Boettke on Hayek and the populist revolt

“Government fails because it grows, and it grows because it fails” [272]

“We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage…if we can regain that belief in the power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its greatest, the battle is not lost (Hayek, 1949)” [276]

The second part of the chapter on the reconstruction of the liberal project examines the populist revolt in its various forms and suggests a liberal/cosmopolitan response. Boettke sees left and right forms of the populist critique of the status quo. I have been irritated by a lot of the talk about the rise of populism because there seems to be an assumption that everyone knows what populism means and right now I am feeling left out because I don’t have a handle on what it is except that is supposed to be really bad. I think populism is good when I agree with the result and bad otherwise.

Brexit and the victory of Trump are supposed to be bad populism but I am in favour of both. Maybe it is the motivation that counts as bad – like the British who voted yes because they don’t like foreigners and the people who voted for Trump because they wanted tariffs to protect their jobs.

And then there is the populism of the left, vote buying for every politically correct group and the children’s crusade that backs Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. Trump is reviled as a racist by the deranged but he reached out to the ethnic communities and not in the cynical manner of Lyndon Johnston who probably invented the race card.

Insofar as there are arguments to support the idea that capitalism has failed, they bring recall Hutt’s complaint that the success of capitalism in advancing the poor had generated outrage at the poverty that was to that time accepted as inevitable and eternal “the poor are always with us”. He pointed out that the spin was to blame capitalism as though it was the cause of the problem and not the solution.

The main point here is that the failures that upset the populists are caused by big government and the welfare state. Our task is to explain this in a way that recruits the young people who are victims of the mentality that “not to be a socialist at 20 is to lack a heart”. Gook luck with that in the current climate of debate with the demand for equality and minority rights weaponised with the aid of the mainstream media, “our” ABC and the social media. Boettke is up for the contest and there is some probing analysis of the situation in this chapter with the conclusion pointing again to the need for institutional solutions to institutional problems.

And to end on a brighter note “Despite the obvious frustrations with the establishment elite, it is a simple fact that 2015 was the first year in all of recorded human history when less than 10% of the world’s population were living in extreme poverty.” [278]

Wind and Other update, delivering 13% of demand.
In case you know people who are excited as more wind comes on line, remind them that this will increase the cost of power and reduce the reliability of supply.

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5 Responses to Boettke on Hayek and the populist revolt

  1. RobK

    NTZ update on Germany’s wind foray.

    As Germany moves to phase out coal power, more focus is being placed on relying on wind energy to fill in the gap.

    Recently German business daily Handelsblatt here reported that despite the country adding more wind energy capacity, “the latest figures show that only a little wind power is available at any time.”

    According to the German BWE wind energy group, 29,900 wind turbines are currently operating in the country with a total capcity of 56,000 megawatts. Wind energy makes up 18.8% of the country’s power supply.

    Glaring weaknesses

    But the Handelsblatt reports there are “glaring weaknesses” and that wind turbines cannot be relied on to deliver steady power when it’s needed.

    According to Oliver Then, Managing Director of the VGB PowerTech Association, citing recent research results which the Handelsblatt has obtained: “The actual production figures show that the readily available wind power capacity in Germany is less than one percent of installed capacity.”

    Back up absolutely necessary

    According to the Handelsblatt, VGB PowerTech evaluated 2016 data from a number of European countries, and reports that the message is clear:

    Even if the expansion of wind power progresses rapidly, there will always have to be back-up capacity, for example in the form of fossil power plants.”

    VGB Director Oliver Then says that as more and more green energies get fed in, the less gas and fossil fuels plants operate, and thus making them no longer profitable. Yet they remain absolutely essential to keep the grid stable.

    Can rely on neighboring countries?

    Proponents of green energies who support a rapid fossil fuel phaseout insist that it can be done, and that Germany would only need to rely increasingly on a power supply from neighboring countries. When the wind is not blowing in Germany, power could be imported from another country where the wind is blowing.

    But VGB Director Oliver Then says the data do not support this claim in any way, adding, “Power production is strongly synchronous over great distances.”

    This means that if wind lacks in Germany, it often lacks in Poland as well and so neighbors cannot be relied on to provide electricity.

    Pump storage not feasible

    Pump storage as a way to store energy is also not feasible says Then, saying it would need to be increased 1000 fold, which would entail enormous costs. Then notes that periods of no wind extending two weeks are not uncommon in Germany.

  2. max

    Vaclav Smil, a distinguished professor in the department of environment and geography at the University of Manitoba, in Canada,

    One troubling implication of that density reversal, Smil notes, is that in a future powered by renewable energy, society might have to devote 100 or even 1000 times more land area to energy production than today. That shift, he says, could have enormous negative impacts on agriculture, biodiversity, and environmental quality.
    On average,these thermal power stations are at work about 50 percent of the time…
    In contrast, wind turbines work on average only about 23 percent of the time, which means that even with all the requisite new high-voltage interconnections, slightly more than two units of wind-generating capacity would be needed to replace a unit in coal, gas, oil, and nuclear plants.

    If 10% of the US electricity generated in 2009 (395 TWh or 45 GW) were to be produced by large wind farms their area would have to cover at least 22,500 km2, roughly the size of New Hampshire.

    To see other difficulties associated with that transition, Smil says, look no further than Germany. In 2000, fossil fuels provided 84% of Germany’s energy. Then the country embarked on a historic campaign, building 90 gigawatts of renewable power capacity, enough to match its existing electricity generation. But because Germany sees the sun only 10% of the time, the country is as hooked as ever on fossil fuels: In 2017, they still supplied 80% of its energy. “True German engineering,” Smil says dryly. The nation doubled its hypothetical capacity to create electricity but has gotten minimal environmental benefit. Solar can work great, Smil says, but is best where the sun shines a great deal.

    What I see when I see a wind turbine by Václav Smil:

    Wind turbines are the most visible symbols of the quest for renewable electricity generation. And yet, although they exploit the wind, which is as free and as green as energy can be, the machines themselves are pure embodiments of fossil fuels.
    For a 5-megawatt turbine, the steel alone averages 150 metric tons for the reinforced concrete foundations, 250 metric tons for the rotor hubs and nacelles (which house the gearbox and generator), and 500 metric tons for the towers.
    If wind-generated electricity were to supply 25 percent of global demand by 2030 (forecast to reach about 30 petawatt‑hours), then even with a high average capacity factor of 35 percent, the aggregate installed wind power of about 2.5 terawatts would require roughly 450 million metric tons of steel.
    And that’s without counting the metal for towers, wires, and transformers for the new high-voltage transmission links that would be needed to connect it all to the grid.

    To make the steel required for wind turbines that might operate by 2030, you’d need fossil fuels equivalent to more than 600 million metric tons of coal.

    As a result, these new energy infrastructures would have to be spread over areas ten to a thousand times larger than today’s infrastructure of fossil fuel extraction, combustion and electricity generation

  3. Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Some people have often speculated that Australia should go solar on a massive scale, and cover the desserts with cells, and then sell the power to Asia. Does anyone know if this would work? If we assume very large efficiencies (Unis do keep improving efficiencies), could we become the solar power equivalent of Saudi Arabia?

  4. Iampeter

    “Government fails because it grows, and it grows because it fails” [272]

    This might sound deep but its really just very shallow.
    Government fails because it “grows” outside its proper scope.
    This however, requires a clear position on what the scope of government is even supposed to be in the first place.
    This is what’s missing from this discussion and ALL discussions about politics today.

  5. Nato

    Populist (adj) – A derogatory term applied when a particular political policy enjoys undeniable majority support, but not the speaker/wrtier’s

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