Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Environmentalism and Overpopulation: The Solution, Part VI, Summary

I didn’t get to really spell it out why I believe this because I wanted to avoid a controversy which would distract from the point I was making… so I will spell it out here, because you’re a captive audience.

I don’t believe in sin, and I am skeptical of any concept of absolute and universal morality.  Ultimately, I think what people perceive as morality is, in fact productivity.  Productivity has gotten a bad rap because we tend to think of productivity as factories and smokestacks, but truly, productivity is getting more for less effort.  Morality is founded in productivity.  Incest and cannibalism, for instance,  are universal taboos not because they “wrong” but because they are counter productive.  They take the exact same energy to achieve as other options, but yield less productive results.  The same reason is why we hunted the magafauna to death.  It takes about as much energy to kill a mammoth as deer, but a mammoth provides orders of magnitude more food energy.

Population reduction means one thing.  Birthrate/deathrate must be less than 1. We can do this through homicide or prophylactic measures. Believing as I do that morals are imaginary, and the right social engineering can produce new taboos and virtues, I have to take an honest look at homicide as an option.  Conclusion: if homicide worked, it would have worked sometime in the last couple eons.  However, believing as I do that reducing population is a noble goal, history also shows me that unethical people regularly jump on noble bandwagons to kill people and take their stuff.  That is what war is all about, killing people and taking their stuff.  So, first of all homicide is a lousy way to control population. Two, as soon as population control becomes demographically appealing, some people will use the platform to demand the death of whatever group they can make into a scapegoat.  They will then kill those people and take their stuff.

To prevent this, we have to not touch homicide with a 10′ pole, even though it is an acceptable solution to some issues.  I don’t think that plants, animals, and resources disappearing to keep people like Timothy McVeigh alive is a particularly moral/productive use of limited resources.  But homicide can’t be part of population control.  Ever.  In the long run, it’s counter-productive in two ways: First, it has no proven long term ability to reduce population, and in many cases, birthrate skyrockets after a bloody war.  Second, it stratifies wealth into the hands of the people who control the homicidal bureaucracy (Just look at the Soviets and the Nazis) This is counterproductive for reasons I’ll explain in a moment.

So that just leaves prophylactic methods, with two paths: voluntary and coercive. The problem with coercive, is that creating the bureaucracy to rigorously enforce the standards (aka forced abortion) would create a very similar bunch of bloody handed plutocrats as in the Soviet model.  (Look at China)  and has the same counter-productivity I will mention in a bit.

That leaves voluntary.  Coitus interptus has been known for thousands of years, and the population just keeps going up.  So, the incentive to voluntarily overproduce is stronger than the incentive to not.  “Voluntarily” is relative.  We can create a voluntary model with taxes and social norms.  But people hate taxes, and social norms are slow.  (It took the catholic Church 1500 years to accept that it might be a good idea to charge interest on loans.)  We don’t have 1500 years.

But everyone likes money and position, and income and education are the most proven mass birth control in the world.  Education costs money.  Ironically, the people who can afford children the least have the most, and the people who can afford children the most have the least.  We could get people to procreate responsibly if everyone on earth had access to European or American levels of wealth.  Access to wealth is dependent upon social mobility, which in turn means that despite the fact that Soviet style homicide, or Chinese style birth control can reduce world population, they would fail in the long run because poor peasants breed like rabbits, and the bureaucracy need to enforce those kind of standards always becomes the arm of a kleptocracy.

So, that’s what I meant by saying if it could be done, it would have already.  And why my solution is global wealth.  The only way I know to make global wealth and not rape the planet is with strong property rights for shared resources like, forests, air, and water.   The only proven way I know to share property rights is stocks, the only way I know to make stocks work right is perfect market.  The only way I know to make perfect markets work is to make sure that all members have equal access to the market, and the only way I know to do that is with a global governmen.  The only proven effective method I know for a group of groups to relate is in voluntary unions with trade benefits.

That’s my whole plan in a nutshell.

December 21, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Ecology, Government, Politics, Religion, skepticism, Slice of life | , , , , | Leave a comment

Environmentalism and Overpopulation: The Solution, Part V

This is the part where I describe my perfect utopian vision of a global society.  Except I don’t believe in utopia.  I have a lot of ideas, brilliant if I do say so myself, about the proper way to run government, which I will not say here.  If I just spout off what I think is perfect, and everyone else does to we still have no solution, which was the whole point of this post.  Further, I think one of the problems with existing governments is that they try to codify what they believe to be utopian, creating to a lesser degree what might be called the Soviet Paradox.  The logistics required to achieve the Soviet utopia require a bureaucracy which is totally incapable of achieving said utopia.  Though creators of an infinitely better system, the framers of the Constitution did a similar thing.  They took what they understood to be the most perfect solution and codified it.  We now fight that codification everyday.  The public demands socialism, in the form of Social Security and Welfare.  But the Constitution is purposefully written against socialism.  Thus, we end up with a really bass akwards version of socialism with a very high cost to benefit ratio.

Besides, I believe in the holiness of the perfect market: a place where all men can trade not only products, but ideas, and the person with the best ideas wins the most influence.  Who am I to say one system of government is best for every person in every place?

I offer instead a simple idea:  any geopolitical region of 5 million people or more (the size of Denmark) can chose to be an independent nation.  As an independent nation it choose to belong to any union it wishes.  Further, with a vote of it’s people and the people of any other nation, it can chose to become a state of another nation.  The unions will be modeled after the EU. 

In this way, countries with inefficient social services will be abandoned, and countries with efficient social services will be joined, all without emigration.  It creates a highly competitive market place for which country will get the most people, forces governments to compete to be the safest, freest, and lowest tax collecting.

The global government would take whatever democratic shape works best.

December 18, 2008 Posted by | Government, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The monorail of the future!

So the other day I commented on someone’s Monorail post. There are not nearly enough posts about monorails on wordpress. I love monorail hype. In fact monorail hype is so bad that I call any person pedaling any technology that claims benefits completely out of proportion to its ability “monorailers”.

(This comes from a claim I read on someone’s page once that said that small monorails could end sexual discrimination and racism. The theory was this: Increased travel opportunities would allow the disadvantaged to get out of their disadvantaged communities and compete for jobs with advantaged people from advantaged communities. If we just built this guy’s pet transit technology, BOOM no more racism or sexism. I love it.)

Anyway, monorails have the best hype because everyone knows that people in the future will ride monorails everywhere. (See picture to left). To quote a favorite website of mine “It wasn’t that long ago that we had a future. I mean, we have one now; the world isn’t going to crash into the Sun or anything like that. What I mean is that we had a future that we could clearly imagine. The future wasn’t tomorrow, next week, next year, or next century. It was a place with a form, a structure, a style.” And part of that vision was monorails.

I admit it when I visualize a hip, green future, it is a city covered with voluptuously curved buildings of pure white concrete and sparking glass. Where roads of wheezing autos were once locked in traffic, long narrow meadows blow gently in the breeze in the spindly shadows of silent monorails.

So why don’t we have more of them? Well, the truth about monorails is this: they are unique adaptation of narrow gauge rail fitted with rubber tires. That’s all folks.

Narrow gauge has numerous advantages in hilly terrain. It can climb steeper hills and take tighter turns while moving freight through small right of ways. Often it is the railway system of choice when the rail is used only lightly, as it is much cheaper to build and operate. Least you think narrow gauge is old fashioned, truly tiny trains (as tiny as 18″ gauge) receive very heavy duty use in some of the most modern mines in the world. Narrow gauge carries passengers and freight all the world over (1 meter gauge). And is the backbone of Australian sugar production in the form of a 460 mile 24″ gauge fully dieselized line. (here)

Rubber tired trains, on the other hand sound retarded. Isn’t the whole benefit to rail the absurd efficiencies of steel wheels on steel rail (about 99.994 percent efficient in lab conditions)? So why a rubber tired one? Well, steel on steel’s superb lack of friction becomes a real liability when one needs to do anything where traction rather than efficiency is of prime importance. Hill climbing is one of these situations. Rubber tired trains can climb grades of up to 13%. ( More than 680 ft of rise per mile) They brake faster and are quieter and smoother. The big disadvantage to rubber tired trains is that they require guide rails as well as concrete or steel “rails” to carry the tires.

Enter the monorail. A single rail, around a meter wide. The train runs on truck tires on the rail and holds onto the sides as well as the top. This means aside from the advantages of narrow gauge (tight turns, steep grades) and the advantages of rubber tired trains (very steep grades, quite operation, rapid speed change) it has the final advantage of being able to handle very steep embankments (since it can’t fall over, even if it stops on one.)

So why don’t we see them every day?

(1.) The guideway (beam) is both structural (like a bridge) and precision guiding (like rail). Large load carrying members made to .005 precision are expensive. Theoretically, in mass production it should be cheaper since the two operations are combined but this savings is hard to realize in real life.

(2.)The guideway is big, and cannot ever cross roads at grade level. Grade separation is safer. It is also expensive.

(3.) Switching T-rail is easy. Switching multi-ton beams isn’t. Switches are expensive. (Not impossible mind you, just pricey.)

(4.) Full size trains put such huge loads on such tiny areas that any ice or water on the rail is literally vaporized at the contact patch. Narrow gauges don’t put down that kind of load and require manicured track. Rubber tired trains have even softer contact and so they require very clean “tracks”. Since a monorail is just a rubber tired narrow gauge, they require constant guideway attention during rain/snow/sleet etc.) Again, this can be done but at a cost. (One in Russia just uses a steam heated guideway.)

(5.) Elevated trains are not fun, easy, or cheap to evacuate.

So why is monorail used at all? At its own line of work, nothing is better. Monorail is absolutely ideal for what it is used for worldwide: grade separated mass transit that must operate through narrow and hilly city corridors. If the train has to be elevated anyway, then the prefab monorail guideways are cheaper than bridge + rail. If it is narrow and hilly, than rubber tires make more sense than steel. If people have to walk under it and live by it, rubber tires are nice. So, as I said, IDEAL for elevated urban corridors.

But I stand by my idea: monorail is rubber tired narrow gauge. Use it where it works, but let’s not pretend it is anything more than that.

April 13, 2008 Posted by | Ecology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments