Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Businesses Jump onto Green
In a prime example of why pragmatism (the notion that there are no principles to guide action other than doing what "works" at the moment) is impractical, businesses are jumping onto the global warming bandwagon. From The Economist comes the following almost unbearable reading.
For a country that is often cast as evil incarnate when it comes to the environment, America has amassed an impressive array of green credentials of late. Even the National Football League plans to offset the greenhouse gases generated by this year's Super Bowl in February. The day before George Bush was due to use the state-of-the-union message to unveil his latest environmental measures, some of America's biggest firms made their move. On Monday January 22nd, ten big corporations, including General Electric, Alcoa, DuPont and Duke Energy, in cahoots with leading environmental groups, called for measures to combat global warming. [bold added]This is happening at the state level, too. Via HBL comes this story on businesses kowtowing to a dictatorial green measure enacted by Governor Schwartzenkennedy:
[R.E.] Zalesky and other business executives from electric utilities, alternative fuel developers and even a San Francisco taxi cooperative applauded Schwarzenegger as he signed an executive order to make California the first government in the world to set a comprehensive standard for regulating the amount of carbon dioxide in transportation fuels.You will note that Schwartenkennedy wants to reduce emissions by "only" 25% by 2020. A green coalition from the previous story wants to achieve a 30% reduction during a similar time frame. I guess that 5% difference and the "free market" disguise are about what it means to be a conservative these days. (This is why I will take pains to make damn sure no one mistakes me for a conservative from now on. I am a radical capitalist.)
The order is a key component of last year's global warming law, which seeks to reduce emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases by 25% by 2020.
Environmental activists continue to strongly support the initiative. But the enthusiasm for the governor's action by the oil industry is in sharp contrast to its groans about last year's landmark legislation.
"My guess is they're sick of being on the losing end in opposition to the governor and Legislature," said Bill Magavern of the Sierra Club. "They want to get on board the bandwagon." [Harry Binswanger aptly calls this a "hearse". --ed]
No more than appeasement of a foreign foe will result in his defeat, will voluntarily sticking one's neck through the regulatory noose save one's business. And as for the capitalist form -- a "market" for emission credits -- of some of these regulations, I was right on the money ages ago:
Yeah, and back in the days of the slave trade, people bought and sold other people in "markets".This is a direct assault on our standard of living -- and the profitability of these businesses -- and yet they are not even pretending to fight it. If I weren't affected, I would call this "popcorn time" since these businesses are going to get what they deserve. Sadly, though, we're also poised to get what they deserve -- in the form of less protection our rights and the resulting weakened economy.
Just because the government creates a "market" by permitting the wholesale violation of rights (liberty in the case of slavery or property in this case) does not mean that it is promoting capitalism.
It is bad enough that Schwartzenegger falls for environmentalism. It is worse that he thinks this particular implementation of the Green agenda is somehow a pro-capitalist idea.
So where was I this weekend and Monday? Sunny SoCal. My wife had an interview for a medical residency there Monday, so we took the occasion to visit her sister in Los Angeles.
I lived near San Francisco briefly near the end of my naval service over a decade ago. California is beautiful and pleasant, but I found it very odd then and I find it very odd now. The culture is not just saturated with environmentalism and health fad hectoring, it drips with it. You just about cannot even open your eyes (and look at a man-made object) without seeing this. Look at a bus, see a proclamation that it runs on "clean-burning" natural gas.
We had brunch with the in-laws at a place near Hollywood called Hugo's. (Their motto is, "We believe in sustainability." Hmmm: That sounds familiar!) After my recent reading of Joe Queenan's Balsamic Dreams, their menu had me laughing out loud. I was sorely tempted to order a cup of "free-range, organic, steel-cut coffee breast", but I maintained my self-control. Instead, I just ordered a plain coffee and was ready to "explain" that I'm from Texas.
During the trip, I also learned that parts of Los Angeles have rent control laws similar to those in New York. My sister-in-law recently purchased a property she plans to renovate and subdivide. Unfortunately, these rent control laws prevent her from increasing the rents to her tenants by more than 3% per year. As a result, she will have to evict the tenants she has in order to be able to afford to improve her own property. On top of that, she will have to pay thousands of dollars per tenant to do so besides whatever legal wrangling and red tape there is. Whose property is this, anyway?
A welcome respite from this blue-state madness came in the form of a brief lunch with Don Watkins, who is now the third person I have had the pleasure of meeting through blogging. If you blog and live over there, you could be the next to hear from me out of the blue shortly before we visit LA again.
Teen (Entrepreneurial) Spirit
I saw a couple of interesting book reviews in a copy of USA Today yesterday. One of them was about teen entrepreneurs. The stories behind kids who manage to become wealthy sound compelling enough, but the book also asks "Why?"
On the one hand, this is not surprising. Many books on successful entrepreneurs will ask how they achieved their great success. And many journalists make a big deal out of asking kids about their opinions -- usually hoping they will parrot whatever leftist propaganda they're being fed in school.
On the other hand, the book looks like an interesting experiment/time capsule. Given that so many kids are told what to think rather than taught how during their educations, I wonder how many of these kids will remain successful, given some of the advice they spout out. For example, this sounds like it could have come straight from the research for Edwin Locke's article on "self-esteem" in the last Objective Standard.
Trick yourself. Self-deception is essential to maintain high self-esteem. It's okay to take more credit than you deserve, in your own mind, for successes. It's okay to think you can outwork and out-passion anyone who competes with you. Stay humble on the outside, but consider yourself unstoppable on the inside.My take is that most of these kids were probably lucky enough to find something that they were passionate about early enough that their minds and spirits hadn't been crushed outright by the education establishment. How many of them will continue to remain happy and productive if this is typical of what they believe? There is no way to accomplish anything constructive by consistently tricking yourself.
And then, of course, as the first section of this roundup shows, the ability to achieve success in business and the ability to understand what makes it possible are not necessarily the same thing.
A ten or twenty year followup of these entrepreneurs might also be an interesting read.
The Real Pepsi Challenge
The second review was about a book detailing Pepsi's pioneering efforts in the 1940's to market to black Americans:
[Pepsi president Walter] Mack was ahead of his time in recognizing the economic power of black consumers. It wasn't until 1952, a year after Pepsi's special-markets team was broken up, that The Wall Street Journal first addressed the worth of the black market, Capparell writes.This is one I might add to my still-unfinished Christmas stack o' books!
Besides Smith's hiring in 1940, two of Mack's 13 interns that year were black. By 1948, there were 12 black people selling Pepsi nationwide from corporate headquarters.
All of this during a time when Mack's Coca-Cola counterpart, Robert Woodruff, opposed "racial mixing," both on the job and in society, writes [Stephanie] Capparell.
When Did the "Aint's" Come Marching In?
This is kinda like the football version of "Jumped the Shark".
Well, the Saints made a game of it for awhile, and most sports pundits will say that the turning point of the NFC Championship came when Billy Cundiff missed a long field goal attempt.
That's probably right, but still: When did the Ain'ts show up? I'd say when, already in deep doo-doo, they were pinned near the end zone and passed (on fourth down, if I recall correctly). Chicago almost intercepted.
"That defender dropped the ball, though, Gus," I can almost hear you say.
Too bad that wasn't a successful play by Chicago, because da Bears would have had much worse field position if the ball had been caught! (If professional defenders are trained to not catch balls in situations like this, I am not enough of a football aficionado to know.)
When your team would be better off with its opponent making an interception, you know you're watching the Ain'ts.
Seriously, this is one talented team. They may well be back next year. And heck, if Peyton Manning can get the playoff monkey off his back, so can the Saints.