While I was away having fun in the mountains, I rudely ignored a number of comments on the blog that I’d normally answer. I could answer them in place, but if I did that now, no-one would notice, hence this post. Did I rudely ignore your fine comment here, too? Then tell me. But first, a picture: walking from La Berarde up towards the Pilatte hut.

The rule of law

Q: When will we see ‘tailpipes’ on cars as morally wrong? An Earth Day question

The similarity to smoking ban in public places seems an obvious similarity to draw.

My thoughts:

One difference between smoking and ICE cars is that it is cheaper and not essential to smoke, however electric cars are more expensive and some travel is essential. Consequently I can see reasons for such a movement not gaining much ground for the next couple of years. Fortunately it may not be much longer before electric cars are cheaper and then there is no reason for sales not to be banned in fairly short order along the same lines as smoking to protect innocent other people. Indeed Norway is already talking about banning ICE cars by 2025. If all countries did so, we might have difficulty in making enough electric cars by 2025. The more this is talked about, the more car companies will realise it is coming and prepare and the sooner it will be possible to put such a ban in place.

So morals should demand that we should talk about it to encourage it to become possible to put such a ban on sales of ICE cars in place sooner.

What is the libertarian counterargument? That we should be allowed to make decisions that deliberately harm other people?

A: Ha, you mistake me for an L theorist. I will attempt to guess an answer: they would likely say that the evidence for the public smoking ban (i.e. for damage from secondary smoke) was weak enough to not justify government action. Damage from cars definitely exists, and yet most of the population benefits, and almost all of the population that can afford a car, buys one; and hence are in a poor position to complain. My suspicion is that Electric will take rather longer to come in than some rosy estimates, so this problem will be around for a while yet.

Economic denialism?

And some more denial.

A: Meh. If you’re going to get excited by every dumb thing Trump does, you’re going to be permanently excited, which is bad for you. As for the committee, you have to get a long way down the article before you find The committee was established in 2015, but its members were not appointed until last summer. They convened their first meeting in the fall.

>How about the rest of the species on this planet? Not a single economy out there, let alone a discount rate.

This is what I don’t get: much of biology is made out of economies (there’s a whole discipline called Ecology for starters), and yet most economists seem to have zero idea about the fundamental set of relationships that pay the bills. By Pay The Bills, I mean a) provide oxygen for those of us who breath, b) feed all the humans on the planet, and c) provide livable environments/moderate climates.

I find it bizarre that ECOnomics is solely concerned with human financial relationships, while our unbelievably fantastic and generous Growth Economy continues to unsustainably eat away at both “our” biological capital and the very systems that provide food and oxygen. The dismal science indeed…

A: I have some sympathy for this viewpoint. As I’ve said many times in the past, it seems to me likely to be the major impact of GW, but very hard to quantify. That said, we’re not and won’t be short of oxygen, and current crop yields are increasing, not decreasing.

Study of company documents, peer-reviewed papers and newspaper ads claims to show how the oil giant tried to cast doubt on climate science…

But economics!!! The company clearly got its money’s worth….

A: Meh. Retread; nothing new.

Somewhat higher up, coming down from Pilatte.


  1. #1 Thomas Fuller
    United States

    Gee, I thought Economics was a bit grander in scope than analyzing human financial relationships. The phrase ‘allocating scarce resources to best serve humanity’s needs’ kinda comes to mind.

  2. #2 Phil Hays
    Cost curve

    “Fortunately it may not be much longer before electric cars are cheaper”


    So why is it that electric cars are getting cheaper?

    How did that happen?

    Do explain.

    [Who are you asking? -W]

  3. #3 Paul Kelly

    Re #2: It’s called the march of human progress. It’s technologies costs generally, and in particular with automotive innovations, reducing in relation to adoption.

  4. #4 crandles

    >”So why is it that electric cars are getting cheaper? How did that happen? Do explain.”

    Battery prices falling due to Elon Musk gigafactory scale investments.

    Do you need more explanation than that?

  5. #5 Phil.

    The interim step was the development of hybrids which made a significant jump in efficiency. Back in the early 70s when I was researching engine combustion, Prof Med Thring told me there was even more advantage in developing regenerative breaking. Back then we were limited to mechanical controls, once we got to the ability for digital control many more things became possible.

  6. #6 Phil Hays
    Cost curve

    [Who are you asking? -W]

    You, of course. I’d love to hear. Start with the first mass market EV of modern times:

    [Oh. I did think you might be, but then I wondered why. I don’t really know, other than to guess that everything is getting cheaper -W]

    Required by CARB, that evil government regulation issuing economy killer. Subsidized by the Federal Government “Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles” program, to the level that GM probably made a profit even if they gave every EV1 away for free. Overwhelming consumer demand, drivers with “wonderfully-manical loyalty.” GM expecting and hoping for a flop and getting a star instead.

    Then GM recalling and crushing every EV1. That will fix the “problem”.

    A carbon tax wouldn’t have starting production of EVs, unless sky high. Regulations and subsidies have. It takes decades to ramp technology and production up to levels where a carbon tax might matter to the decision to make or to buy an electric car.

    So give me the Liber Terrier version. Ask Timmy to chime in so we can laugh harder.

    [You’re being silly, and also impolite -W]

    #3 Progress is not mandatory. How did EVs get far enough down the cost curve to start to matter?

    #4 Gigafactory scale is the end of the story. Hopefully will be a happily ever after story. Politics can still kill the Electric Car.

    Small scale is very expensive. What about the beginning?

  7. #7 Phil Hays
    Cost curve

    #5 regenerative braking dates back to the AMC Amitron, a full electric concept car in 1967. Subsidized by the “Electric Vehicle Development Act of 1966”.

    Mass market hybrid cars started with the Toyota Prius, released in 1997 in Japan after the EV1 in 1996.

  8. #8 Phil Hays
    Cost Curve

    [You’re being silly, and also impolite -W]

    Thank you.

    Adam Smith pointed out some of the implications of the cost curve in Wealth of Nations. Some of the non-mainstream economic thought tends to ignore this concept, as well as ignoring the concept of economic externalities.

    A picture to consider:

  9. #9 Hank Roberts
    ah, here's the problem

    > I could answer them in place, but if I did that now,
    > no-one would notice, hence this post.

    That’s why I wish you’d adopt the RC sidebar listing and linking to comments “…With Inline Responses”

    I dunno how easyly one can steal HTML, but it’s there to be stolen.

    [No idea how to do that, I’m afraid -W]

  10. #10 Harry
    same place I was last time you asked me!

    “A: I have some sympathy for this viewpoint. As I’ve said many times in the past, it seems to me likely to be the major impact of GW, but very hard to quantify. That said, we’re not and won’t be short of oxygen, and current crop yields are increasing, not decreasing.”

    That doesn’t count as any sort of a response. Don’t worry, we’ll be right. :)

  11. #11 Hank Roberts
    possibly useful for mapping

    “I have long inveighed against the absurdly lobotomizing so-called “left-right political axis,” which crams all issues together along a scale that no one can even properly define. Others have agreed that it is unworthy of a sapient people. My recently departed colleague, Jerry Pournelle, was among those who have tried to offer an improved landscape. …”

  12. #12 Hank Roberts

    > how to do that
    Ask Gavin?

    [Gavin has more control of his site’s appearance and properties than I do; I don’t have much -W]


    Also worth a look:
    “… The market can’t fix this. Markets work because buyers choose between sellers, and sellers compete for buyers. In case you didn’t notice, you’re not Equifax’s customer. You’re its product….
    This market failure isn’t unique to data security. There is little improvement in safety and security in any industry until government steps in….”

    [Yes, I saw that. You may perhaps be under the impression that I, or the Libertarians, believe that all regulation is wrong; but that impression is itself wrong -W]

  13. #13 Hank Roberts

    > I, or the Libertarians ….

    It’s not you all I worry about.
    It’s our homegrown USA-variety “market” absolutists who don’t get that they’re part of the product being bought and sold.

  14. #14 Hank Roberts
  15. #15 Hank Roberts

    and of course these guys:

    [I don’t think I’m going to worry too much about what goes on 4chan -W]