The Free Market and Leeches

April 25th, 2020 2:34am

The pure "free market" is an economic system based on supply and demand with no government regulation.  The "free market hypothesis" is the assertion that the free market always produces the optimal allocation of resources.

Conservatives love the free market like a fat kid loves cake. The appeal is understandable.  Our world is complex.  We long for simplicity.  Life would be grand if we could eliminate government (and taxes), confident that the free market would create the best allocation of resources.    

People often trace the free market hypothesis to Adam Smith's 1776 book, The Wealth of Nations.  In that book (and in an earlier work), Smith used the metaphor of an "invisible hand" to describe the unintended social benefits that manifest when each person acts in their own best interests.

Let's travel back to 1776.  Imagine you live in a county with a population of five thousand.  Five hundred of them grow corn.  Corn costs seventy-five cents per bushel.  If Farmer A raises his price to eighty cents per bushel, the word will spready quickly and nobody will buy from him because there are 499 other farmers selling corn for seventy-five cents per bushel.  People stop buying from Farmer A and the "invisible hand" forces him to lower his price back to seventy-five cents per bushel. 

This was a good theory in 1776.  You know what else was a good theory in 1776?  Using leeches to treat disease.

What free market cultists fail to understand, or willfully ignore, is that we don't live in 1776.  The conditions that existed in agrarian America in 1776 do not exist today.  If he were alive, Adam Smith would tell you that the "invisible hand" only works if certain conditions exist -- if you make certain assumptions -- and that most of the necessary conditions that existed in 1776 don't exist today.  Let's look at some.

Assumption 1 - Goods and Services are Homogenous.  Corn is corn.  It's all the same, and it doesn't matter who you buy it from.  That's not true today for most goods and services.  Take operating systems for personal computers.  Windows is not the same as Apple.  Or televisions.  They come in different sizes, with different features, from manufacturers with different reputations.

Assumption 2 - No Single Seller or Buyer Has Enough Market Share to Influence the Price or Supply of a Good or Service.  We assumed five hundred farmers selling corn in one county back in 1776.  Back in 1776, Farmer A could not keep his price at eighty cents per bushel because people had other options. Fast forward to 2020.  Do you want a smartphone?  Your choices are an i-phone or an Android.  There are not five hundred cell phone manufacturers competing for your business.

Assumption 3 - Everyone has Equal Access to Relevant Information.  In our 1776 hypothetical, everyone knew who the corn farmers were, how many corn farmers there were, what they were charging for a bushel of corn, and what it cost to grow corn.  And all the corn farmers knew how many people lived in that county, how much corn they bought on average each month, and how much money their buyers earned.  Do you have equal access to the information Apple has regarding its i-phone?  Do you know how much it costs Apple to manufacture an i-phone, how long it is designed to last, or what other products Apple plans to introduce in the future? No.  You're at a disadvantage because Apple knows far more than you about its products and the market.

Assumption 4 - Barriers to Entry are Low.  In 1776, if you wanted to grow corn, you bought some seed and, if you did not own land, you bought or leased some land.  Anyone could grow corn if they wanted to.  This made it difficult for any single farmer to gain a monopoly or large market share. Fast forward to 2020. What would it take for you to start a company that manufactures smartphones to compete with Apple and Samsung?  How much money would you need to create a business to compete with Walmart?

The assumptions underlying free market theory began losing validity in the mid-1800's when the railroads came to power, and the trend continued with the rise of oil companies in the late 1800's.  Back on those days, Republicans were not cult members.  They understood the assumptions underlying free market theory.  They realized what was happening and passed antitrust laws intended to prevent any single business from gaining a market share large enough to reduce competition.  Congress passed the first antitrust law, the Sherman Act, in 1890 as a "comprehensive charter of economic liberty aimed at preserving free and unfettered competition as the rule of trade."  Explaining the law, Senator John Sherman declared, "If we would not submit to an emperor, we should not submit to an autocrat of trade..." 

But antitrust laws are only as good as the prosecutors and judges who enforce them.  This is why it matters who the Attorney General is.  This is why it matters who serves as a federal judge.  To circumvent these laws, big business invests heavily in political campaigns to get the appointed officials and judges they want.  Nobody should be surprised that the five Republican Supreme Court justices who ruled corporations are people in Citizens United (Kennedy, Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia) ruled as they did; corporate contributions to political campaigns got them there for that very purpose.

The Wealth of Nations never advocated no regulation or elimination of government; it attempted to articulate when regulation is beneficial.  If you are still preaching the free market gospel, I have one question for you - are you still using leeches to cure disease?

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Taxation is Theft, and You is an Idiot

June 4th, 2018 1:41am - Posted By: Mark Cohen

Taxation is Theft, and You is an Idiot.

A popular libertarian slogan is "taxation is theft." This may be one of the dumbest statements ever made.

The way language works is that we use different words to denote different things. We have one word for "cat" and another for "white."  Because a cat and white two different concepts. This convention – using different words to denote different concepts – serves us well because it enables clear communication.

One problem with language is that people sometimes misuse the verb to be.  People say, “The cat is white” when they really mean something like, “The cat has white fur.”  It’s harmless in that instance, but one popular form of argument is to think of something bad – theft – and equate it to something else you don’t like – taxation – using the word is.

Let’s break it down. Theft is when I take something from you without any legal right with the intent to permanently deprive you of it.  For example, Section 18-4-401 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, provides in relevant part, “A person commits theft when he or she knowingly obtains, retains, or exercises control over anything of value of another without authorization or by threat or deception…” (Emphasis added).  And before you get all pissy about the way I punctuated that, writing “(Emphasis added).” after a quotation, see the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983) where the U.S. Supreme Court did the same thing, with only that Rehnquist dissenting.

Taxation is when government requires you to pay money pursuant to the lawful authority granted to the government in the organizing document or laws passed by your elected representatives.

In the context of federal taxes in the United States, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1 of the Constitution provides in relevant part, “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States…”  The Sixteenth Amendment provides, “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

So, while "taxation is theft" is catchy and simple, it is logically wrong, as are many simple "X is Y" statements.

Instead of simply asserting that taxation is theft, I recently challenged some libertarians to define both terms and explain why taxation is theft.  One libertarian friend took me up, but he’s a smart man and he saw my point, then attempted to go around it by asserting, “Taxation is legalized theft,” which gives new meaning to the term theft because using that line of thinking there are two types of theft – legal and illegal.Taxation is when the government of the jurisdiction that you live in, whether you like it or not, requires you to pay money pursuant to the lawful authority granted to the government in the organizing document or by laws passed by your elected representatives.

But libertarians are not shouting, “Taxation islegalized theft,” they are shouting, “Taxation is theft.”  And, sadly, in an age where conservatives loath knowledge and science, simple phrases appeal to people that lack the time or desire to consider complex issues. That’s why I purposely used “You is an idiot” in this essay’s title – to illustrate what happens when we use is to equate unrelated concepts.  Of course, not everyone that proclaims “taxation is theft” is an idiot.  Libertarianism is one concept and idiocy is a separate concept.  That’s why we have different words for them.

Finally, note I did not assert “taxation is theft” is THE dumbest statement ever made. That would probably be something like, “Hey, I think we should take Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning,” or “There is no difference between the two parties,” or “Roy Cohen is better looking than Mark Cohen.”   

So, while "taxation is theft" is catchy and simple, it is also wrong, as are many simple "X is Y" statements." Instead of simply asserting that taxation is theft, I challenge them to define both terms and explain why taxation is theft.

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The Case for Nuclear War

September 5th, 2017 4:14pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

I am so tired of my liberal snowflake friends whining about the possibility that Trump might start a nuclear war. I guess I’m just one of those people that always sees the glass as half-full.

It’s true that a nuclear war would kill hundreds of millions of innocent people. But you can’t stop the analysis there; you must also consider the possible benefits of a nuclear war.

One benefit of a nuclear war is that we could finally put the global warming issue to rest. When you have a nuclear war, stuff burns. Burning causes smoke. Smoke blocks the sun’s rays. Without the sun’s rays, the Earth cools. Scientists call this Nuclear Winter. Global warming solved.

Another benefit would be intense pressure on Congress to pass meaningful healthcare reform. Nuclear war brings radioactive fallout. Radioactive fallout causes all sorts of cancers. The Americans that survive a nuclear exchange will unite as never before to pressure Congress to establish a healthcare system that provides coverage for all Americans.

Nuclear war would also have economic benefits. As with any Republican economic program, one of the main selling points of a nuclear war would be job creation. After the mushroom clouds subside, someone will have to clean up the mess. Someone will have to rebuild the roads, bridges, schools, and infrastructure. And with a critical shortage of workers (due to so many being dead or ill), the free market will make sure these are high-paying jobs. And, as we all know from Republican Economic Theory 101, those workers will spend that money in the few remaining stores and it will trickle down to the less fortunate.

A nuclear war would also solve the overpopulation program. In 1960, Colorado’s population was 1.753 million people. Today it is 5.57 million people. No wonder it takes five hours to drive from A-Basin to Denver on a Sunday afternoon. A nuclear war would restore a little sanity to our out of control growth.

Finally, a Trump-initiated nuclear war might cause a few of the surviving voters to reconsider their belief that “there is no difference between the two parties.” It might cause a few surviving voters to rethink their opposition to “voting for the lesser of two evils.” I’m not saying a nuclear war would have these effects, just that it might. It’s theoretically possible. You can’t rule it out.

In closing, I’m tired of the nattering nabobs of negativism looking only at the downside of a nuclear war without considering the possible benefits. As Americans, we owe it to ourselves to examine the issue objectively and consider both the costs and the benefits.


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I'm Just a Liberal From Muskogee

October 26th, 2016 5:35pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

I’m Just a Liberal From Muskogee

            In 1969, Merle Haggard's first big hit was "Okie from Muskogee." Conservatives loved it because it was an ode to traditional American values. Amidst the seemingly constant anti-war protests and big city riots, the song shot up to No. 1 on the country charts. Okie was so popular with middle America and rural voters that President Nixon invited Haggard to the White House.

            I was listening to Okie the other night while downing shots of that horrible Jeremiah Weed whiskey, and it struck me that the song no longer represents the values of today’s conservatives. Here are some lines from that song and how I think today's conservatives should rewrite the lyrics to reflect their values:

          “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee.”  Suggested change: “Many of us smoke marijuana in Muskogee, but in spite of our claim to believe in states’ rights, we want the feds to keep it illegal so big pharma and distilleries can continue to make insane profits.”       

         "We don't make a party out of lovin', We like holdin' hands and pitchin' woo."  Suggested change: “We don’t make a party out of lovin’, except for adultery (Sen. John Ensign, Sen. David Vitter, Rep. Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and Gov. Mark “I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail” Sanford), playing footsie with an undercover cop in an airport (Sen. Larry “Wide Stance” Craig), gay texting (Rep. Mark Foley), sexual harassment (Sen. Bob Packwood), and grabbing women by the pu#$%y.  Those kinds of parties are OK.”

         "We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse."  Suggested change: “We wave the confederate flag down at the courthouse because it represents our racism and hatred for the Kenyan-born Muslim President intent on taking our guns and imposing Sharia Law. Even though we claim to believe in democracy, we’re going to secede from the union if we don’t get our way. The election is rigged. And tax cuts.”

         "And the kids here still respect the college dean."  Suggested change:  “Education is bad.  We don't need a bunch of smart people telling us what to do. Education is just lies put forth by the global elites and the New World Order. Global warming is a hoax.”

         “We don't burn our draft cards down on Main Street."  Suggested change: “The current system of sending young people, mostly from the lower rungs on the economic ladder, off to war, paying them a small amount, and then not funding the VA upon their return, is working well.  Hell, I’d enlist myself, but I broke my little toe playing “kick the can” when I was a kid. We support our troops, unless they are Democrats such as John Kerry. His Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts are all fake.”

            Well, there you have it – an easy way to bring a classic country song up to date to reflect today’s conservative values.

            By the way, by the time of his 1981 hit, “Rainbow Stew,” Merle Haggard was singing about peace, clean energy, and truth in government. In 2010, President Obama invited Haggard back to the White House.  After meeting the President, Haggard said, "It's really almost criminal what they do with our President. There seems to be no shame or anything. They call him all kinds of names all day long, saying he's doing certain things that he's not.”

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We Cannot Let a Madman Get Nuclear Weapons by Kim Jong-Un

August 12th, 2016 3:08am - Posted By: Kim Jong-Un

The World Cannot Allow a Madman to Obtain Nuclear Weapons

By Kim Jong-Un

Editor’s Note: Mr. Jong-Un is the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).  Mr. Jong-Un’s views do not necessarily reflect those of the Mountain-Ear.

Greetings Americans! I know our countries have had their differences, but there are times when adversaries must put aside their differences for the greater good – times when the danger created by non-cooperation is so great that survival itself depends on the willingness of enemies to set aside their squabbles and confront the greater threat. Now is one such time.

Since the dawn of the nuclear age, nations have worked together to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and prevent rogue states from obtaining them. The traditional rationale for nuclear weapons has been deterrence. The theory is that nations with nuclear weapons can use their nuclear threat to deter attacks, thereby preserving peace.

If you think about it, deterrence has worked pretty well since the end of World War II. There have been no worldwide wars since 1945. However, one scenario that now haunts the community of nations is that a madman will obtain nuclear weapons and launch a nuclear attack that could result in our planet’s destruction. A few months ago, your President Obama said, “There is no doubt that if these madmen ever got their hands on a nuclear bomb or nuclear material, they would certainly use it to kill as many innocent people as possible.”

Last week, MSNBC reported that your Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, recently asked a foreign policy expert advising him why the U.S. can't use nuclear weapons. Such statements are of great concern to North Koreans and people around the world. What kind of madman thinks that way?

There is a great deal of other evidence suggesting that Mr. Trump suffers from serious mental illness. Making fun of a reporter with a disability. Ejecting a baby from a campaign rally. Calling a war hero like John McCain a loser. Joking about earning a Purple Heart. Bragging about the size of his penis on national TV. Calling for the assassination of Hillary Clinton even though he knows she could kill him just like she killed Vince Foster and tens of thousands of Bernie Sanders supporters. The man is simply not rational.

The United States has approximately 2,500 deployed nuclear weapons and another 2,600 in reserve, along with thousands of warheads in its inventory. It is the world’s most powerful nation. The thought of giving a madman like Donald Trump control of this arsenal is terrifying.     

Last week, President Obama said Mr. Trump is not temperamentally fit to be President. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea agrees. 

Therefore, although it pains me to say this, North Korea urges you to vote for Hillary Clinton. Especially if you live in a swing state.

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Obama - Worst President Ever!

April 14th, 2016 1:30pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

Barack Hussein Obama is the worst President ever! I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll begin this morning.

Each morning for the past seven years, the sun has risen and the sunlight has cut short my precious sleep. What has Obama done about this sunlight problem? Nothing. A real man, like Donald Trump, would do something about this solar aggression rather than leave America weak and defenseless.

Once I’m awake, I must eat breakfast, so I reach for a box of Captain Crunch. But guess what? Thanks to Obama, the FDA is phasing out partially hydrogenated oils. It is now more difficult for me to get my daily dose of trans fats. There was a time when Americans were free to choose how much trans fats to consume, but those days are gone as Obama’s massive bureaucracy slowly steals our freedom and paves the way for the New World Order.

I eat my cereal and begin the drive to my office in Boulder. Gas prices are incredibly low. This sucks. Low gas prices mean more people driving, which increases greenhouse gases. It’s also unfair to the big oil companies. America’s founders wanted the big oil companies to prosper so the money can trickle down to those less fortunate than ourselves.

I stop at the corner of 9th and Canyon. But there are no transients there to give my spare change to. Unemployment has fallen from 10.1% in October of 2009 to 4.9%. All these coins are going to pile up in my SUV and eventually I will have to put them all in a big container and insert them into one of those machines at Walmart that count coins and gives you cash. Does Obama care that I’m going to have to visit Walmart and look at a bunch of old women with their granny panties showing? Not at all.

I arrive at my office and boot up my laptop. But thanks to Obama’s net neutrality, I get fast Internet service, which means I can’t bill my clients as much for the time I spend waiting for websites to load or downloading documents.

I have more work than I can handle. Every client is on my butt and each one thinks his or her matter should be my top priority. Obama’s 71 months of economic expansion has made my life miserable. I don’t know if I can go on.

After a long day at work, I drive home and watch the news. Sadly, our pansy President has not launched any ground wars, so I don’t get to view any cool footage of American “shock and awe” destroying foreign cities. God, what I would not give for a President who would dress up in a flight suit and land on an aircraft carrier as a passenger on a fighter jet with a big “Mission Accomplished” banner in the background. That’s the only way to make these other pib squeak nations respect us.

I don’t know, maybe it’s a good thing that Obama hasn’t started any wars. With all the gays Obama has allowed to serve openly in our armed forces, I doubt we could win any wars anyhow. Maybe our army could win a decorating contest or something. It’s probably just a matter of time until we tell our troops to turn in their camouflage uniforms and start wearing the new mandatory rainbow combat fatigues. He’s also opened all combat jobs to females just to help Hillary win the female vote, which is going to put America at risk for four or five days each month.

The anchorwoman says the deficit has been greatly reduced and the rate of government spending has slowed. Just more evidence that the big spending liberals like Obama don’t understand the first thing about economics. It’s just common sense that if you want to generate more tax revenue to balance the budget you have to cut taxes. Anyone with a knowledge of basic arithmetic knows that.

Obama is pardoning a bunch of dangerous drug offenders, mostly black guys. How stupid. They are just going to start smoking pot again, then get the munchies and buy a bunch of junk food at the local convenience store, thus driving up the price of Fritos and Skittles. This will lead to an inflationary spiral. I don’t think Obama really considers all the possible consequences of his decisions. He just does whatever the hell he wants.

The news turns to politics. The country is sharply divided. With Osama Bin Laden dead and Al Qaeda unable to launch successful attacks on American soil, there is nothing to unite Americans. You call that leadership?

The rest of the news is boring. No blowjobs in the Oval Office. No Vice-Presidents accidentally shooting someone in the face. No outing of CIA agents for political gain. No torture. No financial crisis. FML. I guess I’ll just watch Von Miller on Dancing With the Stars.

I turn off the news and login to check my investment accounts. Damn, I’m doing incredibly well. I have more money, so at some point I’m going to pay more taxes. Thanks Obama.

Maybe I’ll smoke a cigar before I go to bed. Damn, I can’t even enjoy that. Because our pussy President normalized relations with Cuba, it’s a good Cuban cigar. Man, I miss those Swisher Sweets. Desi Arnez must be turning over in his grave. Yes, Obama’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.

Another thing I don’t like about Obama is what a liar he is. As a Kenyan Muslim born in Hawaii, I thought he’d keep his campaign promises to impose Sharia Law, confiscate everyone’s guns, and establish death panels so we could get rid of the old people. That was change I could believe in. Instead, he tripled the number of drone strikes on terrorists, got Bin Laden, and made it easier to get health insurance. He’s had seven years to take my guns and has the entire federal government at his disposal, but he still hasn’t managed to get my firearms. He’s just plain incompetent.

I don’t think Obama is a very good communicator. He’s always so polished, precise, and dignified. Like when Obama said, “We welcome the scrutiny of the world – because what you see in America is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems and make our union more perfect.” Why not just say, “We don’t give a pinch of raccoon shit what you think. We've got the nukes!  ‘Murica!” That’s language everyone can relate to.

I guess the good news is that we will be rid of this pathetic loser in less than a year. He can go back to being a community organizer or whatever. I don’t know who our next President will be, but it’s hard to imagine how he or she could be worse than Barack Hussein Obama.

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Against Political Correctness

December 16th, 2015 1:02am - Posted By: Mark Cohen

Against Political Correctness

“I'm very depressed how in this country you can be told ‘That's offensive’ as though those two words constitute an argument.” - Christopher Hitchens

I am liberal on most issues. Nevertheless, I am fed up with political correctness (PC). One dictionary defines PC as “the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.”

The problem with that definition is the word “perceived.” Who is the perceiver? Some may perceive an Internet meme about suicide bombers as insulting to all Muslims while others find it funny because it pokes fun at a particular subset of Muslims.      

I offer my own definition of PC. It is a doctrine that elevates sensitivity to others over truth. It is true that some Muslims are suicide bombers. Yet PC tells us we can’t poke fun at that fact or even mention it. If we do, the PC crowd labels us “Islamophobic” or accuses us of promoting “hate speech.” And it is much easier to label someone an “Islamophobe” than do the hard work of intelligently discussing the reality of radical Islamic terrorism. 

PC advocates often use language to try to shame others. For instance, they label those opposed to gay marriage “homophobes.” I support gay marriage, but I know people raised in a religious tradition that taught them marriage is between and man and a woman. To be “phobic” means to fear something. My friends that oppose gay marriage do not fear gays; they just grew up with a different definition of marriage. Using labels to avoid addressing the merits on an argument is intellectually lazy.

Examples of how ridiculous PC has become are plentiful. Not long ago students at the University of California in Irvine voted to ban the American flag to create a more “culturally inclusive” environment. They felt the flag might offend some because they see it as a sign of American imperialism. The irony of students using their First Amendment right of free speech, a value our flag symbolizes, to argue for banning the flag is difficult to miss.

PC begins in childhood these days. Now every child that plays a team sport gets a participation trophy. PC advocates don’t want children on the losing team to feel bad because players on the winning team received a trophy. This approach obscures the truth that one team won and the other lost. Watching the winning team receive a trophy should inspire children on the losing team to work harder and try to do better next time.

I am told some schools no longer force students to participate in physical education because, gosh, we wouldn’t want little Johnny to feel bad if he came in last in the mile run. Nevermind the truth that childhood obesity is rampant. Never mind the truth that little Johnny’s heart, lungs, and legs get stronger every time he runs.

While PC is often associated with liberals, conservatives offer their own forms of PC. Conservative school boards across the nation are attempting to force schools to teach a “clean” version of American history that ignores the truth that aspects of our history were fraught with racism, bigotry, brutality, and injustice.

Some people take PC so seriously that they have completely lost their sense of humor. A few months ago some boys at a frat house hung banners in front of their house. One read, “Freshman Daughter Drop Off” and another read, “Go Ahead and Drop Off Mom Too.” This outraged many feminists. They claimed, without any empirical evidence, such behavior promotes a “rape culture” on campus. I have two daughters, but I found the signs funny. The signs poked fun at the obvious truth that a great deal of consensual sex takes place on campus, some of it at frat houses. They poked fun at the image of frat houses popularized in the movie Animal House. (If you intend to write a letter to the editor, please come up with a better argument than, “You wouldn’t understand because you’re not a woman.” I’m not a pilot, but I understand how aircraft fly). 

Any doctrine that sacrifices truth and free speech to avoid potentially offending someone is highly suspect. PC advocates are turning us into a nation of humorless wimps.

Finally, there is a difference between PC and good manners. Using the N-word to refer to a black person doesn’t promote truth – it’s just an offensive racial slur without any truth attached to it.  


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Climate Change in 802 Words

September 27th, 2015 11:44pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

The issues confronting man today are sometimes complex. Few of us possess the knowledge necessary to evaluate complex issues like climate change. To complicate matters, people and organizations with their own agendas devote tremendous resources in attempts to sway public opinion. This column focuses on one such issue – climate change.

Many of us have seen video of some forlorn polar bear standing on a small ice platform, surrounded by water, seemingly wondering what happened to all the ice.  We’ve read articles about glaciers receding and ocean levels rising. And some of us are old enough to believe the weather we experience today is more extreme than when were young; as a boy I never saw Lake Dillon as dry as it is today.  But I will ignore these things even though they offer anecdotal evidence of man-made global warming.    

I ignore them because climate change deniers typically respond to such evidence by pointing out that climate change is cyclical and asserting that even if climate change is taking place there is no evidence that man is causing it.   I also ignore those anecdotal bits of evidence because there is an easier to way to prove the deniers wrong – ice core samples.

Earth keeps a journal. Instead of words, Earth records each day’s events by preserving natural objects. One way Earth does this is by trapping air bubbles in glacial ice. By drilling deep into the ice in places like Greenland and Antarctica, scientists can determine the levels of gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide present in the atmosphere at any point in time during at least the past 650,000 years.

Here is what the ice core samples tell us. During ice ages, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were around 200 parts per million (ppm), and during the warmer interglacial periods, they hovered around 280 ppm. In 1950, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide went above 300 ppm for the first time in 650,000 years. In 2013, it went above 400 ppm – a level not seen on Earth in millions of years. Moreover, the rate at which these levels are increasing is accelerating from decade to decade. From 2005 to 2014, the average annual rate of increase was 2.11 ppm. This rate of increase was more than double the increase in during the 1960’s.  

We also know the Industrial Revolution did not begin until the mid-1700’s and that man’s use of fossil fuels increased dramatically with the invention of the internal combustion engine and the mass production of automobiles in the early Twentieth Century.

Do these facts prove with certainty that man is causing climate change? Nope. It’s theoretically possible the dramatic increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases during the past few hundred years is completely unrelated to the dramatic increase in man’s use of fossil fuels during the same period – an incredible coincidence. You can even find a few scientists that claim warmer temperatures are not the result of increases in greenhouse gases, but are instead the cause of those increases.

But is certainty the correct standard? We do not require certainty in death penalty cases, but instead require only proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” And in everyday decisions we often employ a lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard.  If an oncologist told you there was a 60% chance you would die within six months unless you underwent chemotherapy, what would you do? If you sought opinions from ten oncologists and nine gave the same opinion, would you believe the nine or trust the one telling you everything is fine?

If man continues to burn fossil fuels at the current rate over the next few centuries, scientists predict the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide will rise to 1500 ppm. Our descendants will likely witness rising sea levels, rising temperatures, warmer oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreat, more extreme weather, ocean acidification, and decreased snow cover.

I recently presented this information to a climate change denying friend and his response was, “So what?” I admired the speed with which he went from denying climate change entirely to conceding it and asking, “So what?”  In response to that question, we can look at any number of things – severe drought and higher food prices, increased cancer rates, loss of oceanfront property, loss of wildlife habitat, loss of species, and many other consequences. We may not even know all the possible repercussions.    

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush recently opined that for people to declare the science on climate change has been decided is “intellectual arrogance.” No, Jeb, it is arrogant for humans to believe we can do one thing (burn massive amounts of fossil fuels) without it impacting other things such as the delicate balance the Earth developed over millions of years. The canary in the coal mine is singing and these fools want Mozart.

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How to Create Social Change

April 12th, 2015 5:43am - Posted By: Mark Cohen

In the spring of 1974 my high school still had a policy requiring every male student participating in sports to have a respectable haircut. No long hair, no ponytails, no exceptions. We also had to wear a coat and tie on game or meet days.

In March of 1974 a new student began attending our school. At the age of sixteen, Travis Ford (not his real name) stood 6’3” and weighed 220 pounds. He was built like a Greek god and many of his male classmates envied him. Many female classmates envied him as well because Travis had luxurious blond hair that flowed down to his shoulder blades.

Physical education classes were mandatory and it didn’t take the P.E. teachers (who also coached sports at the school) long to notice that Travis was a gifted athlete. Shortly after his arrival, the P.E. teachers encouraged Travis to stay after school, meet the track coach, and maybe run a few sprints. Just for fun.

Travis accepted the invitation and showed up for track practice on a gorgeous afternoon. And the one thing most of us wanted to see more than anything was to see Travis run the one hundred yard dash. So Travis dutifully positioned himself at the starting block, waited for the coach to blow the whistle, and then sprinted one hundred yards with his long hair flowing behind him. As Travis crossed the finish line, the coach clicked his stopwatch and announced the time. I don’t remember Travis’ exact time, but we all knew who the fastest kid at that school was that afternoon.

The track coach was a science teacher and was not a stupid man. He was also a coach on the football team. He knew immediately that Travis would be a successful sprinter, but he also knew Travis would make an exceptional tight end as well.

I don’t know whether this next part of the story took place that afternoon or maybe a day later, but at some point the track and football coaches called Travis into a conference room. I wasn’t present, but one of them probably said something like, “Travis, you are an exceptional athlete. We think you’d make a fine addition to our track team. And we believe we have a sport for you on the varsity football team as well.”

And Travis probably replied, “Thanks, Coach. I’m flattered.”

“There’s just one thing,” the coach said, “You’re going to have to cut your hair. It’s the school’s policy.”

At this point, Travis probably waited just a second or two, leaned back a little, maybe smiled, then stood up and said, “You know, sports aren’t that important to me. I like my hair the way it is.” And then he left.

This was not the reaction the coaches had expected. This next part is conjecture, but it’s good conjecture. Within a day or two, one of the coaches suggested to another coach that maybe it was time to reconsider the haircut policy. “It’s his hair,” the other coach replied, “why should we care how he wears it?” Shortly thereafter the track and football coaching staff met to discuss changing the haircut policy. A few of the “old school” coaches may have been resistant – until they heard how fast Travis had run the one hundred yard dash. They soon reached a consensus – the haircut policy had to go. The head track and football coaches made an appointment to see the principal.

The principal was a really cool guy who loved to wander the halls and chat with students. And he never missed a football game. He had a doctorate in education. The coaches arrived in his office for their scheduled meeting and explained that they wanted to abolish the haircut policy. The principal, being an open minded man, was not averse to the reconsidering the policy, but if he had any hesitancy, Travis’ time in the one hundred yard dash quickly cured that. The principal abolished the haircut policy.

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