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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California’s Solar Virtue Signal Could Put Housing Out of Reach

The California Energy Commission (CEC) said, “Eureka, we have a refulgently brilliant idea! Let’s require installation of solar panels on new home and low-rise apartment building construction.” Assuming the California Building Standards Commission ratifies the CEC’s proposal (a purported slam-dunk) it will take affect starting January 1, 2020. Less than two years from now.

”The case for this was extremely strong,” [1] CEC commissioner Andrew McAllister said. “[In] California, we do believe in climate change, we do believe in facts … It’s become clear to all of us it’s the right thing to do and that the marketplace is ready.”[2] the UPI reported.

In light of their actions, what the CEC doesn’t believe in are: 1) carbon-free nuclear power plants, 2) consumer choice, or 3) free markets. California has bent to activist pressure and already closed the San Onofre nuclear power plant. Diablo Canyon’s nuclear power plants will close in 2024 and 2025. When the Commish said, ”[T]the marketplace is ready” he didn’t mean a marketplace where you get to choose what you want. He meant a marketplace where you get to pay for what he wants. He meant delicious gooey Crony Capitalism[3], where well-healed, well-connected lobbyists convince bureaucrats to employ the lobby’s preferred remedy.

According to NPR, “Representatives from construction groups, public utilities and solar manufacturers all spoke in support of the plan, which they’ve helped the commission develop for years,” the AP reports. “No industry groups spoke in opposition.” Of course, no groups spoke in opposition: the benefits are concentrated in a few industries and the harm is dispersed among many lower income people and potential homeowners.

The result is Crony Capitalist Pork. Keeping with the meat metaphor, I have no beef with these groups representing their constituents, but I don’t have to like the result. I like markets to sort out such things. Government’s role is to enforce contracts between individuals and protect citizens from crimes against themselves or their property. Beyond that, government’s top-down approach hampers market-driven, bottom-up solutions.

And the bottom line to everyone–but especially the people on the bottom economic rung–is it effectively takes money from their pockets to pay for this scheme. Under this program, everything is going to cost more, especially housing. And not just newly constructed housing. All housing will cost more, including rentals. Look for an upturn in people looking for existing homes because they’ve been priced out of building new. This will force prices up. It is obvious that the CEC does not understand supply and demand curves, incentives, or anything from a basic economics course.

Unlike Classical Liberals, Progressives within government are sure they know not only how to diagnose a market problem, but how to “fix” it with a sure fire prescription. It’s like your nosy neighbor telling you what’s wrong with your life and has the answer to help you. Now imagine she has the power to force you to do it. That is what the CEC has done. As Veronique de Rugy writes on Reason.com, “These members of the ‘government within the government,’ produce one freedom-restricting, economy-hindering rule after another without much oversight. These rules take many forms, and few even realize they’re in the making—until, that is, they hit you square in the face.”

Photo Credit: Libertarianism.org

The progressive Los Angeles Times editorial board is all for punching you square in the face. “Of course California should require solar panels on new homes,” An LA Times opinion piece gushed.

The opening paragraph says, getting punched in the face is good for you.

The benefits of solar power are well established. Photovoltaics harness the sun to create electricity, reducing the need for dirtier forms of energy. And residents generate their own power, cutting their utility bills.[4]

There is so much wrong with this paragraph. It begs the question with “The benefits of solar power are well established.” No, the benefits of solar power are not well established. As Michael Shellenberger, President of Environmental Progress notes, If Solar And Wind Are So Cheap, Why Are They Making Electricity So Expensive? “Electricity prices increased 24 percent in California during its solar energy build-out from 2011 to 2017.” And from 2011 to 2017, California, a state whose progressive leadership is committed to renewable energy, saw electricity rates rise to five times higher than the national average. And California is not a one-off in the rate hike department. Germany, Denmark, and Spain already blazed that trail.

The Times editorial goes on to say, The energy commission’s new building standards, which require both solar panels and upgraded insulation, air filters and other efficiency measures, are expected to raise the cost of a new home by $9,500. That’s about half the cost of installing solar systems on existing homes (although tax breaks and other financial incentives can lower the bill). And homes built to the new standards are expected to use 50% as much energy as homes built in 2016 without solar panels….

Yes, the new standards will increase the cost to build homes and apartment complexes. That’s a concern in California, which is in the midst of a housing crisis because it failed for years to build enough homes to keep up with population demand. However, energy-efficiency investments save money over time. The energy commission estimated the new standards will add $40 per month to the average new home mortgage payment, but save $80 per month on heating, cooling and lighting.

The installation cost appears correct though it may turn out to be higher. It is the anticipated savings in energy that they expect that should trouble you. Federal and state governments continue to press for efficiency as a way to save fuel (in order to lower greenhouse gas emissions). And they are usually dead wrong. Too often, government officials do not consider The Energy Efficiency Paradox. Basically, if you save money on one thing, you have money for more of that thing or of something else. If your house is better insulated you might opt to make it cooler or warmer to be more comfortable. You might take a drive to the beach with your savings or buy a bigger car.

And the mandate will be a tax on other rate payers. According to Severin Borenstein,  E.T. Grether Professor of Business Administration and Public Policy at the Haas School of Business writing to Commissioner Weisenmiller, “The savings calculated for the households are based on residential electricity rates that are far above the actual cost of providing incremental energy, so embody a large cross subsidy from other ratepayers. This would be a very expensive way to expand renewables and would not be a cost effective practice…”  In a nutshell, the LA Times editorial board and the CEC cooked the numbers.

The state is spurring innovation and job creation in the clean-energy sector. (California is ranked first in the nation for solar industry jobs at 86,000 — seven times more than the second-ranked state.)

Whenever you hear about government “spurring innovation and job creation” it is to cover the noise of cash being sucked from your bank account. Pork rarely innovates anything. And, the number of jobs is not a good thing. It is the opposite of a good thing for the majority of us—the people paying for electricity and for stuff made with that electricity. The electricity made with solar costs more because it takes forty people in solar to produce the same amount of electricity produced using natural gas. Lots of Jobs per KWH is Bad, not Good. [5]

The Times board sums up their argument with, At the moment, there’s simply no better way to reduce the power demand and greenhouse gas emissions from new residential developments than combining solar power with more energy-efficient designs. The long-term savings, both to homeowners and to the environment, are well worth the up-front cost.

I can think of several reasons for the editorial board lobbing this insane whopper. The possibility that I favor is they have their heads so far up their asses they can’t see more obvious possibilities, such as nuclear.[6] Robert Bryce said in a talk he gave, “There has been a continuing pursuit of density, and, more particularly, power density. And yet now when it comes to energy production, we are told we should go the other way. Toward low power density…. This makes no sense. I’d call it insane but it would be an insult to crazy people.”

In an insult to crazy people, California is requiring a hella-expensive feel good virtue signal and shutting down its power-dense, carbon-free nuclear power plants and replacing them with natural gas and coal (forget the solar panels—they all make power at the same time—driving down the value of the electricity they produce.)

Insane. 

 


Footnotes

  1. No. He lies like a cheap rug. Cardboard suitcases are stronger than this case’s raison d’être. The case isn’t very strong at all. 
  2. Translation: “The fix is in.”
  3. Also known as cronyism, venture socialism, corporatism, mercantilism, or just plain horse droppings. “Unlike in a free market capitalist system, under crony capitalism it is often more profitable for businesses to spend resources lobbying legislators for handouts in the form of grants, loans, or tax advantages, and protections against competition in order to increase their profits.  In turn, the government’s willingness to hand out special privileges promotes the politically well-connected rather than those who seek to earn the preference of investors and consumers based on merit. The gains of such activities usually accrue to the businesses and politicians involved at the expense of consumers and taxpayers.” http://library.intellectualtakeout.org/library/business-and-economics/free-market-capitalism-vs-crony-capitalism
  4. See Footnote 1
  5. Imagine going to Burger King for dinner and, by law, each BK must employ 40 times the people it would normally at $15 per hour to make your meal. The result is one hellaciously expensive burger.
  6. “Of all ignorance, the ignorance of the educated is the most dangerous. Not only are educated people likely to have more influence, they are the last people to suspect that they don’t know what they are talking about when they go outside their narrow fields.”- Thomas Sowell

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Is Campbell’s GMO Announcement Mmmm mmm…good?

Campbell Soup Company (NYSE: CPB) today [January 7, 2016] announced its support for the enactment of federal legislation to establish a single mandatory labeling standard for foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs)….Campbell is prepared to label all of its U.S. products for the presence of ingredients that were derived from GMOs.

There’s an interesting post over at Philoskeptic, “Campbell’s Soup and the Ethics of Food Labeling.”

I recommend the whole post to you. I found we had areas of agreement and (apparent) disagreement in regards to the meaning of Campbell’s labeling, specifically about choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I agreed with:

“Labeling itself is fine, such as including the names of allergens (milk, soy, wheat, etc.), or ingredients which could potentially harm a sub set of the population (such as phenylalanine), but labeling genetically engineered food is simply a bad idea.”

Indeed, one reason (of the many reasons) is that GMO is a placeholder, not an actual thing. Nathaniel Johnson has pointed out on Grist, “It’s practically impossible to define ‘GMOs.‘” that “GMOs, like other cultural constructs — think of gender, or race — do have a basis in reality, of course: We can roughly define ‘male’ or ‘Asian,’ but when we try to regulate these divisions, all kinds of problems crop up. And definitions of ‘GMOs’ are much messier — ‘nerd’ might be a roughly equivalent category. You know what a nerd is, but things would break down fast if you were required to label and regulate all the nerds. The definition of a nerd depends on the context; it depends on who’s asking. Same with GMOs.”

But I take issue with: “Choice is overrated…” He links to a Ted Talk by Barry Schwarz who says, according to the Ted Talk site, “…choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.”
As Matt Ridley points out in his book, The Rational Optimist, “[According to political scientist Ronald Inglehart]: the big gains in happiness comes from living in a society that frees you to make choices about your lifestyle –– about where to live, who to marry, how to express your sexuality and so on. It is the increase in free choice since 1981 that has been responsible for the increase in happiness recorded since then in forty-five out of fifty-two countries. Ruut Veenhoven finds that ‘the more individualized the nation, the more citizens enjoy their life.'” [Emphasis mine]

I disagree that there are some things that we the people should not be free to choose. Philoskeptic says, the issues of “health and environmental safety, are probably far too serious to be left to the whims of consumer choice….The decision should not be made by consumers, but by an appropriate regulatory body which has the requisite knowledge base to make appropriate decisions regarding food. ”

This argument is akin to an “appeal to authority,” that is, “using the opinion or position of an authority figure, or institution of authority, in place of an actual argument.” In this case technocrats, a la Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), would make decisions for us. So why worry our pretty little heads about such things?

The EPA’s track record is spotty at best. It has always amazed me that the “Best Available Science” applied by the EPA (or other government agency) seems to be highly affected by the party affiliation of our chief executive, the President of the United States.

One thing social media has shown is that the majority of people are quite astute at calling bullshit on organizations and governments and holding them accountable. Companies especially know that the “long shadow of the future hangs over any transaction”(1) and we customers (having choices) will take our business elsewhere if we are not happy with the company’s policies or product.

Again let me stress that Philoskeptic and I do not think Campbell’s call for a federal label is a good one. GMO labeling is as unnecessary as it is costly. Go here to read the complete post.

Footnotes:

  1. Matt Ridley

 

 

 

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