Monday, September 21, 2009

HSR, carbon impact, tech jobs, low stress, NPR, and more

Tonight I just want to pass along a few smaller items of interest:
"Take Houston Community College. Thanks in part to an aggressive outreach campaign, the school has the highest percentage of international students of any community college in the U.S."
  • Finally, if you haven't heard already, NPR was doing a series of stories on Houston last week (hat tip to Mark). This is the lead story, which contains links to the others. Two stories will particularly appeal to readers of this blog: this one on our approach to growth (including great comments by Rice prof Stephen Klineberg and Harvard professor Edward Glaeser), and this interview with Mayor White, which include discussion of energy efficiency, Ashby, light rail, and TOD.
I already mentioned that last item at the end of a post last week, but thought I'd mention it again since it was sort of buried at the bottom there.

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47 Comments:

At 8:12 AM, September 22, 2009, Anonymous kjb434 said...

Cap-n-Trade equals taxing the middle class into poverty. And that's the way it was planned to happen!

Carbon: The red herring of a non-existent climatic problem!

 
At 8:38 AM, September 22, 2009, Anonymous Appetitus Rationi Pareat said...

I see the flat earthers are out in force.

I find it hilarious when people make comments like such a system will "tax the middle class into poverty." Denmark has had energy taxes and a cap and trade system for sometime now and they certainly aren't living in poverty. They have a stronger economy then we do, lower unemployment and a higher GDP per capita. Oh and they also have a cleaner environment and they live longer than we do as well. But please, don't let facts get in the way of your rhetoric.

 
At 1:51 PM, September 22, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

Of course carbon taxes will hurt Texas. The Texas economy is based on oil extraction and heavy manufacturing. In other shocking news, carbon taxes will hurt Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Alaska.

 
At 2:01 PM, September 22, 2009, Anonymous kjb434 said...

ARP,

You still don't justify the need for the tax.

On top of that people on your side say that it isn't a tax and won't cost people anything (which is a lie if you read the current house bill all the way through). The shear cost that will be placed on existing business will cause them to shift the burden to the consumer to stay afloat. People will get hurt and businesses won't get punished like the environmentalist want. No one has been able to refute that fact. Eventually, businesses will suffer and quality of life will go down for Americans (particular the middle class and lower income in the US).

On top of that, Cap and Trade hasn't done anything to reduce carbon emissions in Europe to their targets, and the countries that actually attempt to be productive in industry to produce goods (UK, France, and Germany) would have to kill their industry and drive up unemployment. Germany is pretty much to the point of saying screw it to the Kyoto Protocols.

Denmark is an example of a country that isn't industry heavy to begin with. Their primary sources of air pollution is from cars and coal based electricity generation (primary form). They don't produce much therefore don't generate pollution for it.

Countries that produce goods will produce carbon (simple concept). And companies that produce a lot of carbon are generating at the request of the rest of the world since they ship goods for other to use. China and India's carbon emissions are directly related to the rest of the world buying good from them. Denmark's primary contribution is that it has a low corporate tax rate which allows a lot of service companies to base large operations out of the country.

The good news is that common sense and reality is setting in our democracy since people on both sides of the aisle in Washington (particularly the Senate) realize that Cap and Trade is a BIG LOSE/LOSE proposition for the US.

Add on top that everyday the argument that carbon is a bad pollutant is losing it footing and more evidence is mounting against man-made global warming. Oh wait, it's climate change now since global warming doesn't fit current data anymore! People in the UK are waking up to the hoax of climate change. Polls in the country are mounting against the carbon and eco-taxes and people are realizing it hurts more the helps.

Best projections are that we are entering a cooling period very similar to other cooling periods experienced in the 1800s and 1900s. They amazingly follow in line with solar activity of sun spots! How bizarre that the big fireball in the sky is the primary source of our climate activities!

 
At 2:12 PM, September 22, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

Kjb434, I think it's telling that you quote polls against global warming instead of surveys of climate scientists.

The biggest proponents of carbon taxes today (as opposed to cap and trade) are Republicans, who propose an increase in carbon taxes to be offset by a reduction in payroll taxes.

 
At 8:11 AM, September 23, 2009, Anonymous Mike said...

"Of course, I also believe those places should pay for it themselves, rather than with federal money."

Kinda like highways?

 
At 8:15 AM, September 23, 2009, Anonymous Mike said...

Appetitus Rationi Pareat,

Denmark does not have a higher GDP per capita than we do, by any of the major lists:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita

What was that you said about facts?

 
At 8:37 AM, September 23, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Yeah, I wish the feds would get out of the highway game too, other than basic interstate connectivity. No federal dollars for expanding urban freeways.

 
At 9:18 AM, September 23, 2009, Anonymous kjb434 said...

Alon,

Check this out:

http://tinyurl.com/46qkjp

It is a UK telegraph story of the 31,000 scientist who reject global warming from 2008.

Also, many of the scientists involved in the IPCC studies (bible of Global Warming for Al Gore) don't think man has any significant contribution to the global climate. The IPCC reports aren't written by scientist. A collection of scientist submit their findings, then non-science background bureaucrats write the actually sections of the report gearing the report to their intended results. This is leading to a revolt by the scientist involved with the study.

Studies outside of the IPCC studies have continued to generate data that shows how the conclusions of the IPCC report is just plain out of line with reality. So much so that the IPCC continually backtracks their findings.

Also, the International Conference on Climate Change is hosting their third conference next year. A conference of scientist from all over the world refuting the misinformation being spouted by the IPCC and other UN climate conferences. Many technical papers are submitted, presented, and reviewed. Many of the scientist attending these conferences are former IPCC scientist that are realizing that Global Warming or Climate Change are political devices and have nothing to do with real science.

Other interesting facts:

Polar Bears numbers are growing so fast that Canada has to up the number allowed to be hunted.

The Arctic and Antarctic ice caps are growing. Most of the shrinkage in the Arctic cap was due to an under water volcano.

CFC's hairspray and other sources have been found to have no impact on the ozone.

It's amazing if you decided to not read the news and take their word for it. Actually do some serious research and read all sides. You really start to understand and make a decision for yourself. Sure, it'll take some time, but you'll be better informed.

 
At 9:45 AM, September 23, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

Denmark does not have a higher GDP per capita than we do, by any of the major lists:

Denmark does have low unemployment and slightly higher growth, though. Between 1993 and 2008, Denmark's GDP per capita in PPP terms went up by a factor of 1.87, compared with 1.82 for the US (all data from the IMF - you can see it at Index Mundi). Sweden, which has even lower emissions than Denmark, had 1993-2008 GDP per capita growth of a factor of 2.03.

I just ran correlations between 1993-2008 growth and the GDP/emissions ratio for developed countries. The correlation is -0.22, which, for the number of countries in question (27), is statistically insignificant - its p-value is 0.27. To reduce the p-value to a statistically significant 0.05, the correlation would have to be at least 0.38 (or -0.38).

It is a UK telegraph story of the 31,000 scientist who reject global warming from 2008.

Those 31,000 scientists are physicists and professors of medicine, not climate experts. The article didn't quote even one climatologist backing the petition rejecting global warming, which in itself is telling.

 
At 9:55 AM, September 23, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I'm not sure Denmark, or any other Scandinavian country, is a fair comparison. They're just too small and inherently not very industrial - more services. It's like saying Silicon Valley is low energy and low carbon - why can't we all be like Silicon Valley? Well, because the entire world economy is not based on software development in a geography with near-perfect climate.

I don't know what the right facts or answers are on climate change, but I do recognize that climate scientists have an inherent financial and career self-interest in the debate.

 
At 11:14 AM, September 23, 2009, Anonymous Appetitus Rationi Pareat said...

Tory-

Sweden is not industrial? Have you ever been there? Better question, have you ever driven a Volvo? They also build engines, machinery, etc., not to mention having a huge logging industry up in the northern part of the country. Denmark is a shipping and ship building nation, with large port facilities and operations. Again, very industrial. I will grant you that they do not primarily depend on oil, like Houston though.

Mike-

As you know, PPP is simply an estimate of cost of living and is not an very accurate number. Using nominal GDP per capita, a more accurate number, Denmark's GDP per head is higher.

 
At 11:33 AM, September 23, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Yes, the SF Bay Area has a port and makes cars too, but they are trivial part of its economy. Not representative.

 
At 12:27 PM, September 23, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

Tory, look at Economy_of_Country_Name articles on Wikipedia. They show the following data, about percentage of GDP coming from manufacturing:

Ireland: 46%
Switzerland: 34%
Sweden: 29.2%
Denmark: 25.6%
France: 24.4%
US: 20.6%

In fact, the only developed countries with a lower manufacturing GDP percentage than the US are Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg; Iceland and Greece tie the US.

 
At 12:31 PM, September 23, 2009, Anonymous Appetitus Rationi Pareat said...

CIA factbook shows similar numbers.

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/

The economies of both Denmark and Sweden are more industrial than the United States.

The reason they have lower emissions is because they are more efficient and they have invested more in new technology, infrastructure, etc. Higher environmental taxes and strict laws have encouraged such investment (along with direct government subsidies).

 
At 3:45 PM, September 23, 2009, Anonymous kjb434 said...

"Those 31,000 scientists are physicists and professors of medicine, not climate experts. The article didn't quote even one climatologist backing the petition rejecting global warming, which in itself is telling."

So let me get this straight, you have to be in your field to question the validity of a study? If that was how the world work, we could never get things done. I'm pretty much an expert at hydraulics and hydrology, but I can look at the design of a foundation, bridge or road and definitely come up with some question and criticisms of design that are valid comments. In fact that happens in every Civil Engineering office in Houston. Cross expertise review is the best way to vet analysis because of the different source of opinion.

The problem in the environmental sciences is that they have very little peer review or only allow peers with the same predetermined belief perform peer reviews. This has been a criticism of this community by all the other scientific communities such as physics, chemistry, medical, geological, and meteorological. Climate experts rarely release their raw study data to have an independent review of their methods. This is the process all other science fields must go through to validate their findings.

Also, many climate experts have no background understanding of meteorology and history of the earth through its early human and pre-human periods. If they did, they can realize the problems in their science. More evidence mounts that climate experts must conclude findings that support their funding sources. It's becoming more and more apparent because the climate expert community is now being question heavily about their methods from many different scientific areas and they can't back up their claims. The climate experts are continually backing off their previous findings.

 
At 8:01 PM, September 23, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

I'm not sure why you're using the term "environmental science" instead of "climate science," which is what those people are actually experts in. People who study climatology aren't experts on generic environmental issues, like habitat loss or biodiversity. They study long-range climate patterns.

I'm glad hydraulists understand bridge foundations. However, they're both within the sphere of engineering, even civil engineering. This is not the same as a physicist making statements about climate science. He's no more an expert than a mathematician who believes in intelligent design, or a pigeon researcher who believes black people are genetically inferior to white people.

The reason I'm skeptical about this supposed cross-expertise is that people who claim it tend to make elementary mistakes. I'm more familiar with this happening in social science, where economists win a lot of kudos writing shoddy papers about sociology or psychology, but it's no different in science. Biology in particular attracts politically motivated cranks.

The problem in the environmental sciences is that they have very little peer review or only allow peers with the same predetermined belief perform peer reviews.

Do you have any evidence for this, aside from the notion that every climate scientist is by definition a peer "with the same predetermined belief"? I'm asking because your argument comes dangerously close to what creationists say of biology, what homeopaths say of medicine, and what protectionists say of economics. Without further evidence, I can't help but look for those three analogies.

The climate experts are continually backing off their previous findings.

Yes, they keep adjusting their predictions of global warming in the pessimistic direction. I guess that would fall under "continually backing off."

 
At 8:49 AM, September 24, 2009, Anonymous Mike said...

Tory, if you think the federal government should fund interstate highways, then why not high speed rail? Doesn't it serve essentially the same function (transporting people between major cities across state lines)?

As for the GDP argument, as far as I am concerned comparing the U.S. to any European country as evidence that said European country has a more successful system is ridiculous given that the U.S. provides (at its own expense) free military protection to most of Europe. These are not independent, self-reliant economies - more like U.S. dependencies.

 
At 9:13 AM, September 24, 2009, Anonymous Appetitus Rationi Pareat said...

Mike-

Perhaps that is our own fault, not theirs. If we weren't so reliant on foreign oil and we had used smarter policies to control our voracious appetite for the black stuff, we probably wouldn't need to support such a huge military stretching across the four corners of the world.

Here's a recent article that makes that very point (and mentions Denmark specifically). We are paying the price for 30+ years of policy mistakes and the chickens are finally coming home to roost.

 
At 9:34 AM, September 24, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

The interstate system was originally conceived for defense purposes - rapid mobilization - after Ike saw the German autobahns. Freight and people movement were obvious beneficiaries, over short, medium, and long distances. The govt made the minimal investment it had to make - road beds - and people/companies paid for vehicles and fuel. Fuel was taxed to pay for it all. If EZtag technology had been available at the time, I suspect they would have tolled it all instead to pay for it.

A similar argument could be made for airports: govt provides the landing strips and terminals while private companies provide the vehicles and fuel. Passenger ticket taxes pay for the infrastructure. As airports are a local decision, they are (mostly) paid for locally, although regulated federally for standardization and safety.

HSR is targeted at medium distances only, making it more of a state/regional decision (i.e. a small collection of states). It also requires huge subsidies, as the govt provides the track, cars, and energy. There is nothing directly related that can be taxed to pay for it (like fuel taxes for roads and passenger ticket taxes for airports). You could try to tax the rail tickets, but no matter how you slice it, in the end the government (i.e. taxpayers) will be paying the majority of the cost of moving each passenger. The infrastructure cost cannot be covered by direct fees (as demonstrated in other countries).

Rather than compare HSR to roads, the better analogy would be airports. Imagine if CA said, "Feds, give us money to build a few airports in key CA cities and provide a subsidized govt-run airline to provide frequent service where tickets are priced way below cost." Put that way, people would recognize the idea as absurd, and tell CA to do it themselves if they think it's such a good idea.

 
At 2:05 PM, September 24, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

the U.S. provides (at its own expense) free military protection to most of Europe.

No, it doesn't. It provides free military protection to Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, South Korea, and Israel. Europe is not in any danger of being invaded, and neither is Japan.

In fact, one of the fastest growing European countries today, Finland, was never protected by the US - it was neutral in the Cold War, and Stalin accepted its neutral but democratic character. Switzerland and Sweden were both neutral as well.

The interstate system was originally conceived for defense purposes - rapid mobilization - after Ike saw the German autobahns.

Defense was a rationalization. In World War Two, before the 1950s-era "What's good for GM is good for the USA" motif, US policy was to move everything by rail, in order to conserve fuel for tanks and jeeps. After the US became a net oil importer in 1948, such a policy would have been even more important for mobilization. Instead, the US chose to mount a coup in Iran in order to maintain access to Iranian oil, and build roads to use said oil; the military funds used for the coup in Iran and in other countries, needless to say, were never paid off by gas taxes.

 
At 2:08 PM, September 24, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

The infrastructure cost cannot be covered by direct fees (as demonstrated in other countries).

Sure it can. The Tokaido Shinkansen was funded by a loan from the World Bank, which was repaid in the 1970s from operating profits. The LGV Sud-Est was funded by Wall Street bonds, which were again repaid from operating profits. Other lines were funded by the government, but are profitable even after depreciation and interest, which means that if they'd been funded by private sector loans, they could have paid said loans back.

 
At 2:15 PM, September 24, 2009, Anonymous Mike said...

ARP, the Middle East is not the only violent region in the world (ever heard of Russia?), and our appetite for oil is not what made the Middle East violent. Open a history book. You seem to be of the school of thought that says that the U.S. is the only reason why there is any conflict in the world; if it wasn't for us everyone would be holding hands and singing in harmony. Our military has stretched across the world for longer than the last thirty years, and for different reasons than our "voracious appetite."

A wealthy country cannot exist on its own, anywhere in the world, without a military to protect it. For over sixty years the majority of European countries (also Japan) have not needed to field any more than a token military because they had our generous offer of protection. If we were to leave then they would have to invest in a military, with a resultant fall in GDP.

 
At 2:18 PM, September 24, 2009, Anonymous Mike said...

Tory, it sounds like you are arguing that the federal government should not fund interstate highways, as this funding is only a relic of the Cold War past. Am I reading you correctly?

As far as I can tell, most of the HSR lines cross state boundaries. Some of the Texas ones wouldn't, but then neither does I-45.

If the federal govt. is subsidizing highways and airports, how can you expect rail to compete fairly without it also being subsidized?

 
At 2:20 PM, September 24, 2009, Anonymous kjb434 said...

"Yes, they keep adjusting their predictions of global warming in the pessimistic direction. I guess that would fall under "continually backing off.""


I guess you haven't been following the IPCC reports then? They continually lower the amount they believe that temperatures and sea levels will rise. On top of that, holes are being shot all over their computer modeling methods with unjustified factors and assumptions. If any other scientist made mathematical assumptions that climate models use, they would be laugh out of their science fields.

Also, the Israeli Astrophysicist Nir Shariv was the one who first theorized the concept that man-made "greenhouse gas" output caused global warming. It was a simple hypothesis which on the surface seemed like it made sense. He started the ball running and climate researchers everywhere picked up. It became the mantra of global warming. Just 2 years ago, he came out in an interview and said after all the research, the evidence overwhelming suggest that man's contribution is pretty much non-existent.

The article was in the National Post. Lawrence Simon was the interviewer:

http://tinyurl.com/2k6xo9

Have Fun!

 
At 3:48 PM, September 24, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

Also, the Israeli Astrophysicist Nir Shariv was the one who first theorized the concept that man-made "greenhouse gas" output caused global warming.

His real name is Nir Shaviv. He has posted on his blog denying he was ever interviewed by the National Post, and pointing that the article mischaracterized his views. He doesn't believe CO2 is causing global warming, nor has he ever believed it; he believes solar variations are, a view which few climatologists accept.

 
At 3:51 PM, September 24, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

A wealthy country cannot exist on its own, anywhere in the world, without a military to protect it. For over sixty years the majority of European countries (also Japan) have not needed to field any more than a token military because they had our generous offer of protection.

Military spending doesn't have to be big, though. Most European countries today spend more on the military as a percentage of GDP than the US did before WW2 - about 2%, versus 1% for pre-WW2 America. When you don't have any enemies on your borders, and today's Europe and Japan don't any more than the US did, you don't need a large military.

More importantly, the countries the US has never protected, such as Finland, don't spend more on the military than the countries the US has protected, such as Britain and France.

 
At 7:05 PM, September 24, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

At this point, I think the Feds should only be providing basic, 4-lane maintenance on the interstate highway network. Urban expansions should be a local/state problem.

I do not believe the feds are subsidizing highways or airports to any significant extent - gas or ticket taxes cover their costs.

 
At 8:32 PM, September 24, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

I do not believe the feds are subsidizing highways or airports to any significant extent - gas or ticket taxes cover their costs.

In Texas, the DOT claims that no highway pays for itself with gas taxes - gas tax revenues top at 50% of total construction and maintenance costs, and sometimes go down to 16%. However, I presume most of those subsidies are local rather than federal. The federal subsidies mostly happened in the 1950s, the decade when people believed that what's good for GM is good for the USA.

But this analysis leaves behind externalities, like pollution. Greg Mankiw estimates that to balance the air pollution externality, not including CO2, the gas tax would have to be hiked $2.21/gallon. Right now the $2.21/gallon is paid by the people breathing smog and ozone, not by the people who emit smog and ozone.

 
At 10:13 PM, September 24, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Yes, I was talking about federal, not state. Interstate system only. The federal highway budget is based on gas taxes, of which a substantial portion is diverted to transit.

That analysis is based on specific gas tax applied to specific highways. But overall, TXDoT has a budget from the gas tax, and that is all that gets spent every year on TX highways (it's actually less because of the 25% cut for education). No general tax revenues are going to pay for highways.

I have no problem with a gas tax for externalities. But note that most of those trains will run on coal-fired electricity - or even diesel.

 
At 10:38 PM, September 24, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

The analysis is based on taking all gas tax revenue generated by a highway, and dividing it by the total cost of that highway. It includes construction costs, which are funded by the general fund - for example, stimulus projects. The equivalent difference for transit is between the operating ratio, which doesn't include depreciation, and recovery ratio, which does.

 
At 8:34 AM, September 25, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

The difference, of course, is gas that is used on non-highways - the street grid. The grid is paid for out of property taxes, because it is not optional. Every property must be connected to it, even if you don't drive, because of access needs for ambulances, police, fire, deliveries, freight, construction vehicles, etc.

So gas tax from that grid driving is going to highways, not those grid streets. It is not perfectly efficient. If all you do is drive on the grid and not highways, you're paying for something you're not using. But it's the best user-pays system they could come up with before EZ-tag technology - and even that's not an option on most highways because they're not limited access (like Highway 6).

But at the end of the day, highways are being paid for by the gas tax and only the gas tax, and *not* subsidized by general taxes - unlike what would happen with HSR or does happen with transit (heavily subsidized by sales tax).

 
At 2:36 PM, September 25, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

But at the end of the day, highways are being paid for by the gas tax and only the gas tax

Except for their original construction! That's the point of the TxDOT study: even if you only take the amount of money spent on a given controlled-access highway, and compare it to the amount of revenue it generates, the revenue is much smaller than the expenditure.

 
At 7:45 PM, September 25, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

What you say is true, but original construction *is* covered by gas taxes. TXDoT gets a budget from gas taxes. Of course, that gas is burned on normal local surface streets, state highways, and federal interstates - but all of the state gas tax goes to the state to be spent on highways. 25% is carved off for education. The remaining 75% is TXDoT's complete budget, and that is what they spend on both building new highways and maintaining old ones. There is no other source of funds to pay the construction contracts. They are completely paid for by gas taxes.

Yes, you are correct that the gas tax *from the gas burned on that road* would not cover the complete costs of that particular road, but the overall gas tax budget does cover all expenditures on state highways.

 
At 3:47 PM, September 26, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

What you say is true, but original construction *is* covered by gas taxes.

TxDOT's analysis says it isn't... there are typically federal and state contributions there, plus local funds.

 
At 5:10 PM, September 27, 2009, Anonymous Mike said...

"When you don't have any enemies on your borders, and today's Europe and Japan don't any more than the US did, you don't need a large military."

Your argument makes sense if Russia and Iran today aren't any more dangerous than Canada and Mexico were before WWII. Which is to say, it doesn't make sense.

 
At 9:20 PM, September 27, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

Japan and Europe don't border Iran. Europe has countries that border Russia, but Russia's not invading anyone. It's fighting the US for influence in countries it had controlled continuously for centuries before 1990 - and the only reason it has any money for it is demand for Russian oil.

Is GM really worth spending $700 billion a year on the military to contain petro-states like Russia and Iran?

 
At 11:27 PM, September 27, 2009, Anonymous Mike said...

Alon, this is the 21st century, you don't have to have a land border with a country (Iran) in order to need protection from it. Of course Russia is not meddling with any NATO countries - we're protecting them! That's why there are so few existing threats to Europe: who is going to threaten one of those countries when the U.S. has by far the world's largest military?

You and ARP seem to think that violence only exists in the world because of America's demand for oil. You have essentially rewritten the Garden of Eden story, only instead of eating an apple being the cause of all human woe, it's an American filling up his fuel tank. If it weren't for the Evil American, the world would be a Paradise of Peace and Joy. The lion would lay down next to the lamb, wealthy nations wouldn't need military protection, all the different cultures would sing together in harmony. But we've ruined it all, all for the sake of Hummers and GM! Oh, how awful we are! Oh, how I hang my head in shame!

 
At 11:43 PM, September 27, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

Of course Russia is not meddling with any NATO countries

It's not meddling with many non-NATO countries, either, including Finland, which it has accepted since the days of Stalin.

You and ARP seem to think that violence only exists in the world because of America's demand for oil.

No, I think that the two regimes you named only exist because of America's (and increasingly China's) demand for oil. China has nothing to do with oil, and neither do Somalia and Afghanistan. It's just that those areas count for very little of the Pentagon's budget.

 
At 8:00 AM, September 28, 2009, Anonymous Mike said...

So let's say Russia and Iran only exist because of our demand for oil. Clearly Russia and the Middle East never bothered anybody before our demand for oil rose. But if they were to disappear, don't you think some other threat would come along? And even if this weren't the case, my original point remains - that our GDP would be much greater if we did not provide military protection for most of the earth. You can argue that the only reason we provide this protection is oil (and forget history pre-1990), but the fact still remains.

 
At 1:06 PM, September 28, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

I'm not forgetting history pre-1990. I'm in fact concentrating on history from 1990 to 2000, when Russia's economy was in shambles. The only reason that country exists today as a major power is oil.

On another note: countries are perfectly capable of not only protecting themselves but also projecting force with European military spending levels. Iran spends 2.5% of its GDP on the military, barely more than Britain and France. Who's protecting Iran?

 
At 4:03 PM, September 28, 2009, Anonymous Mike said...

"I'm not forgetting history pre-1990. I'm in fact concentrating on history from 1990 to 2000, when Russia's economy was in shambles. The only reason that country exists today as a major power is oil."

Wow, you're really missing the point. So Russia was not a threat between 1990 and 2000, and today they are a threat because of oil. I guess that means they'll never again be a threat for any reason besides oil. I guess the fact that they were a threat before 1990 for reasons other than oil doesn't matter either, since clearly the only major threats in the world in 2009 are due to oil.

Who's protecting Iran? I guess whoever Iran has an alliance with. We're protecting the people we have an alliance with. France and Britain have capable militaries but several other countries that we protect do not. I would not want to be Poland (one of those countries that Russia has controlled for centuries, with the exception of 1918-1939) right now without U.S. protection. Nor do I think that the military budgets of those European nations you mentioned cover missile protection from rogue states.

Can you just admit that our GDP would be much greater without our level of military spending? That was my only original point.

 
At 7:37 PM, September 28, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

Can you just admit that our GDP would be much greater without our level of military spending? That was my only original point.

Sure. What I don't admit is that the US has high military spending because it protects other countries, rather than because it has a lot of waste and pork in military spending.

 
At 3:21 PM, September 29, 2009, Anonymous Mike said...

I'll agree that there's probably a lot of waste and pork in our military spending. But the fact that we protect other countries isn't a factor?

 
At 1:43 AM, September 30, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

Not really - most US military spending doesn't go to protecting other countries, but to developing global force projection, and chasing dreams like missile defense. Germany probably spends as big of a portion of its military spending on protecting other countries as the US (it keeps sending Israel freebies out of guilt), and does it with just 2% of its GDP. On the other side, Iran similarly protects its allies in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon.

 
At 8:14 AM, September 30, 2009, Anonymous Mike said...

I see. So those bases we have in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Bulgaria, etc. don't cost us any money?

 
At 4:14 PM, September 30, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

They do. I just don't think they're the majority of US military spending. After all, Britain has major overseas bases too - for example, Diego Garcia, which was important in the war on Iraq.

 

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