Friday, January 27, 2006

"Bullshit for the Purpose"

Is what my professor called me as I was trying to get a travel grant to get from Budapest up to Prague for a few days in order to get access to some Hussite Revolution primary sources (Geek inline-reference: that I needed in order to get a handle on Sigismund's affairs with the Bohemian nobles, and understand why on earth they closed the land-register before the war began, rather than what usually happens, which is using the handy excuse of a war to start cutting each others' throats).

Another way you could call it, would be "rotten mold for making great cheese." That's what we have here. Yep, the Malthusians are at it again. This time, it's not overpopulation (hard to argue that when we're in danger of getting set up for demographic collapse), but the cost of wiring up all those brown people in the developing world. Yep, we're going to run out of copper, vanadium, and all the rest of the metals, and it's all the fault of those electricity-craving darkies.

Which, as any economist can tell you, is bullshit, because as soon as something gets scarce, we get better at using less and less of it while coming up with less expensive alternatives.

But... then why is this article appearing on Space Daily, where cost-benefit analysis is an explicit part of every contract ever made by their professional readers?

The article is there because, bullshit or not, it's ammo.

If you want to get off this rock and start mining asteroids for metals, what's the fastest way to get public support for the job? Particularly, what's the fastest way of getting folks who aren't normally sympathetic to your argument, and would rather spend that money on foreign aid, etcetera, to see your side of things? Well, I don't know. But I do know that "we have to mine space so that we will be able to help the developing world modernize... because otherwise raw materials will be so expensive that it would never happen," is a pretty good one.

"Bullshit for the Purpose." Or, as Plato put it... the Noble Lie.

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