[Paleopsych] Eureka: Ecologist calls for creation of an international panel to assess human behavior

Werbos, Dr. Paul J. paul.werbos at verizon.net
Sun Aug 8 22:02:02 UTC 2004

At 11:51 AM 8/8/2004 -0400, Premise Checker wrote:
>Paul, Steve just spoke of alternative energy sources and named them.
>The most important, and most thankless, function of the economist is to 
>turn problems into non-problems. Oil is a non-problem. All that will 
>happen is that oil will be more expensive. As price goes up, the quantity 
>demanded goes down. Substitutes will be found, as long as men are free to 
>find and invent them, and will be marketed, as long as men are free to 
>market them.
>Economists do not speak of the "demand" for oil (or anything else) without 
>reference to price. They (we, since I'm one) speak of a demand *function*, 
>which gives the *quantity* demanded as a *function* of price. The *law of 
>demand*, the most important law in economics, is that the slope of the 
>demand *function* is negative: as price increases, the quantity demanded 

I also took economics one -- and the follow-on courses that were a bit more 

The claim is that a perfect market system yields a Pareto optimal solution. 
If the case is
overstated a bit (ignoring distributional aspects), this means that it 
provides a least-pain
way of allocating pain.

But it's not a perpetual motion machine. There is no upper bound on how 
much pain there can be,
even if optimally allocated. Concrete understanding of the concrete 
realities of energy today
is not nearly so reassuring as the words in the protected islands of 
culture which have yet to have it shoved in
their face. (Reminds me of the words that the Shah and his friends told 
each other
a few years back, that many people are starting to remember..)

Best of luck to us all...

>Actually, it is better to speak of the quantity demanded per unit of time, 
>but I think you get the general idea. Alas, few laymen, mediamen, or 
>pundits do.
>I can only guess what substitutes will be made, or whether total energy 
>use will go down, put the point is that men will adjust to rising prices. 
>Think what the price of whale oil, the main source of indoor lighting, 
>would be if electricity hadn't come along.
>On 2004-08-08, Werbos, Dr. Paul J. opined [message unchanged below]:
>>At 11:51 AM 8/7/2004 -0400, Premise Checker wrote:
>>>Ecologist calls for creation of an international panel to assess human 
>>>    Contact: Mark Shwartz
>>>    [2]mshwartz at stanford.edu
>>>    650-723-9296
>>>    [3]Stanford University
>>>Ecologist calls for creation of an international panel to assess human 
>>>    Stanford University Professor Paul R. Ehrlich is urging fellow
>>>    ecologists to join with social scientists to form an international
>>>    panel that will discuss and recommend changes in the way human beings
>>>    treat one another and the environment.
>>Ehrlich came to NSF a couple of years ago.
>>He wanted to talk about CO2 -- and, implicitly, the big new glorious 
>>center at Stanford
>>that is supposed to address such environmental problems.
>>I still remember the experience of hearing the talk.
>>Initial hope as he said: "we can't just treat this as research into how 
>>bad the problem is. we need research into what can be done to solve the 
>>problem. Thus we need to broaden our approach to make it more 
>>decision-oriented and crossdisciplinary..."
>>But then:" So we need to work more with political scientists and lawyers..."
>>The oil dependency problem looks scarier every time I look one step deeper.
>>And it correlates very closely with the CO2 problem. One thing is clear --
>>lawyers alone have absolutely no hope of locating the real world here.
>>Without some understanding of technologies and numbers it is hopeless.
>>Kyoto by itself, for example, is a high-price Gucci fig leaf that covers 
>>almost nothing.
>>(not representing anyone...)
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