Thursday, December 28, 2006

Every Invention Has Its Costs

While visiting home this Christmas, I mentioned to a family friend my research for my dissertation. It consists of demonstrating that competitive structures like the Ansari X Prize (a $10 million prize to the first privately funded team that could get into space twice in two weeks) is preferred to a centralized structure (such as NASA) for the purposes of discovering new technology.

In this brief discussion, my brother seemed it necessary to point out that contestants used NASA-made technology to accomplish the task. He is correct, but I fail to understand the relevance. He is probably suggesting that the base technology everyone used could have only come from a state agency, in this case NASA. This sort of argument is common in the economics of science and it is foolish, just as it would be foolish to claim that because the free market invented the Apple computer, a state agency never could. The question is not of possiblity--given enough time, money, or people any organization can invent anything that is scientifically possible--but of relative cost.

For some reason, people groan when I talk about costs. I'm told that they are not everything and that's true: otherwise gum would always be preferred over a car because it's always cheaper. The benefits must also be weighed. Yet it is those that claim I think costs are everything that then turn around and claim benefits are everything. NASA created an invention, they might say, and thus we must be better off. I hope you can see why this logic, which refuses to ask what society gave up to achieve this marvelous invention, is flawed.

To insist technology should be created merely because the result might prove useful to the private sector is the same as scouring the streets for hours on end in hopes of finding money left on the sidewalk. There are cheaper ways to improve quality of life.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Santa Scrooge

Last night, Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol was on TV. I watched, mostly because Patrick Stewart played Ebenezer Scrooge, but while watching I was reminded of a common economic mistake.

Scrooge is portrayed as a villian in the story because he has no love for Christmas and only cares about money. Perhaps the greatest victim is Bob Cratchit and his family, who barely scrape out a living trying to keep from starving on Bob's lowely salary. The spirits that visit the businessman late at night convince him that caring only for money will be the moral death of him and he will be forced to wander the world in ghostly chains for all eternity after he dies as punishment. To save himself from this ghastly fate, he must embrace the "Christmas spirit," which he does with full force at the end of the story.

Yet woven beneath this tale of Christmas goodwill is an economic lesson, if you are willing to see it. Charity is a fickle mistress. By their nature, people often donate in certain times of the year, Christmas being one of them, yet the poor and homeless need things all year around. Are the starving more hungry in December than January? Are the diseased more infected while choristers sing than when the streets are silent? Of course not. Charity flies in and out based on the random fancy of others. I have nothing against it--people should do what they wish with their own earnings. But to condemn a man because he is not charitable at a time when everyone else empties their pockets lacks an understanding of everyday needs of the needy. Indeed, if Scrooge was generous only during the holiday (but the same other times) I doubt the Spirits would have seen a need to visit him.

And here is the great lesson in this classic (at least the movie version) because Scrooge understood giving far more than they. Upon his epithany of virtue, he proclaimed he would have the Christmas spirit in him all year around. Not once a year for a day or a week but all the time. Incidently, Bob Cratchit also understood this for on his family's Christmas dinner (before Ebenezer's revelation) he toasted his wretched boss because he is the one that pays his salary (once again) all year around.

And this is a great lesson of the morality of trade. Capitalism and the pursuit of profit gives a reliable reason for people to ensure their fellow strangers survive. Charity, while seemingly more moral, is contingent on the daily fluxuating depth of another person's humanity. A man who eats a feast in one month and starves in all others will probably die. But the same man who dines modestly every day of the year will survive and prosper. Charity has its place but if you want to ensure the continued prospertiy for the most people, Tiny Tim better make sure God blesses capitalism, too.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Brian's Song

I knew I had to write about this the moment I read the title: Enough About You: We've made the media more democratic, but at what cost to our democracy? It's an editorial by Nightly News anchor Brian Williams in this week's Time. The piece is a direct criticism of the emerging culture that spawned this year's Person of the Year: You.

Or rather everyone that's contributed to the plethora of user-created content that's swamping the Internet and influencing everything else. Blogging. Wikipedia. YouTube. It is hard to overestimate their impact in how people are exchanging ideas and spreading information. But Williams thinks it's trouble brewing.
It is now possible--even common--to go about your day in America and consume only what you wish to see and hear...The problem is that there's a lot of information out there that citizens in an informed democracy need to know in our complicated world with U.S. troops on the ground along two major fronts. [Original emphasis]
There is no doubt that, in part, he is right. People can live their lives without being exposed to other ideas. Of course, they could always live their lives that way: it is very easy to not read or watch something you don't like.

What Williams is saying, though, is that he doesn't like what people are specializing in and they should turn to the "unbiased" media for the whole picture. But no one is unbiased; everyone frames or colors a story to their liking and while some are more neutral than others, no one is innocent. When anchors such as Williams insist what they report on is what matters to everyone, they not only lie by assuming an air of god-like neutrality, they arrogantly assume everyone cares about the same thing or views the world in the same way.

Because everyone knows that user-created content is biased, they are more willing to search out the other side to get the full picture. True, there are those that won't and simply consume what they like, but you can't do anything about them. They have always existed and they always will. But today it is harder to be them because it is so much easier to be challenged. Everyone knows everyone else's sources are biased so people are more likely to read up (and it is easier to do so).

And this points to the great flaw in William's article. He argues that we might miss the next great idea because we focus so much on "the same tune we already know by heart." But these great things, by definition, are for everyone and their truth appeals a mass audience. In the previous world of the narrow media, revolutionary concepts more easily fell through the cracks--only a relatively few people had to miss them. But today's wide media catches so much more. The constant spread of information makes it less likely--not more--that we will miss the next big thing. It is not that we might miss the next revolution; Williams is concerned because we might now recognize the absurdity of his selections.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


This Christmas, I'm finally jumping on the bandwagon and asking for an iPod. A conversation with Becky got me thinking as to why the economy often bears witness to consumer trends. Some might claim that people are stupid and buy whatever ads tell them to buy. Or that they are superficial and competitve, buying a thing because everyone else buys it. These are both only part of the story (if they are a player at all) and often leave the question unanswered.

An often cited explanation is what economists call path dependence. A new product hits the market, a few people but it and like it, products are made and perfected to work with it, encouraging more people to buy the same product. People buy iPods more than their equivlent because of the plethora and quality existing other products (from iTunes to adapters).

Another explanation is related but distinct enough to mention on its own accord (and is also the reason I requested an iPod). Every year, countless cutting edge products enter the market, most of which often fails in unpredictable ways or doesn't live up to expectations. And even if it does what it is supposed to do, it is hard to tell how useful the new, expensive device will be.

Thus, reputation matters. I personally am looking to jump on the bandwagon because testimony after testimony suggests an iPod is a quality product I'll use all the time--you won't know how you lived without it. I know nothing of mp3 players--iPod's competitor. I'll bet that reputation plays a large part in why some products triumph over others which are very technologically very similar. It's not that people are mindless consumers. Indeed this explanation shows most of them are thoughtful and cautious buyers, a tendency that increases as the price does.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Free Trade, Fair Trade and What We Have

Mason's student newspaper--Broadside--had an article concerning fair trade, advocating university students take up the practice. I was actually surprised by the article. Instead of the same emphasis on "market failure," Tsedey Aragie makes note that the WTO isn't about free trade (though I would argue it promotes a trade that is freer than what was standard before its conception). Some fair traders even acknowledge that local and supra-governments (WB/IMF) are a key source of strife.

Normally, I agrue that free trade is fair trade. But what is "fair?" If by "fair" we mean that each side benefits equally, then virtually no trade is fair; that bar is set too high. Instead, I checked; the first definition is "free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice." Note that free trade restrictions violate these things, especially bias and injustice.

Sometimes people make mistakes because people are not perfectly informed. Again, this does not inherently remove fairness. It might be unfortunate, but it is not unfair. Still, people might be conned, an act made unfair because of its dishonesty. In essence, these are contract violations (one of those few things I think the government should do: enforce contracts). Still, I don't see how this is grounds for distinguishing between free and fair. Just because people are being paid less than other people think they should be, does not mean they are victims of dishonesty.

What we have is neither free nor fair trade. Government restrictions on the former create less on the latter. I'd be more impressed with fair trade if its backers lobbied to create more free trade.

The Truth on American Oil Dependence

When I say "the truth", I mean "Pravda", as in the Russian newspaper (now owned, I believe, by the government Gazprom business). While the paper is mostly filled with "Paris Hilton and Britney Spears have lesbian sex" articles, there's occasionally an editorial tossed in for good measure. They usually run along the lines of "America seeks to destroy Russia", or "Poland seeks to destroy Russia", this one is a bit better than the usual.

And so, rather than focusing on Pravda itself, let's get down to the meat and bones of the issue it handles. The article I linked above describes a " of leading US business executives and senior military officers..." who delivered a report on oil dependency to the White House and Congress.

The participants include Fedex, UPS, and Dow-Corning executives, military high muckety-mucks, et al. Their conclusion is that:

'“pure market economics will never solve the problem” of US oil dependency.'

Where to begin?

Let's start by saying that a pure market is a pretty far cry from the US economy (though closer than, say, Venezuela).

But what really interests me is the idea that "oil dependency" is a problem, and that it presumes that we're really oil dependent at all.

We use TONS of oil, there's no mistaking that. But oil dependency is the sort of statment that makes me think of drug dependency - we're not just talking about use, we're talking about the inability to stop, even if we like. That, dear readers, is the bull. There is nobody forcing consumers to continue using petroleum - as soon as its price rises, consumers will flee. That's hardly the reaction of a coke-head looking for their fix.

Yes, our energy needs have grown, and will continue to do so for the forseeable future, but that by no means ties us into petroleum. As prices for oil rises, new commodities become economical.

But let's say we ARE addicted, and that we can't get enough of the black stuff. The only problems I can see with this situation is the fact that petroleum products tend to be polluting, contributing as well to a greenhouse effect.

But that, friends, is a debate for another day - and one, I should say, that David regularly addresses.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Climatology and my Return

David's posted some interesting material recently about the fallibility of climatological models predicting great disaster in our near (i.e. w/in 100 years) future.

To add to the noise, I'm pretty confident that a huge variable hasn't been at all accounted for - volcanism.

What's the big deal? I mean, why get hot and bothered about a bit of lava? One word: Krakatoa.

I'm not so much worried about that particular volcano - it's watched like Michael Jackson at a cubscout jamboree - it's more what it showed us. Our everyday Joe American may not have heard of it, but believe me, it's worth knowing about.

In 1883 it heaved off some steam, launching the world into a miniature ice age of sorts (by heaving off about 25 cubic kilometers of said world, incidentally). All of this rock-vomit, according to Wikipedia, lowered global temperatures by about 1.2 degrees celcius, and the climate supposedly didn't return to "normal" for 5 or so years.

But that's not all this magma-muffin's dished out - far from it! Let me preface this with the disclaimer that this is a disputed thesis regarding Krakatoa as the direct cause, but the conclusions are solidly testified to in dendochronological records. That said, the real party started around 535 AD. Things are looking up for Rome, Emperor Justinian and his prize-fighter Bellisarius are out ridding their hood from the Germanic vagrants that settled in, and BOOM.

Yeah, that's an all-caps boom. We're talking major. Proto-Krakatoa let loose with the mother of all explosions, and all hell breaks loose. Global temperatures drop, causing crop failures, darkness during the day, and general misery. Teotihuacan in modern Mexico is abandoned. Barbarian slavs are pouring into the Balkans, nomadic pastorlist tribes in central Asia like the begin rampaging. Falling temperatures make it easier for plague to be transmitted, and there's a decade of incessant disease and suffering. The list goes on. You know, it wasn't the dark ages for nothin', folks!

Let me suggest that this is more than just a little blip in the data - this was a phenomenon that easily spread more than a decade. But what does that have to do with climate models in the long-run?

As David says, climates are sensitive, complex systems. Small disturbances in the present can have tremendous affects on outcomes in the long run, and this is a phenomenon that seems to be able to do more than just a little thing.

Who knows when a major volcano could erupt? Even more important, who has integrated this important tidbit into their climatological models of temperature change?

Less importantly to matters of public importance than the possibility of erupting volcanoes ushering in an era of catastrophy, I'll be heading to Moscow on Monday to get my daughter's passport, and my wife's green card. Just a few weeks then, and with luck I'll be back home!

Theory in the Fast Lane

My lovely wife and I were talking about driving in Russia, and one of the biggest differences that I can't get over is how many traffic-related deaths occur annually. I won't cite numbers, but it's much higher than the US rate, and this fact is amazing only because the US has something like 3-4 times as many cars per capita as Russia.

She gave me a wonderful theory, which I'd love to put more work into someday: that Russians have more accidents because more of them don't actually take the driver's tests to get their license.

You see, in order to get a license, you need to pass a test with around 500 questions. Since most people here aren't inclinded to study that hard for a piece of paper with a stamp on it, many just pay for their license, i.e. bribe someone. The friend-of-a-friend network puts people willing to buy licenses in contact with the right officials, and the result is that there are plenty of people driving legally (i.e. with a license) that ought not be driving at all (i.e. they don't have a clue what they're doing).

This is interesting in face of the European experiment regarding traffic laws - I'd be interested in knowing if we could find correlations between traffic fatalities and number and severity of regulations, etc.

I don't think this is nearly all of the explination - a good bit comes from the fact that they plow the roads so poorly in the winters, for example - but it's probably a larger part than it ought to be.

Might I suggest adopting a more, dare I say, humane licensing schedule, involving perhaps a dozen or two questions at most? People might take the time to study, and in the end, less regulation just might end up being more.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Lunar Connection

Yesterday morning I heard Howard McCurdy on the radio discussing NASA's endeavors to go to the moon. At first, I was very excited: McCurdy penned a book--Faster, Better, Cheaper--which pointed out the flaws in NASA's attempts to reduce the cost of its over-the-top budget and I've often used in my research. Naturally, I expected him to blast NASA's plans and expose the obvious fact that a base on the moon was going to be very, very, very expensive. I was wrong.

Though he acknowledged the costs would be high, McCurdy defended the bureaucracy and the mission on the basis that sometimes, to advance technology, people need to explore brave new challenges.

There is no doubt that radically new endeavors expand our understanding of the world, and thus our technological base. But the scientific community is not so creatively drained that a multi-billion-dollar mission is needed to inspire others. Nanotechnology, genetic engineering, quantum computers, fusion--these are all areas which are far from reaching their apex and also promise to fundamentally change the way we understand and manipulate the world around us.

There is little doubt that going to the moon (again) will expand science, but we are at a point where more "mere" lab work will do the same. Perhaps McCurdy really meant that space will provide a literal different view--as in one from space. But if that is truly what he wants into to shake up the thought patterns of scientists, I suggest instead a much cheaper option to inquirers the world over: go stand on your head.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A friendly aside...

Lest it seem I'm too rough on my good friend Mr. Putin, I want to make it clear that for me, the simple judgement of him as a tyrant yearning for the old Soviet days doesn't fit any more.

Oh, I think he's got a bit of that up his sleeve, but more to the point, I'm not sure he has as much control over the whole situation that is "Russia" as western countries would like to imagine.

Given the fact that his country experiences hundreds, if not thousands, of paid assassinations a year by government estimates, that crime is growing at a rate outpacing GDP growth, and that politicians, journalists, and public figures across the country end up dead in myriad creative ways, it's conceivable that there's a bit of a hissy-fit of power going on.

The old Soviets don't see the problem with "extinguishing" opposition; mobsters and ex-KGB have collaborated for years; billionaires occasionally try to wrangle some political clout out from behind their bucks.

It's a nasty, hostile mix. Add in the ethnic tensions (between Russians and blacks, Georgians, Chinese, etc.), the nationalist desires of the southern republics (Chechnya, anyone?), and the conflict of interests the military and intelligence-dominated bureaucracy has with their citizen-subjects, and I'm pretty sure you come up a bit shy of a pound cake.

A fruit cake, perhaps - and one well soused with the water of life, if you know what I mean.

So let's not be too hard on Mr. Putin - it seems entirely possible to me that he's doing his damndest to duct-tape and staple together a country together before it blows itself apart. If anyone doubts that Communism can produce these sorts of effects, take a look at the former Yugoslavia.

And given the murderous tendencies of some other elements in Russia, I'm not sure it's a bad thing.

For the record, Russia has nearly 3 times the per capita homicides annually as Zimbabwe and Zambia, neither nation which I'd think of as a safe tourist destination.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Why Anthropologists aren't Economists

I recently read on Dienekes' Anthropology Blog that a "pioneering" study has discovered that 2% of the world's population owns 50% of the household wealth.

Does that surprise anyone? Should it?

And does anyone else care that this is quite a remarkable egalitarian shift from the good old days when a handful of kings owned their realms and subjects due to heavenly mandate?

Back in the USSR

According to a research organization Eurasia Monitor, the largest group of citizens of the nations of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus are regretful for the downfall of the Soviet Union.

I know this sentiment is especially strong in the older generation, which often feels betrayed and left behind by the democratic reforms in the post-Gorbechov era. The Yeltsin years were particularly terrible for people, and saw the savings of Russians flushed down the toilet as the government printed out so much money that the value of the ruble has still not recovered.

The suffering that the Soviet Union caused was incalculable. The post-Soviet-era pains stem directly from the economic stranglehold the communists held over the Russians for nearly 75 years; like any other correction, it was a painful one. As I mentioned, the pain was exacerbated by the political climate, with the bank of Russia printing money for, I suspect, the dual purpose of eroding national debt and harming the then-president Yeltsin.

With this era officially over, I'd think people would celebrate - even modern history books detail events like the Katyn massacre, Stalin's purges, Lenin's mass starvations, etc. But people, when living dangerously (as in dangerously close to starvation, as many people here were during the worst years after the USSR's fall), think with their pocketbooks and stomachs.

The government botched the transition to a market economy, and understandably people are pretty pissed. But going back isn't the answer.

Let me suggest that part of the answer is for cities like Irkutsk to not spend a million-plus rubles buying expensive artificial Christmas-trees from Ireland. Nor is it to establish a nation-wide vodka monopoly, as Putin has waxed poetic about. And it certainly isn't to allow Georgian immigrants to be beaten and deported because they bring cheap labor and products that the Russian people crave (like watermelons).

My solutions ideally center on hands-off approaches to the economy, while massively decentralizing the government to allow for regional autonomy.

But those are democratic solutions, and the bigger question that must be asked is not whether democratic reforms are needed, but whether the Russian people are willing and able to implement and use them. There seems to me to be such a strong ideology of central authority; in many ways, Putin IS the tsar, and as such, can do well as he likes.

Can ideology truly derail freedom in the world so well? I hope not for much longer.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Can I possibly be the only person ever to wonder what all that garbage I'm supposed to read in one of those EULA (end-user licencing agreement) actually was about?

Of course, I've read one. But that was many moons ago, and I've long sense stopped caring so much - for the most part. But it brings to mind another question: as a licensing agreement, a form of contract, the scope of the agreement could potentially be as broad as the publisher wishes to make it.

I see no rational reason from preventing EULAs from doing things like preventing the user from engaging in certain types of business, certain types of activity more generally, perhaps even wearing certain types of clothing.

Now I'm aware of some limitations to contracts and exchange - having and failing to disclose prior knowledge of the value of a product, for example (which is, hilariously, the basis for all exchange - disequilibria of valuations). But in principle, there's no problem with this - you agree to it, and you're getting the compensation in the form of the software you use.

The question I'm getting at is tangential (as I'm sure such "abuse" of contract would be unenforced) - I'm wondering what the legal ramifications of ignorance of the terms of a contract are.

If I sign a labor contract, for example, stipulating that I shall receive 7 dollars an hour for labor, when I didn't bother to read and learn the specifics, my being upset later upon so discovering is nobody's fault buy my own.

Since legal language and lengthy, redundant documents are used, in a sense, as a tool to prevent people from reading them (and certainly from understanding them without legal council), there might be an argument that a blatantly deceptive contract is only partially enforcible...

Fat Chances?


People eat too much of that which harms them, the only logical response is to take away the option altogether, right?

That's the leap that New York City has made concerning the use of trans-fatty acids in restaurants, and it looks like several other cities are following suit.

While I'd like to complain that this is just another silly example of people rudely being presumed by their servants (i.e. elected representatives) incompetent to make their own decisions; that they coopt the decisions that said people make as their best choices given available options; that the unseen costs and benefits are completely ignored; ...

I won't go on at all. I'm going to just ask people to punish their elected bitches by electing new ones to replace them for the vote of no-confidence in their bosses the present ones filed.

Will it happen? Hell no, it's comfy when someone else is taking care of your problems. The psychological stresses we can avoid by just taking the government happy-pill whenever a crisis (manufactured or reasonable though it may be) arises must truly be great, for I know many people that would applaud this decision.

But as I've recently blogged, our legislators have their hands filled with other worthy endeavors such as establishing official state muffins. This can't possibly be the place to look for output resembling sensibility.

I suggest all of our NYC readers (I'll indulge myself with the notion that we actually have one or more - but judging by the hit-meter, it's not likely) go bake a margarine-laden Apple Muffin and send it to city hall.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

December's Most Random Wikipedia Page Is....

Pretty short this month: Palilogy. Even if you know what it means, I'll think you agree that this small, small, small article is random, was always random and will stay random.

The Thin Blue (Magic) Line

I had a conversation with a friend of mine the other day about the war on drugs. He strongly supported legalizing marijuana but backed the government ban on "harder" drugs such as cocaine and heroin. In fact, the only drug he seems in favor of bringing back into the private sector was weed. I asked him why.

"Because they're dangerous," he said. I reminded him that all drugs are dangerous, including legal ones like tobacco and alcohol. "But these are really dangerous." There is no doubt of this: heroin, for example, is incredibly addictive and dangerous, far more than, say, alcohol. But alcohol and heroin are not inherently different; heroin is just more of the same. So if one is okay and one isn't then there must exist a line that, once passed, makes it social optimal to illegalize. So where's the line?

I have not yet recieved an answer to this question that reflects current laws and I doubt I ever will (though the reader is welcome to try). The best boundry I can come up with is "when the drug starts to have an overall negative impact on the person's life." Heroin is more likely to cross that boundry than alcohol, but it ultimately depends on the person. Since an individual is the foremost expert on themselves (followed by friends and family), and people are all very, very different, a blanket law that treats everyone as the same will punish some unjustly.

Everyone has their own personal boundries, a fact that these laws ignore. To assume individuals are the same is social alchemy; I don't believe in magic.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Move Over Global Warming

In the recent hype of global warming, the sun has taken a backseat to anthropogenic causes of global warming. Yet in the slight warming that the earth has experienced over the past century, solar patterns have played an important role. Researchers from Duke
estimate that the sun contributed as much as 45–50% of the 1900–2000 global warming, and 25–35% of the 1980–2000 global warming.
Despite the fact that politicians have not denounced the sun, wasted billions, and held international conferences to accomplish nothing over solar patterns, the sun seems poised to do its part to alleviate global warming.
Researchers with the Russian Academy of Sciences warned Wednesday that the Earth could be headed for a 60-year cooldown, the news agency Interfax reported.

Scientists based at the academy's Pulkovskaya Observatory in St Petersburg, Russia, said they expected a gradual decrease in global temperatures in 2012-15, followed by a more dramatic, 60-year period of cold to come in 2055-60.

Khabibullo Abdusamatov, chief researcher at the observatory, said the predictions were based on solar cycles, and that after the 60-year glimpse of the Ice Ages warmer weather could be expected.

HT junkscience and Cato-at-Liberty

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Don't Forget To Read the Fine Print

It can be hard to demonstrate, for a mainstream audience, why so many laws are absurd. Mike sent me this link that explains the lunacy of consent forms in the best way I've seen yet. I recommend everyone take a gander at it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

An Inconvient Model

Today Jason Briggeman of Productivity Shock ends Hurricane Week--a week-long recognition that no hurricanes made landfall this hurricane season. I applaud Jason's efforts to remind everyone the failings of climatology.

Like the global economy, the world's climate is a high-dimension, non-linear system (which is a fancy way of saying "there's lots of important factors and they are all connected"). These complex systems are nortoriously hard to model because all the variables interact with each other, often in unpredictable ways. Economists learned this the hard way, having spent decades attempting to map the global economy but with only very limited success. But this was not mere academic time wasted: the flawed economics led to flawed policy. Economies went haywire as simple plans were grafted to a non-simple system. Recessions and hyperinflation followed.

Today climatologists are doing the same thing. While they might have more success (software is better and the climate forces are usually more predictable than people), the science is not yet at the point where policy is a safe idea. It pains me that the climatology discipline seems to want to repeat our mistakes. Not only might this roll of the dice not result in a lowering of global temperature, with the world economy more connected than ever before the unintended consequences could be far worse than any economic policy.