Thursday, September 25, 2014

Building new roads does NOT increase traffic congestion

There is a toxic meme going around that traffic congestion occurs because you are building too many roads.  The idea is that when you build more roads, this encourages people to use them, and traffic congestion paradoxically gets worse.  This is a deception designed to distract you from the obvious effects of too-rapid population growth.

It is true that sometimes building more capacity encourages more use.  When the capacity of computer storage increased, people filled it up with ever more data.  When someone builds a garage, it is often the case that before too long it is packed with even more stuff.  But not always.  As usual, you have to THINK about the situation and examine the real numbers.

In California they have been building schools like mad, but school overcrowding is getting worse.  Do we conclude that building schools causes classroom overcrowding?  Do we resolve the problem by not building schools?  What rubbish.  The problem obviously is that California has not been building schools fast enough.

In the last few decades India has had major increases in food production, yet half the population is chronically malnourished and most of the rest is not much better off.  So does growing more food cause malnutrition?  Is the solution to hunger in India to stop growing more food?  That is, of course, insane.  The problem is that increases in food production have not outpaced the demands of a growing population.  Either the rate of increase of food production needs to accelerate, or the rate of population growth has to slow.  THAT is the correct answer.

According to the United States federal highway administration highway statistics series, between 1980 and 2012 the total number of highway lane-miles increased from about 7.9 million to 8.6 million, roughly a 9% increase.  Yet during this time the population was increased from 226 million to about 315 million, a 39% increase. 

So it is simply false to claim that the problem is that building more roads causes more people to drive.  It is instead a fact that the United States is just not building enough roads to keep up with forced population growth. 

Now given that much of the highway system is already in place and more and more of the country is built up, you may not be able to build enough new roads even if you wanted to – because you would need to tear up so much existing structure to build them.  Also, as the nation’s population is increased past a half billion to a billion and beyond, the United States will likely be too poor for most people to be able to afford to drive. 

But this is not because cars are evil, or building roads causes traffic.  It’s just that a system designed for 170 million people won’t work for a billion.  Yes, Americans are probably going to have to give up their freedom to travel, and be packed in crowded buses and subways, but that is entirely due to population growth.  With a more moderate population density cars and highways work just fine.

But the rich want cheap labor, they want to turn the United States into another Mexico or Bangladesh, and they will stop at nothing to achieve this goal.  Thus even the most basic observations of the effects of rapid population growth are censored from public thought, and we are led to the absurd idea that if we increase the number of people on the roads, and don’t build any more roads, and traffic congestion increases, it’s because cars are evil and building roads makes traffic worse. 

Is ANYONE paying attention out there?  Can blatant absurdities be published and everyone just accepts it without thought?  Is public ‘debate’ today only the passive acceptance of empty slogans presented without any grounding in fact? 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Progressives and Population

There is only one legitimate reason not to discuss how too-rapid population growth creates poverty, but unfortunately it’s a good one.  A person living in a third-world country is not responsible for the policies that created that misery, but the past cannot be undone, and right now the only hope for that person is to grab resources from a first-world country.  But for the people living in a first-world country this would inevitably drag them down to a third-world level.  Policies maximizing population growth inevitably pit people against each other in ways that cannot be solved by cooperation (at least not in the short term).  The way to avoid this trap is to speak out before the situation reaches this level, but when it is too late for that then acknowledging the effects of rapid population growth will result in conflict and misery and hatred between different people.  When other people are a deadly threat simply by having been born this leaves little room for negotiation.   I offer no solution, but only point out that by avoiding unpleasantness today we hand the world’s destiny to the corrupt rich and condemn future generations to endless lifetimes of misery.

In Pakistan today the elites are pushing a debased Islam that treats women like slaves and children like cattle, and they are engineering an economy based on people having massive numbers of children that they sell into slavery – but we can’t talk about how this creates poverty because that’s not politically correct. No, let’s preach about ‘social justice’ without actually mentioning anything specific. In India the fertility rate has moderated in a few provinces and there are modest wage gains – and the corporate press editorializes about how essential it is to keep increasing the Indian population to maintain 'competitiveness' and prevent 'wage inflation' beyond a dollar an hour.  The Indian government has apparently classified much of its demographics data (suspicious, that), so I have no direct evidence, but I suspect that India is importing people from Bangladesh to cancel out regional falls in fertility rates in the native population.  Indian billionaires burble about how they now know that population control is a folly because ‘people are the ultimate resource’, they build skyscrapers as private residences, and there are currently 500 million people in India suffering from chronic malnutrition…   But if we talk openly about the root causes of poverty in India and Pakistan it is unavoidable that the influx of Mexicans into the United States be viewed as a threat to Americans. Speak truth and at this point you could spark a small civil war in the United States; be polite and condemn the world to purgatory.  And that civil war will occur in any event, for ultimately there can be no peace when there are too many people and not enough to go around.

So now the Iranian government is going to outlaw contraceptives and deliberately ignite a population explosion.  This policy will create dire poverty for the average Iranian, but of course progressives can't say anything about this.  So the vile Iranian government has a free hand to breed their people as if they were cattle, so that the profits and the power of the rich are maximized, and there is no debate, no pushback.  The silence on this issue is creepy.

Most modern liberals are nothing of the sort: they are wealthy anti-labor rentiers (or their lackeys) who use the liberal terminology as a smokescreen for polices that benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else (yes I am thinking of you, Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton).  But there are still some people in public life that might be considered liberal in the old-fashioned sense of wanting to work for a society where everyone gets a reasonable share and has a decent life.   For the sake of discussion, we shall refer to honest liberals as progressives.  Apart from the difficulty that any honest person has in disentangling truth from our modern era of endemic disinformation, progressives have a genuine dilemma.  Much of past progressive accomplishment was generated by getting the average person to make common cause with their fellows.  Oligarchs will often play the divide-and-conquer game, and progressives have fought hard avoiding this splitting up of the common people against themselves.  Thus, when the rich import foreign workers to drive down wages, it is hard for progressives to avoid defending the interests of the foreign workers (they will claim that people opposed to forced population growth are “scape-goating immigrants”), and in effect taking the side of the rich.  It’s a difficult issue, one that turns the strength of progressives against themselves.    I offer no easy solution, only the observation that in the long run denial is a poor strategy.

Sometimes progressives will claim that talking about population is really a way for the rich to falsely blame the poor for their poverty when it is really due to other factors.  Correct!  The rich will falsely blame the poor for having too many children when that is not the problem!  And they will destroy the careers of anyone who blames the poor for having too many children when that really is the problem!

Ever since the end of slavery, the native-born American black population has had on average about as many children as any other assimilated American: about two per family.  Native-born American blacks are presently about 10% of the population, and a significant fraction of them are having two children before they have secured a stable family or secure job.  In the long run this collapse of family structure is surely a cause for concern, but that a fraction of a small minority of the population has an average of two children simply cannot be the cause of poverty here.  The numbers just aren’t big enough!  (Why, after all these centuries, are native-born American blacks still only about 10% of the population?  It is impossible that they could have had significantly higher fertility rates than the rest of the American population!).

The problem here is the influx of third-world refugees flooding the low-end of the labor market, coupled with the export of jobs and capital to high-fertility rate, low-wage countries, which has destroyed the ability of working-class black males to support a family.  And yet, everyone across the entire political spectrum is free to pile on and trash poor inner-city blacks for their alleged lack of family planning.  Presumably poor American blacks should all sterilize themselves or commit voluntary euthanasia.  On the other hand, in Haiti there is a history of everyone having five kids each with no hope in Hades of supporting them, this is clearly why the Haitian half of the island of Hispaniola is such a cesspit, but anyone daring to suggest that the Haitian people should have moderated their fertility rates – just like Americans of all races did during the great depression – will be vilified as a racist, blacklisted, and their careers destroyed. 

Or how about Niger, where women average 7.6 children each and a majority of the population is less than 15 years of age (i.e., are yet to enter or are in their child-bearing age, hello demographic momentum)?  For any economist to say that the people of Niger need to first limit their fertility rates before any progress can be made would be to commit professional suicide – but somehow American blacks can be slandered and vilified at will. 

Obviously, it’s only OK to blame population growth when it is not a problem because this would not endanger the poverty that the rich find so profitable, and vice-versa.  Again, is anybody paying attention?  Why is it OK to blame US blacks for having children that they can't support, and yet when even worse behavior occurs in Nigeria or Bangladesh, why, it's 'strong family values'?  This is insane.

There is also the issue of donations.  So often progressive organizations are tempted into a Faustian bargain: the rich will donate a hundred million dollars to your cause, but you can't talk about population any more.  It seems such a tiny thing, and think of all the good works  you can do with that hundred million.  (And think of giving yourself a raise and remodeling your office.  I'm thinking of you, Sierra Club).  And if you agree to this, the rich will put your smiling face on the evening news and treat you as a serious person and invite you to all the right parties - disagree, and the rich will tar you as a far-right extremist Nazi loon.  But when a progressive organization makes this trade, when they cede to the rich the ability to control the population, they have ceded it all.  Progressives can prattle about organizing and unions - and it is all swept away by the brute force of a hundred desperate people competing for every job.  They can lobby for extra funding to help the poor - and as the population explodes it will be as a drop of water in the pacific ocean.  When progressives turn a blind eye to population growth, everything else that they do will be just flapping their gums, and they are left impotently wringing their hands as the world is slowly but surely crushed into poverty and misery.

Old-school progressives like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Maynard Keynes, and Samuel Gompers, understood the power of population growth, and that it had to be limited if there was to be any hope of creating a widely shared prosperity.  They achieved successes.  Modern progressives seem to think that mindlessly chanting "think globally act locally" and "prosperity is a social construct" will somehow overcome the pressure of seven billion people and counting all competing for resources and jobs.  They are leading the world into a new dark age.

I respectfully suggest that those who care about more than the profits of the super rich, and who believe that anyone opposed to 'immigrant rights' is a Nazi, should re-examine their views.  While there is still time.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

America is not a democracy. It is an oligarchy.

I have recently read several articles suggesting that ‘mob rule’ democracy is a bad thing.  The main idea seems to be that in a pure democracy people will simply vote themselves excessive government benefits and bankrupt the country.  Indeed that could be a problem, and these arguments are often compelling, except that America doesn't have a democracy.  America has a rule by the oligarchs – the problem is NOT that too many illiterate morons are voting.  The problem is that the vote doesn’t count.  

Blaming America's current problems on 'democracy' is a false-flag operation.  The issue of whether a true republic (involving honorable representatives who do not lie about their true intentions and are elected by a citizenry that understands what they are voting for, and that has a clear choice between competing policies) is superior to a pure democracy, while intellectually satisfying, has no relevance to the current situation.

Remember in 2008 when Obama and McCain both bent the knee to Wall Street (thus depriving the American people of any choice) and started the process of shifting quite literally trillions of dollars from the public into the pockets of the super-rich?  This was not the American people voting themselves benefits and bankrupting the country.  This was the super-rich giving THEMSELVES benefits and bankrupting the country.  And this policy is wildly unpopular with the American people, but what the American people want doesn’t matter.

Given that the American people have zero influence on fiscal policy, blaming them for it is a lie and a slander.

How about America's open-borders immigration policy?  Again, the average American is opposed to this, because it will make America more crowded and poorer and less unified.  But the rich like cheap labor, so they rig it that come election both candidates are the same on this issue and there is no choice.  Or sometimes there will be a candidate that claims to be against open-borders, but more often than not they have been bought off ahead of time and the instant the election is over they switch to open borders.  When the American people try to take direct control – in California through referendum, in Arizona and Alabama through local government – the rich use their control of the executive and judiciary to over-rule them.  There is no democracy here.

Even when it appears that Americans are voting themselves benefits, I argue that appearances can be deceptive.  Suppose a rich person imports a bunch of foreign workers, and pays them so little that they need government assistance for medical care, food stamps, housing allowances etc., to be paid for mostly with taxes on the middle class.  Is this the American people voting themselves benefits?  Or is this the rich using the public treasury to subsidize their cheap labor?  That is, privatizing profits and socializing costs.

And as far as ‘Obamacare’ goes, well, <snort>.  Suppose that you want a hamburger, and it costs $5.  I decree that no, you must purchase a hamburger through the affordable hamburger exchange, and it will cost $20 – but I will grant you a $4 subsidy!  Then I accuse you of being a ‘welfare queen’ sponging off government welfare payments.  You wouldn’t accept that accusation, would you?  Nor should the American people.

American ‘democracy’ is a political fraud that privatizes power and socializes responsibility.

Suppose there are two buttons, one labelled "you die", and the other, "you live".  If you press the first button, you die.  If you press the second button, well it was mislabeled, you also die.  If you refuse to press either button, one will be randomly pressed for you.  This is modern democracy American-style.  It's a con.

The last time the American public had any impact on real policy was when Obama was going to attack the Syrian government and give even more money and weapons to the Islamic jihadists in that region.  The American people, with the support of what’s left of the grass-roots Republicans, managed to stop that.  And a good thing too.  (Although now Obama is using the hysteria over ISIS beheading a few journalists to whip up support so that he can... arm more Jihadists and attack the Syrian government!  Is anyone paying attention out there?).

The American people are not perfect, but in most matters I propose that letting them decide would be far preferable to rule by our current so-called elites.

To paraphrase Gandhi, what do I think of 'mob rule' democracy?  I think that it might be a good idea.  Or if not as good as a true republic run by honorable people, that it might be better than rule by an oligarchy that has no sense of duty or consideration for the nation as a whole.

Friday, September 5, 2014

To stop hunger, you need a shortage of agricultural workers.

Many times I hear various pundits and other classes of intellectual whores opine about the need to eliminate a ‘shortage’ of agricultural workers in order to ensure that sufficient food is grown.  Sigh.  The persistence of human beings in mindlessly believing the most obvious rubbish out of pure herd instinct continues to amaze.  I don’t know why I bother explaining the obvious to you, but due diligence requires that I at least make the attempt.

In countries like Australia and Switzerland and the United States, if you advertise for agricultural workers at a rate of $2/hour with no benefits or job security, even without a minimum wage law, you won’t get any takers.  Thus, there is a terrible ‘shortage’ of workers, and these countries are clearly going to all starve unless massive numbers of third-world refugees are imported to eliminate the worker ‘shortage’. Except, of course, that people have plenty to eat in these countries.

On the other hand, in countries like India and Bangladesh and Pakistan and Egypt, there is a virtually limitless supply of agricultural workers who will labor for 50 cents an hour, if that.  There is no labor shortage in these countries.  But there is widespread hunger and malnutrition.

So a ‘shortage’ of agricultural workers is associated with everyone having lots of food, and a lack of said ‘shortage’ is associated with hunger.  That doesn’t make sense, does it?

Or actually it does make sense if you realize that there is not, never has been, and never can be, a labor ‘shortage’.  The very idea is absurd. 

When there is abundant land relative to the number of people, there is abundant food – and the limited amount of workers bids up wages, and reduces the profits of landowners.  When there is not enough land relative to the number of people, there is not enough food – and the excess amount of workers drives down wages, and increases profits for the landowners.  Duh.

Note also that there is a ‘shortage’ of janitors and maids in Switzerland, yet the Swiss nation is spotless.  No such ‘shortage’ in India, and the level of filth is so great that it is competing with malnutrition as a source of morbidity.  But again, this is only a contradiction if you don’t realize that the very idea of a labor shortage is absurd.  In Switzerland people have abundant time and energy and resources to clean with – although a rich banker might need to do his own laundry from time to time (the horror!).  In India the majority of people don’t have the time or energy or resources to clean things up or have adequate sanitary facilities etc. and the rivers choke with excrement – although wealthy Indians can be waited on hand and foot.

In the United States during the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s there was a terrible ‘shortage’ of scientists and engineers.  Talented Americans could practically name their price, and corporate CEOs were limited in how much they could make because of the market-enforced need to pay their employees high salaries.  And science and engineering exploded into a golden age.  In modern India there is no ‘shortage’ of talented scientists and engineers – and despite this, the contribution of India to modern science is little more than negligible.  That’s because in India people don’t have the resources to take advantage of their ideas, poverty is so extreme that corruption and nepotism run riot, the best native minds leave as soon as they can and the best foreign minds stay away.  But the rich can have genius IQ engineers working on frivolous web apps for sub-poverty wages, how profitable.

So to ensure that everyone has enough to eat, you need a shortage of agricultural workers.  To have a clean environment, you need a shortage of janitors and maids. And to have advances in science and engineering, you need a shortage of scientists and engineers.

Are we paying attention yet?