Why Now. Why Libertarianism.

Since the economic crash of 2008, we’ve witnessed the 99%, the Arab Spring, the UK riots, and masses of protests just about everywhere around the world.

Take a look at this interactive map of all the riots that took place from 1979 to 2013, composed by GDELT. Quite amazing. Unfortunately, perhaps inevitably, together with these riots also come abominable flexing of power by states.

Why all these protests? What’s going on?

Yes, there’s technology aiding mass mobility, but that doesn’t explain why people are upset to begin with.

Precise causes of the world’s riots are debated (rising food prices; regimes overstaying their welcome…), but nothing explains this better in my opinion, than the basic economic law of supply and demand.

Take a look at The Crash Course, it’s a rational, comprehensive analysis of what’s happening with the Economy, Energy and Environment. There’s simply more of us, who want more, and less resources to go around.

Case in point, Egypt:

The relentless math (courtesy of Peak Prosperity:

  • Population 1960:  27.8 million
  • Population 2008:  81.7 million
  • Current population growth rate: 2% per annum (a 35-year doubling rate)
  • Population in 2046 after another doubling:  164 million
  • Rainfall average over whole country:  ~ 2 inches per year
  • Highest rainfall region:  Alexandria, 7.9 inches per year
  • Arable land (almost entirely in the Nile Valley):  3%
  • Arable land per capita:  0.04 Ha (400 m2)
  • Arable land per capita in 2043: 0.02 Ha
  • Food imports: 40% of requirements
  • Grain imports: 60% of requirement
  • Net oil exports: Began falling in 1997, went negative in 2007
  • Oil production peaked in 1996
  • Cost of oil rising steeply
  • Cost of oil and food tightly linked

So, more people + less resources + (fill in the blank) = riots. (“A nation is always three meals away from a revolution”.)

So, what about the UK?

A supply-demand imbalance is yet to rock this nation’s majestic ship, because, in my view, the country’s relative (financial) wealth has allowed the welfare state to stay afloat, and hence the welfare dependent masses are somewhat tamed.

I’m curious, what accounts for UK’s financial wealth? i.e. What exactly is keeping this ship afloat? I’m limited by my own research here, and would appreciate comments.

According to Wikipedia, “the service sector dominates the UK economy, contributing around 78% of GDP, with the financial services industry particularly important.”

Okay, so the financial services industry is particularly important. In another words, the groundless, numbers game that our entire civilisation is addicted to, and I don’t think I need to explain how we’re kidding ourselves to believe this house of cards will stand forever. (Bring on the Mises fans.)

So what of the UK economy? Are we going to follow the footsteps of America (what happens when the money printing stops?) or Japan (which is becoming increasingly right wing by the way), or Europe (austerities)? Or can we be like Iceland and actually do the right thing?

I’m going to take the liberty to bring up UK’s weapons industry here, because I know this is also a huge source of our nation’s income, along with the service industry and pharmaceutical industry. If you’re interested, take a look at this link that shows which weapons were exported by the UK, to where.

Moreover, given UK’s trade deficit with the rest of the world (second worst after the US), I don’t think I’m wrong to assume that the UK has incentive to fund wars, especially as it feels the squeeze from the financial service sector.

I pray that we don’t repeat the same story so succinctly told by Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

Going back to riots.

A tsunami of unsatisfied people are vehemently seeking answers, and we need to let people know that there are no easy answers. Otherwise we’re bound to repeat history (for the umpteenth time) and give rise to Dictators and Authoritarian governments to give us the stability we so desire. It’s never worked. Power corrupts. Every time.

Smaller is better. More diversity is better. The dangerous implications of utopian collectivism needs to be heard, now, and loudly.

We need to stand up for ourselves and be the change we wish to see in the world (hats off to Gandhi). This means: establishing our own local economies; strengthening our own communities so we won’t need to depend on the national welfare system; growing our own food so we don’t depend on imports – which depend on cheap oil-; securing our own source of safe energy -geothermal, biomas, solar, wind, come on, we’ve got the technologies! This means putting your hand to your heart and asking yourself what changes you wish to see, and what you can do to make those changes.

In times of struggle, people all too readily give up their hard earned freedoms and latch onto whatever “solution” that seems easiest to follow, for example, government snooping is not a solution to terrorism. This thinking is laziness. Yes, laziness.

There is no perfect government, no philosopher king, no utopian system (as the Zeitgeist people are advocating I might add – shudder), no magical leap in technology (it already exists, just not utilised fully because of the various death-grips on laissez-faire), no Jesus coming down from the sky, nothing! Protesting is one thing (and that’s good), but blaming the system while expecting a higher power to fix all malaise, that’s being lazy!

People need to realise that there is no magic wand to stability, and christ’s sake stop seeking any such thing, because sure as hell there’re more than a good number of power-hungry fiends lurking in the chaos, rubbing palms, waiting for the opportunity to present their “answer”.

  29 comments for “Why Now. Why Libertarianism.

  1. Jan 4, 2014 at 1:43 am

    Well, I like the spirit of this article. But I am not sure if I understand everything. I have to say that I am a bit irritated to read more and more about this idea of self sufficiency on libertarian sides. Self sufficiency is certainly a nice romantic idea. Who would not like to be a lone cowboy that does not need anyone else. But self sufficiency is what we had before we had the capitalist revolution. It was a time of famines and big scarcity. We do not need everyone to grow their own food again. There is only one solution to our problems and that is free trade and the division of labour. But the government does not allow that. Governments are in the business of preventing people from solving problems and unfortunately they have a lot of resources to do that. The problem with the uk economy is that it is increasingly a centrally run economy. This has let and continues to lead at an exaggerating pace to huge misallocations of capital. These misallocations need to be corrected and ultimately they will be. Unfortunately, this is an extremely painful process. So politicians try their best to not let this happen on their watch. But from an economic point of view there can be no doubt that the uk is toast. It does not produce a lot that is of value to other people anymore. For the moment the other producers send over their products in exchange for IOUs. But they will soon figure out that these IOUs are not really worth much. They will stop sending their products over and you will see the decline of standard of living that is already taking place exaggerate. That is when you will see political change. Let us hope that it will be a more freedom orientated change. Although, do not bet too much money on it. History tells us that this is usually the point when things become really nasty. So hope for the best and plan for the worst.

    • Jan 4, 2014 at 10:37 am

      It’s interesting what the justification is for self-sufficiency. I also believe that markets will fix shortages as they occur and entrepreneurial innovation too. There are people on this planet who spend a third of their day just fetching water, the solution could be as simple as a pair of flip-flops: enabling them to walk faster and spend more time producing food. So much human effort is wasted on unproductive activity that we are long way from starvation due to a shortage of planetary resources, only politics and planned economies will cause starvation in our life times.

      That said, Ayumi’s strategic message: to tell people there are no easy answers is sound. History suggests that in emergencies people seek a “white knight” (to quote Yaron Brook) to save them from the emergency but what they really need is the freedom to sort themselves out.

      An open internal market in food in Britain staved off famine long enough for us to have the industrial revolution. Global markets should be allowed to do the same.

      • Jan 4, 2014 at 2:30 pm

        Yes that is certainly important. But it is also happening. There are plenty of books about that topic like the one from Detlev Schlichter or the one from Dominic Frisby that just came out. And there is a lot of media available online on this topic. The best summery is probably the “The End of Britain” video from Moneyweek, which is advertised quite a bit. I think there are signs that more and more people are actually hearing the message. Unfortunately, it usually needs a crises for people to really wake up. So lets hope for the best.

  2. pavel
    Jan 4, 2014 at 11:22 am

    I also have read the Crash Course, but I’m not very convinced – we still live very inefficiently and waste lots of resources. Why do we need one car per family and so many parking spaces? In some 10-20 years google driverless car will reduce the need to possess and park a car: one click and the first available car arrives to drive your body home.
    John McCarthy, the computer scientist behind LISP has written few articles about the progress http://web.archive.org/web/20131012075423/http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/index.html

    It looks nice to produce cars, but I don’t need a car – I need a mean of transportation, just like I don’t need a bicycle – I’m just fine with boris bikes, I don’t want to be forced to use boris bikes or car sharing – but it is more cost efficient for me.
    Lots of solutions can come not from factories, but from the service industry.

    And food production en masse is more efficient, growing potato in your backyard is simply not efficient. What I’m rather worried about is the place of UK in PISA table http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-25187997

  3. Ayumi
    Jan 4, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Pavel, John McCarthy’s article suggests that with the use of nuclear energy, there is “no obstacle to billion year sustainability”. I absolutely detest this. People in Fukushima are losing their hair and getting thyroid cancer and fish are dead and radioactivity has permeated the entire Japanese food chain and the Fukushima leak is still eons away from being fully contained. If there’s another accident, (which is very likely), the entire nation might become uninhabitable, and this isn’t hype. They’re facts from scientists who dare to tell the truth when the government and companies, and even the very citizens who they are trying to warn and protect, are against them telling such truths. These are facts too atrocious for anyone to want to understand.

    My idea of “Self sufficiency” is more about building resilient communities. Practically, yes, “food production en masse” is more productive, albeit some methods of this mass food production is grossly inefficient (i.e. GMO monoculture that deprives nutrients from soil, more calories but less nutrients in the foods, etc., you know, the whole Monsanto side of things, which is why I’m against patents, but that’s another matter).

    Part of being “self sufficient”, is not wasting resources, investing in solutions, innovating unproductive ways, using our limited resources wisely, etc. We need to work together and be smart about it, make people aware of where the basics come from (food, water, shelter, energy, transport, etc).

    I agree with Simon that “only politics and planned economies will cause starvation in our life times” and that, a true free market would not allow such large scale inefficiency and wastefulness as we see today.

    Right now, though, these basic needs of ours is dangerously dependent on 1) The planned economies and 2) Government systems working, and these two things are dangerously dependent on ample and cheap resources for it to function properly. It’s kind of a catch 22.

    So what can we do?

    On one hand, we can strive for the best and …
    * Abolish 1) The planned economies and 2) Government systems, and replace it with division of labour and free trade, and small (very small) government, thereby solving the problem of wasteful and inefficient use of planetary resources.
    * Innovate our inefficient systems and invest in new technologies, etc.

    On the other, plan for the worst and… (if and when SHTF)
    * Have your own basic needs under your own control, (grow your own food, or know someone who does. Have your own water source, or know where to get it. Have a tradable skill, or exchangeable materials, etc.
    *Know the people around you, make friends, work together, spread awareness.

    Most importantly, we need to let people know the importance of Thinking for Themselves. A strong nation is one where the people are resilient to changes, and are independent thinkers. Things are just too fragile right now, and that’s why we need to advance the causes of Libertarianism.

    • Jan 4, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      Well, I don’t agree with your ideas about food and nuclear energy. But ok, when we have a free market, we will see which solutions are most efficient and wanted.

      By prepare for the worst I more meant, have an exit strategy. I think it is very unlikely that things will get so bad that the food supply breaks down. I think it would need a foreign invasion or a total communist takeover for that to happen. Of course this is not impossible, but it is unlikely. If it happens, growing your own food won’t save you. In that case I would advise you to just run.

      But when standards of living drop significantly crime rates will likely go up quite a bit. And in that case you might not want to stay in a city like London. A city in which the police is corrupt and incompetent and in which hardly anyone has the means to defend himself. A paradise for criminals really. Also the government might decide to confiscate a lot of your wealth. So it is essential to politically diversify your savings. Don’t make yourself dependent on government money. And if the government gets too ruthless, you might want to consider leaving the country, like people are en mass in France right now.

      • Jan 4, 2014 at 11:07 pm

        I’m not sure what you are disagreeing with over the comments on nuclear power. It seems that the Fukushima disaster is worse than any previous one, and isn’t over yet. http://youtu.be/STSmFZeE50E

        • Jan 5, 2014 at 12:00 am

          I don’t disagree that Fukushima is a big disaster. But I disagree that because of Fukushima we should not use nuclear energy. Fukushima happened as a result of one of the biggest earthquakes on record, with one of the biggest Tsunamis on record. It was an old reactor that only had a mild protection against Tsunamis in an area where Tsunamis are very common. Tsunami even is a japanese word for that reason. After it happened they did not deal with the facts and tried to cover it up. But even with all this, it is not the end of the world. Japan will soon go back to nuclear energy. They don’t have a choice. There is no real alternative to nuclear energy. You cannot replace all nuclear power stations with coal or water stations. All other forms of alternative electrical power are very inefficient and therefore expensive. Germany is currently trying it by switching off a lot of their nuclear power stations. The result is that energy prices have gone up last year alone by about 70% and they have to import some nuclear energy from France, so that the lights don’t go out. The state is heavily subsidising energy for big industries, so that they can still compete with the rest of the world. But now a verdict from the EU has said that this subsidy is in violation with EU regulations and has to go. If this verdict gets enforced, it might kill the remaining productive parts of the German industry. Absolute madness. Energy is not a pure luxury. It is a big part of our standard of living and makes us life longer. You cannot give up on that just because there are some risk in a technology. But of course, ideally the market should make these decision and not politics.

          • Jan 5, 2014 at 11:02 am

            “It was an old reactor that only had a mild protection against Tsunamis in an area where Tsunamis are very common…After it happened they did not deal with the facts and tried to cover it up. ”

            This is the same story the world over, because the nuclear industry is protected by the state, so it can lie and cover up accidents. Without the state granting the privilege to violate common law, it’s doubtful that any nuclear power stations would get built, unless using thorium which is apparently a safer method, but has been neglected as such reactors cannot be used to make weapons. The recently announced plan to build a new nuclear facility in Britain had to be guaranteed by the UK government, who promised to pay double the current price of energy for its output. It doesn’t seem at all economical, without the state giving it a “feel free to break the law” card.

          • Jan 5, 2014 at 12:04 pm

            We won’t know wether or at what prices it is economical until we have a free market. I am as good in centrally planning an economy as everyone else. Big supermarkets are also subsidised. That does not mean they won’t exists in a free market. I just don’t see a real alternative to nuclear. There does not seem to be another technology capable of producing enough energy. The only alternative that might work is gas and coal. But the external effects of that technology are also not small. And of course if all nuclear power stations are being replaced, the prices of gas and coal would go through the roof.

          • Ayumi
            Jan 5, 2014 at 5:11 pm

            “They don’t have a choice. There is no real alternative to nuclear energy. ”

            Japan, after the disaster, shut down ALL of their nuclear power stations. Japan was without nuclear energy for 2 months, first time since 1970. How did they cope without nuclear power?

            There’s fierce debate about this. Some say Japan’s economy couldn’t sustain itself any longer and advocated for the re-opening of some of the power stations.

            Yet 70% of the population fiercely opposed reopening any of the power plants. They say they were doing fine without nuclear power, and advocated they try this experiment for longer than two months, said they could do it. Sure they’d be problems, but they’d find ways around it. This is a population who rose from the rubbles of WW2 out of sheer will power. Nothing’s impossible. This is an opportunity for true change.

            People are fed up of living in fear of another meltdown (and as long as there is a nuclear power station, there is always the possibility of a meltdown. Always.) And as you said Nico, “it usually needs a crises for people to really wake up”.

            But what happened? Despite 70% of the population opposing nuclear energy, there was no open debate, no truthful talk of the pros and cons of nuclear energy, instead, the Noda government forcefully reopened Ohi power plant.

            “Japan will soon go back to nuclear energy.” — sure, because of oppressive government and big business (same thing, they’re inbred).

            In a free market divorced from politics, there would be no nuclear power. It’s too expensive to build and maintain without support from taxes, and as Michio Kaku said in the video link, “no insurance company would be willing to insure a nuclear reactor, hence all reactors in the US are insured by government.”

          • Jan 5, 2014 at 6:38 pm

            “How did they cope without nuclear power?”
            By importing a lot of oil. This came out of taxpayer money, so the average person did not feel the immediate costs of it. They are now building a lot of gas and coal stations.

            “Yet 70% of the population fiercely opposed reopening any of the power plants.”
            This should not be up for debate but for economic calculation. People are in favour of all kinds of things. But if they have to pay the economic price for it, they very often chicken out. You cannot overturn economic laws with majorities. Unfortunately everyone is constantly trying that.

            “People are fed up of living in fear of another meltdown And as you said Nico, “it usually needs a crises for people to really wake up”.”
            Yes, they will have to face the energy bill that comes with a switch off of nuclear stations. Germans are facing these costs at the moment and as it turns out suddenly people loose their idealism and thinking about bringing back nuclear power.

            “In a free market divorced from politics, there would be no nuclear power. It’s too expensive to build and maintain without support from taxes”
            The numbers that I know suggest the opposite. The most expensive part of it is insurance. When something goes wrong it can cause a lot of damage. But since the risk of that to happen is extremely small, I can see market solutions to that. With CAT bonds we have already an investment tool to deal with this amount of money. But hey, if it is too expensive then I am cool with that. Since I am not hysterical about climate change I have nothing against coal or gas stations. I am just against political hysteria in which I have to pay for other people’s idealism.

  4. Ayumi
    Jan 5, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    There’re things more important than the “economy” – LIFE for example.

    Fukushima is uninhabitable. Forever.

    People are taking their kids out with geiger counters in parts of Tokyo even. They tell their kids not to play in the woods, to stay on the concrete streets and parking lots, because radiation tend to pool in woods, bushes and sewers. I’m talking about kids not to make you go “aww”, but because kids are much more prone to cell damage from radioactivity than adults are.

    The damaged power plants are still leaking 300 tons of radioactive water into the Pacific ocean a day.

    An operation just started to remove 150+ fuel rods from the collapsing building 4, and would take years to complete. It’s the riskiest nuclear operation in the history of mankind.
    http://rt.com/news/fukushima-nuclear-fuel-rods-072/

    I want to tell you a story of a Japanese dad who raised his family in California. He made a comment that I felt really expressed the general feeling of the Japanese people. He said:

    “My daughter wants to live in Tokyo for a while to learn about her heritage and culture, and I really want to support that, but… you know.
    I can tell her to check the labels before eating anything, avoid eating dairy and seafood, and don’t go swimming in the ocean, but, I don’t want to be rude to the people who live there. I mean, how can I look at my relatives in the eyes and say I don’t want to send my daughter where you live?”

    “You cannot overturn economic laws with majorities”

    Activity of the people IS the economy.

    • Jan 5, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      “There’re things more important than the “economy” – LIFE for example.”
      That is like saying there are more important things like gravity – LIFE for example. So when someone jumps out of the window we should be against gravity. It does not work like that unfortunately. We live in a scarce world. This scarcity is real. And because it is real it also means that the survival of people has a price. We need to make the best out of it. But we can only know what this best is when we let people choose on a free market. So if people really don’t want nuclear energy, they will accept higher prices and the decline in the standard of living that comes with it. That is, if nuclear power really is cheaper. Who tells you that a rise in energy prices does not also kill people. They might not heat their house enough, get sick as a result and die, etc. It is the same ‘what you see and what you don’t see’ as in all central planning.

      “Fukushima is uninhabitable. Forever.”
      no, just a few decades. But again, I am not saying that Fukushima is not a problem. But it is very unlikely to repeat soon.

      “The damaged power plants are still leaking 300 tons of radioactive water into the Pacific ocean a day.”
      Are you sure this number is right, because 300 tons is nothing. It is a big swimming pool going into the mighty pacific ocean.

      “My daughter wants to live in Tokyo …”
      To be honest, that sounds a bit paranoid. You can go for a swim in Japan and eat Japanese food. Just not from the immediate area of Fukushima.

      “Activity of the people IS the economy.”
      Yes, activity of people on the free market is. But not opinion polls.

      • Ayumi
        Jan 5, 2014 at 11:16 pm

        Going back to your previous comment, ‘”reopening any of the power plants.” … This should not be up for debate but for economic calculation.’

        Something rubs me the wrong way about this… I mean, who does the economic calculation? Which economic formula? What would that measure, exactly? Cost of building and running a nuclear power plant, verses energy price per capita?

        So when the “economically sound decision” is made, is that decision then forced upon the people who don’t want it?

        In a free market, people’s opinions are expressed through activity, no? In another words, wouldn’t the activities in a free market be considered a sort of an opinion poll?
        Let’s play around with an idea here. (Put aside the fact that in a truly free market, there wouldn’t be so many nuclear power stations to begin with.)

        The Libertarian idea is that people are free to chose their own source of energy, right? So if 70% of the population chose not to use nuclear power, (maybe some decide to go on an energy diet, others choose to pay more for cleaner energy), then, naturally, in line with the laws of economics, there will be no nuclear power stations running (it’s too expensive to run without tax money anyway).

        In my opinion, nuclear power isn’t to be meddled with. We’re kids playing with fire.
        And I’d rather be a bit on the paranoid side than risk being sorry later.

        44 states worldwide have banned some foods coming from Japan:

        http://en.rocketnews24.com/2013/10/28/more-than-two-years-on-many-in-japan-still-uncertain-about-food-from-around-fukushima/

        http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/03/09/national/japanese-food-still-banned-in-44-states/#.Usnme7_fQy4

        • pavel
          Jan 5, 2014 at 11:51 pm

          Airplanes built in 1920s were also not very reliable, so were cars – yes, the cost of error didn’t include uninhabitable regions, but still, thousands of passengers were dying. Most of nuclear power stations were built in 1970s, also before 1986 – since than the consensus is something like “nuclear energy is too dangerous, don’t build new nuclear power plants. But it’s “cheap” to use old power stations”. Modern nuclear power stations can be safer and after a decent inspection from insurance companies, perhaps even insurable.

          Self-sufficiency with food is a nice idea, but to begin with I’d like to have several citizenships, own detached house with a cellar full of canned food, decent guns, savings in gold and silver and rice and own garden and so on. And your own hospital too. Without guns this self-sufficiency just doesn’t make sense, other people with guns will come and take all my accumulated food and deport me far away. Or the government, as it was the case in 1930s in the USSR. With your own food you can survive several months, perhaps years – but without hospitals it won’t last long. As I said, I’ve read The Crash Course and I’d rather believe in good externalities from rising energy prices than growing my own food.

          The difference between opinion poll and market activity is “put your money where your mouth is”. But actually I don’t think nuclear energy will win, just like I think we can use energy more efficiently and energy prices should rise. If we firmly believe we are running out of oil/gas/etc., it would produce a good signal for energy prices to rise slowly and not ten-fold one day twenty years later.

          • Ayumi
            Jan 6, 2014 at 4:57 pm

            A hospital and a few citizenships would be nice, and I agree with you on cutting subsidies and letting the market set the real prices of energy, thereby gradually nudging people into using energy more efficiently.

            It’s true that people back then died of car accidents and planes and we’ve got safer vehicles and power stations, but, the trouble with nuclear power is, when there is an accident, it inevitably involves people who have nothing to do with the provider-user contract; it effects a large area and generations not yet born. — I’m gonna continue this debate with Nico now.

        • Jan 6, 2014 at 1:03 pm

          “I mean, who does the economic calculation? Which economic formula?”

          Everyone.

          “What would that measure, exactly?”
          The whole costs of running a nuclear station versus demand.

          “So when the “economically sound decision” is made, is that decision then forced upon the people who don’t want it?”
          No, you don’t have to buy nuclear power and you have a right to be compensated for any damaged caused to your property.

          “In another words, wouldn’t the activities in a free market be considered a sort of an opinion poll?”
          It is more like a menu then an opinion poll. You have different options and each option comes with a price

          “So if 70% of the population chose not to use nuclear power, then, naturally, in line with the laws of economics, there will be no nuclear power stations running.”

          Not necessarily. The remaining 30% may still decide to build one for themselves. That would then depend on the price. That is the exact difference between the free market and opinion polls. In a democratic poll, everyone has to do what the majority wants. On the market everyone can get their favourite option. That is why free markets are freedom and voting is not.

          “In my opinion, nuclear power isn’t to be meddled with. We’re kids playing with fire. And I’d rather be a bit on the paranoid side than risk being sorry later.”

          That is of course a decision that you can make for yourself. But don’t force others to share your paranoia.

          • Jan 6, 2014 at 2:50 pm

            Paranoia is an unfounded or irrational fear. Surely the Fukashima disaster illustrates that fear of nuclear accidents is far from irrational? I’m sure the most up-to-date nuclear facilities are safer than in the past, but we are still lumbered with the legacy of hundreds of leaky, dangerous installations, and when problems are detected, there’s usually a cover-up.

            It is also true that other forms of power generation, and indeed numerous industrial processes, are not without problems and dangers.

          • Jan 6, 2014 at 3:35 pm

            I did not describe the fear of an accident in a nuclear power station as paranoid. What is paranoid is the fear that you cannot live in Japan anymore because of Fukushima. That strikes me to be an irrational fear that comes from a lack of understanding the facts.

            And I have never defended the government getting involved in the energy market in any form.

  5. Jan 6, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Nico,

    I’m not surprised you don’t defend government involvement in the energy market. The question is whether nuclear power would exist without government involvement? To date, I’d say the answer would be no, due in part to the relationship between power generation and nuclear weapons.

    As for living in Japan, the clean-up at Fukashima is still at a critical stage, and not yet rendered stable. There may be a lack of understanding of the facts, but there is also a lack of facts, as the Japanese government and Tepco have not been very forthcoming. However, there are reports of increases in thyroid cancer.

    • Jan 6, 2014 at 4:56 pm

      To me the question is will it exists in the future. The internet would maybe also not exists without the government, But now that it is here, it can survive without it and it is quite a wonderful thing. As I said, looking at the numbers I don’t really see an alternative to nuclear. If everyone changes from nuclear to coal and gas, prices will go through the roof. A free market would probably not build big GW reactors but smaller MW once, so that in the unlikely event off an accident the damage is smaller and more insurable. The problem in Fukushima was that these reactors needed active cooling. So when the power went don’t because of the earthquake, it went out of control. But modern reactors cool passively. So even if a modern reactor would have been hit by this huge Tsunami, it would have most likely just shut down.

      • Ayumi
        Jan 6, 2014 at 6:08 pm

        Hi ya,

        Yes, Internet is definitely a wonderful thing, closest thing to a libertarian utopia in my view, and I’m thankful for all the techies and users out there who make it possible.
        But the cost of setting up Internet – including the millions of hubs and talent and electricity and such, is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of building and maintaining a nuclear power facility; which includes maintenance of the facility after it shuts down, and transporting, burying and maintaing spent fuel.

        “On the market everyone can get their favourite option.” – Yes, as long as it doesn’t violate the rights of others.

        If 30% of the population want nuclear power and build one, that’s fine. But there needs to be a guarantee that the rest of the population’s rights won’t be violated by it.

        The trouble with nuclear power is, when there is an accident, it inevitably involves people who have nothing to do with the initial provider-user contract; it effects a large area, and generations not yet born.

        (Do we consider the rights of the not yet born?)

        I’m not a nuclear scientist but thanks to Internet, I get info that says that, radioactive caesium 137 that’s floating around Fukushima has a half life of about 30 years, and in regards to the more dangerous “spent fuel” (that’s suspended in a collapsing building in Fukushima, the operation to remove them just started), we’re talking about a half life of something like 150,000 years.

        • Jan 7, 2014 at 1:09 am

          “But the cost of setting up Internet – including the millions of hubs and talent and electricity and such, is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of building and maintaining a nuclear power facility; which includes maintenance of the facility after it shuts down, and transporting, burying and maintaing spent fuel.”

          It is not that expensive. The most expensive thing is the insurance, which currently is free from the tax payer. We will see what the full costs are when we have a free market. Of course if we don’t come up with any new technology in this century, nuclear may be the only source of energy left. At that point the price will almost be irrelevant as even significantly higher prices would still be better than having almost no reliable energy at all.

          “If 30% of the population want nuclear power and build one, that’s fine. But there needs to be a guarantee that the rest of the population’s rights won’t be violated by it.”
          There are no absolute guarantees in life. People just need to take responsibility for their actions. But of course if they don’t make it reasonably save, they won’t find insurance.

          “The trouble with nuclear power is, when there is an accident, it inevitably involves people who have nothing to do with the initial provider-user contract; it effects a large area, and generations not yet born.”
          A lot of technologies end up damaging innocent bystanders. Since nuclear energy was invented a lot more people got killed by cars for example. Does not mean we should not use cars anymore. Giving the death toll of nuclear energy so far, even with Chernobyl and Fukushima it looks very save. And of course giving the lessons out of these event, it will be even a lot more save in the future.

  6. Ayumi
    Jan 7, 2014 at 6:10 am

    Reason why I’m concerned about the safety of nuclear power is not because of it’s potential death toll. Death in itself is not a bad thing, it happens.

    If a million people jump off a cliff for the thrill of it, that’s fine. If people die of disease, accidents, suicides, mistakes, or even laughing too hard, well, then, that’s that.

    But if one person’s right to live as s/he so chooses is violated, we ought to fight to the end to defend that right, and I think you agree.

    When a nuclear power station continuously leaks lethal chemicals that is airborne, waterborne and lasts for gobsmacking amounts of time, that one “accident” ends up violating the rights of innumerable lives, present and future. Not only the lives of people, but the land itself, its animals, plants, water, oceans, buildings, everything, and (we can debate whether oceans have rights or not) but these things are important, because what makes a person an individual is in large part his connections to his environment and culture. Without those things a person withers.

    “Technologies damaging bystanders…” Well, yah, that happens. But what angers me is that people who are vehemently wanting to live without nuclear power are told lies, ignored, shut up, and otherwise coerced into having to live with the risk of it.

    The problem is too much power held by governments and businesses, which in effect create huge institutions that people can’t oppose.

    • Jan 7, 2014 at 9:52 am

      One solution would be to require developers to negotiate a contract with land owners within range of the plant (with some tightly constrained allowance for landowners to get together and bid for the project to come to them).

      I think this would ensure the correct incentives.

      • Ayumi
        Jan 7, 2014 at 9:47 pm

        That sounds fair.
        I think that’s how it happens, somewhat.
        I know that companies come into the village / city offering all these perks like they’d build a new gym, hot-spring, spa, swimming pool, recreation centre, etc. for free if the locals would allow them to build a power station. And people say yes to that.

        Then after 3/11, a whole lot of people started saying no.
        A recent opinion poll re: nuclear

        http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201307180064

        “Twenty-three percent of respondents said they believe it is only a matter of time before another accident will occur if nuclear plant operators resume operations at now-idle reactors, while 57 percent said they think a similar nuclear disaster will likely happen.

        Thirty-one percent said nuclear power should be abandoned as soon as possible, whereas 54 percent said Japan should phase out nuclear power over time.”

        Wouldn’t it be nice if people’s incentives are honestly reflected in a free market.

    • Jan 7, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      “Reason why I’m concerned about the safety of nuclear power is not because of it’s potential death toll. Death in itself is not a bad thing, it happens.’

      If you are not concerned about death, then I really don’t see the problem.

      “But if one person’s right to live as s/he so chooses is violated, we ought to fight to the end to defend that right, and I think you agree.”

      Yes, but that does not mean that we can create a risk free universe. Almost every technology has some risks. Risk in itself does not violate your rights.

      “When a nuclear power station continuously leaks lethal chemicals that is airborne, waterborne and lasts for gobsmacking amounts of time, that one “accident” ends up violating the rights of innumerable lives, present and future.”

      Rights should be individual. Either someone’s rights are violated or not. If so, it should stop, if not than it can continue. Risk is something different from rights. Your rights are only violated if someone damages you and you cannot get compensation. Now that might indeed be a problem with nuclear power as the damage might become too big. But that is something a market insurance should figure out.

      “Not only the lives of people, but the land itself, its animals, plants, water, oceans, buildings, everything, and (we can debate whether oceans have rights or not) but these things are important, because what makes a person an individual is in large part his connections to his environment and culture. Without those things a person withers.”

      I am not willing to accept all these as rights. I think you have an exaggerated view of the risks. Only the actual fuel radiates for very long. That is why this bit will be berried somehow. They did that in Chernobyl. The result is that you can already make trips to Chernobyl again. Radio activity is nothing unnatural that comes out of some evil laboratory. EVERYTHING is mildly radio active. So our bodies are constantly exposed to levels of radio activity. Every day every single of the cells in your body experiences around 50 000 genetical damages because of this natural radio activity. Our bodies easily deals with these and repairs them all. It is just at high doses that it becomes dangerous. But even an increase doses can usually been handled for a while without causing any long term health damage.

      “The problem is too much power held by governments and businesses, which in effect create huge institutions that people can’t oppose.”

      Amen to that.

      • Ayumi
        Jan 7, 2014 at 10:01 pm

        Yes, you’re right, risk in itself doesn’t violate rights.
        And I too believe that people ought to be allowed to do anything “at their own risk”.

        It’s just the scale of this whole thing, and the matter of time, and timing.

        Let’s talk about it later, this thread’s brought up some real interesting and important subjects. Cheers to that.

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