Sunday, July 06, 2008
Pretend everything will be alright
It's this sort of thing that makes you want to smash a watch: Zen Tiger has got into a tizz about my post on lightbulbs. I made the error of mocking the Market; worse still, I denied Choice to the Consumer.
Bring back asbestos, that's what I say. Consumers have a right to decide. Some might want to build their homes with asbestos, preferring it over other building materials, (such as wattle and daub or flax, the products of pre-capitalist societies which lacked event the most primitive banking systems). Asbestos has many attractive qualities, including flame-resistance, durability and lightness; it also comes in an attractive shade of grey. Consumers, home owners, proud Kiwi dads and mums, battlers even, have the Right to Choose. However, the have been denied this Right by the Nanny State, which determined (on the basis of evidence provided by Scientists working in feather-bedded civil service jobs) that asbestos fibres kill people. This may be so (although the evidence is quite provisional) but consumers are entitled to take risks to have a fire-resistant grey home. House builders, the Entrepreneurs whose enterprise is the foundation of our economy, are equally entitled to take the (potential) risks that may arise from working with asbestos, in order to make an honest living and put food on the table for their families. Without these Rights, we have no Freedoms, and we will find ourselves living under Socialism.
Or, to put it another way, these Market groupies are weird. How, I hear you ask, are they weird? Let us count the ways.
For a start, there is no market in electrickery (slower readers may have thought this was an article about asbestos; it is not: that was just rhetoric). It is a limited resource and one that is not very mobile. That is to say, you can't just make it in one place and sell it to another. Or, to put it another way: if we run out of electricity, we will find it very difficult to make some more and we won't be able to buy some from Australia.
Second, if people save money by spending less on electricity, they can spend in other ways, such as putting extra servings of poisonous synthetic food on their tables, for their kids. This is good for the Market Economy.
Third, the world is facing catastrophe. We should do everything we can to reduce our electricity use; if that means denying some people the right to waste their money, then tough.
Ever since the Perfect Market escaped from its captivity in the Economics Department of the University of Chicago some time in the early 1980s, this sort of nonsense has proliferated. The Market groupies don't like Society, because it implies obligations beyond the getting and spending of money. They also don't like the Environment, which is at best a resource and at worst an impediment. They cling to the belief that Global Warming is a fiction invented by the Greens to undermine the Market. Even if there is a problem, they say, the Market will invent a solution. One cannot help but imagine that, if these people were around during the Second World War, they would have objected to the Government spending public money on aircraft and insisted that rationing was an unfair intervention, since anybody should be able to buy as many scarce resources as he wishes.
Anyway, back to the real world: they are growing potatoes in Greenland
Yo La Tengo: