Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Against Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲)

So far, my scribblings on the situation at Fukushima have focused almost entirely on the nature of what has been happening as against how it has been reported together with the immediate political-economic implications. I haven't even touched upon the ethical question of how industrial energy should be produced in Taiwan. Some readers might have wrongly assumed that I support the nuclear power industry no matter what. Of course I don't - but I will defend the people who work in that industry against the exaggerations and malicious insinuations of the mainstream press agencies, environmentalists and irresponsible politicians. Whatever the faults that may be attributed to those people and the industry they work in, they (like those in the armed forces) have earned my respect by producing immense value for me and everybody else week in and week out. I will not sit idly by and watch anti-nuclear environmentalists and other political grifters try to destroy the industry they work in and all that that would mean...

There was a little piece in the Taipei Times this morning which contained snippets of an interview with Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) of Taiwan's Green Party. It will naturally have been applauded by the environmentalists and that lot up in Taichung. The importance of people like Pan is not that the policies he advocates will be implemented in the short term, but that they begin to acquire the lustre of ideological popularity - which will of course draw political power like moths to a flame. I gave a little cheer on J. Michael Cole's criticism of the environmentalists, but even he sanctions their motives as "high-minded" and "noble" - praise they would never get from me. I do not praise grifters, dishonest "academics" and environmentalists who want to force their priorities onto everybody else. Look at what this Pan had to say:
“Taiwan needs a fundamental change in its industrial structure by shifting away from traditional labor-intensive economy toward one that pursues quality and skill...”
The way Pan has identified and framed "industrial structure" and its consequences as a political issue is indicative of the typical social-engineering mindset commonly found on the Left. As such it is the necessary descriptive preamble to the typical Statist fallacy that economic activity can and should be directed by the State - a fallacy which underlay the waking-day nightmares of both Fascism and Soviet Socialism, and which, if we're not careful may well be lying in wait for us in a different form. As descriptive preamble, its distinctive feature is the collectivized conception of value: "Taiwan needs..." - almost as if "Taiwan" was itself a single human being, or collective hive-like entity of multiple human beings. Yet obviously Taiwan is not a person and as such it does not have "needs": individual people have needs - and not only different needs at different times, but also different prioritizations as to whichever set of needs they may share in common. These points may seem so obvious as to be redundant, but they are very easy points for certain people with a social engineering mindset to overlook, since many such people are keen to consider overarching social problems in similar methodological terms to engineering or mechanical problems with insufficient attention paid to the individual nature of human values (if this is not entirely disregarded). A large scale shift in industrial structure may be "needed" by some, but it will certainly not be "needed" by others - i.e. those who will stand to lose their livlihoods by such a shift.

Yet any such shift is not in itself morally objectionable if it has come about as a result of freely emergent market changes. What makes Pan's advocacy so reprehensible is the demand for the violence of the State to permeate the market and forcibly direct this shift. Concentrate on this: Pan is talking about having men who work in manual labour occupations removed from their livlihoods by political violence applied at several degrees of institutional distance - in order to suit his preference for an "economy... that pursues quality and skill". That demand on how political power be wielded is a breathtaking presumption of ethical authority, to ask nothing of whose valuation of quality and skill will lie behind it.

Pan at least isn't content to be considered stupid, as evinced by his cynical (yet ironically quite stupid) appropriation of the sort of argument people like me often make:
"An efficient way to cut back industrial demand for electricity, Pan said, would be to expose industries to the real cost of electricity by using market incentives..."
Of course, in a free-market, industries would have to reckon with prices not distorted by subsidies. But subsidies are far from the only form of price distortion involved there, and market incentives are not properly the toys of irresponsible government - whatever greeny politicists like Pan may think. The ethical cynicism and intellectually corrupt nature of Pan's "use" of market incentives is exposed immediately:
"...Pan said the government should limit the industrial use of power by levying a tax on electricity."
Sigh: if a government is going to levy a tax on electricity, how then is it going to expose industry to the true price of electricity?
"By using modern electrical network technology... Taiwan could raise the efficiency of its power usage by 4 percent and reduce power consumption to less than last year’s level by 2025."
I'm all for improvements in energy efficiency, but not for its own sake: I favour energy efficiency because it means improved economic value. Yet the grid network used for the transport of electricity is itself a major source of energy inefficiency and political-economic dependency - which are two reasons why I will cheer as loud as anybody the day that somebody invents cheap, small, portable and efficient batteries for the storage of chemical energy derived from solar cell panels. Yet what lies behind Pan's demand for energy efficiency there is not the implication of human progress owing to improved economic value, but the desire to reduce power consumption. I would describe the desire to direct State policies toward the end of reducing power consumption per se as "irresponsible", but I am stopped by the recognition that the real end of such policies might not be the reduction of aggregate power consumption itself as much as further extending direct political control over who gets to consume how much power and for what purposes.

You think it can't happen here in "freedomanddemocracy" Taiwan? You think the only totalitarian threat lies across the Strait?
“In the past, many incorrect decisions were made because people had limited knowledge of Mother Earth, as well as of the way politics works... Seeing what has happened in Japan, it’s certainly time for people to rise up and make a change.”
That is nothing but religious bigotry.
“We have finally arrived at the watershed moment where the fairy tale of nuclear safety is being seriously challenged...”
Rot: the only "fairy tale" here is the one little green men like him would force the rest of us to live in.

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