Shoot the B*tch?

Consider a lady called Phoebe.

Notwithstanding a few flaws and foibles, Phoebe is basically a decent person. She leads a contented and well-adjusted life, working hard, but equally enjoying the fruits of her labour. Happily, the work she does benefits others: we know this because they keep paying her to do it. That work, moreover, involves nothing immoral. Thus, Phoebe makes an honest living. And it’s a good living. Each year, she earns a handsome income, testifying to how much she has benefited others.

Every year, too, an institution called government—democratically elected by a majority of voting citizens—commands her to contribute to its coffers some portion of her honestly earned income, specifically, whatever it unilaterally determines to be the appropriate price for the services it renders onto Phoebe and her fellow citizens. This portion typically amounts to about 30% of Phoebe’s income. Every year to date, Phoebe has dutifully complied with this command.

This year, however, Phoebe has chosen to defy the command.

Phoebe has her reasons. Many of them eminently defensible. Some are even widely endorsed. For example, she holds that the government misspends much or most of the money that it manages, carelessly casting it hither and thither, using it principally to bribe the electorate, and only secondarily to aid the deserving. She also holds that the government, through its reckless policies of progressive monetary debasement and sovereign debt accumulation, may well be setting the stage for an eventual and catastrophic economic collapse. She furthermore holds that people in government generally consist of a motley crew of box-ticking bureaucrats, insufferable narcissists, and power-hungry opportunists—none of whom deserve her fiscal tribute.

So this year, Phoebe has alternative plans for the 30% of her income that she has heretofore relinquished. Some of these plans are selfish—like going on holiday to the destination of her dreams. Others are selfless—like paying for a poor friend to have a much needed operation. At all events, she has made up her mind: she is not, under any circumstances, going to comply with government’s command that she give up 30% of her earnings.

At some deep level, she regards her earnings as entirely hers—not anybody else’s—which means nothing more or nothing less than that she, and not anyone else, gets to decide what should done with those earnings. What else could the “her” in “her earnings” mean? Has she really been earning other people’s money, and not her own, for 30% of the time she has been working, every year? Try as she might, Phoebe just cannot get her head around this strange idea, any more than she can get her head around the strange idea (which she read on a bizarre blog one day) that her 30% of her sexual life might belong to someone else, rather than entirely to herself.

Phoebe duly informs the relevant governmental authorities, by formal letter, that she is refusing to pay the taxes they demand of her. As a courtesy, she gives her main reasons, and outlines her alternative financial plans.

Some weeks later, Phoebe receives a formal reply in writing. In that reply, she is warned of the severe consequences that would attend going ahead with her proposed illegal course of action. Unless she pays the amount specified, and by the date specified, she will have to pay yet more. Moreover, if she still refuses to pay the principal and the penalties, a band of men in suits will come, with an authorising document, and attempt to confiscate some of her property. Furthermore, if she gets in the way of these men taking her valuable property, another band of men will come—this time with uniforms, badges, and guns—and attempt to subdue her by force. In the event of her continuing to resist physically—say by parrying the aggressive force used to subdue her with a matching defensive force of her own—the level of force used to subdue her may be progressively escalated, such that the risk of her being injured or killed comes to markedly exceed zero. One way or another, sufficient force will be applied such that she will be rendered harmless. If she is still alive, she will then be conveyed to a cage for a lengthy spell. Many of her neighbours in nearby cages will be sociopaths, some of whom will have been convicted of stealing from and/or physically assaulting other innocent human beings—sometimes as part of an organised gang of thugs engaging in extortion.

Phoebe ignores the formal reply.

One month later, a band of men in suits duly come by her house, and demand entry. Phoebe doesn’t let them in: she keeps the front door shut and locked. Their verbal demands going unheeded, the men in suits instruct one of their burly assistants to break down the front door with a battering ram. But Phoebe anticipates them by opening the door and brandishing a large club a menacing manner. (Not for nothing is she nicknamed “Feisty Phoebe”!) Unaccustomed to dealing with such self-possessed and indomitable ladies, the men in suits scarper, shouting back indignantly that they will report this outrage to the police, and that there will be a heavy price to pay.

Early the next morning, as promised, another band of men appear outside Phoebe’s house. Their metallic badges glint ominously in the crepuscular light. They have come for her and her property. Phoebe, however, does not intend to let them take either. For her, it’s just the principle of the thing. This time round, the men readily breach her front door, and flood ferociously into her house. They have guns in their hands—portable machines designed to propel bits of metal at great speed into human flesh. They point their guns at her, and tell her she has to come with them—or else. Phoebe knows going with them means going to the cage, and leaving her property behind for the taking. But there are too many men, carrying too powerful weapons, to repel. So she tries to flee. At the backdoor of the house, however,she encounters a large man already waiting for her, blocking her exit. The man lunges at her, toppling her over, and pinning her to the floor. Another man arrives, and attempts to put handcuffs on Phoebe, so as to render her defenceless. But Phoebe still has a free hand. She reaches for a knife in her pocket, and strives desperately to stab the man on top of her, to get him off her. She succeeds: he screams, bleeds, lets her go. The other man, seeing his colleague stabbed, takes no chances: he draws his gun and fires at Phoebe. The bullet strikes her head, enters her brain, and kills her.

Question: In this scenario, whose side are you on?

Did Phoebe, by shirking her obligations to a preposterously unreasonable degree, have it coming? Did she, by her perverse intransigence, culpably predetermine her own demise? Are people like Phoebe—who do not give when the government says that they must, preferring to satisfy private desires rather than public ones—so unforgivably selfish, or so socially pernicious, that they must, if push comes to shove, be liquidated?

Alternatively, do you suspect that there might be something amiss with Phoebe’s largely sealed fate at the hands of the state, should she have the audacity to act as if her earnings were entirely her own? Would you be personally prepared, as a human being, to hurt Phoebe, and if necessary to kill her, if she adamantly refused to materially support some society-wide endeavour to the degree that some of her fellow citizens said she should? Or would you only be prepared to countenance such violence if an organisation called democratic government—which supposedly gains its legitimacy from the Divine Right of the Masses—does your dirty work for you? In other words, are you guilty of a form of indirect and cowardly psychopathy towards your fellow human beings, unless they do the bidding of the sovereign power you happen to identify with? Are you essentially prepared to condemn your fellow human beings to extortion, incarceration, or even execution by proxy, just because you lack either the imagination or courage to conceive of an alternative to the status quo? Are you as morally blinkered today as supporters of slavery were in their time—blithely but falsely taking yourself to be a decent human being—when you are in fact fatally morally compromised?

Is Phoebe completely right and you completely wrong?

Nah. Just shoot the b*tch.

Bringing pareto distributions to drunken philosophising

Avid followers of Libertarian Home will know of a tension between the amount of time people want spent on history and abstract philosophy and the amount spent on concrete political policy and the everyday problems

encountered. Between talking to ourselves in pubs and talking to the public at large. This tension is, in my view, a false dichotomy. In truth we need more, lots more, of all of it. It seems, however, that since most libertarians are working hard on being happy that they have little extra time to dedicate to that effort. Libertarians have a resource shortage that is a bigger issue than any issue with resource prioritisation.

What to do about the resource shortage?

Well, one thing we could do is to make more libertarians – by way of persuading non-libertarians – until we have enough libertarians to get everything done. This is begging the question since effort is required to make the extra libertarians.

One of the things we do manage is lots of drunken philosophising. I have a lot of time for drunken philosophising and one of the reasons for that is that I do not think it is as useless as people imagine. It is also not always drunken philosophising, sometimes it is drunken strategising. Furthermore,  time spent drinking together is time in which communities are built and ideas shared.

That community is the fertile soil in which more impressive enterprises are grown. Those ideas are the seeds being scattered upon that soil. The hope is those randomly scattered seeds sprout into something wonderful.

The process is, however, somewhat inefficient. How many times have the conversations in a pub moved away from something exciting and insightful and onto the thing that the guy with the loudest voice has an anecdote about? Those moments do not ruin social evenings but they are as frustrating as they are unproductive.

In the facet of our universe concerned with business management there is an intellectual school called “Lean”. Look it up, it offers interesting insights into how to avoid waste. One of it’s insights is something called “LeanCoffee” which is simply a format for semi-formal meetings held in coffee houses in the early hours. I have been to a few and found them fun. The description of the format can be a bit wordy, so I’ll leave it out. Understand only that is it not as formal as it sounds. It is actually quite lightweight and relaxed, even with coffee involved.

What the format does is it quickly surfaces the interests of the attendees and exploits natural pareto / power-law distributions in the topics they are interested in. Focusing the conversation on the mutually interesting topics means the non-starters are filtered out. That boring anecdote is gently suppressed.

The other thing it does well is it dedicates some time to each of the attendees’ common interests. This ensures that the right amount of time is spent on each topic (where “right” is also defined by the attendees).

So, the least interesting conversations cannot take the spark of life out of the more interesting conversations until the appointed hour is reached and then only by consensus. That this remarkable feat can be managed without excess administration is really quite impressive.

Can you imagine the impact on our resource shortage if the resources we presently invest in drunken philosophising were an order of magnitude more productive? What would happen if the deeply-interesting and popular conversations dominated the evening and the merely fun and merely-of-normal-interestingness were put aside for a while?

I think this meeting format will be interesting and fun to try out with beers rather than coffees, and with politics rather than business management.

Let’s do it this evening in Westminster

Who’s in?

My Journey To Brexit

I voted to leave the European Union in 2016. But if you would have told me that just two years before I would have rolled over laughing at you. Until really quite recently I was a staunch defender of the EU- in fact, if you asked me in 2014, I would have told you that we should head full steam into a United States of Europe. So what changed?

The reason I am posting this article now is that, over the past few years, it seems like the debate about Brexit has gone nowhere. This weekend one hundred thousand people marched in London to demand a vote on the final Brexit deal. There is a serious discussion to be had about the public voting on such a crucial issue. But there should be little doubt in our minds that many of the people marching on Saturday had every intention of scuppering Brexit completely, by any means necessary. Having a final vote gives the hardcore remain camp a golden opportunity to do just that.

When people discuss leaving the EU they get bogged down in minor details and end up making ridiculous predictions about the future. If I listen to a row about the EU on the radio, it often feels like a competition to figure out who possesses the most accurate crystal ball. The reason I and many others like me voted Brexit is the sordid state of the European Union. More fundamentally, many people on both sides do not have a good understanding of what the EU is or how it works. For some Remainers, the EU is the pillar that holds up our economy, without it the whole framework of Britain beings to fall apart. This is a hopelessly misguided view. Yet, on the other hand, many Breixteers assume that life outside the EU will be a blessed, voyage to a prosperous garden of Eden. This is also wrong.

When Britain voted in 2016, it passed its verdict on the European Union. I believe that the reason why so many people voted to remain part of the EU is that they had an incorrect perception of what the EU is. Here I will detail why my view on the EU changed. In my pro-EU days, my positive perception of that amalgam of institutions was based on three crucial axioms that turned out not to be true:

  • The EU would help Europe deal with a crisis.
  • The EU keeps Britain prosperous
  • The EU is fair

These were the assumptions that kept me supporting the EU. But in the years leading up to the referendum, one by one these perceptions were revealed as nothing more than empty myths.

The first and probably most significant reason for my support of the EU was the perception that is would help small European countries deal with a crisis. Indeed, if you look at the placards and banners that were being gleefully thrust into the air this weekend you will see lots of references to ‘brotherhood’ and ‘togetherness’. There is a palpable sense amongst Remainers that the EU helps bring humanity together. Having spent my formative years watching Newsnight and reading copies of The Economist I assumed that the EU was great because it allowed otherwise small nations to club together and punch above their weight. But then the refugees came…

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not in favour of stopping desperate people from seeking a new life in a stable and prosperous country. In fact, on paper, if you have a mass influx of refugees the EU is exactly the sort of organisation you would hope could address that issue. The EU should have acted as a bastion of hospitality that stood firm and addressed this challenge as brothers arm in arm with a shared love of humankind. So it was a big shock for me when this didn’t happen. Part of the logic of the EU is that it allows small European countries to club together to deal with big challenges but the EU crumbled under the pressure of this crisis. Far from being able to address the issue effectively, we saw some truly horrific scenes emerging from the frontiers of this supposedly ‘civilised’ institution.

Instead of showing a spirit of togetherness we saw children washing up dead on the shores of EU countries. We saw families charging through border towns with angry police platoons chasing them like cattle. We saw EU leaders close their borders rather than accommodate starving families. Hardly the progressive bastion of international love that many in the Remain camp associate with the EU. Furthermore, the handling of the refugee crisis has had devastating long-term consequences for Europe. By mismanaging the large-scale migration so spectacularly the EU has contributed to the rise of extremist far-right movements in almost every single EU member state. Three years on from the migrant crisis, the EU is no closer to solving this problem; just ask anybody in Sicily, Malta or Calais. In my view, the people that assume that the EU is a defender of Human Rights and an organisation that brings the world together are just wrong. Rather than acting in unison, the small countries of the EU were left on their own to deal with this enormous challenge. I understand their opinion because I used to hold it myself. But our opinions must change when new evidence proves us flat out wrong. 

The next myth that I held sacred about the EU was that it keeps Britain a prosperous country. I used to adhere to the platitudes that ‘without the EU Britain will not survive.’ The Remain argument is on it’s best footing here. It is undeniable that Britain does a lot of business with the EU and Brexit will incur some serious economic challenges for the UK, that much is undeniable. Since the Brexit vote, several big companies have signalled that they wish to move their businesses overseas to countries within the single market. I believe in free trade. Obviously losing access to the single market will be bad for Britain. But does Brexit spell doom for the British economy? The answer must be an unequivocal no.

40% of Britain’s external trade is with the EU, this is an impressive figure. Enough to convince me that Britain was much better off in the EU. But there are other important things to consider. Firstly, only around 6% or British businesses export anything (never mind the proportion that export to the EU). Furthermore, although, exports are important, they are not the linchpin of the British economy as some Remainers suggest. We are a much greater importing country than an exporting one, the value of our business to the EU is plain for all to see. Not being part of the single market is not ideal, but not fatal for Britain. It is a delusion to assume that the Germans, Dutch, French et al really don’t care about whether we are part of their trading block or not. But like many other Remainers, I fell for the argument that without the benevolent hand of Brussels our entire economy would grind to a halt.

One of the most pervasive myths about the EU is that it is in a strong economic position. One of the great unspoken aspects of the Brexit debate is the scale of the European debt crisis. This is a sword of Damocles looming over some of the most important countries in the EU. So far, by fiscal bullying and outright manipulation, the EU has avoided total collapse due to this issue. Yet, there is no doubt that is the EU is going to avoid total financial collapse it will have to undergo a process of economic integration that will rival the introduction of the single currency in terms of its scope. A key moment in my journey to voting for Brexit rather than Remain was the realisation that voting to stay in the EU was not a vote for the status quo. It is a barely hidden secret that those in the upper echelons of the EU see their organisation as a federalist project rather than an alliance of countries. During the Brexit debate, we were constantly being told that a vote for Remain was a vote for stability. But nothing could be further from the truth. Over the next decade, the EU will probably take further strides towards being a single political unit or begin the process of dissolving. Not by design of its member states but out of sheer necessity. My brother had a copy of Yanis Varofakis’ book And The Weak Suffer What They Must. I have a bad habit of picking up a book and reading the last page. In it, the influential Greek statesman argues, very forcefully that to survive the EU must integrate much further and much fatser and I have to say that I agree with him. It didn’t mean much to me at the time but that realisation had big consequences for my referendum during the EU referendum.

The final and last reason that persuaded me to change my vote from Remain to Brexit was the realisation that the EU is not a fair institution. If you read into the anti-Brexit march on Saturday one of the things that comes across is that the EU is seen as a bastion of democracy by some in the Remain camp. Indeed, back when I used to be a cheerleader for the EU one of my implicit assumptions was that it was a profoundly democratic body that was a vehicle for spreading enlightened views across the world. But like many of my other assumption about the EU, during the years leading up to the referendum, this view was proven completely false.

Fundamentally the way the EU works is as a club. Just because you are in the unions it does not mean that you will derive any benefit from being a member. To really benefit from being an EU member means that you need to ‘play the game.’ Countries like France and Italy are excellent at gaining benefits from the EU whilst minimising their commitments. Whereas Britain, Denmark, Sweden are much less good at playing the European game. Britain has never been good at ‘playing the EU game.’ The EU is not a fair institution, while some nations benefit greatly from being an EU member, others get pushed around strong-armed into accepting policies that are not in their best interests. Another important demonstration of how the EU uses its power to bully members was the Greek bailout referendum in 2015. Led by the left-wing Syriza party Greece was asked to accept a bailout package from the EU to help with its chronic debt problem. Yet, one the stipulations of the bailout would mean that Greece would have to implement harsh austerity measures, despite the fact that the Greeks had just elected a left-wing party to do the exact opposite of that.

The solution to Greece’s debt problem should have been rather simple. Devalue currency to increase exports, reduce public spending commitments and renegotiate debt repayment arrangements. But because it was an EU member state it was virtually prohibited from doing any of these things. The EU made quite a fuss over the Greek decision to vote oxi (no) and reject the EU’s bailout deal. This issue quite an eye-opening moment for me. The apparent democratic credentials of the EU I knew and loved were being stripped away. The EU leant very heavily on the Greeks to make the ‘right’ decision. And after the whole incident was over, and the Greeks indeed voted to reject the EU’s financial demands they were essentially imposed on Greece over the course of the next few years. The Greek bailout referendum was a watershed for me and my view of the European Union.

The final straw for my love of the EU was during the buildup to the referendum. We all remember David Cameron waxing lyrical about how he could get a deal with Angela Merkel and reform the EU. At this stage, I was on a knife-edge. If David Cameron could reach an agreement with the German chancellor and come to some kind of arrangement to give Britain greater autonomy within the EU then I would quite probably have voted to remain. AT least in the EU would have proven itself open to, and capable of making necessary reforms and adjustments when the circumstances called for it. But it wasn’t to be. The Prime Minister’s requests were met with a flat and definite no from the de facto head of the European Union. This was the last straw for me, all of the events that had caused me to change my once fervently pro-EU opinion began to make sense. Despite the fact that Britain has been a net contributor to Europe and one of it’s most valuable assets we were unable to get any concessions fro Europe. The EU is a fundamentally unfair institution.

Obviously, it is dead wrong of me to state that the EU is incapable of reform. It goes through transformations and changes all the time. Yet, these changes are always towards one direction- ever closer union. One of the strangest facets of the Brexit aftermath has been the way people interpret the EU’s leverage over the UK. It is an open secret that Michel Barnier cannot give too many concessions to the Brexit team because many of the EU’s member states will then want to leave the EU. It boggles my mind that people then think the EU is negotiating from a position of strength. This truly sounds like some sort of abusive relationship; ‘If I am nice to you then all my other friends will want to leave me.’ It is pure folly to suggest that a vote to Remain was a vote for stability, quite the opposite. If our recent past is anything to go by the EU is heading into uncharted territory where the lines between the EU and it’s member states are becoming more blurred. There was never really an option to vote for the status-quo. There were only ever two choices, to live out the fantasies of Jean Claude Junker, or to go our separate ways

In this article, I have outlined that I voted to leave the EU not because I am a racist or a moron, but because I looked at the current state of EU and drew my own conclusion from there. I don’t believe Breixt will lead to a new golden age, I never did. My choice was pragmatic. Like many people who voted Brexit, I simply observed what the EU was doing and decided that wanted no part in it. I sincerely wish that many in the Remain camp would do us the courtesy of acknowledging that rather than smearing us as jingoistic reprobates. But just like the dreams of a ‘two speed Europe’ that might be too much to ask.

The Weird and Wonderful Day for Freedom

First of all, I would like to apologise for how long it has taken me to publish this article. It was my sincere intention to get this out a day after the event, but it has been a very busy week!

It was a sweltering hot afternoon in central London and a rather unusual emerged from Hyde Park. Hundreds of Union Jack waving people were marching through the hot sun towards parliament square. Not a common sight here in London. As somebody who has been to marches and demonstrations designed to appeal to left-leaning people, I was curious about what Day For Freedom would be like. The actual march from Speakers Corner towards Parliament Square was quite a bizarre affair. This was clearly not a group of people that were used to marching. In fact, most of the crowd was rather muted as it passed hundreds of bewildered onlookers. Ultimately, the heat got too much for me and the ‘down with sharia law’ placards make me feel rather uncomfortable so I ditched the main march and headed straight for parliament square.

When I got there the first thing that surprised me was the sheer variety of the people there. Contrary to what many deriders were saying on social media, the audience was not comprised of ex-national front members and football hooligans in combat jackets. The audience was much less homogenous that many of the stop of the war events I have attended.

The order of events for Day For Freedom was distinctly divided into two halves. There was an anti-Islam half followed by a free speech half. The first crop of speakers was the anti-Islam lot. It was in this first hour that the divisions amongst the crowd were the starkest. Speeches from Tommy Robinson and Gerard Batten emphasised the threat militant Islam posed to freedom of speech here in the UK. This was the low point of the day. While the there were some bouts of sporadic applause from the front row of the crowd, most people near the back and centre of the were clearly not at Day For Freedom to hear about Muslims. In fact, the whole Anti-Islam hour felt like an uncomfortable add-on to the free speech agenda of the day. The nadir of the whole affair was a speech by  Anne Marie-Waters, a woman so Islamophobic that she had to leave UKIP. Her warning of a ‘global elitist Islamic communist conspiracy’ was met with silence by most of the crowd.

All in all, the first half of the day was a disappointment. Is radical Islam a threat to free speech here in the UK? Somewhat. On a day to celebrate free speech did the topic of Islam require four separate speakers? Definitely not.

The second half of the day is where Day For Freedom really hit its stride. A massive TV screen appearance by Lauren Southern signalled a marked change of pace for the whole affair. By far the best and most well-received speakers of the day were Mark Meechan, otherwise known as Count Dankula, Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad), Gavin McInnes and the infamous Milo Yiannopoulos. It was here that the whole Day For Freedom began to make sense. Although it has to be said that McInnes and Yiannopoulos are far to the right of myself, the message of a clear, intelligent and articulate case for freedom of speech resonated with many different people. Culminating in thunderous rounds of applause and cheering.

If you read many of the articles published after Day For Freedom you would assume that it was some sort of occult gathering. Where everybody in the crowd secretly knew that ‘freedom of speech’ was some byzantine code for ‘ethnic cleansing’. But nothing could be further from the truth. Free speech is an enormous virtue in and of itself. It doesn’t need to be stapled onto a nationalist agenda. That for me was the clear message from Day For Freedom.

I often find libertarians rather downtrodden about their beliefs. I myself have been susceptible to episodes of “oh what’s the point”?  But if Day For Freedom has taught us anything, it is that there is an enormous enthusiasm for libertarian values like freedom of speech. Unsurprisingly the conservative party has swallowed the anti-free speech agenda wholesale. Leaving lots of right-wing people stuck in limbo, between a directionless Tory party and fanatical flag waving ultras. In this space, there is room for a non-racist, positive call for freedom.

I hope that because of Day For Freedom, liberal minded folk will feel empowered to start spreading their ideas and organise their own events. There is clearly a huge appetite for the message of freedom in Britain today. We should not let that demand go unanswered. Because nobody else is going to do it or us. Perhaps 2018 really could be the year libertarians emerge out from internet chat rooms and onto the streets.

 

Is The Electric Vehicle Revolution Real?

There is a widespread believe that we are currently witnessing the start of an electric driving revolution. Wherever I look, commentators seem to be in agreement that fossil fuels are on their way out. The only point of debate is how quickly this revolution is going to happen, and whether governments should introduce regulations to speed it up.

I, however, have my doubts that this revolution is real. Instead, I feel that this is little more than a hyped fashion, which will soon be calmed down by reality. Looking at the facts, it seems likely that a big proportion of future transportation will continue to be powered by carbon fuels. Electricity has some inherent flaws that can unlikely be overcome by engineering. The whole idea that electricity is the future of transportation is more driven by environmentalist ideology rather than facts. As such, it is not a market revolution, but one ordered from the top.

Why do people have the impression that electricity is the future? Has there been any kind of breakthrough in technology? It does not look like it. Instead, the source for the enthusiasm has a name – Elon Musk. As the CEO of Tesla, he is the mastermind behind the currently biggest electric car manufacturer.

Why is Tesla so successful? Musk does not appear to have done a lot of innovation when it comes to electric cars. His most impressive achievement is actually that he has managed to figure out how to re-use space rockets. But even Musk is powering those with fossil fuels, and we are going to see why that is.

When it comes to electric cars, Musk has done two things. Firstly, he has replaced the tank of his cars with batteries. But not special batteries, just normal batteries. The technology used has essentially been available for decades. Considering this, it might seem strange that none of the established car manufacturers had this idea before Tesla.

Except, of course, they did. Companies like BMW – with headquarters in Germany, the capital of green brain damage – have experimented with electric cars for much longer than Tesla has. But the result was always been the same – no one really was interested in buying them. Not even true greens wanted to drive one. Cars are generally too individualistic for even the modern comrade. Public trains are the politically correct choice of transport.

And non-comrades were certainly not interested in replacing their fuel engines. Electric cars have some real disadvantages. The most obvious one is that batteries will not get you as far as carbon fuels. To get to any kind of usable distance, engineers have to use a significant proportion of the car as a battery storage. But even than, Tesla cars only get to around a third to half the distance of combustion engines. The reason for that is simple – batteries cannot store nearly as much energy within the same space as carbon fuels. That is to say their energy density is a lot lower.

And once the car has run out of juice, it will take a long time to recharge. Not everyone is willing to take a longer break every 200 miles. This is another real disadvantage. Addressing that problem, Tesla, to their credit, has invented a technology that can recharge their batteries in 30 mins to 80%. Musk has created a quite impressive network of these so called super chargers. This makes batteries at least somewhat usable. But still, 30 mins is a compromise to the max 5 mins of refueling with non-electric cars.

As compensation for these disadvantages, one would hope that there would at least be an economic incentive to go electric. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Electric cars are much more expensive than traditional carbon fuel ones. Even though combustion engines are heavily taxed, and electric cars heavily subsidized, the consumer still pays a large premium for the privilege of driving an inferior car.

And that is the reason why consumers have rejected electric cars throughout history. For most people, it does matter whether they spend $20 000 more or less on a car. That premium is real money, even for those who are scared of global warming. And in my experience, when it comes to their own money, everyone is a capitalist, no matter what other ideology people pretend to hold.

Considering this, it was very predictable that consumers would reject an inferior, more expensive product. And they have done so for a very long time. Already at the beginning of the 20th century, when cars were a new technology, many car companies offered electric models. All of them were discontinued very quickly because of their inferiority to combustion engines.

This never changed, until Tesla came along. If there is one thing that Elon Musk did right, it is that he realized that electric cars are an expensive luxury. Therefore, trying to sell them to impoverished environmentalists is not a good strategy. People who do not care about money are a much better audience. We are talking about rich people who can afford to simply buy an electric cars as another one in their collection, and therefore neglect the disadvantages. Rich people, however, do not buy toy cars, if they cannot function as a status symbol.

And so Musk designed his Tesla models as powerful luxury cars. One of the big advantages of electric motors is that, as long as the engineers allocate enough energy to it, they can be much more powerful than combustion motors. The established car manufactures, however, were most concerned with saving energy, because of the low energy density of batteries. Consequently, producing powerful cars, which consume a lot of energy, were not really on their agenda.

Tesla changed that and Bingo! It turns out environmentalist ideology has penetrated society so deeply that rich people do like to be seen driving electric cars, as long as they look cool and are fun to drive. Musk, therefore, discovered where the real market for electric cars was. However, if it is true that the reason for Tesla’s success is to sell, in many ways inferior, but powerful and very expensive, cars to rich people than how will this lead to a revolution in electric cars for everyone? After all, for most people all the disadvantages still apply.

And this is not even the full story. In reality, Tesla cannot even sell luxury electric cars profitably. The company is a creature of cheap central bank credit. Despite the fact that the Tesla’s expensive cars are very popular, and that every single one of these cars is subsidized by the government, Musk has never made a profit, not even close. In fact, Tesla is loosing money on every car it sells, and seems to try to make it up on volume.

Central banks are the only reason why Tesla could grow to this size. And they are the only reason why the company is still around. Thanks to easy money policies, there is a lot of cheap speculative investment money available. This money helped Tesla to continue manufacturing, despite the apparent unprofitability. But at this point, it should dawn on even die hard Tesla fans that their darling is unlikely to survive. One wonders, why Musk is not straight with his investors about this reality. His silence, and outright denial, does not make him a very trust worthy fellow.

One wonders, if he is hoping for a miracle. But if so, it is not going to come. Instead, Tesla is sailing with green energy into a perfect storm. It won’t be able to produce cars productively any time soon. In addition to that, credit is drying up, thanks to central banks raising interests rates. As if that was not enough, the established car manufactures, who, unlike Musk are very experienced in producing cars productively, are about to enter the market with their own luxury electric cars.

And outside the luxury car market, electric cars still face all the disadvantages they have already faced since cars were invented. For a general change to happen, we would therefore need to see these disadvantages to shrink very significantly, or ideally to disappear completely.

Firstly, there is the costs of batteries. Currently, batteries are very expensive. That should give us a clew as to how readily available the building materials are. The scarcity of materials is the main reason why Tesla has problems producing enough cars to satisfy demand. Its customers usually have to wait a long time for delivery. This illustrates that current battery technology is not very scalable. And this problem is already apparent when hardly anyone is driving electric cars.

That means that before we can all drive electrically, we need to first find a battery technology that uses more available, and therefore cheaper materials. To my knowledge, this will still have to be invented, and is therefore the first real break in the revolution. Nevertheless, this seems to be an achievable goal, at least in theory.

Next, these cheaper batteries would need to charge more quickly. For a lot of people, 30 mins is already acceptable. But particularly for commercial use, this is still too long to compete. That is particularly true given that we will soon see driverless vehicles. Therefore, drivers won’t need a break to rest anymore. That means, every extra charging time is a net economic loss. If the whole transportation industry were to go electric, this would add up to a huge loss of wealth. And again, this is an unsolved problem at the moment. But just like the cost factor, it seems conceivable that this problem will be fixed in the future.

Finally, and most importantly, there is the energy density of batteries. And it is here where we are facing a really hard problem. A few month ago I came cross a video of the youtuber thunderfoot, in which he argues that we are already at an optimum capacity for batteries. Thunderfoot is a professional chemist, and his reasoning seems very compelling.

The argument is simply this – to increase the capacity of a battery means to increase its energy density. The problem with that is that, while this is in theory possible, it will always come with a huge safety trade off. By increasing the energy density, a battery will inevitably become more dangerous.

A battery, by its very nature, needs to contain all the elements needed to release the energy. Any such compact system is at risk of releasing that energy in an uncontrolled way. By now, we are very aware of what can happen, if a battery goes into malfunction. The reaction resulting from an uncontrolled energy release is already quite violent. That, for example, is the reason why certain batteries are banned from flights.

To make matters worse, once ignited, it is very difficult to stop the reaction. That is precisely because the system does not need any external elements, like oxygen, to continue. Once a battery in an electric car starts to burn, it is difficult to extinguish it.

And that is already a problem with the current energy density of batteries. But imagine we increase that density even further. The more we increase the energy density, the less safe the system becomes. Currently, batteries have about an energy density which is 1/10 that of TNT. That means, if we were to increase the energy density of batteries by 10 fold, we would end up with a bomb in our cars, equivalent to the same weight of TNT. That does not sound like such a good idea.

But here is the thing – gasoline has about 10 times the energy density of TNT. So in order to get the energy density of batteries to match that of gasoline, we would need to create an energy system that, if anything goes wrong, would be 10 times as explosive as TNT. It seems quite crazy to put that into a car.

The reason why gasoline is so save is because it can be stored away from the element that is needed to release the energy, which is oxygen. Since oxygen is everywhere in the atmosphere, we can just use that oxygen spontaneously wherever we are. This, btw. also saves us a lot of storage space, making it even more efficient. And if anything goes wrong, we can easily extinguish an accidental fire by cutting it off from oxygen. This makes it an incredibly save system with a very high energy density. It does not look like we can get better than that, even in theory. In other words, gasoline is an optimal energy storage. That is why Musk is using it to move his rockets.

If this argument is correct, then that means we cannot hope for future battery technologies to become anywhere near as energy dense as the fossil fuels we use at the moment. The laws of thermodynamics, which are hard physics, seem to be in the way of achieving that goal. And if that is true, then obviously the idea of electricity being the future of transportation is fundamentally misguided. At least if that electric energy will come from batteries.

It very much looks like burning gas on the go is the best source of mobile energy we can hope for. That means, that anyone who needs a lot of mobile energy, like big ships, planes and even lorries will likely continue to use it, maybe forever. If this is true, then the only question remaining is where will the fuels come from? Will it be fossil fuels, or self made fuels?

It is certainly possible to indirectly use electricity as a mobile energy source. The electricity will then produce the fuel that is used for mobile energy. For that to be profitable, however, electricity would need to be significantly cheaper as it is right now, as the majority of the energy is lost in the fuel production. Nevertheless, in that scenario the vehicles would still continue to burn these fuels while they are driving. And it does not look like that this is going to change anytime soon, if ever. So I am sorry, but the electric vehicle revolution is largely an illusion.

Event Update: The NHS with Stephen McNamara and Stef Johnstone

Tonight we are being joined by Stephen McNamara and Stef Johnstone. Who are nominations officer and deputy leader of the Scottish Libertarian Party.

Stephen McNamara has previously stood as a councillor for the party achieving 53 first preference votes and 305 seconds. He’s been a member of Solidarity and the SNP in the past and describes the discover of libertarianism through the SLP as a major moment in his life. He is also involved in the creation of an underground radio station – KA Radio – from his home.

If you want to get a feel for the guy, I recommend this interview with SLP leader Tam Laird:

Stephen will be presenting his views on the NHS as a libertarian.

Location Change

A reminder that the venue for the event has changed.

New location:

The Cock Tavern
23 Phoenix Road
London
NW1 1HB

This was arranged as a courtesy to our guests. As always the best way, at the moment to keep up to date with Meetup changes is to be registered and to Star or RSVP events on Meetup.