Philosopher ‘pretenders to the throne’

This is a nice, short (7 min) introduction to Friedrich Hayek’s insights on emergent order. If you haven’t read Road to Serfdom (free downloads at the link), maybe this will nudge you to do so.

Order without intent: How spontaneous order built our world. from The IHS on Vimeo.

Allowing order without intent to flourish is how we might avoid the tyranny of good intentions.

Related, from Edward Snowden:

“The most unflattering thing is to realize just how naïve and credulous I was and how that could make me into a tool of systems that would use my skills for an act of global harm. The class of which I am a part of, the global technological community, was for the longest time apolitical. We have this history of thinking: “We’re going to make the world better.””

The idea that “making the world better” is apolitical shows Snowden is still naive and credulous. The toolmakers of the global technological community may have good intentions. They may be motivated by thoughts of the benefits they are bringing to humanity. They may also be motivated by profit and ideology.

How a better world is constituted, in any case, is an ethical and moral question beyond the ken of their meta-data, and in direct conflict with the ethical ‘principles’ demonstrated by their business models.

Who defines “better?” We have ample evidence Google/Facebook/Twitter aren’t up to the task.

“Making the world better” can be apolitical only in terms of each individual’s actions. It cannot be apolitical for giant corporations whose tools are designed to deceive users into acts of self harm: A system of fools.

Politics is the very essence of social media and the control of access to information.

Politics, noun. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
-Ambrose Bierce

And, in ways Bierce couldn’t imagine – conducting private affairs for public advantage. Affecting elections for example.

Snowdon’s NSA is simply the government instantiation of the Facebook/Google/Twitter business models. They are all dedicated to making their subjects “better.”

“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.”
-H. L. Mencken

Order with intent is the model practiced by authoritarians for “your own good,” public or private, from de Blasio to Google.

So, I’ll close with some relevant Friedrich Hayek quotations on good intentions, control of information, collectivist ethics, and the limits of knowledge: All of which apply to government and to the massive private enterprises whose control of information and manipulation of public opinion Hayek couldn’t imagine:

“Everything which might cause doubt about the wisdom of the government or create discontent will be kept from the people. The basis of unfavorable comparisons with elsewhere, the knowledge of possible alternatives to the course actually taken, information which might suggest failure on the part of the government to live up to its promises or to take advantage of opportunities to improve conditions–all will be suppressed. There is consequently no field where the systematic control of information will not be practiced and uniformity of views not enforced.”

“Our freedom of choice in a competitive society rests on the fact that, if one person refuses to satisfy our wishes, we can turn to another. But if we face a monopolist we are at his absolute mercy. And an authority directing the whole economic system of the country would be the most powerful monopolist conceivable…it would have complete power to decide what we are to be given and on what terms. It would not only decide what commodities and services were to be available and in what quantities; it would be able to direct their distributions between persons to any degree it liked.”

“All political theories assume, of course, that most individuals are very ignorant. Those who plead for liberty differ from the rest in that they include among the ignorant themselves as well as the wisest. Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is comparatively insignificant.”

“To act on behalf of a group seems to free people of many of the moral restraints which control their behaviour as individuals within the group.”

“The idea of social justice is that the state should treat different people unequally in order to make them equal.”

The human pestilence problem

I had a note from a reader wondering if I wasn’t being hyperbolic in my contention that by “sustainability” “Green” fanatics intentionally mean to impose lower standards of living and a forced reduction in human population.

We might consider the Malthusian miscalculations of Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 book The Population Bomb and his proposals for forced sterilization (which was actually practiced in India); or the more gentle doomsayers calling for a Voluntary Human Extinction.

But, those are theoretical. Let me offer 3 real-world examples. 1) The millions of poor ‘people of color’ who’ve died of malaria and dengue fever because of Rachel Carson’s, campaign to ban DDT, 2) the malnutrition, blindness and death imposed on the third world by the boycott of golden rice, and 3) Clueless Minneapolis City Leaders and Sam Rockwell Are the Problem, Not Natural Gas Use

When politicians value signaling virtue above the health and well being of their constituents they are paving the road of good intentions with human bodies. Intentionally.

I repeat, nuclear power would solve the supposed CAGW problem. Greens oppose it because it doesn’t solve the human pestilence problem.

Environmental and economic insanity

“The interesting thing about the Green New Deal,” he said, “is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.” [Sam] Ricketts [Climate director for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D)] greeted this startling notion with an attentive poker face. “Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” [Saikat] Chakrabarti continued. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

Saikat Chakrabarti, was chief of staff to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“Was” chief of staff. But he perpetrated too many outrageous gaffes even for AOC. Starting with the insanity of Green New Deal, a totalitarian aspiration of which Chakrabarti was the primary author, and culminating with a Tweet “comparing a Native American congresswoman to the Ku Klux Klan.

Yes, it’s a “change-the-entire-economy thing;” to levels of misery not seen since feudalism. And, in exchange for that, we get environmental degradation.

The Environmental Disaster of Solar Energy
“[T]he volume of waste produced by solar panels and wind turbines vastly exceeds that associated with reliable power sources…

“Vastly” is right, and solar panels are the worst offender. Check the chart at the link above.

There’s a lot of highly toxic cadmium behind the glass in those panels.

For Most Things, Recycling Harms the Environment

But for most other things [aside from aluminum cans and corrugated cardboard], recycling harms the environment. I’m not (just) saying it’s costly. I’m saying recycling is harmful. If you care about the environment, you should put your bottles and other glass in the regular garbage, every time.”

There’s a lot of glass in solar panels, which should be put in landfills – except for the Cadmium… Maybe we can put the solar panel waste in Yucca Mountain.

And wind isn’t any better:
Wind turbines are neither clean nor green and they provide zero global energy
(That article is from 2017, and the only change is that wind has gone from .46% to 2% of electricity generation, according to some more recent articles. Whether that’s all usable power is another question.)

…world energy demand has been growing at about 2 per cent a year for nearly 40 years…

If wind turbines were to supply all of that growth but no more, how many would need to be built each year? The answer is nearly 350,000.. That’s one-and-a-half times as many as have been built in the world since governments started pouring consumer funds into this so-called industry…

…that many turbines would require a land area greater than the British Isles, including Ireland. Every year. If we kept this up for 50 years, we would have covered every square mile of a land area the size of Russia with wind farms. Remember, this would be just to fulfil the new demand for energy, not to displace the vast existing supply of energy from fossil fuels

As for resource consumption and environmental impacts, the direct effects of wind turbines — killing birds and bats, sinking concrete foundations deep into wild lands — is bad enough. But out of sight and out of mind is the dirty pollution generated in Inner Mongolia by the mining of rare-earth metals for the magnets in the turbines. This generates toxic and radioactive waste on an epic scale…

It gets worse. Wind turbines, apart from the fibreglass blades, are made mostly of steel, with concrete bases. They need about 200 times as much material per unit of capacity as a modern combined cycle gas turbine. Steel is made with coal… Cement is also often made using coal. The machinery of ‘clean’ renewables is the output of the fossil fuel economy, and largely the coal economy.

…you’re talking 150 tonnes of coal per turbine. Now if we are to build 350,000 wind turbines a year… just to keep up with increasing energy demand, that will require 50 million tonnes of coal a year. That’s about half the EU’s hard coal–mining output.

If the envirostatists really believe we have only a few years to “save the planet,” they should be pushing for a crash program to build nuclear plants. Financed by the money they could save if they stopped flying their private jets to environmental conferences.

See also, The “New Energy Economy”: An Exercise in Magical Thinking.

John Frémont is weeping

Democratic Socialists need not point to Sweden for an example. Open Borders advocates need not look as far as Germany. Both policies are being tried right here in the United States. And failing.

Here’s a textbook lesson in squandering huge economic, geographic, and entrepreneurial advantages:
America’s First Third-World State.
-Victor Davis Hanson

Sad.

Update 3:44PM. Marrying the neo-feudalist pretensions of the Silicon Valley Tech Titans to the authoritarian bent of California politicians, Joel Kotkin at Quillette has a compelling analysis.

Complementary to Hanson, but maybe even more devastating to California.
What Do the Oligarchs Have in Mind for Us?

Looters tend to be ingrates

Taken from a review of Tyler Cowen’s Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero

“How is this tweet, from “Dina,” for showing lack of gratitude toward business? “If you think about it. People with glasses are literally paying to use their eyes. Capitalism is a bitch.” Shortly after it was posted, it had accumulated 257,000 likes, surely with more to come.”

It’s both more and less than a lack of gratitude. Big Rock Candy Mountain would not impress her.

I wonder about her reaction should she ever hear of Iron Lungs, or Polio vaccine. Or, for that matter, food stores.

“Dina, here’s a free, live sheep. It’s your food and clothing supplement for the next quarter. Otherwise, you just get subsistence quantities of basic protein paste and three yards of poor quality burlap salvaged from potato sacks.

Other people’s labor supplied the sheep (as well as the protein paste and burlap) so you can learn to how to butcher, preserve meat, tan hides, and sew. And to make your own knives, saws, sewing tools, refrigerator, and electricity. People are literally paying you to learn existentially valuable skills.

After you’ve acquired those skills, you’ll need to work on how to raise sheep. Society can’t afford this gift indefinitely.

After that, you could look into creating a global transportation system to ship any excess sheep to Venezuela. We hear people there would literally pay for them.”

Earth hour

Apparently that’s today. Easy to lose track. Unless you’re in Venezuela or North Korea, where it’s every day.

It’s “A celebration of ignorance, poverty and backwardness.”
-Ross McKitrick.

My lights are all on, and I think I’ll go start my diesel tractor just for a sniff of the fumes. I’ll drive my car 200 feet to the barn.

Compare and contrast

Yesterday, I mentioned Representative Ocasio-Cortez’ happy dance on the bridge she burned to prevent economic aid supplied by Amazon from reaching New York.

Consider parallels to recent activity on the Simon Bolivar International Bridge between Colombia and Venezuela, where Senor Maduro is burning humanitarian aid trucks to prevent starving Venezuelans from eating.

The differences?  Aside from burning figurative bridges instead of actual trucks, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is not in a position to enforce her Green New Deal on the nation.

If she were, the difference would be time.

Propriety tax

In which we can observe the effects of the “Democratic Socialism” Congressgirl Ocasio-Cortez propounds.  She’s tickled pinko that Amazon decided not to locate their 2nd headquarters in New York.

Robert Mujica, New York State Budget Director, has a different view. Worth reading:
Open Letter From New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica Regarding Amazon

The polls showing seventy percent of New Yorkers supported Amazon provided false comfort that the political process would act responsibly and on behalf of all of their constituents, not just the vocal minority. We underestimated the effect of the opposition’s distortions and overestimated the intelligence and integrity of local elected officials…

Make no mistake, at the end of the day we lost $27 billion, 25,000-40,000 jobs and a blow to our reputation of being ‘open for business.’ The union that opposed the project gained nothing and cost other union members 11,000 good, high-paying jobs. The local politicians that catered to the hyper-political opposition hurt their own government colleagues and the economic interest of every constituent in their district. The true local residents who actually supported the project and its benefits for their community are badly hurt. Nothing was gained and much was lost. This should never happen again.

Read the whole thing. It’s devastating. The only things he missed are a reference to Venezuela, and opportunities to use the words “corrupt” and “venal.”

Meanwhile, New York faces a shortfall of $2.3B in tax revenue and blames Washington. New York property tax rates are Donald Trump’s fault, of course; though I, for one, am tired of subsidizing rich New Yorker’s (those whose property attracts taxes of over $10,000) Federal income tax.

Property taxes are a tax on wealth, which the Left is proposing to expand. So, shouldn’t these Progressive, civically minded, wealthy New Yorkers be glad they’re no longer allowed this huge loophole? I guess not, because they are leaving New York when the true cost of New York government is revealed.

Tell you what, raise the standard deduction again (it was just doubled) by a symbolic one dollar and eliminate the property tax deduction entirely. I own property, and I’m good with that.

Rationale to ration

Medical Welfare Programs Look To Price Another Year Of Life

Medicaid and other medical welfare entitlement programs have created expectations that are bigger than the resources available to meet them. As a result, some welfare bureaucracies are looking to ration expensive drugs through a controversial method designed to put a price on the value of a human life.

If a beneficiary of a social welfare program needs a particular drug whose price exceeds a predetermined value of a “quality-adjusted life year” for the individual, under this method, that person would not get the drug. It is already in use in Great Britain’s single-payer health care system and in other nations. Some in the U.S. think it should be used here, too.

When the government pays for something, it gives bureaucrats a taxpayer-based rationale to refuse to pay for it.

See the Green New Deal fantasy: It’s a list of things, including electricity, gasoline, home heating, land use, product design, hourly wages, preferred occupation, food choice, and, yes, health care; all of which will be rationed or regulated. Why? In order to implement their view of “social, economic, racial, regional and gender-based justice and equality

Is it any wonder GND proponents support “some are more equal than others” thugs like Venezuela’s Maduro and Cuba’s Castro?

Which clueless totalitarian are you?

We need a Facebook quiz to find out which Atlas Shrugged character Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is like.

There might not be a match. Ayn Rand’s fiction has been criticized for unidimensional characterization, but even she would find AOC unbelievable.

Here Are The Most Shocking Proposals From Ocasio-Cortez’ “Green New Deal”

Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t provide any insight into how the trillions of dollars in spending will be paid for other than claiming, “The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments and new public banks can be created to extend credit”. But as Ocasio-Cortez says, “the question isn’t how will we pay for it, but what will we do with our new shared prosperity”.

Provide free, mandatory classes for every citizen in speaking ‘Venezuelan?’

(Update, 12:48PM here‘s one estimate of the cost.)

Here’s a snippet from an FAQ document, published by proponents, describing the wonders of the ‘Green New Deal:’

Yes, we are calling for a full transition off fossil fuels and zero greenhouse gases. Anyone who has read the resolution sees that we spell this out through a plan that calls for eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from every sector of the economy. Simply banning fossil fuels immediately won’t build the new economy to replace it – this is the plan to build that new economy and spells out how to do it technically. We do this through a huge mobilization to create the renewable energy economy as fast as possible. We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast, but we think we can ramp up renewable manufacturing and power production, retrofit every building in America, build the smart grid, overhaul transportation and agriculture, plant lots of trees and restore our ecosystem to get to net-zero.

Maybe “our new shared prosperity” will pay for little solar-powered methane suction devices attached to the rear of every cow.  “Methane Disposal,” you ask?  Well, we just inject it into the natural gas supply lines…  Oh wait, natural gas will be banned.

OK.  More likely, the cow problem solves itself when meat and milk are banned.

This manifesto attracted so much ridicule that they tried to disappear it from the internet. They forgot the internet is forever. It is humorous reading.

This great leap forward is on top of universal free college education and medicare for all. So, they desperately need the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, King Midas, and the Pope (for divine intervention).

What they’ve got is Modern Monetary Theory:

MMT Sounds Great In Theory, But…

If you haven’t heard about Modern Monetary Theory your IQ is higher than it would have been if you had. It is really neither modern, nor a theory (it’s not actually testable*); and it misapprehends the meaning of the word ‘monetary.’ However, it could be in your future as a general government policy.

This theory of infinite currency printing does not admit to being limited by inflation. Any excess currency is simply taxed back. Inflation is something that cannot happen with a proper implementation of MMT.

Proper. Implementation. By the ‘best and brightest.’ Like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.

MMT has an obvious attraction for politicians. We’ve been playing at the edges of it for quite some time.

Let’s close with a last word from Ocasio-Cortez on the “Green New Deal”:

“I think one way that the right does try to mischaracterize what we’re doing as though it’s like some kind of massive government takeover. Obviously it’s not that because what we’re trying to do is release the investments from the federal government to mobilize those resources across the country.”

Obviously! Release! Investments! Mobilize! That explains the whole thing: She’s hired a fluent Newspeak expert. ‘Obviously’ means, “If you don’t understand, it’s because you’re stupid.” ‘Release’ means, oh, I don’t know, “the vast Federal budget surplus being held hostage by Trump’s wall proposal?” ‘Investments’ means, “Impossible government spending.” ‘Mobilize’ means, “At gunpoint.”

*Proponents will say, “It is testable, but it’s never been tried.” Well, that’s what they say about Communism, too. But, let’s even ignore the actual workings of an economy and admit that MMT depends on the refined judgment of virtuous politicians zealously balancing currency flow. And if you imagine that can be accomplished, you run into an even bigger problem: To do their job, these paragons also have to possess instant, encyclopedic, perfectly accurate information about every aspect of that economy.