The First Sign Of Corruption
posted at 4:39 pm on December 7, 2009 by Doctor Zero
The first sign of corruption in a society that is still alive is that the end justifies the means. – Georges Bernanos
The Climagate scandal is a perfect illustration of this statement. Modern society provides plenty of other examples. The extensive corruption of our political system is one of the strongest arguments against the ongoing fusion of government and industry. People of all political persuasions are generally willing to conceded that too many politicians are corrupt. I have always wondered how intellectually serious liberals can reconcile this with their desire to increase the power of the State.
I suspect the answer lies in the belief that this new crop of statists will be honest, unlike all the generations before them. This is a dangerous delusion. Corruption festers in every large organization, but politics are more vulnerable than business… and when the two merge together, they become particularly toxic.
Political corruption is easily camouflaged, and often debatable. Since politicians live to debate, nailing them down on charges of corruption often feels like trying to pin down a drop of water with a staple gun. If a politician sponsors legislation that would truly benefit the public, but would also make him personally wealthy, is he corrupt? We would certainly view him as more corrupt if he tried to conceal his personal benefits… but if he was scrupulous about disclosing them in advance, it’s unlikely he would be able to pass the legislation, especially if he faced determined opposition.
Consider the current example of Senator Max Baucus, who took his girlfriend on taxpayer-funded junkets overseas, and has been trying to secure a U.S. Attorney position for her. She might be a splendid candidate for U.S. Attorney, as Baucus will doubtless continue to argue. That doesn’t make her nomination smell any better. It also won’t make an overtaxed electorate, shivering in the cold shadow of trillion-dollar deficits, feel any better about paying for her luxurious jet-setting romance with the Senator..
The Republicans proved themselves sadly capable of shoving their noses in the treasury during their last years in power, and were punished by the voters for it. The corruption of the Obama Democrats is truly breathtaking. Virtually nothing this Administration does is conducted in a honest, open manner. Everything from the “stimulus” bill, to Cash for Clunkers, to frantic attempts to buy House and Senate votes for the government’s health care takeover, is wrapped in pork and glazed with payoffs, cooked with a secret recipe that you can’t see without a subpoena. Some of this corruption is enabled by the Democrats’ largely accurate sense that the media will not hold them accountable for it, certainly not with the same vigor they would pursue Republicans. The raging rapids of taxpayer cash surging through Washington are a factor as well. Reckless deficit spending has made purchasing a representative or Senator the only investment guaranteed to increase in value.
At this scale of government, corruption is endemic. It doesn’t make that much of a difference which party sits on top of that much power. With the rare exception prosecuted by law enforcement, there is little immediate risk of penalty for dirty politicians. It takes years to get them voted out of office, and their local electorate might not be eager to displace a powerful, long-term incumbent with a new representative… especially if the incumbent has brought a lot of money home to the district, in addition to lining his own pockets. Big Government even corrupts the voters.
Bring all of these factors to an even higher level of centralized power and money, and it’s easy to see why the global warming movement – the birthing cry of world government – is so incredibly corrupt. The amount of money and power tied up in this movement is staggering. In fact, as they become increasingly desperate to fight off a public outraged by the Climagate revelations, the global warming cult might make the case they’re “too big to fail” – cutting off the billions of dollars poured into the global warming hoax would cost thousands of jobs, and destroy the corporate barnacles that grew around the shadow of climate change legislation, such as Al Gore’s carbon credit sales. The transnational elite planning to divide the wealth of nations through climate-change hysteria is even less accountable than Barack Obama’s corrupt Democrat Party. As Mark Steyn memorably put it, where would we go to vote these guys out of office?
At the heart of the Left’s indulgence of political corruption lies the mistaken conviction that “public service” transforms politicians into exemplars of civic virtue, or that political office attracts a large percentage of such civic-minded individuals. In reality, the political class is even more greedy and selfish than wealthy businessmen… because they spend much of their time in the company of such wealthy men, and believe themselves entitled to riches and luxuries. Max Baucus doubtless attends a lot of campaign events sponsored by rich supporters who can afford to fly their girlfriends to Europe for a romantic getaway, and he believes himself morally and intellectually superior to these men – the remorseless logic of statism demands it. It only makes sense to place politicians in control of industry if they’re better than the industrialists they control, after all.
The mythic ideal of Cincinnatus, the selfless citizen-legislator who reluctantly leaves his farm to serve the Republic, is incompatible with the combination of endless incumbency and gigantic amounts of government power. We are foolish to place our trust in a system that requires an impossible level of virtue from politicians to function as designed. A limited government can better protect the economic health of its citizens by policing corruption from the private sector, under the direction of term-limited representatives who will never become worth the risk of buying off. The larger government becomes, the more its arrogant ruling class believe themselves worthy of royal treatment… and the more justified they feel about lying to the public for their own good. That is why the climate change elite gathered in Copenhagen this week is outraged that anyone would dare question their right to save a foolish world from itself, by lying through its teeth in a bid to seize power.
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Some Historical Perspective
At Bryan Caplan’s blog this morning there was an odd comment that stirred up a 40-year old memory:
A single sentence in the Durants’ The Age of Napoleon makes me wonder whether I can trust a word they write on economic policy:
The memory is that it was reading another part of the Durant’s Story of Civilization (of which tAoN is volume 11) back in grade school, I stumbled on a passage which was the very first in any book of any kind in which I realized that the authors could let their political preconceptions alter their interpretation of their subject. What they wrote, as I recall it very inexactly 40 years later, was to the effect that western civilization had progressed in a grand upward sweep since the time of the ancient Greeks, pausing only in the years 1952-1960 — which of course the Eisenhower administration. (This was written before Nixon was elected.) I had previously believed that if something was written in a book, it was authoritatively true. This little gem was so blatantly silly that you couldn’t possibly take it seriously. Books weren’t Truth, after all. It was a defining moment in my intellectual life, something like learning the truth about Santa Claus.
I had some of the same feelings, roughly a decade ago, to learn that the scientific establishment would attack ideas, in this case the notion of diamondoid machinery and mechanosynthesis, using blather, appeal to authority, and various other fallacies, when they knew they didn’t have valid scientific arguments. It was all in aid of getting funding and retaining prestige, and not the search for truth.
There was never a “nanogate” so we will probably never know to what extent the nanotech “in-group” fudged, colluded, or simply used the old-boy network to marginalize their rivals. It would be just as clueless as the Durants to claim that there was a broad sweep of progress in nanotechnology except from 1996 to 2005. But it’s also a bit disingenuous to claim, as some commentators have, to be “shocked — shocked!” to find that kind of thing going on in climate science.
Unlike some people, we at Foresight haven’t been overly focussed on the sturm und drang of science politics. A major reason is that in the long run, it doesn’t matter. If diamondoid machines can be built, and it’s highly likely they can, there is little chance that they won’t be sometime in the coming century. So no matter what the specifics of any given debate, it’s a good idea to look at things like the Industrial Revolution to understand the coming century of technological innovation.
One thing that Climategate does is give us an opportunity to step back from the details of the AGW argument and say, maybe these are heat-of-the-moment stuff, and in the long run will look as silly as the Durants’ allergy to Eisenhower. And perhaps, if we can put climate arguments in perspective, it will allow us to put the much smaller nano arguments (pun intended) into perspective too.
So let’s look at some ice.
I’m looking at the temperature record as read from this central Greenland ice core. It gives us about as close as we can come to a direct, experimental measurement of temperature at that one spot for the past 50,000 years. As far as I know, the data are not adjusted according to any fancy computer climate model or anything else like that.
So what does it tell us about, say, the past 500 years? (the youngest datum is age=0.0951409 (thousand years before present) — perhaps younger snow doesn’t work so well?):
Well, whaddaya know — a hockey stick. In fact, the “blade” continues up in the 20th century at least another half a degree. But how long is the handle? How unprecedented is the current warming trend?
Yes, Virginia, there was a Medieval Warm Period, in central Greenland at any rate. But we knew that — that’s when the Vikings were naming it Greenland, after all. And the following Little Ice Age is what killed them off, and caused widespread crop failures (and the consequent burning of witches) across Europe. But was the MWP itself unusual?
Well, no — over the period of recorded history, the average temperature was about equal to the height of the MWP. Rises not only as high, but as rapid, as the current hockey stick blade have been the rule, not the exception.
In fact for the entire Holocene — the period over which, by some odd coincidence, humanity developed agriculture and civilization — the temperature has been higher than now, and the trend over the past 4000 years is a marked decline. From this perspective, it’s the LIA that was unusual, and the current warming trend simply represents a return to the mean. If it lasts.
From the perspective of the Holocene as a whole, our current hockeystick is beginning to look pretty dinky. By far the possibility I would worry about, if I were the worrying sort, would be the return to an ice age — since interglacials, over the past half million years or so, have tended to last only 10,000 years or so. And Ice ages are not conducive to agriculture.
… and ice ages have a better claim on being the natural state of Earth’s climate than interglacials. This next graph, for the longest period, we have to go to an Antarctic core (Vostok):
In other words, we’re pretty lucky to be here during this rare, warm period in climate history. But the broader lesson is, climate doesn’t stand still. It doesn’t even stand stay on the relatively constrained range of the last 10,000 years for more than about 10,000 years at a time.
Does this mean that CO2 isn’t a greenhouse gas? No.
Does it mean that it isn’t warming? No.
Does it mean that we shouldn’t develop clean, efficient technology that gets its energy elsewhere than burning fossil fuels? Of course not. We should do all those things for many reasons — but there’s plenty of time to do them the right way, by developing nanotech. (There’s plenty of money, too, but it’s all going to climate science at the moment. ) And that will be a very good thing to have done if we do fall back into an ice age, believe me.
For climate science it means that the Hockey Team climatologists’ insistence that human-emitted CO2 is the only thing that could account for the recent warming trend is probably poppycock.
And that, if you will allow me to return full circle, means that the Fat Fingers argument is probably poppycock too.
Let me get this straight, we breathe in oxygen in order to live. We exhale co2 which is then consumed by green things such as trees and bushes so that they can live. In turn, these green living things turn co2 into oxygen so that we can live. Now the EPA wants to regulate this very sensitive balance of nature? Wow...
As we have noted many times, the United States is the only country in the world that deliberately fails to develop its own energy resources. Other than instituting price controls, this is the single most destructive economic policy that a country can pursue, which is why no one does it except us.
Brazil has one of the world's most dynamic economies and is pursuing petroleum development on a grand scale. The Washington Post reports:
Everything about the shipyard here is colossal -- the 4,000-man workforce, the billions sunk into it in capital costs, the half-finished 10-story-high production platforms.
But then, so is the challenge facing Brazil's state-controlled energy company, Petrobras: developing a group of newly discovered deep-sea oil fields that energy analysts say will catapult this country into the ranks of the world's petro-powers. The oil pools are 200 miles out in the Atlantic and more than four miles down, under freezing seas, rock and a heavy cap of salt.
Petrobras, which until recently was little known outside oil circles, has launched a five-year, $174 billion project to provide platforms, rigs, support vessels and drilling systems to develop tens of billions of barrels of oil. Energy officials here project that Brazil -- still an oil importer five years ago -- will in the next decade have one of the world's biggest oil reserves.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that if our government pursues policies intended to slow our economic growth, and Brazil pursues policies designed to accelerate its economic growth, before long Brazil will be richer than the U.S. What's really interesting here, however, is the identity of one of Petrobras's biggest shareholders:
With a market capitalization of more than $220 billion, Petrobras is one of the world's 10 biggest companies. Over the past two years, it has been the most frequently traded foreign company on the New York Stock Exchange, trade data show. Among investors bullish on Petrobras is George Soros, who last year made the oil company the largest single holding in his investment fund, according to Bloomberg.
That's right: the Godfather of the Democratic Party, who exerts his enormous political influence to prevent American oil companies from developing our own petroleum resources in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere, has placed his biggest bet--not on the United States, but on Brazil. If Exxon Mobil can't compete in the Caribbean with Petrobras, the value of Soros's Petrobras investment will skyrocket. That's the sort of thievery that lies behind the Democratic Party's deliberate hobbling of the American economy. (powerline)
Kim Skelton - Stillwater County Republicans Freedom & Liberty Party