The Best Way To Reduce Natural Disaster Casualties

Dr. Eamonn Butler has a nice post at the Adam Smith Institute Blog that anticipates claims that we can expect more natural disasters because of Global Warming, and should get onboard with the Kyoto Protocol.

Money quote:

The real lesson is that we have to make the world richer. Because richer people can stand up to natural disasters better than poorer ones. We need trade, markets, peace, democracy, low taxes — all the things that will deliver growth fast to the developing world. That is the way to save lives. Real lives that are being lost right now. Quite frankly, that will do more for the planet than the theoretical and far-off benefits of Kyoto.

Seems right to me.

Susan Sontag

As I indicated in the previous post, I had been looking for obituaries of Susan Sontag. Unfortunately, most are like this nauseating piece by Christopher Hitchens. I understand that they were friends, but many of the
people he mercilessly criticized after their deaths had many friends, too. His
failure to honestly appraise her ideas is uncharacteristic and disappointing.

The obituary that frames her life most like my notion of it is this one by Roger Kimball.

I’m sure that Sontag had many nice personal characteristics; and perhaps she had some useful ideas about art and culture. Unfortunately, her political ideas were so deeply hideous that she deserves to be remembered not as an “intellectual heroine”; but as a pretentious enemy of liberty and western civilization.

The Religious Left

I love blogs.

Reading about Susan Sontag’s death led me to Tim Blair’s site and this post, which led me to this post from September, which led me to this
great ranting comment
. I’ll quote the main section of the comment just in case the link ever dies:

It’s amazing to me that the “left” (how outmoded and meaningless these distinctions are) have evolved into the most uptight, anti-rational, superstitious and piously moralistic bunch since the Puritans walked the wild forests of America (though I hesitate to make the comparison, since the Puritans accomplished great things). The “left” may joke and titter and wheeze about “fundy Christian wingnuts” but find someone lecturing you about your immorality, your materialism, your sinful pride, your lack of spiritual value and, most likely, they will be driving an old Volvo with the radio tuned to “Pacifica” and a GEORGE BUSH IS A LIAR bumper-sticker on the fender. Your average lefty is quicker to take offense than a blue-haired old presbyterian; they are constantly monitoring everyone for signs of racism, sexism, colonialism, anti-animal hate speech. They will criticize your car, your house, your synthetic fiber sweater, your swear words, your cigarettes, your sandwich, your choice of grocery bag, your skin color (if it is in the dusky pink range). Life to them is a laundry list of strictures, taboos and lamentations. They hate science, they fear Christianity, they think heterosexual porn is rape, they believe in magic, aromatherapy, tribalism; they scream about Bush killing children but fail to bat an eyelash at the consequences of “pro-choice”. They cringe in disgust and embarrassment at the “black and white” moral distinctions of Bush (and Reagan in his time) when he speaks of the “axis of evil”, yet no one uses the word evil more than leftists when describing the Bush Administration, capitalism, America, Israel. They mock and scoff at the president’s religiosity, yet speak in reverential tones of Gaia, Buddha, Wicca, Yoga. And on and on.

Goldsmith makes a terrific point. The Left is every bit as superstitious and irrational as the Right. More irrational, in fact, because at least the Right usually has human welfare high on its priority list, while the Left is often on the other side.

Disaster Relief

There isn’t much to say about the tsunami disaster other than to note how sad it is for so many people, and what a good time it would be to contribute
to help (I did).

I suppose one other thing to note is how great the online response has been, both in terms of useful information and generosity. As Glenn Reynolds writes (after noting that the US is sending shiploads of help, in addition to money):

But nonetheless, a lot of human capital has been brought to bear on this problem in very short order, through voluntary cooperation. Get used to it: Navies have been around for a long time, but this is the wave of the future.

UPDATE: As of 12/29 at 8:40 AM PST, Amazon.com has already collected over $1.6 million for the Red Cross relief effort. How cool is that?

UPDATE 2: I hope people remember this tragic event when they encounter those who worship the “natural” and condemn the “artificial”. The natural isn’t necessarily good for people; it’s often deadly. Artificially manipulating our environment to enhance our lives is what we should be doing. Irrational reverence for nature and obstruction of human solutions is not just silly, it’s mmoral.

What, Me Worry?

I really like Russ Roberts’ post over at Cafe Hayek in response to Sabastian Mallaby’s Washington Post column fretting about how partially privatizing Social Security will burden citizens with too many choices and risks.

Here’s a key insight from Roberts:

And if you’re worried about all that stress, there is a very easy policy solution to let those worriers sleep easy. Make social security voluntary. You don’t like making your own choices? Let the government handle it. How many people would choose this voluntary option? Would you be comforted and stress-free knowing that the government is going to take those voluntary contributions and give them to today’s retirees, knowing that when you get older, the government will tax your children and the children of strangers to finance your uncertain benefits?

It’s this section from Mullaby that really bugs me:

It follows that pro-market, government-cutting schemes cannot be justified by a presumed moral superiority. When it comes to their retirement, most Americans probably want a mix of a government safety net and the opportunity to accumulate their own savings. The current system, featuring a government program that guarantees a pension equal to about a third of the average worker’s salary, plus a variety of tax-favored opportunities to save individually, may already be quite close to most citizens’ sense of the right balance.

In the absence of the moral-superiority claim, a reform that adds to the stresses of the modern world must hold out the compensating hope of more prosperity. There’s no case for Social Security privatization unless it brings a serious economic payoff.

How does any of this follow? Because some people don’t like a lot of choices and risk, there’s no moral issue with forcing a government program on other people?

I think Roberts’ take on this is about right:

I think Mallaby’s last sentence has it exactly backwards. The economic payoff from privatization will be small. The real payoff is moral—the opportunity to live as an adult, making choices and coping with the consequences, good and bad.

I Wish You Some Perspective

As I’ve written before, I have no problem with people saying “Merry Christmas”. But, I have no problem with “Happy Holidays” either. Both are nice wishes that are rarely intended to exclude or offend anybody. Just smile and accept it that way.

What’s getting annoying, though, is the increased whining from some christians about how they’re being victimized by secularism and political correctness.

People sympathetic to this mistaken view should read Julian Sanchez’s nice Reason article on the subject.

And…Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, etc.

UPDATE: And also…Happy Birthday To Me!