‘Reach for the Stars’ now becomes ‘Retreat to the Past’

Guest post by Viv Forbes

The deaths of Steve Jobs and Neil Armstrong could signal the end of a remarkable era of scientific and engineering achievement that started about 200 years ago when James Watt and Robert Stephenson managed to harness coal-fired steam power to drive engines and locomotives. This was followed by technological innovations like electricity, diesel engines, nuclear power, the Model T, Colombia and the Apple 2.

During that era of innovation, we progressed from horse and buggy to supersonic flight; from semaphore to smart phone; from wood stoves to nuclear power; from the abacus to the PC; from flickering candles to brilliant light at the flick of a switch; and from wind-jammers sailing to the New World to rocket-ships landing on the Moon.

That era brought prosperity, longevity and a richer life to millions of people while creating the surpluses that allowed them to take better care of their environment. It also gave the free world the ability and tools to defend itself from aggressive dictators in two World Wars and the Cold War.

We are now living in the after-glow of that era, relying on past achievements and investments while Green doom-mongers are allowed to scare our children and reject our heritage.

What will today’s “Green Generation” be remembered for?

Already they have re-discovered wind power, wood energy and electric cars that were tried and largely rejected a century ago; they now encourage the production of once-banned ethanol corn whiskey, but waste it on cars; they spurn the energy potential of nuclear, coal, oil and gas; and they would close our airports and lock up our resources whilst developing computerised spy-ware to record, regulate, ration and tax our usage of everything.

And one branch of NASA, the once-great risk-taking body that put Neil Armstrong on the moon, is now supporting an anti-carbon cult that advocates the closure of the whole coal industry from mine to power station.

The legacy of today’s doom-mongers will be measured by the number of dams not built, the number of mines, factories, farms, forests and fishing grounds closed and the number of humans living in poverty.

Like the emperors of the Nero era in ancient Rome, they celebrate their destructive achievements by staging expensive Climate Circuses, while behind closed doors they plot to destroy the last vestiges of the freedom and property rights that allowed past generations to “Reach for the Stars”.

The slogan of the coming era should be “Retreat to the Past”.

So vale Neil Armstrong and Steve Jobs – we are losing far more than most people realise.

Viv Forbes,

Rosewood    Qld   Australia

forbes@carbon-sense.com

I am happy for my email address to be published.

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106 Responses to ‘Reach for the Stars’ now becomes ‘Retreat to the Past’

  1. Jungle says:

    Most true

  2. Steve R says:

    I remember as a young man in the 70’s, when such a deep depressing pessimism of the future seemed to permeate everything. We were bombarded by negativity of all types. Global famine, nuclear war, Arab oil embargo etc etc etc.
    The world will shake off this funk just as it did then, I have confidence.

  3. Doug Huffman says:

    “Green doom-mongers are allowed to scare our children…” This redounded for me as Green Gom jabbar. “I hold at your neck the gom jabbar … the high-handed enemy. It’s a needle with a drop of poison on its tip … It kills only animals.” (Mohiam to Paul, Dune (1965), Frank Herbert)

  4. Power Grah says:

    I remember that funk. Back then, though, there was still plenty of upbeat, happy music that refused to be dragged down in the dumps to wallow in the dregs. Sammy Davis Jr would probably be burned at the stake if he dared to sing People Tree nowadays!

  5. michaeljmcfadden says:

    Well written!

  6. Wiglaf says:

    Of course, the system of government that allowed NASA to survive is the same system that feeds the green doom-mongers’ agenda. It’s the same system that Frank Herbert demonstrates as the not so ideal system; where government keeps us safe from ourselves by taking away our freedom and coercing from us a large portion of our labor. Power corrupts.

  7. wiglafthegreat says:

    It was theft from citizens to send someone to the moon back then. Today, they steal money from citizens to build windmills and solar panels. It’s all the same system. Pride comes before destruction. Can we truly approve of a system that used the coercive power of the state to support trips to the moon and then say it’s wrong for them to use funds to build windmills? Just because landing on the moon sounds like a cool, manly, adventurous thing to do, doesn’t make it right to take people’s money under threat of force in order to support the effort. It’s the myth of science as a public good; the tyranny of good intentions. It’s theft.

  8. jeremyp99 says:

    @Steve R says: August 27, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    As a fellow young man of the 70s, I have to add to your list that we were all going to freeze to death. Sigh.

  9. j ferguson says:

    What utter nonsense. We live in an astonishing epoch. I am collaborating on a project with people in Australia, New Zealand, Germany and France, not to mention several in the US. It is public domain code development. The final product may be useful but will not be earth shattering.

    I don’t doubt that similar groups are evolving things which will revolutionize the next 20 or 30 years as much as the innovations to which you refer.

    Nothing like this was possible much before 1980, given that our’s is a pick-up gang of people who happened to be interested in the same thing.

    You would have to be totally out of touch to surmise that the quality and extent of communication today will not enable astonishing and rapid development in many areas.

  10. Jim Clarke says:

    I just read this essay to my 17 year old son, then set him the task of restoring humanity to a noble race of achievers and reversing the thinking that humans are a virus that needs control or eradication.

    He said he would do it.

  11. BarryW says:

    Yes, but NASA’s new mission is Muslim outreach isn’t it? You can see how well that’s been going. /sarc

    And just think of what this generation has accomplished in the technical realm: Facebook, Twitter, et al.

  12. Big D in TX says:

    Wiglaf says:
    August 27, 2012 at 1:06 pm
    wiglafthegreat says:
    August 27, 2012 at 1:15 pm
    *******************************************

    Let me see if I understand you correctly. You prefer to ignore the government, not pay taxes, stay humble, abstain from technological improvements and scientific understanding?

    It’s always nice to hear a word from Amish country. I won’t tell Jebediah about your internet blog post if you won’t *wink* :)

  13. PaulH says:

    I agree with “Steve R” above. The nattering nabobs of negativity are with us always. Fortunately they are frequently wrong, and proving them wrong provides added bonus to the forward-thinking innovators. :-)

  14. Ray says:

    Steve Jobs… yeah it is business model such as Apple that is killing innovation… from someone that did not even anything but did very well innovating on other people’s ideas… and now they sue anyone that will innovate based on the same inventions on which the i-products were based on.

    It is not with people like him that we can dream of a better future.

    Neil Armstrong made us dream… Apple is give us nightmares.

  15. Jim Clarke says:

    Wiglafthegreat, I agree with you. It was theft. The government really has no right to force people to give up their money to send men to the moon. But of all the things the government steals our money for, the space program was perhaps the best.

    First of all, not a dime was spent in space. It was all spent here on Earth, promoting innovation, expertise, exploration, discovery, knowledge and accomplishment. Now consider all the other things government takes our money for: war, nanny-state programs and fear-mongering. Most of our tax dollars are now spent on fostering individual dependency, and as a consequence…despair. Our government is using our tax dollars to cultivate the seeds of its own destruction and Atlas is about to shrug.

    If we must pay taxes, isn’t it better that our government does something truly marvelous with those dollars?

  16. polistra says:

    I’d say the death of Neil goes with the death of Big Science. And it’s a well-deserved death.

    Big Science turned away from useful and understandable goals (which were mainly military), and now works on utterly pointless Quantum crap and utterly murderous Gaian lunacy. The sooner it dies, the better.

    Little Science is coming back, especially in biology and software; and the good new stuff is coming from Little Science.

    The death of Steve China-Jobs doesn’t really mark anything, because his Big Corporate spirit is still growing, still ripping up America and sending our jobs and treasure to China.

  17. Jim Clarke says:

    J. Fergeson…Yes, we are in a marvelous age of communication, and that is the one thing that can reverse the cycle of collapse of Western Civilization (besides my 17 year old son).

    All attempts to tax and regulate such communication must be fought tooth-and-nail to avoid the collapse. It is in this freedom of speech that our salvation rests.

    I love that you are a part of such innovative collaboration, but how willing are you to defend your freedom to participate.

  18. Ann In L.A. says:

    I would add medical advances and antibiotics to the list of past glories, and to the list of diminishing advancement. A paltry few medicines are being approved each year now, and many of those are for cosmetic use, not illness.

  19. Myron Mesecke says:

    Power Grah says:
    August 27, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    I remember that funk. Back then, though, there was still plenty of upbeat, happy music that refused to be dragged down in the dumps to wallow in the dregs. Sammy Davis Jr would probably be burned at the stake if he dared to sing People Tree nowadays!

    Probably so since he would have to come back to life to sing it. (sarc)

  20. A Lovell says:

    Steve R says:
    August 27, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    I’m with you Steve!

    I had two small daughters in the early 70s and was young and inexperienced enough to be somewhat terrified on their behalf. Fast forward to today, and nothing (that I can think of) that I was afraid of then has happened. Thanks Paul Ehrlich et al for those fearful years (not), but also thanks for the fact that I don’t believe a word you or any of your ilk say now, and haven’t for the last 25 years. Human ingenuity is still our greatest asset.

    (I still have two daughters, plus a son, but bigger now!)

  21. Mike M says:

    No one knows how to use their own brain anymore because we now let machines do all the “hard” work; it’s no different than our muscles atrophying from lack of exercise. Is it any wonder that students are poor at math and science when we put a computer on every classroom desk to make them totally dependent on the machines for every calculation?

    Take away all the computers and calculators from classrooms, (excepting computers for learning programming languages and a few in the library for research). Force children to use their own brains to do math and science again – just like those people who invented them used to do back in the 50’s & 60’s.

    If we do not do this there will ultimately be very few people who can understand and do the calculations these machines can do and there will be even fewer capable of understanding how they work let alone capable of designing better ones.

  22. derryman says:

    In an unforeseen way the Apollo programme sowed the seeds of destruction for the age of progress which had started with the industrial revolution. The view of earth as a small blue marble in the vastness of space was a powerful inspiration to the upcomming enviromenal movement and its “fragile earth” meme. In particular the Apollo 8 photgraphs provided the graphic backdrop for many of the apocalyptic visions of the seventies. The irony was of course that if the environmental movement was as strong in the sixties as it is now the Apollo programme would literally have never got off the ground. Can you imagine trying to build the Kennedy Space Centre today?

  23. j ferguson says:

    Jim Clarke, “defend my freedom to participate?” are you kidding?

    My take is that many of the people who are depressed about the present have absolutely no idea what is going on. They are the same type of people who thought the end was on the horizon in Macaulay’s time.

    To be blunt, my appraisal of the folks who think our peak of accomplishment is behind us are people who contribute next to nothing themselves to what is happening now, and likely little to what happened in the past. They think because they aren’t doing innovative things, no-one else is. Again, total nonsense.

    More, the number of people who have time to do things which don’t directly put bread on their tables is increasing exponentially worldwide. It may be that future innovations will come from people one or two generations from subsistence survivals.

    Doers are NEVER pessimists. BTW, why do you think this freedom of communication needs to be defended? I don’t see how it can be prevented except maybe sporadically and briefly.

    I’ve never had so much fun in my life. 50 years ago I used to have a terrible time finding anyone who knew anything about the things I was working on – even in Chicago. I knew they were probably out there, but they could be very hard to find.

    So i say nuts to the pessimists ignorant, unimaginative drones that they are.

  24. Robin says:

    Inventions require Axemaker Minds and the official global education push is to try to prevent those from arising.

    We are in for a bumpy ride as long as the UN and many of the governments around the world are determined to integrate the social sciences and the natural sciences into a single unified science.

    That’s called a state against its people and it has a tragic history.

  25. Berényi Péter says:

    The lust for safety is the most destructive power in life. It deprives us from freedom first, then knowledge, finally the volatile dream of safety itself is gone.

  26. cgh says:

    Polistra: “I’d say the death of Neil goes with the death of Big Science. And it’s a well-deserved death.”

    Utter drivel. The cutting edge of science for the last 100 years has always been Big Science. Without it we would still be living in a pre-Steam age technology. And if you think that biology is Little Science, you have another think coming. You seem unaware of the scale of cancer research and the Human Genome Project, just to name two. And I assume from this that you therefore believe that nuclear power, the Hubble Telescope, AC electricity, modern antibiotics and vaccines, telecommunications, plastics and polymers, and the agricultural Green Revolution are all irredeemably evil.

    If you wish to crawl back into a cave and scratch fleas in dirty rawhide, you are welcome to, but don’t expect any of the rest of us to join you.

  27. Gunga Din says:

    Wiglaf says:
    August 27, 2012 at 1:06 pm
    Of course, the system of government that allowed NASA to survive is the same system that feeds the green doom-mongers’ agenda. It’s the same system that Frank Herbert demonstrates as the not so ideal system; where government keeps us safe from ourselves by taking away our freedom and coercing from us a large portion of our labor. Power corrupts.
    =================================================================
    The best of man-made systems are only as good as the men who are in it.
    Remember that this November.
    (More for US readers but holds true for the rest in wahtever month you vote.)

  28. Peter Miller says:

    If we believe in and support the venture capital culture, with its all its many faults, then we shall be all right.

    On the other hand, if we place our faith in the ‘science’ of government bureaucrats, then we deserve everything we get.

    How can we possibly debate the cost of constructing a modern nuclear plant, with safeguards making a Three Mile Island and recent Japanese disaster impossible. with the alternative of constructing gazillions of unreliable, ugly windmills at ten times the price to produce half the amount of energy and that’s only when the wind blows at the correct speed?

    A solution to this problem? All those alarmists who believe in CAGW should buy all their electricity at ‘renewable’, unsubsidised rates. That should thin their numbers out a bit.

  29. davidq says:

    So, far a few interesting points, however disjointed. Big science might have a bit of a hard time with more encores, as some of the low hanging fruit are gone.
    How about nano-technology, robotics, bioscience. Those are some massive fields of innovation yet untapped. I tell my kids that the next hundred years will see greater innovations than the past hundred. The last hundred was amazing, however some of the earlier technologies did cause some major headaches in the form of pollution or over use. Much is well understood today and, with or without alarmists screams, we are solving them.
    One more example, the massive effort to understand the human immune system. I give it many more years, but already there has been some experiments here is one that is just out of blue:

    http://news.discovery.com/human/hiv-used-to-fight-cancer-110914.html

    That is simply amazing. Much more to come!

  30. Big D in TX says:

    Jim Clarke says:
    August 27, 2012 at 1:57 pm
    Wiglafthegreat, I agree with you. It was theft. The government really has no right to force people to give up their money to send men to the moon. But of all the things the government steals our money for, the space program was perhaps the best. [...]
    If we must pay taxes, isn’t it better that our government does something truly marvelous with those dollars?
    *******************************************************

    Are you serious? What country do you live in? It can’t be the USA.

    First of all, try to wrap your head around this fact: we acquiesce to pay taxes. We voluntarily contribute to the system that in turn provides for common good. The attitude you espouse is that of a teenager who gets their very first pay check and, having cleverly calculated their hourly wage times their worked hours, is shocked when the amount they get to cash out is lower than expected, because of this awful thing called “taxes” (and social security, medicare, maybe more).
    Don’t want to pay taxes? Fine, don’t. You can go live in the woods, or join a commune, or whatever is hip these days. But don’t drive on paved roads. And if your house burns down or you get robbed or are critically injured – don’t call 911. And unless you live in a completely deregulated and privatized area, don’t use utilities. Pump your own water, make your own electricity, verify for yourself that everything you want to eat is actually safe for consumption, the list goes on…

    Secondly, the government has every right to enforce the law. In fact, that’s the only right it really has. In the movie The Fly, Jeff Goldblum’s character quips that “Computers are stupid. They only know what you tell them.” In a system like ours, the government only has the rights that we the people grant it through law (as opposed to our God and/or nature given, unalienable, human rights). I can’t think of a single thing that our government truly FORCES people to do (even conscription must be congress-approved).
    Don’t like what the government is doing? Fine, let’s change it. But instead of having a bloody insurrection, we prefer to peacefully vote out the people we don’t like every few years. Even the most powerful position in our government (most powerful seat in the whole world, I think most people will agree) is kicked out after only 2 (two!) terms.

    So how about we take a step back now and have some respect for a magnificent system that WORKS and is PROVEN. I don’t know what’s worse: the I-hate-government-they-ruin-my-life-and-make-me-do-things-I-don’t-want-to-just-like-mom-and-dad crowd, or the suckle-up-on-the-welfare-teat-enjoy-all-the-benefits-of-the-system-without-contributing people.

    /high horse
    Too many kids on the internet these days (which may I remind you, began as a TAX-FUNDED, GOVERNMENT RUN project for our military).

  31. Mike Strong says:

    As the father of a son…who I constantly attempted to convince him on understanding how his car engine worked… how to change his own car oil…how to let him pause from playing video games…and tell him how robotics works, how there are twenty-layer circuit boards in cell phones and how they fix NAND flash memory erosion and details about the mp3 players he takes for granted… I have often felt sad to be one of the few engineers in the world, now retiring, with knowledge very few of us now hold dear.

    There will be billions of people not understanding why they have the Internet and what it took to go to the moon and how to truly conquer physics in many ways. Many of us are gone or retiring.

    But they are out there (new brainiacs). There are minds that understand. For our older generation, it is just that some of us are tired, and grew up in a cold war of surival which required us to invent in such a hard race. But THAT does not infer that brilliant inventors are gone. “They just bin a bit lazy of late”, per my Texas cousin.

    It is time to hand over the keys to some dreaming young minds that are just now figuring it out. Late comers for sure, but they are out there.

    I am an older dad, but my son, at the age of 24, is now waking up after he saw “MoonShot” and “October Sky”. It is kinda like climate change : it goes in cycles.

    Don’t give up Anthony. ET is out there. Cycles are cycles. You know that better than anyone.

  32. manicbeancounter says:

    Whilst agreeing that the Green Agenda is putting technological advance in reverse in energy production, I would disagree that it puts it in reverse in all areas. It certainly will not in the miniaturization of computing and technology that Steve Jobs lead the world.
    However, economic growth is closely linked to replacing human with inanimate energy. The early stages of economic growth are closely related to the increase in energy per capita. Case study any developing nation from Britain to China to see the relationship. The emphasis on more expensive (and less versatile) forms of energy production will slow growth in developed countries, but could stifle development in the poorest nations. We will still get (most) of the technological advances, but the benefits will fail to trickle down to the poorest.

  33. daveburton says:

    Viv, I recommend that you NOT put your email address out there in plain-text. That facilitates harvesting of your address by spammers’ ‘bots. Instead, use some form of obfuscation: a word description (e.g., “Forbes (like the magazine) at carbon-sense.com”), or a picture, like I use for mine:
    http://www.burtonsys.com/email/

  34. wesgeorge1 says:

    Oh, come now, Viv. ;-)

    It’s true that our current rash of eco-luddites is nasty, but it’s not much more than an outbreak of hives on the ass-end of big progress which continues lumber forward unimpeded.

    Today the march of technological evolution is continuing grow rapidly and spread to all corners of our planet. The scientific advances of the past 40-years — leading to massive productivity increases and the creation of a vast global middle class out of 100’s of millions of people who a generation ago were living in the dirt with no electricity, running water, no vaccines or access to information — would have gobsmacked the prophets of 1971, who almost to a man thought that we were near the end “of a remarkable era of scientific and engineering achievement.”

    Wrong.

    Nothing was further from the truth then or now. Scientific and technological evolution has hugely accelerated since the moon landings and will continue to accelerate into a future that we are ill prepared to imagine.

    The story of accelerating scientific, technology and cultural evolution has been going on since before the caves paintings of Lascaux. Early human cultural evolution is measured in millennia. After about 4,000 bp it is measured in centuries…then after James’ Watt (circa 1780) the scale shrinks to single generations. And after 1890 we have to talk about decades.

    There is no evidence that the rate of technological evolution is slowing, only that our capacity to absorb and utilise novel innovations at even higher rates of change might at some point become saturated. Perhaps the popularity of climate millenarianism is in some respect a symptom of technological novelty saturation. This would explain why climate derangement syndrome only infects urbane rich Western centres, while the developing world has a natural immunity to CDS.

    In the end, modern eco-luddites can no more stop the advance of our technological civilisation than the hippies derailed it in 1968. The future is a big place and there is still plenty of time to build those dams and colonise the solar system. If Nasa doesn’t want to lead the way any longer. No worries, some one else will.

  35. davidgmills says:

    I had that feeling too until I heard about thorium as an alternate fuel for nuclear power. We developed thorium nuclear power in the sixties and it was ultimately rejected because it did not make a good source for atomic weapons. But liquid fluoride thorium reactors,developed at Oak Ridge by the same inventor of the dominant nuclear technology used today (Alvin Weinberg) could have been what nuclear power was dreamt to be: safe, cheap, and non-polluting. Had we developed thorium power, there would have been no Three Mile Island, no Chernoble and no Fukisima. But the thorium age may be just around the corner.

    Watch the video on a power source that is just too good to be true and may in fact be the only feasible way of getting rid of all the nuclear waste.

  36. davidgmills says:

    Kudos Big D in Tx.

    The people who believe in “small” government for the most part advocate anarchy, a la Somalia.

    If people don’t like paying taxes, they should examine why we have to pay them in the first place.

    The first big lie about the federal government is that it must run its fiscal operation like a household or a business. Total nonsense. Why? Because households and businesses can not print money. Neither can state or local governments. I have never heard of a Texas dollar (not since it joined the union anyway) or a NY dollar.

    The second big lie about the federal government is that it prints too much money. Actually, I wish it just printed money and spent it into circulation. If it did, it wouldn’t need to tax. Instead it borrows the money into existence and taxes are then necessary to pay back the borrowed money (to the banks who we borrow it from). As Henry Ford said, “If Americans ever figure out their money system, they will be rioting in the streets the next day.”

  37. j ferguson says:

    Big D and davidgmills, It’s encouraging to read your comments. I had thought I might be the only one who thought along those lines here.

    On Thorium, there’s another important Alvin, Radkowskiy. He worked for Rickover and designed the power plants for the early Nukes, but also designed Shippingport which went on line in Dec 1957 and ran until 1982 – on Thorium. supplying kw to the good folks of Pennsylvania.

  38. michael hart says:

    Doug Huffman,
    Your quote from Dune is a good one, but I think there is a better one, also from Helen Mohiam:
    “Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.”…

    …and that’s how modelling in climate-science achieved it’s current status…

  39. gallopingcamel says:

    davidgmills says: August 27, 2012 at 5:57 pm
    “The people who believe in “small” government for the most part advocate anarchy, a la Somalia.”

    There you go again! Those of us who revere the US constituion with its concept of limited federal power are not anarchists. We believe that certain powers should be the province of the federal government (the powers designated by the Constitution of the United States) while all other powers should be exercised at the lowest possible level. See the 10th amendment:
    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

    To take just one example, education is not one of the designated powers and yet Washington seeks to control it. Like so many other things education is better run “bottom up” rather from the “top down”.

    “Where the control of education is taken out of the hands of the family and the community, and schooling gets further and further away from the people who have a direct stake in it, the quality suffers. It is that which accounts in the largest part, for the deplorable state of American education today. Yes, the government now controls education…but is it worth controlling?”
    …………………………………………………..Human Scale, page 127, by Kilpatrick Sale,

  40. gallopingcamel says:

    davidgmills’
    While I am offended with your attempt to brand us small government people as anarchists I applaud your comments on Thorium power. It looks like a good bet to me. Even if a Thorium reactor project fails it will improve our understanding of practical power sources as opposed to impractical ones like wind or solar:
    http://energyfromthorium.com/2011/05/03/nuclear-power-innovation/comment-page-1/#comment-1555
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/05/15/solar-power-in-florida/

  41. Eric Dailey says:

    The real lesson of this post will be lost on 85% of the commenters and 50% of the readers and 100% of the moderators of this blog. It is not a failure of leadership. It’s a success of leadership in the wrong direction. It is failure “by design”. Most folks are only followers, they will never get it. Too bad.

  42. Gunga Din says:

    “You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
    You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
    You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
    You cannot lift the wage earner up
    by pulling the wage payer down.
    You cannot further the brotherhood of man
    by inciting class hatred.
    You cannot build character and courage
    by taking away people’s initiative and independence.
    You cannot help people permanently by doing for them,
    what they could and should do for themselves.”

    Abraham Lincoln

  43. Robert in Calgary says:

    Davidgmills writes….

    “The people who believe in “small” government for the most part advocate anarchy, a la Somalia.”

    One rather ignorant comment followed by…

    “The second big lie about the federal government is that it prints too much money. Actually, I wish it just printed money and spent it into circulation.”

    One rather silly comment. Add this to your reading list.

  44. Jonathan Smith says:

    Jim Clarke says:
    August 27, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    An inspired approach Mr Clarke. It is very easy to get depressed thinking we live in a decaying age when the opposite is true. By any measure, humankind’s lot is better now than it ever has been. The only thing that has changed is that there is now a vociferous minority (and it is a minority) that tries to shout down human achievement and believes that we don’t deserve to be on this planet. Meanwhile, quietly in the background, scientists and engineers go about their research coming up with ever better ideas and inventions. Those same people that want to send us back to the stone-age don’t see themselves as the problem , it is the rest of us. Also, they fail utterly to see the hypocrisy of enjoying the benefits of the modern cheap-energy age whilst demanding we give it all up.
    I teach my children to question everything when being preached to (which can backfire in a way every parent will understand but its a price worth paying) and ask the simple question,”How do you know?”. Coming from a 5 year old it is very effective.
    The future is bright, we just have to shout down the doom-sayers.

  45. Larry Ledwick (hotrod) says:

    davidgmills says: August 27, 2012 at 5:57 pm
    “The people who believe in “small” government for the most part advocate anarchy, a la Somalia.”

    Sometimes when I see statements like this, I am truly astonished where or how someone could come to a conclusion that is so far out of whack with reality.

    Your comment conflates, avowed anarchists on the extreme left with the small government conservative who believes in the strict interpretation of the constitution. Those two philosophies are about as far apart as it is humanly possible to achieve.

    Small government advocates DO NOT want anything even remotely close to what you believe. We want a government that only performs the tasks and responsibilities it has statutory authority “from the people” to perform.

    That means it does not legislate through the back door with unelected bureaucrats and rule making authority with the force of law. It does not interpret the commerce clause so broadly that it can intervene in any activity a person engages in, including the decision not to buy a product that is not suitable to their needs. It does not arbitrarily decide not to enforce laws to serve some political agenda in one location, and then vigorously enforce the same law elsewhere to punish someone (or group) that has a different political philosophy. It actually protects our border and attempts to prevent (in an effective manner) illegal immigration. It provides for the national defense. It does not arbitrarily surrender its sovereign powers to outside organizations who have no legal standing to govern the citizens of the U.S. Its first duty is to protect the life liberty and pursuit of happiness of the citizens of the U.S. all other considerations are subordinate to that objective.

    In short we want a tight, efficient limited government which provides a safe place to live and equal opportunity to succeed, not a guarantee of success, for all who are willing to pursue it.

    A Federal Government that understands it is by its very definition a “limited Federal government” and that many activities of government are not the business of the federal government but the local government. That the States and the people grant them certain limited powers to the Federal government and not the other way around. The Federal government serves at the pleasure of both the People and the States, and has no power that is not specifically granted it by those two entities.

    We do not want riots in the streets or yahoos wearing masks throwing chairs through windows like the anarchists in Seattle, we want the Federal government to most importantly Get out of the way of the peoples efforts to build a better world.

    Larry

  46. DaveA says:

    You gotta break eggs to make an omelette. Now that our safety obsessed guardians have outlawed egg breaking expect fewer omelettes.

  47. Gunga Din says:

    Gunga Din says:
    August 27, 2012 at 8:05 pm
    “You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
    You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
    You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
    You cannot lift the wage earner up
    by pulling the wage payer down.
    You cannot further the brotherhood of man
    by inciting class hatred.
    You cannot build character and courage
    by taking away people’s initiative and independence.
    You cannot help people permanently by doing for them,
    what they could and should do for themselves.”

    Abraham Lincoln
    ======================================================
    Sorry everyone. After I put that up I did a search and found out that Lincoln didn’t actually say that.
    I stand by the words and sentiment but I can’t say they are something Lincoln said.

  48. Power Grab says:

    @ Myron Mesecke

    Yes, I know Sammy Davis Jr is no longer with us. Geez. Just imagine…or look it up on Youtube…or order a CD.

    My kid (16yo) and friends of my kid enjoy “Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr. I ordered a CD sometime in the last year and found “People Tree” on the same disk, obviously made by the same crew. I vaguely recall hearing it on the radio back then, but it received nowhere near the airplay as “Candy Man”.

    When I think about how far entertainment technology has come in the last 40 years, but how far the standards of entertainment have fallen – it’s just mind boggling.

    I read on a blog once the theory that today’s nihilism is motivated by the desire of the most powerful among us to stop having things change. They are afraid they will lose all the wealth and power they have acquired if the developing countries and poor among us continue to improve their lot, I guess. That’s just plain pitiful, IMHO. Who do they think made them rich?

  49. Smokey says:

    Gunga Din,

    That’s OK. It is the message that is important. Thanks for posting it.

  50. Daniel M says:

    wiglafthegreat says:
    August 27, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    It was theft from citizens to send someone to the moon back then. Today, they steal money from citizens to build windmills and solar panels. It’s all the same system…Just because landing on the moon sounds like a cool, manly, adventurous thing to do, doesn’t make it right to take people’s money under threat of force in order to support the effort.

    Spoken with such an AMAZING grasp of the big picture! You think that all NASA was trying to accomplish was something “cool” and “manly”? As investments go, NASA was, and in many ways, still is one of the biggest bang for buck programs. Who do you think helped lay the groundwork for the solar panel and wind turbine industries in this country. You got it – those thieves from NASA.

    The only thing that separates us from cattle, where each generation lives a more or less identical and meaningless existence is our ability to dream, to be inspired to accomplish something unique and significant. If the government wants to use that money to fuel dreams, then I find that a better deal then doling out foodstamps for folks to buy over-processed foods that take them one more step toward morbid obesity or diabetic coma.

  51. Jeff L says:

    I am far more optimistic than the author. Yes, we have lost two great men , two legends of our time, but I do not see that anti-science forces have captured the day. Yes, we are probably in a low as it comes to AGW, environmentalism & it’s interaction with society, but I am confident that talented & gifted people will continue to emerge as we go ahead & prevent us plunging back into the dark ages. There will be new heros that give us hope. At the end of the day, I believe that’s what the majority of humanity wants. The pessimists & those who would push humanity backwards will not prevail as the majority of people will not embrace that philosophy when given an optimistic, forward looking, choice.

  52. Steve R says:

    Big D in Tx says:
    “Don’t want to pay taxes? Fine, don’t. You can go live in the woods, or join a commune, or whatever is hip these days. But don’t drive on paved roads. And if your house burns down or you get robbed or are critically injured – don’t call 911. And unless you live in a completely deregulated and privatized area, don’t use utilities. Pump your own water, make your own electricity, verify for yourself that everything you want to eat is actually safe for consumption, the list goes on…”

    Interesting that most of the services in your list are supported by state and local Taxes. Why is it then that my federal taxes are several times greater than my state and local taxes. My only apparent contact with the federal Govt is the IRS and an the occasional contact with the post office employee. Just sayin…

  53. Gail Combs says:

    Ann In L.A. says:
    August 27, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    I would add medical advances and antibiotics to the list of past glories, and to the list of diminishing advancement. A paltry few medicines are being approved each year now, and many of those are for cosmetic use, not illness.
    _______________________________
    I was told by a vet working in industry a decade ago, that there would be no new research into animal wormers. Quest (moxidextin) was the last and we must take care to prevent the development of resistant parasite populations This may seem unimportant until you have had several animals die from worm burden or have shoved ever increasing amounts of grain down their throats with no weight gain. Many years ago before the good wormers were available I was feeding 25# of grain a day to a 1000# horse who stayed skinny. Today I have a 1200# mare who is on grass only no grain except for 2# in winter.

    These wormers are also used on people as required ivermectin for example is used on “River Blindness” or Raccoon Roundworm infection in humans.

  54. M. Nichopolis says:

    j ferguson says: What utter nonsense. [quality and availability of communications technology will accelerate everything, more innovation is to come!]
    ———-
    Unfortunately, j ferguson, increasing communication technologies in itself is not necessarily a good thing, nor guarantees future progress. Any technology can be used for “evil” as well, and increased communication technologies, when used for propaganda (for instance in the 1930’s), could be used for negative or non-productive purposes as well.

    In the present day, increased communication technologies could be used by people like Goebbles (or Mann) to propagate misleading, manipulative beliefs in order to exert control over a compliant populace.

    Unfortunately, j ferguson, increasing communication technologies in itself is not necessarily a good thing, nor guarantees future progress.

  55. Jim Clarke says:

    Many of you who have chastised me and Viv Forbes do so by pointing out the continued march of technological improvement. That really misses the point. I am quite sure that technology was improving in all civilizations and nations that have collapsed in the past. The U.S.S.R was at its technological peak, and still advancing, when it disintegrated.

    And…we are not warning about a wacky end-of-the-world, tipping-point-of-no-return scenario that has never occurred in billions of years. We are talking about a cycle of human civilization that has been repeated countless times. Sure, the circumstances are a little different each time…but the pattern is pretty much the same.

    Big D…I know that government is necessary and I am so grateful that I have lived my life in the United States. I believe the Constitution is perhaps the greatest document ever written for defining a workable government. I also very much appreciate roads, fire departments, public schools and so on; all of which should be controlled and paid for at the local level. Most of what the Federal Government now does, however, is unconstitutional, and ultimately detrimental to this great nation. ‘Promote the general welfare’ has been bastardized into ‘provide the individual welfare’.

    Yes,,, even the space program, which I love, is very likely unconstitutional and beyond what should be the scope of the Federal Government. Yet, it was born of optimism, adventure and a can-do attitude. It promoted the best in people, and that paid big dividends that we are all enjoying. Most other major Federal Programs, like welfare, social security, medicaid, medicare and Obamacare were born of fear, have ever expanding price tags and will eventually bring this country down. They do not promote greatness in individuals, but subsistence, entitlement and dependency.

    The United States is a great nation. It will take a while. But the citizens of this nation have realized that they can vote themselves the treasury and are doing so. Not only are we voting ourselves the current treasury, but the treasury of our children and grandchildren as well. That is not ‘sustainable’!

    Europe is even worse.

    It is simple math. I am not a pessimist. I am a realist. The social attitudes of Western Civilization are those of a civilization in its waning years. Can the trend be reversed? Perhaps, but not by those who refuse to see it as it really is.

    I don’t believe that technology can stop it, but perhaps it can help raise a new Phoenix from the ashes faster than ever before.

    I hope I am wrong about all of this, but the evidence is what it is.

  56. gallopingcamel says:

    Gunga Din,
    Thanks for that.

    What you attributed to Lincoln seemed like a thoughtful response to the “Communist Manifesto” published in 1848. In the 1860s Lincoln could have commented on the works of dreamers like Marx & Engels but I supect Lincoln had more important matters on his mind.

    Your quote dates from 1916 only a year before the “October Revolution” that was followed by an attempt to govern according to the Communist Manifesto (Russia, 1917-1991).

    Before dismissing the “Manifesto” as a total failure, rate this country in terms of the extent that the ten goals have been achieved here. Allocating 10 points to each goal my assessment of the USA is 62% Communist. To my intense embarrassment, my homeland rates higher still:
    http://morcombe.net/KarlMarx.htm

    In an earlier comment I referred to education in the USA that is now approaching what Marx & Engels recommended:
    10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.

    No mention of giving parents any say in the education of their children!

    Only the USA has tried to apply the quaint idea that the government serves the people. Elsewhere and elsewhen, the people serve the government. IMHO the USA can improve the odds that “the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands” rather than backwards into a gloomy socialist Utopia:
    http://jpetrie.myweb.uga.edu/bulldog.html

  57. Aussie Luke Warm says:

    Mogadishu here we come.

  58. Gary Hladik says:

    Big D in TX says (August 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm): “Are you serious? What country do you live in? It can’t be the USA…So how about we take a step back now and have some respect for a magnificent system that WORKS and is PROVEN.”

    Eh? What country do YOU live in, Big D? The one I live in (USA) is rapidly going broke. It only “works” for the politicians and their cronies.

  59. Steve C says:

    Eric Dailey – 100% right.

  60. LC Kirk, Perth says:

    That is a terribly pessimistic point of view in the lead article!

    I would say we are actually on the cusp of a golden age of science, which will put everything that has gone before it, amazing as that has been, into the shade. We are in the process of establishing a new level of scientific expectation, confidence and achievement, and what I think is driving this is the global expansion of secondary and tertiary education, in all societies, at all levels and in all endeavours, and in particular in science, that has occurred since the 1970s.

    Back in the ‘glory days’ of the Victorian era, university education was actually restricted to a privileged few from the wealthier classes of dominantly western societies, who were selected, not usually on merit, but for the wealth, social position and influence of their parents. Scientific advancement was the province of a few scientific universities and institutions, a few wealthy persons of leisure, generally supported by private inheritance, and in the more practical engineering fields of a growing class of industrialists, who funded research and development for profit, and also established charitable institutes for training and further research. Those times may seem like a scientific golden age to us, because all the low hanging fruit were still waiting to be picked by anybody who had the time, resources, brains and education to bother, but numerically they were actually just a very small beginning.

    The real tsunami of scientific advancement, which most of us take very casually for granted, has happened since the global educational revolutions of the 1960s and 70s. We have spent the past 40 or 50 years building a world in which tens of millions of people a year, of all nations and races, from all over the globe, get a university education. A large number of these actually enter university on examined intellectual and academic merit, and a not insignificant proportion are then educated to a very high level and continue on to conduct innovative research in scientific subjects.

    The upshot of this has been that the few basic scientific disciplines of 50-200 years ago have since spawned an enormous range of highly specialised sub-disciplines and new fields in which advances are now building, one upon the other at an almost unbelievable pace. You only have to look at research fields as diverse as psychiatry, medical imaging, cybernetics, cosmology, geophysics, biochemistry, genetics, microelectronics, materials science, ..the list is endless, and the practical advances in telecommunications, oil exploration, agriculture, food technology, aviation, weapons technology, environmental science, ..the list is also endless, to see how science has blossomed and what a bounty we are reaping from it. So I don’t think the golden age of science is over. Far from it. It is only just getting into gear.

    And I don’t particularly worry whether it is the USA, India, China, Europe, Russia, Japan, the Middle East, or some as-yet unforseen commercial entity that takes us to the next stage in space exploration. Even if it isn’t the still exceptionally-capable and impressive NASA that does it, it won’t really matter. Whoever does it, it will certainly happen, and it will still be another great step for us lot: the human race, as Neil Armstrong succinctly pointed out.

  61. PaddikJ says:

    Well done, Viv! Thorough yet concise, plus I am greatly enjoying the lively discussion – the surest sign of a good op-ed piece.

    I have just one serious disagreement, plus a few comments:

    While I believe you are right-on about the neoluddites, I think the overall tone was overly pessimistic. There was environmental doom & gloom all through the ‘70s, but we got over it (and there were actually a few good reasons for it then – rivers spontaneously combusting, for one). What we didn’t notice was that the green cult didn’t actually go away; like a pine-beetle infestation, it spent the next 30-odd years methodically boring its way into the soma polis. But they made an over-reaching tactical error with the great global warming scam, and just may have discredited themselves for a generation. And, there is the added benefit that the myth of scientific infallibility, begun in WWII, has been exploded and replaced by a healthy skepticism on the part of the public. Academic and government scientists won’t like it, but they’ll have to get used to it.

    OTOH, the curve of real scientific & technological achievement bends ever upward, and neither the greenie-weenies nor the climate pseudo-scientists can stop it. My biggest worry for my young adult kids is the promise and peril of Biotech. My second biggest worry is that the industrialised West is a decadent culture with an entitlement mentality, but I am guardedly optimistic because there are up-and-comers. I used to worry about ever larger and more powerful corporations, and the unchecked growth and influence of unaccountable NGOs, until it occurred to me that the two will probably balance each other pretty nicely. Inefficient, but that’s democracy.

    The slogan of the coming era should be “Retreat to the Past”.

    How about instead a hat-tip to an old Firesign Theater skit: Forward, into the Past! (Nick Danger in “Cut ‘em Off at the Past!”). Now that I think of it, I think I’ll make that my standard response every time some “progressive” mentions the new Obamanoid campaign slogan (Forward).

    And to you commenters that deride the Apollo Moon Program as a kleptocratic rip-off – raspberries to you! I’d be willing to bet that support for the Moon program was almost universal. If anyone were to ask me if I’d live in any other age, I’d say “No way – I got to witness the first human set foot on another world. Top that, dweeb.” Plus, as Carl Sagan once noted, great societies are enterprising societies. Plus, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clark, two of the few people I’d take at their word, both claimed that in terms of spin-off technologies and associated benefits to the economy, the space program was the best investment the USA ever made, so it actually wasn’t a cost at all.

    Starting to ramble. Once again, my compliments on a very nicely written piece.

  62. Henry Clark says:

    Unfortunately worse than a retreat towards the past is possible. Next to no prior historical regimes deliberately set out to reduce the material and energy prosperity (“consumption”) of all or nearly all of their subjects as an ideological goal in itself. Even Soviet Communism, for all its huge faults, at least had material and industrial expansion as a goal. (Pol Pot was far worse though).

    Without a positive vision of the future, an anti-growth enviroreligion becomes increasingly prevalent. Even science fiction is often starting to go downhill by now (with the exception of transhumanists).

    Having a frontier would be a major partial counter. The fizzling of the space age so far, with no cities or expansion of human settlement in space, is the great tragedy.

    The fundamental showstopper so far is not having step #1 of a space age completed yet: to get beyond rockets costing on the order of a thousand times basic propellant costs (with propellant mostly liquid oxygen costing cents per kilogram but thrown-away expendable hardware costing hundreds to thousands of dollars per kilogram). The problem is amortizing multi-billion dollar programs over launch goals of only a handful of tons, with millions of dollars a ton cost impractical for most potential applications.

    Ironically, the 30 MJ per kg kinetic energy requirement of 8 km/s LEO orbital velocity (“halfway to anywhere in the solar system” in delta v terms, to borrow a phrase from Heinlein), before inefficiencies, is not that much different than a transoceanic airline flight’s energy usage (where, for perspective, jet fuel gives around 130 MJ/gallon in a more terrestrial application not counting ambient oxygen mass). However, rockets carry their own oxidizer, burn propellant in minutes instead of hours in a flashier high power-to-mass-ratio manner, have more inefficiencies, and, most of all, so far lack rapid-turnaround reusability like airline aircraft. If such as a 747 was expended on a single flight without reuse or was technically reusable but had a particular design of thousands of ceramic heat shield tiles taking months between flights to refurbish (Space Shuttle analogy), airline travel would be astronomically expensive too.

    Health issues from lack of 1g gravity are an artifact of having launch cost around the equivalent of a payload’s mass in gold, making extra mass for rotational artificial gravity structures temporarily seem impractical. Likewise, radiation shielding is solvable if not under the same mass constraints, especially via electromagnetic shield options.

    Fortunately, there are alternatives for orders of magnitude improvement in launch costs (although requiring briefly some extra upfront capital investment), several actually but a particularly good one being http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StarTram

    With that, the astronomical resources of space could be utilized, from how a lunar mass driver can launch cumulatively a few hundred times its own mass in lunar material each decade, to nickel-iron asteroids almost like giant chunks of stainless steel (not rusted, not oxidized like natural iron became on Earth) to cubic kilometers worth of oil shale in comets ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_shale#Appendix:_extraterrestrial_oil_shale ), and much else. Most is more valuable and more practical to use in space than trying to return to Earth, with the exception of gold and other platinum-group metals (which, aside from traces found in the crust, mostly sunk into Earth’s core in terrestrial history but are abundant in some asteroids). Yet such would be excellent for space colonies of city scale and beyond (a bit like http://settlement.arc.nasa.gov/75SummerStudy/Table_of_Contents1.html ).

    If nothing like the Startram is funded, the best hope is for suborbital tourism startup companies to potentially approach airline-like reusability and economics over time, especially under economy of number, not because suborbital flights are much of orbital velocity in themselves but because very similar technology from rocket engines to launch operations could lead to rapid-turnaround orbital launch vehicles later.

    In the long term, there is orders of magnitude more than enough material even in this star system alone to make thousands of times Earth’s land area in artificial worlds, in space habitats, obviously not overnight but with room for more work to be done and potential for growth for up to eons upon eons to come. (Any civilization eventually reaching the corresponding power handling capabilities and all else, approaching type 2 on the Kardashev scale, would also find the Oort cloud and interstellar flight far more in reach than we do). The economics of making space habitats may superficially seem implausible, but vapor deposition of metal possible in the vacuum can allow vast voluminous structures to be made with a relatively small number of personnel, alien to terrestrial experience. Once a starting industrial base with some thousands of personnel was obtained, one old NASA estimate is:

    “If automation permits a moderate increase of productivity to a value of 100 t/person-year, which is twice the value now appropriate for processing and heavy industries on Earth, the large Bernal sphere could be built for an investment of 50,000 man-years of labor. That is equivalent to the statement that 12 percent of the maximum population of one such sphere, working for 3 yr could duplicate the habitat. Automation is much better suited to the large scale, repetitious production operations needed for the habitat shell than to the details of interior architecture and landscape design. It seems quite likely, therefore, that the construction of new habitats will become an activity for specialists who supply closed shells, ready for interior finishing, to groups of prospective colonists.”
    http://settlement.arc.nasa.gov/75SummerStudy/Chapt7.html

    Done right, it would be fun, for those taking part and for their future descendants, including human flight indoors in partial g sections anytime, at a moment’s whim, to the ceiling, to a treetop, almost anywhere, in fact relatively starting to live in 3D instead of 2D:

    http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20070426002835/tmp2/images/8/88/Plate10.jpg

    http://www.davidszondy.com/future/Living/leisure.jpg

    http://listverse.files.wordpress.com/2007/10/60256-1152359707-large.jpg

    http://www.hobbyspace.com/AAdmin/Images/Art/Hardy/lowgswm2.jpg

    At this point, the future of mankind could go either way. In public memes and ideology, society is mostly going downhill. Albeit far less outside the field of electronics than in it, technology is still advancing so far, though, hopefully enough before the window of opportunity closes from such as a global U.N. limitation on launches per year as has already been proposed.

  63. gallopingcamel says:

    Larry Ledwick (hotrod), August 27, 2012 at 8:34 pm,

    I agree with what you said and the loved clarity with which you said it!

  64. gallopingcamel says:

    Henry Clark, August 28, 2012 at 4:33 am,

    Space flight is barely into its infancy. Folks like Neil Armstrong went to the moon knowing that a tiny mishap or loss of fuel would prevent them from returning to Earth.

    Even with the limited scientific understanding that we have today it is clear that nuclear engines have great potential. 30 MJ/kg ceases to be a problem with nuclear powered engines. In terms of specific fuel consumption the figures of merit look something like this:

    Engine type FOM
    Chemical 1
    Fission 0.2 billion
    Fusion 1 billlion
    Anti-matter 100 billion

    Even with fission, space craft will be able to keep their engines running 24/7 thus providing artificial gravity and the ability to reach nearby stars in comfort.

  65. more soylent green! says:

    davidgmills says:
    August 27, 2012 at 5:57 pm
    Kudos Big D in Tx.

    The people who believe in “small” government for the most part advocate anarchy, a la Somalia.

    If people don’t like paying taxes, they should examine why we have to pay them in the first place.

    The first big lie about the federal government is that it must run its fiscal operation like a household or a business. Total nonsense. Why? Because households and businesses can not print money. Neither can state or local governments. I have never heard of a Texas dollar (not since it joined the union anyway) or a NY dollar.

    The second big lie about the federal government is that it prints too much money. Actually, I wish it just printed money and spent it into circulation. If it did, it wouldn’t need to tax. Instead it borrows the money into existence and taxes are then necessary to pay back the borrowed money (to the banks who we borrow it from). As Henry Ford said, “If Americans ever figure out their money system, they will be rioting in the streets the next day.”

    [Bold text added for emphasis]

    Your first statement is complete disinformation. Is this because you’re completely ignorant or because you’re using Alinskite tactics to discredit those whom you disagree with. People who advocate small government want to limit the government to constitutionally-mandated and constitutionally-permitted tasks and duties.

    Providing fire and police services is not primarily the duty of the central government in the USA, but is for states and local governments. The duties of the central government do include building roads and bridges and national defense, just to name a few. Protecting our individual rights, including our property rights, is the duty of the central government (and all other levels of government as well, BTW).

    In a free society, business has competition while government usually forces monopolies upon the public. When consumers have choices, businesses that don’t serve the needs of the public are forced to change or go out of business. When government doesn’t meet the needs of the public, it just demands more money.

    Printing money is another form of taxation. Every dollar printed dilutes the value of existing dollars. This decreases the value of savings and other investments. It also takes money out of the hands of the working class, as wages have to play catch-up to rising prices. Inflating the currency lets borrows steal from lenders, as the money used to pay back a loan is worth less than when the money was borrowed.

  66. more soylent green! says:

    Jim Clarke says:
    August 27, 2012 at 1:57 pm
    Wiglafthegreat, I agree with you. It was theft. The government really has no right to force people to give up their money to send men to the moon. But of all the things the government steals our money for, the space program was perhaps the best.

    First of all, not a dime was spent in space. It was all spent here on Earth, promoting innovation, expertise, exploration, discovery, knowledge and accomplishment. Now consider all the other things government takes our money for: war, nanny-state programs and fear-mongering. Most of our tax dollars are now spent on fostering individual dependency, and as a consequence…despair. Our government is using our tax dollars to cultivate the seeds of its own destruction and Atlas is about to shrug.

    If we must pay taxes, isn’t it better that our government does something truly marvelous with those dollars?

    In my opinion, any time our government spends tax dollars on anything outside of constitutionally mandated or constitutionally allowed functions, it is theft.

    However, a recent Supreme Court decision says the opposite. According to the Supreme Court, Congress has the power to tax us for anything, regardless of whether the purpose is extra-Constitutional or not.

  67. Sun Spot says:

    @Berényi Péter says: August 27, 2012 at 2:42 pm “The lust for safety . . .”

    Peter you are correct, as Germany turns off their nuclear power and the USA can’t build any nuclear power the lust for safety destroys our advanced technology. Wind and Solar power exhibit a gutless cowardice off harkening back to the old days of wind mills powering water pumps etc.
    P.S. Steve Jobs, what a joke, the man was foolish.

  68. Gail Combs says:

    Big D in TX says:
    August 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    ….. Don’t like what the government is doing? Fine, let’s change it. But instead of having a bloody insurrection, we prefer to peacefully vote out the people we don’t like every few years. Even the most powerful position in our government (most powerful seat in the whole world, I think most people will agree) is kicked out after only 2 (two!) terms…..
    _______________________________
    I used to believe that too. Unfortunately the people we elect to government seats are no longer selected by us and do not actually run our government.

    Want an example?
    Let’s start with a recent Supreme Court ruling:

    Supreme Court refuses to reconsider campaign finance controversy
    The Supreme Court refused Monday to reconsider one of its most controversial decisions of recent years, which has had a dramatic effect on election campaigns.

    In a 5-4 ruling, with the more liberal justices dissenting, the high court refused to hear arguments over whether a state can limit campaign spending by corporations.

    The case focused on Montana, but its implications were widespread.

    In a nutshell, the court decided that its 2010 Citizens United decision — which helped open the floodgates to massive corporate spending in elections and give birth to super PACs — trumps state laws. And it won’t be revisited any time soon.

    Here is an example of what that means. The pdf Farm Bill 101 lists the large multinational food/ag corporations and their campaign contributions and the money spent on lobbying. For example

    Walmart
    The largest company and food retailer in the US as well as the largest retailer in the world…

    Political Campaign Contributions: (2000–2012): $6,503,150

    Lobbying Expenditures (1998–2010): $33,245,000

    This is how the influence works Mapping Out The Revolving Door Between Gov’t And Big Business In Venn Diagrams

    …When people talk about regulatory capture, this is what they mean. When people talk about corruption and crony capitalism, this is what they mean. If you want a quick visual idea of why so few people trust this government to do the right thing for the people, rather than the big companies, this is why…

    When Congress ratified the World Trade Organization treaty, a safety clause for US sovereign rights was put in.

    Eastlaw: The Application of WTO Law in China

    status of trade agreements in U.S. law is governed by the Trade Agreements Act of 1979 (hereinafter the 1979 Act). In the Act, Congress made clear that any provision of the Tokyo Round agreements negotiated under the GATT framework would not prevail over a U.S. statute, regardless of when the statue was enacted. ….

    …the language of the URAA is even clearer. The features of the URAA are described as follows:
    United States Law to Prevail in Conflict The URAA puts U.S. sovereignty and U.S. law under perfect protection. According to the Act, if there is a conflict between U.S. and any of the Uruguay Round agreements, U.S. law will take precedence regardless when U.S. law is enacted. § 3512 (a) states: “No provision of any of the Uruguay Round Agreements, nor the application of any such provision to any person or circumstance, that is inconsistent with any law of the United States shall have effect.” Specifically, implementing the WTO agreements shall not be construed to “amend or modify any law of the United States, including any law relating to (i) the protection of human, animal, or plant life or health, (ii) the protection of the environment, or (iii) worker safety”, or to “limit any authority conferred under any law of the United States, including section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.”…..

    That is pretty clear. US laws are held to be above the treaty. However Big Ag as members of the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC) wrote the WTO Agreement on Agriculture. The person who actually wrote the draft was Dan Amstutz VP of Cargill the grain traders. The FDA, controled by Big Ag, has a completely different interpretation. This is the FDA’s own words in 2008 before the food law in 2010 was passed.

    International Harmonization
    http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~comm/int-laws.html (link now dead)

    The harmonization of laws, regulations and standards between and among trading partners requires intense, complex, time-consuming negotiations by CFSAN officials. Harmonization must simultaneously facilitate international trade and promote mutual understanding, while protecting national interests and establish a basis to resolve food issues on sound scientific evidence in an objective atmosphere. Failure to reach a consistent, harmonized set of laws, regulations and standards within the freetrade agreements and the World Trade Organization Agreements can result in considerable economic repercussions

    ERRrrr, no that is just a big fat LIE but was used to push through the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 that DID have a clause that made Ag regulations “harmonize” with WTO wishes.

    Then we have the FDA and USDA, the unelected bureaucrats who actually write the regulations and enforce them. The Ecologist September October 1998 and This page highlights the revolving door between U.S. government agencies, the U.S. Congress, and the pharmaceutical industry. The following former government officials now work at IFPMA, PhRMA, or law firms and lobbying firms that represent the pharmaceutical industry.

    So how about the USDA? Is the USDA trustworthy? NO!

    Testimony from Mr. Stan Painter, Chairman, National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals, American Federation of Government Employees (Congressional investigation of Hallmark Downer Cows)

    “…when we see violations of FSIS regulations and we are instructed not to write non-compliance reports in order to give companies the chance to fix the problems on their own. Sometimes even if we write non-compliance reports, some of the larger companies use their political muscle to get those overturned at the agency level or by going to their congressional delegation to get the inspection staff to back off…”
    source

    Why is this idea of traceability and good farming practices being pushed by WTO through the Agreement on Agriculture?

    Sir Julian Rose answered that question in his article.

    The Battle to Save the Polish Countryside

    At a meeting with the EU committee responsible for Poland’s agricultural terms of entry into the EU [attended by Sir Julian] the chair-lady said: “I don’t think you understand what EU policy is. Our objective is to ensure that farmers receive the same salary parity as white collar workers in the cities. The only way to achieve this is by restructuring and modernising old fashioned Polish farms to enable them to compete with other countries agricultural economies and the global market. To do this it will be necessary to shift around one million farmers off the land and encourage them to take city and service industry jobs to improve their economic position. The remaining farms will be made competitive with their counterparts in western Europe.”

    We protested that with unemployment running at 20 percent how would one provide jobs for another million farmers dumped on the streets of Warsaw? This was greeted with a stony silence, eventually broken by a lady from Portugal, who rather quietly remarked that since Portugal joined the European Union, 60 percent of small farmers had already left the land. “The European Union is simply not interested in small farms,” she said.

    “…Farmers…suddenly find themselves heavily controlled by…that most vicious of anti-entrepreneurial weapons: ‘sanitary and hygiene regulations’..These are the hidden weapons of mass destruction … ridding the countryside of small- and medium-sized family farms and replacing them with monocultural money-making agribusiness. “

    And last, why was a bitterly contested law that transfers liability from the mega-corporations to the farmer passed during the lame duck session? Why did Senator Richard Burr lie and tell me he was against the law before the 2010 election and then vote for it after the election?

    …In summary, we have record low grain inventories globally as we move into a new crop year. We have demand growing strongly. Which means that going forward even small crop failures are going to drive grain prices to record levels. As an investor, we continue to find these long term trends – and this niche – very attractive. Food shortfalls predicted

    “At a time when parts of the world are facing food riots, Big Agriculture is reaping huge profits.”

    To preserve this trend the National Grain and Feed Association and the North American Export Grain Association wrote a letter to Pres Bush on July 22, 2008 Urging the USA not to build grain reserves since it would interfere with grain trading.

    Recently there have been increased calls for the development of a U.S. or international grain reserve to provide priority access to food supplies for Humanitarian needs. The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) strongly advise against this concept and consider it an ill advised response to today’s unprecedented agricultural market situation.

    The idea of large scale food “reserve” programs to circumvent market responses is not new. Artificial stockpiling of grain, like artificial restrictions on trade, has consistently been proven to be misguided government policy.

    …. Reserve stock policies contribute to inefficient use of government funds, depressed market prices for producers, and an impediment to market adjustment when relative shortages and surpluses develop….the competitive marketplace should remain as the U.S. government’s only role in stockholding..” http://www.naega.org/images/pdf/grain_reserves_for_food_aid.pdf

    OTHER REFERENCES:
    How Goldman Sachs Created the Food Crisis

    History, HACCP and the Food Safety Con Job

    Agriculture and Monopoly Capital (by W. Heffernan, “Concentration Of Agricultural Markets,” Unpublished paper, Department of Rural Sociology, University of Missouri-Columbia, October, 1997).

    Hunger for profit

    Trojan Horse Law: The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 – Hans Bader studied economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law.

    And his prediction is now coming true:
    Comrades: Have Your Registered Your People’s Garden?

  69. Paul G says:

    I think you will find that it was actually Richard Trevithick who built the first high pressure steam engine, followed by the first steam powered locomotive.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Trevithick

  70. more soylent green! says:

    @Gail Combs says:
    August 28, 2012 at 7:06 am

    The root problem isn’t money in campaigns. The root problem is that government is involved in every aspect of our lives.

    Stop government from trying to control us. Work for limited government, don’t work to limit free speech.

  71. wobble says:

    Big D in TX says:
    August 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Are you serious? What country do you live in? It can’t be the USA.

    Hyperbole much? Objections to certain federal government programs doesn’t mean that someone should live in the woods.

  72. davidgmills says:

    For you “Economic experts” I suggest you know very little about monetary policy. Aside from the thorium video, I suggest you all view a documentary called The Money Masters. It will change your view of money and economics every bit as much as the thorium video changes your view of energy. It shows just how irrelevant the Austrian school and the Keynesian schools really are because neither every address money creation.

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-515319560256183936

  73. HankHenry says:

    Nice to read (for once) about the progress of the era we live in, instead of the hand wringing about what man is doing to nature. Where I live one can still see an occasional old outhouse 30 yards (or so) out from the back door of an old farmhouse. Thank goodness for progress and prosperity.

  74. Jim G says:

    Plants, animals, people, societies and organizaions/governments all must grow or deteriorate and die. All of us organics go through the cycle of growth, deterioration and death. For us all death is certain. This need not be true of our organizations/governments. The path that the USA is on is one of deterioration. We have turned inward with government taking more and more from the private sector to buy votes from both the upper levels and lower levels of the socioeconomic strata. Socialism has not worked anywhere it has been tried and will not work here. Itis destructive of the middle class and results in an elite and lower class with no incentive to invent or produce.

    Items such as space and real scientific exploration are the first casualties. Billions of dollars have been squandered to provide sweet deals that produce nothing to political cronies such as green energy scams, unions, welfare recipients, etc.

    Free enterprise succeeds based upon greed as its driving force while socialism requires the good will of those in charge. Which do you want to depend upon? Crony capitalism really becomes facism, economically, in the end. And we have that problem as well.

  75. more soylent green! says:

    davidgmills says:
    August 28, 2012 at 9:38 am
    For you “Economic experts” I suggest you know very little about monetary policy. Aside from the thorium video, I suggest you all view a documentary called The Money Masters. It will change your view of money and economics every bit as much as the thorium video changes your view of energy. It shows just how irrelevant the Austrian school and the Keynesian schools really are because neither every address money creation.

    Perhaps you should refrain from using insulting, straw man arguments and making statements you’re unable to defend with logic, reason and facts?

  76. Jim G says:

    It would seem that all relatively successful economic/political systems eventually decay into crony capitalism/facism irrespective of where they started. Chinese “Communism” and US “free enterprise” are now both much more crony capitalism than when they started. The communists seem to be heading toward more free enterprise while the US toward more socialism, depending upon who wins the US election. The US constitution was supposed to prevent that but it ain’t workin’. Free enterprise depends upon personal greed, socialism upon the good will of those in charge. Easy to see why one works better than the other. Incentive. Unfortunately without some government controls, free enterpris results in some real bad stuff, child labor, slave labor, etc. And when the government gets involved you get crony capitalism.

  77. Vince Causey says:

    davidgmills says:
    August 28, 2012 at 9:38 am

    “For you “Economic experts” I suggest you know very little about monetary policy.”

    How so? Your only comments on economics so far are 1) that Governments are not like individuals as they can print money and 2) Governments should print money and spend it instead of raising taxes.

    On point 1), nobody has yet commented – probably because it is an axiomatic statement of little value.

    On point 2), one poster has pointed out that this would necessarily dilute the existing money supply, eroding its store of value and that this would in turn hurt working people most as they struggle to play catch up with the bankers. A more regressive tax strategy it would be difficult to imagine, other than to exempt wealthy people from tax altogether.

    What other great insights do you possess on economic theory?

  78. TRM says:

    ” Jim Clarke says: August 27, 2012 at 1:41 pm
    I just read this essay to my 17 year old son, then set him the task of restoring humanity to a noble race of achievers and reversing the thinking that humans are a virus that needs control or eradication. He said he would do it.”

    I like you, him and what a great idea! I have some kids to talk to :)

    While the scammers seem to have the upper hand I can’t but think I’ve seen this movie before and it ended very poorly for the scammers. That is one advantage to being older.

  79. theButcher says:

    Steve Jobs? LOL

    Who else, Obama?

  80. Jim G says:

    Gail Combs says:
    August 28, 2012 at 7:06 am
    Big D in TX says:
    August 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    ….. Don’t like what the government is doing? Fine, let’s change it. But instead of having a bloody insurrection, we prefer to peacefully vote out the people we don’t like every few years. Even the most powerful position in our government (most powerful seat in the whole world, I think most people will agree) is kicked out after only 2 (two!) terms…..
    _______________________________
    “I used to believe that too. Unfortunately the people we elect to government seats are no longer selected by us and do not actually run our government.

    Want an example?
    Let’s start with a recent Supreme Court ruling:

    Supreme Court refuses to reconsider campaign finance controversy
    The Supreme Court refused Monday to reconsider one of its most controversial decisions of recent years, which has had a dramatic effect on election campaigns.

    In a 5-4 ruling, with the more liberal justices dissenting, the high court refused to hear arguments over whether a state can limit campaign spending by corporations.

    The case focused on Montana, but its implications were widespread.

    In a nutshell, the court decided that its 2010 Citizens United decision — which helped open the floodgates to massive corporate spending in elections and give birth to super PACs — trumps state laws. And it won’t be revisited any time soon.”

    Since the mass media, with few exceptions, is controlled by the left, the Citizens United decision was needed to get some balance so that at least the right could BUY some positive media exposure. Not a great solution given the way corporate America buys favor with our government but so do the unions and other left wing groups, particularly the public unions, which even FDR said should never be allowed. The real problem in corporate America is that publicly owned corporations are not controlled by their stockholders due to interlocking boards and CEO’s and the ability of management to pay themselves with stock to maintain control irrespective of the will of the shareholders. I approve your ridiculous compensation and you approve mine. Plus there is no one held rsponsible in executive management for their terrible decisions that penalize stockholders while enrichenng management. Example, Bank America and Ken Lewis.

    Government should fix these issues, but are paid not to. Crony capitalism.

  81. more soylent green! says:

    Jim G says:
    August 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Ever notice that the people who criticize the Citizen’s United decision never complain that it also applies to the unions?

    Have you ever noticed that none of the people worried about the influence of money in politics never complain about George Soros’ spending?

  82. Jim G says:

    more soylent green! says:
    August 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm
    Jim G says:
    August 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    “Ever notice that the people who criticize the Citizen’s United decision never complain that it also applies to the unions?

    Have you ever noticed that none of the people worried about the influence of money in politics never complain about George Soros’ spending?”

    Gail Combs is, however, right in much of what she says. The right will allow the big corporations to enslave you and the left will allow the government to do it. The Supreme Court ruling on the individual right to keep and bear arms was troubling in that the court still allowed that the government had the righ to regulate that freedom. Guess they do not understand the word infringe.

  83. MattN says:

    Really, we went from horse and buggy to landing on the moon in ~100 years. Literally, someone could have been born in a wagon on the Oregon Trail, and lived long enough to see Neil Armstrong on the moon.

    I don’t know if we’ll ever see technology advance that far in that short of time ever again.

  84. Tsk Tsk says:

    j ferguson says:
    August 27, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Jim Clarke, “defend my freedom to participate?” are you kidding?

    My take is that many of the people who are depressed about the present have absolutely no idea what is going on. They are the same type of people who thought the end was on the horizon in Macaulay’s time.

    To be blunt, my appraisal of the folks who think our peak of accomplishment is behind us are people who contribute next to nothing themselves to what is happening now, and likely little to what happened in the past. They think because they aren’t doing innovative things, no-one else is. Again, total nonsense.
    —————————————————-
    No one is claiming that innovation has stopped, but frankly most of the big (tech) ideas we use and rely upon were invented decades ago. Much of the progress of the last 40 years has been in manufacturing technology and miniaturization than in truly novel new science. No new space propulsion technologies (strange theoretical matter excepted) have been devised in the last 40 years. Computing has become more powerful, cheaper, ubiquitous, but the vast majority of that technology was laid down in the 60’s. Englebart demonstrated many of the communication technologies you ascribe to modern engineering:

    On the hardware side we’ve actually nearly come full circle in our material sets. Early semiconductors used germanium and ultimately switched to silicon (GaAs was/is a niche player). And today, high speed, mixed signal has reverted to SiGe. Maybe Graphene will finally give us a breakthrough after decades of mostly optimization.

    Again, we’ve made a lot of hay out of optimizing these discoveries. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the atmosphere today actually makes new discoveries harder and more expensive and in some ways more trivial. Social media? Really? Facebook and FarmVille as genuine technical progress? But more corrosive, we have become a risk averse society. No one can die. Ever. Everything must be provably safe and so progress is slow. That’s what we’ve really lost since the 50’s and 60’s.

  85. j ferguson says:

    Tsk Tsk,
    One might suppose that MTBGD (Meant Time Between Great Discoveries) might necessarily increase the low-hanging fruit having been plucked. No, and I agree, it is certainly not facebook, etc.

    But it might be Google and the other search engines.

    A visiting professor from Russia gave the Monday Evening lecture during my tour at the U. It was 1966. He brought one half of the the then two volume Yellow Pages to the podium, riffled through the pages until he came to construction materials (this was architecture school), found Concrete Blocks and asked if a member of the audience could describe how one might acquire 10k blocks. Someone did. He then described what he would need to do in Russia, which IIRC involved helping the guy who ran their block plant to solve problems he had. But that wasn’t the point of the lecture.

    The point was that they had no Yellow Pages, didn’t have the range of offerings it contained, and if you needed something outside your more frequent arena, it could be very difficult to find.
    This was a long time ago and my memory may be inaccurate.

    The ability to find things, knowledge, and people has improved beyond reckoning in the last 50 years. The number of people with wiggle room to think in has probably increased by an order of magnitude. To imagine that our rate of discovery and application of innovation has plateaued is to reveal a woeful lack of imagination, and perhaps awareness.

  86. j ferguson says:

    Tsk,Tsk, and others,
    If I remember Macaulay’s observations on pessimism written in the 1840s, his defense of inexorable progress depended on realizing how much better things were at the time than then they had been 60 years earlier.

    I submit that unless some thought is applied, anyone under 40 or 50 years of age might not sense the rate of progress we’ve enjoyed. I tried to build computers with old telephone company relays in the ’50s. I had no idea what I was doing, could find nothing on the subject in the local library, and generally faked it, but I did make some gadgets that did relatively simple things like recognize numbers written with a stylus on a segmented copper plate. I was a kid then, so maybe if I’d been doing revenue work, I might have been working with other people who understood this stuff.

    More recently, I came to a hard sport while integrating several hardware bits, could find nothing locally, but by googling over a couple of weeks located a guy in Seoul Korea who had come up against the same problem and had figure it out – and it wasn’t intuitive. Other projects involve email correspondence with engineers in Bangalore and China.

    I submit that the capability to do this is relatively recent and has provided a development environment which is completely different from that which I grew up in.

    When you think about our sorry lot, you might want to consider it over a longer time frame – say 40 or 50 years.

  87. more soylent green! says:

    @Jim G says:
    August 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Jim, Gail Combs starts about telling us about how Citizen’s United is going to have horrible repercussions and then switches to discussing the actions of unelected bureaucrats. Citizens United has nothing to do with either our out-of-control bureaucracy or lobbying.

    Gail lists several actions of government agencies that threaten our freedoms. Why do companies lobby? Two basic reasons are to work for laws or regulations that favor them over their competition or to block laws or regulations that gives favor to the competition.

    Notice it’s not the government lobbying corporations. If the corporations had power, they would [not] need to lobby. It’s the government that has power over our lives, not ADM, not Exxon-Mobile, not Google, not Apple, etc.

  88. Jim G says:

    more soylent green! says:
    August 29, 2012 at 6:05 am
    “Notice it’s not the government lobbying corporations. If the corporations had power, they would [not] need to lobby. It’s the government that has power over our lives, not ADM, not Exxon-Mobile, not Google, not Apple, etc.”

    As a small business owner, I can assure you that our major publicly owned corporate suppliers are in many cases at least as big a problem to our continued existence as the government. Most are oligopolies and suffer from all of the problems I noted above.

  89. davidgmills says:

    Re economics. I posted the three hour video that addresses my two points. I can’t encapsulate three hours of documentary here.

    Re “small” government. I have been a lawyer for nearly 35 years and I find the concept of “small’ government naive and just downright silly. We have over three hundred million people according to our census. How many laws do you think we have? A billion? Five billion.? Ten billion?

    We have fifty states that make their own laws in addition to the federal government. We have municipalities that make their own laws. Laws are made in at least four ways: by a majority vote of the people directly, by a majority vote of a legislature, by a majority vote of some kind of administrative body, and by a majority vote of a judiciary. Making these laws is the essence of a democracy and a republic. Every one of these laws was passed because a majority of the people who voted on it thought the law was a good idea. Once a law is passed it has to be administered, executed, and adjudicated.

    Under the US Constitution, federal law is the supreme law of the land. All state and local laws potentially conflict with federal law in some way, so how can a small federal government do its duty of being the supreme law if there is no manpower to see that the supreme law is administered, enforced and adjudicated? The larger state governments and their body of laws become, the greater the necessity for a large federal government to assume its role as the supreme law and government.

    If you want small government, the only solution is to disband the United States or to amend the constitution to make the federal government and federal law of no higher standing than state law. Of course if you did that, essentially you would have a confederacy of states, which we tried initially, and which didn’t work at the time.

  90. Smokey says:

    davidgmills,

    You are not part of the solution. You are part of the problem. You write:

    “Every one of these laws was passed because a majority of the people who voted on it thought the law was a good idea.”

    You could not be more wrong. Take the EPA for example. The EPA arbitrarily fines individuals and businesses tens of thousands of dollars for very minor infractions, and often for purely political reasons. How do you justify taking someone’s property, and the part of their life used to earn and save that money, only to have an unelected EPA bureaucrat confiscate it?

    There was a recent case where a low level EPA bureaucrat single-handely imposed a building ban based on labeling a property as “wetlands”. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, before the EPA was slapped down. But 99 out of 100 people lack the resources to take a case to the Supreme Court, so the EPA has free rein to fine anyone it likes.

    The EPA example is only one of many unelected authorities. And your argument in favor of big government is that of a self-serving anti-American extremist. If the EPA, the Departments of Energy, Education, Commerce, Interior and others were simply red-lined out of existence, the country would be immensely better off. States are fully capable of handling any problems. The need for a federal government applies to a judiciary, a national currency, and national defense; and not much else.

    It is no wonder that you speak so highly of the “billions” of laws. You are, after all, a lawyer. More laws mean job security. But people like you are making it hell on ordinary Americans.

  91. Jim G says:

    j ferguson says:
    August 29, 2012 at 5:15 am

    If you have been around those 40-50 years, as I have, you will also recall that without wars or threat of wars most of our technological advancements would not have occured. That includes the great space race, which was cold war induced. One might even argue that WE would not be here as a species were it not for tribal scirmishes thousands of years ago that lead to abductions and widening the gene pool and preventing too much inbreeding. Where would we be without war?

  92. davidgmills says:

    Smokey: I don’t speak highly of these billions of laws at all. In fact, I would like to see a lot fewer laws. Most of the laws put in place do not help the people I represent, so these laws are not job security. In fact just the opposite.

    Your example about the EPA shows a great deal of ignorance about administrative law in particular and about the judicial process in general. If the EPA fines anyone, it has to have a rule or regulation in place before there is a violation which would justify the imposition of a fine. Those rules or regulations are put in place by a majority of the people working at the EPA with rulemaking authority. Hence my point about a majority of the people voting to make a law.

    But anyone who gets fined by the EPA has a right to appeal that decision to a federal court. Sometimes as you say, it takes a long time to get through the federal court system or any court system. Cases languish in the state systems for years as well. I have had cases that were ten years old that were in the state system.

    And actually states aren’t very capable of handling their own matters in this age of globalization. A good example is the states’ inability to take on the insurance industry. Most states have small budgets and can’t take on any large corporation. Sometimes even the even federal government doesn’t have the budget.

    People have the right to disagree with your viewpoint of how limited the federal government should be. It is called democracy. And your view of how limited the federal government should be has not won the necessary political support to be the law. I think the federal government should also do much to ensure and promote the general welfare of the people (part of the Constitution’s preamble and Article I Section 8) and to do so, you have to have some rules to prevent the strong from abusing the weak.

  93. Smokey says:

    davidgmills,

    I may be ignorant, but I know right from wrong. You say: “…you have to have some rules to prevent the strong from abusing the weak.”

    I guess you don’t yet realize that the ‘strong’ is government itself; the citizens are weak, and get constantly abused by self-perpetuating bureaucrats. Examples abound. I live in The Peoples Socialist Soviet of California, where the government of this broke state is ramming through a $100 billion 19th Century transportation ‘solution’ that will never pay for itself. The citizens do not want it, because there is already a cost-effective infrastructure in place: air travel. I can fly from San Francisco to San Diego in an hour and a quarter, for about $100. And unlike a government train, the airlines pay taxes. No train can compete with those econmies of cost and time saved. That is a typical example of 21st Century government for you.

    Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution only authorizes Congress to lay and collect taxes, to pay the national debts, and to provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United STATES. Now, the President arbitrarily sends more than $100 million to the Palestinian Authority, without any Congressional authorization. He high handedly dismissed the legally elected CEO of GM, along with half the GM Board of Directors, then he unilaterally appointed their replacements. To add insult to injury, he overturned two hundred years of contract law and put bondholders and shareholders behind the UAW. That is ruling by decree, and people like you are are his enablers.

    To the extent that we have gotten away from the literal meaning of the original Constitution and Bill of Rights, things have gone downhill. And don’t bring up that canard about how good we have it now. Things would be MUCH better if we had stayed with our legal founding document. The federal government would be far smaller, and citizens would have a lot more money in their pockets.

    But nefarious people, all led by a phalanx of self-serving lawyers, have royally screwed up our once great system. You bear more than a little blame.

  94. more soylent green! says:

    Jim G says:
    August 29, 2012 at 8:20 am
    more soylent green! says:
    August 29, 2012 at 6:05 am
    “Notice it’s not the government lobbying corporations. If the corporations had power, they would [not] need to lobby. It’s the government that has power over our lives, not ADM, not Exxon-Mobile, not Google, not Apple, etc.”

    As a small business owner, I can assure you that our major publicly owned corporate suppliers are in many cases at least as big a problem to our continued existence as the government. Most are oligopolies and suffer from all of the problems I noted above.

    Jim, like the Obama White House, my message just isn’t getting through very well. So please tell me, can your corporate suppliers throw you in jail? Can they tax you if you don’t buy something? Can they send armed agents into your home or business and confiscate your computers, your inventory, your funds or other property if you don’t do what they say?

    Only the government can force you to buy something, or tax you for not buying it.

    Please tell me how I am wrong, or what part of my message isn’t getting through.

  95. Jim G says:

    more soylent green! says:

    “Jim, like the Obama White House, my message just isn’t getting through very well. So please tell me, can your corporate suppliers throw you in jail? Can they tax you if you don’t buy something? Can they send armed agents into your home or business and confiscate your computers, your inventory, your funds or other property if you don’t do what they say?

    Only the government can force you to buy something, or tax you for not buying it.

    Please tell me how I am wrong, or what part of my message isn’t getting through.”

    First of all the Obama message IS getting through since he has the mass media in his pocket. Second, no one is more concerned than I about big government, just remember, you cannot trust either party, though the Republicans, I believe, are the lesser of the two evils and third parties never win. You are not wrong on your message, only missing the problems created by oligopolistic major public owned corporations as they can also force you to buy things at the prices they set and if you don’t you’re out of business. As a small business, I have experienced just that. As a consumer, do your really believe that gas should legitimately cost $3.75/gal?Government has a roll to play or we will be back at child labor, like China. Unfortunately, government is purchased by the highest bidder and does not play the roll it needs to play but sets up systems that get the government officials re-elected and keep them at the trough.

  96. davidgmills says:

    Smokey: The literal meaning of the Constitution…. Do you mean like the literal meaning of the bible? You literalists are all alike. Always think only you know what words mean and you can devine what people what the author intended.

    Are people not part of the United States? Who else would general welfare refer to if not its people? Remember “We the people?” That is the problem. You want to forget about “we the people.” It didn’t say we the corporations or we the states, the preamble said “we the people.”

    More Soylent Green: Anybody can hold a gun to my head and force me to buy something. Happens to people all the time. And as for putting people in jail, I personally am glad that only the government can do it at this time. But the day may not be far off when some corporation can do it. Corporations already run prisons and have security operations and their own police. Are corporate judges next (I mean judges directly employed by corporations)? What is the difference between a Somali warlord and a corporation to you anarchists?

  97. Smokey says:

    davidgmills,

    Don’t be ridiculous. The Bible is a collection of verbal stories handed down, and then put into writing at different times. You might as well make a comparison between the Kama Sutra and the Constitution.

    The Constitution was debated, and eventually written by people who didn’t have video games, TV, or computers to distract them. They understood human nature, which I don’t think you do.

    And I know what words mean: “…shall not be infringed…” has a pretty clear meaning. Why does Big Gov’t want to deny us that freedom? I know what “inalienable rights” means. I know what “…shall be reserved to the Several states” means. Those words and meanings have now been disregarded. The promoters of Big Gov’t have neutered them.

    The self-serving among us use the ratchet effect, always pushing toward Big Government. It is the road to serfdom, and it is thoroughly un-American.

  98. more soylent green says:

    davidgmills,

    Once again, you’ve shown your hand. You got nothing but trash talk. No facts, no logic, just empty bluster, insults and browbeating. Which semester in law school is it where they teach you to pound the table when you have no argument?

  99. davidgmills says:

    I could debate you guys till the cows come home and you would not come up with an original idea. You simply rehash the tired old common generic libertarian commentary that does a real disservice to genuine libertarians. You really need years of genuine book study and not hours of TV and talk radio. Read a few thousand pages of cases and get a bare bones grasp of the government and back to me.

    My greatest fear is a police state. We are nearly there. But a police state can come from a state government as much as from a federal government. The NDAA is an abomination; as is Guantanamo. I detest the federal government’s foreign policy as it has existed for the last fifty years and the obscene spending on our military. There are lots of things wrong with the federal government and the federal laws, but that does not mean that turning over huge parts of the federal government to the states would be better.

    The states do not have a stellar record when it comes to justice; in fact, many states have some pretty bad records when it comes to justice. The insistence upon the application of state justice caused a civil war.

    And I think what would be even worse than a government police state would be a corporate police state where the people would have even fewer rights and an even lesser say than they do now. We are headed that direction. More than a few senators and congressmen have lamented about how the banks and big corporations own the government.

    Seriously guys. Do some extensive reading of history and law.

  100. Gunga Din says:

    “Second, no one is more concerned than I about big government, just remember, you cannot trust either party, though the Republicans, I believe, are the lesser of the two evils and third parties never win.”

    ======================================================================
    Perhaps here in the US we should pass an amendment where, in a federal election, if no one won more than 50% of the vote then one month later there would be a runoff election between the top two vote getters. They would then have to get the support of the 3rd (or even 4th) party voters.
    Just a thought.

  101. Jim G says:

    Gunga Din says:
    August 29, 2012 at 8:31 pm
    “Perhaps here in the US we should pass an amendment where, in a federal election, if no one won more than 50% of the vote then one month later there would be a runoff election between the top two vote getters. They would then have to get the support of the 3rd (or even 4th) party voters.
    Just a thought.”

    Possibly. However, once all of the illegals are voting to the left with the dead people from Chicago and other liberal bastions, along with all those on the dole and at the public trough, it may be a dangerous gambit.

  102. george e smith says:

    “””””…..davidgmills says:

    August 29, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    I could debate you guys till the cows come home and you would not come up with an original idea. You simply rehash the tired old common generic libertarian commentary that does a real disservice to genuine libertarians. You really need years of genuine book study and not hours of TV and talk radio. Read a few thousand pages of cases and get a bare bones grasp of the government and back to me……””””‘

    So David, reportedly, the Obamacare bill is 2,500 pages long, and so far not one of the 535 people in the Congress have read it. Many if not most, have not read one page.

    So the US constitution is maybe six or seven pages long, well maybe ten if your throw in the Bill of Rights and the other amendments.

    Difference is the Constitution is written in English so we the people can read it and understand it. No need for “interpretation” which is a euphemism for replacing words with “other words”; and other words have “other meaning”, which is why we choose to not use “other words” than the ones actually written in the Constitution

    It would seem that the Obamacare bill is written in that mediaeval Roman mumbo jumbo that you lawyers like to use. Why is it that “professionals” like lawyers, accountants and doctors, don’t have a “job” or “business”; they have a “practice”, and they like to “practice” on their customers; “We won’t charge you unless by some miracle we collect on your behalf.” Then we behalf your winnings for us.
    And they evidently aren’t too good at their practising, since every one of them carries “malpractice insurance”. for when they screw up. Never heard of a practicing professional giving a money back guarantee of their performance.

    That’s why engineers aren’t professionals; our stuff has to work, and we guarantee that it will, or we don’t get any more work.

  103. Jim G says:

    george e smith says

    Bravo, spoken like a true engineer.

  104. UK Sceptic says:

    Sorry to be pedantic but there was only one emperor of the Nero era and that was Nero.

  105. gallopingcamel says:

    davidgmills,
    You say you are a lawyer and that may be your problem given this statement:
    “If you want small government, the only solution is to disband the United States or to amend the constitution to make the federal government and federal law of no higher standing than state law.”

    While my expertise is in Quantum Electro Optics I believe that the greatest invention of mankind comes not from my world (physics) but from yours. The invention I refer to is “Due Process”.

    So what can an immigrant legal ignoramus cite to challenge your assertion? Nothing less than the highest law of the land, the US Constitution, written so laymen could understand even though many lawyers still cannot.

    Under the US Constitution the states designated certain powers to the federal government. The designated powers were few and the undesignated powers were many. I already quoted the tenth amendment to you but since you ignored me here it is again:
    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

    People who support expanding the power of the federal government start by ignoring the “Designated Powers” and the tenth amendment. Then they twist the “Commerce” and the “General Welfare” clauses to diminish the role of state governments.

    Right now you expanders of the federal government are in the ascendant but don’t count on it continuing. Not too long ago Newt Gingrich and his block grants returned power to the states at least on a small scale. I realise that to a lawyer like yourself it does not matter who wins in such tussles because you get paid no matter what happens.

    Just remember that people who value freedom don’t think like lawyers.

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