Arctic Melting

This comes from a comment over on WUWT.

It was a response to the same old clap trap about how the Arctic was having ‘unprecedented’ warming and how we were doomed, doomed I say!!! if the Arctic didn’t have nice solid ice All The Time!!!

Well, that’s bogus.

First off, it has had long periods without ice. Times with forests and even enough to make coal up there. Then, in the Holocene Optimum, it was a few degrees C warmer than now. That was just a few thousand years ago. Yup, Polar Bears did fine…

In fact, what Milankovich figured out was that “persistent ice” at the North Pole is THE signature event that puts us into a new Glacial cycle. We only exit from the Ice Age Glacial during that brief period of time when the North Pole is pointed right at the sun (enough) during the right time of year during the right circularity of the orbit. ( Axial tilt or obliquity, precession, eccentricity). For a brief period of time (about 12,000 years) we exit from the grip of the Ice Age Glacial and have an interglacial. We’ve been at it for somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 years now…

At this point in the orbital mechanics cycle, to be cheering for multi-year ice at the pole is like the dog trying to sink his teeth into a tire on a car doing 30 mph down the street. Just pray he doesn’t get what he wants… (whop whop whop…)

With that said, here’s the comment. I may dress it up with some more pictures and added text later. (Now I have to go make dinner ;-) At some point I’ll also make all the links ‘live’… until then you get to copy / paste…

E.M.Smith says:
August 21, 2012 at 5:06 pm (Edit)

Redwood forest grew at the Arctic during the Eocene:

Yeah, 34 to 56 million years ago. But “things change”… Nature is like that…

“I’ve always been enraptured with the idea that the Earth can change so dramatically,” said Jahren “The Earth today is very different compared to how it was millions of years ago.”

During the Eocene epoch, Axel Heiberg and much of northern Siberia and Alaska were covered in temperate forests with redwood-like trees called Metasequoias, similar to those now seen in Northern California.

From an 1887 news report:

Smithsonian Scientists Return from Strange Arctic Exploration.
In the Midst of a Land of Everlasting Ice They Have Been Digging Up Fossil Palms, Tree Ferns and Other Remains of Tropical Vegetation–A Time When Greenland Had a Climate Like That of Egypt Today–Remarkable Collections Brought Back for the National Museum.

Washington, Nov. 12.
Two Smithsonian scientists, Charles Schuchert and David White, have just returned from the wilds of west Greenland, bringing back valuable collections. In a region of everlasting ice and snow they have been exploring luxuriant tropical forests. Far to the north of the Arctic circle they have been studying a flora consisting of palms, tree ferns, and other plants belonging properly to the neighborhood of the equator. These forests, however, and the trees and varied forms of plant life which compose them are exceedingly ancient. In fact, they disappeared from the face of the earth several millions of years ago, and only their fossil remains are found buried in the strata of the rocks. It was these remains that Messrs, Schuchert and White went to investigate. They wanted to get specimens for the National Museum, and other objects of a geological nature were in view.

Greenland was once upon a time a tropical country. That is proved absolutely by the remains of an extensive tropical flora which are found there.

Coal in the high arctic. You know, from buried ferns and trees…

For more than 55 million years, Ellesmere Island remained in one place while the world around it changed. Fifty-five million years ago, verdant forests grew at 75° North latitude. These wetland forests, [comprised] of species now primarily found in China, grew on an alluvial plain where channels meandered back and forth and periodic floods buried stumps, logs, and leaves intact. Today the forests are preserved as coal seams that outcrop on the edges …[of] modern Ellesmere Island, [where] there are no forests, and the tallest vegetation grows less than 15 cm high. Large parts of the area are polar desert, subject to intensely cold and dark winters and minimal precipitation.

Too old for you?

Strathcona Fiord (78° 41 ‘N, 82° 40′W) is a southern tributary of Bay Fiord. The landscape in the region is fragile and spectacular. The steep hills forming the sides of the valley rise about 400 meters above sea level. The striking arc of a terminal moraine marks the limit of the last ice advance in the area. Taggart Lake running eastward of the moraine drains Upper and Lower Taggart lakes into the head of the fiord. The Prince of Wales Icefield lies on the eastern flank of this valley.
Pliocene fossils (3-5 million years old): trees, beavers and a three-toed horse

The only Pliocene High Arctic vertebrate fossil locality known is the Beaver Pond site at Strathcona Fiord. The Beaver Pond site was first noted by John Fyles (Geological Survey of Canada) in 1961. In 1988 he found the first vertebrate remains there. In 1992 vertebrate paleontologist, Richard Harington (Canadian Museum of Nature), began 10 summers of excavations at the site.

This fossil site includes the mummified remains of fossil plants, including trees such as an extinct larch (Larix groenlandii) and other trees indicative of a boreal forest [2]. Much of the wood preserved at the site has been gnawed by beavers[3] and some of it is fire-blackened. This exceptional site also has yielded remains of pollen, insects, mollusks, fish (a percid), frogs and mammals such as an unusual rodent, a deerlet (Boreameryx), 3-toed horse, an extinct beaver (Dipoides), a rabbit (Hypolagus), an unusual shrew (Arctisorex polaris), a primitive black bear (Ursus abstrusus), a badger (Arctomeles), and several other carnivores[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]

Paleoclimatic reconstruction suggests a mean annual temperature that was 14-19°C warmer than present day Ellesmere Island[12]. The assemblage of Pliocene plant macrofossils (wood, leaves, cones and seeds) is typical of present day boreal forest, as it includes alder (Alnus), birch (Betula), bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata), larch (Larix), sweet gale (Myrica gale), spruce (Picea), pine (Pinus), and lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), as well as the southern boreal tree, the white cedar (Thuja occidentalis)[13][14

So about that “unprecedented” and never before seen warmth in the arctic?…

What is unusual is that we’re in a state where the Arctic does NOT completely melt during an interglacial. We can only get an interglacial when it is warm enough to melt the arctic ice. This time we barely got it done. (Look up your Milankovitch for confirmation).

At the point where our N.Pole pointed at the sun does NOT melt, we have unending glacials…

(There’s some evidence for an ice free Arctic in the 8000 Yr BP range, but it isn’t all that available. IF that’s true, then that we have ice persisting through the summer in the Arctic means we’re headed back into the glacial meat locker Right Now… Cheering Arctic summer ice is something that would only be done by a fool with no geologic understanding of the meaning of summer Arctic ice vs glacials.)

The Holocene Climate Optimum (HCO) was a warm period during roughly the interval 9,000 to 5,000 years B.P.. This event has also been known by many other names, including: Hypsithermal, Altithermal, Climatic Optimum, Holocene Optimum, Holocene Thermal Maximum, and Holocene Megathermal.

This warm period was followed by a gradual decline until about two millennia ago.
The Holocene Climate Optimum warm event consisted of increases of up to 4 °C near the North Pole (in one study, winter warming of 3 to 9 °C and summer of 2 to 6 °C in northern central Siberia). The northwest of Europe experienced warming, while there was cooling in the south
Northeastern North America experienced peak warming 4,000 years later. Along the Arctic Coastal Plain in Alaska, there are indications of summer temperatures 2–3 °C warmer than present. Research indicates that the Arctic had substantially less sea ice during this period compared to present.

So about that “warming Arctic”… it’s been getting COLDER for 2000 years and the longer we can keep it close to ice free in summer the longer we hold off the next Ice Age Glacial.

“Multiyear Ice” is the first step to “ice sheet coming to get you”…

Saving The Wiki Page

This is just to save a copy of the Wiki as I had found it (as they tend to change / evaporate after use…)

Holocene climatic optimum
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Hypsithermal)
Jump to: navigation, search

The Holocene Climate Optimum (HCO) was a warm period during roughly the interval 9,000 to 5,000 years B.P.. This event has also been known by many other names, including: Hypsithermal, Altithermal, Climatic Optimum, Holocene Optimum, Holocene Thermal Maximum, and Holocene Megathermal.

This warm period was followed by a gradual decline until about two millennia ago.

For other temperature fluctuations see: Temperature record
For other past climate fluctuation see: Paleoclimatology
For the pollen zone and Blytt-Sernander period associated with the climate optimum, see: Atlantic (period)


1 Global effects
2 Comparison of ice cores
3 Milankovitch cycles
4 Other changes
5 See also
6 References

Global effects
Temperature variations during the Holocene from a collection of different reconstructions and their average. The most recent period is on the right. Note that the recent warming is not shown on the graph.

The Holocene Climate Optimum warm event consisted of increases of up to 4 °C near the North Pole (in one study, winter warming of 3 to 9 °C and summer of 2 to 6 °C in northern central Siberia).[1] The northwest of Europe experienced warming, while there was cooling in the south.[2] The average temperature change appears to have declined rapidly with latitude so that essentially no change in mean temperature is reported at low and mid latitudes. Tropical reefs tend to show temperature increases of less than 1 °C; the tropical ocean surface at the Great Barrier Reef ~5350 years ago was 1 °C warmer and enriched in 18O by 0.5 per mil relative to modern seawater.[3] In terms of the global average, temperatures were probably colder than present day (depending on estimates of latitude dependence and seasonality in response patterns). While temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere were warmer than average during the summers, the tropics and areas of the Southern Hemisphere were colder than average.[4]

Of 140 sites across the western Arctic, there is clear evidence for warmer-than-present conditions at 120 sites. At 16 sites where quantitative estimates have been obtained, local HTM temperatures were on average 1.6±0.8 °C higher than present. Northwestern North America had peak warmth first, from 11,000 to 9,000 years ago, while the Laurentide ice sheet still chilled the continent. Northeastern North America experienced peak warming 4,000 years later. Along the Arctic Coastal Plain in Alaska, there are indications of summer temperatures 2–3 °C warmer than present.[5] Research indicates that the Arctic had substantially less sea ice during this period compared to present.[6]

Current desert regions of Central Asia were extensively forested due to higher rainfall, and the warm temperate forest belts in China and Japan were extended northwards.[7]

West African sediments additionally record the “African Humid Period”, an interval between 16,000 and 6,000 years ago when Africa was much wetter due to a strengthening of the African monsoon by changes in summer radiation resulting from long-term variations in the Earth’s orbit around the sun. During this period, the “Green Sahara” was dotted with numerous lakes containing typical African lake crocodile and hippopotamus fauna. A curious discovery from the marine sediments is that the transitions into and out of this wet period occurred within decades, not millennia as previously thought.[8]

In the far southern hemisphere (e.g. New Zealand and Antarctica), the warmest period during the Holocene appears to have been roughly 8,000 to 10,500 years ago, immediately following the end of the last ice age.[9][10] By 6,000 years ago, the time normally associated with the Holocene Climatic Optimum in the Northern Hemisphere, these regions had reached temperatures similar to those existing in the modern era, and did not participate in the temperature changes of the North. However, some authors have used the term “Holocene Climatic Optimum” to describe this earlier southern warm period as well.
Comparison of ice cores

A comparison of the delta profiles at Byrd Station, West Antarctica (2164 m ice core recovered, 1968) and Camp Century, Northwest Greenland, shows the post glacial climatic optimum.[11] Points of correlation indicate that in these two locations the Holocene climatic optimum (post glacial climatic optimum) probably occurred at the same time. A similar comparison is evident between the Dye 3 1979 and Camp Century 1963 cores regarding this period.[11]

The Hans Tausen Iskappe (ice cap) in Peary Land (northern Greenland) was drilled in 1977 with a new deep drill to 325 m. The ice core contained distinct melt layers all the way to bedrock indicating that Hans Tausen Iskappe contains no ice from the last glaciation; i.e., the world’s northernmost ice cap melted away during the post-glacial climatic optimum and was rebuilt when the climate got colder some 4000 years ago.[11]

From the delta-profile, the Renland ice cap in the Scoresbysund Fiord has always been separated from the inland ice, yet all the delta-leaps revealed in the Camp Century 1963 core recurred in the Renland 1985 ice core.[11] The Renland ice core from East Greenland apparently covers a full glacial cycle from the Holocene into the previous Eemian interglacial. The Renland ice core is 325 m long.[12]

Although the depths are different, the GRIP and NGRIP cores also contain this climatic optimum at very similar times.[11]
Milankovitch cycles
Main article: Milankovitch cycles
Milankovitch cycles.

This climatic event was probably a result of predictable changes in the Earth’s orbit (Milankovitch cycles) and a continuation of changes that caused the end of the last glacial period[citation needed].

The effect would have had maximum Northern Hemisphere heating 9,000 years ago when axial tilt was 24° and nearest approach to the Sun (perihelion) was during boreal summer. The calculated Milankovitch Forcing would have provided 8% more solar radiation (+40 W/m2) to the Northern Hemisphere in summer, tending to cause greater heating at that time. There does seem to have been the predicted southward shift in the global band of thunderstorms called the Intertropical convergence zone.

However, orbital forcing would predict maximum climate response several thousand years earlier than those observed in the Northern Hemisphere. This delay may be a result of the continuing changes in climate as the Earth emerged from the last glacial period and related to ice-albedo feedback. It should also be noted that different sites often show climate changes at somewhat different times and lasting for different durations. At some locations, climate changes associated with this event may have begun as early as 11,000 years ago, or persisted until 4,000 years before present. As noted above, the warmest interval in the far south significantly preceded warming in the North.
Other changes

While there do not appear to have been significant temperature changes at most low latitude sites, other climate changes have been reported. These include significantly wetter conditions in Africa, Australia and Japan, and desert-like conditions in the Midwestern United States. Areas around the Amazon in South America show temperature increases and drier conditions.[13]


^ Koshkarova, V.L.; Koshkarov, A.D. (2004). “Regional signatures of changing landscape and climate of northern central Siberia in the Holocene”. Russian Geology and Geophysics 45 (6): 672–685.
^ Davis, B.A.S.; Brewer, S.; Stevenson, A.C.; Guiot, J. (2003). “The temperature of Europe during the Holocene reconstructed from pollen data”. Quaternary Science Reviews 22 (15–17): 1701–16. doi:10.1016/S0277-3791(03)00173-2.
^ Gagan, Michael K.; Ayliffe, LK; Hopley, D; Cali, JA; Mortimer, GE; Chappell, J; McCulloch, MT; Head, MJ (1998). “Temperature and Surface-Ocean Water Balance of the Mid-Holocene Tropical Western Pacific”. Science 279 (5353): 1014–8. doi:10.1126/science.279.5353.1014. PMID 9461430.
^ Kitoh, Akio; Murakami, Shigenori (2002). “Tropical Pacific climate at the mid-Holocene and the Last Glacial Maximum”. Paleoceanography 17 (3): 1047. doi:10.1029/2001PA000724.
^ D.S. Kaufman, T.A. Ager, N.J. Anderson, P.M. Anderson, J.T. Andrews, P.J. Bartlein, L.B. Brubaker, L.L. Coats, L.C. Cwynar, M.L. Duvall, A.S. Dyke, M.E. Edwards, W.R. Eisner, K. Gajewski, A. Geirsdottir, F.S. Hu, A.E. Jennings, M.R. Kaplan, M.W. Kerwin, A.V. Lozhkin, G.M. MacDonald, G.H. Miller, C.J. Mock, W.W. Oswald, B.L. Otto-Bliesner, D.F. Porinchu, K. Ruhland, J.P. Smol, E.J. Steig, B.B. Wolfe (2004). “Holocene thermal maximum in the western Arctic (0-180 W)”. Quaternary Science Reviews 23 (5–6): 529–560. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2003.09.007.
^ “NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice News”. National Snow and Ice Data Center. Retrieved 15 May 2009.
^ “Eurasia During the Last 150,000 Years”. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
^ “Abrupt Climate Changes Revisited: How Serious and How Likely?”. USGCRP Seminar, 23 February 1998. Retrieved May 18, 2005.
^ Masson, V.; Vimeux, F.; Jouzel, J.; Morgan, V.; Delmotte, M.; Ciais,P.; Hammer, C.; Johnsen, S.; Lipenkov, V.Y.; Mosley-Thompson, E.; Petit, J.-R.; Steig, E.J.; Stievenard, M.; Vaikmae, R. (2000). “Holocene climate variability in Antarctica based on 11 ice-core isotopic records”. Quaternary Research 54 (3): 348–358. doi:10.1006/qres.2000.2172.
^ P.W. Williams, D.N.T. King, J.-X. Zhao K.D. Collerson (2004). “Speleothem master chronologies: combined Holocene 18O and 13C records from the North Island of New Zealand and their paleoenvironmental interpretation”. The Holocene 14 (2): 194–208. doi:10.1191/0959683604hl676rp.
^ a b c d e Dansgaard W. Frozen Annals Greenland Ice Sheet Research. Odder, Denmark: Narayana Press. pp. 124. ISBN 87-990078-0-0.
^ Hansson M, Holmén K (Nov 2001). “High latitude biospheric activity during the Last Glacial Cycle revealed by ammonium variations in Greenland Ice Cores”. Geophy Res Lett. 28 (22): 4239–42. Bibcode 2001GeoRL..28.4239H. doi:10.1029/2000GL012317.
^ Francis E. Mayle, David J. Beerling, William D. Gosling, Mark B. Bush (2004). “Responses of Amazonian ecosystems to climatic and atmospheric carbon dioxide changes since the Last Glacial Maximum”. Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences 359 (1443): 499–514. doi:10.1098/rstb.2003.1434. PMC 1693334. PMID 15212099.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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15 Responses to Arctic Melting

  1. gallopingcamel says:

    A tropical Greenland would be a great source of food. Too bad that most of it is under ice at the moment. When Greenland is ice free vast areas of Canada and Russia that are currently tundra or permafrost would be suitable for cultivation. The agricultural potential of the planet would be vastly increased if the poles were to become ice free again as they were 65 million years ago during the Eocene.

    So why are so many people worried when the ice starts to melt?

  2. E.M.Smith says:


    And don’t forget that during Glacials large parts of what is not under ice become dry deserts. Just not as much water around. “Warmer is better”…

    I also find it interesting that just a couple of million years ago there were forests and beavers and all. This “frozen north” during interglacials is a ‘new thing’ geologically speaking. I’m not fond of what that implies…

  3. adolfogiurfa says:

    It´s because of changes in the GMF:
    Sorry! it is not CO2 and we, men, are not to blame for it.

  4. Pascvaks says:

    Galactic TV Review
    There’s a NEW HIT show on Galactic TV. It’s called “Only On Earth!”. It’s a little like an old Earth TV Series called ‘All In The Family’, but obviously something that has attracted 684,897,482,483,593,006,391,002 galactic viewers (4% of the current total) needs more spice and grit. Anything Galactic would obviously need more than one little family of primatives, I understand there are a few million “Ediths”, a few hundred thousand “Archies”, a couple hundred “Meatheads” and some really good looking “Glorias” a’la “Voom-Voom Sally Struthers” types. The “Ediths” are the main characters in the Galactic Show, of course, they think the global climate is changing. (Of course it would, wouldn’t it? Edith is a real Space Kadet;-) The “Archies” are the antagonists who keep telling the Ediths they’re idiots. The language is spicy by some standards. So-so by others. Those with the NEW TV sets can adjust pretty much anything to fit their own tastes. Anyway, the show took-off just a couple decade-zots ago and kind’a reached its max-viewer-rate about 4 year-pings ago. And, But, Whatever, Even though some Martian lifted a bunch of script material and spread it around this tiny little planet in the middle of nowhere, and nearly killed the show, it’s still going gangbusters everywhere else. Highly Recommended if you haven’t seen it yet. Probably won’t last long. Nothing on that speck of dust ever lasts long. Good Viewing dear readers! Till next time, keep those Galactic Arm Zones Spinning and Winning! Oh, Yes! Have YOU bought your Galactic Lotto Ticket Today? Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Ta-da!
    Hummmm… sarc off?;-)

  5. Otter says:

    Interesting to note yet another reference to massive climate change in a matter of decades. One Has to think that hansen, mann et al, are not unaware of such things, yet they seem Hell bent on making out the last 50 years as moving far too fast to be natural.

  6. Pascvaks says:

    An attempt at a little humor:
    “Everything in Global Climate is a matter of de Gyres. When de Gyres cool, it gets cold; when de Gyres warm, it gets hot. Keep your eye on de Gyres and you’ll know which way things are going.” (Well I didn’t say how little;-)

  7. JP Miller says:

    To gallopingcamel: the reason “people” are worried about melting ice is that if enough Greenland and Antarctic ice melts, sea levels will rise and inundate cities, especially with poor people in them (e.g., Dacca). You know, “The Day After Tomorrow” and all that. Of course, it’s nonsense in that people will move their habitation as waters rise (which they will do, eventually, and not likely because of CO2).

    Let’s cut through the crap. Most who are on the “CO2 will destroy us through CAGW” are really Malthusians at heart and believe the world cannot sustain its current human population, much less any further growth in it. They believe either/ or food, water, natural resources will “run out.” I know people with PhDs in science who believe this despite all the evidence to the contrary. It has nothing to do with data, analysis, or logic. It has to do with some people simply being fearful and/ or misanthropic. It’s wired into who they are, not what they can learn. They need a target for this “free floating” anxiety. CO2 is a convenient target because it can be used without confronting what’s really underneath their psychological covers. Hey, we’re saving the planet!

    I know the above has been said many times by skeptics as explanations for all the green/ CAGW nonsense.

    The only way such silly notions get countered among the majority of the population is with facts because, on average, humanity is rational — it’s just that most of us are not in certain ways. Sadly, this particular pathology has found a convenient bedfellow in climate science. So, it’s harder to argue against the pathology because it has “science” in its side.

    If skeptics are correct, the odds are high that climate will grow colder in the next 10-30 years. While no one wants a “little” (much less a real) ice-age, I hope I live long enough to see the one we believe is coming so can see the death of this latest Luddite/ Malthusian nonsense. It’s not good for humanity.

  8. E.M.Smith says:


    While I think people have some tendency to a ‘running out panic’ (probably built in due to evolving in times of scarcity – i.e. hunting food on the plains of Africa); the present round of Malthusian Green Thinking comes directly from an orchestrated centrally planned effort.

    The Club Of Rome commissioned a work back in the ’70s or so called “The Limits To Growth” by Meadows et. al. It used computer models to “project” that we were going to run out of all sorts of things (we didn’t…) This has been “updated” a few times with follow on books…

    Guess who has advocated (from very early on) for the CAGW idea? Yup, The Club Of Rome…

    It’s a social control design goal from a small central clique who find it a useful tool, even if the predictions are always garbage. As to why, I can only speculate. Many of them do make a bucket of money off of the results, though…

    Oh, and the statistics on the Greenland and Antarctic Ice say it would take something like a quarter million years to melt it all at Holocene (warm) melting rates. Unfortunately, before even 1% of that time is past we are in the start of the next glacial, so it just can’t happen…

    Reminds of a very old and very bad and very non-PC ethnic joke (that I like just for the way it feels when saying the words… it’s a tactile thing for me…)

    “Why you ought to buy Italian tires: Dey Go through mud, and Dey Go through snow, and Dey Go through sand, and Dey Go through everything! But when Dey Go flat Dey Go Whop Whop Whop Whop!”

    FWIW, I think we’ve got a few million too many “meatheads” in our Galactic Show…


    It was just that kind of “They can’t be THAT dumb!” which lead me to the conclusion that Hanlon’s Razor had reached the limit. ~(“Never attribute to Malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity”) Normally “stupid” can cover a lot of turf… But once it’s very clear that “stupidity” is an inadequate explanation, the necessary conclusion is that “this behaviour is by design”…


    Interesting article. So the changes in EMF shift the currents and thus the melt rate? Interesting idea… Gyre as heat pump gatekeeper and EMF as throttle…

  9. JP Miller says:

    EM, yes, well familiar with “Limits to Growth.” Read it “in the day” with Ehrlich, etc. Thought they were all out of their minds then; have had no reason to change my mind since. There is a strong tendency in some people, especially those who are particularly smart and concerned about their fellow man, to believe that if only “they” could write the rules, all would be right with the world. They simply don’t understand/ trust the notion of the “invisible hand.” They’re always looking at the externalities, which only central planning can address (so they imagine). Does the Club of Rome do this to “control others” and “make money.” I doubt it. I think they really believe what they proclaim for the apparent reasons they proclaim it: noblesse oblige.

    Capitalism works quite nicely if fraud, violence, monopoly, and rent-seeking are strongly punished. Externalities? Well, if they cause harm, then there’s tort law that ought to keep negative externalities in check. This does require a political system that focuses strongly on good police and courts. The US has among the best in the world in both — let’s hope we can keep them that way.

  10. Pascvaks says:

    More and more I’m coming to the conclusion that “people” have an innate drive that, like little boys (and some girls) who like to take everything apart to see how it ticks, makes them destroy things just for the hell of it, no malice intended, they just have to do something and that’s what they do. True some of them are rather philosophical and/or devious about it, and they’ll argue till their red in the face that ‘it’ needs to be done for the benefit of humanity, etc., etc. Wonder what the planet would be like today if we hadn’t had this little quirk in our nature? Seems if a species has no natural enemy they improvise.

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    @J.P.Miller & Pascvaks:

    I think think there’s a bit more to it than that… The folks who are increasingly “in charge” are specifically trained to believe i the power of “rule making”. Law and Lawyers are all about central authority making the rules. It is anathema to their mode of thought to “just let things be and evolve naturally”.

    So “Who put the lawyers in charge?”…

    I don’t know, but they are everywhere now. Most board of directors have them (imho to excess) and politics is mostly lawyers. Even places nominally run by ‘non-lawyers’ must now get ‘permission from legal’ to do anything. Government Regulatory Agencies and lobbyists are similarly dominated by lawyers.

    Folks who expect a certain degree of adaptation and randomness, to evaluate and adapt, are being squeezed out of positions of control. (Farmers, soldiers, businessmen). Hell, even soldiers now have a lawyer on the other end of the radio telling them when they can ‘take the shot’. The dominance of “rule driven behaviour” is now systematic.

  12. JP Miller says:

    EM, agree on “those in charge” believing rule making is a good thing because it’s their role. They self-select and are selected because they like it and are good at it. Many people not in charge think rules are good — well, rules that accord with their views of “what’s right.” Not many people are comfortable with only a few basic rules (e.g., the Golden Rule) and then let courts punish those who break them. No, they want rules about specific things. And, of coursem those in charge are happy to accommodate.

    The system our Founders set up was built to minimize rule-making and restrict its encroachment. They tried hard to constuct a mechanism that would restrict rule making beyond the minimum required for a civil society. Not sure what they could have done more to restrict the growth of rule making. I’m not ready to believe we’re fighting a losing battle, but I sure wouldn’t mind some steps in that direction: dramatically downsize EPA, HHS, Commerce, Labor, Agriculture, Transportation, Education as a start. Turn Social Security into defined contribution, bring market forces strongly into Medicare. That would get rid of a lot of rules and allow people’s natural instincts to benefit us all.

    The good news about CAGW is that, ultimately, the natural world — if not science — will out. The rest, that will require us to make/ demonstrate the case for fewer rules are better rules.

    EM, you’re a historian. Do you know of any examples in history of countries purposefully reducing the amount of rules governing behavior in peaceful ways?

  13. Pascvaks says:

    @EM – Agree! I like to simplify, or only use an example of ‘one of many’, not a good multi-lister on a key-board, much prefer pencil and paper for that. We do have an un-healthy and un-natural attraction for ‘lawyers’, but I also tend to think of the ‘professions’ occupied by school-trained ‘former’ lawyers have a mollifying, evolutionary, equal and opposite reaction on them as well. Amazing how many ‘lawyers’ are newscasters these days. Somewhen, Americans seemed to have gotten it into their heads that lawmakers make laws and the ‘best’ person to make a law is a lawyer –well we now know that wasn’t true. I also believe I’m beginning to detect a long overdue generational shift in that way of thinking, we’ll see. (What I think I detect is strong movement away from the academic to the technical, away from Liberal Arts in Old Mideval Ivy Covered Walls to Technician Training of All Stripes and Colors in Brand New State and Industrial CoOp Facilities in and near major population and industrial centers (10K-6M); not saying BA’s are worthless, but if I were 18 again, I wouldn’t invest in one.)

    PS: Think maybe in the not too distant future Associate Degrees will be the equivalent of today’s BS, the BS equivalent to todays MS, the MS equivalent to today’s PhD in Science, and the DS equivalent to… hummmm… well there is no equivalent is there?;-)

    @JP – “The system our Founders set up was built to minimize rule-making and restrict its encroachment. They tried hard to constuct a mechanism that would restrict rule making beyond the minimum required for a civil society. Not sure what they could have done more to restrict the growth of rule making…”
    Agree! But I doubt that they thought that what they had devised would be an automatic, self-cleaning, perfect system, or that we, their loving children, would be as dumb as we have been. We’ve produced a lot of fluf, crap, fraud, waste, abuse, cobwebs, and hanging-chads since 1789. The House and Senate Rules have got to be changed to bring Congress out of the 18th Century, no bout a’doubt it! As Jefferson was want to say, a little revolution every now and then is a good thing. It sure would be nice to keep the basic Constitution (Original Software Disc) and Dump Everything, Control-Alt-Delete, Reboot, and Reload the original disc (about every 100 years or so;-). There’s nothing wrong, in my mind, with such a drastic move, I doubt we’ll ever have a Congress, a President, a Court, that has the guts to do anything. Thinking now that short of a Jefferson Event we’re pretty much doomed to die as all others have before us, not with a bang, but with a whimper.

    PS: You know I’ve been seeing more and more Vandals and Huns in my neighborhood, how about you? Sure wish they didn’t dress so funny and speak those strange languages, can’t understand a word they’re saying. Why can’t they speak Latin like you and me? Ain’t life a beach? Well as my old teacher Marcus Chiefiotis wused to say “Cavieotus Emptorus et Semperus Fidelious Yourselfus”(SarcOff;-)

  14. E.M.Smith says:


    Pondering, the best I can come up with is “static” for a while ( code of Hammurabi, some other royal decree systems, Sharia) and some sporadic “replace in a giant social upheaval / collapse”, such as when Rome fell and the provinces simplified….

    The dominant pattern I think I’m seeing (when I run the internal movies…) is one of rule growth to stagnation then collapse and restart.


    There are provisions in the constitution for having a ‘do over’ but at this point I’d not trust the parties in power with doing it right… They want to go in exactly the wrong way. IMHO at this point the only choice that has a hope is for the Several States to rear up and take back THEIR constitution and the powers that are theirs.

    I visited a Barns & Nobles book store in Santa Clara / San Jose border yesterday. It has a built in Starbucks with a couple of dozen chairs. 20-30 years ago, such a place was full of White Geeks. (As was much of the valley) I was one of them. We were flocking to book stores and also to technical shops (Fry’s and local geek tech book places).

    This time when I looked around, I noticed something striking. I don’t usually notice “racial profile” as the place is just so darned mixed anyway. But this was hard to ignore. There was a higher than expected proportion of Asians, and hardly any whites. The rest being a mix of Indian and Mexican / Hispanics-non-white. W’e’re talking “2 white couples and 2 white singles”: ALL of whom were “50 somethings” or older. One of the couples being me and spouse.

    Where have the Blacks and the Whites gone? Not a single “under 30” in sight.

    Now on the one hand I’m sure a lot of them have just moved on to being the Kindle & Ipad generation and get all they want via downloads. But still… My daughter hates Kindles and related and loves real paper books…

    Is it “the neighborhood”? Possibly. That “Santa Clara Stripe” has been the entry point for several generations of ‘new arrivals’ at Silicon Valley. ( My first apartment here was there…) So all the H1b Visa Indians flooded in about 15? years back and a large number of restaurants swapped to “Indian Food”.

    Is it “white flight”? Well, only if you include the blacks too… But yes, a large number of folks have just packed up an left. Those who’ve “made there nut” and don’t see any reason to feed the out of control State of Kalifornia, for example.

    Still, whatever the cause, it was quite striking. Don’t know what all the particular ethnicities were. We have a load of them. There’s a Japan Town from pre-W.W.II with a nice Buddhist Temple. There’s a Little Saigon (courtesy of our exit from Viet Nam and this being a warm place they liked). There’s a significant Chinese and Korean population (and one street section in Santa Clara is now a Little Korea complete with Korean signs as the major signage). Of course we have a large Mexican population (on their way to being THE largest population in California) and more.

    Still, it was quite odd. Felt like I was one of the few who “didn’t get the memo”… along with a couple of other “old folks”…

  15. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. “The dominant pattern I think I’m seeing (when I run the internal movies…) is one of rule growth to stagnation then collapse and restart.”

    Reluctantly, I agree. I wish it were otherwise. The good news is that it is possible that the collapse and restart will be relatively bloodless (like the fall of the USSR.) Oh, it will be painful regardless of how it happens, but let us hope that the better angels of our nature will prevent it from being an actual civil war.

    “IMHO at this point the only choice that has a hope is for the Several States to rear up and take back THEIR constitution and the powers that are theirs.”

    Maybe we can send copies of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions to our state legislatures!

    “We were flocking to book stores and also to technical shops (Fry’s and local geek tech book places).”

    I think Fry’s is where I bought my first hard drive sometime about 1984 or so. It was 32 MB and a bargain at about $340. I remember thinking, “how on Earth will I ever fill this up?!”

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