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It is disappointing that when a decades old nuclear power station out-performs expectations in a situation that is far above what it was designed to withstand and radiation exposure no more than you'd get on a ski trip, it is suddenly a problem with nuclear power. (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/18/fukushima_friday/ - the register has been level headed and provided excellent analysis throughout)

If this had been an oil refinery or natural gas store the results would be devastating but without the drama of the word 'nuclear'. Nobody would suggest we should stop using fossil fuels.

The Japanese experience should be a vindication of nuclear power but is being misrepresented as a failure.


Estimated Japanese body count climbs to above eighteen thousand. Out of fifty Nuclear Reactors, six damaged severely. Out of these six, two are now under control. For the Monday morning quaterbacks, "Wha Happened!"? For the uninitiated, it's called, "Potential Disaster Scenarios and Design Mitigation". In the Japanese case, the analysis was based on historical analysis of earthquakes in the region surrounding Japan and the conclusion was reached that a level six point five (richter scale) was the greatest level of earthquake that Japan would ever see. So everything was designed and built to survive a seven point five (richter scale) earthquake and the tsunami which followed. Then out of nowhere Japan gets hit by a level nine earthquake and tsunami. Any surprise that the design mitigation failed. Although, it worked quite well except at the area surrounding the Epicenter. Even with the multiple levels of the Reactor Cooling Loops, which appears to be the main problem (which were knocked out by the consequent tsunami)of getting the other four Reactors under control. We need to do all we can to help the Japanese get these other four reactors under control, help in the cleanup and rebuilding.

Natural Disasters and Design Mitigation is not an exact science. Simply because Nature is not exact. As soon as one thinks they have it figured out, Nature will show that there is an exception.
One cannot design anything to be one hundred percent safe. Simply because Nature or Man is not fully understood or known. If mankind required this level of safety and security in his technical designs (and not too mention the cost), we'd still be living in caves. Like Faust, we've made our bargain with the Devil and we really have no choice but to continue. Otherwise, we will slip back into a "Dark Age". Natural Disasters and Design Mitigation is not perfect, but its the best we have. Otherwise we can become like the "Luddites" and desire to shut down all Technical Development and Progress. Much to the loss of the Public at large.

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I think that the Japanese experience should be a vindication of nuclear power but is being misrepresented as a failure too


Nuclear-power-wise, Japan suffered a perfect storm: a quake that exceeded expectations by an order of magnitude, a tsunami for which there was almost no warning time, and old-design reactors not far from the epicenter. Death toll: zero.

Even if you take Chernobyl into account, my guess is that windmills have exacted a greater death toll per generated gigawatt-year than nuclear reactors have.

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At some point it all becomes an embarrassment to the professional status of those economists who tell us that Krugman is a good economists .


I think both Prof. Becker’s and Judge Posner’s posts are excellent although I do have a number of quibbles. Let me, however, concentrate on only one that I have been thinking about for more than 50 years. It is conceptual and goes to whether a half empty glass is the same as a glass that is half full. I will argue that they are not. Prof. Becker has a very telling sentence that grabbed me:

“Since the earthquake hit a depressed and declining region, out migration of young men and women will accelerate, as will the decline of fishing and farming in that region.”

I found the use of the words “declining” and then “decline” possibly misleading and negative. To me the more important question would be whether the actual absolute production of fish and farm products have declined or gone up. I don’t know the answer, although I am willing to bet they have actually been going up. Either way what I don’t like is the formulation. Here is why.

I was trained as both an engineer and an economist (before going on to management). As an economist you learn to extract information from past events and attempt to explain what happened and why. As an engineer there is one extra step that is the actual focus of the profession: how do you solve real life problems with that information, how do you make new things happen? The focus of economics is in the past and thus may inadvertently tend to emphasize that past too much while engineers and managers emphasize solving problems to improve the future.

So back to north-eastern Japan, rather than thinking of fishing and farming as declining I would instead look to whether what has happened is an increase in productivity that has released labor to do and support other tasks, and see this as an opportunity rather than a “decline.” Sure, the released labor will migrate but only if new opportunities are not created for them in the place of their ancestors and family.

To me at least, the more vibrant and desirable societies are those that are more dispersed taking advantage of opportunities throughout their space. I prefer open green spaces to a concrete jungle. Moreover, as I’ve posted elsewhere, I believe more and better innovations happen, the more locations there are for it to occur. The steam engine was invented at or near the coal mines and smaller communities (Glasgow and Soho in the Midlands), not the middle of the big city.

So, looking at the future, instead of calculating the cost of the earthquake by estimating the damage like Prof. Becker does, I would calculate the cost by estimating the number and cost of the new jobs that now need to be created (and there are good parameters for doing so that Prof. Becker probably has better access to). It is not necessarily going to be much cheaper to create those jobs in the big conurbations around Tokyo, Yokohama and Kobe than in the north-east except that some of the infrastructure may already be in place. Still, it is almost certain that the north-east will not be abandoned entirely and that new infrastructure will be built.

So, all other things being equal I’d still go for creating new jobs and opportunities in the ravaged region, calculate the cost of doing so, and think of how to do it better this time around. I would look at the glass as being half full, not half empty.

Mindsets are crucially important. You are much more likely to solve problems if you set out to do just that instead of looking only at what has gone or is going wrong. I would not look at north-eastern Japan as declining but rather as a large pool of skilled labor that needs to be organized in order to take advantage of new opportunities.

Further on whether or not and to what extent the Japanese planned for a devastating natural event of the magnitude that just hit them, a point emphasized by Judge Posner, again I would think more positively, although I always do find Posner to be more upbeat. As he points out, there are tremendous uncertainties and difficulties designing the ultimate disaster-free solutions; the cost could be enormous, and once built that cost is sunk.

There is an alternative, however, that the Japanese followed that others can learn from. They saved outside of Japan. In the US alone they hold in the neighborhood of one trillion dollars of Treasury paper or in Fed accounts alone. Arguably they did think and develop contingency plans in case of a major disaster. (And look out US. Japanese money may no longer be available, at least in the near term, to help support huge budget deficits.)

I am not trying to downplay the very sad effects of the disaster. I have literally shed tears watching some of the scenes on television. But I would now get myself up and look forward. The Japanese are a resourceful people that can come back stronger than ever. Yes, let’s go to school on the past to learn how we can all do better in the future but do so with our eyes fixed forward. That goes for nuclear power as well. As some have pointed out, and which can be further confirmed by going to the better informed websites like at MIT, if anything Fukushima has proven that we can design sufficiently safe nuclear power facilities although there remain some soft spots like for spent fuel storage.


Spent Fuel Storage? Yep, its a Major Soft Spot. The reason for the onsite storage of spent fuel lies in the failure of the Congress to locate and develop a safe long term storage location and procedures for this toxic and hazardous waste; which was and is their responsibility (this was supposed to have been solved fifty years ago). Yet, they prefer to sweep the issue under the carpet (out of sight out of mind) instead of biting the bullet and dealing with it once and for all.

And so, spent fuel continues to pile up on sites around the globe.
Hopefully, the Fukushima Disaster will shake the Congress out of its lethargy and get it moving on this important Energy issue, but I doubt it.


Xavier........ Can't help chiding you a bit!

We've done some experiments here in the northland which appear to conclude that, by definition "a glass half full, and one half empty" are typically indistinguishable from each other. I suppose a greater truth is that of no glass ever being anything but full as something flows in to replace that which has been emptied.

Having studied the phenomenon for so long, coupled with your econ and engineering training, you, as I may find the old cliche wanting in economic or biz applications that tend not to be zero sum games.
For example while it's simple to describe one's wallet as being empty, it's typically inexact to describe it being "half full" or "half empty". I've similar problems with "every cloud has a silver lining" which from my experience and observation I find a bit overstated.

But to your laments criticism of Becker's conclusions:

"Since the earthquake hit a depressed and declining region, out migration of young men and women will accelerate, as will the decline of fishing and farming in that region.”

.... Here in Alaska while we can't "see" either Japan or Russia, with our capital city of Juneau being about as far from Russia as is NY, we who are dependent on Alaska's large fisheries and Japanese markets do kinda pay attention to their efforts.

Japan, having always had difficulty feeding its large population from its limited arable land developed quite a bit of "ocean ranching" ie artificially spawning salmon in lakes or streams and pens, which then feed in the oceans and return to their natal streams. If they've polluted those streams it's not likely that it will have a positive effect on their future chum salmon runs.

As for the large boats you may have seen shoved up on the land, for decades now, the Japanese fishing fleet, one of the largest in the world, has been taking something of a beating by being forced out of the waters they used to fish by the 200 mile limit. You can imagine what the 200 mile limit did for our Aleutian archipelago.

Still, they'll likely repair and refloat many of the damaged boats, but, it's likely that today's fishing economics will preclude building costly new boats to replace all that were damaged. Farming, as you surely know is not enhanced by radiation; Chernobyl for example has an 18 mile diameter area used for nothing.

The wisdom of Japanese saving and lending to cover some of the DEBT rung up by the failed 20 year experiment with "supply sider -- constant Keynesian spurring??" Hmmmm........ Let's see for quite some time they'd have been lending at rates lower than the currency risk of the US, thus actually dis-saving. I suppose one explanation for that would be poor opportunities for investing at home. Or that like China they don't want to yen to strengthen to the point of making their huge export sector less competitive.

And, lastly, ahh yes, as with so many other fuels it's the exhaust that poses the largest problem for nukies.

Christopher Graves

Of course, my heart goes out to the Japanese people and I am praying for them daily. What we have seen in Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and Tsunami as people spontaneously cooperate to assist one another is the result of a homogeneous people sharing a common way of life. As the Japanese people extemporaneously cooperate with and assist one another on the spot is a prime example of what F.A. Hayek termed the "spontaneous order." The market is one way that this phenomenon takes place, but here we see no market at play at all. Rather, the ties of a common people, a common culture, and a common language bind people together through habit, custom, and tradition. A common people and common culture build “Social Capital” that pays off daily in a more congenial social environment and then especially when a crisis hits. People naturally empathize and work together for a common good.

The importance of commonality forming a sense of community lies at the heart of conservatism. Here is a link to a discussion of the parallels between a spontaneous order in the market and in the culture as developed by F.A. Hayek and Edmund Burke.


When we have destroyed our Social Capital as we are have been at work doing in America for some time, we are setting ourselves up for cultural suicide. Consider John Jay’s observation about the strength of America’s Social Capital at our founding and how we have moved so far from an appreciation of our natural commonality as well as our fit to the land and climate.

“ It has often given me pleasure to observe that independent America was not composed of detached and distant territories, but that one connected, fertile, widespreading country was the portion of our western sons of liberty. Providence has in a particular manner blessed it with a variety of soils and productions, and watered it with innumerable streams, for the delight and accommodation of its inhabitants. A succession of navigable waters forms a kind of chain round its borders, as if to bind it together; while the most noble rivers in the world, running at convenient distances, present them with highways for the easy communication of friendly aids, and the mutual transportation and exchange of their various commodities.
With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people -- a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.
This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties.” (Federalist 2)


Oh Chris! Geez this is awful stuff!

"homogeneous people sharing a common way of life." ????

In America, perhaps its a war or a couple generations that makes a "homogeneous people or "culture"". After WWI the immigrants who fought together became the "real Americans" while newer waves of immigrants had to wait for WWII, while our own "blacks" had to wait yet longer.

But, perhaps, and hopefully, its a generational thing for "real Americans" to accept the "inbreakers" and we don't need a huge war to bind us together in "commonality".

And this????????

"With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people -- a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence."

Really? Writing in the late 1700's while "we" were slaughtering "indians" and "building a nation" on the backs of slaves from many regions of Africa? "Professing the same religion?" When our founders went to considerable lengths to provide for diversity of religious beliefs, or none?"

And there it is again "fighting side by side?" but against whom? Pre-Civil War it must have been the Brits of ".......... the same ancestors, speaking the same language,"

As for "fighting side by side" today, surely you're aware to the diversity? Thus far I'd have to admit that such diversity is not reflected among our Wall Street thieves and banksters..... it that the culture of your vision?


Christopher Graves, thanks for the link. I shall read it with great interest. And thanks also for the quote from Federalist 2. Often when we read we miss important points. You may find this opinion piece interesting, “Restoring the Village: The defense of our liberties requires the courage and strength of bands of brothers.” You can find it in this month’s issue of First Things at:


And Jack, without question your glass is half empty.

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Christopher Graves

Xavier, thanks for your comments and the link to the very well reasoned and well written article along the lines that I introduced above. I found this passage to hit at the disagreement that you and I have with Jack and his political friends:

"What happened to that vision? An easy response is the European Enlightenment, but another answer is that the universal vision of the medieval Church, turning in hope to the day of the Lord, when all believers should be united in harmony in the New Jerusalem, had become detached from the understanding that man is fallen. There is no heaven, so man must make his own, if liberated from the darkness of superstition (that is, the Church) and tradition (that is, the family, the village, and the country)."

Those on the left are trying to make a Heaven on Earth that is tragically fallen. Even their Heaven is not a heaven that I would envision since it destroys all distinctives and spontaneous affection. And it would be imposed by the wrathful god of the State without the recognition or the love for the individual whom it personally created. In fact, nothing is personalistic about the leftist vision.

Christopher Graves

Jack, have you not see a poignancy and a grace in how the Japanese people have responded to their trials? Would their civic friendship be possible without their common ethnicity, language, traditions, and culture?

As for the United States, aren't sections of our country more open with one another and hospitable where they share a common culture and ethos?


Chris, The poignancy and grace to which you refer is a result of the "fatalism" which permeates Oriental Culture. This "fatalism" is a result of the impact of Shintoism, Buddhaism, Taoism and Confucianism over a thousand of years of inculcation on the Oriental mindset and character. There are two mindsets in the World, the Eastern and the Western, which are mutually exclusive.

To claim this as the "bedrock of Conservatism" is a bit of a stretch.


"Jack, have you not see a poignancy and a grace in how the Japanese people have responded to their trials?"

..... Indeed they have! I was mightily impressed by their industrious ways when I was there decades ago.

"Would their civic friendship be possible without their common ethnicity, language, traditions, and culture?"

.......... Of course. In addition to having been around America for quite a while, and enjoying the diversity of our Army long ago, I've noted the efficiency with which those barely speaking English at all have helped build ........... too many homes in across our nation.

"As for the United States, aren't sections of our country more open with one another and hospitable where they share a common culture and ethos?"

.... No. Even our little northern outpost sports some 60 languages spoken in our school district. I might tell some tales of attending the Honors Awards of one of our HS's and their diversity but it would take quite a while. Wait, no, gotta tell you of the lovely Cambodia girl who went up alone for her Honor in a ceremony where parents went up with their honorees, she spoke of it being a great honor to her mom as she'd been a victim of the cultural purge, but could not attend the honors ceremony because she was at work.

Do you live in an area that fits your description of nirvana?


Señor Becker y Posner, por favor, actualicen el blog contando las consecuencias de la dimisión de Sócrates y las más que posible intervención del FMI en Portugal. Sería posible una vuelta a la depresión europea.
Muchas gracias, un saludo.


Xavier: Ha! I just pointed out that a glass is never half full or empty, but thanks, having the heavier ballast elements at the bottom provides stability amidst the often stiff March winds.

BTW do you and Chris have, in your homogeneous (Aryan?) brotherhood a place (of equal comfort?) for those not making the cut?

Christopher Graves

NEH, yes, the religions you mention are an integral part of Oriental culture. And, yes, religious and cultural distinctives are central to conservatism. Consider what 'conservatism' literally means. It means conserving (or preserving) the culture. Conservatives respect and admire each indigenous culture that adapts a people to its environment. That is why Burke argued against imperialism since foreign interventions such as imperialism disrupts the natural evolution of a people.

Christopher Graves

Jack, first conservatives reject "Nirvana" or "Heaven" on earth. That is what I was referring to above. This is fallen world and there is no hope for progress or perfection. Each possible social or political "improvement" has its own set of trade-offs and unforeseen consequences. Evil, selfishness, and suffering cannot be eradicated. They can only be managed, to some degree. They can never be completely controlled much less overcome. Think of Freud's take on the human condition. It was a conservative one.

Next, if you admire the Japanese and their culture, then what is the problem? What are you objecting to? Don't you want everyone to have their own culture to adapt their own people to their unique setting?

Next, I challenge you on diverse populations cooperating as well as homogeneous ones. That is simply not true. Consider the findings from evolutionary psychology that find that people are more likely to cooperate with and sacrifice for a common good with people who are like themselves as well as studies from sociologist Robert Putnam, Duke University, and the British government that find diversity leads to social isolation and fragmentation.

Finally, I do not appreciate the "Arayan" reference. That is either a cheap shot or reflects a lack of understanding of the relevant philosophies being conflated. Conservatives are hardly Nazis. First, unlike conservatives, Nazis did not value each culture's unique niche in populating the earth. Second, Nazis sought to eradicate or co-opt competing power centers within a society such as those extolled in the article from *First Things* referenced above in Xavier's post. Conservatives, quite the contrary, demand that these organic institutions maintain their independence from a centralized state. In fact, liberty depends on these informal, voluntary associations. This is the "true individualism" that Hayek refers to in contrast to the social atomism or social nihilism of the "false individualism" typically trumpeted by the left. And, third, conservatives oppose an order imposed top-down from the state to establish and maintain any particular social distribution of power or wealth as the Nazis focused their attention upon. Both Nazis and all forms of the left share in the disdain for social evolution and the liberty that makes a free civil society possible. But I do think that this psychological association, borne out of being misinformed about political philosophy, is what drives this kind of strong response to innocuous comments.


Chris: In paragraph one you sound defeatist and counter to most western religions that strive to dominate "evil" or various evils of their sectarian definitions. But! you do come close to the oriental version I prefer of yin/yang always in contest, and perhaps the "good" can not exist but for the contrast with "evil" much as these black letters require a white background.

"Conservatives respect and admire each indigenous culture that adapts a people to its environment."

.......In the US we adapt to a wide range of environments from that of Key West to the plains to the northwest with the glue being that of the Constitution defining our liberties as well as its demand for acceptance and tolerance for those of differing beliefs, and as it's been amended over the years, both sexes and those of varying skin tones. Would you have it any other way?

......As for "admiring Japanese culture" that's well beyond being mightily impressed by their industry. It would take a book to discuss the "good" and not so good, but seeing themselves as a "people" or culture unique to themselves may offer insight as to how they could subjugate and brutally mistreat their Korean neighbors (one of the most peaceful nations in history) or why they attempted (foolishly) to invade "mother" China from which came much of their culture.

Today, from an economic standpoint, Japan is "suffering" from a population aging yet faster than that of the US, with their resistance to immigration, not being renewed, and with a disdain for doing the menial work they've little choice but to "outsource" those tasks, and lose whole sectors to others.

"Next, I challenge you on diverse populations cooperating as well as homogeneous ones."

.....For starters I'll submit WWI, WWII, along with the US military of today.

"Finally, I do not appreciate the "Arayan" reference...."

............... Well? what sort of "homogeneity" is it that you're selling? Perhaps we need some definitions?
The claims you make for "conservatism" may have some validity in theoretical conservatism of old, but I'd surly not recognize these precepts in what passes for political conservatism of today and stuff like "false individualism typically trumpeted by the left" reminds one of the rhetorical excesses and "cutisms" of Frank Luntz and Heritage Society newspeak such as "the job-killing Obamacare" et al. Speaking of which are we to "conserve" an unchanging "culture" which does such a miserable job of health care delivery? And are we to "conserve" the wage ratios of working folk vs CEO's of the 60's? that have changed 100 fold, or do the "conservatives" protecting today's ratios "have it right?"

As for Nazis being of the "left" I'm not buying. Today they'd be a symptom of corporatism gone mad, with 24/7 Talk radio of today being their pandering spokesmen, and as has recently been further enabled by a "conservative" (or Nazi? if you prefer?) SC granting literal personhood to "our??" souless and increasingly nationless corporations.

But perhaps you're speaking of theoretical conservatism of books and not the twisted, intellectually bankrupt lash-up of corporate interests, religious fundamentalists and an assortment of "tea party" activists protecting the unaffordable tax cuts for the rich ladled out by Bush and "making up for it" by cutting the budget of educational TV mostly in rural areas.


Chris, bravo!

Jack, do you ever see anything good in anything? Must you always emphasize the bad? Wasn't Chris clear enough that "Each possible social or political ‘improvement’ has its own set of trade-offs and unforeseen consequences. Evil, selfishness, and suffering cannot be eradicated. They can only be managed, to some degree. They can never be completely controlled much less overcome." You always see the bad side, even in a good argument but never say what you would do to improve the balance of the good and the bad.

In your case Marx and Engels were right that “the icy water of egotistical calculation…has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism.” Only I am not sure where the icy water flows from in your case. Perhaps even from within yourself? It is not clear what alternative you have chosen to the “motley feudal ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors.’” Which is it, unions, a benevolent nanny state, new ideas? You never say.

Never the positive, just the negative; the advantage of the lower center of gravity of the half empty glass can easily become a disadvantage. Never mind the lack of creativity and apparent inability to contribute anything positive. If the weight gets too heavy it may crush you. So much so that when reason fails you, you inevitably take out your gun and resort to insult. How sad.


Xavier, "Accentuating the positive", does not recognize the negatives or potential solutions to those negatives. It's somewhat akin to the Ostrich with its head stuck in the sand. As an Engineer or Technician, the first thing you learn is that in order to solve a problem, you first have to recognize that there is a problem (which requires one to pull their head out of the sand and open their eyes) Ecce Signum?. Then you can move to the next phase of problem solution.

As the Astronauts at NASA like to put it, " Uh... Houston? We have a problem"! Same applies to any Socio-Politico-Economic System. This is not the time to rest on Laurels, accentuate the positive, and continue to travel down a road as if nothing is wrong or screwed up. In order to solve problems you must first recognize you have problems and to see those problems clearly...

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