Thank you for your kind thoughts. It is refreshing to connect with someone with whom I can discuss some of the challenges confronting our society without the rancor too often associated with such discussions. We do have our differences…
I’m not familiar with Mr. Yang. I’ve seen a couple of interviews. It is interesting that he would refer to “dividends” as a “share of the wealth this nation represents” and “deserved” by virtue of being alive.
The United States is an incredibly wealthy nation. Let’s explore the source of that wealth. When the US was founded in 1789, there were no utilities as we know them. Transportation was by horsepower provided by real horses! Most of the conveniences we take for granted today did not exist. In fewer than two hundred and fifty years we’ve gone from that state to being arguably the most advanced nation in human history. That is an unparalleled accomplishment. It is a testament to the possibilities that exist if we do not shackle the creative spirit, talent, and ability of individuals. That progress did not come without costs. More on that later…
Consider what might have been had the federal government, between then and now, involved itself in innovation as it often has recently. In his day, Thomas Edison was well known and well connected. Nicola Tesla, not so much. Edison’s well-known experiments and accomplishments were all done using direct current (DC) electricity. Tesla experimented with alternating current (AC) electricity. He (Tesla) found that AC was no more expensive to generate but could be transmitted much more efficiently. That is because AC typically involves high voltage and low amperage. DC electricity is typically the opposite: low voltage and high amperage.
If you touch wires carrying high voltage you will experience the “shock” associated with doing that. Really high voltage will knock you down and if you don’t get loose from it, will cause serious burns. However, people have been struck by lightning (extremely high voltage; very low amperage) and survived. Exposure to wires carrying low voltage and high amperage, even for a relatively short time, is likely to cause serious physical, neurological damage or death. AC electricity is safer where people with little knowledge may come in contact with it. Hold that thought.
Had either Edison or Tesla relied upon government financing to support their research and development, as is today often called for by the left, it is entirely possible that we would be using DC electricity today because of Edison’s higher profile and acceptance. Some of Tesla’s experiments were thought to be “eccentric,” and not without reason (interesting fellow, Tesla).
Back then when someone had an idea and needed help getting it off the ground they didn’t approach the government but rather searched out private funding. Tesla went to George Westinghouse, who recognized the potential of Tesla’s idea and built a generator to demonstrate it. When it came to be decided, by local authorities, which system would be used for street lighting, and be available to the general public Tesla’s safer, AC version was selected. The result is the system we have today.
In that instance, had the federal government been the deciding authority, we might today have neither! The very epitome of “clout,” John D. Rockefeller, argued against electricity of any kind. Being a producer of petroleum products, he wanted gas lighting to be used. Imagine, everywhere there is a wire today there would be a gas line instead!
Beginning decades ago, certain people began pointing out that providing the wonderful comforts we enjoy is doing harm to our environment. The sheer number of people is problematic, it was said. I recall, at some gasoline stations, one could get a free “litter bag” with any purchase. It was pointed out that so many people throwing trash out of their car windows was causing our roadways to be unsightly. Imagine that! It took a while for the general public to embrace the idea that we were becoming a nation of slobs, but it caught on.
Eventually, it became obvious that pollution was becoming a serious health issue in certain parts of the country. In 1969 Los Angeles, during the right time of the year, so I was told, the smog was “not too bad.” The sun was brown! I didn’t stay long. I’m told it’s better now because of stringent statewide regulations. That strategy was effective in that localized area, but have you checked out the cost of gasoline in California? (!!!)
Nationally, we cannot expect to regulate our way out of eventually becoming 1969 L.A. We must have a broader, more comprehensive strategy. The $100 Trillion “Green New Deal” is not the solution. First, it is just another attempt to regulate ourselves out of the problems caused by a way of life that we have not demonstrated a willingness to abandon. It is a proposal one would expect from professional regulators, otherwise known as “control freaks.” If implemented, one would be hard pressed to find any aspect of our lives not controlled by the federal bureaucracy.
Second, if left to the federal government to accomplish, no one alive today is likely to see it completed. I remember the $535 Million “Solyndra” debacle; I don’t recall seeing an accounting of where the money went. When it became clear that no more loan guarantees would be forthcoming, the company filed bankruptcy. Therein lies the problem with federal government funding of ongoing projects.
Had the Tesla/Westinghouse project failed, both men and probably several others would have lost a fortune. That kind of incentive is missing from cases like Solyndra. Who lost a fortune in that failure? You did. I did. All American taxpayers did. The prevailing attitude seems to be, “It’s okay, we’ll just borrow another half billion from China.” How many more generations of our progeny are we willing to encumber because of our unwillingness to find real solutions to problems and, instead of taking responsibility, continue to borrow to pay for more ineffectual band-aids?
We must begin looking for solutions from a Capitalist point of view. That does not mean that the government has no role. Let me present a purely hypothetical scenario. I don’t know if it is actually possible but as an example of how we might arrive at such a solution…
Suppose that the federal government offered a prize of $1 Billion to any person or group who comes up with a method of neutralizing radioactive waste. Anyone is eligible and no registration is required. However they must, themselves, find private financing and perform necessary experiments safely and in conformity with relevant codes. The federal government so far has no money in the game and therefore, no oversight other than code enforcement, and no probable cause to interfere.
When someone has the solution it is presented for review. No half-way measures, no “if certain conditions exist.” To claim the prize it must be a verifiable, repeatable process that begins with radioactive waste and ends with road base or drywall or something equally inert and useful. Once proven, the inventor(s) may accept the $1 Billion prize or decide to patent the process and market it themselves. Why would they do that? Because…
Once the process is proven if they choose to accept the prize money, the patent becomes the exclusive property of a government-sanctioned, annually audited public non-profit. As an additional incentive, the winner(s) of the prize might be allowed to retain a junior interest, but the American citizens would own the process.
Consider the marketability. By offering, for a fee, to take radioactive waste from wherever, to be processed and returned in an inert state, I think it would not take long to realize the return of the prize money. When the prize money is returned to the treasury, the non-profit would then use receipts acquired from sales or licensing for any number of well defined useful purposes. That is if we can prevent someone, like the Chinese for example, from stealing it.
There we have a template for a Capitalist solution to a serious, intractable problem confronting societies all over the planet.
That specific project may not be possible, like turning lead into gold, but the possibilities are staggering. How many similar problems worldwide might be resolved by unleashing the power of individuals’ ingenuity and resourcefulness? What economic system offers that possibility?
It ain’t Socialism.
March 30, 2019