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Gus Van Horn blog

Reblogged:"Chernobyl!" ≠ "We Need the EPA."

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(And Related Thoughts)

At the start of a collectionof eyewitness accounts from Chernobyl comes the following quote:
Everyone who thinks the EPA is not necessary and the regulations on power plants are there to stifle growth and profit should read every comment here...
Although I don't think the government should regulate the power industry, this individual is no mind reader. I appreciate that, while many regulations do"stifle growth and profit," they are not necessarily created with that in mind. Indeed, some accomplish what industry engineering standards, watchdog groups, or other non-government efforts would and should otherwise accomplish.

That said, let's accept his challenge for a moment and look at another quote:
Fruits and vegetables from the contaminated areas were sold feely [sic] at Moscow markets. In fact, that summer there was quite an incredible abundance of produce and the prices were low. The levels of radiation in produce from certain areas were very high. Some of our friends who used Geiger counters to check produce at Moscow Central Market had the counters confiscated then and there.
Soviet Russia and the EPA are both examples -- the one more consistent than the other -- of central planning. Chernobyl and its aftermath happened in a centrally planned economy. The above instance shows just how well that "EPA for everything" worked, at least to achieve the goal of the protection of individual rights. (I am not by any means asserting that that was the goal, but it's the most benevolent interpretation I can muster of the notion that we "need" the EPA.)

I won't, without further evidence, attribute hatred of the individual to the author of the first quote. However, I will say that facts alone are insufficient to settle the implicit question he raises, which is, "Should we have central planning?" For starters, I bet if I made a painstaking case -- which I am not, here -- that Chernobyl is exactly what happens under central planning, many people would shrug it off as an anomaly or even dismiss my factual statements as "propaganda." And many would, sadly, dismiss out of hand the idea that the purpose of the government is to protect individual rights. (Other possibilities exist: Some of these people might be persuaded to change their minds about these objections, but only with much more effort. Also, I could make such a poor case for the idea that Chernobyl exemplifies how "well" totalitarian regimes respect individuals that I'd rightly be dismissed.) The bottom line is that, when one wants to pitch an intellectual argument, he must set limits that account for some potential audience members being too far away from his position to engage -- anytime soon (because of fundamental differences, despite a basic level of intellectual honesty) or at all (because of a lack of intellectual honesty or for other reasons).

The fact that there are people who are unreachable by rational argument in no way lessens the value of rational argument -- when directed at the right audience. Never let their seeming ubiquity demoralize you: They are unwittingly helping you with the task of prioritizing your time by honing in on the audience one can most profitably engage with.

I do not accuse the author of the first quote of being the type of person I am discussing, but his remark caused me to think of the kind of reaction I might get if I engaged him personally about it, and of past reactions I have observed from others after similar conversations. Those reactions are more useful that I once thought.

-- CAV

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Your case is weak.

It happened under a centrally planned economy != It happened because of a centrally planned economy.

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54 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

Your case is weak.

It happened under a centrally planned economy != It happened because of a centrally planned economy.

Apart from whether the OP made the case: Is it your best guess that it happened because of or in spite of the political system it was in?

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2 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

Apart from whether the OP made the case: Is it your best guess that it happened because of or in spite of the political system it was in?

As far as I know about Chernobyl the accident itself isn't about central planning, the errors were the sort that has led to anything from oil spills to Challenger. Capitalistic incentive rarely makes a difference, the issue of these things is failure to report internal problems and evasion of growing issues. The best we can say is that central planning doesn't help prevent major man-made disasters any better.

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8 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

Apart from whether the OP made the case: Is it your best guess that it happened because of or in spite of the political system it was in?

 

What does my opinion on the causes of the Chernobyl incident matter one way or the other? I'm not a historian, and have never looked into it myself in any depth.

Regardless, I am justified in pointing out the flaws in OP's argument.

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3 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

What does my opinion on the causes of the Chernobyl incident matter one way or the other? I'm not a historian, and have never looked into it myself in any depth.

I'm interested in your opinion: not sure why we'd have a forum otherwise.

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13 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

Your case is weak.

It happened under a centrally planned economy != It happened because of a centrally planned economy.

Is that what he's asserting?  I'm actually somewhat confused.  If you want, I can quote your post to him at his blog and ask him to clarify his point.  Or you can go to his blog and ask him yourself.  Either way replying to him here doesn't do any good since he doesn't participate in discussions at this forum.  

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On 6/19/2017 at 10:33 PM, SpookyKitty said:

Your case is weak.

It happened under a centrally planned economy != It happened because of a centrally planned economy.

The problem with Chernobyl wasn't necessarily that it was caused by a centrally planned economy. (The accident happened because the executives were testing the plants safety and were trying to make the reactor safer.. ROFL).

(Politically at least), the biggest problem was the secrecy over the accident, as the Soviets only announced that there had been a nuclear accident after the Scandinavian countries started screaming "why is there a big radioactive cloud coming over us? what the **** are you doing Russia? we're telling!"

[This would be funny if it didn't involve dangerous levels of radiation: http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=4468603 ]

The accident happened in late April, and the government let the May Day parades go ahead in Kiev, Ukraine even though everyone was celebrating under a radioactive cloud. They didn't warn their own people and this added momentum to the policy of Glasnost/Openness to make the Soviet system more accountable because it became clear that the government couldn't be trusted with their own peoples safety to the point that part of Ukraine is still uninhabitable in the exclusion zone. 

 

On 6/19/2017 at 10:00 AM, Gus Van Horn blog said:

(And Related Thoughts)

At the start of a collectionof eyewitness accounts from Chernobyl comes the following quote:

 

Everyone who thinks the EPA is not necessary and the regulations on power plants are there to stifle growth and profit should read every comment here...

Although I don't think the government should regulate the power industry, this individual is no mind reader. I appreciate that, while many regulations do"stifle growth and profit," they are not necessarily created with that in mind. Indeed, some accomplish what industry engineering standards, watchdog groups, or other non-government efforts would and should otherwise accomplish.

That said, let's accept his challenge for a moment and look at another quote:

 

 

Fruits and vegetables from the contaminated areas were sold feely [sic] at Moscow markets. In fact, that summer there was quite an incredible abundance of produce and the prices were low. The levels of radiation in produce from certain areas were very high. Some of our friends who used Geiger counters to check produce at Moscow Central Market had the counters confiscated then and there.

Soviet Russia and the EPA are both examples -- the one more consistent than the other -- of central planning. Chernobyl and its aftermath happened in a centrally planned economy. The above instance shows just how well that "EPA for everything" worked, at least to achieve the goal of the protection of individual rights. (I am not by any means asserting that that was the goal, but it's the most benevolent interpretation I can muster of the notion that we "need" the EPA.)

I won't, without further evidence, attribute hatred of the individual to the author of the first quote. However, I will say that facts alone are insufficient to settle the implicit question he raises, which is, "Should we have central planning?" For starters, I bet if I made a painstaking case -- which I am not, here -- that Chernobyl is exactly what happens under central planning, many people would shrug it off as an anomaly or even dismiss my factual statements as "propaganda." And many would, sadly, dismiss out of hand the idea that the purpose of the government is to protect individual rights. (Other possibilities exist: Some of these people might be persuaded to change their minds about these objections, but only with much more effort. Also, I could make such a poor case for the idea that Chernobyl exemplifies how "well" totalitarian regimes respect individuals that I'd rightly be dismissed.) The bottom line is that, when one wants to pitch an intellectual argument, he must set limits that account for some potential audience members being too far away from his position to engage -- anytime soon (because of fundamental differences, despite a basic level of intellectual honesty) or at all (because of a lack of intellectual honesty or for other reasons).

The fact that there are people who are unreachable by rational argument in no way lessens the value of rational argument -- when directed at the right audience. Never let their seeming ubiquity demoralize you: They are unwittingly helping you with the task of prioritizing your time by honing in on the audience one can most profitably engage with.

I do not accuse the author of the first quote of being the type of person I am discussing, but his remark caused me to think of the kind of reaction I might get if I engaged him personally about it, and of past reactions I have observed from others after similar conversations. Those reactions are more useful that I once thought.

-- CAV

 

Link to Original

If you want a Soviet Environmental Disaster directly related to Centralised Planning, you could bring up the Aral Sea. In trying to improve the productivity of agricultural lands in the area, the Soviets irrigated the sea to the point where it dried up. they went beyond the limits of the sea to actually replenish itself. Its part of the logic of centralised planning in communist systems to try and play god with nature and it didn't work. the picture below from Wikipedia shows the Aral sea from 1989 to 2014. 

AralSea1989_2014.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aral_Sea

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