Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hiding from Reality
Against Libertarianism

Suzzane Wright on a blog site entitled The Whig had a good crack at the libertarian philosophy.

I couldn't help toss in my $0.02 worth. Being the lazy procrastinating sod that I am I've posted the comment. You can read Suzzane Wright's article if you like, it's just as interesting as her photo - on The Whig.


I think the reason libertarians (viewed in somewhat more general terms regarding their philsophy than say, Libertarianz!) get such little support is because at a very fundamental level by far the majority of the population have an intuition that the philosophy is flawed. And they are not far wrong.

If we assume libertarians advocate for the maximisation of individual rights and laissez-faire free market economics (I'm happy to be corrected) as well as private property rights. We can say this, these somewhat Benthamist ideals will of course benefit the individual but only insofar as he continues to deny the truth of such behaviours impact on society as a whole.

The libertarian adheres to the utilitarian ideal that we all necessarily want to maximise our individual utlity largely regardless of any consequence (and if there is to be any consequence the market will indicate as such). Thus, such a philosophy has us all rushing toward a global shit heap at ever accelerating speeds.

This philosophy would argue that in order to solve the problem of a depleting resource (for example) we must simply deplete it at a quicker rate - the "market" in combination with technology, will continue to provide cheaper and more efficient substitutes. The corollary to this of course is that eventually technology will provide an infinite amount of energy (for example) for free, thus allowing economic growth to happily continue ad-infinitum.

Libertarian philosophy would defer action or recognition of future options until a crisis is so clear and evident that it becomes detectable through market and monetary mechanisms, by which time in reality, it is mostly too late.

How in a world supposedly guided by science and reason such an ideology would take precedence over other senses (those informed say, by science) has me baffled. The idealisation of the free market is bizzare given the markets inability to act as an indicator of anything at all in the longer term - Dotcom bubble, Enron and LTCM collapses come to mind.

The argument against libertarianism is well rehearsed, (Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons) "but", in Kuhns words, "there are always some men who cling to one or another of the older views, and they are simply read out of the profession, which thereafter ignores their work." ACT and Libertarianz showing in the recent election... Perhaps ironically a market indicator itself.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Mumbo-Jumboism of Infinite Resources

The decadent international but individualistic capitalism in the hands of which we found ourselves after the war is not a success. It is not intelligent. It is not beautiful. It is not just. It is not virtuous. And it doesn’t deliver the goods.
John Maynard Keynes

I often find myself having to "let go" of the irritation that builds up as a result of my increasing observations of abject stupidity, or is it just ignorance (otherwise known as wishful thinking) - perhaps a bit of both, not only in the general population but by those who ought to know better. I refer to a short article by
Jerome Corsi on WorldNetDaily.com entitled Is Oil Peaking Today. Corsi, in an unabashed promotion of his own book Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil Corsi courageously argues that "energy resources are infinite not finite".

Given the inherent ambiguity of such a statement, clarification begs.

Surely the "energy resources" that we are interested in are the ones that we have access to. It may be interesting to assume that the entire energy resouces contained within the universe are infinite, but this does us no good. We can't mine uranium or pump oil off planets in other solar systems (let alone other planets within our own solar system), hence we must relegate such suggestions into the absurdity basket. Corsi could well be referring to solar power, seemingly infinite, however I'm yet to see an A320 Airbus running on solar panels.

In employing the popular
straw man strategy, the obfuscationists tool of choice, and in order to set up comparisons to failed doomsday predictions Corsi argues "peak oil theorists argue we are running out of oil". No, we argue that global oil production is about to peak, we argue that new discoveries are not making up the shortfall between demand growth and currently depleting feilds.

Corsi like many of his contemporaries actually misses the point. In fact we began running out of oil the day the first barrel was pumped. But this isn't the point. See any of my previous and numerous blog entries for further explanation.

Most of the demand growth is coming from transitioning economies. China, India, many parts of "the third world" are barrelling at ever increasing speeds toward a western styled living arrangement, a goal that will never be realised. No one would argue that in order to develop economically nations must grow their energy consumption. It’s a simple fact, the worlds most developed nations consume the most energy. We can't increase economic growth and at the same time reduce energy consumption. Energy = Work, more work requires more energy.

Furthermore, if you want to believe that we can continue growing and expanding energy consumption infinitely upon a planet with a fixed surface area, let alone a finite mass then I suggest you see your psychotherapist, before returning to school to repeat elementary grade science.

Yet blinded by the mumbo jumbo of wishful thinking Corsi, fails to understand the most rudimentary principles of scientific methodology. It may well be desirable to concoct pseudo-scientific or teleological stories to suit our economic purposes however, nature does not adapt a resource to its artifactual function.

Corsi following (the discredited) Thomas Gold (abiotic oil thesis) (and sounding like a bit like Lamark) argues that fossil fuels aren’t even fossil fuels. You see it is this level of sheer fuckwittery that you need to descend to in order to refute the argument that such resources are finite. Unfortunately the abiotic oil thesis doesn’t have much to say about why the North Sea oil wells are depleting at almost 50% per year. As Jim Kunstler puts it, “because they were drilled so efficiently with the latest technology”. Nor does it explain why the majority of non-Opec oil is now in decline, nor why the massive Burgan Oil field in Kuwait (second largest oil field in the world) is in decline. If the abiotic oil thesis were true, why would it be that oil production in the US has been in steady decline since 1971.

Don’t worry folks, the answer (we are assured) to all these questions is “the market” and don’t forget “the markets” bosom-buddy “technology” – because as we all know the only way to solve the problem of a depleting resource is to deplete it at a faster rate. A bizzare piece of faith in a world supposedly informed by science and reason, that we would place our faith in some sign or signal from the free market as a long term indicator of anything at all and at the same time ignore explanations of a more scientific or geological nature.

We live in a world obsessed with individualism, clamouring for choice, economic growth, consumerism, suburban expansionism, globalisation, V8 drive-in heaven, yet by a elegant circular reasoning the same technology that makes our way of life possible, born of science itself seems to provide the hubris required to scoff in the face of reason.

Within this increasingly arational wacko-libertarian society characterised by diminishing returns on our investments in rapidly evolving societal complexity it is
no longer acceptable to place limits upon anything. In contrast panglossian optimism and teleology has replaced logical validity. All we need to is wish a particular outcome into existance.

Thus the slogan of the new mumbo-jumboists : truth is a weak excuse for a lack of imagination. We might like to believe that there are no limits to human ingenuity. However this tragically does not translate to there no limits to anything - in attempting to solve unsolvable problems it seems we've adapted a popular childhood esteem building motto and applied it to industrial civilisation.

I cannae change the laws of physics Captain
Scotty to Captain Kirk (attributed).

Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.
Will Durant