Reason Hit & Run has a good post defending Milton Friedman against leftists’ charges that his ideas contributed to the current financial crisis. I made the following comment:
Leftist always claim that the economic crisis du jour indicates the failure of the free market. Embedded in the assertion is the unstated premise that if leftist ran everything, we would never have economic crises. This in turn reveals the leftist’s wildly exaggerated sense of their own understanding of the economy and everything else.
The left’s critique of Friedman in this context is especially silly because I’m pretty sure setting up giant government sponsored enterprises to buy up half the residential mortgages in the country and thereby distorting the markets assessment of risk, isn’t a plan that Friedman would have come up with.
The left doesn’t actually have an developed system of thought regarding the economy. They can’t actually explain why the real world political process will systematically make better decisions than the free-market. Instead, they simply point to any reversals in the real economy, regardless of cause, and then assert that in their imaginations, leftist politicians could have done better.
It’s hard to argue against people’s imagination. You end up with a discussion much like two D&D geeks arguing over whether a dwarf with a +10 axe could take an Elf with a vorpal sword.
Leftists are fantasy driven. They create elaborate fantasies and then force everyone else to argue for reality against the fantasies. The real-world system always comes out the worse in the comparison for the same reason that the people we have sex with in our fantasies are usually better looking than the people we have sex with in real life.
The leftist fantasy argument that annoys me most is the fantasy of “alternative energy.” To hear leftists spin the tale, alternative energy is better than a fantasy paramour. It has no tradeoffs whatsoever. It’s cheap, plentiful, creates no pollution of any kind and can produce all the electricity we will ever need! Heck, even the herculean task of reengineering the entire power grid will produce jobs and stimulate the economy! There is just no downside! Anyone who says there is a downside is either an idiot or greedily invested in non-alternative energy sources.
Non-alternative energy sources can never compete with that kind of marketing fantasy. Real-world energy sources have real-world tradeoffs. Coal and natural gas release CO2 and other forms of pollution. Nuclear has proliferation and waste issues (although not as great as popularly assumed). We know exactly how much it costs financially to build them.
By contrast, the very fact that we don’t have decades of experience with alternative-energy sources means that their proponents can simply pull stats out of thin air to make alternative energy look better in comparison. You can’t effectively make an argument against these claims because you also don’t have any hard data to go on.
Even more annoying, alternative-energy advocates feel entitled to paper over any obvious shortcomings of their favored technology by evoking future technological breakthroughs, but they won’t let you postulate future technological breakthroughs that would make non-alternative energy even more attractive. For example, if you point out that the dependence of wind and solar power on the vagaries of the weather make them unreliable to the point of near uselessness, proponents will breezily respond that future technological breakthroughs in power storage or distribution will overcome the reliability problem. However, if you point out that nuclear technology currently in development could create nuclear power systems that would completely recycle their waste, they will respond that we shouldn’t make any plans for nuclear power unless we have absolutely proven that the technology works. (Oh, and let’s cut funding for the research that would prove it works.)
Leftists don’t fantasize just about economics or technology. Leftists default to fantasy in every area. (Time precludes listing them all so I leave it as an exercise for the reader.) Meanwhile, non-leftists have to defend realistic systems with all their tradeoffs.
I’m tired of it. The next time a leftist start spinning a fantasy about alternative energy, I’m going to compare weather-dependent energy to my suitcase-sized nuke that weighs 200 pounds, is fueled with recycled nuclear weapons, emits no radiation, produces no waste, generates electricity with no moving parts, cost $5,000 and cranks out enough electricity to power a full-sized freight train.
Two can play this game. My dwarf can take their elf any day.