Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Feminism and me

So, I mentioned previously that I am trying learn about feminism.  My wife is taking a minor in woman’s studies for her associates degree because (aside from the fact she is truly interested) it’s a study path that gives her the most credits transferable to her bachelors in political science. So, I’ve been reading her textbook and some of the recommended supplementary reading.

So, here (at my currant level of ignorance) is my opinion of feminism.  First off, I think feminism makes a lot of valid points.  It asks questions that it wouldn’t occur to most people to ask.  For instance, most people are probably aware that women, in general make about 75% of what men make.  Some people are aware that women primarily make less because they work less hours, for fewer years, with more frequent career and work site changes.  Adjusted for this, you would find that women make 93% of what men make.

Feminism, looks to the fewer hours, for fewer years, with more frequent career and work site changes and says, but why? Because we have a two tier job market: One tier for people who have no other imperative responsibilities but servicing the job (most of whom are men), and a second tier for people who might need to change hours, or be absent from time to time (most of whom are women).  Now, lest you think the first tier exists to provide good employment, it doesn’t.  The high wage earning man can be fired at any time.  No, the first tier exists to service the industry, and the second tier exists (with poor wages) to subsidize the industry of  first tier and not the people in it.  Factories can’t keep churning if the (predominately men) on the line have to nip off to pick up sick kids.  Nope, thats the woman’s job.  Women make less because if they don’t take crappy jobs that let them take care of the kids in addition to work, their husbands will get fired.

Bravo feminism! I would have never noticed that on my own.  The perspective of women showed me something I, as a man, would have never thought of.  It turns out that there is a lot more flexibility of hours (and far less hours all together) in Germany and France, and better social protection (ie, getting paid even when you can’t go to work) yet according to the UN and CIA those countries have as-good-or-better a standard of living as the US.  So, a system with less hours, more flex, and more social protection doesn’t even have to hurt.

But then, I randomly run into these perspectives, under the umbrella of feminism, that are just bat-shit insane. Notably, that Marxism could fix everything if it was just given the right chance, that the phrase “blaming the victim” is a magic spell that can be invoked in any context to absolve the victim of any responsibility whatsoever* and that a the media, and not a person’s choice to believe all outlets of the media are a fount of truth is the cause of bad self image.

*I note here, there in some cases the victim has no responsibility; Rape is such a case. Child abuse is such a case.  Poverty is not. Poverty has many causes, some are systemic but some are personal.  The people of the US, and the government they elect has not even scratched the surface of the systemic causes of poverty, but that policy failure does mean that we can ignore the personal issues.

I am glad there are feminists out there, and their probably needs to be more.   I think feminism is imperative to the healthy functioning of democracy. If I had a sum of money to give away, I could give it to some feminist agencies with clear conscience.  I support the goals of the movement.  I support the spirit of the movement.

But if Marxism is the answer, what was the question?

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October 18, 2009 Posted by | feminism, Government, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Slice of life, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Ubuntu-mobile II

OK, so that’s Ubuntu.  And here’s why the open source car people are full of bologna.

What they are calling open source means they provide CAD/CAM drawing of the car, and these drawings and plans are open source.  That’s dumb.  Open source cannot be applied to the tangible.  Open source is a response to closed source.  Closed source = intangible.  You can’t open source the tangible.  If you can put a tape measure on something a measure it, by it’s mere tangible existence its already “open source”

You can open source software because it’s code is intangible. You can open source the die of a microchip because blueprinting the die is so bloody difficult it rates as intangible.

You catagorically cannot “open source” something you can blueprint quickly and easily.

Further, remember that Linux was developed by brilliant professionals doing what normal folk cannot.  Normal people CAN make car bodies. Fiberglass + Bondo + elbow grease = car body.

The hard part of car design, the things you really need professional help for is emissions and crash standards.  To control emissions you need software running on an Power Control Module (PCM.) There is one open source PCM available and it cannot be used on emission control vehicles because it has not been EPA approved.

Crash standards can be suggested by computational anysis but require regirous testing.  Once a basic chassis granted DOT approval the blueprints of that chassis could be open sourced.

But without EPA stamp on the PCM and engine, plus DOT approval of the chassis, the car is dead in the water.

The active community of users with wikis and forums and blogs is development of an effective product, not the cause of it.  The open source car, as it stands is a joke.

Finally, since cars do not reproduce flawlessly like software, a certify agency will have to put a stamp of approval on cars to show that they are open source compatable, and therefore, EPA and DOT approved, as well as sharing parts interchangability with other certified cars.

May 26, 2009 Posted by | Engines, Government, Linux, Microcar, skepticism, Small Car, Software, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ubuntu-mobile I

I wish I could buy an Ubuntu car.

Now, there are people out there working on what they call an open source car, but I’m not super impressed with any of them yet.  Further, it think their basic premise is flawed, or frankly, stupid.

Open source is a response to closed source.  Had closed source not started it all, open source would not have had a reason to exist.  Let’s look at the cause of open source, Microsoft.

Microsoft wrote DOS.  DOS lets people talk to the computer, but DOS is still pretty obtuse.  Microsoft makes a bunch of pretty pictures than normal people can use, and those pictures can talk to the DOS to talk to the computer. That’s windows.  Windows was really popular, and computer code is easy to reproduce.  Microsoft, like all good companies was interesting in making profit for its owners so it took steps to make it hard to sell and reproduce the code that many thousands of Microsoft programmers had worked very hard on and need to be paid for.

Linux was created as a substitute for DOS, not for windows.  Essentially a guy named Linus re-wrote a old operating system for mainframes (Unix) into a new operating system for PCs.  He did it because he thought computers were a force of capital G Good in the world, and he didn’t want Microsoft’s bottom line to get in the way of people being able to use computers.

Later, just as Microsoft developed a graphic user interface for DOS, a graphic interface would be developed for Linux.  If fact many would be developed, the most popular is called Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is the most popular because it is, for all practical purposes, NOT Linux.  Though Linus’s original code is buried in Ubuntu, it has been improved by thousands of highly skilled programmers working tens of thousands of hours.  Further, Ubuntu contains a whole bundle of pre-packed goodies that make it a functional windows replacement.  Those goodies were all developed by yet more thousands of programmers working tens of thousands of hours.

Despite the fact that Ubuntu was developed for free, it was not developed by amuteures. It was developed by some of the best programmers in the world over a period of years, and in some parts of the source code, decades. (The original Unix kernal was written in 1969.)

What the programmers did was what you cannot do. They did the very hardest parts, the most esoteric parts that take the greatest level of technical proficiency.

Finally, Ubuntu has a tremendous support network.  Wikis and forums which explain each step in plain detail.  If you can’t handle that, often in the forums, there are links to blogs which will explain tiny steps in stupefying detail.

May 25, 2009 Posted by | Engines, Linux, Microcar, Science, Software, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Gay bike shorts.

Ok, spring is at last here.  Here in southwestern Germany, this means the weather is going from cloudy, wet, foggy and just around freezing to cloudy, wet, foggy, and above freezing.  This means it’s time to break out the bike and start riding to work.  And by bike, I mean bicycle.  Since I was bicycle commuting before I came here, I already have a pretty German looking bike: fenders, light, blinky in back, cargo rack, etc.   Since the weather here is a lot like Seatlle I am buying some actual rain gear.

I once heard a feminist talk about how skirts and high heals were designed by men to objectify women, so reduce them to nothing more then sculpted meat for the hunger eyes of patriarchal creeps.  If that’s true then a secret cadre of angry homosexuals designs clothing for cyclists.  I mean, I’ve managed to go my whole life wearing tights once, when I was playing an elf in a community theater presentation.  Now, I might be wearing them everyday. Eww.

At first, I was going to buy the really cheap ones, but then I got thinking.  These things are designed to make my dangly man bits ride very intimately with my body.  What full traction is to the spine, bike shorts are to testes.  This is not a task to be entrusted to the skills of some poor Malaysian garment worker working for pennies a day.  On the other hand, I don’t want to buy the most expensive one just because it’s there.  I figure I will check out the most expensive tights to get a bead on price range.  And there it is

The name of the top of the line tights is…  Gavia.  Let’s see that would be pronounced GAY via.   Gay as in homosexual.  Via as in way or road.  The top of the line one is called, “The way of the gay.”   Nice.

March 19, 2009 Posted by | Self discovery, Slice of life, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Suspension Primer II

So people seem to believe that the chronology of mass produced suspension designs relates directly to suspension quality.  The usual theory goes, beam axle, swing axle, McPherson, wishbone.   First let’s look at the proviso “mass produced”.  Define mass produced.  Is it 100 units?  100,000 units?  Beam axles were the first mass produced in the sense that they were produced en mass since around 1000 BC.   But you can’t just say they were the first mass produced in cars just because the Model T had them.  The Model T began production in 1908.  By that time, Decauville’s indpendent front suspension patents had already expired, and they had been making a car with independent front suspension for a decade, beginning in 1898.

Further, equal length wishbones are usually seen as a post McPherson strut development.  Actually, they were proposed in a 1934 technical paper by Maurice Olley.  The McPherson strut was not invented until ’49, but mid 1920’s technical papers by FIAT would show that they invented the concept then. So here to set you straight is the Israel Walker “real story” of suspension history.

Remember, there are four parts to suspension: axle, linkage, springs, and shocks, and you need all four. A brilliant axle with poor linkages, crappy springs, and lousy shocks will be crappy suspension.  Let’s look at Model T as a baseline.

First off, there is nothing wrong with a Model T’s suspension.  The roads the T was made to run on were crap.  So the T had to have tall wheels.  The tires available were skiny so it had to have narrow wheels.  If you have tall skinny wheels clawing over rough terrain you need a huge amount of articulation.  The motors available are heavy and weak, so the car (and suspension) has to be light.  A modern engineer, given those requirements would give you the exact same suspension Henry did.

Beam axles get a bad rap.  This site has a pretty standard Pros/Cons list for beam axles.  They’re simple, and strong, with good camber control, but have high unsprung weight, gyro stability issues (the fact they have two rotating masses on a stick causes weird vibrations) bump steer (up and down make the wheels turn left and right), take up to much space, and poor road holding.

This is where critical thinking comes in.  Simple compared to what? Strong in reference to what? High unsprung weight compared to what? Gyro stabilizing issues compared to what? Large compared to what? And some research about bump steer and road holding.

The problem here is that they there is more difference between Model T’s beam axle suspension and a modern high end beam suspension than there is between a kitten and tiger.  Strong in reference to what?  Weight.  They carry more load with less component weight than any other system.  This is why semis have them. And if they are the strongest referenced to weight, that means that they are one of the lightest systems, not the heaviest.  Yes, they do have gyrostability issues if they have weak or poorly designed linkages.  ALL suspensions have stability problems if they have weak or poorly designed linkages.  The bump steer is fixable.  Road holding is fantastic, if properly designs.  As is the case with all suspension designs, road holding is poor if the overall execution is poor.  Finally, the “too big” one is a plain lie.  Most minivans use beam axle suspension in the rear precisely because of how little space it takes up, allowing more cargo space in the back of the vehicle.

I think what they meant, was it takes up the wrong kind of space.  Beam axles must run in a line from wheel to wheel, meaning that you can’t put, say ,an engine, in the space between them.  The original reason that GM went to independent front suspension in the 30’s was to mount the engine between the wheels instead of behind them.  It was a stylistic and not an engineering decision.  This was reflected in the fact that early GM IFS ate the heck out of tires.

We must compare apples to apples.  It’s not fair to say that the beam axle suspension of a 1908 model T designed to conquer roads that would have appalled the Romans and do so for as cheaply as humanly possible, compares unfavorably 21st century dual wishbone designed for glass smooth roads and with cost no object.  We never learn anything from comparisons of maximized systems to un-maximized systems.  If we want to set high performance as the baseline, than lets look to racing.

The first Indianapolis 500 was raced in 1909.  The last time a car with beam axle front suspension would win? 1962, at 150 mph.  Sprint cars, racing 1200lb vehicles with 800HP engines on dirt tracks still use them, again at around 150 mph.   Further, they are the preferred axle of choice for many extreme motor sports, like rock climbing.  The Humvee has has been troubled by it’s lack of beam axle suspension.  It’s wide articulation, fully independent suspension is far more weight sensitive than beam suspension.  As such, the Humvee becomes dangerous to drive when overloaded by say, improvised amour.

Beam axle is far more simple.  As such, it costs less to maximize, and more importantly, has less fail points.  In the crushing loads incountered in racing, rock climbing, and warfare, the beam axle wins.   Tune in next time, for a bit less detail about the swing axle, the wishbone, the McPherson strut and double wishbone, and more.

January 1, 2009 Posted by | Engines, skepticism, Small Car, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Suspension Primer

So, I don’t write many car posts.  I am a freak about cars, so I know a lot about cars.  I don’t just know about the cars themselves, but the companies, the people that designed them, the engineering, etc.  I take cars very seriously, and having the position of knowledge that I’ve worked for over the years, I say things that people without my background don’t understand, and they think that I and not they, am the moron.   (There’s two approaches to this. One, I can explain everything from start to finish.  By the time I’ve given them the background to actually know what I am talking about, my point is lost.  Alternately, I can make my point, have them tell me how stupid I am, and then spend an extra hour on the lecture defending every single point, since they already know the final point and don’t want to agree with it.)  I am going to spin this into a critical thinking post in the next installment, so I am doing it anyway.

OK, some basic physics.  Cars are heavy.  In physics terms, this means cars have a large mass.  Mass resists being moved, and once moved, resists being stopped.  Roads are not flat.  They go up and down, so anything going accross them goes up and down.   When a car goes up, the wheels aren’t sticking to the road.  When it goes down it the wheels are diving into the road really hard.  Also this isn’t good for the car.  A car is made of many pieces, if they are all made flexible, they bend and rub each other till they break.  Make the car rigid, and the constant force without flex to absorb it will also break it.  So we we make suspension.

Springs in the form of wood have been used on chariots since Egypt.  By the 19th century, they were steel.  Cars inherited these steel springs.  The problem was that cars went faster than horses, so something had to link the axle to the car besides the springs, to keep the springs from just bending out of the way.  This is called linkage.  As cars got faster still, on new problem was found.  The car would bounce on the springs so fast that it would vibrate the car to pieces, so the shock absorber was invented.  The shock absorber lets the spring bounce but slows it down, like the difference between swinging your arm in water instead of air.

So, their are 4 parts to suspension.  Axle (what the wheel spins with or around), springs (which connect the axle to the car), linkages (which keep the spring from flexing right out of from between the car and axle) and shocks (which keep the spring from bouncing excessively.) Whether we are talking about a Model T,  or a Formula 1 racer, that’s it: 4 basic parts consisting of axle, springs, linkages, and shocks.

The truly astute will notice that we have not solved the first problem, just make it smaller.  Remember that moving the car horizontally causes vertical motion.  Mass resists moving, and once moving resists stopping.  Now, it is the much lower mass of the suspension doing the vertical movement while the car pretty much floats over.   This car is mounted on springs, thus is “sprung mass”.  The wheel and axle are not, thus “unsprung mass”  (Some parts are both, the part of the spring which is fixed against the car is sprung and the part attached to the bouncing axle is unsprung.  So we figure 1/2 the mass of the spring is unsprung mass.)

But cars don’t just go straight.  They turn.  Remember that an object in motion wants to stay in motion and that the car is heavier than the suspension?  When you make a hard right, the lighter suspension pretty happily changes direction.  The rest of the car wants to follow the old path of motion, now to the left.  It tries do slide to the left, and pushes against the suspension, so it “rolls” left, squishing the left springs and stretching out right springs.  If the body rolls enough it will pick up the right-side wheels off the road.  Sometimes this is no big deal.  Sometimes you die in horrible agony.  Depends on the road, and the car.  Anyway…

So, to recap so far: The suspension has one job, to keep the tires on the road.  It must keep the tires on the road when the road tells the wheel to pull away, or when the cars body roll pulls the wheel away. It does this with 4 parts: axles, springs, linkages, and shocks.

Totally unrelated to the problem of keeping the rubber in the road is the task of passenger comfort.   And totally unrelated to that is the production engineering.  Bearing that in mind, here is the normal time line of front suspension development. (For reasons I’m not going to explain, new technology goes into the front end first, then is translated into the rear suspension.)

Ok, so first is the beam axle.  Its a big pole with wheel on each side.  Then comes the swing axle which is the same thing with a pivot in the middle.  Then comes the McPherson Strut, then the equal length wish bone, then unequal length wishbone.

The problem is?  That’s crap.  Despite the fact that absolutely everyone says that the time line, it’s not.  And it doesn’t go from bad handling to good handling in good order, which is it’s usually presented: a timeline with improving ability with each development.

January 1, 2009 Posted by | Engines, Microcar, skepticism, Small Car, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama completely sells out homosexuals for some favorable coverage.

The following are articles which talk about Obama choosing Rick Warren to do his presidential inauguration.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98453190&ft=1&f=1012

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08354/936242-84.stm?cmpid=nationworld.xml

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/12/19/navarrette.warren/index.html?section=cnn_latest

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2008/12/rick-warren-oba.html

Something that, to me, is going mysteriously unmentioned is this: Rick Warren claims to be Rupert Murdoch’s pastor. (1.) (2.) (3.) And that Obama sat down with with Rupert Murdoch and agreed to to quid pro quo agreement.  Fox News, which belongs to Rupurt Murdoch would provide more favorable coverage of Obama if he would work with Murdoch on somethings. (4.) (5.) Murdoch said during this interview “leadership was about what you did in the first six months” (5.)

Obama then says, in what is seen by my many as a slap in the face to gays and lesbians. (Click the 4 links listed in the first paragraph.) that Rick Warren would do his invocation.  Rick Warren’s book A Purpose Driven Life is published by Zondervan, which is owned by Harper Collins, which in turn is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.  (6.)

So, let’s see.  Obama meets with Rupert Murdoch and agrees to a quid pro quo agreement for more favorable news coverage.  Then, he hires Murdoch’s own pastor, (Who has increased Murdoch’s 8.3 billion dollar worth (7.) by uncountable millions with the best selling non-fiction is history (30 million books) to do his invocation.

And then, I hear people saying they are suprised by his choice.  How much advertising for Rick Warren is a presidential invocation worth? How big of a cut does the owner of Fox News get?  What does Obama get in exchange?

Who cares.  Let’s bury those questions in the homosexual rights debate.

December 20, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Transportation | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Environmentalism and Overpopulation: The Solution, Part III

Perfect market is the greatest instrument of human freedom I know of, and the ethical cornerstone of my entire idea.  A perfect market consists of  (courtesy of wikipeida)

  • Rationality of all market actors (Rationality in meaning of the actor’s utility maximization)
  • No transaction costs (particularly no information costs and no taxes)
  • Price taking behavior – there is a sufficiently large number of participants such that no individual can affect the market
  • given rare resources
  • freedom of decision to do something or to let it be (no external effects)

People trading rationally, with all the information they need to make a decisions, with no distortions for big enough traders, something to trade, and no coercion to act or not act in anyway.   It’s something beautiful.  “Market place” doesn’t just mean the buying and selling of products, but also the grand market place of ideas.  The right to free speech is a component of the market place of ideas, as is the right to free press, and free assembly.  The right to practice religion as one sees fit guarantees numerous sects and religions competing for the hearts and minds of the people.  The right to keep arms of the US Constitution, and the right to security of person in the UN Bill of Rights are both to secure the right to act free of coercion.  Ultimately, the perfect market, be it for goods, services, ideas, or beliefs,  is the foundation of freedom.

A perfect market is, a direction, not a point one arrives at, but the more perfect a market, the more freedom for all.  I believe there is no more effective way to reduce pollution and birthrate (more on that later) than to work toward a perfect market.

In a perfect market, there is no legal theft, no  hidden payments, and no hidden costs.  I will use the existing market place of open pit coal mining to highlight an imperfect market.   No one breathes without trees, they are the lungs of the earth.   There are 6 billion people on earth.  Each tree is an oxygen factory, the output of which goes equally to each member of the population of earth.  If a person had a contract to receive a percentage of a factory’s output, then regardless of who owned the factory,the owner could not destroy the factory without consulting the person who owned a percentage of the output. (Note, I know that this example is somewhat weak, I use it because it is far easier to explain than the more correct ones.  Please feel free to argue this in the comment section.)  Property rights for the factory output are strong.  Property rights for organic oxygen output are nonexistent.

The open pit mining process begins by blasting the ground cover (largely trees) over the coal.  Stealing the future “oxygen income” of 6 billion people.  The coal industry is one of the most heavily subsidized on earth, particularly with reduced property tax.  The coal is loaded onto trains, the cost of transportation depending on diesel fuel, which is produced by other subsidized companies.  It is taken to a power plant, which if it is new, was most likely given property tax break to encourage it’s construction, and burned, putting CO2 into the air which effects everyone as much as the loss of the trees.  The worst pollutants are scrubbed out of the coal (the cost of the scrubbers often subsidized) and disposed of as industrial waste.  Due to radium as a fraction of the mass of coal, coal power plant reclaimed ash is actually more radioactive than nuclear power plant waste. Yet, it is disposed of as far cheaper industrial, rather than radioactive waste in tax supported, or privately owned and tax subsidized, waste management facilities (due to an EPA grandfather clause).

Thus, the real cost of coal would include the cash value of the lost oxygen, the cash value of the subsidy given to the extractor, the cash value of the subsidy given to the fuel producer of the transportation, the cash value of the subsidy given to the power plant, the cash value of the subsidy of the fuel for the fly ash transportation, and the cash value of the subsidy given to the waste management authority.

The complexity of calculating such a thing is made yet more difficult by the fact the subsidy would be different for each county, state, nation, company,  etc.  In reality, it is impossible to calculate such a thing.  The best numbers we have are educated guesses, on this free market phenomenon.  In defense of free market, as awful as the above sounds, it works towards the lowest price  in the end, as well as profit for the stock holders, because the company which uses the subsidies most effectively will sell the most. For the most part, this is good for everyone.  Coal is cheaper for everyone and the owners get rich.  Owners, means stock holders.  More than half of heavy industry stock is held by institutions in mutual funds.  Profit for heavy industry does not benefit primarily a small group of plutocrats.  It primarily benefits the small investor, working hard on his 401K or child’s college education fund.

The trouble is, as good as low cost products and profit for the stock holders are, (and those are truly good things) there are other important things that the free market doesn’t do so well, like resource management.  Though functioning planned economies have the worst pollution in the world (Russian and China), large free markets are a close second.  If people value resources, they can show their preference for companies that also value resources, but only in a perfect market.

In a perfect market, their are no hidden payments, so there is no subsidy.   Coal costs what coal costs.  It might be tempting to believe that subsidies do not follow market rules.  Sadly, this is not the case. Subsidies do follow market rules: companies get money from the government in exchange for providing services for members or sections of the government.  The companies compete fiercely for the subsidies.  Exxon Mobil spent 350 million on lobbying ( a form of advertising to the government decision makers) to get 3 billion dollars in subsidies in 2008 alone.

In a perfect market, the government would not be able to give any special treatment to any company, saving the stockholders of Exxon Mobil 350 million, but costing them 3 billion.  Thus, the incentive to keep the existing system is strong.   Three billion to one company is 10 times greater than the total subsidy spent on renewable power.  This leads some to say “Renewable power needs a bigger subsidy.”  I disagree.  Subsidy distorts the market, regardless of who gets it.  Money is what we exchange for our time on this eath.  The perfect market, like all other markets, is a place where human life is bought and sold, but unlike other markets it is where there is the least waste of this, the most valuable of all commodities.  As, such, a perfect market is as sacred as free speech, or free expression, for the same reason: human dignity.

Subsidies represent a lie about price.  The solution to lies is never more lies.  Humans can be trusted to make wise decisions under perfect market conditions.  To believe in human potential, to respect human dignity, means to work toward a perfect market.

All subsidy must go.  Every business must stand on it’s own.  If sounds like utopian, it’s not, at least to some.  No mater how deeply a person believes in perfect market for everyone else, few people believe it for them and their friends.  This is the reason, despite the fact people value it, we generally don’t work toward a perfect market.

A world without subsidy offers no tax breaks to religious organizations.  To allow tax free status to some service providers (churches and other non-profits) and not to others (business providing identical community assistance, lectures, concerts, elder care, and dating service) is unethical, and anti-religious.  Without tax breaks, the churches which provided the best service for the lowest tithe would immediately out compete the other churches.

A world without subsidy provides no benefit to being married.  Or owning a house.  Married people would have to compete in the open market for housing and employment just like everyone else.   Nor does it provide any tax penalty for being single, or childless.   This is the first step voluntarily reducing population.  Despite embracing the perfect market,  irresponsibility will still happen.  People will still have more children then they can afford, and buy larger houses than they need, but they can no longer profit by it.

(I am aware that these examples are controversial, and poorly supported here.  For brevity’s sake, I will argue specifics with anyone who chooses to, in the comment section.)

But how would even a perfect market deal with issues such as air pollution?  Real price cannot be calculated.  We know real price is impossible to calculate on the fly, because if it could be calculated, planned Soviet style economies would work better than free market ones. Only Adam Smith’s “guiding hand” can effectively determine price.   The fact you can rent your property freely for the price you wish and under the conditions you wish is why your living room isn’t full of toxic gas.  The fact that you cannot rent your 1/6 billionth of the earth’s air freely for a the price you wish under the conditions you wish, is why the air you breath is full of toxins.

The key to allowing the perfect market to solve the issue of pollution is obviously strong property rights, but how could 6 billion people share their air and common oceans without a tragedy of the commons?

I will address that in Part IV.

December 9, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Ecology, Government, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Environmentalism and Overpopulation: The Solution, Part II

The introduction to the solution:

Now, I am attempting to list a solution for a truly enormous problem.  My solution is also truly enormous.  I also struggle to make sure it is as ethical as I can possibly manage.   Before I explain my solution, let me explain why I think the solution is so hard to reach: rate of change.  In all of the things you need to know about to figure out a good overpopulation policy, you will find that rate of change rears it’s ugly head.

We tend to visualize data in graphs with plain curves either going up, or going down, reducing all the data to single binary option: increasing or decreasing.  The reality is different.  A graph represents rate of change.  A bell shaped line, for instance,  represents little change at first building into a faster and faster rate of change till it peaks out.  Then the rate of change decreases, and decreases until, at the other end of the bell, it peters out completely.  We must remember that almost everything someone says about overpopulation and pollution, either for or against, will be true at some part of the curve.

Something which improves the situation may experience decreasing improvement the more it is implemented, and may at a critical point begin to actively degrade the situation it was improving.  Remember, “Diminishing Returns” isn’t just a good idea, it’s the Law.

In Part I, I made the point that two questions must be answered. First, How much environmental impact is acceptable?  All creatures, great and small impact the environment in some way.  Elephants tear up shrubs.  Wasps lay their eggs in caterpillars, which must impact the caterpillars quit a bit.  We can’t delude ourselves into believing that we can not impact the environment.  Nor is it healthy to believe that we should impact the environment as much as possible.  To impact the environment as little as possible we would need to have the smallest sustainable population possible, perhaps a 1000 people.   No other species does that.  Why should we set our numbers so low? At the same time, when one looks at the level of environmental damage currently being wrought by 6 billion, the ideal number is probably much lower than 6 billion.

Once we have determined the level of impact acceptable, the second question is, What is the ideal population level.  This is not a simple question, because the answer depends on the efficiency of resource utilization.  Beef steak and algae are both protein sources, but algae makes about 32 times more protein with the same caloric feed input.  If everyone got their protein exclusively from beef, the planet will sustain 1/32 the population it would if they got their protein from algae, by measure of human dietary protein production requirement. Diet is much more complicated than a single protein source, and is but one piece of data needed to determine the maximum ideal population number.

So, the two questions of How much environmental impact is acceptable? and What is the population level will cause that, or less impact, are difficult to answer precisely.  Yet we must have a precise answer.  The answer of “no impact by many less people” is too easy to abuse, and the question of dismantling economies and mass genocide (species die off by birth control is still species die off.) is far to important to simply throw some legislation together.

Yet, it seems unethical to use the lack of a perfect response as an excuse to make no response at all and if a response is to be made in the lack of precise data, ethics are of the utmost importance.  The interim response must respect human dignity, human rights, and human freedom.  This is my response: Perfect market, strong property rights, fairly shared property, and global government to reduce pollution and population while improving the quality of life.

To be continued…

December 7, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Ecology, Government, skepticism, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Planet X found!

Today is red letter day for geeks everywhere!  A photo of older system with a cool gas giant planet and a photo of a much newer system, with 3 new, still hot from the forming planets!  Maybe in my life time, my daughter can drive an electric car to an observatory, and look at images of an earth-like planet. 

Now, if only we colonize the moon, mars, and the astroid belts.  

 

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/11/13/huge-exoplanet-news-items-pictures/

November 14, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Ecology, Religion, skepticism, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment