October 23, 2014

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Sure, material isn”€™t everything; but it also isn”€™t nothing. I”€™m old enough to remember the age before abundant cheap stuff: to remember the rapture of my mother, a sensible lower-class Englishwoman, at acquiring labor-saving gadgets when, in middle age, she could at last afford them. The Midas Plague? Bring it on.

No more energy worries.  Remember worrying about oil? Oil shocks, peak oil, blood for oil? Well, no more of that.

With fracking for shale oil and natural gas, not to mention biofuels like ethanol”€”world’s largest producer: the U.S.A.”€”we are hovering on the edge of energy independence.

Even fusion power, which has been just over the technological horizon since my school days, is being talked up again. That really stretches my capacity for optimism, but who knows?

Climate change good!  I always hesitate to comment on climate change, having little interest in the topic and not much knowledge, and aware that this whole zone of public policy”€”both sides”€”is infested by shrieking lunatics, a human type I strive to avoid.

I did, though, recently attend a talk by Prof. Will Happer, who believes that “€œthe warming and increased CO2 will be good for mankind.”€ The Prof. is a smart guy and gave an engaging talk, so maybe he’s right.  

With all that warmth and CO2, the Sahara will bloom, the arctic tundra will yield to the plow, and even the 6.89 kids the average woman in Niger will produce may have enough to eat.

The hard problem.  The main area where I have trouble being optimistic is politics. All over the West a caste of professional politicians increasingly detached from the lives of their citizens rides a regulatory juggernaut they can barely control.  

In Europe and Britain there are the beginnings of a populist revolt. Whether those places will steer back toward a genuine ethic of restrained and frugal public service, we shall see. Here in the U.S.A. the big donors and lobbies of the “€œoppressed”€ still have their thumbs firmly pressed on the political windpipe.  

I”€™m just saying: optimism has its limits.   


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