Michael Darby

Observations on politics and poetry by Australian bush poet, Michael Darby.

Michael was born in Sydney in 1945 and is a former Australian Army Officer who has been writing and broadcasting on politics and economics since 1972.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Saturday, January 11, 2003


New South Wales Government Invents New Method of Plundering Taxpayers and Energy Consumers

No, it’s not yet April Fool’s Day. The following article appeared in Independent.co.uk News. Yet another reason to remove the Carr Labor Government from office and install a Liberal-National Government.

Tallest tower in the world planned for the Outback

By Paul Peachey
04 January 2003

A power company plans to build a 1,000m-high (3,280ft) solar tower in the outback of Australia that would dwarf the world's tallest structures. The tower, as wide as a football pitch and set in the centre of a glass dish 4 miles across, would cost A$1bn (£350m) to build as part of a global drive to use more renewable energy.

If completed as planned in 2006, the tower in New South Wales would be more than twice the height of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, which stand at 452m. Currently, the tallest free-standing structure is the Canadian National Tower in Toronto, at 553m.

The project is backed by the government. The company behind it, EnviroMission, hopes the 200MW solar tower will provide enough power to supply 200,000 homes a year.

The sun heats air under the glass and as the hot air rises an updraft is created in the tower that allows air to be sucked through 32 turbines, which generate power. Roger Davey, chief executive officer of EnviroMission, said: "Initially people told me 'you're a dreamer'. But now we have got to the point where it's not if it can be built, but when."

See here for more and here for more critique.



By: Steve Forbes

GERMANY AND FRANCE are still aggressively pushing their high tax agendas onto the rest of the European Union. Their latest move: announcing that they want to end "tax competition" between EU members. They profess to be outraged by "the distortions" produced by countries that have very low levels of corporate taxation, such as Ireland. Such behavior by Ireland and others, such as Britain, is "disruptive."

Paris and Berlin still don't get it: High levies are economic-growth killers, stifling the very innovation that is the lifeblood of higher standards of living. President Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder labor under the illusion that economic performance has little to do with the level of taxation. To them, taxing income at a lower rate of, say, 25% instead of 50% means only that you've needlessly deprived yourself of tax revenue.

The two governments profess that they are concerned only with corporate taxes and the value-added tax, that they'll leave personal and property taxes alone. That's about as believable as French government officials claiming they're not on the take.

Will the EU always be as obtuse as Paris and Berlin? Must investors look elsewhere for dynamic growth opportunities?

Help may be on the way. The EU has just decided to add ten new members, most of them former communist nations. These states want economic growth. They're more apt to look to Ireland and Britain for inspiration than to Germany and France. In short, the Paris-Berlin political monopoly that has existed for decades will be undermined. The idea of making the EU a top-down, bureaucratically-administered-from-Brussels

political entity is becoming a practical impossibility. Instead, the EU will begin to evolve into what it should have been in the first place: a vast free-trade area in which political control is exercised by individual members, with EU bureaucrats in Brussels concerned only with reducing internal trade barriers. A much better use of time than nitpicking over regulations about how loud a lawnmower can be and what qualifies as a banana.

The German-French tax offensive will ultimately fail. The EU and the rest of the world will be the better for it.

From Fact and Comment


Comments? Email Michael Darby
Home Page


Friday, January 10, 2003

By: Prof. David Flint

ONE OF THE JOYS OF CHRISTMAS for children was, and I hope still is, the pantomime. We have been witness in recent years to a long running Australian pantomime. Its name? For that, we must go back to a former Prime Minister.

Among the many changes Paul Keating contemplated was the name of our nation itself. Instead of the Commonwealth of Australia, we would become the teutonic sounding Federal Republic of Australia!

He may have thought of this when he was in the process of advising a no doubt surprised German Chancellor on the design of the restored capital, Berlin. But to many of his listeners, it came across as if he were proposing we become not the Federal, but the Feral Republic of Australia.

As with a new flag to replace our Australian flag, which he still says gets up his nose, the Federal Republic of Australia was to remain in the dreamtime of Australia’s elites.

In the meantime, its principal supporters continue to act out what is in truth a pantomime, the Pantomime about the Feral Republic of Australia. It has been a pantomime from its very beginning, for the Australian Republican Movement was not born in the heroic circumstances of say, the American Declaration of Independence.

According to Thomas Keneally, it all began over a lunch with Malcolm Turnbull in the exclusive Sydney suburb of Woollahra.

He says, “The lunch at Jill Hickson’s and Neville Wran’s table had now reached the point where nearly all the fish they bought the day before at the Sydney Fish Markets had been eaten. In a manner all too typical of generous Sunday lunches in Sydney, a number of bottles of Hunter Valley Chardonnay had also been drained. Neville Wran leaned over the table and said “The thing I want to see happen before I bloody well die is an Australian republic.”

Today, one of the most prominent republicans Greg Barns, is rarely out of the limelight. But more and more, his proposals and comments seem as removed from reality as the Feral Republic. On the last Queen’s Birthday, a day on which the ARM can now be counted on to launch some new stunt, he called for State Governors to be directly elected by the people. The state premiers ran a mile. None of them was silly enough to want a politician above them. Especially one with a bigger mandate than theirs! The now republican newspaper the Sydney Morning Herald denounced the proposal as an “ARM no-brainer!”.

Mr Barns latest foray into the constitutional arena at the recent conference at Griffith University to push a republic horrified even republicans. He called on republicans to target and attack the monarchy as “corrupt”. If that were not enough – and might not ensure a headline or two – he declared it “rancid”. And to top it off, the monarchy, he claimed, was a menace to democracy - this the symbol of those valiant few counties who fought again the Nazi menace from the very beginning until the end! Mr Barns was of course relying on the same hyperbole and sleaze purchased by the generous cheque books of the London gutter press when they “reported” the case concerning Diana’s butler, Paul Burrell. It is hard to conceive of an authority which could be less credible. But Barns was always a man who believes in playing hard. In his diary on the 1999 republican referendum Malcolm Turnbull reveals an interesting story. In his entry for 2 November 1999, he says that Barns, then ARM Director was in a “if you see a head, kick it” mood. “He decided to launch a very personal attack on Flint”. Turnbull commented “And, why not?” Turnbull then adds, without any sense of irony, “Campaigning rationally and courteously has not done us much good.”

Yes, the attack was personal, and was to continue well after the referendum. But that is another story.

In truth, the ARM coalition ran a lack lustre campaign. They put out several themes, some contradictory. This was a minor change to the Constitution said one spokesperson. But another claimed it was the most important and most significant change since Federation. Yet another said vote Yes and you will be saved from that terrible fate, an elected presidency. Then an ally said vote Yes and we’ll give you the opportunity to elect the president - if you want to.

And the ‘Yes’ committee spending of its government funding of 7.5 million dollars was far less effective and far less efficient than Kerry Jones’ No case committee. Yet the ‘Yes’ campaign had everything – massive financial, political, media and celebrity support. To win they had to triumph nationally and in four states (the better constitutional view is in all states). They didn’t win one state, not one, although I have seen a book claiming they won Victoria, which is of course wrong. They lost in 72% of all electorates, winning only in the inner electorates.

After this defeat, Barns took over the ARM chair from Malcolm Turnbull, and soon had to answer reports about their collapse in membership and even the ARM’s impending insolvency. Although a Liberal, Barns then began a series of attacks on John Howard, attacks of remarkable ferocity. These were not restricted to the republic, but were on a range of issues, especially border control. It was as if he were a re-incarnation of Paul Keating. Perhaps he took to heart Malcolm Turnbull’s words on the night of the defeat of the referendum – that if John Howard is remembered for anything, it would be as the man who broke the heart of the nation. Well, John Howard may have broken the heart of a few celebrities sobbing on television that night, but they were clearly not representative of the nation, which had declared its clear preference for the existing constitution. (and for John Howard – Editor)

Of course, now as Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party, Malcolm Turnbull would probably prefer to forget those words. Then earlier this year Greg Barns won, and then lost Liberal preselection for the Tasmanian state parliament.

He left the Liberals and joined the Democrats, who then imploded, any support they had moving to the Greens. (To be fair to Mr Barns, this had nothing to do with his move.) He then decided not to recontest the ARM chair – many republicans believed he had become too political. Whether he was pushed or whether he jumped is immaterial.

And more recently, the Democrats, who were reported ready to preselect him for the Senate in the next Federal election, learned that they were, to lose him. But not for another party. This time it was for a career in the glamorous world of television, for which The Australian (10 December 2002) said he was “frantically agitating”.

Mr Barns, who, whatever you think of his views, is quite a competent newspaper columnist, had joined the Hobart Mercury. From this he planned to become a regular panellist on the ABC’s The Insiders. This programme commendably tries to spread its opinions across the political spectrum. But it will not have journalists who belong to political parties. Mr Barns was therefore prepared to give up his formal affiliation, telling ABC radio that although the Democrats would lose him as a member, he would present the Democrat position on the ABC, including the “shafting” of the rival Greens as The Australian’s DD McNichol and Emma Kate Symons put it. And this is apparently what he did in his first column in The Mercury.

This was all too much for the ABC. Barns’ blatant declaration of his party political agenda would just not do.

As Don Woolford of AAP wrote, his TV career was over before it started.

In the meantime, Professor Greg Craven, who wrote recently that he thinks he is a republican, warns that if his fellow republican don’t lift their game, and actually decide what sort of republic they want – and it had better be his model – they can expect not only the reign of Charles III, but also William V.

That after over a decade of debate and with vast sums of public money spent, the republicans haven’t the foggiest idea what they want is the stuff of a bizarre fairytale.

So in this festive season, should Australians not spare a thought for those who perform in that theatre of the absurd – the pantomime of the Feral Republic of Australia?

And so, a Happy New Year from all Australians for Constitutional Monarchy.

David Flint
National Convenor
Australians for Constitutional Monarchy.


Comments? Email Michael Darby
Home Page


Thursday, January 09, 2003


By: Viv Forbes

We were invited to display Damara sheep in the sheep and wool pavilion at the Brisbane Ekka (“Ekka” = “Exhibition”). That seemed a good offer so we spent a day on auditions to decide who would go. Criteria -

- reasonably quiet

- with small lambs

- variety of breeds, colours and sex

First selection was Ebony, a black bottle-fed pet ewe, the all time favourite of the chief judge, Mother-of-all-things, plus her ewe lamb. For a ram we chose Ebony's previous lamb, a nice young brown ram, also quiet. (For the record, at the time Ebony was a 28-month-old pure Damara ewe and her third lamb was a month old.)

Then we needed some cross-bred sheep. Another quiet "bottlie" - Libby (a black ewe who was a Damara/Dorper cross) was first choice and then the first neat looking F1 ewe with a small lamb was grabbed. The lamb had big feet with hairy sox like a Clydesdale so was named "Clyde". His mother thus became Mrs Clyde. That completed the Ekka contingent. Then of course we needed signs, feeders, haynets and hay, mobile loading ramps and all the paraphernalia usually associated with a travelling circus.

Rouseabout was forced into clean clothes and a shave; MOAT had a special haircut. We all loaded up for the big smoke with a Ute load of sheep towing a trailer load of gear and hay.

Now Ebony has one fault - because she was bottle fed, she bleats loudly and continuously whenever she is near MOAT. It was peak traffic by the time the cavalcade reached Ann Street, and it sure gave the jaded office workers something to look at and listen to.

So Rouseabout decided to circle a few city blocks. What an adventure. Every time Ebony's loud bleat rang out, more pedestrians stopped to look. Little kids dragged mothers over to say "Hello sheepie". One girl, looking back over her shoulder as she walked, went right across Queen Street against the lights. Another on a mobile phone, could not believe her eyes, came across for a closer look. I read her lips - "I tell you it is a load of sheep - listen" - and she walked across and put the mobile phone in front of Ebony, who responded with a loud bleat. Rouseabout had such fun he wanted to circle the block again but MOAT, looking straight ahead with a red face said - "No get on to the Ekka" (I think she was worried her lipstick did not match her blouse).

Eventually the tribe was settled in. The reaction to Damaras was interesting. Immediately above the sheep was a huge sign saying, "Damara Sheep". But 95% of people came up saying "Oh, look at the goats!" Among the 2% was an authentic visitor from Namibia who told us there was a "Damara" tribe in Namibia and it is pronounced "Dam-a-rah" like the "dam" in "damn fool merinos". He looked homesick.

All sheep behaved well, except Clyde and Mrs Clyde were a bit overawed by all the attention for about a day. They then settled down to eat steadily for the whole time.

We also saw a contrast in control of kids.

Kid No 1 behaving badly: There was a miniature pony in the animal nursery nearby. One kid, despite being told not to, kept poking this little horse, so it bit him. Kid howled blue murder, mother demanded to see the RNA President, threatened legal action and the poor innocent horse was sent home in disgrace. (And the bite hardly made a mark on the skin.)

Kid No 2 behaving badly: Another kid came up to look at Clyde. He tried to scratch Clyde through the bars. His mother said "Don't put your hand in there!" Kid put his hand in again and Clyde head butted it against the bars. Kid hollered, but the mother (pre Dr. Spock) said "Shut up, serves you right". End of story.

The best Ekka story - Rouseabout was looking at electronic gear in Myers. Got great service. When paying, the salesman noticed the Ekka pass in my wallet (probably also noticed the hayseeds that fell out as I opened the wallet) - "Down for the Ekka eh?" he said. "Yair" I said, trying to sound like Dave, "all the yokels are in town".

"I can notice," said the salesman.

Intrigued, I asked, "What do you notice?"

"Better manners" he replied. (If it were not for the drought, I would have given him a tip.)

We are having a big night for New Year. An extra glass of wine and Rouseabout is allowed to stay up very late (til 9pm) watching a video.

Here's hoping for a real Greenhouse year in 2003.

Best wishes for you all

Mother-of-All-Things, the Rouseabout, The Hunting Dog, the White Wolf and Waldo. January 2003


Comments? Email Michael Darby
Home Page


Wednesday, January 08, 2003

By: Viv Forbes

My story on "Brownhouse Hell" attracted praise and criticism, but I have found a powerful supporter. My Christmas present was "A Short History of the Planet Earth" by Professor Ian Plimer, published by ABC Books.

What an eye opener! His chronicle of climatic and other natural disasters that have befallen the earth makes me give thanks for our minor problems. The Earth has suffered five major mass extinctions of life, about twenty minor ones (just decimated a few continents and a few species), as well as many periods of very difficult weather, which caused famine, migrations and wars. Even the Millennium Drought looks a minor, benign fluctuation on the scale of past history.

Recent earth history has seen fluctuations between Greenhouse Eras, and Icehouse Eras. As I claimed in Brownhouse Hell, the Greenhouse Periods were generally warm, wet and prolific. Civilisations flourished and life was easy. Then astronomical cycles, volcanic eruptions or collisions with comets or asteroids threw the earth back into Icehouse Hell. Flourishing tribes of Hominoids did not CAUSE the Greenhouse episode; they were the RESULT of the benign conditions and the abundant food. And when the Icehouse or Brownhouse conditions returned, food production plummeted, people starved or were decimated by wars or epidemics, and empires crumbled.

Things can happen quickly, as Plimer describes often. For example, on 10 April 1815, Indonesia's Tambora volcano exploded, blasting 1,400 m off the top of the volcano and leaving a crater 6 km wide and 1 km deep. Ash and dust blanketed the world, the sun disappeared as far away as Hainan Island, and 80,000 people were killed directly. The dust shut out the sun and swiftly cooled the earth. 1816 was "the year without a summer". Exceptional frosts and snows caused famine and mass migration in many places throughout the world. Food became scarce and prices soared. Famine in Bengal triggered a cholera outbreak that spread throughout the world.

Plimer concludes that long-term cycles in planetary orbits indicate that we live "in the last years of benign climate". He believes that Earth will soon (300-400 years) lurch into another ice age.

The history of Planet Earth tells me clearly that the hysteria about the Greenhouse Effect is wrong, and stupid. Wrong because human activities are puny compared with volcanoes, asteroids, earthquakes, planetary cycles, and sunspot activities. Stupid because Greenhouse Conditions are as good as it gets. Plants and humans flourish in a Greenhouse but die in their millions in an Icehouse or a Brownhouse



Founder: Don Bosco 1815-1888. Canonized 1934.
Caring for the young who are poor, disadvantaged or endangered
Salesians of Don Bosco (att.: Brother Michael Lynch)
PO Box 80, Oakleigh Vic 3166, Australia
Ph: 03-9569 0707 or 03-9568 2025
Fax: 03-9563 2746 salmiss@ozemail.com.au


Comments? Email Michael Darby
Home Page


Tuesday, January 07, 2003

By: Viv Forbes

MOTHER-OF-ALL-THINGS visited our neighbour recently to barter eggs for milk. She met Peter (Lord Hanrahan) milking the cows, and was away for hours. When she came back I said, "What did you talk about all that time?"

"Oh" she said "We each had a good whinge about the weather and now feel a bit better about it". "Did you talk about anything else?" I asked. "No" she said, "What else is there to talk about?" (And I believe all this).

That about sums up the year 2002 for us - the weather has dominated our life, and it is a relief the year is over.

We know most people think we farmers whinge forever about the weather - not true, we also whinge about the government, the taxes, and greenies.

But weather takes priority, and with good reason.

Rainfall records in this area go back to 1894. The previous big droughts were the Federation Drought, which climaxed in 1902, and the Roaring Twenties drought which climaxed in 1926. (In 1902, on Bowen Downs, 276,244 sheep died. In 1926, huge bushfires killed 31 people in Gippsland and left 2,000 homeless). We will now have to add the Millennium Drought, which climaxed in 2002 (we hope). A comparison of these Grand Droughts for the Sherana area shows the following rainfall:


Federation Drought 1902 503

Roaring Twenties Drought 1926 396

Millennium Drought 2002 383


Federation Drought 1900-02 1,948

Roaring Twenties Drought 1924-26 2,129

Millennium Drought 2000-02 1,631

So, there you have it - the worst year and the worst three years since rainfall records were taken. At least a one-in-a-hundred years drought. Now you know why we keep whingeing about drought. It may even gain us "Exceptional Circumstances Classification" down in Blunderland. Not sure what happens then - I think they send three government counsellors, form a new committee, commission a $3,000,000 advertising campaign and give us a heap of forms designed to ensure no one ever manages to get any benefits.

This drought will be felt by most people - farmers, the people they buy off, their employees, the consumers (as food prices soar) and the tax buzzards.

However, two privileged groups will be shielded from reality - the tax consumers on welfare and the public payroll, and the local government buzzards. Every farmer is suffering reduced income and vastly increased costs and worry. But who got a local government rates reduction notice? No one. No council employees stood down, no cultural centres postponed, no wages reduced.

As I fed out the last of our hay to our hungry sheep, I thought of a just solution. Once a drought gets to one in ten years, there is an automatic 10% reduction in local government rates for all ratepayers (which stays in force for 5 years). When it hits one in twenty years, a 20% reduction. 50% for 50 years. And (the nicest touch) for a one in a hundred years drought, 100% reduction in rates. The costs of this reduction to be shared one-third local government, one-third state government and one-third federal government. Such a scheme will provide a direct benefit, with no red tape, for every ratepayer in the shire. It does not penalise the efficient and the prudent to fund the inefficient and the foolish. Every business in the shire is affected by drought. This scheme would help every business, not just a select few.

How are we coping? All dams are now dead dry; all springs ceased flowing, all surface water gone. Cattle rely on Grasstree Bore and Connection Wells. Our careful rotation grazing has ceased - all gates are open and cattle walk as far as they can for feed and then struggle back to water. Sheep rely on Nobby's Well, get a bit of supplement, and are forced to live on dry stalks and tree suckers. They are coping well, but we are now past the longest day and on the downhill ride to the next official "dry" season. Maybe 2003 is the real crisis, when starving stock invade well watered Kenmore lawns and gardens?

But some people are worse off. We spoke to a Longreach grazier recently - he said he had one inch of rain for 2002 (25 mm). Cattle dying, merinos dying but damaras surviving on sticks, dirt, bark and suckers. He could not believe that his damaras were cycling and raising lambs, while other animals died. Biggest problem is an epidemic of kangaroos. His neighbour got so desperate he hired a helicopter and got the DPI (government officials) to make an estimate of roo numbers on his property. The official estimate was 120,000 roos, so he was granted a permit to shoot 5,000! Cost him $5,000 and no one can notice any difference. (on many properties roos outnumber sheep by a factor of 3-5 times. They invade water troughs, jump on the merinos and force them out. (I'll bet they don't jump on damara rams - one of ours lined up for a fight with a bull who weighed 10 times as much - the bull surrendered and the ram drove him off. The bull was a poll, and the ram had a good set of horns).

We have two black bottle fed damara rams we would like to sell soon. One is pure bred, one cross bred. Very quiet. Would look good on a Kenmore lawn.


Comments? Email Michael Darby
Home Page


Monday, January 06, 2003


How many vegans does it take to change a lightbulb?
Two -- one to change it and one to check for animal ingredients.

How many vegetarians does it take to eat a cow?
One if nobody's looking.

I was adding milk to my coffee when a vegan colleague said, "Do you know that milk belongs to a calf?"
If it hadn't have been first day at work, I'd have replied, "Relax, I already ate that calf for lunch".

Why are vegans detrimental to the earth?
Because they produce immense amounts of methane.

If animals aren't supposed to be eaten, then why are they made out of meat?




ALLEGED OVERTIME RORTING in a bus depot is the latest embarrassment for the N.S.W. Labor Government's beleaguered public transport system.

"The overtime rorts are just the tip of the iceberg in the mismanagement of the State Transit Authority," says Shadow Minister Transport Peter Debnam. "The State Transit Authority is a disaster area for the Carr Government."

"If State Transit was a private business, it would be declared bankrupt after eight years of the Carr Government. The Opposition and the Auditor-General have continually raised major concerns with the mismanagement of State Transit buses and ferries. The overtime rorts are the latest embarrassment after continual ferry and bus breakdowns and confirmation this week that State Transit Authority is a financial basket case."

State Transit buses and ferries are suffering reduced services, falling passenger numbers, falling revenue and rising debt.

"The Carr Government is now pumping millions of short term, interest free loans into the State Transit Authority to keep it afloat until after the state election," Mr. Debman continued. "Bus and ferry patronage fell by 9.8 million trips last year. Complaints about State Transit grew by 26% to 19,243 in the last year. "Commuters are voting with their feet and deserting public transport in droves."

"It's clear there are major problems in maintenance, marketing and management of buses and ferries. The State Transit Authority needs new management, a new minister, a new government and a real commitment to delivering public transport services at the grass roots community level. State Transit will only be turned around when more passengers are attracted to improved services in local communities. CityRail patronage is also falling - down by 9.2 million trips in the last year."




Sydney People: Do not throw out your old computer!
Grateful thanks to highly regarded door-to-door freight specialist Lodec Warehousing and Distribution Company of Padstow for generously arranging Sydney area collection of large quantities of donated hardware. Phone Lodec on 9793 8200 for all your commercial freight requirements.

Wesley Uniting Employment is now operating a work-for-the-dole program, testing, repairing and assembling used computer systems for schools and institutions in East Timor. If you have a surplus computer system available, please email Rod.Cook@wesleymission.org.au


Comments? Email Michael Darby
Home Page


Sunday, January 05, 2003

At 5.10 pm on Sunday as the Australians take the crease with 110 overs to make 452 runs, I predict that Australia will reach the total with three wickets and 5 overs in hand.



Excerpts from: Limits to Growth
By Bjorn Lomborg and Olivier Rubin

(Bjorn Lomborg is author of The Skeptical Environmentalist [Cambridge University Press, 2001]. He and Olivier Rubin are the director and an environmental analyst, respectively, at the Environmental Assessment Institute in Copenhagen.)

IN THE BOOK OF GENESIS, God decreed that there were limits to growth by never allowing the Tower of Babel to reach the sky. In modern times, the task of delineating human aspirations fell to the Club of Rome, which in its 1972 study, Limits to Growth, declared that in a world of finite resources, unlimited economic expansion and prosperity are impossible to pursue.

The international scientists, who at the invitation of Italian industrialist Aurelio Peccei came together in the late 1960s to form the Club of Rome, meant well. They were united by their conviction that enormous ecological problems faced humankind and called for extraordinary political measures. At the time of its release, Limits to Growth had a profound impact, spawning alarmist headlines such as "A Computer Looks Ahead and Shudders" and "Scientists Warn of Global Catastrophe." The subsequent 1973 oil crisis, prompted in part by the Arab embargo, made the study seem eerily prescient.

But 30 years later, the Club of Rome's most dire forecasts have failed to come true. Vital minerals such as gold, silver, copper, tin, zinc, mercury, lead, tungsten, and oil should have been exhausted by now. But they aren't. Due to an exponential increase in population growth, the world should be facing desperate shortages of arable land and rising food prices. Yet food prices have never been lower. And the world's health should have been undermined by an exponential increase in pollution. People today, however, live longer than ever before, and in Western cities, most pollutants are on the decline, driven down by technological advances and environmental legislation.

The quality of predictions didn't improve in
Limits to Growth's 1992 sequel, Beyond the Limits, which warned that food per capita would peak in the mid-1990s and then precipitously drop. Yet from 1994 to 2000, the average caloric intake per capita increased more than 3 percent from 2,719 to 2,805 calories per day, or more than double the growth in the previous six-year period.

In short, there is no natural law dictating an exponential mounting pressure on Earth's ecological resources. The limit of sustainability is not a static ceiling but is formed and expanded by human innovation and technological progress. This exponential dynamic seems to have outpaced any pressure on the limit. Thus, perhaps the most problematic assumption is the omission of technological progress and human innovation from the model. Only by ignoring these strong dynamic forces can one posit a fixed limit to growth. By contrast, Yale economist William Nordhaus has demonstrated that if the rate of technological progress is included in these calculations, the Earth's collapse will be avoided by a large margin.

Instead of focusing on limits to growth, humanity would be better served by focusing on the real threats to growth and prosperity: not population growth or mineral exhaustion but corruption, barriers to trade, and war. Unfortunately, history has shown that these sources of human misery have always been in ample supply.



A "stupidest excuse in the world award," goes to Washington State senator Joe Zarelli who, while earning more than $32,800 a year as a legislator, never the less continued collecting unemployment insurance and who, when asked why he never entered his income as a legislator on his weekly unemployment claim, said he didn't think it was necessary because everyone in the state government already knew he was getting paid as a legislator. Sure.

Source: The Columbian (Vancouver, Washington) 27-Sep-02
Summary by Jerry Lerman.


Comments? Email Michael Darby
Home Page