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Friday, September 23, 2011

Stupidest Post on Mises.org Ever?

Check out this: "Texans are suffering terribly. Some pray for rain. Some curse Mother Nature. They should be cursing the government and praying for freedom from the environmental bureaucrats who have caused this shortage of water. Murray Rothbard predicted this in 1993."

So, the rainfall in Texas has been the lowest level since records have been kept, and the summer has been the hottest ever recorded anywhere in the country. But the shortage of water was caused by... environmental bureaucrats?! And Murray Rothbard predicted this in 1993? Look at the article linked to this headline! There are no predictions in it at all, certainly not any of record drought and heat. Instead, we have Rothbard complaining that environmentalists won't let the city of San Antonio completely drain some aquifer. Now, by slowing down past usage, environmentalists may actually have made the effects of this drought a little less severe. But in any case, Rothbard's article has nothing whatsoever to do with predicting the current water crisis, nor does it offer any plausible solution to it.

I don't know that I've ever seen a more intellectually dishonest headline in my life. (And I live in New York and see the Post's headlines all the time!)

15 comments:

  1. Well; I won't comment on the relationship between water and the specific policies - I'm unaware of them.

    But what I would call wrong is that you relate a shortage of water with a natural cause per se. A shortage of water is not an environmental/weather problem, but an economic problem, i.e. lack of investment to deal with these kind of weather conditions.

    Wether this lack of capital investment was due to bureaucracy/regulation or just a purely market phenomena (not profitable enough) is another question. But that it is an economic and not a environmental problem, however, seems true enough.

    Maybe you agree with this post, maybe not. But the point seemed relevant enough to state anyway.

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  2. "A shortage of water is not an environmental/weather problem, but an economic problem, i.e. lack of investment to deal with these kind of weather conditions."

    Yes, and in Poland in 1939, the problem was not the Germans per se, but the lack of investment on the part of the Poles for dealing with invading Germans.

    For any problem in the world, you can make the same maneuver: the problem is not the bullet I shot into your chest, but *your* lack of investment in bullet-proof clothing. And so what?

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  3. Gene, you are being incredibly obstinate here in response to Lode. Let's try this one: Do you agree that it's OK for Rothbardians to say, "There are no famines under capitalism. The Soviet Union kept having 'bad harvests' and millions of people kept starving." ?

    (Like Lode, I didn't bother clicking through either. But on the face of it your objections sound silly.)

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  4. I agree, Gene. Well, 99%, anyway. Rothbard does make a passing reference to the need for market prices in water, which would have indeed made later droughts less severe. Subsidized water prices have indeed led to unnecessarily water-intensive practices. So, credit where credit's due, etc.

    Mises.org still gives a blatantly wrong representation of what Rothbard's article accomplished.

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  5. Hmmm... or you and Lode are being incredibly obstinate in assigning priority to economics.

    Try this one: The Vikings in Greenland lived in a pretty much stateless society. They were doing fine.

    Then in got really cold. The Viking settlements in Greenland completely disappeared.

    What would *you* think of a "statist" who said, "See, they needed a state to prepare for suc h changes!"

    Nature throws at us things that we just aren't prepared for. One's favorite ideology is not a shield against such happenings.

    Or, ask yourself this: Texas being one of the more capitalist places in the world, why aren't they just shrugging off the drought like it is nothing?

    Jeez, I'm not trying to make any case *against* free markets with this post, just noting that natural disasters can strike you even if you are a good Rothbardian.

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  6. Yes, Silas. If the headline mises.org wrote up had said, "Subsidizezd water makes drought situation worse," I could only agree!

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  7. Oh, and Bob and Lode: I am *not* saying that the level of economic resources available to respond to an environmental problem do not influence the impact! But it is just ridiculous to therefore contend that there are no environmental problems, only economic problems. Just like it would be ridiculous to contend that there is no murder problem, only an economic problem of not making everyone bullet-proof.

    No economic system can ensure against every possible eventuality!

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  8. Or, one more angle: If there were *not* an environmental problem, which Lode seeks to deny exists, then for what the heck would the economic resources he points to be needed?!

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  9. I'll grant you Gene (and I guess Silas) that it could be a stretch to say Rothbard predicted that this day would come. But I have no problem with them using this article in reference to current-day Texas; I just might have worded the intro differently. This is the relevant part:

    Since rivers, aquifers, and water in general, have been largely socialized in this country, the result is a tangled and terribly inefficient web of irrational pricing, massive subsidies, overuse in some areas and underuse in others, and widespread controls and rationing. The entire water system is a mess, and only privatization and free markets can cure it.

    I thought this exact thing, when back-to-back news stories had people complaining of drought in Texas while others in the northeast were complaining of flooding.

    We don't know what a "true free market" (for you Gene) in water would look like, but I bet it would make droughts as anachronistic as famines.

    But I'll stop dreaming now, Gene, and get back to something "practical" that actually helps people...

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  10. "We don't know what a "true free market" (for you Gene) in water would look like, but I bet it would make droughts as anachronistic as famines."

    Oy. Droughts are times when there is far less rainfall than usual. So you're saying free markets will even out rainfall amounts?

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  11. OK, two things are going on:

    1) There is an inefficient allocation of water, with lots of subsidies. That is bad. I am against it. A better system would be able to handle droughts better.

    2) Texas is having its worst drought in recorded history. That has nothing to do with any economic system, except, perhaps, in so far as unrestrained carbon emissions might be responsible. Whatever economic system is in place, a sudden natural disaster like this will cause problems. Murray Rothbard did not "predict" this drought. Better water policy might ameliorate the situation, but there would still be a drought.

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  12. Oh, yeah, and we had flooding in Pennsylvania because we got six months worth of rain in one month, more *than ever occurred in any month in recorded history*, and not because we didn't have true free markets.

    Again, different economic arrangements will make the impact of such extreme events more or less bad, but with whatever system you have, weather this extreme will be a bad thing!

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  13. Just think: if only the Egyptians had had true free markets, all those plagues God sent wouldna done crap to 'em!

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  14. OK Gene, just keep going ahead and mocking my position. You think I don't "get" what you are saying?

    Now please acknowledge that it's also entirely possible that people wouldn't be suffering in Texas if we had better policies in place.

    I could go on and on mocking you too. "Gene Callahan says that a hospital's policies have nothing to do with whether women survive childbirth. If a surgeon doesn't wash his hands, says Gene, he's not to blame--it's the microbes that did the killing! And Gene also thinks water parks shouldn't be liable if a little kid dies when a poorly maintained ride falls over. I mean, the greedy owners didn't do it--gravity did! That's what Gene thinks everybody! What a frickin idiot!!"

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  15. "Now please acknowledge that it's also entirely possible that people wouldn't be suffering in Texas if we had better policies in place."

    Bob, look back through my comments. I have already acknowledged in several places that policies make a difference. (I think with the best policies possible, a drought like this would still make people suffer, but things might be far better than they are now.)

    It is *Lode* who took the absurd position that it is nonsense to even talk of environmental problems. And then you jumped in to defend him. I keep taking the common sense position that there are environmental problems, and also that one's political economy can make those environmental problems more or less onerous.

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