Category Archives: Economics

Why Climate Change Really Is Our Most Urgent, Number One Priority Right Now

A little over a week ago Bill Nye (the Science Guy) was on CNN’s “Crossfire” segment where he “debated”, and I hesitate to use this word when describing the following people, pundit S. E. Cupp and the Heritage Foundation‘s Nicolas Loris on the impact that climate change has on our lives. Amidst Bill’s clearly superior understanding of climate science and Loris’ “>muh federalism” cries, Cupp stepped up and did make one interesting point when she said

[Y]ou can look at entitlement reform which will bankrupt this country long before climate change destroys us, heart disease kills 7 million a year worldwide, 870 million suffer from hunger; I want you to look me in the eye and tell me in good conscience that climate change is our most urgent, number one priority right now.

While I loved Bill’s response and her reaction, I feel like he could have run with it more. Specifically, climate change directly affects the root cause of each of those issues and solving climate change is a prerequisite to solving any of the issues Cupp brought up. You see, climate change really is our most urgent, number one priority because it will not only be a huge blow to the economies of the world due to flooding and relocation issues, but it will disrupt global food supplies due to crop failures and ocean acidification, and the increased temperatures will create higher outbreak rates for diseases. All these, which will be fleshed out below, are reasons why climate change is a prior question and answers the impacts of Cupp’s claims.

My aim in writing this is not to provide a comprehensive list of the impacts of climate change, rather to point out that climate change comes before every issues that Cupp claims is more important.

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Attempting the Impossible – Calculating Capitalism’s Death Toll

INTRODUCTION:

While there have been other attempts to count up the number of deaths that can be attributed to Capitalism (to counter the figures presented in The Black Book of Communism as well other places), most noteably, determinatenegation’s list and The Castroists’ list, neither critique the methodology used by the the supporters of the “OMG Communism killed 70 trillion people!!1!” nor do they provide easy to verify sources. So while I think both lists are fabulous (and I may use parts), this post will be not only a critique of the methodology used by the other side, but also a more user friendly list.

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Climate Denial and the Death of Rationality

Unfortunately, despite all our scientific advances and supposed advances in rationality, there is still one lingering and debated issue…whether climate change is anthropogenic or not. If you’re a person who enjoys the Kochs or believes everything the CATO Institute tells you, this is directed towards you. In 2013 a study was completed by and authored by nine different scientists ranging from climate scientists at the University of Queensland to geological scientists at Memorial University of Newfoundland. The article, titled, “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature”, apart from being one of the best articles on climate science I have ever seen, without a doubt proves the human influence on the environment. Specifically, the authors, Cook et al., took over 10,000 peer-reviewed scientific articles published in journals examining climate science over the past 20 years and found that “papers rejecting the consensus on AGW[1]…[make up]…a vanishingly small proportion of the published research” (Cook et al.). Specifically, the study found that literally less than 1%[2] of all the papers published and studied rejected the anthropogenic thesis. When one churns the math (.007 * 11,944 papers = 83.6, rounded to 84), 84 out of the over 10,000 papers rejected the thesis that climate change is anthropogenic and, as per the study, that already amazingly small percentage is shrinking (Cook et al.).

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Capitalism’s Coercive Nature

Abstract

During the course of this paper I will be attempting to prove that the modern day capitalist bourgeois-proletariat contract is just as coercive as the “forced taxation” that modern day Libertarians and Anarcho-Capitalists complain about. I aim to prove that the “agree to this or die” mentality inherent in any profit driven labor contract is no more “just” than the tax man coming to your door telling you to hand over your money. If one works within the framework of the non-aggression principle* and the moral philosophy of Stefan Molyneux in Universally Preferable Behavior then one ought to reject the capitalist bourgeois-proletariat contract as being “unjust” and “another form of coercion”. At this point it must be noted that I do not intend to prove that coercion is either a moral or immoral thing, I merely am attempting to prove that bourgeois-proletariat contract is coercive and therefore is immoral under the framework laid out by modern Libertarians and Anarcho-Capitalists. The issue of an apriori ethical framework shall be in a later post, this one is building off existing frameworks.

I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.       -Eugene V. Debs[1]

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The Case Against the Death Penalty

There has been an odd resurgence in the debate for and against the death penalty and I would like to take part. What follows will be my case against the death penalty, the basic premise of which is that the death penalty is more costly than life without parole and simply does not help anything.

Point 1: Cost.


To prove that death penalty cases are much more expensive then life without parole I will provide evidence from California, Kansas, Tennessee and Maryland.

California: Switching from the death penalty to life without parole could save California over $1 billion over the next few years![1] Also, in California, the cost of a death row prisoner is $90,000 more than regular incarceration.[1]

Kansas: A death penalty case in Kansas is over 70% more expensive than life without parole.[2] Also, the median cost of a death penalty case is $1.2 million whereas the median cost of incarceration is $700,000.[2]

Tennessee: Death penalty cases in Tennessee cost an average of 48% more than life imprisonment costs.[2]

Maryland: Death penalty cases costs about $3 million in Maryland.[2]

With the above evidence one can see that, if only the cost is looked at, the death penalty is massively more expensive than life without parole.

Part 2: Deterrence.

Here proponents of the death penalty argue that it has the effect of deterring would-be murderers but if one looks at the data regrading homicide rates in death penalty states/non-death penalty states, a clear trend emerges. The death penalty serves NO deterring effect.

According to deathpenaltyinfo.org, states without the death penalty have had, from 1990 until 2009 (that is all the data that is given), a homicide rate difference of more than 4% and sometimes as high as 44%! For example, in 2009 the murder rate in states with the death penalty was 5.26 whereas states without the death penalty had a murder rate of 3.90! Here is a graph from the site:[3]

Another key thing is the fact that in 1972 the US government stopped all state killings until 1976. Now while it is true that the murder rates rose during this time of prohibition, they continued to rise to record highs even after the death penalty was reinstated thus contradicting the claim that the death penalty serves as a deterrent.[4]

Use of the death penalty in a given state may actually increase the subsequent rate of criminal homicide. In Oklahoma, for example, reintroduction of executions in 1990 may have produced “an abrupt and lasting increase in the level of stranger homicides” in the form of “one additional stranger-homicide incident per month.” Why? Perhaps because “a return to the exercise of the death penalty weakens socially based inhibitions against the use of lethal force to settle disputes…. “[5]

Thus with the aforementioned evidence being shown, no one can honestly say that the death penalty serves any deterrent effect.

Point 3: Innocence. 

One of the biggest fears regarding the death penalty is the fact that an innocent person could be put to death just as easily as a guilty one whereas life without parole means that the person could be released if they were proven innocent rather than them just being dead and that’s that. There are numerous cases where people have been accused, convicted and sentenced to death for capital crimes but were just barely saved in the nick of time with a reversal. Of these are: Samuel Poole, James Creamer, Dale Johnston, Jay Smith, James Robison, Muneer Deeb, Andrew Golden, Clarence Smith, Joseph Burrows, Adolph Munson, Robert Charles Cruz, Rolando Cruz, Alejandro Hernandez, Sabrina Butler, Verneal Jimerson, Dennis Williams, Roberto Miranda, Gary Gauger, Troy Lee Jones, Carl Lawson, Ricardo Aldape Guerra (info on them can be found in footnote 6) and the list goes on. The point being that there are many cases of people being let go in the nick of time whilst many others being put to death. We have no way of knowing how many innocent people have been killed but just knowing the huge numbers of people who have been let go after they were sentenced to death makes one wonder as to the number. Further Reading

Point 4: Cruelty. 


The death penalty is flat out cruel for numerous reasons. First off, hanging is still utilized in 3 states and with hanging comes the inherent possibility for mess ups. The drop must be just right or the person has an agonizing death or has their head ripped off. Here a proponent of the death penalty will argue that electrocution is a humane way to kill someone but this is just not the case. For starters it is unknown how long a person is conscious whilst being electrocuted which shows that there is a huge possibility for inhumane treatment.[5] Here is a quote regarding the electrocution of John Evans in 1983:

“At 8:30 p.m. the first jolt of 1900 volts of electricity passed through Mr. Evans’ body. It lasted thirty seconds. Sparks and flames erupted … from the electrode tied to Mr. Evans’ left leg. His body slammed against the straps holding him in the electric chair and his fist clenched permanently. The electrode apparently burst from the strap holding it in place. A large puff of grayish smoke and sparks poured out from under the hood that covered Mr. Evans’ face. An overpowering stench of burnt flesh and clothing began pervading the witness room. Two doctors examined Mr. Evans and declared that he was not dead.[7]

(He had to be shocked 3 times until he was actually killed. Humane? I think not!)
Again, a proponent could say that the lethal injection is more humane but the evidence regarding it’s humaneness is inconclusive. The US Court of Appeals said this regarding the lethal injection:

“substantial and uncontroverted evidence… that execution by lethal injection poses a serious risk of cruel, protracted death…. Even a slight error in dosage or administration can leave a prisoner conscious but paralyzed while dying, a sentient witness of his or her own asphyxiation.” (Chaney v. Heckler, 718 F.2d 1174, 1983).[5]

There have also been reports of drug users being stabbed randomly because their veins could not be found (due to frequent use of illicit drugs)[5]


Thus, if one looks at the evidence cleanly, it is easy to see that the death penalty is in no way humane.


Point 5: Conclusion. 


Of course I could point to more cost statistics or more numbers for deterrence. I could pull more names out of quote more sources but I feel that my job here is done. Judging by all the evidence presented it is not difficult to see that the death penalty helps nothing, costs too much and is simply too inhumane and risky for it to be utilized in our [somewhat] civilized nation any longer.


~~Peter

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1: “Death Penalty : The High Cost of the Death Penalty.” Death Penalty. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 July 2011. <http://www.deathpenalty.org/article.php?id=42>.
2:“Death Penalty Cost | Amnesty International USA.” Amnesty International USA | Protect Human Rights. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 July 2011. <http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/death-penalty/us-death-penalty-facts/death-penalty-cost?id=1101084>.

3: “Deterrence: States Without the Death Penalty Have Had Consistently Lower Murder Rates | Death Penalty Information Center.” Death Penalty Information Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2011. <http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/deterrence-states-without-death-penalty-have-had-consistently-lower-murder-rates>.
4: “United States Crime Rates 1960 – 2009.” The Disaster Center – Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2011. <http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm>

5:  “The Case Against the Death Penalty – Cons, Anti Death Penalty Arguuments | American Civil Liberties Union.”American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2011. <http://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment/case-against-death-penalty#deterrent>.
6: “Innocence and the Death Penalty: The Increasing Danger of Executing the Innocent | Death Penalty Information Center.” Death Penalty Information Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 July 2011. <http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/node/523#a>
7: “The Case Against the Death Penalty – Cons, Anti Death Penalty Arguuments | American Civil Liberties Union.”American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 July 2011. <http://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment/case-against-death-penalty#barbarous>.