This entry was posted by jbc on Thursday, July 5th, 2012 at 2:34 pm and is filed under net.kooks.
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9 Responses to “Jeremiah McDonald Talks to His Former Self”
Haha; dammit. Here I thought I was on solid ground with not being merely a BoingBoing regurgitater, because I came across this video in my newsfeed from a not-so-heavily-linked-by-me Slate blog. So I post it, only to find (after scrolling down a bit) that (of course, because it has BoingBoing-bait written all over it) that it was already posted by Xeni at BoingBoing.
Of course no specific weather event can be directly tied to global warming, just as any individual person’s heart attack cannot be directly attributed to the fact that they don’t exercise and are 50 pounds overweight. In both cases it is a question of probabilities. And the fact that greenhouse gas emissions are raising the planet’s temperature substantially increases the probability that we will get long stretches of extraordinary heat like the one that hit the Midwest and Northeast over the last 10 days.
Yeah Knarly, I thought those last few paragraphs were a bit unsensable myself. The third from last paragraph, the reason his obvious point has been ignored is it is not correct. “Restrictions on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are intended to limit global warming have nothing to do with restricting the market” well of course they do! That is the mechanism being used to get people to do something they don’t want to do. We don’t want people to smoke so we impose a tax on cigarettes to artificially drive the price up such that people will stop doing it, that is restricting the market, the question is whether restricting the market is wise, but it is restricting the market.
“These restrictions are about enforcing the rule of law and preventing some people from harming others with their actions.” ok, I’ll buy that, but the mechanism to prevent some people from haring others is to restrict the market. So if we artificially raise prices on “fuel” and protect someone from the ill effects of coal emissions aren’t we also harming the coal miner in the pocket book?
He uses the phrase “rule of law” well, anything congress passes becomes the rule of law, if they pass a law outlawing windmills that would be the rule of the law. I think he is more referring to this being a right, and that simply isn’t the case.
Then he goes into this dumping garbage on the neighbor’s lawn tirade, well ok, but the neighbor is dumping garbage on his own lawn too! The US isn’t the only place you can rent a car, it isn’t the only place with an active coal mine. The one part he gets right is “the United States is a big powerful country so we can do whatever we want” yup, we have the big guns.
point one – wrong. Again you are rationalizing to support your bias against including the full cost within a product price (i.e. adding in the cost of harm done by a product to other people.) “Restricting the market” is not as you describe, “restricting the market” would be preventing sellers from accessing the market, limiting the number of trades, prohibiting purchases, that sort of thing. That is very different from helping to ensure prices are correct. One ensures prices are correct by taking steps to ensure externalities (aka “bads”) are included in the price. Including the cost of “bads” within the prices of products that generate the “bads” is simply ensuring that the market gets the correct price signals. With the correct price signals the market should be able to efficiently move to the optimal position. There is no restriction there.
Your point #2 is wrong because it depends on your false point #1 as just described. (The coal miner is “harmed” only if people are not willing to pay the true, unsubsidized cost of coal, i.e. the true cost includes both the cost of producing the coal plus the cost of fixing the share of the problems that coal causes.
Your point #3 about Rule of Law vs. human rights is off base too. You may be correct that a person might not have a right (in some countries) to not be hurt by another’s willful negligence. But surely there are laws that would apply in many countries against acting in ways that are certain to egregiously harm millions of people, even via releasing copious amounts of GHG. What may have you confused is that it is practically impossible to enforce, prosecute or prove that those laws are being broken because it’s nearly impossible to track damages back to the culprit. Just because you can’t tell which mugger beat up that old lady doesn’t mean there are no laws against beating up old ladies, it just means law enforcement and the courts cannot handle the particular problem in that instance of the crime. But sometimes it can. A rough analogy would be the successful civil litigation against tobacco companies. Maybe it doesn’t apply in the USA, but common law (that derived from prior decisions, as opposed to what’s written in statute) carries equal weight in Canada.
So, so far you are batting near 0%.
Your point #4 is exactly like a 14 year old’s argument: “it’s ok to dump garbage on your lawn because I dump garbage on my lawn too.” Refer to my link to Bill Maher’s clip in the next thread.
I’m sorry knarly, you are just wrong about this, what he, and you are wanting to do IS TO RESTRICT a market, what you are doing when you say the fuel companies need to pay the total cost of the harm they are doing is to justify those restrictions, but you are restricting it. Now there are times when that is appropriate, the question is, is it appropriate and wise.
The first two things you need to ask in a situation like this are is there a viable alternative and is the threat real. If there is no viable alternative then the market has no choice but to simply pay the fine or “cost of the bad things” as you prefer to think of it and then pass that cost on to the consumer, if there is really no threat then, well you are just flushing money down a hole. Money that could be used to fix the problem.
This is a case where you want to be careful what you ask for, which is kind of what I was eluding to earlier. At some point a bunch of Republicans (or Kennedys) will get in power and decide the windmills off in the distance are an eyesore and decide they pose a case of sight pollution or some such nonsense, then they will find a study that shows people that live within (pick a distance) from the slowly rotating blades are getting sick from the low frequency waves put off by the oversized Aermotors. Then they will want to include the “cost” of that sickness in the cost of wind generation and cut the subsidies. They will drag out pictures of mothers crying over the graves of their children that were struck down in the prime of their lives by (we will have a catchy acronym by then). And there will go your utopia.
We all take risks in life, air pollution is what we pay for the benefit of low cost, dependable electricity because that is the best we have now. At some point we will figure out how to store electricity in huge amounts and transport it over long distances with minimal loss and those big ole windmills will be the producers. And there will be someone out there that will be wringing their hands that the green goo that the electricity is stored in is harmful in some way, then we will have two catchy acronyms to invent, but we’re up to the task, there are a lot of combinations of 26 letters.
The current state of personal transportation has led us to determine that about 75 miles per hour on an open road is a reasonable compromise of safety and efficiency. Should someone just decide that even though it is “legal” to drive at 75 we should tax, oops, pay for the cost of higher death rates for people that drive over, what 55? 45? 25? Depending not on what the actual cost to society the difference is but what monies the government needs to pay for whatever it wants to pay for. Do you see where this is going?
Look, if coal is that deadly, and I would imagine nuclear and natural gas are right behind, just outlaw them all, we’ll just have to make do with little windmills, no wind tonight, will I guess no Swamp People. But we have that one true source of power that is everything to everyone, hydro power! We can just move all the manufacturing in North America to your backyard since you are one of the few places where hydro is dependable enough.