Our Coronavirus reaction is like a test run to the climate catastrophe

It amuses me darkly to see the reaction of the so-called “civilized world” turn from schadenfreude at the plight of the Chinese, to denial and worry, to full-blown panic in the past month, as the Coronavirus spreads unchecked to our own communities now.

However I can’t help but see similarities in these reactions to the ones we have to the climate apocalypse, albeit at something like 3 orders of magnitude faster pace.

Like the climate catastrophe, nations not yet affected have been assuming nothing bad will come out of the Coronavirus and that business as usual should continue. Any steps of preparation were sporadic and isolated, from a few “doomers”, often ridiculed by the smug people who assumed this epidemic would simply fizzle out like the Ebola, or SARS.

They don’t realize, of course, that those diseases might have only fizzled out due to an immediate and good response. But it’s on our nature to label any successful attempt to prevent the worse as an “over-reaction” to something that “wouldn’t have been a big deal”. Frustratingly I see this daily in how many companies perceive investment in their IT departments as an overall loss.

The calls of “climate panic” of climate deniers map very well to the denials and conspiracies created by people when Coronavirus first appeared on the scene. It is for this reason that Europe and US have completely squandered all the time and lesson bought by the Chinese response. And by the time the effects of the pandemic were felt in the western cities, it was way to late to mount an effective response, and the cost of that response is likewise orders of magnitude what it could have been had measures been taken early enough.

Likewise, by the time the real effects of the climate catastrophe start being felt in an undeniable manner, it will be way too late to salvage it. The cost to the existing sociopolitical systems will be prohibitive and thus nothing significant will be effected.

The people in power assume that they will be spared the worst of a catastrophe, but as Coronavirus spreads indiscriminately and the old plutocrats realize their money cannot shield them, so will the collapse of modern civilization from climate catastrophe make their power vanish into thin air as their private security forces realize who has the power in an apocalyptic situation.

The worst thing in my opinion is that we cannot even use this epidemic as an effective wake-up experience because of the timescale of the climate. To mount an solid response to the global warming, we should have started 30 years ago, but like Coronavirus, we simply squandered out rime into business as usual because “it hasn’t happened yet”.

In the scale of climate Catastrophe I speculate we are at the phase Coronavirus was two weeks ago. Some isolated nations have felt the brutal effects, but they were either not significant enough, or those nations themselves could somehow be blamed for it. By the time the climate catastrophe finally manages to panic as many people as Coronavirus has today (5-10 years I expect), it will be too late to do much about it.

A prime example of AnCap "monolithy"

“Anarcho”-Capitalists wasted no time in showing how truly rigidly their beliefs are stuck in a shallow dualistic “Our way or statism” idea.

Monolith and Mini
Image by brian glanz via Flickr

Remember my previous quote of the day where a commenter was pointing out how rigid the “anarcho”-capitalists are and end up seeing everything in duality: “Our way” or Statism? Not even a week passed and here I am, reading the comment field of a C4SS post where the most perfect example of “Monolithy” decides to get into a flame war with Kevin Carson of all people. The whole thing really starts going around here:

And it’s no surprise that Kevin Carson — who has been trying to convince anarchists and libertarians that labor theory of value wasn’t trashed by Ludwig von Mises — supports junk science. He’s a practitioner of it. If Thomas Hodgskin, Benjamin Tucker Dyer Lum, or Voltairine de Cleyre, for that matter, had lived long enough to read Human Action they would have understood why labor theory of value is the refuted nonsensical notion that a thousand hours of labor to make a grandfather clock makes it worth more than a jug of water to a man dying of thirst.

But the statement that Kevin Carson makes that he’d like to see every carrier group of the U.S. Navy on the bottom of the Indian Ocean shows what a vulgar radical Kevin Carson is. Kill thousands of men and women merely to satisfy his radical flash? Perhaps Mr. Carson isn’t aware that hard-core libertarians like Brian Singer — who commented on Carson’s post to Brad Spangler on Facebook — is currently serving in Iraq as a volunteer member of the United States Army, and might have caught a ride on an aircraft carrier. Is Brian Singer someone you want on the bottom of the Indian Ocean, Mr. Carson?

It really takes talent to be able to both show how horribly you misunderstand the LTV and how much you fail to understand the words of others. Needless to say that JNS was thoroughly skewered by Kevin in the comments in a fairly enjoyable manner which I urge you all to read for the lulz.

However, when this is exactly the kind of people LibSocs have to argue against online all the goddamn time, is it any wonder when our patience for this nonsense starts to fray around the edges? It seems that lately you can’t make half a step in any area relating to economics, anarchism or US politics without some self styled “Anarcho”-Capitalism who has taken Rothbard, Mises and Hayek as his personal messiahs and has only a half-arsed (mis)understanding of all the rest of the libertarian movement, start to foam at the mouth at the mere mention of the dreaded words of “Socialism”.  You get comments such as this:

It comes down to this. I believe Kevin Carson is an outcome-based rationalizer. He wants to bring back labor theory of value not because there is any actual reason to do so now that we understand how value is really arrived at but because it allows him to bring back all sorts of outdated arguments from people who were really good for their time and because we venerate these people as forward-thinkers we have to listen to them debate ideas that were wrong but they didn’t know any better.He does this because in his heart it’s not state capitalism he has a problem with but the actual free-market which has the nasty outcome of winners and losers, and no soft fuzzy blankets which he can use to remain popular among the socialists and communists who are looking to deny the reality that libertarian economics means they have lost.

He hates the United States not because it’s statist and imperialist but because — at least for another few hours — morally superior to the socialist sewer.

Other than that, I will only point out that Kevin Carson is wrong to believe the Global Warming denial crowd which seems to be trying to make the recent email hacking and spreading to be a practical coup d’etat of the AGW theory even though actually doing a thorough analysis shows that there’s little meat to the hysteria.

Of course it’s only to be expected to see that the more rightwing-leaning of the C4SS crowd like Kinsella, to immediately jump and proclaim their unwavering denial of AGW with the same junk science they claim to oppose. A prime example of Selective Skepticism. I would like to say that I am surprised by it, but I’m not. As I’ve explained before, I fully expect the right-libertarians to deny reality when it ends up throwing a spanner in their ideology as their economic gurus are and were so fond of doing. Kevin says it best.

The reasoning process goes something like this:

If global warming is real, all is lost for libertarians, because the need for statism follows as a direct implication.  If global warming is real, it will prove the liberal Democrats are right:   the free market has led to disastrous results at least in one particular, and the state is necessary in at least this one case to correct market failure.  In other words, given the premise of global warming, libertarians of this stripe see the big government argument as something that follows legitimately from it, as a matter of course.  So global warming cannot be happening.  QED.

Of course the internal reasoning of Right-“Libertarians” does not consciously go like this but rather they desperately look for all sources that can confirm their bias, which is formed subconsciously by the above process.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Another fatal flaw of Capitalism: Myopia

Capitalism is very good at exploiting natural resources. So good in fact that it can deplete them to a degree that impedes the actual lives of humans.

Sóc miop / I'm short-sighted
Image by vitelone via Flickr

It seems that something’s gotten into me recently and I keep writing about Capitalism-related subjects. I don’t know if this is triggered by the ongoing world-crisis or my late frictions with Libertarians but I guess it’s one of those things that needs to run its course.

There’s one thing that Capitalism does very well and that is to exploit resources and when those are running low, find something to replace them due to supply and demand. Thus when there is a demand for energy, capitalism will open opportunities for people to provide that energy.

There is however a fatal flaw in the procedure. The flaw is not fatal for Capitalism but unfortunately for the whole world.

You see, Capitalists are extremely short sighted by necessity. If a Capitalist does not seek to maximize profits, they will not have enough money for reinvestment and thus their competitors will overcome them. It’s a dog-eat-dog situation where you can be zero from hero in a short amount of time.

Capitalist Apologists will explain then that this is ultimately good for the consumer as this constant competition drives costs down and we all gain. But what they do not mention, is that this need to outdo your competitors by reducing costs does ultimately more harm than good.

Because one needs the maximum amount of short term profit, the consideration is always on using the technology and knowledge already available in order to cut down costs. Research & Development is not only expensive but also a risky endeavour which is why it is undertaken only when current costs are rising too high in the previous business model.

This is all well and good theoreticaly, but practically it is slow enough to create very real problems for everyone. Take for example oil. Until now, it has been the most valuable resource on Earth and it’s abundancy meant that there was enough supply to make it the number one choice for the Energy Capitalist. However Oil creates quite a few problems, the main ones of which are that it destroys the environment through global warming and that it funds and supports fanatics (religious or not).

In the long term, for the benefit of the whole humanity, it is far more beneficial to move away towards energy independence and clean energy sources. On the contrary, staying on oil means that the problems we have already increase at an exponential rate.
Because however the Capitalist is absolutely blind to the long term future –by necessity ((meaning that those who are not, are outpaced by those who are and drop out of the race))- they will keep using oil until other factors make it impossible to continue doing so. Only then will the capitalist seek to develop clean energy sources.

But by then, it will be too late. What use will clean energy be when the whole planet is in the process of meltdown with billions of people dying? Capitalism cannot foresee this. it can only see the short term profit.

And that’s not all. Not only is the Capitalist unaware of the damage he is doing for the long term, but he will seek to silence and muddle the waters to his benefit for as long as possible for his continued existence depends on him doing so. There is a very specific reason why Capitalists are the biggest deniers of Global Warming.

And this applies mostly to unregulated capitalism, completely free from Government intervention or assistance. The only reason companies are doing R&D now, which is a totally long-term strategy, is because they know the Government will protect them with artificial scarcity laws (AKA: intellectual Property). The Government has enough disconnection from profits to be able to see the coming events and attempt to steer the rudder away from turbulent waters. This is the reason R&D is very often subsidized in order to promote it or environmental (and not only) policies are made mandatory.

I am no fan of the State control, but I recognise that an unregulated Capitalism is a recipe for disaster. It will stimulate tremendous “economic” ((where “economic” means that the rich will get richer and they will pass that as a benefit for everyone)) and productive growth until, like a bacterium which found ample room to grow and expand, it will end up killing its host and thus itself and all it has achieved.

If we had an environment with unlimited resources, Capitalism would have been a passable choice. If we had achieved unlimited energy production or space exploration enough to allow us to mine other planets, then this might have been possible (and even then regulation for not destroying the Earth ecosystem would still be necessary). But we are limited and are very close, or have even passed our limits.

We recognise this, because we can see further than next quarter’s profits but they cannot. To give you another metaphor:

If Humanity is a train and we let Capitalism steer the wheel, all they will be able to see is the straight tracks in the next ten meters ahead and keep accelerating. They will fail to see the sharp turn 1 kilometer away, until it’s too late to slow down anymore. It will not be any consolation to anyone that we managed to break the speed of sound as we go over the cliff. We still won’t be able to fly…

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]