Hungary Post-Elections: Our Fun-House Mirror?

April 23, 2010 at 8:49 am (By Amba) (, , )

Hungary could not be more different from the United States, yet the push and pull among corrupt Socialists, populists, and the Right feels eerily familiar.

What the Socialists did was catastrophic. For eight years they governed they steered the country on a zigzag course. All their attempts at reform failed, the budget in Hungary was so poorly managed that Hungary was hit extremely hard by the global economic downturn. But you could not really call them a socialist party. They no longer uphold socialist values. Behind the mask of socialist slogans lies an authoritarian pattern. This is the legacy of the Kadar regime: a caring state which tolerates no opposition. And again, it was riddled with corruption which inculpates the socialists in power.

*   *   *

The party political struggle became nothing but a front for the battle for cash.

*   *   *

[Y]ou shouldn’t be surprised at [far-right populist party] Jobbik’s popularity when desperate family men are constantly being laid off only to be rehired under worse conditions. The Europeans should not just look for the easy way out now by simply distancing themselves from these genuinely abhorrent neo-fascists. These people were not born that way.

*   *   *

The country is heavily in debt and in need of radical reform – in education, health, pensions. The bureaucracy is absurdly inflated. A third of the population lives off the state.

Hmmm.  My friend Casselman the Prairie Editor sees omens and lessons for America in the upcoming British elections.  Yesterday on NPR while driving the van I heard Bolivian president Evo Morales kick off the alternative climate summit at Cochabamba by saying, “Capitalism dies or Mother Earth dies.  Capitalism lives or Mother Earth lives.”  These shifting winds are blowing around the globe.

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9 Comments

  1. Melinda said,

    So maybe I’m misinterpreting this, but does this mean:

    1. We”re all turning socialist; or

    2. The whole world is having an attack of “Throw the bums out!”

  2. amba12 said,

    1. The world is simultaneously turning towards and away from socialism, which probably means 2. is correct.

  3. PatHMV said,

    Well, what’s frustrating for me is that neither side really tries to convince the other. They more or less compete for the man in the middle, but not by actually addressing the arguments made by the other side or offering up strong arguments themselves.

    For example, take CO2 emissions. So many of the people pushing the AGW theory have government-focused ideologies. They think individuals and capitalists aren’t capable of doing the right thing on their own, and they demand that the government regulate more or less directly. They barely consider any other possible solutions, much less use those other possible solutions to persuade doubters that CO2 emissions could be reduced without turning the country (and the world) into some sort of socialist regime, a command and control economy.

    How many times have you ever seen anybody argue that CO2 emissions are a classic example of a tragedy of the commons? The tragedy of the commons is one of the bedrock principles of conservative thought. When everybody owns something, nobody owns it, and so nobody has any incentive to conserve it. One classic example is the electric bill in an apartment complex where utilities are included in the rent. No individual in the complex has an incentive to conserve electricity; he can keep the a/c running all day long, whether he’s home or not, because he doesn’t pay anything extra for it. Indeed, he almost as an incentive to consume more electricity… if he doesn’t, but his neighbor runs the a/c 24/7, then he is in effect subsidizing his neighbor’s excess usage through his rent. So everybody runs their a/c 24/7, and then next year the rent increases, but leaving the same incentives for overuse in place.

    Give him ownership of the consequences of electricity use, put the amount he uses in his name and make him pay whatever it is, and suddenly he’s got an incentive to minimize his use, because that will save him money… a much more direct and powerful motivator than a general good will and desire to benefit the entire community of complex dwellers.

    Any CO2 which is emitted by, say, a coal plant, does absolutely no harm to anybody… as long as it stays within the boundaries of the property owned by the coal plant. The problem, of course, is that CO2 (and other emissions) don’t stay within those confines. They spread throughout the common air. The individual user has no property rights incentive to reduce his emissions, because the cost of the emissions is spread throughout the entire community.

    Now, the practical problems and issues of AGW will remain. Changing the argument won’t remove all political conflict about the issue, because it’s a challenging issue, fraught with uncertainties and predictions of possible future actions. But changing the conceptual framework, by proponents, would help remove some of the harsher political edges to the debate. Right now, individual folks on the more conservative side tend to assert that the AGW folks (and other liberals) want to take away their property rights and tell them what they can and can’t do on their own property. The AGW folks ought to respond: “No, we’re all for property rights. As long as you can keep all of your gases on your own property, you can generate all the CO2 and pollutants you want to; it’s your property. But once you start sending your gases onto other people’s property, or into the commons generally, then you’re violating OUR property rights.”

    That would really take a lot of the edge off, because the Gores of the world don’t generally seem to have a whole lot of respect for property rights.

    Similarly (and I’ll make this example shorter, the post is too long already), conservatives don’t do a good job of making the case that their policies will ultimately benefit the poor and the disadvantaged. Most of us think they will, but we don’t aggressively make the case. When we’re accused by a Democrat of wanting children to starve (b/c of a cut in food stamps or something), we should really respond “F— You! Of course we don’t want children to starve. What we want is a system where not only will children not starve, they won’t grow up dependent on the government and will not only survive but thrive and live the American dream,” followed by an repeated explanation, with supporting data, showing the fundamental truth that capitalism has raised far more people out of poverty than just about anything else in the history of the world.

  4. wj said,

    Am I the only one who longs for someone to take the obvious position on CO2 emissions? It is totally irrelevant whether or not human action which generates CO2 is responsible for global warming.

    The facts are these:
    – The globe is getting warmer. No real question of fact there. (See the Northwest Passage, to give just one example of something that is more than just a local weather oddity.)
    – changing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere can change the rate at which heat is radiated from the earth. No real question about that either.
    So whether or not human actions caused the global warming that we are seeing, human action could be taken to counter it.

    Now there could be argument about whether climate change is a Bad Thing or not. Certainly it would be bad for some people (especially if they live in island nations or other areas which are only marginally above sea level currently). Equally certainly, it would be good for some people (e.g. those who are trying to practice agriculture in areas which currently are too cold for too much of the year for much to grow successfully). So there is one point for actual debate.

    But, assuming that the debate on the merits of climate change comes down on the “no change is better” side, the case for restricting CO2 emissions on that basis makes itself.

    (Alternatively, there are pretty straight-forward arguments for making things more efficient. Which, in virtually all cases, results in reduced emissions of CO2 (and, on top of that, other green-house gasses). Granted, that’s a side effect — but sometimes side effects are actually good things.)

    But somehow, in all of the to-ing and fro-ing over CO2 emissions, carbon trading, etc. . . . nobody seems to spend any significant time on the real question: What are the good and bad impacts of climate change. Why is that?

  5. William O. B'Livion said,

    Socialists have ALWAYS been authoritarians. That’s the whole point of Socialism, to organize labor and capital. Any idea that Socialism, in the words of a former co-worker “is about taking care of people” is pure propaganda.

    Note for the purposes of the following discussion CO2 emissions mean ONLY CO2 emissions, we are not using CO2 as a codeword for “pollution”.

    PatHMV: There have been arguments that CO2 emissions fall into the category of the commons. The problem is that there are MANY MANY problems with the CO2-caused-AGW theories: http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html. IF it could be clearly demonstrated that CO2 was causing real problems, and that those real problems OFFSET THE GOOD THINGS it does (increase in plant growth for example) AND that the overall cost of mitigating those bad things was MORE than the cost of CO2 reduction, then yes, we should reduce CO2.

    The problem is that many of the climate change alarmists have done *really* shoddy work, and got caught doing it REPEATEDLY.

    This means that the Tragedy of the Commons, while applicable is missing a big part.

    The Tragedy.

    And The Farce of the Commons just doesn’t have the same urgency.

    WJ:

    Your facts are wrong. Or at least #1 is wrong for any reasonable time scale, and while #2 is certainly true, it seems to be true at a much smaller impact than the climate alarmists would have us believe.

    And there ARE people who want to measure and discuss the effects of climate change. There *have* been initial studies on the effects of CO2 (independent of temperature).

    There are LOTs of studies out there that counter the CO2 Alarmism, but they are confusing and they don’t paint man as a villian, and hencethey don’t advance the narrative.

    Hungary was run by Socialists, and Socialist have always had an authoritarian streak, but in this country Socialism was part of the Progressive movement which added a moral dimension to it. So not only are you *technically* wrong to oppose them, but you are morally wrong as well–a *bad person*.

    Me, I’m comfortable being labeled a traitor and a dangerous radical (Um. No, the term is reactionary. TYVM). Others, not so much.

  6. wj said,

    I guess it depends on what one considers a “reasonable time scale.” I expect we can agree that 5 years is too short to be meaningful. (Certainly comparing one year to the next won’t demonstrate anything more than that one year is not a perfect replica of the next.) But I would contend that 40-50 years is getting to the point (depending on how big a change we are seeing) that a change might be more than just noise in the signal. Naturally this assumes that you have a significantly longer period before that where you have data to establish what is “normal.”

    Now opinions may differ as to whether there are sufficient numeric measurements of temperature, in a sufficient number of places, to say that normal is established. On the other hand, we have (to pick just one example) several centuries where there simply was no NorthWest Passage — if you tried to sail a ship north around Canada, you were out of luck. So if we see that the Arctic Ice Pack has shrunken to the point that such a voyage is routinely feasible, I would say that that constitutes prima facia evidence that the world has gotten warmer.

    One might argue that such a change is “merely local climate variation” as opposed to global warming. But to make such a case, you’d have to have somewhere else that has gotten correspondingly colder. If anyone has a candidate, I haven’t heard it.

    Note that none of this assumes any particular cause for global warming. Certainly the world has gotten warmer and colder in the past. But my point was that the cause is irrelevant to the discussion of whether steps should be taken to deal with that warming.

  7. William O. B'Livion said,

    “””
    But I would contend that 40-50 years is getting to the point (depending on how big a change we are seeing) that a change might be more than just noise in the signal.
    “””
    (note in the following I use the term “we” to mean “mankind” and more specifically “mankind who has been following the debate with a skeptical mind since it changed from global cooling because of aerosols and particulate pollution to global warming because of CO2)

    No one who knows *anything* about the historical record would assert that the earth is, on average, the same temperature it was 150 years ago. Which BTW was a period of minimal solar activity.

    What has happened is that “we” have put a stake in the ground at about 1979 and called it “normal”, and then have complained that the *global* temperature is no longer “normal”.

    And that it MUST be mankind who is to blame.

    Can’t be that during that time (the time of the little ice age I mean) we saw several solar minimums and increased volcanic activity, and that during the latest up turn we had (during the late 90s anyway) a VERY active sun. In recent years the sun has dropped off (http://www.solarcycle24.com/sunspots.htm http://www.solarcycle24.com/graphs/sunspotgraph.gif ), and the current solar cycle (24) seems to be turning out to be a VERY quiet (low energy) sun. I don’t think anyone really knows why these cycles exist, or what drives them, but since almost everything is George Bush’s fault, my money is that the Bavarian Illuminati trained him to use his mind to control the sun.

    Another big forcer is ocean currents. El Nino v.s. La Nina, for which we have essentially NO good historical data (more on historical data later). I haven’t seen any reasonable discussion of why we have these cycles (called “ENSO”), but I’m pretty sure it’s not Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide.

    Finally we have good reason to believe that the amount of crap spewed into the air by volcanoes has a dramatic impact on the environment, in odd ways that some documents are unclear on. We know a major eruption can cause cooler temperatures, but I’ve seen some so-called experts argue that many eruptions cause an increase in temperatures because sulphur-dioxide causes other “greenhouse” gasses to build up.

    I’ve also not see *anything* about the thermal effect of under-water vulcanism (for which we have absolutely NO historical record worth mentioning). Maybe it’s too small to have an effect. Maybe it’s what drives the ENSO. >>shrug<<

    Now, the historical data.

    We know that Europe was warmer in the past because of things like England growing grapes &&etc. We have anecdotal information, and *very* rough records.

    In fact most of the historical temperature data is horrible crap. Look at the http://surfacestations.org project. Go ahead, I'll wait.

    Note that **91%** of the surface stations so far sampled (78% at the time that page was written, or about 71% of all US stations) have an error margin of OVER 1 degree C. Which is to say that most of them have an error GREATER than the alleged rise in temperatures.

    Ocean temperature data is even worse. For about 2-300 years ocean temperature data was collected by throwing a wooden bucket over the side of a ship, pulling up a bucket of water, dropping a thermometer in it and recording the date, time, location (latitude and longitude (to the extent known)) or some other way) and temperature. Since this was done relatively sporadically, and with different levels of interest and investment in the results, it's not a *great* record. Then at some point in (IIRC) the 1940s we switched over a couple year period to metal buckets. Which causes a dip in ocean temperatures about that time.

    So we really only have limited surface data for Europe and America going back to the 1600s on equipment that is dodgier and dodgier the further back you get. Ocean studies are even weaker.

    So some climate scientists, and others trying to horn in on government grants started trying to prove that other stuff could serve as a proxy–the bristle cone pine was one. For a few years in the 50s or 60s someone collected tree core samples and hand a theory that tree ring size was reliably related to temperature, and it matched for a short time. For some reason in the late 1960s it started to diverge with reality…I mean with the temperature record, which was what the East Anglia emails were about–they "hid the decline" by "mixing in real temperature data" with the tree ring temperature proxies. The big problem with that is that if it was wrong AFTER the 1960s, how do we know it was *ever* accurate?

    We can take their word for it. Yeah. And if we're lucky we'll get a reach around. Well, probably not. Not even a kiss afterward. Cause they really don't respect us until we get PH.Ds

    We have some fairly reliable data from weather balloons going back to the late 1950s, but the only best global data we have is from satellites, and that only goes back to 1978. And it is also not as consistent as we'd like to believe. The folks at Robert Goddard (where J. Hansen the "father" of Global Warming works) don't really seem to like satellite data, mostly because it seems to show a MUCH more stable temperature than the surface station date.

    But back to the original issue, 40-50 years is NOT a vaild time frame. The earth, well, at least the earth I live on (if you're a new-earth fundamentalist, don't worry, our universes will diverge shortly. At least I hope so) is billions of years old, and we have very solid solid (rock solid in some cases) records that prove that the climate DOES change, and fairly dramatically.

    Don't, don't, don't believe the hype.

  8. wj said,

    What has happened is that “we” have put a stake in the ground at about 1979 and called it “normal”, and then have complained that the *global* temperature is no longer “normal”.

    And that it MUST be mankind who is to blame.

    You will note that, whatever some others have argued, I specifically stated that, if warming is happening, the reasons for it are irrelevant. Also, that a 50 year (e.g. from 1960, if I have counted decades correctly) trend might be meaningful provided there was data from before then to establish what is normal. So it appears, at least to my tiny mind, that you are citing arguments that I not only didn’t make but specifically rejected in order to object to the whole idea. Why? (That was a real question, not a rhetorical one.)

    I also noted that there was a case for us not having sufficient hard data on temperatures to establish normal on that basis. Which case you make quite well.

    But I also argued that there was non-numeric data to support the case for global warming. Do you have information indicating that the NorthWest Passage was open sometime between the 1500s and the mid 1900s? I haven’t seen any, but I am not a scholar of writings on the subject. Alternatively, if an open passage north of Canada is new, do you have information indicating that some other, roughly the same size, part of the globe is experiencing offsetting cooling? If so, please share.

  9. William O. B'Livion said,

    “I specifically stated that, if warming is happening, the reasons for it are irrelevant. ”

    That may be true in the universe you live in, but here in *my* universe there are a bunch of people with their panties in a wad because they’ve been told that cow flatulence and automobiles are the primary reasons that the oceans are going to consume NYC and San Francisco (Yeah Baby, gimme the biggest porterhouse you have, to go. I’ve got a de-tuned Nash outside and I’m going to drive around with the air conditioner running and the windows down and eat my steak with a side order of beans).

    This belief that human emitted gasses–mostly CO2–is the cause of Global Warming has made AlGore a Billionaire, and has the watermelons and most politicians salivating at the opportunity to seize control of the reigns of production.

    Water vapor and Methane are more potent GH gasses, but you’ll notice that no one is going after them–because they have natural sources that dwarf any from mankind. We could eliminate a lot of methane from the air by killing off most of the termites in Africa. Until we do that cutting back on factory “farming” of cattle is, to be crude, a fart in a windstorm.

    To your other point is unlikely the Northwest Passage would have been open any time after ~1500. That is about the time we entered the “Little Ice Age” that lasted through the middle of the 19th century, which is where we started the “global warming” trend that continues today. I’ve read somewhere information about said passage being open in the 12 and 13 hundreds, but I don’t know if I could ever find it again.

    I was trying to make the case that the specific and “good” records we do have are tremendously suspect, if you are of a skeptical mind, and that the anecdotal evidence we have suggests a great deal of variability in the climate. Some have tried to pin these previous variations on the works of man, but it’s kinda tough to pin a *real* ice age on a bunch of guys who can barely manage fire and who’s greatest technical achievement is a pointy rock lashed to a long straight stick.

    So to your points:

    * It matters very, very much why the earth is warming. If it is due to the natural variability of the sun, then there isn’t a d*** thing we can do about it, and we need to focus on risk mitigation factors. If it is man-made in some way, then we need to VERY CAREFULLY figure out the benefits and problems caused by it, and whether it is cheaper to completely re-structure society such that the elites get to tell the rest of us peons how to live while they do whatever they want (because a senator in a limo does very little damage, while the rest of the nation in SUVs does a lot of damage).

    * 40-50 years is NOT enough time to determine “normal” in a dynamic system, and global weather is way past dynamic in it’s complexity. In fact, in such a system there IS no normal, there is only then, now, and a series of vectors between them.

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