Satellite images of negative externalities caused by Globalization

I always keep track of the images from space taken by NASA.  They usually have impressive “natural hazards” photographed with the highest technology available.  However, sometimes the natural hazards to humanity are not caused by the natural cycles of Earth.  In those cases, it is humans who have created hazards for themselves and people die.  Now, why would we create things that harm us so much? Why would we support and contribute to such terrible things?  A good explanation is the one given by economists with the complex and difficult term negative externalities.

A negative externality is a spillover of an economic transaction that negatively impacts a party that is not directly involved in the transaction. The first party bears no costs for their impact on society while the second party receives no benefits from being impacted. This occurs when marginal social cost is greater than marginal private cost (MSC > MPC).

The case of pollution in China elucidates very well how the market-driven approach to correcting externalities by “internalizing” third party costs and benefits fails to work in a globalized economy.  For example, by requiring a polluter to repair any damage caused. But, in many cases internalizing costs or benefits is not feasible, especially if the true monetary values cannot be determined.  In fact, our technological gadgets and thousands of products imported from China are the cause of the hazardous health conditions in that country.  We as consumers are part of this chain by buying the products. How can we do something?

I would suggest that the best way to participate in a positive way is to continue creating awareness of the failure of the government of China to protect the lives of the Chinese people.  It is at the end of the day the responsibility of that government to protect the life and property of its citizens, not ours.  We as consumers can only morally sanction them and stop consuming their products whenever possible.

This is a good (and very unfortunate) example of how globalization without an objective code of values becomes a zero sum game.  I share with you the information regarding how dangerous has become the air in the surroundings of Beijing and Tianjin,

—-

Air Quality Suffering in China

acquired January 14, 2013download large image (7 MB, JPEG, 5000×6400)
acquired January 14, 2013download GeoTIFF file (47 MB, TIFF)
Air Quality Suffering in China

acquired January 3, 2013download large image (8 MB, JPEG, 5000×6400)
acquired January 3, 2013download GeoTIFF file (51 MB, TIFF)
acquired January 3 – 14, 2013download Google Earth file (KMZ)

Residents of Beijing and many other cities in China were warned to stay inside in mid-January 2013 as the nation faced one of the worst periods of air quality in recent history. The Chinese government ordered factories to scale back emissions, while hospitals saw spikes of more than 20 to 30 percent in patients complaining of respiratory issues, according to news reports.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired these natural-color images of northeastern China on January 14 (top) and January 3, 2013. The top image shows extensive haze, low clouds, and fog over the region. The brightest areas tend to be clouds or fog, which have a tinge of gray or yellow from the air pollution. Other cloud-free areas have a pall of gray and brown smog that mostly blots out the cities below. In areas where the ground is visible, some of the landscape is covered with lingering snow from storms in recent weeks. (Snow is more prominent in the January 3 image.)

At the time that the January 14 image was taken by satellite, ground-based sensors at the U.S. Embassy in Beijingreported PM2.5 measurements of 291 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Fine, airborne particulate matter (PM) that is smaller than 2.5 microns (about one thirtieth the width of a human hair) is considered dangerous because it is small enough to enter the passages of the human lungs. Most PM2.5 aerosol particles come from the burning of fossil fuels and biomass (wood fires and agricultural burning). The World Health Organization considers PM2.5to be safe when it is below 25.

Also at the time of the image, the air quality index (AQI) in Beijing was 341. An AQI above 300 is considered hazardous to all humans, not just those with heart or lung ailments. AQI below 50 is considered good. On January 12, the peak of the current air crisis, AQI was 775 the U.S Embassy Beijing Air Quality Monitor—off the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scale—and PM2.5 was 886 micrograms per cubic meter.

  1. Resources

  2. Air Pollution in China: Real-time Air Quality Index Visual Map. Accessed January 14, 2013.
  3. China Air Daily. Accessed January 14, 2013.
  4. U.S Embassy Beijing Air Quality Monitor. Accessed January 14, 2013.
  1. References

  2. Associated Press, via Yahoo News (2013, January 14) Beijing warns residents after off-the-charts smog . Accessed January 14, 2013.
  3. NASA (2010, September 22) New Map Offers a Global View of Health-Sapping Air Pollution.Accessed January 14, 2013.
  4. NASA Earth Observatory (2012, March 23) Satellites Map Fine Aerosol Pollution Over China.
  5. The New York Times (2013, January 14) China allows media to report alarming air pollution crisis. Accessed January 14, 2013.
  6. Yahoo News (2013, January 14) China’s air pollution problem slideshow. Accessed January 14, 2013.

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.

Interesting! After Democrats in New York rammed a sweeping assault on the right to keep and bear arms through the legislature that failed to exempt police officers from the draconian restrictions, gun owners and even some lawmakers are planning what has been dubbed potentially the largest act of civil disobedience in state history.

Boudica BPI Weblog

Via SHTF Plan - When The Shit Hits the Fan, Don't Say We Didn't Warn You - Preparedness, Planning, News, and Commentary

One upstate Republican AKA RINO voted with Cuomo and all upstate dwmocraps. Split NY into 2 states. Mid Hudson, Upstate NY vs. NYC, downstate on NY Gun Control Law

Resistance Begins

With emotions running high in the aftermath of the Newtown Sandy Hook shooting, politicians on the State and Federal level have begun introducing legislative actions to curtail access to firearms protected by the Second Amendment. In Missouri, parents may soon be forced to register firearms with their child’s school under threat of criminal penalties. In Massachusetts, another proposal would require storage of semi-automatic rifles at government approved storage depots. And, in the State of New York, congressional representatives have already passed legislation that requires registration of every semi-automatic rifle and reduces maximum magazine capacity to 7 rounds of ammunition, and Governor Cuomo has floated the idea of gun confiscation.

Now, in what is sure to be a growing…

View original post 460 more words

Two historical references for a discussion on the right to keep and bear arms

Battle  of Courcelette
Battle of Courcelette
Like the observer in the tree in the right foreground, painter Louis Weirter witnessed this Somme battle as a soldier. His painting depicts the chaos and complexity of fighting on the Western Front, and the use of combined arms tactics. The capture of the ruined town of Courcelette, France on 15 September 1916 was a significant Canadian victory. It was also the first time tanks (left foreground) were used in battle.
Painted by Louis Alexander Weirter
Beaverbrook Collection of War Art

One of the most controversial discussions in the last few weeks has been the one around guns, its regulation and controls, its production, on the rights to use guns, on private gun ownership and the arguments of those in favor/against the Right to keep and bear arms in the United States of America.  The right to keep and bear arms in that country has a historical significance rooted in a long standing common law, prior even to the existence of their Constitution.  In England, a similar legal wording can be found in the Bill of Rights 1689 which states “Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defense”.

The historical significance of this argument is long standing and varies from country to country (specially those with a common law system).  The principle behind this topic is the relation of the private ownership (historically contextualized of course) of the “means of force” versus the monopoly of the use of force by government.  Today I have two recommendations on this topic for those of you looking for essays and books to read:

tilly-diagram

The monopoly of the use of force is claimed to be the reason behind why some kings in Europe succeed in wining wars and enriching their countries; and also the reason why others were subjugated and conquered (see the work of War Making and State Making as Organized Crime by Charles Tilly for a complete picture on this topic (online pdf) a Chapter from Bringing the State Back In (1985), edited by Peter Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, and Theda Skocpol).  But also, in a longer historical perspective it has been the monopoly of the use of force by specific authorities which for other authors built/destroyed entire civilizations (see the work of The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History (2002) by Philip Bobbitt).

Have a happy reading!

Will History (and people) love Barack Obama?

In a new 538 post, the author Nate Silver spends a lot of energy proving the unsurprising: that presidents who serve longer, and win larger re-electoral margins, are better regarded by history—or at least by historians.  If this is truth I suppose that the reelection of Barack Obama will confirm it.  The President of the U.S. is about one of the most loved Presidents we have had in the last decades and its correlated hate is also one of the highest.  In the time previous to his election I read hundreds of comments in my Facebook profile explaining how the “World as we know it was going to end if he got the reelection”.  Luckily, the world is still going on and chances are that the ideas of Obama & Co. will continue reigning and being popular.

Contemporary History (specially if read through the American lenses) is quite ridiculous.  Their exceptional-ism is impressive and how they read and understand history is also ludicrous.

More interesting is to read the article by Mr. Silver (whom many consider to be THE professional in his field).  Feel free to continue reading it and prepare yourself to laugh.  The world may not end with Barack Obama… it will just get a little sadder…

The rankings I will refer to here come from a composite of the four most recent surveys in which presidential scholars were asked to rank the presidents. (The surveys were conducted between 2008 and 2011). I’ve averaged the rankings among the four surveys and then re-ranked the presidents from 1 to 43 accordingly. (Ties are broken by the best median ranking; Cleveland is counted only once for these purposes.)

We might divide the presidents into three basic groups: good (those who rank in the top 15), poor (those in the bottom 15) and average (everyone in between).

(Continue reading this article…)

RIP James M. Buchanan (October 3, 1919 – January 9, 2013)

Nobel laureate and Classical Liberal economist James M. Buchanan has died today.  He was one of the most important economist of the 20th. Century and will be long remembered for his work on the principles of economic self-interest and their use to understand why politicians do what they do.

He received a Doctor Honoris Causa Degree from my home university at Universidad Francisco Marroquin in 2001 (link to video of his visit to UFM) and his books were some of the most important ones in my education during my college years.  At UFM I learned about Buchanan with Carrol Rios de Rodriguez.  Prof. Rodriguez is one of my favorite teachers and she was the former Director of the a Center for the Study of Public Choice, where the ideas of Buchanan and Tullock first were taught to me.

Here are some interviews to remember the work of this great man and I invite you all to read his books and continue learning!

Hayek and Buchanan: Rawls, Egalitarianism and Social Justice

James Buchanan on Chicago School Thinking: Old and New

James M. Buchanan on Economists and the Great Recession

James M. Buchanan on “Institutional Sources of America’s Fiscal Tragedy”

buchanan521

Rest in Peace James M. Buchanan

(October 3, 1919 – January 9, 2013)

Gun control, school massacres and state-failure

The article “More Guns = More Killing” By came to my attention as a good reference of how sometimes more “global approaches” to what we could explain as “local problems” results in sophistic arguments that are of no use.

The article is astonishingly confusing and misleading because the author arguments that it is more/less guns what results in more/less deaths.  And as such, that only by decreasing the amount of available guns the deaths can be reduced.  In order to defend this position she tries to defend her position by bringing a sometimes useful comparison of explaining local problems (those of the U.S.) by comparison to more global regions (in this case, Latin America).

Rosenthal does not propose a better solution than the one she is trying to question and which was proposed by the NRA (National Rifle Association) to President Obama.  Truth, “A society that is relying on guys with guns to stop violence is a sign of a society where institutions have broken down”. Why? Because the bureaucrats and the NRA consider as she does that it are guns the ones that “kill” and as such, it are guns the ones that “give life“.  Neither of the cases can be more false.
The parallels between the Latin American countries with high homicide rates and the US Massacre of schools kids cannot be correctly understood behind the “more guns/less-more deaths” causal relationship.

Then, how? As usual in this times of miss-integration of concepts.  The events in Latin American countries with high homicide rates and the US Massacre of schools kids have no parallels.  The high homicide rates in Latin America are the result of a failed War on Drugs and the institutional decay caused by corruption, state failure in providing rule of law and the reconfiguration of power relations amongst many other causes.  In this case the guns are not a cause nor a solution.  The massacres in U.S. schools are in my opinion the result of a decay of family values and a philosophical problem of identity that can only be solved behind an urgently much needed moral revolution.  In this last case it is not guns or the state which can do much about to change things.

Future massacres in schools can only by stopped from happening when the roots of family decomposition are diminished (divorces, unemployment, family violence, alcoholism, drug addiction, among many others).  The murderers in these schools were seeking for revenge from society and saw that killing kids was the perfect way of enacting revenge on those he was angry with.   Until we understand this things I see no probable hope for future improvement of any of the cases. As well, for as long we have journalists with a philosophy of life that relies on the State as the “giver” or “healer” of society’s problems things are also going to continue going in the wrong direction…

How Obama Won: Showing the Electoral Shifts through Visual Animation

obama_animation.jpg
Animation is a little used, yet very strong visual cue, which possesses the unique quality that it can be added to most other existing visual cues (like color, shape, size, etc.), without loosing their pre-attentive characteristics.

The NYTimes infographic “How Obama Won Re-election” is therefore one of the very few visualization examples that uses animation in a way that it conveys meaningful and quantitative information. Here, the speed and length of the motion of each dot corresponds to the relative strength with which the population of a US county “shifted” from voting Democratic to Republican, or vice versa.

Notably, it is also one of the few infographics that have been featured so prominently on the New York Times homepage.

VIA: Infosthetics