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Aug 23

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Do We Really Expect Exxon to Save Us?

Do We Really Expect Exxon to Save Us?Over at Vox, David Roberts wrote, Exxon Researched Climate Science. Understood It. And Misled the Public. As you may have heard, a couple of years ago, some news outlets documented that Exxon scientists had studied global warming and found it to be true, but the company hid the information. They then spent a lot of money releasing information designed to muddy the waters and make people believe that it was all a hoax — or at least something that was uncertain.

Now, seventeen state attorneys general have gotten together to investigate whether Exxon broke any laws having to do with “racketeering, consumer protection, or investor protection.” That’s all good. Just the same, I suspect it will come to nothing. And even if it does, no one will go to jail. Instead, Exxon will be fined some amount of money that will be nothing compared to the money they made by deceiving the public.

Exxon Isn’t in the Business of Doing Good

There’s another issue here. Do we really look to our private companies to keep us safe? Isn’t the real villain in this case the Republican Party that has done everything it can to carry water for the dirty energy industry? These elected officials are supposed to look out for the interests of the county and its people, not its campaign contributors. And not the people who will give them cushy jobs when they leave office.

Many conservatives are naive people who live in a fantasy land where Exxon looks out for the best interests of the world.

I have found that it is normally conservatives who are most upset when they find out that a private company like Exxon isn’t doing the “right” thing and is instead enriching itself by any means available. Liberals are rarely surprised by this kind of thing. And that explains to some extent why liberals are for government interference in the marketplace and conservatives are not.

In this case, I’m talking about conservative voters. Obviously, conservative politicians are about as vile and cynical as any group comes. But there is a great deal of naivete among conservative voters. These are, after all, the people who listened to Trump say daily through the campaign that he would repeal Obamacare, and yet thought that he wouldn’t really do it.

Naive Conservative vs Cynical Liberals? No

These naive conservatives will claim that my position is just cynical. I don’t have faith in my fellow man! But my position isn’t cynical; it is just fact-based. Private companies are in the business of making money. That means they will pay employees the lowest amount they can. That means they will charge the highest prices they can.

(This is another thing that drives me crazy. People think that companies set reasonable prices for things. This is not true. They charge as much as they can. It is only in a competitive market that various companies force each other to push the price down. I always hear this nonsense about “reasonable” pricing when it comes to corporate taxes. “If you tax them more, they’ll just raise their prices!” Really?! Then why aren’t they charging more now? Why do these people think McDonald’s is selling hamburgers for less than they could?)

Liberals Allow Conservatives to Exist

It often seems to me that conservatives can only exist because liberals allow them to. Without liberals to make society distinctly better, conservatives would be forced to see the dystopia that their policies actually create.

Thus there are really only two kinds of economic conservatives. First, there are the cynical people who only care about themselves and lording over everyone else. And second, there are naive people who live in a fantasy land where Exxon looks out for the best interests of the world. So economic conservatives really are stupid or evil. And I don’t know which is worse.

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4 comments

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  1. James Fillmore

    Evil is always worse than stupid. Stupid can be fixed.

    But the two do go together. In fact I think it’s possible to measure this mathematically, via the equation e=ms2. Where e=evil, s=stupid, and m=the amount of money someone has.

    The equation works! Poor people, by and large, do not do a great amount of evil unless they are vastly, vastly stupid. They simply don’t have the power. (Serial killers, as you know, tend not to be that bright.) Whereas someone with a great deal of money has the capacity to do enormous evil even if they’re just a little bit stupid, like Bill Gates.

    Conversely, most truly evil people who aren’t filthy rich (like, say, Republican politicians) must, via the law of Evil Relativity, have to adopt an ever-increasing amount of Stupid. To work at a job that harms others, to enact policies that harm, requires a great deal of Stupid. It’s almost a guarantee that most evil politicians or corporate tools have themselves convinced their actions do no real harm. Sure, this person or that may get harmed, may die, but overall, in the grand aggregate, these policies/employers are good. Since every means of measurement proves otherwise, it’s necessary to increase one’s level of Stupid to convince oneself you are not Evil.*

    *And this is what TED talks are for.

    1. Frank Moraes

      I like that! But there is some feedback that is not represented by the equation. Money can be used to increase stupidity. This is what Fox News does. But to a first order, I think e = ms^2 is about right.

  2. FDChief

    This is why I always want to dopeslap libertarians. “Government is evil! It wants to control you!”

    But governments – representative ones, anyway – typically act based on public concerns or some version of them. So if enough people are interested or concerned or worried about something the government will get involved in it. Which means that there ARE ways to get governments involved in benefiting individual lives.

    Private companies, however, exist for one reason; to make a profit. If that means acting in ways that harm individuals (but not to the point where such harm will rebound against the company) then they will. There’s no earthly reason for a company not to do harm if 1) the harm is profitable and 2) the harm is unlikely to be punished.

    So no, you dopes; “government is the problem” ISN’T the problem. Government in a democracy is a “problem” that can be fixed by the public. Private corporate malfeasance, though? Unless said company is watched and regulated to a fare-the-well that misbehavior has a truly enormous potential for harm…

    1. Frank Moraes

      One of many reasons why I stopped being a libertarian is the issue that you are talking about. I looked out at the nation and I saw that the things that cut into my liberty were rarely the result of the government. I understand anarchists who hate the government and the private sector. But in talking to libertarians, you would think that only the government gets in their way. And the truth of the matter is that our government does damned little that gets in our way.

      And if the government didn’t exist, private companies would be far more intrusive. It’s madness that these people believe that if the government disappeared that private companies would behave better than they do now.

      Of course, libertarians will argue that private companies can’t force you to buy their products. But that just isn’t true. Libertarians love to throw up false choices. You have the choice to buy healthcare or die!

      Another issue is that most libertarians are really just neo-confederates. They have a faith-based belief that local government is better. So they always think that the states should be doing the governing. Look at Cliven Bundy. But other than the drug war, I can’t think of a time when the states where providing liberty that the federal government wasn’t. If it weren’t for the federal government, Mississippi blacks still wouldn’t have the right to vote. But these people think states are better — I assume because they actually believe that blacks shouldn’t be able to vote.

      What’s more, my state has almost 40 million people in it. How is that anything close to “local government”? We have 12 percent of the nation’s population. And interestingly, we have arguably the best state. Mississippi isn’t more free because it is small.

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