Would we be better off without corporations?

Following up my initial response to Lane Kenworthy, I decided to approach the question from a different direction and ask “Would we be better off without corporations?”. That is, I’d like to consider a society in which all large enterprises were publicly owned. There would still be room for owner-operated private businesses, worker-controlled co-operatives, partnerships and perhaps some other forms of business I haven’t thought about. I won’t get into disputes about whether this would constitute socialism, except to say that it would be radically different from any version of capitalism we’ve seen so far.

I’m also going to reverse the burden of proof implicit in Kenworthy’s approach. I start from the assumption that the expansion of corporate power under the neoliberal (or market liberal) policy package of privatisation, financialisation and deunionisation that has prevailed since the 1970s has been bad for most of us.

Given that neoliberalism is a term that’s often used loosely, I’ll try to be more specific about the adverse effects that can be tied specifically to the resurgence of corporate power.

The most obvious is the growth in inequality that has coincided with the rise of neoliberalism and corporate power. Virtually every aspect of neoliberal policy reform from increasing capital mobility to union-busting to flattening of tax scales has contributed to increased inequality. Moreover, they all reinforce each other.
?So, if we can do without for-profit corporations without incurring significant economic costs, we should.

I started looking at this on a sector-by-sector basis but then realised I would need to write a whole book in reply. So, over the fold, some disorganized thoughts

First, the privatisation of public utilities that was a central feature of late C20 neoliberalism should be reversed. Public utilities delivered a wide range of services successfully, and, in most cases, with steady improvements in productivity over time

By contrast, despite some extravagant initial claims, the outcomes of privatisation have been, at best, ambiguous, and at worst disastrous. Massive fortunes have been made by individual kleptocrats and by financial corporations, but the existence of these fortunes makes the rest of society worse off not better. Ignoring these windfalls, there is no clear evidence of net social benefits from any large-scale utility privatisation program of which I am aware. Even in rare cases where public utilities may have been so badly run that privatisation represented an improvement, the correct response would have been to reform the business not to sell it.

The end of corporations would clearly eliminate most of the financial sector. But even if some private corporations were to be retained, the case for eliminating most of the financial sector, and nationalising much of the rest, is strong. Beyond the basic functions of taking deposits and making loans (which could be handled by co-operatives or publicly owned banks) there is no reason to suppose the activities of major financial institutions and markets is socially beneficial. Much of it relies either on tax fraud (politely called minimisation) or regulatory arbitrage (taking profitable risks and relying on regulators for rescue when things go wrong).

The same is true of private corporations in sectors like education and health, which typically involve a lot of public money. The clearest cases include for-profit universities in the US, which exist primarily to rip off public programs like Pell Grants, and for-profit prisons. Not every for-profit business in the human services sector has been as bad as the University of Phoenix and Serco. But I’m not aware of any successes so clear as to overcome a presumption in favour of direct public, or publicly-funded non-profit provision.

As far as energy is concerned, the malignant activities of companies like Exxon, long the main promoter of climate denial, provide a good argument for public ownership of energy resources as the default. The obvious model here is Norway’s Statoil (now Equinor), still majority publicly owned and highly successful.

Next manufacturing. Public enterprises have done a perfectly adequate job in large-scale manufacturing industries, such as steel and motor vehicles. Still, there would probably be room for some private firms.
?Retail, hospitality and similar industries are probably not suited for public ownership. But they can be provided perfectly well by small businesses.

The most complicated case is that of the information technology companies that now account for much of the value of corporate assets in the US (Apple, Microsoft, Google/Alphabet, Facebook/Meta and Amazon). Of these only Apple has any real claim to have produced anything truly innovative (even if some of it was first invented at Xerox/PARC). So, we are faced with the general problem of encouraging innovation to which I will return in later post.

The others were in the right place at the right time to capture network and scale economies. It’s clear they aren’t doing much to justify their profits. Microsoft in particular is just collecting rents on products developed decades ago by copying others. The search for advertising revenue leads both Facebook and Google to make their products much less useful than they should be. We could certainly do better, even if it’s hard to say precisely how.

91 thoughts on “Would we be better off without corporations?

  1. I happen to believe that …

    From over here where I am, what I observe is that you happen to have one set of beliefs, while other people believe what is incompatible with your beliefs. Given people with different beliefs, which is what we have, where do you suggest we go from there?

  2. Cargill: – “All very interesting, and in fact nothing I didn’t already know…

    Then it seems to me you’ve made a knowingly false statement earlier: “Australia is such a tiny player in the whole scheme of things that whatever we do makes no difference.

    Cargill: – “I happen to believe that…

    Your beliefs are irrelevant. A sound understanding of the evidence/data, technological and engineering expertise and competent and thorough analysis of the problem are what counts. IMO, you show no evidence of any expertise relevant to the problem in discussion, and summarily dismiss the expertise of others I’ve referred to (i.e. Dr Saul Griffith & Professor Andrew Blakers), that are apparently inconvenient for your ideological narrative.

    Cargill: – “…we’re hell-bent on closing down our own power stations in order to meet some arbitrary targets…

    The power stations are closing down because they are getting too old (i.e. approaching their respective end-of-operation design lives), increasingly less reliable, costing more to maintain, and the fuel to run them is getting too expensive, while the growing fleet of cheaper renewables (where the ‘fuel’ costs are free) outcompete them. Australia’s fleet of ageing coal-fired generators are simply going broke.
    https://reneweconomy.com.au/theyre-going-broke-esb-chair-says-coal-plant-closures-now-unavoidable/

    Cargill: – “It is irrational and absurd, and can’t be defended on either engineering or climate grounds.

    IMO, there’s your climate science denial and dismissive attitude again, betraying your apparent ill-informed ideologically-driven narrative. IMO, it’s pointless continuing to argue with someone evidently not acting in good faith.

  3. “where do you suggest we go from there?”

    The Sandpit.

    would-we-be-better-off-without-corporations is THIS thread.

    #1 Suggested “-better-off-without-corporation” – CSL
    #2? Over to you…

  4. Trust. Who? In Australia it seems we trust Business & NGO’s more than government & news. Ohoh.

    If “media, as well as government, was seen as more divisive than unifying. Contrastingly, businesses and NGOs were found to be more unifying.” (Edelman) is correct…
    Then Government, institutions & media / whistle-blower protections, before corporations cleanup campaign.
    Else efforts undone before social license obtained .

    “Edelman Australia finds trust in national media continues to fall”

    February 16, 2022 10:00 

    by ANNA MACDONALD

    “The Trust Barometer further found that media, as well as government, was seen as more divisive than unifying. Contrastingly, businesses and NGOs were found to be more unifying.”

    https://mumbrella.com.au/edelman-australia-finds-trust-in-australian-media-continues-to-fall-724419

    “Trust and Mistrust in Australian News Media

    Project dates: 01/09/2019 – 30/03/2020

    “Those who say they trust news can identify ways to strengthen that trust further. Those who already mistrust news identified few remedies to regain their trust. This suggests, once trust in news is lost, it is much harder to recover.”

    https://research.qut.edu.au/best/projects/trust-and-mistrust-in-australian-news-media/

    USA
    Trust. News? Strategic investments in media is a harbinger of culture wars, media manipulation and lack of trust in future… and polarization of the polity instead of cohesion.
    Baaad.

    “Censorship and media bias have become a rallying cry among conservatives, prompting a slew of new media and tech investments, including alternative social media networks, entertainment companies and podcast networks.”

    Trust. More important than democracy, as these findings show.

    “Trust in news collapses to historic low

    “By the numbers: The trust fall in the news media been driven mostly by Republicans, according to the data.

    – Just 5% of Republicans said they had “a great deal or quite a lot of confidence” in newspapers, compared to 35% of Democrats.
    – Only 8% of Republicans said they had “a great deal or quite a lot of confidence” in TV news, compared to 20% of Democrats.
    – Independents’ views are generally closer to Republicans’.

    “The big picture: The media trust gap between Democrats and Republicans began to widen during the the Bush and Obama administrations, but grew dramatically during the Trump era and has continued to widen.

    “Censorship and media bias have become a rallying cry among conservatives, prompting a slew of new media and tech investments, including alternative social media networks, entertainment companies and podcast networks.”

    https://www.axios.com/2022/07/08/news-republicans-democrats-trust-partisanship

  5. “The complexity of his solution and the degree of intervention by government in it suggest serious market failure and can almost be used as arguments in support of nationalisation of the energy network in Australia, from producers downwards”
    Bernie Masters comment #2 at Clubtroppo
    *

    From:
    “Economic Ideas and Policy Outcomes: Ross Garnaut’s Gruen Lecture

    July 12, 2022 
    by Nicholas Gruen

    “Below is Ross Garnaut’s lecture in honour of my Dad.

    “Economic Ideas and Policy Outcomes: Applications to Climate and Energy”
    (Long read)

    https://clubtroppo.com.au/2022/07/12/economic-ideas-and-policy-outcomes-ross-garnauts-gruen-lecture/#more-36332

    (thanks NG, RG & FG)

  6. “Australia is such a tiny player in the whole scheme of things that whatever we do makes no difference.”

    Cargill, I happen to think this is one of the worst arguments, like, ever! Like our 1.3% is not in truth a huge contribution to an enormous problem. Like Australia has no additional responsibility and culpability as a major global supplier of fossil fuels.

    Whether you realise it or not by using it you are arguing for undermining global efforts and global agreements and like it or not it that says “denier here” quite clearly – whether denial of the science and validity of the expert advice or denial of basic moral (and legal) principles like responsibility, accountability, culpability and duties of care applying to climate and emissions.

    If Australia can act as if we make no difference and freeload then so should every nation with less emissions than us – adding up to perhaps 1/3rd of global emissions. If nations with a bit more emissions than us act the same it soon edges up to 1/2. It is a recipe for global efforts to break down and we need global efforts to succeed, to become more ambitious, not less, avoid (with a straight reading of the expert advice) droughts and fires and floods with 4 to 5 C higher temperatures – and that is what we get on the ground with 3 C of global average warming and the end of fossil fuels, just a bit later.

    If global efforts do fail, it will go higher and worse than that. Australia needs global efforts to succeed and the best way to argue for other nations to do more is to demonstrate the ambition to do more ourselves.

  7. Cargill:
    Why don’t you look things up first? For instance your disbelief of pumped hydro, a century-old technology.

    One of the world’s leading authorities on pumped hydro is Australian, Professor Andrew Blakers of ANU. His team’s global atlas of 616,000 potential sites: http://re100.eng.anu.edu.au/global/ . Modelling from 2017 of an all-renewable electricity supply in Australia: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217309568 His assumptions on renewable prices have proved conservative.

    I live in Spain, a middling European country on transition policy. Electricity supply was 67% zero-carbon in 2021, of which 21% was nuclear, the rest renewable. (https://www.sistemaelectrico-ree.es/sites/default/files/2022-06/InformeEnergiaRenovable2021_Resumen.pdf). The grid is currently coping OK with a heatwave, with temperatures up to 47 degrees. The nuclear comes from 7GW of reliable old reactors which will come to the ends of their lives in the coming decade. This capacity will have to replaced by say another20 GW of wind and solar, plus a considerable increase in the current 3.3 GW of pumped hydro, or batteries if they get cheaper. Spain is dry like Australia, but closed-loop PUHS systems use little water, and both countries have plenty of dry mountains.

  8. IMO, there’s your climate science denial and dismissive attitude again, betraying your apparent ill-informed ideologically-driven narrative. IMO, it’s pointless continuing to argue with someone evidently not acting in good faith.

    I could easily reply and refute every one of these bold assertions, diversions, and strawman conceits … but I’m not at all certain there is any point trying to argue with evangelists.

    Yes – it’s fairly clear the planet is getting warmer, and has been doing so at a slow rate since the end of the Little Ice Age and the beginning of widespread industrialisation (let’s say from around 1850). It might also be the case that ALL of the increase in atmospheric CO2 above the background increase, has been (and remains) anthropogenic.

    But all of this is not central to my main point that seems to have caused so much consternation among some here. You cannot simply state that something must occur by a certain date (whether it be all cars are EVs or all coal and gas-fired power production must cease) without very clearly setting out how we get from A to B, how we will meet all the technical challenges, and how the economics will work.

    But ideology can get in the way every time. The wind and the sun might be “free”, but the cost of capturing it, and distributing it, can be very high when everything is accounted for. The other major issue is that their intermittency is a nightmare when you need to run a steady and reliable baseload power grid.

    I’m not an electrical engineer, and can’t argue the technical case in detail – but I have certainly read enough to be very concerned indeed about over-reliance on renewables in a modern, power-hungry society. Personally I think society should be much simplified and our reliance on energy should be scaled back enormously – it’s totally out of control.

    But can you imagine any politician trying to win office on such an argument? We in the West are selfish little brats who demand absolutely everything and don’t have the slightest concern for anything or anyone else. So politicians duck the issue – and make ‘decisions’ like “Every new car will be an EV by 2030”, but they never include the price (or the cost) of this.

    So please tell me again … how many wind turbines and solar panels do we require to not only displace our current electricity generation but also displace our gasoline | diesel consumption? Does anyone have any idea? And what happens at night, and what happens when we have successive still days (which do happen reasonably frequently in Southeast Australia – where most wind turbines are located)?

    In conclusion, I think Snowy Hydro 2.0 is the greatest white elephant of this generation – a boondoggle and a conceit by Malcolm Turnbull – and it will never justify the enormous financial cost, environmental cost, and most of all, won’t save the planet. Please advise where we are going to have sufficient wind turbines and solar panels, AND the transmission lines from A to B, to generate all the excess energy that will be required to serve Snowy Hydro. And that’s just the most obvious issue – there are many others on the technical side as well.

    Too many of these thought-bubbles – green hydrogen, geothermal hot-rocks, tide & wave, wind & solar, BIG batteries, and pumped hydro, are based on fairy dust, it seems to me. The cost is enormous, and I would like to see who is making all the profit. Scepticism is the only rational position to occupy – demand some genuine results and outcomes.

  9. Cargill, I happen to think this is one of the worst arguments, like, ever! Like our 1.3% is not in truth a huge contribution to an enormous problem. Like Australia has no additional responsibility and culpability as a major global supplier of fossil fuels.

    I am definitely not conflating the two issues. I think we’re wildly schizophrenic on the whole energy front – we are slashing our wrists over our very modest coal & gas consumption, but are still exporting huge quantities of both – as if that’s all right. It’s not all right – it’s madness. We have the same dilemma with uranium … we have some collective delusion that exporting stuff is better than consuming it. I disagree wildly.

    And the main point remains – we cannot dismantle our coal- and gas-fired energy production until there is a reliable and cost-effective alternative supply. We are not even remotely close to that situation, and dismantling coal and gas prior to having replacements in place is – as I have said before – lunacy and economic suicide.

    It does not make me a climate-change denier in the slightest … I just want to see an orderly transition to a new state, and it will take decades. (I also believe a transition is pointless and destructive if India, China, the US, Russia, Brazil, etc, also don’t do it).

    There are many people in Australia who are significantly poorer than virtually all the posters on here (at a guess) – and they do have a stake in energy prices and vehicle prices staying within reasonable limits. Our experience to date is not that encouraging … perhaps look at South Australia.

  10. Cargill:
    The Blakers study showed that the NEM demand could be met reliably using only four proven technologies: wind, solar, HVDC, and closed-loop pumped hydro. Similar results have been found for many other countries by Mark Jacobson (Solutions Project) and Christian Breyer at LUT. In addition, we have the real-world example of Denmark, which ran its grid for a week without thermal power as early as 2017. https://stateofgreen.com/en/news/danish-electrical-grid-independent-of-centralised-power-plants-for-41-days/ . Denmark does have large-scale despatchable backup from Norwegian hydro. Its grid is much more reliable than Australia’s.

    Here’s a random stock photo of the Danish countryside, which as you can see is a dystopian hellhole of noisy and obtrusive wind turbines and fields smothered by serried ranks of solar panels: https://previews.123rf.com/images/ronyzmbow/ronyzmbow2007/ronyzmbow200700112/152666358-beautiful-summer-danish-countryside-landscape-over-rolling-hills-with-green-fields-with-great-clouds.jpg

    Futurists have amused themselves by calculating how much land would be needed to cover current world energy demand from solar. David Mackay’s estimate from 2010: “All the world’s power could be provided by a square 100km by 100km area in the Sahara.” The thought experiment used CSP not PV, and is sensitive to assumptions about efficiency and coverage, but it gives you a handle on the scale. For comparison, the Woomera test range has an area of 122,000 km2. At 10W per m2, this gives a notional potential output from the Woomera gigafarm of (by my calculations) 1,200 GW. Australian NEM peak demand is currently 32 GW. The energy transition has its challenges, but in Australia finding land is not one of them.

    The technical and economic feasibility of a green transition is established for electricity supply, and things are going well for land transport, steel, and shipping. The technical question marks are on aviation and sequestration.

  11. James Wimberley: – “Why don’t you look things up first?

    I’d suggest that requires a willingness to understand the issues and the effort to “look things up” that have been referred to here by some commenters. I don’t see any evidence so far from Cargill’s responses of doing so – IMO, still regurgitating the fossil fuel industry propaganda mantras.

    James Wimberley: – “The technical question marks are on aviation and sequestration.

    Almost a decade ago (dated 29 Mar 2013) James Hansen, Pushker Kharecha, Makiko Sato wrote in a newsletter update, beginning with:

    Summary. Humanity is doubling down on its Faustian climate bargain by pumping up fossil fuel particulate and nitrogen pollution. The more the Faustian debt grows, the more unmanageable the eventual consequences will be. Yet there are plans to build more than 1000 coalfired power plants and plans to develop some of the dirtiest oil sources on the planet. These plans should be vigorously resisted. We are already in a deep hole — it is time to stop digging.

    https://t.co/0UhNdLdHPQ

    The more GHG emissions we/humanity continue to produce, the more that needs to be eventually sequestrated for any chance of a safer climate for humanity & civilisation. The big problem is we/humanity don’t have that sequestration technology available at large-scale as yet. The timeframe is dictated by humanity’s historical, current and ongoing GHG emissions and the inertia-lagged response by the Earth System to it, defined by the Laws of Physics and constraints of chemistry and biology. Clock’s ticking.

  12. Futurists have amused themselves by calculating how much land would be needed to cover current world energy demand from solar. David Mackay’s estimate from 2010: “All the world’s power could be provided by a square 100km by 100km area in the Sahara.”

    Futurists often demonstrate that they are the least useful commentators. The calculation could be easily carried out by any competent Year 10 maths student, it seems to me, but is hardly very useful. Some very obvious questions arise:

    1. What does the world do for the 12 hours per day that the Sahara is in darkness?
    2. Who could or would build such a thing, and who pays?
    3. What would be the environmental costs of the array?
    4. Who would keep it clean of dust and sand, and how?
    5. What would be the useful life of the panels?
    6. What would be the cost of replacing all the panels?
    7. What is the extent and the cost of the transmission lines required?
    8. What is the energy-efficiency loss moving the electricity long distances?
    9. What would be the cost per kWh for all the people on the planet?

    These and similar questions arise for pretty-much all solar arrays in many countries, and whatever the scale of the project. Australia’s Woomera would face very big challenges, and have you asked the Aboriginal owners of the land what they feel about it?

    Very similar questions arise for wind farms – and especially those located off-shore.

    In addition, we have the real-world example of Denmark, which ran its grid for a week without thermal power as early as 2017.

    Gosh – a whole week? Five years ago? So … since that week in 2017, do we have figures showing the percentage of power in Denmark delivered every week by renewables versus conventional power (and ‘conventional’ including the Norwegian hydro)?

    The Blakers study showed that the NEM demand could be met reliably using only four proven technologies: wind, solar, HVDC, and closed-loop pumped hydro.

    Here is a response to the Blakers study – focussing in particular on the back-up battery power required, and the degree to which the study underestimates it – perhaps very significantly. Battery back-up is the huge Achilles Heel for wind and solar – to state the obvious.

    http://euanmearns.com/australia-energy-storage-and-the-blakers-study/

    Pumped hydro is just a price arbitrage system – I don’t see how it provides any net energy, and it will be decades (if ever) before there are sufficient excess renewables within a realistic distance of pumped hydro locations – pipedreams, literally! Really big batteries have enormous issues as well.

    I’m not saying in any absolute way that renewables could never power a big land like Australia, but so far it’s not even powering tiny countries like Denmark, or closer to home, the small King Island, or even the mostly empty state of South Australia. It’s going to take a very long time, and the technical | financial challenges are formidable.

  13. Cargill: – “Here is a response to the Blakers study…

    …dated 13 Nov 2017 (more than 4 years and 8 months ago), in a blog post 🙄 by a Roger Andrews, whom it appears to me self-describes as, including:

    This is why you will find me disagreeing with most of the “consensus” views on climate change but not all of them. My main concern for the future of my three grandchildren isn’t climate change, but that the misguided efforts of the people who want to save the world from it will leave them freezing in the dark.

    http://euanmearns.com/about-roger-andrews/

    Leading climate scientists Professor Johan Rockström, Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Professor Will Steffen and Professor Kevin Anderson have very different perspectives on the climate crisis.
    https://johnquiggin.com/2020/09/28/no-planet-b/comment-page-2/#comment-228774

    It seems to me you are cherry-picking to suit an ideologically-driven narrative.

    Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said in the YouTube video published on 18 Sep 2017, titled Neil deGrasse Tyson scolds cherry picking climate science:

    0:00:38: “You can find a scientific paper that says practically anything.

    And I’d suggest blog posts that say anything at all to fit any narrative you wish.

    0:00:55: “An emergent scientific truth, for it to become an objective truth – a truth that is true, whether or not you believe in it – it requires more than one scientific paper. It requires a whole system of people’s research, all leaning in the same direction – all pointing to the same consequences. That’s what we have with climate change, as induced by human conduct. This is a known correspondence. If you want to find the three per cent of the papers, or the one per cent of the papers that conflicted with this, and build policy on that; that is simply irresponsible!

  14. Denmark 30-70% renewable, depending.

    Geoff & James, no amount of words or numbers will effect Cargill. Hence sandpit.

    In response James, to your question @July 15, 2022 at 5:11 am “Cargill:
    Why don’t you look things up first?”

    Because Cargill is a FUD merchant. Even tho Cargill says ” It’s going to take a very long time, and the technical | financial challenges are formidable.”

    Cargill, please detail your statement above with;
    – 80% & 100% renewable time frame
    – technical challenges
    -financial challenges
    [Market says: dump fossil & shower money on grid, storage & renewables]

    JW “the real-world example of Denmark, which ran its grid for a week without thermal power as early as 2017”,
    which was open invitation to mock.

    Try this…
    Denmark (Wikipedia below)
    “2020 ALL SECTORS 30.0%”

    When NOT including ALL sectors:
    “Electricity generation in Denmark (GWh) from renewable energy sources, 2007–2017[17][18][19][20][21][3]”

    2017 – 71.4%

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_Denmark

    Easy!

    I expect Cargill will soon tell us when renewables are technically feasible, financed and in which year, decade or century we will be 80 or 100% renewable.

    Over to you Cargill.

    Renewable energy targets and projected consumption (PJ) 2005–2020, NREAP.[26]
    2020 ALL SECTORS 30.0%
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_Denmark

    Denmark will cope with renewables:
    [my Dad first in Australia with Grundfos]
    Energy technology
    – Vestas (wind turbines)Siemens Wind Power (wind turbines)
    – Danfoss (climate and energy)
    – Grundfos (the world’s largest pump manufacturer)
    NKT Cables Group A/S (Power cables andsubsea umbilicals, owner of subsidiary Nilfisk-Advance)
    Ørsted (company) (Formerly known as DONG energy) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Denmark

    Now. Please. Which corporations do you rank as first to renationalise?

  15. You know the difference between me and you “Geoff Miell”? I just like to have a friendly discussion on a lightweight forum, but you want to AD HOMINEM ATTACK … which makes you look like a total cultish goose. I have no ideological axe to grind – but it sure seems like you do.

    And not only do you go full AD HOMINEM ATTACK on me, because I dare to challenge your precious narrative, you go full feral on anything and anyone I reference.

    Why don’t you actually address the issues I raised (like the possible flaws in the Blakers study with respect to battery requirements), and in very brief summary they were these: (a) what are the detailed parameters of all these “academic studies” that show that renewables are just fine and dandy, and (b) what is the REAL COST of implementing these fine and dandy renewable structures?

    Your reality is that Denmark does not run on renewables in any sustainable and consistent manner … and what is the cost?

    I would like to see Australia (and everywhere else) run on renewables at some time in the future, but not at astronomical and unsustainable cost. It seems to me that the Global Warming evangelical faithful want to suggest that the shift to renewables must be made, even at enormous cost. I disagree with that very strenuously.

    Not because I don’t believe global warming is occurring, and not because I think that advanced, profligate Western lifestyles are precious and non-negotiable … far from it – I would prefer all of us to go back to earth-loving hippies, and I really mean that.

    But deep down, I do not accept that the threats from global warming are so urgent and so disastrous that you wreck our economies by destroying the electricity generating system. That really is ideological madness – and the cure is worse than the disease.

  16. I’m not going to give more oxygen to Cargill’s FUD project by a response, but his reference to Mearns raises some general issues about the credibility of experts.

    Euan Mearns and his colleague Roger Andrews are or were technically qualified in geology and had careers applying it in branches of the mining and oil industries. Their scepticism is biased but reasoned. Andrews died in 2019 and Mearns’s blog has been inactive more recently. Their 2017 post on Blakers (signed by Andrews) comes up with a storage requirement for the Australian NEM of 2,800 Gwh, about six times Blakers’ 450 Gwh. One of them is wrong, the gap can’t be reconciled by adjusting a few parameters. Who is it?

    The unqualified observer (you and me) can’t resolve such conflicts by becoming experts ourselves, and we have to rely on metascientific context to judge relative credibility. Fortunately, there are several useful sources.

    1. Credentials. Mearns and Andrews were working geophysicists. Blakers is a full tenured professor of solar engineering with a long list of published work and other academic recognition. The article I cited has two co-authors from his research group. Advantage Blakers.

    2. Peer review. Blakers’ paper was peer reviewed, Andrews’ and Mearns’ work has not been. Peer review is not infallible, but it is likely to catch simple mistakes in calculations. (But see Reinhart and Rogoff.) Advantage Blakers.

    3. IT resources. The dispute is about the results of computer models matching historical demand over a significant period with assumed supply, with variation in wind and solar output also using historical weather data. Mearns and Andrews were mavericks with limited IT resources, Blakers had access to those of a major university. Advantage Blakers.

    4. Acedemic consensus. Blakers’ conclusions are consistent with those of other leading energy modellers for a range of other countries, notably Jacobson and Breyer. Advantage Blakers.

    5. Practitioner consensus. This does not yet exist in Australia, but the take of Daniel Westerman, the head of the Australian Energy Market Operator, is significant, since his job is on the line if he’s wrong. “He wants the country’s main grids to be able to handle periods of 100 per cent renewable energy penetration by 2025.” https://reneweconomy.com.au/new-aemo-boss-wants-australias-grid-to-handle-100-pct-renewables-by-2025/ The AEMO Integrated System Plan for 2022 endorses the 2050 net zero target,which it thinks implies “over 60 GW of firming capacity to be in place to respond to a dispatch signal. This may be provided by utility-scale batteries, hydro storage, gas-fired generation, smart behind-the-meter batteries or VPPs and, potentially, vehicle-to-grid (V2G) services from EVs” https://aemo.com.au/-/media/files/major-publications/isp/2022/2022-documents/2022-integrated-system-plan-isp.pdf?la=en If this were all pumped hydro, it’s clearly in the same ballpark as Blaker’s model (60 GW x 8 hours = 480 Gwh), and miles from that of Mearns and Andrews. Advantage Blakers.

    6. Controversy. This does not apply in our case, as SFIK Blakers never replied to the criticism, but you can sometimes learn something from a good bad-tempered academic spat.

    Blakers wins.

  17. Can we get back on topic?

    One of five suggestions in article to curb the power of corporations by Jeremy Lent below. 

    Good idea? Any others?
    *

    “Five ways to curb the power of corporations

    “Of the world’s 100 largest economies, 69 are transnational businesses. How can we control—and ultimately transform them?

    Jeremy Lent
    22 July 2018

    “Financial valuations apply discount rates to future earnings, which means that an investment paying off thirty years in the future can be worth as little as five percent of its future payoff in the present. Under these conditions, why would any CEO care about the state of the planet—or even their company—thirty years from now?

    “During the 2016 US election campaign, Bernie Sanders proposed a Financial Transaction Tax to pay for free college tuition, setting the rate at 0.1% of the transaction. In Europe, discussions are under way to apply a similar EU-wide tax. My proposal increases the tax rate by orders of magnitude, and differentiates based on the length of the stock holding. For example, the tax rate might look like this:

    –     10% if the stock is held less than a day
    –     5% if less than a year
    –     3% if less than 10 years
    –     1% if less than 20 years
    –     Zero if more than 20 years

    “The effects of this single step would be enormous. The financial services industry would be transformed overnight. High frequency stock trading and same-day traders would disappear. The short-term orientation of the stock market would be replaced by carefully considered long-term investment decisions. A typical mutual fund, which in the US currently turns over its portfolio atthe rate of 130% a year, could no longer afford to do so, and would have to change its investment decision-making based on sustainable returns. The tax could be waived for individuals experiencing a life-changing event or for simple hedging techniques where, for example, farmers need to lock in the price of their produce at a future time.

    “The result would be a massive shift away from destructive extractive industries and toward sustainable businesses. For example, the fossil fuel industry…”…
    https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/transformation/five-ways-to-curb-power-of-corporations/
    *

    And just for fun – of course a game called “Corporation”.

    “Corporation (role playing game)

    “Set in 2500 AD, the fictional world of Corporation is very different from that of today. Five corporations wield such power and  that they can all but make their own laws. Following a long and savage war between the corporations in their rise to power, a large portion of the world had been left devastated and barely habitable; but from the ashes of this deeply scarred world has come a new era in human development.”…
    wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporation_(role_playing_game)

  18. Frank Stilwell & JQ have swallowed the red pill.

    “There are also the ultimately more powerful interests of corporate capital and its supportive ideological superstructure. …”Indeed, ‘taking the red pill’ does require some personal courage…” (FS).
    *

    “What’s Wrong With Economics?

    Frank Stilwell
    December 18, 2017

    …”but vested interests are also at stake. These are partly the vested interests of professional economists themselves, protecting past intellectual investments while working in universities or selling their services directly in the capitalist marketplace. There are also the ultimately more powerful interests of corporate capital and its supportive ideological superstructure.

    “Indeed, ‘taking the red pill’ does require some personal courage in engaging, however indirectly, with these powerful forces. Yet there is a social imperative to do so, if we are concerned with progressing knowledge and using that knowledge to contribute to a more stable, equitable and sustainable future for humankind.

    “As the real world throws up ever greater problems of economic instability, economic inequality and ecological unsustainability, merely sandbagging territory to secure the dominant position of a dysfunctional orthodoxy will not suffice. Study and research in political economy is all the more important.”

    https://www.ppesydney.net/whats-wrong-economics/

  19. KT2: On/off-topic: Agreed. Unfortunately no sandbox this week. I did comment earlier on the topic.

  20. “He wants the country’s main grids to be able to handle periods of 100 per cent renewable energy penetration by 2025.”

    I might want a 5-Series BMW for my birthday, but what is the likelihood? In three years time he wants a situation that has not even been remotely achieved in any grid to date – not even modest “closed” systems like King Island. Where is all this extra capacity going to come from, and who is going to pay for it?

    We had a couple of days of cold weather, at a time when there was little input from wind turbines, and the NEM grid system nearly collapsed, and the price per kWh went so far through the roof, that the “energy market (‘cough’) had to be frozen.

    I have very serious scepticism about renewables achieving a reliable and affordable grid in any reasonable timeframe, but I am particularly annoyed by all the politically correct happy talk from academics, professionals in the field, and politicians.

  21. “where the profits of private shareholders are no longer a factor.”
    *

    “Spain’s discount policy was made possible by thestate-ownership of the company Renfe, and free public transport will be most effectively realised in the UK, too, within a publicly owned rail system where the profits of private shareholders are no longer a factor.

    “Public Transport Should Be Free

    “Spain is making short and medium train journeys free from September to the end of the year. To fight the cost of living and climate crises, we should do the same in Britain – but roll it out to all public transport, and make it permanent.”

    https://tribunemag.co.uk/2022/07/public-transport-free-fuel-crisis-cost-of-living

  22. Privatisation “…inevitably lead management to form policies to maximise profits, even at the expense of the children’s wellbeing.”
    *

    “The Privatisation of Children’s Social Care Is a National Scandal

    “The privatisation of children’s social care services is definitive proof that the elite puts profit before its responsibilities – even to society’s most acutely vulnerable.
    ….
    “The authors were apparently blind to the fact that a move into the private sector would only replace the master of established policy with the demand to make a profit.

    “If the private care provision was to be run by corporations, then the need to satisfy shareholders would inevitably lead management to form policies to maximise profits, even at the expense of the children’s wellbeing. If the Social Work Practices were to be run as partnerships between the social workers and other staff, the conflict of interests would be direct, as every penny they spent on the children would be a penny out of their own pockets. Far from eliminating the need for social workers to serve contradictory goals, privatisation would replace one set of conflicts with another, harming the children in different ways.

    “The neoliberal policies of privatisation and the shrinking of the state were the long-established norm in 2006. Unsurprisingly, then, the government decided to run a trial of five privatised SWPs for looked-after children in the north of England.

    “The results were disappointing. In a 2012 evaluation of the scheme, researchers concluded that:”…

    https://tribunemag.co.uk/2022/07/children-social-care-homes-privatisation-profit

  23. 0 day week for NO job AND pay. Robot tax? Or rule: IF fully automated THEN revert to public?

    Orwellian Corporation 2…
    “automation increase capacity, it also benefits labor.” (Jacobin)
    But…
    “The negative costs from this model are offloaded onto California communities and businesses.” (Report below)
    *

    “Automation allows greater densification at existing port terminals, enabling greater cargo throughput and continued cargo growth over time,” said Jim McKenna, the PMA’s chief executive, in a recent statement. The PMA recently put out a report arguing that not only does automation increase capacity, it also benefits labor. While the latter claim is widely disputed, so is the former, with several studies finding that automation does not increase productivity.

    “Four percent of global shipping capacity is currently automated”…

    “Automation on the Docks Means Fewer Jobs — and Often No Improvement in Productivity”

    https://jacobin.com/2022/07/port-dock-automation-longshore-workers-jobs-productivity/

    Report:
    “SOMEONE ELSE’S OCEANDOCKWORKERS, FOREIGN SHIPPERS AND ECONOMIC OUTCOMES

    JUNE 29, 2022
    BY DANIEL FLAMING AND PATRICK BURNS
    UNDERWRITER: 
    INTERNATIONAL LONGSHORE & WAREHOUSE UNION COAST LONGSHORE DIVISION

    “The negative costs from this model are offloaded onto California communities and businesses.”
    https://economicrt.org/publication/someone-elses-ocean/

  24. Unicorns to Zebras.
    Tech bro Tristan Harris promoting “zebras’ business models adhere to principles of mutualism, shared property, and multi-stakeholder value”.
    *

    …”Due to the high-risk, high-reward environment of venture capital and the precedent of shareholder primacy, most tech companies can’t “afford” to build humane technology if it would jeopardize maximal growth and returns – and future financing rounds. This means that even if a business product or service strives to benefit society, the financing structure can create massive pressure to make choices that aren’t in society’s best interest.

     THE ZEBRA

    “This is where the zebra comes in. Billion-dollar silicon valley unicorns follow a business model that incentivizes shareholder value at all costs. On the other hand, zebras’ business models adhere to principles of mutualism, shared property, and multi-stakeholder value.

    “Mara Zepeda and Kate “Sassy” Sassoon explain that the key to moving from a unicorn to a zebra model is to change who has control over companies. To shift power structures, Mara and Kate recommend transforming both who is incentivized (ownership) and how they’re incentivized (governance). 

    “The chart below shows how zebras differ from unicorns in their “why,” “how,” “who,” and “what”:

    “What would it look like if we designed some of today’s largest tech companies as zebras? Here are a few ideas:

    “Twitter users, who generate the content that drives Twitter’s value, could be owners. In 2017, a group of collaborators, including Nathan Schneider, launched a campaign to#BuyTwitter. #BuyTwitter made a comeback after Elon Musk’s recent Twitter bid.

    “Airbnb hosts provide the assets and labor that enabled Airbnb to grow globally with reduced costs. A zebra version of this tech company would reward hosts for their risk and labor by giving them shares in the company.

    “A few examples of zebras in the wild:
    ….
    https://mailchi.mp/humanetech.com/tech-zebras-not-unicorns?e=18ee2f3dfc

  25. Rebecca Baumgartner says “When the institutions fail us, we’re supposed to double down on personal responsibility.”

    “This mindset is essentially the conservative catechism of personal responsibility, which uses individual obligation as a smokescreen for pervasive structural deficiencies and governmental and corporate failure to address them.”
    *

    “Beyond Being Informed

    by Rebecca Baumgartner

    …”The inspirational cliche “Be the change you wish to see in the world” may come from a place of hopefulness, but it participates in the larger project of misdirection in which we’re all supposed to accept that the groups with the most power and resources shouldn’t be burdened with making anything meaningfully better. When the institutions fail us, we’re supposed to double down on personal responsibility.”

    “The real change starts happening when we focus on holding our institutions accountable for fixing the devastation they allowed the evil lunatics to create.”

    https://3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2022/07/beyond-being-informed.html#more-216975

  26. “..deployed by corporations to maximize their profits and prevent new competitors from entering their markets.”

    “Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets and How We’ll Win Them Back

    Rebecca Giblin and Cory Doctorow.

    “Melbourne Law School professor Giblin (Code Wars) and Boing Boing cofounder Doctorow (Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free) deliver a lucid and damning exposé of how big business captured the culture markets. Contending that anticompetitive practices are hollowing out the music, literature, video game, journalism, film, and TV industries, the authors untangle the complex web of contracts, regulations, and legal arguments deployed by corporations to maximize their profits and prevent new competitors from entering their markets. Interwoven with maddening tales of exploitation (the creator of the TV show Cold Case estimates that her agency, CAA, made 94 cents of every dollar she earned from the show) are detailed discussions of statutory licensing reform, copyright infringement detection systems, and other technical matters.”

    https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-8070-0706-8

  27. “Corporations in highly concentrated industries have been able to hijack prices and curtail wages while shifting blame to consumers and workers squeezed for fatter profit margins.”
    [Links]

    My headline: Capital blames millenials.
    *

    “Make sure you’re doing your part to help fight inflation: accept those wage cuts and worsening working conditions!

    “In the CNBC article, Smead Capital Management’s chief investment officer, Bill Smead suggested millennials were to blame for inflation for spending years saving money instead of buying homes and cars.

    “Gains from the pandemic were largely limited to wealthy boomers and corporations, in fact. It is, after all, the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans who own 90 percent of stock and saw the pandemic rally transfer more wealth upwards into their pockets. Corporations in highly concentrated industries have been able to hijack prices and curtail wages while shifting blame to consumers and workers squeezed for fatter profit margins.”

    https://www.vice.com/en/article/g5vqvq/good-news-economy-sucks-youre-screwed-and-its-all-your-fault-economists-say

  28. “In the CNBC article, Smead Capital Management’s chief investment officer, Bill Smead suggested millennials were to blame for inflation for spending years saving money instead of buying homes and cars.”

    I expect our Mr Smead needs to go back and complete Economics 101 – if he ever started it. Inflation is not caused by the frugal saving money – the price of goods (houses and cars included) go up when the supply doesn’t keep up with demand.

    The extraordinary price of real estate in Australia represents the greatest skewing and misallocation of a nation’s resources in our history. Given our natural resources, energy sources, agricultural production, and a wide range of other significant assets (education, tourism, health services, specialist manufacturing, etc), we should be the wealthiest nation on earth – with streets paved in gold and no income taxes. Instead it is either squandered or all profits are shipped overseas.

  29. “In the CNBC article, Smead Capital Management’s chief investment officer, Bill Smead suggested millennials were to blame for inflation for spending years saving money instead of buying homes and cars.”

    I expect our Mr Smead needs to go back and complete Economics 101 – if he ever started it. Inflation is not caused by the frugal saving money – the price of goods (houses and cars included) go up when the supply doesn’t keep up with demand.

    The extraordinary price of real estate in Australia represents the greatest skewing and misallocation of a nation’s resources in our history. Given our natural resources, energy sources, agricultural production, and a wide range of other significant assets (education, tourism, health services, specialist manufacturing, etc), we should be the wealthiest nation on earth – with streets paved in gold and no income taxes. Instead it is either squandered or all profits are shipped overseas.

  30. But restrictions alone will not be enough.” – “Britain has a drinking problem – and the alcohol industry can’t afford to let us kick it”

    Same in Australia – every industry that requires significant regulatory oversight immediately implements measures and tactics to capture the regulators. The obvious ones like casinos, nightclubs, horse-racing, other gambling, alcohol, tobacco, and other illegal drugs. But also really huge industries like mining, forestry, food production, aged care, and pharmaceuticals.

    Plus of course the state develops a total dependence on the tax revenue generated by the dozens of products that are most likely to kill you, sicken you, impoverish you, or make you fat.

  31. “You’ve Been Played

    “How Corporations, Governments, and Schools Use Games to Control Us All

    by Adrian Hon
    *
    Brad DeLong says;
    “Hon has written a wonderful book about one aspect of our glide towards a soft-lock dystopia, as techniques that were supposed to be cheerleaders and coaches turn out to make more money for their deployers when they are transformed into taskmasters and grifters.”
     —J. Bradford DeLong, J. Bradford DeLong,
    *

    “You’ve Been Played

    “How Corporations, Governments, and Schools Use Games to Control Us All

    “How games are being harnessed as instruments of exploitation—and what we can do about it 

    “Warehouse workers pack boxes while a virtual dragon races across their screen. If they beat their colleagues, they get an award. If not, they can be fired. Uber presents exhausted drivers with challenges to keep them driving. China scores its citizens so they behave well, and games with in-app purchases use achievements to empty your wallet.

    “Points, badges, and leaderboards are creeping into every aspect of modern life. In You’ve Been Played, game designer Adrian Hon delivers a blistering takedown of how corporations, schools, and governments use games and gamification as tools for profit and coercion.

    “These are games that we often have no choice but to play, where losing has heavy penalties. You’ve Been Played is a scathing indictment of a tech-driven world that wants to convince us that misery is fun, and a call to arms for anyone who hopes to preserve their dignity and autonomy.”

    https://www.basicbooks.com/titles/adrian-hon/youve-been-played/9781541600195/

  32. “These are games that we often have no choice but to play, where losing has heavy penalties. You’ve Been Played is a scathing indictment of a tech-driven world that wants to convince us that misery is fun, and a call to arms for anyone who hopes to preserve their dignity and autonomy.”

    What a lot of silly nonsense … totally divorced from the real world. If you want to know what the real world is all about, give me a call. And “You’ve Been Played” is ludicrous BS.

  33. A sign that you’ve been played is that you don’t know you have been played… until the time comes to pay the piper.

  34. Ikon, I won’t be clicking on Cat. I never listend to a Cat
    “Yusuf Islam” Stevens after… 
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_Stevens'_comments_about_Salman_Rushdie

    Free speech, fatwa, I was only joking, courts.

    No.

    And seeing as ttis thread is about corporations, here is the key quote from Wikipedia above;
    “Islam claimed that he had earlier unsuccessfully asked his record company to stop production of his Cat Stevens records but they had refused on economic grounds.[12]”.

    How much advertising did this controvery generate?

    Corporations control cat. Perceived gods on earth control Islam.

    Don’t feed the trolls.

  35. Been thinking much about many of the current problems we’re facing as an economy and society and pretty much all my hierarchical flows point to this particular issue (corporations) as the primary source of the problems.

  36. Bill Mitchell agrees “Which then requires eliminating corporations.”

    “It all adds up to the conclusion that system change is required not progressive tinkering

    ” Well here we get to the nub of the problem.

    Progressives such as the TUC in Britain want CEO pay ‘reined’ and rules that force companies to have worker representatives on the boards etc.

    Get the drift.

    All manner of tinkering with board structures and other ‘around the edges’ policy approaches might do a little but will not solve the problem.

    Executive pay is way too high.

    Solution: eliminate the executives.

    Which then requires eliminating corporations.

    Which then requires eliminating capital.

    Which would eliminate the ‘profit motive’.

    Which then means we are talking about system change – moving beyond capitalism and individualism where we tolerate some person taking a salary ‘539 times the pay of the median UK full-time worker’ to a system where cleaners and nurses are celebrated and moral incentives become the normal way of activating behaviour rather than material incentives.

    We need to activate rugged and connected communities that will be able to make the necessary shifts in consumption patterns (that is, much less) as a response to the climate emergency, while preserving the right to work and seek fulfillment.

    The question then is what are the chances of that happening?

    The answer is: gloom.

    http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=50347

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