I don't see it as anything rising close to a civilization-ending threat. Seawater is abundant. Freshwater can be made cheaply enough. We are extravagantly wasteful with water as it is, and that can be fixed easily enough as it becomes more expensive.
People in the West believe that it was about "freedom", but it was about food and life getting so expensive normal people needed to spend most of their salary just on it. Poor people not being able to eat well or not eat at all as there were no jobs.
People will revolt if they can't buy food because it is very expensive. That is the civilization ending treat: war.
War is really the worst experience you could experience. I will remember things I have seen in Congo all my life.
For example WWII was created because Germans lived a miserable life paying for WW1 and Great depression. Just interest in the WW1 debt grew faster than their productivity meaning they were slaves forever, just like Greece is today.
Americans were very careful not making the compensation for war for Germany excessive in order not to repeat History.
People will choose whoever person that promises an easy exit for their problems, and the easiest thing is to steal from others. You don't have water, you take the places that have water, like the Golan heights.
And that is war.
For market forces to work you need a long time. Inventors will only discover innovative methods after working for decades in a problem.
Letting your lawn die? This is a really stupid idea. I have worked in Sahara desert precisely helping people stop the desert just putting vegetation in place(that holds sand and makes soil so wind does not move it).
As for letting your lawn die, what I really meant but didn't say because it doesn't sound as pithy is to replace your lawn with landscaping or native flora that require much less water to maintain. There are many parts of California, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and other places that are all essentially desert, and rapidly tend back towards desert in the absence of voluminous irrigation. It makes no sense to waste thousands of liters of water per lawn per day keeping non-native grasses alive in the middle of a desert. For the cost of only several months' water you can replace your yard with something that doesn't need watering and won't blow away in a storm, the simplest and cheapest replacement being gravel.
But they were nonetheless capitalist. There were market forces at work to fix the problem, but it failed . Which still is a powerful argument against your thesis.
Sometimes the hand of the market isn't sufficiently incentivized by starving broke people. Sure they would pay, but can they?
Those countries though lack attributes of classical capitalistic societies like
- proper ownership titles and their protection from third parties, including the state
- low barriers for market entry
- free(r) flow of capital, including across their borders
All of these were practically absent in those countries. Good luck establishing your broadcasting service being a christian/jew/<minority> and without connections to the feudal rulers/police/military.
Which capitalist society does employ it's military to produce basic goods, like milk?
I feel like I'm being mistaken for a staunch libertarian here, so I want to point out that I'm not that at all. I do think there is a big role for government investment to play in society, including in providing drinkable freshwater. This was the Israeli solution, and it's increasingly going that way in California as well. I'm not advocating for strict market-force-only supply-and-demand, but rather just pointing out that wasteful uses of water will go down as the price of water goes up, which it should be allowed to do rather than being subsidized in order to control wasteful uses. The cost of having enough water to drink and to cook with is measured in the low cents per day per person in the US. A single penny gets you over two gallons from the faucet where I live. And I'm in favor of safety net programs to prevent people from dying from illness, hunger, or thirst.
"But when he put them on sale, three inspectors from the council asked him for bribes. Mohamed refused to pay."
When it comes to agriculture and industry (the largest consumers, by far) demand and supply isn't as elastic as you make it out to be. And that's exacerbated by volatility, both in demand but especially in supply--a drought isn't always a slow decline or even a simple precipitous drop in supply but often manifests in wild fluctuations.
That kind of environment makes capital investments, including investments in such things as desalination and power plants, risky and thus quite costly. So it's no surprise that most of these desalination plants are either government owned or otherwise heavily subsidized. That's not exactly the outcome one would expect of the free market if it were as simple as implementing a proper pricing scheme.
Rather, I think the takeaway is that water is one of those areas that proves that while the laws of supply & demand are utterly inviolable, price signaling can't always be readily accomplished through basic monetary schemes. Because of far reaching and pervasive externalities that make price signaling difficult. (Consumer pricing is obviously well suited but only the tip of the iceberg.) And because the capital investments required push the envelope of what the capital markets can efficiently handle. And yet because water is so fundamental its one of those areas where even governments (at least, well-functioning governments) can be relatively responsive. Those that don't handle it well tend to be winnowed out rather quickly--either by change of government or just societal collapse.
Also what do you mean by the term "monetary scheme"?
I was alluding to the fact that politics is also a kind of market for price signaling. Regulatory schemes are a signal to either reduce supply (literally, as in the Federal regulatory scheme for the wholesale electricity market) or to otherwise stop externalizing some cost. Economists quantify that in terms of the effect on market pricing because it's a much more useful and mature model for analytical purposes, but fundamentally that's just semantics. Political power is subject to the dynamic forces of economic laws like anything else, we just lack the ability to quantify it as well.
I like to think of government as just another large firm, and its product is legitimacy. Government does have the power of violence, but from a regulatory perspective (as opposed to criminal law perspective) that's often irrelevant in the aggregate. For example, in San Francisco there are many thousands of illegal in-law units. But never would the government go around house-to-house to enforce the law, and rarely do so even when given notice. The politicians would be voted out of office the moment anybody caught wind of such a thing.
The problem with water is the externalities, some of which are extremely difficult to price. So it's irrelevant that we can use e.g. futures markets to mitigate volatility.
Imagine that overnight somebody said that Silicon Valley is unsuitable for technology firms. Everybody needs to get up and go somewhere else. We could probably price the immediate effect fairly easily--cost of relocation, for example. But now consider that the economy of the entire Bay Area and indeed of all of California depends heavily on the technology economy. What's the cost of all the unemployed engineers who didn't get relocated? The cost to the companies and people serving the tech industry? The cost to the state of not only lost revenue, but of past and present budget allocations. Of unemployment? Of crime? Of the path-dependent evolution of economies, generally? Some of that is impossible to know given our current understanding.
And how do we internalize some of the benefit that will accrue to where ever those companies migrate to? Theoretically that should be possible, and ideally that would be done to minimize disruption.
Now imagine somebody told you that if the government intervened and did X, Y, and Z, then the tech industry was viable and could stay, at least for the time being. At best everything will continue as before, at worst there'll be a moderately slow wind down. But in any event things will be much more stable.
What do you think is going to happen? Are we (society) going to choose to develop a futures market for pricing the volatility, or are we going to turn to government?
Whatever we do, the environmental forces against the tech firms will remain, it's the mechanisms we employ to manage the direct and especially indirect costs that is different.
That's water in a nutshell for many areas of the world. For example, the entire economy of the Central Valley of California is dependent on agriculture. In total dollars the immediate benefit of agriculture to the California economy is surprisingly small. But there's a reason California bends over backwards to sustain the industry. It's not just about corporate campaign money. Again, the industry is small by dollar amount. And if the costs of sustaining agriculture were so inefficient you can be sure other corporations would be using their political donations to fight such laws.
After all, it's _easy_ to import water. We don't need futures markets for water, or even to build desalination plants. Certainly not in California where there's more than enough water for residential use. The most efficient solution to drought is to import industrial and agricultural products which rely on water. But for various reasons there's a limit to how far countries wish to go down that track, or at least how quickly they want to.
This is usually dealt within the framework of commodity markets and the purchase of futures, but you won't be able to buy water there. We have abused water as a resource and created water rights for millenia.
At least we're moving in the right direction now:
- If you live on less than $1 a day, rising food/water costs is a big deal.
- If you are in a land-locked country, desalination isn't an option.
- Desalination plants aren't built over night. In the meantime droughts would have consequences.
- If water became a major percentage of the cost of food, it would shift what crops are grown. Towards monoculture and away from diversity. The poor would especially be constrained.
- If we let our lawns die, we'll see more property damage due to soil erosion.
Replace them with native plants.
Xeriscaping is a fine option and when done right, it looks gorgeous...but doing it right is beyond the means of the average homeowner.
Personally, I have never maintained a lawn. Unlike my neighbors, I didn't cut down almost all of the native trees, so I have native landscaping, and it looks 100X better than flat, mowed lawn. It has wildflowers, and 'weeds' that flower and add to the beauty. I simply rake leaves in the fall, and keep my walkway clear to the house with stone from my property.
The way manicured lawns and homogeneous homes depicted in Tim Burton's 'Edward Scissorhands' film was spot on to me except in real life most condo communities would not allow the differently colored houses, or at least limit the palette. I grew up in Brooklyn, but found this out when I tried to change my carburetor in my mother-in-laws driveway, and I was told you cannot work on your car in your own driveway. No thanks to that life!
I know if I were buying a new house today, one of which had several hundreds of dollars per month in required water costs to keep the lawn alive, and one of which did not, I'm going with the latter one every time. Especially because you know the lawn is going to die on the former anyway at some point in the future when more severe water restrictions come into play and watering your lawn is (rightfully) prohibited.
The project wasn't cheap, but it wasn't that outrageously expensive, either, especially not compared to the cost of housing. We have to irrigate some, but nothing like what a lawn would need. And we have a nice outdoor space to hang out and entertain in, way nicer than concrete.
I've heard this before, and I've tried to imagine how that would work. The lawns I see in just about every city, most of them are surrounded by streets and usually sidewalks and sometimes curbs, too.
I try imagine what'd happen if the grass all just died and soil erosion started to kick in. Where's the soil going that's now going to erode? Is it liquefying in heavy rains and flowing up and away over the roads?
I just can't picture how lawns are doing all that much to prevent soil erosion, but would love a more detailed explanation.
I'm not sure if your attitude, that supply and demand fixes everything, is the most probable outcome.
Capitalism usefully values human life at circa zero when resources are limited, or when there are lots of humans available to feed in to your luxury goods supply chain.
See, no problem.
In these situations rectification can mean one of several things: Decapitating all who are or seem to be in power or inflating currency until being rich loses its meaning.
Obviously those two solutions are not very attractive to the capitalist market players, so there is an incentive to form structure with the goal of sustaining society. Though history shows capitalist markets are not good (enough) at forming that structure (thus their heads roll).
The poor don't get priced out and die as you write. A potential market attracts problem solvers, yes, to make a profit (not a dirty word always), and new solutions are found to new problems - that is technology. Sometimes it creates new problems, hopefully less of a problem, and the cycle continues. Look at Cuba for what happens when you are cut off from trade, don't allow individuals to decide what they want to be when they grow up, and don't utilize technology and your natural resources efficiently.
I don't think any system, Capitalism, Socialism, what have you, allow you to meet and greet 7 billion people and get to know them to determine what is best for each individual, so yes, I'll go with market forces, supply and demand unless you have the ability to create something from nothing. These things emerge for the most part, and are not fully intentional constructs.
That depends on how it is done, Venezuela showed how not to do it. I think a good option is to also provide commodities by non-profit companies run by the state and then use their costs plus a profit margin as a cap for commercial competition. If water, electricity and basic foods become too expensive people suffer and one finally will face revolts - which pure commercial entities are not necessarily incentivized to prevent (just pulling out of a market when the suffering becomes too great might be more cost efficient for them).
>one finally will face revolts -
One should not be cowed into instituting authoritarian measures. If there is a law-and-order issue, that should be dealt with directly by punishing violent protest.
I would have thought the most dangerous interventions were ones that tanked the economy and caused widespread poverty and desperation. But yeah, slightly reduced economic output sounds worse.
I do love the untestable nature of this assertion, too. The underlying claim here is that all interventions cause economic damage, even if we can't detect it. This is analogous to claiming that microwave ovens increase the risk of cancer, even though we can't detect it.
>I would have thought the most dangerous interventions were ones that tanked the economy and caused widespread poverty and desperation. But yeah, slightly reduced economic output sounds worse.
The compounding effect of slightly reduced economic growth adds up to a lot over the long term. Much more than a big one or two year drop in GDP. You can do the math and see what I mean.
>The underlying claim here is that all interventions cause economic damage, even if we can't detect it.
To clarify, you probably can detect it but like all economic phenomena, we don't have absolute proof that so-and-so economic policy was the cause of the damage. We only have a reasonable cause to believe it is the cause.
The problem is that the majority of the electorate are not well-versed in economics so unless the damage is extremely obvious they're not going to react properly and correct the harmful policy..
And you're totally misunderstanding my position. I am arguing for economic development because it is the most effective means of saving and enriching human life.
>You're arguing that minute interventions have enormous effects
First of all, not all the interventions are minute. Social Security or Medicare redistribution, is not minute. But the effects take a long time to manifest themselves. Lower levels of private sector investment only manifest themselves as less growth in GDP statistics years later, and can even boost GDP statistics in the short run.
Second, thousands of minute interventions over the course of decades do have enormous effects.
You're right. It's extremely nonobvious, because you're not making an argument from a position of fact but from a position of principle. Which is my point.
If GDP is 80% lower than it should be, I think you'd be able to demonstrate that.
You know who had experienced absurd GDP growth? China. Not that I think the Chinese model is what we should strive for, but I don't know how interventionism is clearly bad when interventionist governments like China have been growing so aggressively.
It is not obvious because it would require a person reading many pages of dense economic data. Obviously the average voter is not going to do that.
>but I don't know how interventionism is clearly bad when interventionist governments like China have been growing so aggressively.
China's economic growth increased substantially after it instituted pro-market reforms in the early 1980s. It also imposes far lower levels of income redistribution in the form of social welfare spending as a percentage of GDP.
To be fair, the control group would be difficult to say the least. The same is true with the economy. So yea, it's very possible there are behaviors we can't detect.
Is it possible the unfathomably complex economic machine will simply adapt to the subsidy? If the subsidy was limited to a couple liters per person per day (e.g., sufficient to ensure survival), could this be less reckless than letting people die of dehydration?
It's very annoying when people make bold statements like this without any evidence or factual support. Please provide some examples of free market economics leading to people starving.
>which is why both approaches have been rejected by Western countries, that, in general, try to aim at some middle ground.
I don't know if you know this but Sweden was the most free market economy in the world from 1870 to 1950. After it adopted social welfarism in the 1970s, its growth stagnated. It fell from being the third richest country in the world to the 17th. Imagine how much higher its standard of living would be today if it had maintained the rate of economic development it had in the early 20th century.
You assume that since Western electorates have chosen a particular path, it is the optimal path. I see that as hubristic.
In a completely free market, how does someone without money not starve?
> I don't know if you know this but Sweden was the most free market economy in the world from 1870 to 1950. After it adopted social welfare is in the 1970s, its growth stagnated.
I have no idea if this is even remotely true, but I'll assume for a moment that it is. Does the fact that Sweden adopted welfare not tell you something about the consequences of their free markets? The free market was just so awesome that they passed welfare for all the rich Swedes who didn't need it?
>Does the fact that Sweden adopted welfare not tell you something about the consequences of their free markets?
The free market was just so awesome that they passed welfare for all the rich Swedes who didn't need it?
People are shortsighted when voting. They are easily misled by election promises that give them short-term benefits at the expense of long-term development.
In the long run it is much better to sacrifice short-term benefits for greater long-term growth period that will maximize the rise in standard of living and life expectancy.
The only thing a free market does perfectly is use resources as fast as humanly possible. Efficiently, of course. Why waste resource you can't profit from?
This is logical extrapolation, and it's more or less validated by empirical evidence. It's not scientifically proven because we're dealing with incredibly complex phenomena where there are always potential confounding factors, but a reasonable case can still be made based on real world events.
See Venezuela for an extreme example of the consequences of interventionism.
The theory that intervention does harm is based on the fact that this complex system we know as an economy exists the way it does because of carefully weighted decisions of millions of people, each trying to meet their own needs in the most efficient manner available to them that does not cause harm to others (since harmful action is generally illegal in a market economy [there are edge cases of courses, like misleading advertising]). That carefully wrought symphony of welfare-maximizing human interaction is crudely disrupted by authoritarianism any time a legislature signs a law in effect that forces millions to act a certain way, that they otherwise would not have, or refrain from engaging in some voluntary interaction that they otherwise would have engaged in.
An authoritarian intervention to force several million to do some action to benefit several other million is going to have innumerable unintended consequences, that could not possibly be a net positive for the world.
I don't believe that markets will solve everything but I do believe that the best chance we have to solve problems is through voluntary market action as opposed to authoritarian action.
It's really not. It's not authoritarian when a democratically elected government creates regulations that it's citizens want. That's just governance.
Otherwise every law a government passes is authoritarian, in which case the word is meaningless.
Not all laws punish voluntary action. For instance, a law against theft is not authoritarian.
The idea of being free to act in any way other than violating the rights of others (though violence, theft, etc) is a pretty widely accepted principle of a free society.
Eh, depends on the law in question. Banking regulations, for example, protect consumers and the broader economy from short sighted actions in the part of bankers. I don't think the justifications are hollow given the history.
> and usually premised on the idea that adults are too incompetent to make correct consumer, employment, etc decisions for themselves.
Well, if you believe citizens are too short sighted to vote rationally, then I don't know how you can argue that they are not too short sighted to make other decisions rationally.
But more to the point, some laws are truly intended to protect people from their own decisions (often in the context of hardships, such as usury laws), but many are intended to protect society as a whole, where the belief is that individuals are harmed collectively by the actions of others.
> E.g. laws against selling dangerous products like drugs to adults.
I don't feel like drug laws and market regulations have much in common.
A regulation that prevents me as an adult from investing in a high risk instrument is not protection against aggression (which is a justifiable prohibition). It is nanny state authoritarianism and denies me as a banking customer options because of an assumption on the part of busy-bodies that I can't be trusted to make wise investment decisions for myself.
>Well, if you believe citizens are too short sighted to vote rationally, then I don't know how you can argue that they are not too short sighted to make other decisions rationally.
Can't you see that this argument can be made more compellingly against your position than mine? If you think consumers are not smart enough even to make purchasing decisions for themselves, how could you possibly entrust them with to elect politicians that will impose thousands of force backed mandates and prohibitions on the economy, that intimitaly affect every aspect of our lives, and determine the winners and losers among thousands of companies?
Either we accept the precepts of liberal democracy, and assume an adult has a right to determine their own path in life, or we give into fascism and make decisions for them. If we choose the latter, there's no principled reason to preserve the right of the masses to vote.
All of the arguments given for prohibitions on mutually voluntary actions to "protect society" or "protect consumers" seems like hollow justifications for authoritarianism to me.
Harm others or harm themselves? Or are you referring to the restrictions themselves, and whether they harm others? I don't think the threat of imprisonment should be used to restrict human action that is nonviolent. This is not just libertarianism. This is common sense and basic decency.
As for private property rights and their scientific justification: they are the manifestation of the first possession principle that is found in game theory experiments to be an emergent behavior that maximizes social welfare, and which even other animals exhibit.
Violating property rights, by prohibiting financial transactions outside of state licensed banks, or demanding a percentage of all earnings made in private trade be transferred to politically appointed authorities, is often a great contributor to the concentration of wealth, and maintains the status quo, so your intuition that anti-authoritarianism and private property rights serves the rich is wrong.
That's not what authoritarianism means. When society restricts some individual freedoms that's not always authoritarianism. You personally may not like it; you may be ideologically opposed to it, but that's not enough to make it authoritarian.
Otherwise, every possible society would necessarily be authoritarian for a simple reason: a society comprises more than one person. For simplicity assume there are only two. Either person A is allowed to do as they like -- including things that may restrict B's freedoms -- in which case the system is authoritarian, or there is some social mechanism in place that forbids A from behaving in this way, in which case the system is also authoritarian.
I'm referring to the more generic meaning of authoritarianism, as in imposing authoritarian measures, from Google:
favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, especially that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom.
Personal freedom means being able to do anything you want outside of violating other people's person or property without their consent. The idea of being free to act in any way other than violating the rights of others (though violence, theft, etc) is a pretty widely accepted principle of a free society.
That means any consumer protection law, that restricts the right for a party to offer a particular product/service, by fining or imprisoning those who do, is authoritarian.
A law against theft or murder is not authoritarian.
Not only possible: it happens all the time. There are very few industries in the US that aren't subsidized by the govt one way or another. Agriculture and oil being one of the best examples.
Any recent news from Venezuela.
Alternatively you could just subsidize water use up to some threshold and then charge more for every additional gallon.
Edit: initially, I didn't think your first plan works, but then I realized people need water to survive. You can charge anyone an arbitrary amount if the alternative is death by dehydration.
Your second doesn't appear to account for any cost increases except for directly used water.
This approach seems rather over-simplistic.
Unless you mean everyone will get only one cup of water. But then, the farmer will be fucked, because one cup of water is not enough to farm. And if the farmers can't farm, then you'll have another set of problems on your hand: NOT ENOUGH FOOD.
If a rich person wants to buy extra water to use on their lawn, they can. But they need to find someone willing to sell it, and offer them enough money to make it worth it.
If it really gets to the point there is only 1 cup of water per person per day, well then so be it. Everyone gets exactly 1 cup of water. That's perfectly fair. What's not fair is giving 1.5 cups to one person and 0.5 cups to another. Just because they are rich or a farmer or whatever.
Such a situation would create huge economic incentives to find more water, to conserve existing water, to reuse waste water, etc. The point is to get the benefits from a free market with incentives, but to distribute the benefits equally among the population.
Saying that eventually we'll realize what the correct price for an asset should be is incredibly unhelpful if we've already done permanent damage to ourselves or our environment.
Anyway, wikipedia gives a bit more background: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_pond
They mentioned so many silly subsidies and flat out craziness going on in the water markets that it made templated C++ code seem sane in comparison :/
It has heavily under utilized land, abundance of insolation and plenty of water that could be desalinated
If we grew crops in these areas, then both food and water would be a function of energy.
Sure you can dump additives in the ground and boost this years crop but that isn't going to create long term healthy soil which can support farming. Fertilizers are just another dependency on fossil fuels.
Water is certainly a part of terraforming a desert, but only a part of it.
Southern California is one such place where the desert meets the sea. It is not underutilized, but it is undergoing a massive drought.
The idea that farmers' water rights are inalienable seems absurd to me. A state can be in a drought but farmers needn't curb their usage at all?
If each suburban plot of land in California hypothetically came with a guarantee of 100k gallons of water a month, there would be no doubt that this would be cut immediately when a drought hit. It's only farmers' lobbying power that stops their water rights from being restructured wholesale.
With that said, I do think agriculture rightfully gets a lot of water allocated. Much of it seems wasted, though.
The free market had its say when these water rights were sold, taking it back from them with eminent domain so we can charge more is not the free market.
I suggest you watch this very informative talk by the water board director to the MIT alumni club last year to help clarify your POV:
Doesn't look like a free market to me.
While not every drought is going to lead to a civil war its a dramatic example of how the type of market adjustment you are talking about is not a smooth, painless experience.
It actually was civilization ending in affected areas of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. And the massive migration that ensued had negative impacts around the country too.
We are now looking at a figure of over a pound per day for waste removal. The figure feels steep to me. If I could separate liquids and solids easily, then actually I could dump both in the garden. If you have the space then composting seems like a great solution. And would save flushing all that clean water down the toilet.
So in that context, it's absurd to think that £1 per day is steep to get all of those benefits. Back when I had a house our water bill was way more than you're paying, and I would've been willing to pay way more still. Having fresh safe water available at the flick of a tap whenever you need it, and all waste products disposed of without spreading contagion, is a modern day miracle.
Or perhaps the sewerage network should be replaced with a multi-purpose, transport network, or some other innovation.
You can process your own waste by pumping air basically through black water, all very good. But at the same time you can just throw a turd on the compost heap if you have the room, and nature will do its thing, and you'll build up your soil.
Education of good habits and some simple practice goes a long way.
Do you really need to live in a desert? Why would a human civilisation choose to live in a place that lacks an essential ingredient for life? It seems we choose to do this in deserts all over the world so there must be a reason.
And there is plenty of reason:
* historic: a lot of trade routes for sought-after goods went through deserts
* economic: rich fishing grounds just off the coast - see Western Sahara for an example (Boujdour and Dakhla being the main cities)
* economic: a lot of nomadic farmers live in deserts because they provide just enough food for the livestock
* politics: keep disputed areas occupied (Israel and Western Sahara as examples)
* politics: borders - these things tend keep people from freely moving to more hospitable areas
* nature: some think deserts are beautiful (count me in)
* spiritual: very low population density and a very tight connection to the forces of nature appeal to some people
So we can also try to adapt to salt water
There Dutch have practiced salt water farming and management for a long time.
That said you can't drink salt water ;)
If there were a free market for water I would agree with you, nothing in the world will end a shortage of anything faster than a free market.