Were we minded to discuss a post-capitalist sharing economy, in which renewable energy moved freely across borders and the fruits of technological advance moved beyond appropriation by monopolies, this would be the place to start.

Umm, what does that actually mean?

Umm, I mean, in our current capitalist economy renewable energy freely moves across borders. Iceland exports hydro power by smelting aluminium, as does Quebec (and has done for many decades). Danish wind power gets stored in Norwegian lakes. What is there about capitalism which makes you think that energy doesn’t cross borders?

And, err, the fruits of technological advance are rather enjoyed by those with a smartphone in their pockets, aren’t they?

So, err, what the fuck is it that you’re talking about?

41 thoughts on “Err, Zoe?”

  1. I think she’s dreaming of getting back to the time when Ug could freely barter flint axe heads with Grog from the next tribe, without having to do grubby deals with a merchant that would do all the travel and trade on his behalf.

  2. have you read the “most recommended” comments below the line? Safe to say that not a single one of them is supportive of her view

  3. *I* think she has in mind a world where nobody has to pay for anything. All work is done out of a spirit of goodwill to womankind.
    It can work – in a world inhabited solely by saints (see Acts II). But in a world that produces Guardian journalists??

  4. Bloke in North Dorset

    She talks as if the left were some large homogeneous institute that were all friends, when they reality is that are like ferrets in a sack. The only thing they have in common is a hatred of Tories, which is why they spend so much time and effort on the subject, everything else for them is a race to the bottom. That Life of Brian sketch didn’t go anywhere near far enough.

    The good part is that most of the country see this and the more they act like Citizen Smith the fewer votes they’ll get.

  5. Writing for the Guardian seems much the same as doing a management course. Just vomit the right words on to paper and you’re all good.

  6. Is it ant surprise that:

    a) The guardian is going bust
    b) They ‘re restricting comments on Comment Macht Frei articles as the reality of mass Islamic migration doesn’t match the fantasy of CiF world.

    I’m sure the online Guardian gets five times as many eyeballs from people like the readership of this blog who go there to laugh at the latest idiocy to actual Guardian adherents.

  7. This reminds me of the old socialist argument that the reason Communism didn’t work was because of external influences. If the Soviet Union wasn’t big enough, nothing ever will be.

  8. As Arnald himself quipped “TO INFINITY AND BEYOND”

    Sharing is definitely where it’s at.

    BWAAAHHAAHHA …also “To infinity…..”etc.

  9. “energy doesn’t cross borders?” It was well within living memory that England imported electricity from both France and Scotland. For all I know there may be import/export of electricity between the two Irelands.

  10. OT, but still discussing idiocy:

    Ritchie is giving evidence to the Treasury Select Committee this week. Can anyone stomach watching him?

  11. “the fruits of technological advance moved beyond appropriation by monopolies”

    That’s pretty ironic, considering how the Guardian is now getting its arse kicked because well, there’s no longer the high barriers to entry to publish that there once were, since post-internet anyone can poop out Guardian-level drivel.

    We have less monopolies than we ever did in tech. I still think Microsoft Office is pretty close. Photoshop is pretty much a monopoly. I was raised in the era when IBM was pretty much a monopoly. And then Microsoft. But Windows is much less of one than it once was. eBay might be.

    But I’m sure she means those lefty villains, Google and Amazon, both of which are pretty fucking far from monopolies. There is pretty much a Bing equivalent of everything Google do, and they’re pretty good. And you can buy the same shit Amazon sell everywhere else.

  12. @ Bloke.. You’re not being fair to ferrets here.. They’re intelligent, inquisitive, generally happy-go-lucky, and do not play with their food.

    As opposed to your average politician, of whatever denomination.

  13. I wish I could help with what she meant but the line: (the search terms “Britney” and “Bush” led to a while in the wilderness, let me tell you) ended all chance of believing it is a serious article.

  14. I thought that communism didn’t work because no one can accurately predict demand in a large scale society. That and the Soviet system was a convoluted party structure that wasn’t good for dissenting views.

    If we ever manage to get a colony off world then most likely the initial economy will be communism until the population density is larger. A starter colony of less than 20 specialists in various fields just isn’t big enough for markets to form.

  15. Bloke no Longer in Austria

    Zoe obviously hasn’t heard of Die Energiewende, this brilliant wheeze that Frau Merkel had to allow German privatised electric companies to overproduce electricity and then dump it onto Poland and Czech Republic.
    This is what you call “free movement” why it is so free, it is actually sold at a negative cost ! That’s real corporate philanthropy

  16. Liberal Yank – that’s a convoluted example.

    And it still wont work if a couple of the members grant themselves a higher standard of living paid for by the other members.

  17. Energy without borders sounds like Williams wants the EU to be a single market for energy with a single ‘national’ grid across the continent. If Labour under Corbyn want to change the conversations we have about the EU Williams thinks the gap in the market is a stronger push for ever closer union.

    I think something similar applies to Williams’ comments on Trident. We’ll be safer and more sustainable together in the EU is the underlying message.

    The comment on technology transfer is also a feature of what many environmental activists (up to and including the UN bodies responsible for pushing those agendas) have decided must happen the combat climate change. A complete reinvention of the global economy based on monetising ecosystems ‘services’, stranding fossil fuels in the ground to artificially make renewables look cost effective and the like.

  18. It may be convoluted but it’s the largest scale I can imagine communism working on.

    I’ve seen plenty of ideas on how to pay to get people to Mars but I have yet to see an economic plan for the colony itself once they arrive. I can’t believe I’m the first person to ponder this.

  19. @ Liberal Yank
    Communism doesn’t work because it is founded on an assumption that humanity would be kind and sharing and peaceful if we just got rid of the wicked capitalists – you’ld think that they were a different species unpeacefully co-existing with humanity! Sorry, that just ain’t so.

  20. of technological advance moved beyond appropriation by monopolies”

    So abolish the patent and copyright systems, interesting angle for a journalist

  21. “The only thing they have in common is a hatred of Tories, which is why they spend so much time and effort on the subject”

    The Left always hate the other bits of the Left that don’t agree with them on some small point more than the Right.

    Its a bit like the distinction between enemy soldiers and someone on your own side who turns traitor. You hate him more than the enemy.

  22. It’s just old fashioned Marxian communism. The idea that people are poor because they have to pay for things, and that things only cost so much because of the prices charged by monopoly capitalists.

  23. Liberal Yank-

    Any colony on Mars for the foreseeable future will be entirely dependent on stuff from Earth.

    In general, very small economies tend to be community economies. Families are communalist (if not “communist”) economies. The problem for economic idealists is not the small community in which everyone knows everyone else. It’s the large economy populated by people who are strangers to most everyone else and in which personal moderation forces like loyalty, family ties, reputation, shunning and peer pressure cannot operate. Once you’re at that scale, markets work best.

    It is worth remembering also that even on the small scale at which they work, community economies can be rather oppressive places.

  24. Liberal yank, Kim Stanley Robinson pondered the question a couple of decades ago. At length. (and with a substantial left-wing bias)

  25. @Glendorran. The answer is no, but the question should be why the fuck has he been asked to give evidence?

  26. I’m pretty sure the likes of Heinlein pondered the nature of societies and the economics in extra-terrestrial colonies.


  27. Ted-

    She’s a typical leftist who prefers monopolies, so long as they are “non-profit”. It’s the profits they object to, not the monopolies. Ideally, everything would be a non-profit monopoly to prevent any profit-making entities existing in the market. Anything motivated by profits is evil.

  28. LY: “I can’t believe I’m the first person to ponder this.”

    There’s been plenty of thought about it. Especially in Science Fiction there’s been a good amount of solid thought on “how would you actually go about it” from a lot of the Great Names.
    Heinlein especially put a lot of thought in his environments, especially since he built his social structures on it.
    “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” is near-prophetic in several ways in that department. Including the Chinese being there as well, and his approach to the roots of AI.
    And the value of the kinetic energy of a well-thrown bag of rice. of course…

  29. I think by “freely” she means “for free”. That is, we generate it, and give it to poor countries for free.

    Likewise, that thing about the fruits of technological advance is a standard climate warrior demand for all inventions, patents, and technology related to renewable energy generation to be handed over to the developing world for free.

    The official Durban UN climate conference discussion paper is here: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2011/awglca14/eng/crp38.pdf

    See in particular Para 67: “The removal of all obstacles, including intellectual property rights and patents on climate-related technologies to ensure the transfer of technology to developing countries.” Also, all the stuff about “developed country Parties shall provide enhanced financial, technology and capacity-building support to developing country Parties” and “The provision of the amount of funds to be made available annually to developing country Parties, which shall be equivalent to the budget that developed countries spend on defence, security, and warfare.” and “The guarantee
    that all Parties shall cease destructive activities that contribute to climate change, in particular the activities of warfare, production of materials and services that support warfare, and to divert associated financial resources and investments into the shared global effort to combat a common enemy: climate change. ”

    i.e. “China would be very pleased if you were to divert your entire defence budget to paying for their energy generation infrastructure using your own IP, for free. Thanks very much. Nice doing business with you. Aha! Ahaha! Ahahahaha!!!”

    Quite why anyone thinks for one moment we ought to take their climate change campaign seriously I’m not quite sure. But many apparently sober and sensible people actually do. They vote for it. They nod knowingly in bien pensant conversation about it. They even pen earnest articles on what economic dislocations and taxes we as free market supporters ought to accept to deal with it. It’s all very strange, in a surreal sort of way.

  30. Any colony on Mars for the foreseeable future will be entirely dependent on stuff from Earth.

    There won’t be any colony on Mars–at least, none bigger than two guys and a monkey–until 3D printers can produce most of the things we need. No-one can afford to build a colony there that’s reliant on supplies from Earth.

  31. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I don’t think someone with Zoe Williams’s skill set would fare very well in a “post capitalist” society. In pretty short order she’d end up roasting on a spit while Immortan Joe and his Warboys capered about.

  32. And where, pray tell, would all the raw material for the 3D printer come from?

    Uh, Mars?

    If we can’t build most of the things we need from local materials, we’re not building a colony there. We’re not going to be spending a billion dollars a time to express ship a life support widget to Mars before everyone dies.

    That said, sending raw materials that could be used to build the components you needed would still be cheaper than sending all the components you think you might need. It’s just not viable if you’re talking about supporting hundreds or thousands of people for decades.

  33. Communism doesn’t “fail” in the sense that people are fed. Demand issues and that people don’t want to cooperate can be worked round. Usually by coercion.

    It fails because it’s in no-one’s interest to take risks.

    A factory makes ovens say. What gain would management have to make better ovens? All it could do is fail. But making the same ovens will keep them safely occupied and happy.

    So Communism is essentially static. What improvements there are come from external sources, forcing their hand.

  34. “…beyond appropriation by monopolies”

    The other point being, the monopoly only happens under state control.

    The only reason green lefties support a pan-European energy policy is because that is the only way their beloved wind turbines and solar panels can be viable as a source. For wind or sun to generate energy for maximum reliable periods needs a land area much larger than an individual European nation, as weather patterns tend to operate on that scale, i.e. if there is no wind in NE England, then it is likely there is no wind anywhere in the UK and probably in NE Europe, because that’s how it works. Having nationwide distributed wind farms wont cut it, it has to Europe wide.

  35. Chester,
    Ditto slavery. The people in a position to innovate have no incentive to do so. Which is not coincidental.

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