Thursday, July 18, 2013


I have mixed feelings about this:
... SoftBank, the $70 billion Japanese technology investment company ... , is setting up a joint venture with Bloom [Energy, a Silicon Valley company,] to bring what it calls "energy servers" to Japan....

The two companies said they would initially invest $10 million each in a joint venture that would sell Japanese corporations electricity generated by fuel cells, a substantially cleaner and more efficient source of energy than coal or other fossil fuels....

The venture's biggest selling point is that its fuel cells, placed within a corporation's own grounds, offer an alternative to using the national power grid....
Companies not using the national power grid? To some extent, I like the idea of decentralized power -- I think it's good when individuals buy or lease equipment that allows them to generate solar or geothermal energy and bypass local utilities, or even sell power back to those utilities. If businesses can do the same thing with fuel cells, that's an interesting development.

But in this country I worry that decentralization of energy generation could eventually reinforce the notion that there's no need for society to ensure universal access to what we now consider life's basics: electricity, telephone service, clean water, police and fire protection, primary and secondary education.

Just a couple of days ago we had Aaron Osmond, a Utah state senator, arguing that compulsory education is bad for parents and children:
"Some parents act as if the responsibility to educate, and even care for their child, is primarily the responsibility of the public school system," Osmond wrote. "As a result, our teachers and schools have been forced to become surrogate parents, expected to do everything from behavioral counseling, to providing adequate nutrition, to teaching sex education, as well as ensuring full college and career readiness." ...

"Let's let them choose it, let's not force them to do it," he said. "I think that's when you start seeing the shift."
We had Rick Santorum in 2011 denouncing the very existence of public schools ("'Just call them what they are,' Santorum said. 'Public schools? That's a nice way of putting it. These are government-run schools'"). We had Ron Paul getting applause at a tea party-sponsored presidential debate for suggesting that an uninsured young man in a coma should be allowed to die rather than given medical treatment. We have communities where firefighters let your home burn to the ground if you haven't paid the firefighting fee. And on and on.

We know that all the kewl young dudebros these days dig libertarianism. Is it the future? Will a coalition of libertarian hipsters and government-hating teabaggers usher in an era when dope is legal and NSA snooping is banned but education and clean drinking water are luxury goods? I may not live to see it, but I can imagine that as a possible future.


Lex Alexander said...

I get your concerns, but in this case I think they may be a bit overstated. For example, a century ago, all the buildings at the college where I work were heated by a central boiler, via underground steam pipes. Ditto the adjacent, much larger state university. Now, each building not only has its own furnace and air-conditioning, there's talk of putting solar arrays on the roofs of new buildings and making them electrically independent. (No money for it now; just talk.)

Moreover, in the case of water, we've already done it that way -- some towns have municipal water from a natural above-ground source, some from below-ground sources (municipal wells) and some from wells for individual homes or buildings. It depends on the density and the topography, not on whether the mayor is an Objectivist or not.

I think the larger concern you raise is valid, but I don't think electricity is going to be the conduit (!) through which these concerns are realized.

Victor said...

Yeah, there may be no such thing as society in the near future in America - or a lot less of it.

Only Libertarian Nihilistic Fascism.

But you f*ck with people's TV service - and, in the summer, their AC's - because the electric grid is down, and even the dumbest and most ignorant MFing Cracker may start asking for a functional society again.

Take away what the Tennessee Valley Authority did for that part of the South over the last 80 years, and they're basically going back to the 19th Century - if not the virtual Stone Age the Europeans found living here.

Ditto, with water shortages. You f*ck with people TV, AC, and H2O, and you'll rile 'em up pretty quick.

I'm hoping that we're in some crazy phase right now, that will eventually burn out.

Because we didn't learn from it, we're reliving the pre-Civil War days.
But the minute the conditions threaten to become closer to what our ancestors had to go through, we'll see what happens.

Ain't many people around who can still "divine' their own water, kill and dress their own meat, and do without TV and AC.
And most of them, are further West, and not in the area that giving us the most problems - the rising South.

The New York Crank said...

No, the The Tea Party is completely right. The only valid functions of government are bombing people, subsidizing the oil, hedge fund and agribusinesses, and taxing the poor.

So let's close down those damn schools and get on with life.

Very crankily yours,
The New York Crank

Carol Ann said...

Dear New York: you forgot bothering women's private parts

BH said...

In the unlikely event that I'd live to see it (being even older than Steve!), I'd be eagerly awaiting the moment when the teabag/hipster coalition crumbled - somewhere around the time that the teabags remembered (or were reminded by their rev. clergy) that doping is pleasurable & thus must be ruthlessly suppressed, compromises with sin being unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

Given that life has lately been imitating art...

Most science fiction, and the authors themselves, seem to predict that eventually humanity is so technologically advanced that human labor is no longer needed, and we are rapidly getting there. Furthermore medical advancements reach the point where people can live vastly longer lifespans, we are also getting their rapidly. Then one of two outcomes is always what happens.

The first is a sort of Randian hellscape where those with wealth reap all the benefits and everyone else gets nothing. They become a permanent under/slave class who's lives are incredibly nasty and often can't even get into the isolated and self sufficient metropolises the well off isolate themselves in.

The second is the Star Trek model where a benevolent military dictatorship steps in and enforces a level of equality where all are taken care of. Nobody starves, everyone has access to healthcare, but it is run by a military dictatorship.

It's worth mentioning the second usually happens after a long period of the first. Along with a ton of violent uprisings and bloodshed.

I think that's where we are heading. Soon the well off areas will be able to be completely energy independent, digital and protein printers will provide the resources they need, and advanced medicine will extend their lives and improve them. They won't need us, and they will have no reason to share shit. And since the left is against violence will we all deserve to be forced into a second tier life and slavery. We are going to pacifist our way into our own personal hell.

The only question is if a violent backlash comes before they have all their security against us in place, and have been separate from us long enough they no longer care. If it doesn't, I fully expect a libertarian hellscape future to be the end result. And given the opposition to violence, when that's the only thing these fuckers fear right now, I'd say we already signed our death warrant and there is no point in even pretending to care.

neroden@gmail said...

There will always be a society.

One likely scenario is in fact feudalism, with the corporate leaders as feudal lords. Clean water is something you get by pledging loyalty to a feudal lord / corporation. This is *completely* plausible.