Thursday, October 28, 2010

Save me from yourself

Recently I've been seeing a lot of variations on the formulation "In order to really solve the global warming problem, we're going to need strong international government intervention."

Which is funny. Because, OK, I understand that the people who say this stuff come from a reflexive position of "Government is always necessary," so simply eliminating the single biggest contributor to and facilitator of the problem doesn't present itself to them as an option. But even in that context, why leap immediately to government intervention rather than government reform like liberals are usually so fond of? Like, passing a law requiring the government to buy carbon credits for all of its predator drones or something, which has the usual advantage of being completely fucking useless.

Also, why do my fingers consistently try to type invertention?

30 comments:

Rachel said...

Maybe - however, check out http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/003404.html where they talk about building basically a giant east coast cable to link up loads of wind farms, so the power output can be stabilized for everyone when it's blowing fierce in VA but dead calm in CT. Your point about government being the single biggest contributor and facilitator to global warming is well taken, but projects like these do require cooperation on a massive scale. I think that used to be called government.

Jack Crow said...

Rachel,

What's the word for a boondoggle so dogglish it erases the boon?

That term would fail to describe the rip off that is the TR described plan, never mind the inspidity of the underlying argument.

Jack Crow said...

Ugh. I guess it would help if I explained myself better.

A project of that magnitude would be built with public receipts. Then, pols who pretended to hate it in order to get their political opponents to spend public funds constructing it would spend a few years, with corporate media support, arguing how it would be better managed by the private sector, for efficiency and democracy's sake.

Any ostensible gains for the Commons, or the original taxpayer investors, would vanish in the flash of a legal transfer of operational management.

Existing power companies would take over the management, and sell all that awesome wave generated juice to the same captive clients.

The proles would, very directly, finance their own further enslavement to the not-so-petty industrial baronies.

Respect,

Jack

Richard said...

It's a bind, innit? Because Rachel's right that what's needed is large-scale cooperation, the kinds of project typically only undertaken/-able by governments. And yet Jack is clearly right that such a project would end up being a rip off, no doubt ultimately perpetuating both the problem itself and the institutions supposedly established to address it. Fucked?

Rachel said...

Yep. Sounds that way.

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

Rachel's comment's implications are wisely explained (their practical effects, I mean) by Jack.

Aside from the fact that Jon Schwarz & Co are lesser evilists stumping for more-better-Democrats (READ: a losing, suicidal strategy), the end result of a huge wind farm would be an ugly-as-fuck landscape.

People who love wind farms strike me as people who read just enough sci fi as kids to be awestruck by impossible dreams of ubernerds, like the people who have been gulled by those "magical devices" that one could put between carburetor and intake manifold to "increase horsepower and gas mileage" -- only 49.99, operators are standing by... BUT WAIT! If you act now, you get TWO SuperThermoCoupleGasEnergizers PLUS a bonus set of steak knives!

And the public would have paid for it.

And the private sector would get all the profit.

And the public gets an ugly landscape.

And the private sector retains its dominance.

And the government retains its role as private-sector-handmaiden-who-loves-shitting-on-the-constituency.

To me, Rachel's suggestion that large-scale cooperation is required... that's just frightening. Why? Um, totalitarianism.

Randal Graves said...

Class, class, I need your invertention!

In all equations that contain the cosmically lunatic variable of homo sapiens, any equation that's bigger than x+2 equals holy fuck, so bonne chance.

Rachel said...

As I said, your points about how this project would not work are well taken, but really, how would you propose a project like this be undertaken without large scale cooperation of some sort?

And, frankly, I'm not impressed by your baseless assertion that it wouldn't work, or your kind of smarmy assertion that keeping things pretty is the most important thing here. If it won't work, it won't work, and I'm not saying that's not necessarily true. But you're going to need a better reason why global warming is something that can be solved without large scale cooperation of some sort other than sneering and crying totalitarianism.

Rachel said...

That was for Charles, by the way.

Ethan said...

I'm pretty much with Richard (and, in his way, Randal) on this--in a world where governments actually were bodies interested in (or even capable of) undertaking collective projects for the public good, then maybe there'd be a chance of things like Aaron Datesman's wind farms could work. The technology, despite Charles's understandable, uh, skepticism, is feasible. But, while one of me and Charles's fundamental disagreements (I think) is on the issue of whether large-scale cooperation necessarily equals totalitarianism, I don't see a way to alter that equation on the scale necessary, either in size or time. And even if I were willing to accept totalitarianism in exchange for species-wide survival (which for me honestly isn't as cut and dry a question as it might seem, from either direction--luckily, my opinion on the subject matters not even a tiny little bit), I still don't by any means buy the proposition that the totalitarianism itself would be directed in the "right" direction.

I think again though that this whole discussion is sidestepping the major issue, which is that if we simply (simply) eliminate the destruction wrought by governments, and the corporations they enable, well, the need for solutions kinds of just goes away. Because that is the solution.

In sum: Rachel, point taken, but unfortunately, Richard, point also taken.

Incidentally, I'm really enjoying this discussion, and while I have no objection to cantankerousness on its own merits, I just hope it doesn't take over.

Ethan said...

...because I'd much rather have a complete lack of me proofreading myself take over.

Rachel said...

Interesting, and in general I'm sympathetic to the argument that any large scale cooperation will inevitably turn to totalitarianism (power corrupts and all that) but I'm not certain I jibe with you on the idea that if one were to eliminate the destruction wrought by governments, and the corporations they enable that the need for solutions goes away, at least in this case, since the stuff I've read tends to indicate that we've done so much damage already that even if we all drop dead tomorrow, global warming will continue more or less apace, and even people who don't cooperate have energy needs. I also want to talk about a point related to what you were staying about even if I were willing to accept totalitarianism in exchange for species-wide survival which is the idea that without the sort of cooperation (to generally ill purposes, natch) we get from our various governments etc. we'd really be going back to a hunter-gatherer or tiny farm based Michael Pollan fantasy type world...which is nice in theory but in practice would mean an awful lot of people would need to die. Which i'm not terribly sympathetic to, not least because we all know who'd be the ones who'd regretfully be sacrificed for the greater good. This is getting a little long, so I'm going to cut it off for now.

Jack Crow said...

I think there's cause to differentiate between "cooperation which happens on a large scale" and a "large scale managed enterprise."

Unfortunately, the former is, as a matter of record, much the rarer - since those with the means to manage an enterprise also have the means to hijack most cooperative efforts.

Rachel said...

Jack - true, but without management, it gets harder and harder to coordinate any sort of cooperation as the number of people involved rises, so as it gets bigger, the distinction becomes less meaningful. If that makes sense.

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

Rachel:

So you want power over others?

Got it.

Next?

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

Sorry, that was a ping-pong return of Rachel's prior snark.

How about this?

Where's the evidence that as large groups grow larger, they grow more effective at centralized planning?

The only thing I see in the argument for big-scale "organization" is a glaring naivete about human nature. The nefarious traits we humans possess -- power-lust, envy, jealousy, insecurity, violence -- these things grow MORE powerful as MORE people unite to achieve some supposedly noble end.

What the Centralized Managers really want is Dictatorship of THEMSELVES over the Losers and Idiots who Won't Toe the Line.

And if that's not what they want, in truth -- then I'd like a Centralized Manager to better explain the aims of Centralized Management.

Rachel said...

I never said or implied that I wanted power over others or that as groups grow larger, they grow more effective at centralized planning. Since you seem to be having more fun arguing with the strawman you've constructed in your head than with me, I'll leave you to provide both parts of the conversation from now on.

Jack Crow said...

Rachel,

I've been terminated from long term, profitable, successful operations with more than a hundred employees - for devolving functions to the "level of the staff,"* and for finding ways to compensate accordingly.

That's *within* terribly abusive hierarchical corporate structures,

Imagine without.

It took a couple of months, at a large nightclub, but I even was able to teach a pool of waitresses and servers to schedule themselves. And because a boss was no longer imposing their work hours on them, there was more coordination between people, in working out schedules.

Resentment and tension don't arise (not anywhere near as much) when people make their own agreements. It comes *from* the operation of the hierarchy, from the favoritism and favor cultivation that follows upon putting a small group of people in control of a larger one, and then bosses the power to take the livelihoods away from those who aren't in the managerial caste.

Management, especially as we Americans understand the term, is simply unnecessary.

It may be a hard colony to root out of the sovereign territory of your brain, after twelve to twenty years of education, and however many which followed in the workforce - but it's just a colonization of your mindspace.

Respect,

Jack

* this scare quoted phrase is exact, and it was yelled at me with dripping contempt...

Jack Crow said...

should be "then giving the bosses"*

Rachel said...

Jack - Ah, I see - you're misunderstanding what I mean by "management." When I say it's impossible to coordinate large groups of people without management, I don't mean without a person to tell them what to do - naturally that's absurd. But someone has to come up with the form that the waitresses fill in their hours on, there has to be a procedure to resolve grievances that everyone agrees on, and that can't be easily amended so Joe, the guy everyone hates, can't use it. If you're coordinating the actions of hundreds of people, they have to have a way to talk to eachother and a way to send knowledge and resources to eachother, and a way to check that what they're receiving is accurate. I'm talking about management in terms of the functionality of HOW we cooperate as equals, not the boss-figure breathing down your neck. I might also add that you're making a lot of assumptions about me that are both impolite and inaccurate. Are all anarchists this condescending? If so, I'm glad we're not a "group" in the traditional sense.

Rachel said...

To go a little farther (primarily for Ethan's benefit as he seems to be the only one who doesn't start sounding like Linkin Park at the slightest opportunity) coordination is important for any large scale enterprise, and becomes more vital the larger the enterprise becomes. In developing that coordination, an opportunity opens, possibly unavoidably, to seize power over others. And that's why I don't necessarily agree that there's cause to differentiate between "cooperation which happens on a large scale" and a "large scale managed enterprise" Kapiche?

Jack Crow said...

I'm out. Thanks for a great topic, Ethan - but it's not worth my time if an attempt to explain *my* position is treated as "condescension."

Rachel, I didn't condescend to you. I have no idea how you read that into my text.

Rachel said...

I believe it was somewhere around here:

"It may be a hard colony to root out of the sovereign territory of your brain, after twelve to twenty years of education, and however many which followed in the workforce - but it's just a colonization of your mindspace."

Thanks for the advice - this poor corporate sheep appreciates you taking the time. Baah.

Jack Crow said...

Rachel, that's not addressed to you personally. That's a plural, general *you*.


I prefaced it with a number determining sentence for a reason:

"Management, especially as **we** Americans understand the term, is simply unnecessary.

It may be a hard colony to root out of the sovereign territory of your brain, after twelve to twenty years of education, and however many which followed in the workforce - but it's just a colonization of your mindspace."

(added emphasis not original)

And even if it was addressed specifically to you, in the singular - which it wasn't - it still wouldn't be condescending.

If I was going to make it personal, you'd know. I don't know why you took it that way.

Rachel said...

...probably because I was still on edge from Charles. If you didn't intend it that way, then I apologize. But still, switching from "we" to "you" in the next sentence does lead one to draw that impression. Anyway, so do you see what I mean now?

Rachel said...

Regarding the actual topic of discussion that is - just that I'm not sure it's possible to cooperate on a large scale without necessarily providing an opportunity to seize power, which inevitably leads to corruption and misuse, and yet at the same time our ability to function as a species is totally dependent on acting collectively, so we're kind of in a Catch-22 situation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Ethan.

Here's the Catch-22: You can only work here if you think the job sucks, but if you think the job sucks, you can't work here. Of course Orr found the way out of Catch-22. He paddled to Sweden. You have flies in your eyes, Rachel, and you can't see them because you have flies in your eyes, no condescension, intended. After all it was Ronald Reagan who correctly pointed out, disingenuously as always, government is not the answer, government is the problem. Yeah, build some windmills. We'll have something else at which to tilt.

drip

zencomix said...

"Resentment and tension don't arise (not anywhere near as much) when people make their own agreements. It comes *from* the operation of the hierarchy, from the favoritism and favor cultivation that follows upon putting a small group of people in control of a larger one, and then bosses the power to take the livelihoods away from those who aren't in the managerial caste."

That's why we form unions!

As to the large scale power grids, I think the answer lies not in constructing large scale centralized power plants, whether green or dirty, but in decentralizing the power grids. If every rooftop in America had solar panels, you've gone along way towards fulfilling every need.

A couple of years ago here in the midwest USA, an ice/wind storm snapped miles of power lines. Thousands of people were without power for weeks. If last weeks storms are any indication of things to come, the old poles connecting everybody don't stand a chance.

Anonymous said...

Jack, that is non-sense. For most of the 19th Century, roads, railways, canals and other infrastructure projects were built and funded privately with government license and, usually, government seized land. To me it seems the biggest problem to an Atlantic coast grid would be getting the modern EPA approvals for laying that much high power wire on the continental shelf. But once you get past that, If you are telling me several power companies and financial institutions could not raise enough money for what is apparently a cash cow in the making. Theoretically once the infrastructure is laid, the thing pays for itself and has limited operating costs (no feeder fuels, no waste management). If this ever does happen, and I assure you it is a engineering challenge on the level of the Egyptian Pyramids, the costs of electric would nose dive within years.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,

I'm not on my own computer right now, so I apologize for the anonymity, but are you really suggesting that a publicly financed structure would not be handed over to a private management company?

Because that was my argument.

~ Jack