I Want the Freedom to Pour Hot Coffee on My Balls

We know from the last Green Chain post, that Jerry Brown (aka Governor Moonbeam) is a Prophet. Fewer folks know that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth–son of Edmund G. “Pat” Brown–and a stick up his butt. As a prophet (a Jesuit one, at that), he believes that people ought to turn back (i.e., repent) and give up their evil profligate ways. We, the great unwashed, simply use too much water, fuel, land, air, everything.

Welcome to California. A land where coffee the state warns you that they’re sure it endangers your health. Photo by the author.

What does this have to do with me pouring hot coffee on my balls? I’m getting to that.

And being a progressive, he advocates for the improvement of society by reform. In his ideal world, the well-being of the state is more important than the well-being of any individual, and the individual should be damn glad that he (or she) can contribute to that noble goal. Sit down, shut up, and row, plebe.

Progressives believe that they are: experts serving the public good, identifying the public good, and knowing how to achieve the public good. As progressives, Brown and the California legislature are confident in their ability to diagnose a problem and dictate the cure.

“…I see the day in our own lifetime that reverence for the natural systems–the oceans, the rainforests, the soil, the grasslands, and all other living things–will be so strong that no narrow ideology based upon politics or economics will overcome it”. — Jerry Brown, 1979, Governor of California.


“We can’t fight nature. We have to learn how to get along with her.”–Jerry Brown, 2018, Governor of California.

The latest progressive effort by California to color inside the lines and get along with nature is telling its citizens to cut back on their use of municipal drinking water. The stick up his ass must be a divining rod, always pointing toward proper policy. Bend over citizen and take your “medicine.”

Here is part of what California’s legislature and its governor prescribed:

  1. Use no more than 55 gallons per capita daily for Indoor residential use.
  2. Outdoor residential use – To be deternmined
    1. The standards shall incorporate the principles of the model water efficient landscape ordinance adopted by the department pursuant to the Water Conservation in Landscaping Act (Article 10.8 (commencing with Section 65591) of Chapter 3 of Division 1 of Title 7 of the Government Code)..
  3. Commercial water uses – To be determined
    1. The department, in coordination with the board, shall conduct necessary studies and investigations and recommend, no later than October 1, 2021, standards for outdoor irrigation of landscape areas with dedicated irrigation meters or other means of calculating outdoor irrigation use in connection with CII water use for adoption by the board in accordance with this chapter.
  4. Find ways to stop water losses – To be determined.
    1. Identify water management objectives based on the water budget to improve water system efficiency or to meet other water management objectives. The agricultural water supplier shall identify, prioritize, and implement actions to reduce water loss, improve water system management, and meet other water management objectives identified in the plan.
  5. Establishes a method to calculate each urban water use objective – To be determined.
  6. Requires the department (of Water Resources) to provide or otherwise identify data regarding the unique local conditions to support the calculation of an urban water use objective. – To be determined.
  7. Requires annual reporting of the previous year’s water use with the urban water use objective.
  8. Requires the department and the board to solicit broad public participation from stakeholders and other interested persons in the development of the standards and the adoption of regulations pursuant to this chapter.
    1. The studies, investigations, and report…shall include collaboration with, and input from, a broad group of stakeholders, including, but not limited to, environmental groups, experts in indoor plumbing, and water, wastewater, and recycled water agencies.
  9. Provides one-time-only authority to the department and board to adopt water use efficiency standards

Is there a better way to allocate a scarce resource than having legislators solicit help from special interest groups, such as the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the Environmental Working Group, et alia?

Yes. Markets are extremely good at allocating scarce resources. It’s what markets do. “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner,” wrote Adam Smith, “but from their regard to their own interest.”

As libertarian environmental attorney, Jonathon Wood put it a year ago on his FREEcology blog:

“The primary benefit of water markets is that it encourages people to put their money where their mouth is. In political arguments, it’s too easy to say you value more fish, streams, healthcare, or any other good above all else, if you know someone else will have to pay for it. Everything is assigned infinite value in the world of political rhetoric but, in the real world, we all constantly recognize and make tradeoffs.

“Water markets encourage people with conflicting interests to work together to make those tradeoffs. If environmentalists value an extra acre foot of water in a stream more than a farmer could profit by using it to grow crops, there’s an opportunity for a beneficial exchange. If they don’t, there isn’t—and the water will go to farms where its most valued, as it should.”

What does the above have to do with me pouring hot coffee on my balls? Let me tell you…

This week Anthony Bourdain took his life while on location in Paris. As of this writing, there is no indication why, though many are guessing at severe depression. In an interview with Baylen Linnekin, he said, “This notion that the government owes you food absolutely free of any risk or dirt is an unreasonable one,” he tells me, calling it a “worldview that seems to be shared by Republicans and Democrats . . . I think a reasonably intelligent person doesn’t need a warning label to tell them not to pour hot coffee on their balls.”

Is it too much to hope for that our governments acted as though their citizens were reasonably intelligent and allow them to live their lives without being told how to live it and  that hot coffee might scald their genitals.

Apparently it is in these United States, and especially in progressive California.


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Jerry Brown is a Prophet

Kiss taking showers and doing laundry at home goodbye and say hello to the world of  regulations designed to micromanaging your life. If you own a business, you already know. If you don’t live in California, you should not think it won’t happen to you, especially if you live in a “blue” state.

New Orleans, Louisiana, 1943. Line at Rationing Board during World War II. Location is the 500 block of Gravier Street. Photograph by John Vachon, via Library of Congress website. Public Domain.

The Progressive majority in California’s legislature and Progressive Governor Jerry Brown know what is best for California. They are sure the state is running out of water and they have the sure-fired cure:

(drum roll)


Senate Bill No. 606, Hertzberg, Water management planning requires the State Water Resources Control Board to adopt long-term standards for the efficient use of water and would establish specified standards for per capita daily indoor urban residential water use.

Assembly Bill 1668 establishes a 55-gallon limits on urban area indoor water use for every urban person in California.

The bill, until January 1, 2025, would establish 55 gallons per capita daily as the standard for indoor residential water use, beginning January 1, 2025, would establish the greater of 52.5 gallons per capita daily or a standard recommended by the department and the board as the standard for indoor residential water use, and beginning January 1, 2030, would establish the greater of 50 gallons per capita daily or a standard recommended by the department and the board as the standard for indoor residential water use. The bill would impose civil liability for a violation of an order or regulation issued pursuant to these provisions, as specified.

Keep in mind an average person uses an average of 90 gallons per day. If you are poor and have older water appliances, you will be hit the hardest by this act. For example, older washers will use 40 gallons per load; one load of clothes in the old washing machine and a three-minute shower and you’ve reached your legal limit for water use for the day. Flushing the toilet will have to wait until tomorrow.

So why is Jerry Brown a prophet (or anyone in the majority in the California legislature, for that matter)? I have been reading (off and on) The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World by Charles C. Mann. In the book he talks of two very different men: Norman Borlaug (The Wizard) and Carl Vogt (The Prophet). In the Atlantic magazine Mann writes, “Both men thought of themselves as using new scientific knowledge to face a planetary crisis. But that is where the similarity ends. For Borlaug, human ingenuity was the solution to our problems….Vogt’s views were the opposite: The solution, he said, was to use ecological knowledge to get smaller….we may be able to grow enough food, but at the cost of wrecking the world’s ecosystems.”

Wizards see opportunities for using technology to improve humanity’s lot. Prophets see limits to what the planet can sustain and view technology with suspicion.

Prophet Jerry Brown sees California’s Mediterranean climate as limiting. Perhaps we could supply water for people and agriculture but only at the cost of wrecking California’s ecosystems. So if you disobey the almighty God  state, thou shalt be smote but good…daily.

(1) If the violation occurs in a critically dry year immediately preceded by two or more consecutive below normal, dry, or critically dry years or during a period for which the Governor has issued a proclamation of a state of emergency under the California Emergency Services Act (Chapter 7 (commencing with Section 8550) of Division 1 of Title 2 of the Government Code) based on drought conditions, ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for each day in which the violation occurs.

(2) For all violations other than those described in paragraph (1), one thousand dollars ($1,000) for each day in which the violation occurs.

The poor will be hit hardest by this boondoggle. There are better ways to meet California’s water needs other than punishing people.

But then,I am a Wizard living in the land of Prophets.

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Water is Free, Isn’t It?

“If people can’t trade water, then they just keep doing the same things that they’ve been doing.” – Reed Watson, executive director of the Property Environment Research Center (PERC)

I live in California. You may have heard that it is in a major drought. At the end of the winter in 2015, the snowpack which usually builds up during the winter and then melts during the spring and summer, replenishing streams and rivers, was virtually non-existent. California’s Governor, Jerry Brown, called for a 25% reduction in (domestic) water use (his name isn’t Brown for nothing).

This affected water companies, large, small, and tiny. I am part of a homeowner’s association that incorporated in the late 1930s to pool its resources, one of which is water.

The corporation, of twenty-six homes, runs its own water company, which pulls water from Clear lake (1). It also has a community dock and a beach for recreation. Our tiny water company must meet state and federal requirements of the Surface Water Treatment Rules of the Safe Drinking Water Act. We filter and filter again until it is clearer than the mandated maximum turbidity allowance (the clearer the water the less chance of organisms in it) and then the water is chlorinated (to disinfect it) and stored for use by our community. We test our chlorination levels daily and send out samples to an independent lab to check our product for microorganisms.

The point is that water that flows from our (and presumably all community taps) takes money. The raw water is pumped in, filtered, disinfected, stored, and distributed to our neighbors’ taps.

Even if the labor to run, maintain, and monitor our water system were free (and it’s not); our water filtration plant and distribution system need to meet state and federal standards, needs stuff such as filters, pumps, pipes, storage tanks, power; and lots more to keep it operating. Our tiny corporation operates like a non-profit (it was incorporated before non-profits existed, and the State of California is loathe to change its status), so charges its customers (us and our neighbors) operating costs plus 5% for an equipment replacement fund. Even so, some of our neighbors refuse to pay their full bill, instead paying what they think is “fair.” This, as you might imagine, leaves us a bit short on funds.

Water is a resource; drinking water is a product.

We are mandated to conserve our product because the state owns the resource.

Many have recommended that markets rather than mandates could accomplish the governor’s goal better (see Ronald Bailey’s and Tim Wortall’s posts). Rather than telling people they can water their lawn for only ten minutes once a week, the water company would just charge more for using more than a minimal allotment. In other words, tiered pricing. If something costs more, people tend to find ways to use less of it or find substitutes (obviously there is no substitute for water, but it’s source and production, e.g., the ocean and desalination, can all be considered).  This could be done by private water companies only; Proposition 218 passed in 1996 by California voters says that government cannot charge more for a service than the cost of producing it.

I found a nice article on tier pricing for water allocation by Tim Worstall and tweeted it.

Someone calling him or herself “Auntie Dote” (presumably a her, so I’ll use that), took issue with the use of markets for water:

I pointed out that the poor can receive assistance. The desire is to make the water wasters pay and not penalize the truly poor.

Did I have a view on whether this system will work!?!

This is true for any product. I am not in the market for a Lamborghini, for example. I realize that we are talking about water, an essential chemical that our bodies require, but governments (or companies) can help by making sure the needs of the poor are met. In our case we don’t shut off water to our neighbors when they are tight on funds and can’t pay.

“The general view among economists is that the best way of allocating any scarce resource is through the market. That is, through allowing prices to vary so that those who value the resource most get to use it by offering the highest price for it….Those activities that do not cover the cost of water will not be done. That frees up water to do the things that add more value than the cost of the water. And that’s it, that’s all that needs to be done.” – Tim Worstall

I was not and am not keen on government setting prices and allocating.

“Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”– Adam Smith

My guess is she did not want to read the links I gave her and wanted to argue.

I’m sure she thought she was engaged in a form of Socratic questioning and eventually I would see the error of my ways.

So an evil Koch brother or worse, a corporation like ours will hoard the water and not let anyone water crops or landscaping or have a drink? Really? Wealth is created by providing goods and services that people want so much they are willing to provide a good or service to someone else; they are then paid in kind or with money to use to purchase something they want.

Free markets may not be the best system for allocating resources, but markets operate better than the alternatives, at least, so far.

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages” ? Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature & Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol 1


  1. Clear Lake is misnomer if ever there was one. According to Pete Richerson and Scott Richerson, ‘Livingston Stone, a government fish culturist who attempted to establish Great Lakes whitefish in the lake in 1872-3, described the turbidity and “swamp-water” taste of the lake, complaining that “it is a singular fact, illustrating the inaptness with which names are often given to natural objects, that the water of Clear Lake is never clear.”‘ (Richerson and Richerson,

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