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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.

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