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Untouched by Envy

Don Boudreaux reviews Edmund Phelps’s “Mass Flourishing” at Cafe Hayek


Piketty tells of a one-dimensional, dreary, and mechanical world in which wealth grows independently of human volition and where each person is fixated on the amount of money in other people’s paychecks and bank accounts. In a contrast that could not be more stark, Phelps—the 2006 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics— describes a world rich with varied motivations and bursting with the potential for creativity and the promise for all people of lives that are not only materially prosperous but mentally and emotionally satisfying.

In Piketty’s dystopia, a relatively small number of oligarchs—some lucky, others predatory—grab disproportionately large chunks of society’s capital. Little is left for the unimaginative masses save their growing and justifiable envy, in which they stew while hoping that governments muster the gumption to use massive taxation to confiscate and “redistribute”—or at least destroy—the oligarchs’ riches. In Phelps’s world, modern values liberate men and women from traditional superstitions and prejudices. With creative and optimistic minds, with markets and trade kept open, with property rights kept secure, and with governments’ fiscal affairs kept prudent, free, modern people unleash their innovative powers to create mass flourishing.

Unlike in Piketty’s world, the modern denizens of Phelps’s world not only are not consumed by envy but seem to be untouched by it. Also unlike for Piketty, for Phelps capital (or prosperity) is not a glob of stuff that springs forth from forces exogenous either to the kinds of human choices studied in basic microeconomics classes or to the kinds of institutions analyzed there.

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Smearing Soon

from N.Y. Times, Greenpeace Smear Warming Skeptic Dr. Willie Soon

Dr. Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon is no stranger to the “art” of the media smear. A courageous scientist and outspoken critic of anthropogenic (man-made) global warming, AGW, Dr. Soon has been subjected to relentless attack for more than a decade. As with many of his fellow scientists who challenge the shrill propaganda claims of the climate apocalypse choir at the United Nations and its amplifiers in the establishment media and academia, Dr. Soon’s scientific findings are rarely debated; his attackers merely resort to ad hominem, accusing him of shoddy science and shilling for the fossil fuel industry.

The New York Times launched the latest salvo against Dr. Soon on February 21, with a hatchet piece by a couple of its AGW acolytes, Justin Gillis and John Schwartz, entitled “Deeper Ties to Corporate Cash for Doubtful Climate Researcher.” The hit-piece of the Times was immediately picked up and trumpeted by the usual AGW choir members: The Guardian, the Washington Post, theBoston Globe Raw Story, Gawker, and the growing mega industry of climate-alarmist blogs and organizations that receive billions of dollars from government agencies, tax-exempt foundations, and major corporations. Following the typical smear pattern, many of the stories attempt to tar Dr. Soon with the “denier” label, a vicious assault aimed at equating AGW skepticism with Nazi Holocaust denial.


It is apparent that the well-funded, highly-organized, concerted campaign of hatred and libelous vilification against Dr Soon has a rankly political motive. Certainly, as you will see from the attached note of the various instaquotes from rent-by-the-hour climate “scientists”, their attempts to attack the science in our paper have been remarkably insubstantial, unmeritorious and too often intellectually dishonest. Once it became apparent to climate campaigners that the science in the paper was uncongenial to their political position and not at all easy to refute, they began what has become an all-out campaign of hate-speech, libel and innuendo against Dr Soon


This is the point I really want to make: the New York Times and other pro-government sources assume that government funding of research is lily-white, while corporate funding is inherently suspect. This is ridiculous. Put aside, for a moment, the fact that the American environmental movement is funded by Russia’s state-controlled oil company.

That isn’t the real scandal. The real scandal is that the overwhelming majority of money spent on climate research comes from governments. Governments, most notably ours, fund climate hysteria to the tune of billions of dollars per year. Why? Because the whole point of global warming alarmism is to persuade voters to cede more control over Western economies to government. (No one actually cares about CO2 emissions from India or China, which together vastly exceed ours.)

Governments fund climate research–but only climate research that feeds alarmism–because they are the main parties in interest in the climate debate. Governments stand to gain trillions of dollars in revenue and unprecedented power if voters in the U.S. and other Western countries can be stampeded into ceding more power to them, based on transparently bad science.

The New York Times and other left-wing news sources assume that government funding is no problem, but private funding is a scandal. I think the opposite is true. It is a scandal that our government spends billions of dollars, enriching many compliant climate scientists–Michael Mann is just one of many examples–to promote its own power. Thank goodness that there is a tiny amount of independent funding that supports objective research and contributes to a debate that is being won, hands down, by climate realists like Dr. Soon.

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Climate McCarthyism


from A Shameful Climate Witch Hunt by Rich Lowry in The Wall Street Journal

Let the climate inquisition begin. The ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, Raul Grijalva of Arizona, has written to seven universities about seven researchers who harbor impure thoughts about climate change. One of the targets is Steven Hayward, an author and academic now at Pepperdine University. As Hayward puts it, the spirit of the inquiry is, “Are you now or have you ever been a climate skeptic?”

Soon’s lapse aside, the assumption of Grijalva’s fishing expedition is that anyone who questions global-warming orthodoxy is a greedy tool of Big Oil and must be harried in the name of planetary justice and survival.

Science as an enterprise usually doesn’t need political enforcers. But proponents of a climate alarmism that demands immediate action to avert worldwide catastrophe won’t and can’t simply let the science speak for itself.

Consider the plight of Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado Boulder, who has done work on extreme weather. He, too, is on the receiving end of one of Grijalva’s letters. At first blush, Pielke seems a most unlikely target. It’s not that he doubts climate change, or even doubts that it could be harmful. His offense is merely pointing to data showing that extreme weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, and droughts haven’t yet been affected by climate change. This is enough to enrage advocates who need immediate disasters as a handy political cudgel.

It can’t be Apocalypse 100 Years From Now; it has to be Apocalypse Now.

It has to be counted a small victory in this project that Pielke will no longer be an obstacle. Citing his harassment, Pielke has sworn off academic work on climate issues. And so the alarmists have hounded a serious researcher out of the climate business. All hail science! The other day, the head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, quit amid a sexual-harassment scandal and noted in his letter of resignation: “For me the protection of Planet Earth, the survival of all species and sustainability of our ecosystems is more than a mission. It is my religion.”

Is it too much to ask that the man in charge of a project supposedly marshaling the best scientific evidence for the objective consideration of a highly complex and contested phenomenon not feel that he has a religious commitment to a certain outcome?

Read more at:

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Health Care’s Privileged Status

Doctor Leo Spaceman

from The New Yorker, a review on the book America’s Bitter Pill by Steven Brill.  The review is by Malcolm Gladwell.


Goldhill takes a far more radical position than the economic team at the White House does. He believes that most of our interactions concerning health care are actually no different from our transactions concerning anything else: if we trust people to buy cars and houses and food and clothing on their own, he doesn’t see why they can’t be trusted to do the same with checkups, tonsillectomies, deliveries, flu shots, and the management of their diabetes. He thinks that the insurance function—inserting a third party between patients and providers—distorts incentives and raises prices, and has such an adverse impact on quality that health insurance should be limited to unexpected, high-cost occurrences the way auto insurance and home insurance are. These ideas are unlikely to make their way into policy anytime soon. But, in elaborating the market critique of the health-care status quo, Goldhill helps us understand what the argument we’re having right now is about. It is not just a political battle over Obama. It’s a battle over whether health care deserves its privileged status within American economic life.

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Crushing Skepticism


Though Scorned by Colleagues, a Climate-Change Skeptic Is Unbowed- from The New York Times by Michael Wines


Dr. Christy is an outlier on what the vast majority of his colleagues consider to be a matter of consensus: that global warming is both settled science and a dire threat. He regards it as neither. Not that the earth is not heating up. It is, he says, and carbon dioxide spewed from power plants, automobiles and other sources is at least partly responsible.

But in speeches, congressional testimony and peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals, he argues that predictions of future warming have been greatly overstated and that humans have weathered warmer stretches without perishing. Dr. Christy’s willingness to publicize his views, often strongly, has also hurt his standing among scientists who tend to be suspicious of those with high profiles. His frequent appearances on Capitol Hill have almost always been at the request of Republican legislators opposed to addressing climate change.

“I detest words like ‘contrarian’ and ‘denier,’ ” he said. “I’m a data-driven climate scientist. Every time I hear that phrase, ‘The science is settled,’ I say I can easily demonstrate that that is false, because this is the climate — right here. The science is not settled.”

Some, including those who disagree with Dr. Christy, are dismayed by the treatment.

“Show me two scientists who agree on everything,” said Peter Thorne, a senior researcher at Norway’s Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center who wrote a 2005 research article on climate change with Dr. Christy. “We may disagree over what we are finding, but we should be playing the ball and not the man.”