Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The market saves the environment

The Economist's cover story this week is outstanding. If the significant energy expended in defense of the environment was channelled in a more rational and market-oriented (i.e. efficient and effective) manner we would all be better off - especially the environment itself.
I have never been able to abide people who wrinkle their nose at cost-benefit analysis: it denotes a refusal to deal with the realities that face us. Resources are finite and decisions must be taken as to what is the best way to employ them. Cost-benefit analysis, as a tool of a (lightly regulated) market mechanism, has been shown time and again to be the ideal way of reaching these decisions. It may be inelegant to assign a value to something priceless, but refusing to do so reduces us to a childish insistence for something that we ourselves are aware cannot be.

America the beautiful

Private donations by Americans for tsunami relief have passed the one billion dollar mark! (via Instapundit). Congratulations, and thanks for being an inspiration to us all.
The current quoted amount is 1,030,714,108.34 dollars. Given that the US population is estimated at 295,971,560 people, this means 3.48 dollars for every woman, man and child in the US. Just for the tsunami! I am very impressed. If any European (or any other) country's contribution was even comparable I would be very surprised.
In your face, Jimmy!

Monday, April 18, 2005

As long as you think you're rich...

Very fascinating take on Nordic (and general) prosperity in Europe from an American in Oslo (via Instapundit). Maybe this book would be salutary.

Too lazy to oppose murder

Once again there has been an "honour" killing (via lgf) in the heart of liberal, Western Europe. I cannot understand why such events don't cause more outrage and protest. Maybe the Queen of Denmark, Margarethe II, has it right: we are too lazy (via Instapundit and Punditguy).

Friday, April 15, 2005

Have you no shame?

The height of chutzpah: after being shamefully implicated in the Oil-for-Food scandal, Kofi Annan is making out as if the US and the UK had been responsible for its mismanagement. He should be aware that
  • the program was run by the UN itself (under the supervision of Annan's trusted colleague Benon Sevan) and not the Security Council
  • and the US and UK had been opposed for years to attempts (supported by Annan) making it even easier to game the system.

At the same time the BBC has the impertinence to give the misleading (and absurd) impression that Bush is somehow implicated in the scandal by gleefully reporting that a Texan oil tycoon, David Chalmers, has been indicted. Did they not think it might be a good idea to mention that Chalmers was a vocal critic of the war in Iraq and did his best to impede it? When are we going to hear praise for Bush for the fact that he did not allow economic concerns to influence his judgement?
By the way the big news here, that the BBC obviously won't mention, is that while the Americans and Britons involved in the Oil-for-Food scandal have been indicted, the French and Italian individuals who were involved, haven't been - and probably never will be.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Have kids and go nuclear!

See this absolutely outstanding article in MIT's Technology Review (via Gay and Right).

Over the next ten years, I predict, the mainstream of the environmental movement will reverse its opinion and activism in four major areas: population growth, urbanization, genetically engineered organisms, and nuclear power.

I like the reasonable tone and the idealistic but practical approach. I hope these reversals take place sooner rather than later. In particular, while population shrinking is not a problem yet on a global basis, I have gotten a taste of where we are heading and I am not looking forward to it: Italy has one of the lowest birth-rates in the world. Apart from a host of purely cultural and social issues this raises it should be noted that the Italians pay a payroll tax rate of 32.7% just for retirement and disability programs!
Another issue I hope will get more attention soon is nuclear energy. I hate how everybody talks about
  • Kyoto (if all Western countries adhered and lived up to their commitments, the effect on global warming would be negligible and the World economy would be in recession)
  • Wind energy (apart from the fact that it is way not commercially viable, am I the only one who has noticed how ugly and noisy those massive fans are?)
  • Other assorted energy sources (all pies in the sky for the moment)

as if they were realistic solutions and spits on nuclear energy. We need to go nuclear as soon as possible: Now!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

He was a great man, but...

No doubt, the late Pope has in many respects been a positive influence in the world. However, when Corriere della Sera (Italy's largest daily) dedicates fully the first 25 pages of the Saturday (April 2nd) edition (before he even passed away!) and the first 15 pages of the Sunday (April 3rd) edition exclusively to fawning and hyperbolic commentary on his life and accomplishments, this Christopher Hitchens article comes as a breath of fresh air.
It is not that I consider myself a critic of the late Pope, although I often disagreed with his positions. I just find it remarkable that (no doubt by popular consent, and possibly only in Italy) absolutely no criticism is anywhere to be heard, when criticism is certainly due. I point out a few of them off the top of my head, only in an attempt to counterbalance the excessive (I think) sugar-coating of the coverage I have seen.
  • I am reluctant to comment on the internal theological questions of a religion that is not my own, but it can hardly be argued that this Pope was even marginally progressive (in his positions; in method he was actually very progressive).
  • Furthermore there is the issue, mentioned by Chritopher Hitchens, of the sexual abuse scandals.
  • In the 80's the Vatican was involved in an obscure banking scandal (the "Calvi case," in which a former Chairman of the Banco Ambrosiano, was apparently murdered). This has yet to be resolved.
  • The Vatican, a sovereign and foreign State, has had an inordinate influence on the internal affairs of Italy, which was governed for over 40 years of the post-War period by literal minded Christian Democrats basically at the Vatican's behest (not that the other two parties, the Communists and Socialists, were any better, mind). For instance, in Italy it was impossible to divorce, even from a civil marriage, until the mid-seventies because of opposition from the Vatican, and even then it was not approved by Parliament, but through a process similar to a California ballot initiative.

After hearing ad nauseam that Bush and the Americans are religious fanatics I can only chuckle when the President of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, says that in difficult times he would rely on the late Pope's advice.
Tomorrow I am going back to Brussels: maybe the discussion there will be less monolithic.