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Ed Driscoll

Nanny Bloomberg, Food Composting, and the Complexity Creeps

June 18th, 2013 - 1:30 pm

Beyond a gas can that doesn’t work, there’s the car itself, originally conceived as a simple mass-produced device that any man could own — and possibly even fix himself, if he were so inclined. Having completely rendered that idea anathema, “The Electric Car Is an Abomination,” Robert Tracinski concluded back in February at Real Clear Politics, in an essay written at the height of the blue on blue dust-up between ultra high-end (and Obama-approved) electric car manufacturer Tesla and the New York Times,

As to the Times reporter, John Broder issued a point-by-point reply to Elon Musk, which basically boils to blaming his problems on bad advice he got from the technicians at Tesla, whom he repeatedly contacted by phone during his trip.

But this misses the biggest point: since when is driving a car supposed to be so complicated? The whole point of technology is to use the machine’s energy and yes, to burn up natural resources, in order to save human effort. The machines are supposed to work for us; we don’t work for them. This is especially true of the automobile, which is all about freedom, independence, going out on the open road and deciding on the spur of the moment where you want to go—not about filing a flight plan and having technicians talk you through your trip.

I understand that the first round of a new technology doesn’t always work well and early adopters may have to make tradeoffs and accept limitations. But the Tesla is supposed to be the electric car without tradeoffs. This is supposed to be a mass-market car, the first wave of electric vehicles that can be manufactured and sold in truly industrial-scale quantities. It’s not supposed to be for hobbyists who don’t mind tinkering around with an experimental vehicle for the sake of technology curiosity.

But the folks at Tesla have gotten swept up in the quasi-religious hype of environmentalism. They’re not just manufacturing a curiosity for hobbyists. They’re saving the planet, one preening and sanctimonious upper-middle-class driver at a time.

In service to this environmentalist posturing, they’ve turned the whole purpose of technology on its head. We have to use more of our, human resources—more of our precious time and effort—in order to save natural resources. The machines can’t serve us, because we have to serve nature. Instead of making labor-saving devices, they’re making labor-sucking devices. And if we complain that the new green technology isn’t good enough, we’re told that it is we who are not good enough for the technology.

That’s why the electric car, in its current incarnation, is a technological abomination.

And just to make owning an electric car even more complex, it’s worth noting for those who bought them because of government incentives, as Mary Katharine Ham wrote earlier this month, that states are considering “taxing green cars to recover lost gas tax revenue.”  In Soviet America, liberal sucker punch punches liberals!

But back to Mayor Bloomberg’s latest moronic initiative, which is yet another example of what Victor Davis Hanson once called “the Bloomberg Effect:”

It is a human trait to focus on cheap and lofty rhetoric rather than costly, earthy reality. It is a bureaucratic characteristic to rail against the trifling misdemeanor rather than address the often-dangerous felony. And it is political habit to mask one’s own failures by lecturing others on their supposed shortcomings. Ambitious elected officials often manage to do all three.

The result in these hard times is that our elected sheriffs, mayors, and governors are loudly weighing in on national and global challenges that are quite often out of their own jurisdiction, while ignoring or failing to solve the very problems that they were elected to address.

Quite simply, the next time your elected local or state official holds a press conference about global warming, the Middle East, or the national political climate, expect to experience poor county law enforcement, bad municipal services, or regional insolvency.

The headlong rush by all forms of government, local, state and federal, into the Nanny State also coincides with government’s headlong rush into the Orwellian surveillance state. Combined, they explain why, as Glenn Reynolds writes USA Today in response to the Obama administration’s multiple layers of spying on the American public (or “U.S. persons” as Obama Owellianly stated today), “Government compromises our trust:”

As for trusting the government not to abuse its powers, well, there are those lies just mentioned. And then there’s the whole business of sending the IRS out to target President Obama’s political opponents. As Peggy Noonan observes: “It is a great irony, and history will marvel at it, that the president most committed to expanding the centrality, power, prerogatives and controls of the federal government is also the president who, through lack of care, arrogance and an absence of any sense of prudential political boundaries, has done the most in our time to damage trust in government.”

Well, maybe it’s ironic. Or maybe there’s less of a contradiction between wanting to expand government power and being willing to abuse it than Noonan thinks. If it’s ironic, it’s because one argument we heard from Democrats during the Bush era was that Republicans — because they distrust big government — are inherently unsuited to run a big government, prone to incompetence because they don’t respect the institutions they control.

But it’s the Obama administration that has demonstrated a disrespect for institutions. When Obama had been in office for just a few months, he “joked” about auditing his enemies and I warned: “Mr. Obama has been accused of not appreciating the importance of financial capital to the proper functioning of the economy. But ill-chosen remarks like his ASU audit threat suggest that he also doesn’t appreciate the role of moral capital.”

Obviously, he didn’t listen. To function properly, our government depends on moral capital, capital that has been seriously squandered. In their second terms, presidents tend to worry about their legacies. Will Obama’s legacy be a historic destruction of trust in government?

One can only hope so. There’s only so much more complexity creep we humble citizens of Oceania can take.

By the way, will Bloomberg’s composting receptacles have electronic sensors built in to spy on whether or not you’re using them, or will he rely on the low tech solution of hiring a new corp of duly-deputized Trash Inspectors?

The latter example is already San Francisco-approved, after all.

Related: “Do not ask me to enter the minds of the totalitarians running the government of this city.” Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal on another “innovation” by Nanny Bloomberg leading to “Death by Bicycle.” Dorothy’s angry. You’ll like her when she’s angry — a lot. (Via Tim Blair):

More: At the American Enterprise Institute, James Pethokoukis asks, “Why did we get 140 characters rather than flying cars? Maybe it was $40 trillion in regulations.”

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Yes, government interference has messed up many things, environmentalists are often deluded, and I am not a fan of Bloomberg. However, San Francisco does composting and it's just not that big a deal. Garbage collection is a pretty basic function of city government (and even in SF it's outsourced to private firms), and it makes sense to divert food and plant waste from landfills and turn it into compost for farms and vineyards. SF government does many stupid and counterproductive things, but this isn't one of them. We also don't pour used motor oil into street drains any more, and I don't think that's much of a restriction on my liberty, either.

In practical politics, sometimes you have to grant that the other Team may have a point. I'd say this is one of those times.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Complexity Creep, and the Orwellian Administrative State that results, will be corrected under Rule-7.62!
If it isn't, it just won't matter any longer - do you think they'll provide us with free knee-pads?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I have a saying, which I probably picked up elsewhere:

"There are more people who want power than there are people who deserve power."

Like vermin trying to infest your home, such people will find a way to create a situation or system where they can wield power for its own sake. That is why we are in the bind we are in now.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Elon Musk of Tesla is a paradox that illustrates the strange and corrupted times we live in. He is also the founder and CEO of SpaceX, a truly positive development in humanity's quest to move into space. SpaceX is likely to cut the cost of space transportation dramatically, thus eliminating the major roadblock to a greatly expanded human presence off-planet. Tesla, OTOH, is a prime example of the corruption of the "free enterprise" system. Musk is a businessman who makes his moves where he sees opportunity, and is no different in that regard that other businessmen and corporations who will gladly take huge federal (taxpayer) sums when such are offered. The answer is to turn off the federal subsidy spigot. Musk and others are resourceful enough to find nontaxpayer funded ways to thrive, especially if they have no other option.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yes, Elon milked several local gov'ts in CA for whatever he could in his "search" for a factory site before settling on the old NUMMI facility in the Bay Area.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In some places the local governments will fine you if you amass rotting garbage because it is deemed to be a public health hazard as well as a smelly nuisance that attracts vermin like rats and cockroaches.

What an innovative approach to "revenue enhancement" this will be. They can fine you for not saving your garbage as well as not disposing of it. A win-win opportunity for our public servants.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Some would say that NYC is a compost heap.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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