let’s allow Indians to make BIG money by breeding and exporting tigers in thousands to China!

Tiger Preservation in a Nutshell

Dean PengThursday, September 02, 2010
Tiger skin had been a best-selling commodity in many parts of the world and tiger bones had been considered an important ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, therefore tigers became endangered. Thus in the second half of last century authorities decided to protect the species, and in 1990’s, an international convention banning trade of tiger and tiger parts came into effect and China signed that convention. Thus in China, hunting and trading of tiger or tiger products are prohibited, and tigers have been bred in artificial conditions. Today, although wild tigers are still rarely seen, captive bred tigers are really booming because of enough supply of food, proper medical care and isolation from natural enemies. Tiger breeding bases are overcrowded with tigers.
However, breeders stumbled into fatal financial difficulties. The bred tigers are kept in bases consuming resources. Zoos are not in need of tigers, tigers make no money for breeders. Tigers are kept properly, but breeders are running out of money. Take the example of private-owned Guilin Bear-Tiger Farmland in Guangxi, one of the two largest tiger breeding bases in China. It started in 1993 with some 30 tigers collected from different populations and now, after innovations in artificial fertility, it now owns some 1200 tigers! The result is, the owner, Mr. Wei-Sen Zhou, went bankrupt, and the Farmland, instead of tigers, is endangered!
All those who insist upon banning commercial utilities of bred tigers are obliged to cover the cost of maintaining the tigers. Otherwise they should shut up. And if the government does not lift the ban, it is the government’s duty to cover the cost. This is no.1 principle in all debates regarding tiger preservation.
Before going further, I’d like to talk a few words about pigs. Pork is the basic meat for most Chinese. Pig population is tremendously big; pigs are by no means endangered species. Even more, from time to time it happened that bred pigs escaped into the wild and became wild boars. Without government policy of protecting pigs, without international convention prohibiting trade of pigs aiming at protecting them, pigs are doing well under captive breeding.
Compared to pigs, tiger breeding is quite a new innovation. Artificial fertility of tigers became practicable only in the end of last century. Before that, to acquire tiger products implied hunting tigers. Prohibiting tiger hunting amounted to prohibiting trade of tiger products. But they are different today! It is now possible to acquire tiger products without hunting wild tigers.
A primary counter-argument against free trade of tiger products is this: to effectively ban poaching, it is still necessary to ban tiger product trade, because otherwise tiger products acquired from poaching will have the opportunity to sell on the market in the name of those acquired from bred tigers.
This doctrine is mistaken both morally and practically. Morally, it is the duty of law-enforcement authorities to ban poaching and trading of wild tiger product. Even if overall ban of trade of tiger products does help banning poaching and trading of wild tiger products, it is still unjustified to do so. Law enforcement authorities are not entitled to deprive the interest of citizens for its own convenience. Isn’t it ridiculous that traffic police bans all the traffic to eliminate traffic accidents? Or F&D authorities ban food trade to eliminate risk of food poison? On the other hand, practically, open trade of bred tiger products will largely reduce the price on the black market, and buyers will have legal accesses to the tiger products. Even if some buyers insist upon purchasing wild tiger products out of some special reasons, open trade of bred tiger products does not reduce their risk. Concerned authorities will be able to watch over the trade to the same extent as before only by requiring a registration list. The illegal trade of tiger skin will be as difficult as before, because all skins from bred tigers are registered; and that of tiger bones will be as easy as before, because it is just as easy to claim wild tiger bones to be bones of other animals as to claim them to be bones of bred tigers.
Finally, let’s have a look at wildlization. Many consider bred tigers as substantially different from wild ones and thus deny breeding tigers will help preserving wild ones. This is a grievous mistake. First of all, bred tigers preserve genes. This is of the utmost importance to tiger preservation. Secondly, wildlization is not as difficult as it appears to be. The science of ethology tells us that tigers have a good ability to learn new skills, and these skills turn into mode of conduct quickly. One example. Tigers usually do not prey human-beings. And if they do so in extreme hunger and manage, preying human-beings becomes mode of conduct easily. This is the reason why murdering tigers must be shot.
The main problem with wilderlization is the lack of a big enough ecological system to support tigers who are on the top of food chain. With the development of new agriculture technology, less and less farmland is required. Large ecological systems are on the horizon. The wilderlization will be able to be practiced step by step easily. Some food is to be laid in the wild to guarantee the survival, and the food will be reduced gradually to compel tigers to learn how to prey. In one word, wilderlization is not going to be an unsolvable problem.
As a matter of fact, I am not very keen of preserving wild tigers. But if wild tigers are to be preserved, it must be done in a correct way, and that is free trade––to sell bred tigers to maintain a big enough population and many enough varieties of gene types.Consumption, and only consumption, will drive tiger preservation into positive circle.

To preserve tigers, let’s consume them. To save tigers, let’s sell them. This is the harmony of Nature and man!
Author : Dean Peng is a freelance economist in China.


My comments regarding the Assam rhino:

If there is anyone willing to pay for an animal the best strategy is to allow it to be farmed profitably. Chicken is not endangered because people are willing to pay for it, so it can be multiplied commercially.
Even tigers have been multiplied – like rabbits. There is now a massive surplus in China.
The whole of India was full of rhinos at one time. They were a pest so people killed them. But if someone (e.g. Chinese) is willing to pay for them, then multiplying them is very easy. A trivial task.
Long term lease in a ***part*** of Kaziranga can be provided to licenced private operators who are allowed to harvest rhino horn for sale (that will also ensure rhinos are never killed, for the horn comes back – it is merely hair)
This will immediately multiply rhinos (since they’ll stop being killed) and stop poaching – since profits of poachers will be eliminated.


There’s an existing example of preservation of wildlife through private property rights allocation:

Couple Buys 300 Acres Of Barren Land, Converts It Into India’s First Private Wildlife Sanctuary

My comment re: the above article on FB:

I haven’t read the details of this, but this is EXACTLY what private property does. It creates heaven from hell. Anyone interested in wildlife preservation should insist on regulated property rights, not nationalisation of forests (which is almost certain to destroy, not preserve, wildlife).


My FB post:

citing this article: An Inside Look at the World’s Biggest Rhino Farm

My post: Really angry at the Indian socialists (and David Attenborough) who are destroying Indian tigers

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Natural resources are not finite

Julian Simon explains in The Ultimate Resource why natural resources are not finite. The material here is actually not the complete book, and I had to scan and fill up the gaps in this very important part of the book. I've also done a little bit of reconstruction, and the results are in this Word document that (time – and health permitting) I'll complete in the future.


Incredible as it may seem at first, the term “finite” is not only inappropriate but is downright misleading when applied to natural resources, from both the practical and philosophical points of view. As with many important arguments, the finiteness issue is “just semantic.” Yet the semantics of resource scarcity muddle public discussion and bring about wrongheaded policy decisions.

The ordinary synonyms of “finite”, the dictionary tells us, are “countable” or “limited” or “bounded”. This is the appropriate place to start our thinking on the subject, keeping in mind that the appropriateness of the term “finite” in a particular context depends on what interests us. Also please keep in mind that we are interested in material benefits and not abstract mathematical entities per se. (Mathematics has its own definition of “finite” which can be quite different from the common sort of definition we need here.)
The quantity of the services we obtain from copper that will ever be avail­able to us should not be considered finite because there is no method (even in principle) of making an appropriate count of it, given the problem of the economic definition of “copper,” the possibility of using copper more effi­ciently, the possibility of creating copper or its economic equivalent from other materials, the possibility of recycling copper, or even obtaining copper from sources beyond planet Earth, and thus the lack of boundaries to the sources from which “copper” might be drawn. That is, one cannot construct a working definition of the total services that we now obtain from copper and that can eventually be obtained by human beings.
This is easier to see now than ever before. After centuries of slow progress and the use of mostly the familiar materials such as stone, wood, and iron, science is attaining undreamed-of abilities to create new materials. This in­cludes syntheses of known compounds and also “materials that do not exist in nature…. Instead of trying to modify existing materials, scientists now are learning to assemble atoms and molecules systematically into new materials with precisely the properties they need for designs too demanding for off-the­ shelf resources.The first auto engine parts made of silicon and carbon ­water-pump seal rings—are now being installed in Volkswagens, and engines could soon be made of silicon carbide, cutting weight and emissions in addi­tion to replacing metals. Palladium instead of platinum can now be used in auto exhaust emission systems.Organic plastics can now be blended with glass to yield a material as strong as concrete but flexible and much lighter. And a feasible way has been found to make heat-resistant plastics using gal­lium chloride. Ceramics engineering is exploding with new knowledge, fi­nally putting an end to past generations’ worries about running out of metals.
Plastics are now made only from fossil fuels or oils from plants grown in fields, but researchers have recently found ways to convert such agricultural products as potatoes and corn into direct sources of plastics by inserting special plastic-producing genes into them.
In light of these extraordinary developments—which continue the line of discoveries since humankind thousands of years ago found a way to convert iron into a resource by learning how to work with it—concern about running out of materials such as copper seems ever less sensible.
Consider this remark about potential oil and gas from an energy forecaster. “It’s like trying to guess the number of beans in jar without knowing how big the jar is.” So far so good. But then he adds, “God is the only one who knows—and even He may not be sure.” Of course he is speaking lightly but the notion that some mind could know the “actual” size of the jar is misleading, because it implies that there is a fixed quantity of standard-sized beans. The quantity of a natural resource that might be available to us—and even more important the quantity of the services that can eventually be rendered to us by that natural resource—can never be known even in principle, just as the num­ber of points in a one-inch line can never be counted even in principle. Even if the “jar” were fixed in size, it might yield ever more “beans.” Hence, re­sources are not finite in any meaningful sense.
The entire notion of the nonfiniteness of resources such as copper, energy, and living space may so boggle the mind of some readers as to turn them away from the rest of the book. If this is so for you, please notice that one can reach the same practical conclusions from current data and economic theory, with­out making the stronger argument about infinite resources, as long as one accepts that it is silly to worry now about any implications of the proposition that energy will run out in (say) seven billion years. If the notion of finitude is quite irrelevant for you, as it is for me, please skip the rest of the discussion on the subject. But for some other, I cannot leave out discussion of the issue, because it is the basis of their thinking.
Well-wishers have advised me to “admit” that resources are limited to the capacities of the planet, thinking that this will keep me from “losing credibil­ity.” And I seem pigheaded to them when I do not follow their advice. But this is why I continue to argue that these quantities are not finite: The rhetorical difficulty is that as soon as one would “admit” that there are only (say) seven billion years of energy, some doomsters begin to work backward to argue that the sun’s measurable size and rate of energy output means that the supply of energy is finite for next year. But that’s physical estimate—it’s not an eco­nomic definition of “energy,” any more than copper atoms in the Earth’s crust is a useful economic definition of “copper.”
Objections to the notion of nonfiniteness often come from a mathematical background. Yet there is ample justification even within mathematics itself for taking the point of view that I do, and mathematical statisticians such as Barrow and Tipler affirm this. As Tipler puts it, “The laws of physics do not forbid perpetual economic growth.”“
I continue to stand on the ground of nonfiniteness because I have found that leaving that ground leads to more bad arguments than standing on it, even though it seems so strange to many and I doubt that many people’s judgment will be affected by what I write on this particular issue. Hence there is little temptation to trim my sails to this wind, and do that which is offensive to me—to “admit” something that I do not believe is so.
But what if I am wrong? Certainly it is possible that the cosmos has a count­able amount of mass/energy. How should we continue with that line of thought?
We have seen that even if energy is the relevant constraint for fabricating new kinds of “raw” materials, one would need to take into account, at the very least, all the mass/energy in the solar system. This amount is so huge relative to our use of energy, even by many multiples of the present population and many multiples of our present rates of individual use, that the end of the solar system in seven billion years or whenever would hardly be affected by our energy use now This should be reason enough to ignore the issue of finitude.
Even if human population and the rate of using energy and materials should increase vastly so as to controvert the previous paragraph, there is the possibility that humans will come to exploit the resources of other parts of the cosmos, which is so huge relative to the solar system as to render calculations irrelevant under any conceivable rates of growth. If so, further discussion would see frivolous.
Physicist Freeman Dyson, in his book, Infinite in All Directions, takes this mode of thought much further and theorizes that even if the world were to get progressively colder forever, it would be possible for human beings to adapt in such fashion as to stay ahead of the cooling; consequently, he writes, “Boiled down to one sentence, my message is the unboundedness of life and the consequent unboundedness of human destiny.” And physicist Frank Tipler argues, on the basis of the established body of contemporary knowledge of physics, that the ultimate constraint is not energy but rather information. Because we can increase the stock of information without limit, there is no need to consider our existence finite.[1] Of course these arguments are exceed­ingly abstract, and far from contemporary concerns. I cite these ideas not as proof that the future of humanity is not finite, but rather as showing that the doomsayers’ arguments from physics that human existence is not finite are not consistent with a solid body of reasoning by physicists.
To restate: A satisfactory operational definition—which is an estimate—of the quantity of a natural resource, or of the services we now get from it, is the only sort of estimate that is of any use in policy decision. The estimate must tell us about the quantities of a resource (or of a particular service) that we can expect to receive in any particular year to come, at each particular price, conditional on other events that we might reasonably expect to know (such as use of the resource in prior years). And there is no reason to believe that at any given moment in the future the available quantity of any natural resource or service at present prices will be much smaller than it is now, let alone non­existent. Only one-of-a-kind resources such as an Arthur Rubinstein concert or a Michael Jordan basketball game, for which there are no close replace­ments, will disappear in the future and hence are finite in quantity
The term “finite” is not meaningful when applied to resources because we cannot say with any practical surety where the bounds of a relevant resource system lie, or even if there are any bounds. The bounds for Crusoes are the shores of their island, and so it was for early humans. But then Crusoes find other islands. Humankind traveled farther and farther in search of resources—finally to the bounds of continents, and then to other continents. When Amer­ica was opened up, the world, which for Europeans had been bounded by Europe and perhaps by Asia too, was suddenly expanded. Each epoch has seen a shift in the bounds of the relevant resource system. Each time, the old ideas about “limits,” and the calculations of “finite resources” within those bounds, were thereby falsified. Now we have begun to explore the sea, which contains amounts of metallic and perhaps energy resources that dwarf any deposits we know about on land. And we have begun to explore the moon. Why shouldn’t the boundaries of the system from which we derive resources continue to expand in such directions, just as they have expanded in the past? This is one more reason not to regard resources as “finite” in principle.
Why do we become hypnotized by the word “finite”? That is an interesting question in psychology, education, and philosophy One likely reason is that the word “finite” seems to have a precise and unambiguous meaning in any context, even though it does not. Second, we learn the word in the context of simple mathematics, where all propositions are tautologous definitions and hence can be shown logically to be true or false. But scientific subjects are empirical rather than definitional, as twentieth-century philosophers have been at great pains to emphasize. Mathematics is not a science in the ordinary sense because it does not deal with facts other than the stuff of mathematics itself, and hence such terms as “finite” do not have the same meaning else­where that they do in mathematics.
Third, much of our daily life about which we need to make decisions is countable and finite—our salaries, the amount of gas in a full tank, the width of the backyard, the number of greeting cards you sent out last year, or those you will send out next year. Since these quantities are finite, why shouldn’t the world’s total possible salary in the future, or the gasoline in the possible tanks in the future, or the number of cards you ought to send out, also be finite? Though the analogy is appealing, it is not sound. And it is in making this incorrect extension that we go astray in using the term “finite.”
I think we can stop here. I’m sorry to have taken up your time with this unless you were seriously worried beforehand about what will happen seven billion years from now

[1] The amount of knowledge would not be finite in any meaningful sense, because the stock of knowledge can grow at a faster rate than the stock of energy can decline, which would eventuate in a cushion much greater than necessary to accommodate the possible growth in human popula­tion. (I do not give the specifics of such a calculation because doing so would be a waste of time.)
In order to show that we ought to take account of finitude, one would first have to show that the previous issue—the eventual domination of knowledge rather than energy—is wrong. Then one would have to show that the probabilities of a nonfinite universe and the future exploitation of the cosmos outside the solar system are very low, then show some reasonable basis for saying that events beyond (say) a thousand or million or more years, all the way to seven billion years, would matter for our economic choices now, then show that the likelihood is low that our present understanding of the mass/energy relationship is wrong, then show that there is little likelihood that it is possible to get our needs serviced with ever-smaller amounts of energy. Without some reasonable argument about every link in that chain, discussion of the finitude of energy that will be available to humans seems misplaced.

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