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Advertising, Credit Reporting, and ‘Anti-Objectification’

By Jim Harper

You need a set of priors that I lack to stay interested in the forthcoming Suffolk University Law Review article, “Selling Consumers, Not Lists: The New World of Digital Decision-Making and the Role of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” I think the thing animating authors Ed Mierzwinski and Jeff Chester is what I call “anti-objectification,” a desire at the outskirts of the privacy concept. It is bad, anti-objectifiers appear to believe, when a person is treated as a mere object of commerce, observed and communicated with on that basis alone.

Without anti-objectification, I can’t find much of anything wrong in their description of the emerging world of digital data collection and marketing. There is an impressive and complex array of techniques coming online to discover what people want, learn when they want it, and communicate with them in ways that will spur them to act on their desires.

Given the wrongs they perceive in these developments—which, again, I must guess at—Mierzwinski and Chester make a broad pitch to have online marketing drawn under the blanket of Fair Credit Reporting Act regulation. Not only the Federal Trade Commission, but the new, unconstrained Consumer Financial Protection Board, should look at bringing online advertising within the FCRA, they say.

Given the paucity of (apparent) harms to be rectified, one struggles to examine how broadening regulation of the information economy would improve things. But I don’t know why the Fair Credit Reporting Act would be a model anyway. In forty years, the FCRA has not cured the ills that Senator Proxmire (D-WI) recited when he introduced the law—to judge by the words of self-styled consumer advocates, at least. New challenges have emerged, and the FCRA has turned credit bureaus to the government’s use in financial surveillance. The FCRA preempted state common law—you can’t sustain a defamation action against a credit bureau, no matter how wrong its reporting is—replacing it with opaque and unwieldy bureaucratic procedures for those who believe their credit bureau records are inaccurate.

The FCRA already reduces consumer welfare by keeping new entrants out of the credit reporting business. When companies edge toward providing data that might be used for credit decisions, employment screening, housing, and the like, they quickly learn to eschew that market so they can avoid the FCRA’s obligations and regulator inquests. The result? Our economy is making less intelligent decisions about credit, employment, and housing. Efficiences that would lower costs to consumers across the board are not being found.

I drew lessons from the failure of the Fair Credit Reporting Act to fix things in my paper “Reputation under Regulation: The Fair Credit Reporting Act at 40 and Lessons for the Internet Privacy Debate.”

Advertising, Credit Reporting, and ‘Anti-Objectification’ is a post from Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute Blog

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Today Is Bill of Rights Day

By Tim Lynch

Today is Bill of Rights Day. So it’s an appropriate time to consider the state of our constitutional safeguards.

Let’s consider each amendment in turn.

The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.” Government officials, however, have insisted that they can gag recipients of “national security letters” and censor broadcast ads in the name of campaign finance reform.

The Second Amendment says the people have the right “to keep and bear arms.” Government officials, however, make it difficult to keep a gun in the home and make it a crime for a citizen to carry a gun for self-protection.

The Third Amendment says soldiers may not be quartered in our homes without the consent of the owners. This safeguard is one of the few that is in fine shape — so we can pause here for a laugh.

The Fourth Amendment says the people have the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. Government officials, however, insist that they can conduct commando-style raids on our homes and treat airline travelers like prison inmates by conducting virtual strip searches.

The Fifth Amendment says that private property shall not be taken “for public use without just compensation.” Government officials, however, insist that they can use eminent domain to take away our property and give it to other private parties who covet it.

The Sixth Amendment says that in criminal prosecutions, the person accused is guaranteed a right to trial by jury. Government officials, however, insist that they can punish people who want to have a trial—“throwing the book” at those who refuse to plead guilty—which explains why 95 percent of the criminal cases never go to trial.

The Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to a jury trial in civil cases where the controversy “shall exceed twenty dollars.” Government officials, however, insist that they can impose draconian fines on people without jury trials.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishments. Government officials, however, insist that a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense is not cruel.

The Ninth Amendment says that the enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights should not be construed to deny or disparage others “retained by the people.” Government officials, however, insist that they will decide for themselves what rights, if any, will be retained by the people.

The Tenth Amendment says that the powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states, or to the people. Government officials, however, insist that they will decide for themselves what powers they possess, and have extended federal control over health care, crime, education, and other matters the Constitution reserves to the states and the people.

It’s a disturbing snapshot, to be sure, but not one the Framers of the Constitution would have found altogether surprising. They would sometimes refer to written constitutions as mere “parchment barriers,” or what we call “paper tigers.” They nevertheless concluded that having a written constitution was better than having nothing at all.

The key point is this: A free society does not just “happen.” It has to be deliberately created and deliberately maintained. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. To remind our fellow citizens of their responsibility in that regard, the Cato Institute has distributed more than five million copies of our pocket Constitution. At this time of year, it’ll make a great stocking stuffer.

Let’s enjoy the holidays but let’s also resolve to be more vigilant about defending our Constitution. To learn more about Cato’s work in defense of the Constitution, go here. To support the work of Cato, go here.

Today Is Bill of Rights Day is a post from Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute Blog

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Sen. Casey Finds Political Opportunity in NHL Lockout

By Tad DeHaven

The Small Business Administration was created in the 1950s to make it appear as though federal politicians cared about the plight of the “little fellow.” A more helpful expression of concern would have been a rollback of the federal government’s increasingly heavy hand in the post-New Deal economy. Instead, they went with the more politically alluring option of using the heavy hand to deliver handouts.

As Veronique De Rugy and I discuss in an essay on the Small Business Administration, it didn’t take long for the politicians to turn the new agency into a favor dispenser:

Once the SBA seed was planted, it grew. SBA lending quadrupled between 1954 and 1960, and its staff jumped from 550 to 2,200 employees. In 1958, Eisenhower’s Budget Bureau warned that the SBA was “an uncontrollable program,” but both parties wanted to signal that they supported the “little fellow.” Also, members of Congress enjoyed using the SBA to distribute money and favors to their constituents. Members sometimes leaned on the agency to declare a particular business “small” or to have a constituent’s competitor declared “not small.”

Decades later, the SBA is still being used by politicians to show that they care.

For those who don’t follow hockey, almost half of the National Hockey League’s season has been lost because owners and players have yet to agree on a new labor deal. That’s obviously bad news for restaurants, bars, and other small businesses located near hockey arenas. But owning and operating a business comes with risks and an unexpected drop in walk-in traffic is one of them.

According to Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), however, it’s the federal government’s job to mitigate such risks by placing it on taxpayers instead. On Wednesday, Casey sent a letter to the head of the SBA asking her to – wink, wink, nod, nod – keep in mind the needs of small businesses located near the homes of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers:

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and their success is vital to our continued recovery. I appreciate your willingness to offer free counseling to businesses that rely heavily on NHL crowds for business. I also urge you to continue to monitor the situation and to make yourself available in case these businesses should require additional resources and guidance. I stand ready to assist you with this. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me directly.

And with that, Sen. Casey shows that he cares. I would argue, however, that if he really cared about making life easier on small business owners, he would be leading an effort in the Senate to rein in taxes and government red tape. After all, those two categories combined represent the “single most important” problem facing small businesses according to the latest survey from the National Federation of Independent Business. But, like most politicians, it’s simply a lot easier –and more politically rewarding – to hand out other people’s money.

Note: While I appreciate the argument that Pittsburgh businesses deserve SBA assistance but not Philly businesses because the former support a franchise that recently won its third Stanley Cup while the latter hasn’t hoisted it since 1975, I still don’t think the federal government should be picking winners and losers in the marketplace – or in that case, picking a winner over a loser.

Sen. Casey Finds Political Opportunity in NHL Lockout is a post from Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute Blog

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An Important Victory for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms

By Trevor Burrus

On Tuesday, the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Illinois’s ban on carrying ready-to-use firearms. Moore v. Madigan is written by Judge Richard Posner, possibly the most famous non-Supreme Court judge in the country, and is an important extension of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Judge Posner’s decision makes it very clear that the right to self-defense entails more than just allowing people to keep guns in the home.

In the landmark case of United States v. Heller, a case in which Cato was intimately involved, the Supreme Court struck down the District of Columbia’s near total-ban on having guns in the home. Two years later, in McDonald v. Chicago, the Court expanded this protection to the states, striking down Chicago’s equally draconian gun ban.

Ever since those two cases established and expanded the right to keep and bear arms, lawyers have been testing the waters to see how far the Supreme Court’s ruling goes. Heller held that the protection of the home with a reasonable firearm (i.e. a handgun, not a rocket launcher) is the core of the Second Amendment. While that right cannot be totally eliminated by states and municipalities, it is still subject to reasonable regulation. Yet this holding only addressed the Second Amendment right to keep arms, not to bear them. Both words are in the Amendment and both words clearly mean different things.

Up until Tuesday, Illinois was the last state to flatly ban all carrying of ready-to-use guns outside the home. Since the mid-1980s there has been a remarkable proliferation of states that offer concealed-carry permits. As you can see from this nifty animation, in 1986 only 34 states allowed their citizens to carry guns. Moreover, most of those states had “may-issue” permitting, meaning that local officials are given broad discretion in choosing who gets a permit. “May-issue” statutes often contain discretionary language such as, “if the sheriff determines the applicant to be of good moral character and of having proper cause for wanting a permit then he may issue a permit.” While “may-issue” laws are better than “no-issue” laws, they imbue local officials with far too much discretion over whether a citizen is of sufficient “moral character” and has “proper cause” to be allowed to exercise her fundamental right to self-defense. In a decision that Judge Posner criticizes in Moore, the Second Circuit recently upheld New York’s “proper cause” provision.

As you can tell by the animation, the growth in “shall-issue” states is astounding. Today, unless you live in Illinois, you may be surrounded by many legally gun-toting citizens, and while you may not have noticed this, trust me, the criminals have. And despite this massive increase in the legal carrying of weapons, crime is still going down and we are not living in a modern recreation of the Wild West. Instead, as Clayton Cramer and David Burnett documented in the recent Cato study, Tough Targets, those carrying weapons are increasingly using them to protect themselves and to save lives.

In his decision, Judge Posner discusses the evidence on both sides of the debate over the relationship between guns and crime. He also decides that the evidence is more or less irrelevant to the question of whether the Illinois ban can survive:

In sum, the empirical literature on the effects of allowing the carriage of guns in public fails to establish a pragmatic defense of the Illinois law. Anyway the Supreme Court made clear in Heller that it wasn’t going to make the right to bear arms depend on casualty counts. If the mere possibility that allowing guns to be carried in public would increase the crime or death rates sufficed to justify a ban, Heller would have been decided the other way, for that possibility was as great in the District of Columbia as it is in Illinois.

Posner then finds the Illinois ban squarely proscribed by the plain language in Heller and McDonald:

A woman who is being stalked or has obtained a protective order against a violent ex-husband is more vulnerable to being attacked while walking to or from her home than when inside. She has a stronger self-defense claim to be allowed to carry a gun in public than the resident of a fancy apartment building (complete with doorman) has a claim to  sleep with a loaded gun under her mattress. But Illinois wants to deny the former claim, while compelled by McDonald to honor the latter. That creates an arbitrary difference. To confine the right to be armed to the home is to divorce the Second Amendment from the right of self-defense described in Heller and McDonald.

The decision is certainly an important victory for the right to self-defense. We will now wait to see if Illinois appeals the decision. While Judge Posner struck the ban down, he delayed his mandate for 180 days in order to “allow the Illinois legislature to craft a new gun law that will impose reasonable limitations, consistent with the public safety and the Second Amendment as interpreted in this opinion, on the carrying of guns in public.”

My prediction is that, rather than risk the Supreme Court affirming the ruling, Illinois will impose a severely limited permitting system. Either way, this is certainly the most important case decided under the Second Amendment since McDonald.

An Important Victory for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is a post from Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute Blog

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Promises to Restrict Future Spending Are Worthless

By Tad DeHaven

It appears likely that congressional Republicans are eventually going to accept a tax increase in exchange for real spending cuts smaller spending increases in the future. If and when that happens, Speaker Boehner should surround himself with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy at the press conference on the deal.

I could spend days explaining my pessimism, but I’ll just point to two pertinent examples of Congress being unable to control itself. First, we have the so-called Medicare “doc fix,” which was adeptly explained by Reason’s Peter Suderman earlier this week. In 1997, Congress created a formula (“sustainable growth rate”) to constrain physician reimbursements. But shortly after the formula started to do what it was intended to, Congress got cold feet:

The next year, when the formula called for another reimbursement cut, Congress passed an override. And each year since, Congress has followed the same pattern. The SGR calls for a reimbursement cut. Congress either freezes payments or gives physicians a small increase for a short period of time. Sometimes the overrides last for a few months. More often they last for about a year. But a permanent fix never arrives. And each time the formula calls for a bigger cut—because with each override, Medicare’s physician payment levels grow further and further from the trendline called for by the formula. If the doc fix is allowed to occur this year, physicians face a 26.5 percent cut in Medicare fees. At the same time, the long-term cost of a permanent fix grows each year. Last year’s one-year fix cost $18.5 billion. This year’s is expected to cost about $25 billion. Estimates put the cost between $244 and $370 billion over a decade. The ever-rising cost means that with each override the chances of a permanent fix grow even harder.

The second example – a federal aid package for states affected by Hurricane Sandy – hasn’t actually happened, but it will. Indeed, the White House just requested $60.4 billion for Sandy relief. The Obama administration has no honest interest in spending cuts, so it’s not much of a surprise that it would submit a bill that isn’t offset by spending cuts (real or imagined) elsewhere. But shouldn’t House Republicans be counted on to push for offsets, especially at a time when they keep telling the world that deficit reduction requires spending cuts? Well, according to the The Hill, that’s probably not going to happen:

Passage of a Hurricane Sandy supplemental spending bill this month appears more likely following a meeting on Thursday between Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.). Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said on Thursday that Boehner indicated to Christie that offsets, or dollar-for-dollar spending cuts, are not going to be a big issue. “The governor did say that the Speaker … has said that while some in his conference may raise offsets, that is not where he believes the majority of his conference will be on this issue. That is critically important for us,” Menendez told reporters…

“Speaker Boehner is deeply concerned by the devastation resulting from this terrible storm. When we get the request from the Obama administration, we will get to work immediately,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in response. Last month, Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) told The Hill that Boehner told him he supports moving a bill without offsets.

What about those budget caps that were agreed to as part of the 2011 deal to raise the debt ceiling? It’s hard to imagine that a bill that large wouldn’t breach the caps.

Anyhow, even if Sandy aid doesn’t do it, some future war, natural disaster, or economic downturn will create an excuse for Congress to spend more money than some past deal said it was allowed to. The only real way to make spending cuts stick – or at least give it a good chance – is to actually terminate agencies and programs. Unfortunately, that’s not on the agenda of either party.

Promises to Restrict Future Spending Are Worthless is a post from Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute Blog

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The Poverty of Affordability Arguments

By Justin Logan

In the bargaining over avoiding the fiscal cliff, President Obama has taken to framing the argument this way:

We can solve this problem. All Congress needs to do is pass a law that would prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody’s income — everybody. (Applause.) That means 98 percent of Americans — and probably 100 percent of you — (laughter) — 97 percent of small businesses wouldn’t see their income taxes go up a single dime. Even the wealthiest Americans would still get a tax cut on the first $250,000 of their income. But when they start making a million, or $10 million, or $20 million you can afford to pay a little bit more. (Applause.) You’re not too strapped.

I’m no political expert, but this seems like a pretty effective, if demagogic, frame: “Ol’ Boehner is just doing the bidding of his bazillionaire paymasters, trying to stick it to regular folks like you.” By framing the debate as being about whether very wealthy people “can afford to pay a little bit more,” Obama skews things in his favor. (On the substance of the argument about increasing taxes to close the gaping fiscal maw, try this from Alan Reynolds or this from Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).)

And what does John Boehner think about Obama’s framing? Not much, obviously: “We have a huge national debt because Washington spends too much, not because it doesn’t tax people enough.” Boehner rejects the whole affordability frame, proposing his own—“is the problem taxes or spending?”—and adding on an argument that increasing taxes will hurt economic growth. So you’ve got dueling frames.

But what’s of interest to me is the analog of Obama’s frame in the foreign policy/defense spending discussion. In that debate, neoconservatives and liberal imperialists have framed the debate the same way Obama has framed the fiscal cliff debate: except in that case, it’s not about whether wealthy people can afford to pay higher taxes, but whether the United States can afford to continue spending around 50 percent of world military expenditures. Take it away, Robert Kagan:

What about the financial expense? Many seem to believe that the cost of these deployments, and of the armed forces generally, is a major contributor to the soaring fiscal deficits that threaten the solvency of the national economy. But this is not the case, either. As the former budget czar Alice Rivlin has observed, the scary projections of future deficits are not “caused by rising defense spending,” much less by spending on foreign assistance. The runaway deficits projected for the coming years are mostly the result of ballooning entitlement spending. Even the most draconian cuts in the defense budget would produce annual savings of only $50 billion to $100 billion, a small fraction—between 4 and 8 percent—of the $1.5 trillion in annual deficits the United States is facing.

Here again, if the debate is about whether the United States—let’s call us the One Percenters here—can afford to continue frittering away money playing globocop, the advantage is with Kagan and his confreres. But in both cases, Obama and Kagan try to substitute an affordability argument for a propriety/desirability argument. Of course wealthy people can “afford” to pay higher taxes—they’ve done so before, after all. By the same token, the United States can afford to continue funding its globe-girdling military presence. But in neither case do these affordability arguments answer the question: What should happen? To say something is affordable is not to say it is preferable

Obama doesn’t say, “We’ve spent a ton of money over the past 10 years and entitlement costs are ballooning so we’re going to squeeze as much as we can out of the rich and then see where we go from there.” Similarly, Kagan doesn’t lead with his argument that the debt and deficit should be fixed by increasing taxes and sprinkling pixie dust on entitlement costs. Instead, he wants to have the affordability debate. As well he ought to, since the public is increasingly disenchanted with the interventionist foreign policy program.

In neither case should we let the affordability argument carry the day. Boehner rejects the affordability framing of the tax increase debate. Conservatives ought to realize in both cases that something’s affordability is not synonymous with its propriety.

The Poverty of Affordability Arguments is a post from Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute Blog

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Why Chris Christie Vetoed an ObamaCare Exchange

By Michael F. Cannon

On Thursday’s episode of The Daily Show, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) gave one of the better explanations of why states should say no to an ObamaCare Exchange. (Goes from about 1:10 – 2:50.)

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Chris Christie Pt. 2
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

Why Chris Christie Vetoed an ObamaCare Exchange is a post from Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute Blog

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How Government Actually Works, Especially Unaccountable, Multi-Jurisdictional Government

By David Boaz

In my book Libertarianism: A Primer, I have a chapter of pop public choice called “What Big Government Is All About.” The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority isn’t really big government, just a local D.C.-Virginia-Maryland authority to run a couple of airports. But it demonstrates some of the problems you can expect from economic entities that don’t face a market test. Here’s how the Washington Post story today begins:

Meet the Kulle family: mom Helen, daughter Ann Kulle-Helms, son-in-law Douglas Helms, son Albert, daughter-in-law Michele Kulle and Michele’s brother, Jeffrey Thacker.

They all worked for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. All at the same time.

And what about Dad, I wonder. No job for Dad?

Anyway, officers of the agency don’t seem perturbed by the story.

“There were no clear-cut guidelines,” said MWAA board member H.R. Crawford, who will leave the board next month when his term expires.

Crawford, who has had at least three relatives, including a daughter-in-law, work at the agency, said family members are employed frequently, particularly among board members.

“If you ask a third of those folks, their relatives work there,” he said. “I never thought that we were doing anything wrong.”…

“This is a government town and an agency town,” Crawford said. “If there’s a possibility that you can hire a relative .?.?. it was the norm.”…

“This is not a patronage mill,” said Davis, whose daughter worked in the fire department for two months in 2011. “Dozens of employees’ kids worked there.”

At this point the response of good-government liberals is always: Pass an ethics law. Yeah, that ought to work.

MWAA’s ethics code prohibits employees from hiring, supervising or working with relatives. They also cannot supervise family members — directly or indirectly — or “have influence over their work.”


How Government Actually Works, Especially Unaccountable, Multi-Jurisdictional Government is a post from Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute Blog

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The Current Wisdom: ‘Dumb People’ Syndrome

By Patrick J. Michaels

The Current Wisdom is a series of monthly articles in which Patrick J. Michaels, director of the Center for the Study of Science, reviews interesting items on global warming in the scientific literature that may not have received the media attention that they deserved, or have been misinterpreted in the popular press. Occasionally — as in this edition — we examine recent global warming perceptions that are at odds with reality.

“The habitability of this planet for human beings really is at risk.”
–Al Gore, July 18, 2007

The notion that people just can’t adapt to change (and therefore that governments must regulate change) is known as “Dumb People Syndrome” (DPS).  Given the fact that the planet is “habitable” (meaning  that there large numbers of people) over a mean annual temperature range of approximately 40°C , Gore’s statement—which is about a few degrees C, at best—is quintessential DPS.  

DPS has its subtypes, such as “Dumb Farmer Syndrome”, in which there’s agricultural Armageddon as the world’s farmers fail to adapt to warming conditions.  It’s not only preposterous, it’s inconsistent with history.

Farmers aren’t dumb, and there are incentives for their supply chain—breeders, chemical manufacturers, equipment companies, etc.—to produce adaptive technologies.  Corn is already much more water-use efficient than it was, thanks to changes in genetics, tillage practices, and farm equipment.  The history of U.S. crop yield bears strong witness (Figure 1).

Figure 1. U.S. national corn and wheat yields, 1900-2012 (source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service).

A look at the horrible crop year of 2012 is instructive. Corn yield drops about 38 bushels per acre  from what’s known as the “technological trend line.”  Because the “expected” yield—thanks to  technology—with good weather is so high (around 160 bushels/acre), that’s a drop of about 24%, which is simply unremarkable when compared to the other lousy weather years of 1901 (36%), 1947 (21%), 1983 (29%) and 1988 (30%).  Did we mention that the direct fertilization effect of atmospheric CO2  has resulted in a  corn yield increase of approximately seven per cent?

Most assessments of the impacts of climate change give some credence to DPS. Below is one of the  “Key Findings” from the report Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States produced by the U.S. Climate Change Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), which was used as a major support for  the U.S. Environmental Protections Agency’s “Endangerment Finding”  that human carbon dioxide emissions are a threat to health and welfare. According to the USGCRP:

Crop and livestock production will be increasingly challenged.

Many crops show positive responses to elevated carbon dioxide and low levels of warming, but higher levels of warming often negatively affect growth and yields. Increased pests, water stress, diseases, and weather extremes will pose adaptation challenges for crop and livestock production.

Now compare that to the corresponding “Key Finding” from our report Addendum: Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States which is an independent (from the USGCRP) assessment of the scientific literature relating to environmental changes and how they may impact U.S. agriculture:

Crop and livestock production will adapt to climate change.

There is a large body of evidence that demonstrates substantial untapped adaptability of U.S. agriculture to climate change, including crop-switching that can change the species used for livestock feed. In addition, carbon dioxide itself is likely increasing crop yields and will continue to do so in increasing increments in the future.

Another example of the DPS relates to projections of the effects  of more or stronger  heat waves on human mortality.  Everyone has heard—especially after last summer—how human use of fossil fuels to produce energy will increase the frequency and severity of killer heat waves.

Here is how the USGCRP sees it, according to the “Key Messages” from the “Human Health” chapter of their report:

Increases in the risk of illness and death related to extreme heat and heat waves are very likely.

History shows that things don’t work this way.

Why? Because people are not dumb. Instead of dying in increasing numbers as temperatures rise, people take better precautions to protect themselves from the heat.

Numerous examples of this abound, including some pioneering work that we did on the subject about 10 years ago.  We clearly demonstrated that across the U.S., people were becoming less sensitive to high temperatures, despite the fact that high temperatures were increasing. In other words, adaptation was taking place in the face of (or, perhaps even because of) rising temperatures. Adaptations include expanding use of air conditioning, increasing public awareness, and more widespread community action programs.

What was interesting  about our work is we didn’t even need global warming to drive increasing heat waves.  All we needed was economic activity that concentrates in cities.  As they grow, buildings and pavement retain the heat of the day and impede the flow of ventilating winds.  In recent years, the elevation of night temperatures here in Washington (where your tax dollars virtually guarantee economic growth),  compared to the countryside, has become truly remarkable.  But you won’t find  an increase in heat-related mortality.  Instead, there’s been a decrease.
Our research was limited to major cities across the United States. But similar findings have since been reported for other regions of the world, the most recent being the from the Czech Republic.

Czech researchers Jan Kyselý and Eva Plavcová recently published the results of their investigation of changes in heat-related impacts there from 1986 through 2009.  What they found sure wasn’t surprising to us, but surely must come as quite a shock to the fans of DPS.

Declining trends in the mortality impacts are found in spite of rising temperature trends. The finding remains unchanged if possible confounding effects of within-season acclimatization to heat and the mortality displacement effect are taken into account. Recent positive socioeconomic development, following the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989, and better public awareness of heat-related risks are likely the primary causes of the declining vulnerability. The results suggest that climate change may have relatively little influence on heat-related deaths, since changes in other factors that affect vulnerability of the population are dominant instead of temperature trends. It is essential to better understand the observed nonstationarity of the temperature-mortality relationship and the role of adaptation and its limits, both physiological and technological, and to address associated uncertainties in studies dealing with climate change projections of temperature-related mortality.

Findings like these, along with our own work, caused us to conclude in our Addendum report that:

“In U.S. cities, heat-related mortality declines as heat waves become stronger and/or more frequent.”

Evidence is much more compelling in  support of a “smart people” diagnosis than its opposite.  In fact, if humankind was really as dumb as the fans of DPS would have us believe, we wouldn’t be around  today to hear their doomsaying, because Homo sapiens would have been wiped out during vastly larger environmental swings (in and out of ice ages, for example) in our past,  than those expected as a consequence of the burning of fossil fuels to produce the energy that powers our world—a world in which the human life expectancy, perhaps the best measure of our level of “dumbness” or “smartness”—has more than doubled over the last century and continues to grow ever longer.

Simply put, we are not “dumb” when it comes to our survival and our ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions, but “scientific” assessments that assume otherwise most certainly are.


Davis, R.E., Knappenberger, P.C., Novicoff, W.M., Michaels, P.J., 2002. Decadal changes in heat-related human mortality in the Eastern US. Climate Research, 22, 175–184.

Davis, R.E., Knappenberger, P.C., Novicoff, W.M., Michaels, P.J.,2003a. Decadal changes in summer mortality in U.S. cities. International  Journal of Biometeorology, 47, 166–175.

Davis, R.E., Knappenberger, P.C., Michaels, P.J., Novicoff, W.M., 2003b. Changing heat-related mortality in the United States. Environmental Health Perspectives, 111, 1712–1718.

Davis, R.E., Knappenberger, P.C., Michaels, P.J., Novicoff, W.M., 2004. Seasonality of climate-human mortality relationships in US cities and impacts of climate change. Climate Research, 26, 61–76.

Jan Kyselý, j., and E. Plavcová, 2012.Declining impacts of hot spells on mortality in the Czech Republic, 1986–2009: adaptation to climate change? Climatic Change, 113, 437-453.

The Current Wisdom: ‘Dumb People’ Syndrome is a post from Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute Blog

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Tarullo: No Return to Glass-Steagall

By Louise Bennetts

Finally, a senior banking regulator has acknowledged the so-called repeal of Glass-Steagall had nothing to do with the 2008 financial crisis. In a recent speech, Fed governor Daniel Tarullo noted that most firms at the center of the financial crisis in 2008 were either stand-alone commercial banks or investment banks, and therefore would not have been affected by the repeal. Tarullo also expressed concern that a reinstatement of Glass-Steagall would be costly for banks and their clients and would result in less product diversification.

Of all the myths underpinning the response to the 2008 financial crisis, one of the most persistent is that the repeal of Glass-Steagall was a major contributing factor. So Tarullo’s comments are heartening. But still, he misses out one key piece of the puzzle, namely, that multifunctional, diversified financial firms are not just more efficient and cost-effective than their more specialized counterparts; they are frequently more stable.

The banks that got into trouble in 2008 did so because they concentrated their risk in one kind of asset. The firms that did comparatively well throughout the crisis avoided this particular mistake and were able to come to the rescue, admittedly with some government assistance, of their ailing counterparts—think Wells Fargo or JPMorgan. Firms fail when they make bad investment decisions, regardless of their structure.

Tarullo: No Return to Glass-Steagall is a post from Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute Blog