Modern casual conspiracies

Conspiracy theories have a rather bad reputation. That is because they are often simply a lazy way to rationalize some phenomena with an ideology without having to confront the difficulties of a complex reality. One example of the common modern conspiracy was offered by Chad Orzel.

this strikes me as a case where the community potentially has a great deal more power than is usually the case when negotiating with major industries, and industry is to a large extent trying to keep them from realizing it.

Community power! Evil industry (even better than corporation as it is a group of big evil corporations)!

The topic in this case is the extraction of methane from deep shale deposits that is done by fracturing the rock. To avoid tapping this resource, after the promulgation of a conspiracy theory to hold the public ignorant, two facts are offered. One is that the stuff won’t rot so we don’t need to go after it now. The other is that the supply is finite so it should be saved until it is really, really needed and extraction methods become cheaper and less risky.

These ‘facts’ are appealing but they are simplistic. Many natural resources are, of course, finite, but that doesn’t mean that they are just tapped until gone. As illustrated in this methane shale example, new reserves are continually found and new methods are developed that make it more cost effective to tap resources that could not be tapped before. It is the cost versus demand in a broader market that controls the flow.

The false choice is defined as that of a government – in this case the community governments – knowing more than the market or the business and being in conflict with those entities. The problem here is seen in the fact that the carbon (as in CO2 and global warming) issue is tossed in. That is a problem because the certitude of the conclusions is out of line with that of the data. Costs, benefits, and risks are not a part of the discussion. The government does not know all and a lot of what it knows is not matched with any accountability mechanism in the manner that businesses and markets are. Governments are even bigger than those big evil corporations or even the ‘industry.’ That means its errors are also bigger which is why they so often yield catastrophic results such as war or social collapse.

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