Summary: Beam us down to Earth on 31 December 2015. What will we find? My guess is that the massive experiments now underway by experts will have borne fruit, and we’ll know if they were sweet or poisoned. Interesting times lie ahead, and none can say how they will end.
- The age of experts’ experiments on us
- Warnings of Climate Change
- Economics: monetary and fiscal magic
- For More Information
Photo from the Star Trek episode “Miri” – The landing party arrives in response to a distress call. Experts on the planet have run a massive experiment to produce a better world. Looks like it didn’t end well.
(1) The age of experts’ experiments on us
The 21st century has seen some of the largest experiments ever by experts, different from the often-mad amateur experiments that shaped so much of human history (e.g., the French and Russian revolutions, the Fascist social “engineers” in the 1930s, the 1970s Khmer Rouge in Cambodia). Some have run to completion, such as the US military’s expeditions to Iraq and Afghanistan — using the techniques of COIN to defeat local insurgents and build new western-style nations (quite mad given the history of almost total failure since WWII by foreign armies fighting insurgents). Other and larger experiments continue running. Let’s look at two of the biggest.
(2) Warnings about Climate Change
Scientists have long debated when to warn about dangers. Geologists and earthquakes, biochemists about health effects of specific foods — what standard of evidence warrants disrupting society by warning the public? How to phrase the warning so that it has sufficient certainty to motivate change, yet does not ignore the always-present uncertainties?
In the mid-1980s climate scientists began to go public with warnings about global warming — and the need to reduce CO2 emissions. Any date is arbitrary for the start of the campaign; I prefer the creation of the IPCC by the UN in 1988 and the testimony of James Hanson at a Senate hearing on 23 June 1989 (framed for the public by brilliant agitprop: heating the room).
Since then the warnings have increased in frequency and intensity, amplified by laypeople warning of catastrophe — up to the end of civilization. A large number of the world’s major science associations and agencies have signed on to the program. Scientists have in effect gone “all in” on global warming and climate change. It’s an experiment for scientists of unprecedented size — testing their ability to influence society.
Unfortunately the climate has not cooperated. Warming of the atmosphere paused around 2000, with no statistically significant change since then (see here, here, and here). Polar sea ice extent has stabilized. The confidently predicted increase in disasters remains MIA, with no rising trend in hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, or wildfires (see here and here).
That’s not a problem for science, which thrives on bold predictions — and advances no matter if they prove true or false. Scientists have swung to investigating the causes of the pause, and forecasting when it will end. But it puts the credibility of science at risk.
So far the climate alarmists have maintained their momentum by blaming CO2 for all forms of extreme weather — including cold weather, even typical weather for that region (e.g., the droughts in California and Australia) — and denying the existence of the pause. I doubt they can maintain that game another year, so 2015 might prove decisive in the campaign for public support — and for control of public policy in this vital area.
How will the public react if the pause continues for several more years, or (as some scientists suspect) a decade or two? The US has a long tradition of anti-intellectualism, and this could fuel its resurgence. With horrific consequences, as science provides one of our few reliable tools for navigating the changing world of the 21st century.
Going “all in” risks losing everything.
(3) Economics: monetary and fiscal magic
Europe, America, China, and Japan are all — in different ways, to different degrees — taking economic policy where no man has gone before. There is no precedent for the combination since 2008 of government extension of credit, massive monetary expansion, and lavish deficit spending. Economists have led us into the greatest economic experiment in history.
So far there have been no obvious ill effects, although the benefits appear mixed (at best). It’s too soon to say either way. We can learn from the “Star Trek” episode about the disaster on Miri’s planet, where the Life Prolongation Project succeeded beyond expectations, but ended with collapse on a horrific scale.
Again 2015 seems likely to bring a decisive conclusion to the economic experiments in one or more of the major nations.
- America has begun the withdrawal process — as the fiscal deficit shrinks, monetary expansion has ended, and the Fed plans to raise interest rates. Success will end this experiment.
- Japan has applied economic stimulus longer and bigger than anyone, and continues to apply more. Failure in 2015 might begin the endgame.
- Europe has applied a different set of economic stimulus policies, bringing rates in many nations to below zero. Yet deflation continues to take hold, while the political coalitions supporting the European Monetary Union slowly continue to fray.
- China continues to struggle to wind down its generations-long stimulus program, which has brought it unprecedented success yet risks certain collapse if continued too long.
(4) For More Information
(a) About climate science and forecasting:
- Looking into the past for guidance about warnings of future climate apocalypses
- Checking up on past forecasts about climate change, a guide to the future
- Tell noble lies for America’s salvation!, 31 July 2013
- Possible political effects of the pause in global warming, 26 August 2013
- Are scientists doing a good job of warning us about climate change?, 27 February 2014
- Should we listen to amateurs’ analysis of climate science?, 16 April 2014
- Will a return of rising temperatures validate the IPCC’s climate models?, 18 December 2014
(b) Posts about the great monetary experiment:
- The World of Wonders: Monetary Magic applied to cure America’s economic ills, 20 February 2013
- The World of Wonders: Everybody Goes Nuts Together, 21 February 2013
- The greatest monetary experiment, ever, 20 June 2013
- Do you look at our economy and see a world of wonders? If not, look here for a clearer picture…, 21 September 2013
- Wagering America on an untested monetary theory, 22 January 2014
- The easy way to understand unconventional monetary policy, 7 February 2014
(c) About our geopolitical experts:
- US troops must fight in the Congo! A report from the asylum, home to many of our geopolitical experts, 20 September 2010
- Our geopolitical experts will destroy America, if we let them, 27 October 2010
- Our geopolitical experts see the world with the innocent eyes of children (that’s a bad thing), 14 March 2011
- Our geopolitical experts, like Max Boot, lead America into the dark, 21 January 2013
(d) About experts:
- Today’s debate: a passionate defense of credentialism. State your view!, 23 October 2012
- Experts now run the world using their theories. What if they fail, and we lose confidence in them?, 21 June 2013
- Do we face a future without confidence in experts?, 25 September 2013
- Our confidence in science is crumbling. Why? How can we fix this?, 10 October 2014