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February 25, 2010

The Bloom Box and Statism

CBS News: The Bloom Box: An Energy Breakthrough?

"I like to say that the new energy technologies could be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century," [John Doerr from the big Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins] explained.

[...]

Twenty large, well-known companies have quietly bought and are testing Bloom boxes in California.

Like FedEx. We were at their hub in Oakland, the day Bloom installed their boxes, each one costing $700-800,000.

One reason the companies have signed up is that in California 20 percent of the cost is subsidized by the state, and there's a 30 percent federal tax break because it's a "green" technology. In other words: the price is cut in half.


From my selfish, I've-got-mine, coldhearted, stubborn, unrealistic viewpoint, I think the real story here is how the federal tax system is getting in the way of serious next-gen technology that could radically improve living standards. There's the lede, buried as usual.

Don't take this as something it isn't. Don't let someone tell you that a 30% cut in federal taxes has helped make this technology possible. If they say that, they've got their cause and effect mixed up. The government didn't help anyone or help do anything.

A more accurate way of explaining it is 30% of the dollar cost the government aggressively imposes on individuals (and the organizations they own) who add economic value to human existence has been temporarily waived per conditional government approval. The line between economically feasible and a waste of money is thin enough that a third less in this expense makes a difference. This tech might revolutionize world well-being, and for some companies, a few hundred thousand bucks are part of what stands in the way.

Think about that for a minute. Think about the number of people with great ideas, promising implementations, and the willpower to face the risks. Think about the diverse level of interest in improving humanity out there, trying to make It work. Think about the thousands of decisions made each day, many with the weight of cost factoring in at the moment of truth. Most people can't buy whatever they want; they have to spend wisely or go broke. This is no different from an organization designed to create and manufacture a product.

"This is affordable. Yes, we should do it."

...or...

"We'd never make any money. No, we shouldn't do it."

I think of the untold, unpublished, unrecognized, uncountable mountains of "no" built up over the decades, a mute chain on human progress. I'm no utilitarian and I don't think the critical determinant of any moral question is the amount, degree, or breadth of some positive outcome. But if those are the grounds upon which someone argues for the aggression necessary to enforce the tax system against people trying to voluntarily buy and sell goods and services, they have no legitimate reason to claim this statism made the Bloom Box possible. The government decided to let these people keep more of their money. That isn't help just like a robber isn't helping you when he decides to leave the TV.

l See You


Actually, the robber analogy isn't a great fit. The robber doesn't normally return at an arbitrary time to claim your TV, knowing you will be held criminally responsible if you attempt to prevent him from taking it. Criminally responsible, of course, means specially-trained and well-armed people who have substantial legal immunity will eventually arrest, kidnap, and kill you for resisting their orders.

I predict many of the coercive collectivists known as politicians will praise this as an example of proper government policy. I predict I'll vomit a little in my mouth every time I hear it, knowing that some dolt claiming to be a supporter of free markets and individual liberty will be on shortly to concede away the former by compromising on the latter.

February 10, 2010

Cigarette Taxes

Reuters via Yahoo! News: U.S. would reap billions from $1 cigarette tax hike

Adding a $1 per pack tax to cigarettes could raise more than $9 billion a year for states, health advocates said on Wednesday, and a poll released with the study shows Americans would support such a tax.

I wonder if there will ever come a day when I or someone who shares my philosophical temperament will encounter a mainstream news article like the above and not immediately know how it will proceed.

"An increase in tobacco tax rates is not only sound public health policy but a smart and predictable way to help boost the economy and generate long-term health savings for states facing deepening budget deficits," said John Seffrin, chief executive of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
I loathe these people. They take a laudable goal and fuck it up by advocating the violent redistribution of property as a way to achieve it.
"We have irrefutable evidence that raising the tobacco tax lowers smoking rates among adults and deters millions of children from picking up their first cigarette," Seffrin said in a statement.
Pragmatism: It Can Justify Anything
The groups also surveyed 847 registered voters and found 60 percent favor raising the tobacco tax to help state budgets while 38 percent were opposed.

The survey, with a margin of error of three points, found that 72 percent of voters opposed increases in state sales and 80 percent rejected higher gasoline taxes.


Democracy: Danger In Numbers

"Each year in the United States, smoking-caused disease results in $96 billion in health care costs, much of which is paid by taxpayers through higher insurance premiums and government-funded health programs such as Medicaid," the report argues

"Indeed, higher Medicaid costs are one of the reasons states are facing budget difficulties."


OBVIOUSLY WE CAN'T STOP TAXING OTHERS TO PAY FOR THOSE TREATMENTS. THAT WOULD BE MEAN AND HEARTLESS.

Rather, let's just order cops to threaten imminent bodily harm, abduction, and detainment against those retailers who won't collect the tax and who, after their permission to make a living is revoked, continue to operate their businesses. Let's send strangers violently into the lives of people who have done nothing wrong and command them to raise their prices with the express intent to cut down on their sales. All of that is fine and dandy, isn't it?

"It is disheartening the report's authors are suggesting legislators position tax increases as a way to address health issues while the report clearly describes tax increases as a way to fix budgets and score political points with voters," Philip Morris USA said in a statement.

"The report neglects to mention the fact that cigarette tax increases rarely generate all of the revenue they are projected to raise -- creating more budget problems down the road."

Copyright © 2010 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.


And bringing up the rear: the inevitable half-hearted, nutless whining by Industry. Utterly devoid of principle and morally gutted by years of lies, the best they can offer is "I disagree, that plan wouldn't quite work so well." I once had some sympathy for these cretins; no more. Not when they say shit like:

In addition to violating many trademark laws, counterfeit cigarettes are almost always sold without the appropriate federal and state excise tax. The counterfeit cigarettes purchased from G.J. Smokes bore no genuine tax stamp. As a result, the applicable excise taxes were not paid.
If you actively advocate the economic destruction of your products, how the fuck am I supposed to care about another buck imposed on top of each pack? Other than the unthinkingly reflexive tea party hordes, why would anyone else give it a second thought unless it was their own habit gored by the government ox?

Big Tobacco is functionally absurd.

February 01, 2010

Another Law I'll Break With Regularity

Austin-American Statesman: Police to begin ticketing for texting while driving

Austin police will begin issuing tickets today for people who text message while driving.

[...]

The ban prohibits driving while using a mobile electronic device to send a text message or e-mail, surf the Web, play a game or adjust music settings or use iPhone applications.

[...]

The citations will be a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $500 and can be appealed in Municipal Court.

Copyright © Mon Feb 01 16:05:42 EST 2010 All rights reserved.


Tack this onto the impressive list of perfectly moral and contextually-appropriate actions for which we'll now be held criminally responsible.

If I want to send a text, I'll do so when I think I have the safe opportunity to do so. That includes while in the driver's seat of a moving car.

The City of Austin and the Austin Police Department can suck it. I'm responsible for any wrecks, injuries, and deaths my actions may cause and no law will change that.