Well it has been a busy 10 days for travel. Last weekend my wife and I were at Harvard for our 25th anniversary of graduating from the business school there. The way the b-school taught at the time, they basically locked 90 people together (a "section") in the same room for a year and threw teachers and course material at them. I may have spent more time in a room with those 90 people than I spent in the same room with my dad growing up. So you get to know them pretty well. It was fun seeing everybody, though intimidating given all the folks my age running Fortune 50 companies or cashing out billion dollar startups.
After that, I went to Bozeman early this week and discussed free-market options for reforming the National Park Service at an event hosted by PERC, the Property and Environment Research Center. On Tuesday we went into Yellowstone and met with the Superintendent there, who had also run the whole agency for about a year. A lot of the discussion was about sustainability - financially. The NPS raises less than 10% of its revenue from visitors, and so must constantly fight with Congress for cash. One problem is that Yellowstone (perhaps their premier park) charges just $25 per vehicle for a one week admission. This is insane. We have tiny state parks in Arizona with one millionth of the appeal that fill the park despite a $20 a day entrance fee. And the NPS (or really Congress) takes every opportunity to discount this already absurdly low rate even further. You can get into all the parks for the rest of your life for a single $10 payment with the Senior pass. This essentially gives free entry to their largest visitor demographic.
Today I am in Houston for a sort of climate skeptics' conference. If you are in the area and the agenda looks interesting, they are still selling admissions (I think) for $75 for the two day event at the Hyatt downtown. Rick Perry is speaking tonight, and that is supposed to be a draw I guess but I am actually skipping that and focusing on the scientists they have through the day. Hopefully it is interesting, but I am also a conference skeptic so we will see.
Well, talk about good timing. My article on private operation of public parks has been published by PERC and is now up at their web site. It's called "A Tale of Two Parks" and compares the costs of private and public operation, among a number of other issues.
Not happy with how government-operated parks are being used as a pawn in today's budget battles? Check it out.
Holly Fretwell of PERC discusses the huge leap in agricultural yields since WWII
Not only does this mean that we have have billions of people on Earth and not starve, but it also has freed up labor for more productive and value-enhancing activities.
As an aside, remember this chart when global warming alarmists argue the the warming trend of the last 50 years is reducing crop yields. (If the linked article seems simply bizarre given the chart above, realize the NYT is saying that crop yields are down from what they might have been. This is the same kind of faulty logic that was used by Obama to credit his stimulus with job gains when in fact the economy was losing jobs. They posit some unproveable hypothetical, and then say reality diverged from that hypothetical because of whatever factor they are trying to push, whether it be CO2 or stimulus).
The problem with food prices is not production, its the fact that we take such a huge percentage of our food grains and, by government dictat, convert them to automotive fuel.
From PERC, a group focused on free-market environmentalism
The Julian Simon Fellowship has an open application process, so applications are always welcome. Review of applications will begin as soon as they are received.
The Julian Simon Fellowship is one of the nation's most prestigious opportunities for scholars to develop policy-oriented research on natural resource and environmental conservation. The in-residence fellowship is intended to continue the legacy of the late Julian Simon, whose research led to a massive re-evaluation by scholars and policy makers of their views on the interplay between population, natural resources, and the environment.
The ideal candidate for this fellowship is someone like Julian; an excellent scholar with a focus on empirical work and an imaginative research agenda that emphasizes natural resource and environmental issues.
Each Julian Simon Fellow is expected to spend at least two months in residence at PERC developing a paper of publishable quality, one that has significant policy implications. During their stay at PERC, Julian Simon Fellows are expected to present a seminar on their work.
Each Julian Simon Fellow will receive an honorarium of $20,000 plus office space, office support, and a congenial, stimulating work environment. Fellows will be responsible for their accommodations in Bozeman, but PERC is happy to assist with arrangements.