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Monday message board

June 18th, 2007

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. As usual, civilised discussion and absolutely no coarse language, please.

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  1. BilB
    June 18th, 2007 at 09:49 | #1

    For those people interested in practical solutions to global warming here is an article about George Bush’s approach:

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/03/03/business/web0303.ethanol.php

    This is from a country that already has nuclear power, and we can see how well that is working, so in this article Bush is really showing his hand in saying to South America “you’re good at ethanol, do more of that and leave the petrol for US”.

    And another country that has nuclear power has the following plan. You will notice that the cost of replacing their nuclear power pales into insignificance against the cost of cleaning up the nuclear mess that they have already created.

    http://www.trec-uk.org.uk/csp.htm

    http://www.trec-uk.org.uk/csp_sections/csp_costs.htm

    The UK tax payer face the reality of having now to pay twice. Clean up the nuclear mess and pay for the implementation of a power feed that has a permanent future.

    If Australia went down the nuclear path it would be facing the same dilemma in 30 years time.

  2. June 18th, 2007 at 11:06 | #2

    Hey BilB, when you see Bush pushing ethanol does it give you pause? If not, it should. This is the man that wanted to secure America’s “energy security” in Iraq, and from memory he was pretty big on the “Hydrogen economy” as well.

  3. BilB
    June 19th, 2007 at 08:21 | #3

    It has just suddenly twigged for me as to why Howard is so anti ethanol. Any National party supporters who feel that they have influence in this country are deluding themselves, because Howard has long ago written off agricultural Australia as a failing enterprise. This can be clearly seen in his enthusiasm for endorsing Liberal party members to stand in National seats. If ethanol became a commercially dominant fuel it would, along with upsetting his oil industry connections, give a resurgence of strength to the National party. Howards nuclear and coal obsessions are all about power dominance rather than optimal performance of Australia’s resources.

    Carbonsink,

    Bush promotes corn ethanol in the US because he knows that it will achieve E10 at best domestically. This helps to keep the oil price down without threatening his oil interests. He is becoming aware that Brazil can produce ethanol cheaply enough to pay the 50% tarrif, supply ethanol into the US market and still make a profit. And clearly he just does not know what to do about it. This South American move is quite bazaar.

    As for Australians the best future move is towards E85 powered hybride electric cars with plugin compatibility. This combination offers GW compliance along with energy flexibility. If fuel prices go up one can charge from the grid. If electricity prices go up or brown outs become a new lanscape feature then the tank fuel option is there. If crops fail and ethanol becomes less available then the flex fuel allows any ratio of petrol without engine alteration. And the most extreme possibility is that it is technically possible to power the house from the car in the event of the extended blackout or natural disaster.

  4. June 19th, 2007 at 08:30 | #4

    quite ‘bazaar’?

    quite right. go to the bazaar, get a bicycle with a wheel driven generator, and yer transport and electricity needs are met. can’t think why we all aren’t doing this..

  5. Ernestine Gross
    June 19th, 2007 at 11:12 | #5

    As for ‘bazaar’ – this is the preferred modus operandi in the labour market these days. Go and negotiate a price, people are told. But these people know the subtle difference between the financial power of a bazaar trader and its customers vs that of coporatists and employees.

    Outcome: A bizarre bazaar economy.

  6. gordon
    June 19th, 2007 at 11:22 | #6

    I think I’m with BilB on the car, except that I would prefer to see a diesel unit able to run on vegoil instead of a petrol/ethanol mix. There would be less processing involved in producing the fuel, though maybe there would be a worse particulates problem in the exhaust.

  7. gordon
    June 19th, 2007 at 12:00 | #7

    People interested in funding Uni education would be interested in this item from Economist’s View about how private lenders in the US corrupted the student loans arrangements over there. It’s a story which everybody interested in higher education funding should read.

  8. Ernestine Gross
    June 19th, 2007 at 12:26 | #8

    Environment: Useful posts – thanks, Bilb

    Education: Useful post, gordon. If one takes the Clinton argument about removing middlemen one step further one ends up with ‘current tax payers finance current education and the current students pay taxes in the future’to pay for the future students’.

    What went wrong with the education of those who still haven’t understood that Friedman’s vouchers work theoretically in an Arrow-Debreu complete market model and such a market does not exist in reality?

  9. jstrocch
    June 19th, 2007 at 12:50 | #9

    Any reaction to the triumph of the Right in French elections? This seems pretty significant to me given France is traditionally seen as the ideological home of Leftism. But the news has been received in Leftist quarters of the blogosphere with (stunned?) silence.

    Its likely that the Conservatives will win in the next UK elections. That would make a clean sweep of Right wing govts in the core W European states, apart from Italy where the Left just scraped in.

    Any comments about the resurgence of the Right in Europe?

  10. BilB
    June 19th, 2007 at 14:05 | #10

    Ernestine,

    I remember when Milton Friedman came out here to Australia in 1975 of thereabouts pushing his flat taxation user pays (for everything) and tradeable education voucher philosophy and have been violently opposed to any part of that since (including the GST). African education is a classic case of what can (and almost certainly will in any country) under that user pays copout environment. Higher education self funding is the thin edge of the wedge of that whole greed driven disasterprone scenario. I see country towns are now offering half million dollar flagfall to attract doctors to their towns.

  11. Ernestine Gross
    June 19th, 2007 at 14:32 | #11

    jstrocch, admittedly I know very little about politics. However, I do know that Sarkozy is the successor of Chirac and that Chirac is not a socialist. Chirac belongs to the same party as Sarkozy.

  12. jquiggin
    June 19th, 2007 at 14:43 | #12

    As regards Britain, the Conservatives are running to Labour’s left on a bunch of issues. The remaining Thatcherites are despondent or apoplectic depending on temperament.

    As far as France is concerned, its status is primarily that of the only polity arrogant enough to match it with the US, of which it is a mirror-image in important respects. The idea that it’s the ideological home of leftism is way off-beam.

    You’d be better off talking about Scandinavia where the Right has made some notable gains.

  13. Ernestine Gross
    June 19th, 2007 at 16:03 | #13

    BilB,

    Ah, there is apparently an important difference between education in mainstream economics (analytical economics, eg Arrow-Debreu model, together with economic history and empirical observations, eg your examples) versus rhetorical economics. I suppose there are different ‘markets’. There is one ‘market’ (by mis-use of terminology) for those who want to think for themselves and another one for those who want to be told what to think. But then, I might be totally wrong.

  14. BilB
    June 19th, 2007 at 17:04 | #14

    Ernestine,
    You’re right in saying that there is no perfect market place, and equally there is no perfect economic model. But what Milton Friedman was about was attempting to set the clock back to a pre second world war economic environment. If you look at American history you will see that prior to the second world war the US was a predominately rural, low tax, user paid for most things, society. The second world war forced a massive increase in automated industrialisation and accelerated the change from a rural economy to an urban one. The huge war effort also lead to an increase in public services and more importantly to an expectation of them. After the war many public services that were only barely available before the war were consolidated and funded by the taxation increase that did not return to prewar tax levels. The massive increase in automated technology, caused by the war, resulted in a permanent increase in overal productivity which was able to sustain the higher post war taxation levels.

    The Friedman philosophy is a pet of those people who feel put upon and dragged down by a society supporting an undeserving proletariate. They are the type of people who love to play monopoly in real life. And in that game everything has a price, which enables anyone with superior resources to maximise their position. Human cost has no place in this philosophy.

  15. jstrocch
    June 20th, 2007 at 00:15 | #15

    jquiggin Says: June 19th, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    As regards Britain, the Conservatives are running to Labour’s left on a bunch of issues. The remaining Thatcherites are despondent or apoplectic depending on temperament.

    Yes the lurch of the Tories to the Left is most disconcerting. Especially for those who treasure fond memories of foaming-at-the-mouth Majors (retd.) dashing off irate letters to the Times calling for the re-introduction of hanging or some such.

    The Greens, Wets, Santas* and Owls^ have infiltrated the Tories. Hitchens has a good take on it here:

    David Cameron has become the green challenger. His party’s events feature tie-less informality and earth tones and much grave talk about the need for “organic” attitudes.

    Confronted with things like youthful crime, which used to bring out the authoritarian beast in his party’s traditionalist ranks, Cameron speaks soothingly of root causes and compassion.

    He has publicly regretted the way in which his party was too late in seeing the virtues of Nelson Mandela.

    Most astonishingly of all, he is running against Tony Blair (or rather, against Blair’s heir-presumptive, Gordon Brown) as the candidate who wants to refashion Britain’s relationship with Washington in such a way as to take distance from the American alliance.

    NO doubt this is in part due to the Labor party’s lurch to the Right.

    Pr Q says:

    As far as France is concerned, its status is primarily that of the only polity arrogant enough to match it with the US, of which it is a mirror-image in important respects.

    Yes, the French have alway suffered from an unhealthy dose of ideological amour propre.

    Pr Q says:

    The idea that it’s the ideological home of leftism is way off-beam.

    No doubt Pr Q is correct to dismiss French Leftism nowadays. Once upon a time it was different. Wikipedia notes that:

    The term originates from the French Revolution, when liberal deputies from the Third Estate generally sat to the left of the president’s chair, a habit which began in the Estates General of 1789. The nobility, members of the Second Estate, generally sat to the right.

    Paris has always been the magnet for radicals of all hues. Europe’s strongest socialist and communist parties hailed from France.

    In more recent times, the New Left got its strongest impetus from French philosopers. And France continues to be the scene for the most dramatic street protests.

    Again Hitchens has a good take on France’s recent swing to the Right:

    some of us can remember a time when—as someone once put it—if you heard people discussing La Revolution in a French cafe, you realized that they were talking not about the last one, but the next one.

    I don’t think it is sufficiently appreciated that France has now become the most conservative major country in Europe, where different defenses of the status quo are at war only with different forms of nostalgia and even outright reaction.

    Pr Q says:

    You’d be better off talking about Scandinavia where the Right has made some notable gains.

    Yes, and Holland and Poland.

    The Left is in retreat over most of Europe, except Spain. I think the reason for this is cultural: fear of loss of national identity:
    – above (trans-European bureaucrats)
    – outside (non-European aliens).

    I would be interested in Pr Q’s take on the European rightist trend. In view of his faith in European political virtues it would seem to be worth a blog.

    * Santa = economic progressive (v Scrooge = economic regressive)

    ^ Owl = global legalist (v Dove = local pacifist and Hawk = national militarist)

  16. jquiggin
    June 20th, 2007 at 07:06 | #16

    “The Left is in retreat over most of Europe, except Spain.” (and Italy and Austria and, as we’ve agreed, the UK)

    As regards the Netherlands, you shouldn’t rely on TNR for info about Europe. The new government is well to the left of the old one, as Labour is in and the former Fortuynists are out. The right gets a ban on burqas in banks, but that is rather more than offset by a general amnesty for asylum seekers.

  17. jstrocch
    June 20th, 2007 at 12:51 | #17

    jquiggin Says: June 20th, 2007 at 7:06 am

    “The Left is in retreat over most of Europe, except Spain.� (and Italy and Austria and, as we’ve agreed, the UK)

    As regards the Netherlands, you shouldn’t rely on TNR for info about Europe

    I think it is probably a good idea to set out what I mean by Right wing in the context of contemporary Europe. Wikipedia has an useful summary:

    Radical right-wing populism is a contemporary political ideology prevalent in Europe. Political parties embodying this ideology have gained prominence in most European countries since the 1970s. They differ from neo-fascist or neo-Nazi parties in that they accept representative democracy and disavow violent political tactics.

    These parties sometimes distinguish themselves from the traditional Right by their support for social welfare programmes, gender equality, freedom of expression, gay rights, and separation of church and state.

    These parties often present themselves as the defenders of traditional liberal ideas.[2] Other RRP parties wish to preserve the dominance of the Christian values as a means of preserving the national culture.

    The relative success of these parties arises from the combination of ethno-nationalism with anti-elitist rhetoric and a radical critique of existing political institutions.[3]

    Sound familiar: Howardism!

    YOu are correct to point out that the Austrian govt is a coalition between Centre Left Social Democrats and Centre-Right Conservatives. I am still stuck the mid-noughties as far as my view of Austrian politics is concerned.

    But the Far-Right “Freedom” party is still a powerful voice in political culture. So I would count Austria as border-line tending Right wing.

    And Italy is very finely balanced between the corrpt Right and inept Left, with the Northeners strongly inclined to lurch to the Right.

    As regards Holland I was in Amsterdam recently and everything there was dope and sleaze as far as the eye could see. The Dam district, which I visited purely for anthropological reasons chaperoned by fiance!, was thronged with patrons and gawkers.

    But it was a far cry from the last time I visited 20 years ago when the place was an absolute cultural riot. The Dutch are never going back to that “glad confident morning again”.

    So your qualifications to my “Europe-tending Right-ward” rule are fairly qualified.

  18. SimonJM
    June 22nd, 2007 at 14:42 | #18

    Why geosequestration is another distraction
    Some intersting posts at Grist, the one on China pretty well sums up my views.

    http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/6/17/223950/134

    Seven truths about China and climate change

    http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/6/19/164339/696

    One more truth about China and climate change

    http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/6/21/10305/8592

  19. gordon
    June 22nd, 2007 at 15:02 | #19

    Thanks, SimonJM.

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