Monday, 28 March 2011

Against Bruno Walther (March 2011 Edition)

Names are important - they allow us to identify and differentiate subject and aspect. Well.. it turns out "Pommie" was right: the eco-fascist has indeed written a letter against me, and the Taipei Times have published it.
"What is wrong with these arguments is that they are based not on what kind of world we want to live in..."
What is wrong with Walther's arguments, is his presumptuous arrogation of other people's lives and decisions to his own moral dictate under that royal "we". Look: my life and the lives of other people are not your fucking property Walther - how dare you presume otherwise.

His faults do not end there though... observe his spluttering attempts at unqualified defence of the anti-nuclear environmentalists from criticism:
"Are we morally justified in creating dangerous global warming and acidic oceans, leading to collapsed ecosystems?"
... and ...
"Do we really want to burden the coming generations with thousands of tonnes of the most toxic and dangerous waste for hundreds of thousands of years?"
There is no sense of measure to such hyperfault verbal terrorism at all. If there is something to the AGW hypothesis (and I'm far from certain that there is) then it would be more accurate to say that global warming is catalysed by human activity, not "created". As for acidic oceans and collapsed ecosystems - I'll take, for the moment, the line that any claim asserted without argument may be dismissed without argument. On radioactive waste: the radioactivity of nuclear waste decays significantly over that time scale and in the case of deep storage of such waste it is in any case heavily shielded and removed as far as possible from human habitation with the utmost precaution. Whilst it is not risk-free, the people working in the nuclear industry take pains to ensure those risks are scrutinized, rationally understood and minimized as far as possible.

Nonetheless, there is a part of Walther's spluttering, semi-literate rant that does need to be taken seriously - which is his raising of the problem of externalities:
"Energy production via fossil fuels and nuclear fission produces lots of external effects, such as air pollution, global warming or cancer, some of which can be economically calculated, but some of which cannot (how do you value a lost human life?)."
On his outrageous* question of how to weigh the value of a lost human life into economic calculation, the simple answer is you don't. What must be "weighed" or considered carefully are the risks to human lives.

On the more general problem, it is true that many externalities can be somewhat captured by economic calculation, but what is prerequisite to that, and which Walther fails to mention, is a legal system(s) which recognizes private property rights. Only under a system of private property rights is there any possibility of identifying polluters and of holding them responsible for the pollution they may cause. Further, whether this can be effectively done essentially depends on the structure of behavioural incentives for all concerned parties. For instance, it may often be attractive to the politicial or civil leadership of a State regulatory agency to accept kickbacks from polluters in return for failing to enforce rules; or even worse, an agency might intentionally set out extremely strict rules and harsh enforcement policies for no other reason than to coerce bribe money out of a given industry. Moreover, there are also many cases where the State itself, via its monopoly control of certain things creates enormous externalities that are almost never challenged: the year-on-year corrosive effect of inflationary monetary policy on price-formation and savings, for instance, is just one of those most egregious externalities. And since the State in many countries often directly owns and manages (or is at least intimately involved with) big businesses such as those in the energy industry - sometimes to the chagrin of the businessmen themselves - we must not overlook the little matter of when the State itself is the largest polluter... (but perhaps in a world run according to Walther's political prescriptions there would never be any more pollution...).

Generally however, and I accept that in some cases there may be no perfect answers, the best way to deal with externality issues is to act on three fronts. The first of those is to seek the gradual removal of the largest aggravator, and often the largest source, of externalities - the State itself with its oughtistic presumption of authority to play God with other people's lives. The second of those action fronts is the chief prerogative of technologists and entrepreneurs who, by thoughtfully considering externality cases in sufficient detail, may be able to produce new technological solutions to market and thereby help to not only solve the externality problem, but to create jobs and further economic opportunity. Finally, a third action front would be to tackle reform of the legal system in terms of the coherence of law to underlying principle, as well as those institutional design factors which sometimes work to distort the consistency of its application.

The remainder of Walther's outrageous claims are not befitting an intelligent response. I submit that the continued publication of Walther's ignorati gibberish is an externality upon the sphere of public debate - but at least readers may know that it is he who is responsible for it.

*My initial reaction to reading the way he phrased this question was ...unprintable.

I have a feeling that if I put these remarks into a letter to the TT, they wouldn't print it.
Just my gut feeling.


  1. This is the same bumbling idiot that called my point-by-point criticism of the CCP's own claims regarding who won China's war on fascism "incoherent," the same dolt who is evidently unaware of the thesis, point, point, point, point . . . organization of an argument. I wouldn't sweat him, Mike. The same Bruno Walther who argued that the KMT is today still far more fascist than today's CCP is one of those at the front line of the leftist takeover of how we value human life (judging from his letter published today), and the same person who argues that the best way to solve an energy issue--or any issue, I gather--is to politicize the hell out of it. It is best to talk above such stupidity and not respond to it. You were right a while back when you said he "is stupid." I stand corrected.

  2. "I wouldn't sweat him, Mike. The same Bruno Walther who... is one of those at the front line of the leftist takeover ... and the same person who argues that the best way to solve... any to politicize the hell out of it."

    That's about the size of him.

  3. ''I wouldn't sweat him, Mike. The same Bruno Walther who...'

    Bruno Walther is a good man, truth be told, but to really understand him, you need to know that

    1. English is his second language and

    2. he is a German national from Germany with all of its long and convuluted history, good and bad

    3. he means well, but he is not from the UK or the USA and english is not his first language, so...

    4. cut him some slack guys


  4. "..cut him some slack guys.."

    No. Look I'm sure he's full of goodness in life's little things - most of us are. And I know that he's German, and I know that English is his second language (German is my second language funnily enough) and I know that he "means well" - but there is a famous road - we all know where it goes and what it's paved with, but all I'm saying is that he doesn't get to herd the rest of us down it like sheep. Not if I can do anything about it.

  5. pommie forgot this: -

    Dear friends and colleagues,

    as I do not want to send any more unsolicited emails to you, this will
    be my last email to you unless you want to follow me on my blog.

    1.) Please let me know if you want to be alerted via email every time
    that I post something on my blog
    Otherwise, I will leave you in peace.

    2.) As the vicious liar and hate-mongerer Michael Fagan was published
    in the Taipei Times again, the Taipei Times have now finally conceded
    their moral, scientific and political bankruptcy. For my open letter
    to the Taipei Times which I sent out earlier, I gathered the support
    of two professors and two students but received no support from the
    expat community (see copy below).
    The whole thing was actually a textbook case of why the environmental
    and social justice movements so often malfunction: one person argued I
    should rewrite the style of the letter a bit, another that I should
    concentrate on my scientific work, and so on, and so on. And while we
    discuss and argue, the neo-liberal destruction of the planet, driven
    by corporate-paid astroturfers and hate-mongerers like Michael Fagan,
    continues Unless we stand united, we
    cannot win.
    So congratulations! Michael Fagan wins, and humanity loses. As a
    consequence, I will not write for the fascist-supporting* Taipei Times
    again, but publish in my blog instead, but probably much less
    regularly than for the Taipei Times. After all, what’s the point?

    With my best regards, Bruno

    *This term is justified because if the Taipei Times publishes somebody
    who regularly uses the hate-term ‘eco-fascist’, then apparently words
    have no meaning or impact anymore, so we can all use them freely and
    indiscriminately. I detailed my argument in an additional letter (see
    also below).

    An open letter to the Taipei Times - against Michael Fagan

    After the publication of a letter by Professor Bruno Walther in the
    Taipei Times Michael Fagan published
    another hate-mongering reply on his blog Again, Bruno Walther is called an “eco-fascist” right at the outset.
    While we could take his non-scientific waffle apart without blinking
    an eye (he must have failed every science course that ever came his
    way), what we really object against is not that opinions differ
    (everybody is entitled to their opinions, unless they are lies), but
    because Michael Fagan continues to use hate speech. Terms such as
    “hyperfault verbal terrorism”, “fecal foreigner”

  6. Actually, I do hate Bruno - but I don't spend time working at it.

    The very notion of "hate speech" is nothing but an attempt to further curtail the right to freedom of speech. His attachment to this "hate speech" anti-concept is one reason why Bruno is a fascist - it allows him to call for a prohibition on expressing opinions which he, or some other authority, will decry as hatred.

    "While we could take his non-scientific waffle apart without blinking an eye..."

    (Ha!) Bruno Walther as "Blondie" in "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly"... hilarious.


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