We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

No more cheap cars

In the Continental Telegraph, Tim Worstall points out that electric cars ain’t cheap. So when all cars must be electric, no cars can be cheap.

This is where “trickle down economics” is actually true. New tech is expensive, toys for the rich. It takes a number of manufacturing iterations for it to become cheap enough for the masses. The iPhone started at $700, you can buy better landfill Android now for $30. ABS was only for top end cars, a couple of decades later everyone has it. That’s just how it works.

But we’ve now got government insisting that only electric cars by 2035. Which is rather before those cheap ones are going to be available – an iteration of technology in a car is measured in years, up to a decade. So, the poor get screwed.

And this gets worse. Batteries don’t last forever. And a significant portion of car transport for the poor is provided by the £500 beater. An older car, mechanically reasonable enough, that another few tens of thousands of miles can be got out of. Battery powered cars won’t do that. Because at some point you’re going to have to replace the battery pack, something that will be a substantial portion of the cost of a new car.

The technology basically kills the £500 beater market.

A good point, though I would replace the word “technology” with “regulation”.

At which point, well, aren’t they noticing? Or is this the point? That the proles have to walk while the Comrades can use the whole road as a Zil lane?

How would she know?

“I will not be slienced.” (Greta Thunberg in Bristol)

How would she know? Indeed, how would we know? It savours less of English understatement that of pointed irony to say that noone has tried to silence her. So it seems to me that we and she lack data on this point.

Greta has Asbergers Syndrome. Fans of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ know how many of the jokes depend on the impossibility of silencing the asbergian Sheldon by the gentle methods of social cues and hints, and the ease of doing so when to speak or to act requires that he move outside his idiosyncratic comfort zone. If Greta ever goes to China (obviously required by her proclaimed cause but AFAIK not even hinted at by her handlers or herself) then we may learn how far her ability not to be silenced extends beyond her condition. Meanwhile, we are entitled to reply to her, “How do you know?”

The question could also be put to her about other matters.

“The real will of the people”

“A citizens’ assembly on climate is pointless”, writes Stephen Buranyi in the Guardian, “if the government won’t listen”.

Perhaps a better person than I am would not have split the quotation at precisely that point. But no one who uses the phrase the “real will of the people” has any call to complain about misrepresentation.

This is what Mr Buranyi says a “citizen’s assembly” is:

Its conceit is that it offers direct access to the real will of the people: 110 citizens – chosen to be representative of the British population – attend sessions where they are briefed by experts on the issue; they then come up with a set of policies to solve it.

“Conceit” indeed. Mr Buranyi’s complaint is that the elected government does not obey this body. I would complain if it did. I do not see why the very atypical 0.00016% of the UK population who agreed to participate in this Citizen’s Assembly lark have any better claim to mystically represent “the real will of the people” than 110 customers of your local Wetherspoons who turned up last Thursday for the Curry Club.

The Wokists are losing the Mandate of Comedy

Here’s how the Bursar of St John’s College Oxford responded to a student demand that the college “declares a climate emergency and immediately divests from fossil fuels”.

“I am not able to arrange any divestment at short notice. But I can arrange for the gas central heating in college to be switched off with immediate effect. Please let me know if you support this proposal.”

The appropriately named Hot Air got this report out from behind the Times paywall, and tells how the dialogue developed from there. Thank you Ed Driscoll of Instapundit for the link.

Forest fires, bank bailouts and resilience

The recent massive Australian bushfires have provoked a lot of controversy, with some people claiming that this is largely driven by Man-made global warming, and others pointing to how other factors (not necessarily to the exclusion of such warming) were to blame, including changes to how forests/habitats are managed. For example, I have seen it stated that bans on “controlled burns” and clearances of woodland in the early growing seasons, are a big factor in causing this disaster.

I sense from watching reports in parts of the mainstream media that commentaries on controls on forest clearance, controlled burns and so on have tended to be few and far between. I suspect that the topic isn’t popular in those places pushing the “Man is destroying Mother Earth with C02” narrative, because it gets in the way. But surely it seems to me that such a viewpoint is counterproductive: the general public understands that firebreaks, clearances and selective thinning of woodland, etc, are part of a solution. (A firebreak is like a bulkhead in a ship.) And let’s not forget that some species of plant only germinate after a fire. Fire, in fact, is a part of agriculture. For centuries, farmers have burned certain waste vegetation, which is often good for the soil in releasing certain nutrients. A few years ago in the UK, farmers burned straw after harvest. This practice was banned in the UK in the early 90s largely because a few idiot farmers did not make wide firebreaks around their fields and in some cases, burned when there was a wind. The ash and the smoke upset people and scared a few. But one of the benefits of stubble burning was that it created a clean seed bed for crops, and farmers did not have to spend so much money and fuel cultivating the soil (which is good for the environment) or on herbicides and other chemicals (ditto).

So, controlled burns are and should be a perfectly normal part of intelligent curation of habitats and farmland, when done in a sensible way. The US-based Property and Environment Research Center, or PERC, has a good overview on this topic.

It is surely better to let things burn in a controlled way, rather than allow a whole coastal region of a continent such as Australia go up in a fireball, destroying hundreds of millions of animals and killing people. But such is the grip of this focus on the mono-causal explanation of the fires (blaming it on climate change) that little will be done, I fear. And in a way one of the things I detest most about the age in which we live is how fashionable opinion fastens itself on a simple, but often unattainable goal – eliminating all fossil fuels and hoping this achieves a result in a few thousand years – rather than taking more practical and verifiable steps to handle a situation, such as managing forests more intelligently. There is this toxic mix of virtue-signalling, State regulation bossiness and pettiness, coupled with hostility towards private sector solutions and property rights (such as allowing owners of land to cut trees and thin out brush). The result is catastrophe.

We saw the same sort of toxic brew around the financial crisis of 2008. Remember the old “too big to fail” problem? The problem of limited liability-owned banks not feeling the risk of going bust by imprudent lending? The moral hazard effects of taxpayer bailouts, deposit insurance and central bankers as lenders of last resort? State support for sub-prime lending?

There is a sort of rough analogy between a policy mix that does not allow forests to be thinned and occasionally burned in limited ways, and a banking system where a bank is never allowed to fail for the assets to be reallocated to more sensible uses. (The book Alchemists of Loss is a good summary of what went wrong inside banks and because of public policy.)

But with nature, so with finance. One needs to have “dead wood”, such as unprofitable lines of lending, to go out of business and for the distressed assets to be bought and restructured, much as an overgrown forest needs to be thinned out and for some areas to be cut back from time to time. This is about resilience or what Nicholas Taleb means by the term “anti-fragile”: without allowing things to die and be cut out and for a certain amount of disorder and turbulence, you end up creating something that will eventually go up in a firebomb, whether it be Australian landscapes or modern economies.

You keep using that word “economy”. I do not think it means what you think it means.

“UK green economy has shrunk since 2014”, laments the Guardian.

The number of people employed in the “low carbon and renewable energy economy” declined by more than 11,000 to 235,900 between 2014 and 2018, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Green businesses fared little better, seeing their numbers drop from an estimated 93,500 to 88,500 over the same four-year period.

[…]

Critics of the Conservative government’s record of support for the low carbon and renewables sector blamed the Treasury’s dramatic cut in subsidies to the solar power industry for the sudden loss of employment.

Solar panel installers were among the many businesses connected to the industry that went bust after the Treasury cut subsidy payments by 65% in 2015 before abolishing them altogether last year.

Obligatory “Princess Bride” clip for those benighted souls who haven’t seen it.

“Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the climate” says one of its founders

“I’ve been with Extinction Rebellion (XR) from the start”, Stuart Basden explains.

And for the sake of transparency: that previous paragraph is all about me ‘pulling rank’ — I’m trying to convince you to listen to what I have to say…

And I’m here to say that XR isn’t about the climate. You see, the climate’s breakdown is a symptom of a toxic system of that has infected the ways we relate to each other as humans and to all life. This was exacerbated when European ‘civilisation’ was spread around the globe through cruelty and violence (especially) over the last 600 years of colonialism, although the roots of the infections go much further back.

As Europeans spread their toxicity around the world, they brought torture, genocide, carnage and suffering to the ends of the earth. Their cultural myths justified the horrors, such as the idea that indigenous people were animals (not humans), and therefore God had given us dominion over them. This was used to justify a multi-continent-wide genocide of tens of millions of people. The coming of the scientific era saw this intensify, as the world around us was increasingly seen as ‘dead’ matter — just sitting there waiting for us to exploit it and use it up. We’re now using it up faster than ever.

Euro-Americans violently imposed and taught dangerous delusions that they used to justify the exploitation and reinforced our dominance, while silencing worldviews that differed or challenged them. The UK’s hand in this was enormous, as can be seen by the size of the former British empire, and the dominance of the English language around the world.

This article is a year old, but someone on the UK Politics subreddit called “WhereHasCentrismGone” posted it with the comment that it made the now rescinded decision by the police to include Extinction Rebellion in a list of extremist ideologies that should be reported to the authorities running the Prevent anti-terrorism programme seem more reasonable. I think it was out of order for the police to put XR on a terrorism watch list – their stunts annoy but are not violent – but we should be grateful to Mr Basden for reminding us that XR should be avoided by anyone who seriously wants to protect either the environment or their own mental health, seeing as the organisation is an anti-scientific cult fuelled by the neurotic self-hatred of privileged dilletantes in rich countries.

Eat, drink and be merry. Tomorrow comes the Ice.

Hat tip to Ed Driscoll of Instapundit for at least giving Britain a few hours’ notice of its icy doom.

The news was first reported by Mark Townsend and Paul Harris in the Guardian‘s Sunday sister the Observer on Sun 22 Feb 2004. Since the world did not take the preventative measures the experts warned were necessary it is clear that nothing can save us now:

Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us

· Secret report warns of rioting and nuclear war
· Britain will be ‘Siberian’ in less than 20 years
· Threat to the world is greater than terrorism

A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a ‘Siberian’ climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

Barking Parking Teslas

Long ago, Milton Friedman suggested the US might be better off without the Food and Drug Administration. People wrote to him saying the FDA should not be abolished but reformed so it would act differently. Friedman replied by writing a column he titled ‘Barking cats’:

What would you think of someone who said, “I would like to have a cat provided that it barked?” … The way the FDA now behaves, and the adverse consequences, are not an accident … but a consequence of its constitution.”

Today I chanced to hear a couple of medical professionals discuss the Tesla they have just arranged to buy, bemoaning its cost but rejoicing there would be “no more gas-guzzling trips”. Later they spoke of government policy on parking at NHS hospitals. Labour brought in the policy – which Cameron and May kept on, of course – to help save the environment by making parking at hospitals difficult (its proposers used different words) to encourage use of public transport. I learnt this policy much annoys shift-working NHS staff, who must sometimes travel in and out at hours when there is little or no public transport (or in areas that are not too salubrious). I already knew from my own friends and family that it much annoys elderly relatives visiting hospital patients – friends of mine have had to give up and go home again because an old man was not up to walking the distance from the nearest viable parking to visit an old woman, and might have had to be signed into the hospital himself if he’d tried. These Tesla-buying NHS professionals conceded that the numerous (by government policy) almost-always-empty electric-car-only spaces that adorn the limited hospital parking provided were also annoying. The man remarked that a hospital he’d recently served at really wanted to convert an available site nearby into a car park – “but knew they’d never get permission.” The woman said that if the government wanted NHS staff and patients to use public transport, they should try and ensure large hospitals were well-served by buses, but her experience was the reverse – “They need some joined-up thinking!”.

The thought flitted across my brain that greenie civil servants were not alone in needing to join up their thinking. And then I thought of Friedman, long ago, recalling his “Barking Cats” column of yet longer ago:

The error of supposing the behaviour of social organisms can be shaped at will is widespread. It is the fundamental error of most so-called reformers. … It explains why their reforms, when ostensibly achieved, so often go astray. (‘Free to Choose’)

Of course, I believe that the western world’s social organism could be shaped to respect science more and virtue-signalling AGW non-science less. So maybe I shouldn’t be too critical. Still, the BBC reported today that SUVs are outselling electric cars 37:1, “making a mockery of UK policy” so there is hope – of a kind.

It’s a circle of life thing

Activists campaign to have a law passed to protect the environment: “Plastic bag backlash gains momentum” – 14 September 2013

Victory! The law is passed: Plastic bag law comes into force on 5th October 2015 – 2 October 2015

Reports tell of the good it has done: Plastic bag charge: Why was it introduced and what impact has it had? – 25 August 2018

But wait, there seems to be problem: ‘Bags for life’ making plastic problem worse, say campaigners – 28 November 2019

What a privilege it is for lovers of nature to be present at the birth of a baby environmental campaign. Be with us as our cameras watch the young pressure group grow, until the day comes when it is strong enough to overturn the law that caused it to exist. The circle is complete.

Climategate ten years on.

Remember “Climategate”? There has been a TV show made about it. Lucy Mangan of the Guardian gives it four stars:

Climategate: Science of a Scandal review – the hack that cursed our planet

In 2009, a vicious attack was launched against groups fighting global warming. Scientists still can’t get over the death threats. And the world is on fire.

I dunno. As I always say whenever I post about these matters, I am willing to believe in global warming caused in significant part by man. But ten years after Climategate cursed the world and set it on fire you would have expected more of a… temperature rise.

Readers of the Times try to help Greta out

The problem:

Greta Thunberg stranded as climate summit moves from Chile to Spain

In the centuries before powered flight, getting from California to Madrid was an arduous business, necessitating a long yomp over the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains, and then a turbulent sea voyage across the Atlantic.

Greta Thunberg has 28 days.

The teenage climate activist and pioneer of “flight shame” has appealed for help to travel from Los Angeles to a UN climate summit in Spain without releasing so much as a wisp of unnecessary carbon dioxide.

In perhaps the sternest test of her convictions yet, she must complete the journey of at least 6,000 miles by rail, sail or electric car before December 2.

The solutions:

Richard77:

Perhaps she should consider using Skype.

Ian Howlett:

Just find a normal scheduled flight with an empty seat and get on. The plane will be leaving anyway, whether you’re on it or not.

Anthony Morris:

If it wasn’t so far she could just walk on the water .