Ronald Bailey: The World Is Getting Cleaner, Richer, and Safer

In the time of a global pandemic, soaring unemployment, massive wildfires, and racial strife, it feels like the world is going to hell. It’s not, says Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey, the coauthor (with’s Marian Tupy) of Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know: And Many Others You Will Find Interesting .

Source: Ronald Bailey: The World Is Getting Cleaner, Richer, and Safer

Twelve Economic Concepts Everyone Should Know

FEE’s list of 12 concepts that serve as guides for their research:

1. Gains from trade: In any economic exchange, freely chosen, both parties benefit–at least in their own minds.

2. Subjective value: The value of any good or service is determined by the individual human mind.

3. Opportunity cost: Nothing is free, and the cost of anything is what you give up to get it.

4. Spontaneous order: Society emerges not from top-down intention or planning but from individuals’ actions that result in unplanned outcomes for the whole.

5. Incentives: Individuals act to maximize their own reward.

6. Comparative advantage: Cooperation between individuals creates value when a seller can produce a given item or service at a lower cost than the buyer would spend to produce it himself.

7. Knowledge problem: No one person or group knows enough to plan (and force) social outcomes, because information necessary for social order is distributed among its members and revealed only in human choice.

8. Seen and Unseen: In addition to the tangible and quantifiable effects, there are quite often invisible costs and unmet opportunities to any action or policy.

9. Rules matter: Institutions influence the decisions individuals make. For example, property rights extend from the reality of scarcity which demands that ownership must be vested in individuals and not a collective.

10. Action is purposeful: Each person makes choices with the intention of improving his or her condition.

11. Civil society: Voluntary association permits people of all backgrounds to interact peaceably, create value, cultivate personal character, and build mutual trust.

12. Entrepreneurship: Acting on an opportunity to gather underused, misused, or undiscovered resources and ideas to create value for others.


I’m a climate realist. My assessment of the science indicates the climate is changing but humans are responsible for at most only a small amount of global climate changes. In addition, the data shows the climate shifts that have occurred up until now have been largely beneficial, contributing to a widespread greening of the earth, increased crop production, and, as nutritious food supplies increase, a decline in malnutrition and a general improvement in human health. Also, the best economic analyses indicate that even if humans are contributing to climate change, radical policies like the Green New Deal (GND) or those that would be necessary to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement would impose far greater costs and harms on the people of most countries than the supposed climate-induced costs or harm they are intended to prevent.

Interestingly, on the latter point concerning the relative benefits and costs of extreme action to fight climate change, my views largely align with those of prominent economists who disagree with my assessment of the science, who believe human fossil fuel use is responsible for most of the climate change occurring on a global scale.

Nobel Prize-winning economist William D. Nordhaus, Ph.D., is under attack by environmental alarmists despite agreeing with them that humans are driving costly climate changes that should be remedied or reduced, reports American Enterprise Institute Resident Fellow Benjamin Zycher. Nordhaus received the 2018 Nobel Prize in economics largely in recognition of his integrated assessment model of the science and economics of climate policies, a model being used by international bodies and governments to push restrictions on fossil fuel use.

Despite his bona fides as a believer in in large potential dangers of human-caused climate change, Nordhaus is under attack because, like other prominent mainstream economists who’ve toted up the benefits and costs of climate change and actions proposed to prevent it before him, his work shows the sharp, immediate restrictions on fossil fuels proposed by climate alarmists are unrealistic and are likely to cause more harm than good. Nordhaus favors a carbon tax or similar pricing policies to reduce fossil fuel use over time. He even supports the Paris climate agreement, combined with the imposition of tariffs on nations that do not participate in the agreement, or, participating, then fail to reduce emissions by the agreed amounts. Yet this is not enough for climate alarmists, because what Nordhaus doesn’t subscribe to are policies to end the use of all coal, natural gas, and oil in the next 10, 15, or even 25 years. Nordhaus’s assessment of the evidence is that complete decarbonization of the economy, regardless of a nation’s stage of economic development or availability of viable alternative energy sources, is more dangerous than the realistically expected harms from climate change.


You have two alternatives. You can live with disparities, or you can live in totalitarianism….

…… is the keen observation from Brown University economist Glenn Loury as he “channels Thomas Sowell” in a conversation with his former student Glenn Yu in City Journal (“ Race and Equality “), italics added : I’m channeling Thomas Sowell now.

Source: You have two alternatives. You can live with disparities, or you can live in totalitarianism….

Is infinite economic growth a fantasy? Or is the fantasy the idea that we are quickly using up the Earth?

In his recent book, “ Stubborn Attachments ,” economist Tyler Cowen offers a brief thought experiment meant to illustrate how seemingly tiny differences in GDP growth rates generate massive wealth differences over time. What if, Cowen asks, the US economy grew at one percentage point less annually from 1870 through 1990?

Source: Is infinite economic growth a fantasy? Or is the fantasy the idea that we are quickly using up the Earth?

Do Blue States Subsidize Red States?

Countering those concerns, some leftists have resurrected the myth that it’s actually red states that are “welfare queens.” While this represents a pivot from the original argument (which is over states in better fiscal condition subsidizing those in worse), it is relevant, as it would imply that perhaps the reason red states are in better fiscal condition is because the federal government has been giving them an assist.

And it would be false.

In my 2019 book Debunk This!, I analyzed a similar argument from two angles; that Republicans themselves were more likely to be moochers, and that red states as a whole are.

Liberals Resurrect Myth That Blue States Subsidize Red States

In other words, Sammin points out that because red state budgets tend to be smaller, it would make more sense to look at intergovernmental grants (payments from the federal government to state governments) on a per-capita basis, not as a percentage of state budgets.

Against a national average of $1,935 in intergovernmental spending per American, red states receive just $1,879. Blue states get considerably more, at $2,124 per resident. Purple states see the least of their money returned to them per capita, at just $1,770.

StatesPopulationInterGov.InterGov. Per Capita
Total Red State96,086,631$180,551,551,000$1,879
Total Purple State77,676,459$137,532,631,000$1,771
Total Blue State134,982,448$286,776,111,000$2,125
Grand Total312,471,695$604,860,293,000$1,936

To address the question of “subsidizing”, it might be interesting to look at per capita taxes paid by each class of state.