Dana1981 asked in EnvironmentGlobal Warming · 9 years ago

What do you think of Roy Spencer's foray into economics, and comments about his job?

On his blog, Roy Spencer (climate scientist and global warming "skeptic") says that he has just published a book on free market economics. Among his comments in that post:

"since government is so inefficient and wasteful, more poor people would be helped if charity was coordinated by the private sector. Americans are extremely charitable, even after the heavy tax burden we have."

"The government simply uses its power to decide that ever-increasing amounts of personal wealth be diverted through them — with a cut off the top — to support causes which the private sector could do more efficiently."

"I would wager that my job has helped save our economy from the economic ravages of out-of-control environmental extremism.

I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government."

I find this last quote rather stunning - I thought a scientist's job was to do sound, unbiased scientific research. Spencer thinks his job is to minimize the role of government? What do you think about these statements?

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  • 9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    "Appalling" comes to mind. You quote 3 statements of his comprising 5 sentences or fragments thereof. Each sentence makes a different point. Each point is demonstrably wrong, at least in this world. Briefly:

    1 - "since government is so inefficient and wasteful, more poor people would be helped if charity was coordinated by the private sector."

    Consider Medicare and what percentage of its budget is overhead, vs the percentages of each dollar most private charities keep.

    2 - "Americans are extremely charitable, even after the heavy tax burden we have."

    In times of economic trouble, like depressions or recessions, when lots of people are out of work or "underemployed" [ie: $7.00/hr doing dishes and janitorial work in a diner 4 hours a day, 7 days a week] the amount of charitable giving drops and drops noticeably. Churches get smaller amounts in collections, food pantries start running out of food, Christmas Wish gets 1 present for every 2 or 3 kids... When people need help the most is often when others are hurting, too.

    3 - "The government simply uses its power to decide that ever-increasing amounts of personal wealth be diverted through them — with a cut off the top — to support causes which the private sector could do more efficiently."

    Like building the Interstate Highway System, the Hoover Dam, the air-traffic controller network, shaky as that is sometimes, or how about integration, the vote for all women, the FDA, shaky as that is. How about building codes and consumer protection agencies? Private industry actively opposes many of these public goods, like, for instance, the EPA, which tells industry things like " you really shouldn't put too much more arsenic in our drinking water, please".

    4 - "I would wager that my job has helped save our economy from the economic ravages of out-of-control environmental extremism."

    Up until here, he was just spouting looney right economic bs. When I first read this sentence, I had to re-read your description of him at the beginning because I thought he was claiming to be a politician from his statement. In the final sentence, he does claim to be a politician. albeit not much of one, apparently:

    5 - "I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government."

    I read this last, then went back to the top and re-reread the beginning of this question. What the hell is he talking about? This is a scientist? His 4th and 5th statements not only totally undercut his current standing as an actual scientist, they also show his economics will be bad, because he will bring his politics to the soft science - shaky as it is! - of economics, and find things like "Roosevelt caused [most of] the Great Depression", and "things would have been wonderful if we had let Goldman-Sacks crash like Lehman Bros. The market would have taken care of the problem, completely and thoroughly, in a matter of months, and then everything would have been beautiful..."

    I would truly wish, for the sake of his integrity, both scientific and personal, that these are not representative comments, that they are both the most and only egregious comments in an otherwise excellent book, paper, blog, whatever. Dana, I have always found it difficult to answer your questions, because I spend days reading through references and references of references, and the question is closed by the time I get around to writing it up and trying to post it. But here, I find Spencer to have gone a bit over the edge in his 4th statement: "I would wager that my job has helped save our economy from the economic ravages of out-of-control environmental extremism." If this is his attitude toward his job as a scientist and his job as author of that economics book, then he has lost any pretense of objectivity. A serious, dedicated, and constant striving for objectivity is a hallmark of a good scientist. He's busted on that. He also shows quite a high opinion of himself here, one totally unjustified by the actual science, as far as I can see.

    A scientist-legislator, saving money for the public, always in their best interests, of course. Or is that a legislating scientist, a crusader for Truth, Justice, and The American Way. That's fine, if you separate the 2 jobs and wall them totally off from each other. Spencer's last statement: "I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government." tells us flat out he views them as one and the same job. I see a major loss of objectivity and the subservience of science to politics in his statements. It bothers me to say this, but I was not the one to say it first. Spencer was.

  • 9 years ago

    Spencer was employed at NASA for some years to develop weather satellites and analyze the data. He didn't consider that the orbit changed over the years, thus his later data was taken at a different height in the atmosphere than when the satellite was first put into operation. He and his colleague John Christy announced that the changes in the atmosphere above the ground contradicted all the measurements taken on the ground; thus the temperature trends found consistently in all the other data types were wrong. They did not do their homework and find their mistake even when told repeatedly they had a mistake. They ran all over the world saying everybody was wrong, their data showed cooling. Finally NASA put together a team to find their error. I consider ignoring orbit changes in the first place to be NOT DOING your job if you work at NASA.

    I did think when I worked at NASA that the taxpayer should be getting good value for their dollar. At times, it was explicitly my job to do so (in procurements).

    I never thought it was my job to make political decisions, like minimizing the role of government, nor did I ever receive any such instruction. NASA's job is to carry out the decisions of legislators and the president. It is up to the people of the United States to determine if they prefer big government that does a lot for people, medium government, small government, itty bitty government or eensy teensy weeny government. Or anarchy.

    What Spencer's current employer wants him to do, I don't know. For that matter, I don't know why they hired him. I should expect the University of Alabama Huntsville would want him to teach students and do research. I presume UAH is receiving money from NASA to do research.

    It's strange that somebody who has made all their living from government, which funded NASA, would decide it's his 'job' to minimize government after all of NASA's accomplishments and contributions to our well-being. Like weather satellites. I am proud of the work I did for my country.

    Spencer cannot be viewed as having scientific goals and mindset. He's on a strange power trip.

    Source(s): detailed discussion of the satellite data http://www.skepticalscience.com/satellite-measurem...
  • 9 years ago

    "I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government."

    Who elected Spencer?

    "since government is so inefficient and wasteful"

    This comment is not supported by the empirical evidence. If government is so inefficient, why does health care cost more in the US than in countries such as Canada, Germany, France, Switzerland, Japan and Taiwan that have public health care systems? An intensive care bed at a hospital where on of my collaborators works is $2500 per day. The same bed in the US is $20,000. Why is the wasteful and inefficient (state controlled) China out competing America economically? In other fields, such as applied research, the private sector is more efficient. If Spencer instead examined the empirical evidence rather than stating dogma, he might have concluded that the private sector does some things more efficiently and the public sector does other things more efficiently.

    "protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government."

    Practice what you preach and get off the public teat, Spencer.

  • Miles
    Lv 4
    9 years ago

    In a Democracy,the government should be expected to lead and represent every citizen.Our vote after all is our voice in the government we elect.My vote is the one thing that allows me to be part of that democracy,thereby making that government my voice.Those that want to make government so small they could drowned it in the bath tub,are taking away the democracy that gives every citizen a voice.

    To often those with an agenda are the loudest and close minded enough that they can justify their end by any means.Roy Spencer being an example.

    People are seeing the effects of the warming planet and if we stop and realize that our governments are not the enemy but our elected voice and thats why we call it democracy.I believe it was Winston Churchill who said That democracy is the worsed form of government except for all the rest.

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  • 9 years ago

    He has clearly confused what is supposed to be his job, atmospheric science, with his political and religious beliefs. That doesn't really come as any surprise. No real scientist would EVER think it is their JOB minimize (or maximize) the role of government. It would be enough for a scientist to do good science, but perhaps Spencer has found that is too hard. He seems to have delusions of grandeur.

  • 9 years ago

    While I do agree with some of Spencer's sentiment regarding government inefficiency I think an economics book written by a climate scientist is probably just as unworthy of publication as a climate science book written by an economist.

    As a head-piece for the climate change denial movement, Spencer seems to have outgrown his britches.

    And yes, the final quote is anathema to what a researcher should ever think of their job.

  • gcnp58
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    Skeptics are skeptics primarily because of politics and to a lesser extent because of theology, not because of the science. We know Spencer is a fundamental christian who supports creationism (or ID, it's the same thing really). Did you expect Spencer's politics would be any different from any of the skeptics who post here?

    The policy implications involved in controlling CO2 emissions are incredibly scary to conservatives, therefore the science *must* be wrong.

  • JimZ
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    "since government is so inefficient and wasteful, more poor people would be helped if charity was coordinated by the private sector. Americans are extremely charitable, even after the heavy tax burden we have."

    Of course

    "The government simply uses its power to decide that ever-increasing amounts of personal wealth be diverted through them — with a cut off the top — to support causes which the private sector could do more efficiently."

    Again, of course

    "I would wager that my job has helped save our economy from the economic ravages of out-of-control environmental extremism.

    Yes, he has helped.

    I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government."

    I apprecieate someone with the citizen's interest rather than their petty personal interests (e.g. Mann, Hansen, et al)

    <<<I find this last quote rather stunning - I thought a scientist's job was to do sound, unbiased scientific research. Spencer thinks his job is to minimize the role of government? What do you think about these statements?>>

    I think he probably does sound and reasonably unbiased scientific research. Why would anyone want to maximize the role of government? If you can do something with 50 cents why do you insist on paying a dollar.

    Note: I must confess that I am not very interesting in buying his book. Economists are like climate scientists. If you put 10 of them in a room, you will get 15 different explanations for just about anything.

    I would like to hear Spencer's explanation of his final statement. I guess it just wasn't that stunning to me. I think he could probably assuage your fears. I suspect it is just one of his jobs.

    Hansen on the other hand believes it is his calling to save us from ourselves (nutburger).

    Note: I read MIles comment and if memory serves he is an alarmists and his answers wasn't so bad. His name sounds British and he quoted a great man, Churchhill. The framers of the American Constitution held democracy and majority rule in deep contempt. As a matter of fact, the term democracy appears in none of our founding documents. James Madison argued that <<measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.>> John Adams said: <<<Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.>>> A pure democracy is more like mob rule. Just some food for thought.

  • 9 years ago

    "What do you think about these statements?'

    Here he is clearly not wearing a "scientist hat" but a "hype my book" hat.

    The value of the hype can be judged by comparing these quoted sentences to the most recent 30-40 entries on his blog, all of which concern climate science (and climate pseudo science) and none of which concern governmental economic policy.

    As for his "foray into economics," his new book -or at least the hype- seems to avoid almost every relevant connection between economics and global warming. For that, I would suggest William Nordhaus or Nicholas Stern instead. For pure economics, there are plenty of reasonable books written by actual economists.

  • 9 years ago

    Climate scientist? You mean one of the 2% of climate scientists who are in denial?

    When was his last peer-reviewd published research BTW?

    Or is he only as much of a climate scientist as I am?

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