You know, a conservative sometimes wonders if the underlying reason people fall for patently false ideologies like progressivism or socialism (assuming there’s a difference) is that they have an unjustified faith that the way things have trended and are now will continue by some magic of the (in their view) godless universe. Surely the order and relative social peace that we experience will simply continue of its own accord even if we remove the millennia-honed religious, philosophical, and cultural underpinnings of that order and relative social peace, right?
And surely technology will continue to advance in predictable ways — despite progressive regulation, redistribution, and protectionism — allowing us to invest in things that look like economic fantasies right now on the grounds that technology will make them plausible some day. (Oddly, that same frame of mind never seems to allow us to be comfortable maintaining our freedom in the face of “climate change” on the grounds that technology will fix the problem without requiring global totalitarian rule by a green elite.)
This faith made its appearance this morning when local progressive Nick Inglis responded to a tweet by RI House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, who’d noted that wind electricity is about four times as costly as natural gas. Inglis promises that wind will “improve” just as gas has “had years to determine efficiencies and reduce costs.” By way of emphasis, he attaches an image of an old advertisement for a 10MB computer system for the low, low price of $5,995.
I am most definitely not one to bet against the improvement of technology or to underestimate my capacity to make bad predictions about the future, but it seems to me Inglis is making something like a category error in that analogy. “Computers” aren’t really analogous to a particular means of producing energy, but to energy production overall. The complete computer system in the advertisement has huge differences in technology versus what you’re probably using today, from the dot-matrix printer to the CRT monitor to the 5 1/4″ floppies. They all serve the same purposes, ultimately, as our laser printers, LED monitors, and flash drives today, but they aren’t the same technology.
Collecting energy from a particular source, like the wind, seems to me more like placing ink on paper by having a little ball with protrusions strike a piece of paper than the concept of printing, generally. In other words, how much space is there for wind to advance in a way that doesn’t advance all energy production, thereby maintaining the relative difference?
There may be plenty, and I’d encourage private investors who believe in the concept to put their money down for the greater return in the future. But using government to force everybody in a state with a perennially sluggish economy to pay four times as much for energy (while complaining that the energy company wants a 53% increase) seems like destructive zealotry from believers.