Can Bill Gates bring nuclear power back to the US?
Usually, discussions of decarbonizing energy production involve solar, wind, tidal and geothermal. But nuclear power generation doesn’t generate greenhouse gas (though the large amount of concrete in conventional nuclear power plants does). Nuclear power generation has a bad name after Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. While there is debate about whether the Three Mile Island and Fukushima accidents really endangered many lives, there’s no doubt that solid fuel light water nuclear power reactors have an image problem.
Bill Gates is hoping to overcome that image problem by co-funding a nuclear power reactor. Gates’ company, TerraPower, has announced the siting of a 345 MW demonstration plant in Kemmerer WY, an old coal town. This plant is a 4th generation design (for reference, Fukishima No. 1 was a Mark I model designed in the 1960s first went online in 1971). It will be a Natrium plant design that uses a sodium-cooled fast reactor as the heat source. Sodium as a reactor coolant has excellent heat transfer properties, remains liquid at far higher temperatures and lower pressures than light water reactors, and sodium is transparent to neutrons. On the downside, sodium reacts violently with air or water, so care must be taken to prevent coolant leakage and air or water intrusion.
The cooling system design is failsafe, not requiring any power from an outside source to safely shutdown during an emergency.
The cost of solar and wind power is declining. If the TerraPower pilot in Wyoming is successful, it should reduce the cost of nuclear power generation, and also address the intermittency issues of solar and wind. It is expected to complement, not displace solar and wind power generation.
Much to my disappointment, however, the TerraPower reactor still relies on solid uranium as fuel. In the long term, molten salt reactors represent a safer, scalable and sustainable nuclear power solution with more efficient fuel consumption and less radioactive waste and risk of nuclear weapons proliferation. The US used to be a world leader in nuclear power. It would be good to see it back in that role again.
“Bill Gates’ TerraPower aims to build its first advanced nuclear reactor in a coal town in Wyoming,” CNBC, Catherine Clifford
Nuclear is 100% the way to go. The problem isn’t the reactors or the long term storage of spent waste, it’s a lack of funding. In the 60s and 70s we were gung ho, now we look at Chernobyl and say hell no. I grew up a few miles from the South Texas Project and I don’t have three arms (yet). We have to invest in the future. Solar panels have a lot of waste, batteries can be recycled but the plastic housing not. Wind still needs oil in the crank case and the blades are usually made of fiberglass or generally not recyclable. Aluminum is more expensive but can be reused. Geothermal is cost prohibitive, tidal requires a lot of space, nuclear pound for pound is the best path forward.
With some aged bona fide: In the 1960s I taught at Rickover’s Rabbit Ranch in Idaho and was Chief Reactor Operator/Propulsion Plant Watch Officer at A1W there and Aboard the then USS Enterprise CVAN65, including refueling at the both (I had the watch in No. 2 when we followed The Bainbridge into Rio de Janeiro, but that’s another sea story). Afterwards, I worked at Argonne’s EBRII in Idaho, where I mostly rewrote operating manuals.
The (2) A1W and the (8) Enterprise reactors were Pressurized Water Reactors (no boiling in the core). These type reactors depend on the coolant water slowing/moderating the neutrons enough to increase the possibility of them producing enough fission of the U235 fuel to attain and sustain a fission reaction (state of being ‘critical’).
EBRII was, as is the proposed TerraPower reactor, a liquid metal cooled fast-breeder reactor. Over a ~40 year period, the US Govt spend tens of billions of dollars on EBRII, plus a few more on the Clinch River Proposed Plant.
Pressurized Water Reactors are fueled by clad highly enriched Uranium or Thorium. This enrichment is highly expensive. Fast Breeders’ cores are mostly clad U238, which makes up more than 99% of natural uranium, with enough Plutonium(Pu)239 or another fissionable nuclide to initially go critical. Once critical, the unmoderated/unslowed fast neutrons from fission strike the U238 which sometimes produces Pu239, a fissionable nuclide.
The ability of the water coolant in pressurized water reactors to moderate/slow the neutrons from fission decreases with temperature. This has a stabilizing effect. All else being stable, a rising coolant temperature would cause the reactor to go sub critical, thus produce less heat.
r critical, the ‘decay heat’ must be removed; else, a Three-Mile or Fukushima results. In pressurized, or boiling water (Fukishima) reactors, this requires the pumping of large quantities of water.
The implied ability to remove the decay heat from a Liquid Metal Fast Breeder without electrical power is news to me. Liquid sodium, sodium itself, is not easy to deal with. If EBRII lost power there was no way to drive the control rods in to shutdown the fission reaction, there was no way to cool it. To my knowledge, fast breeders still have these safety issues.
Are you familiar with this?
Demonstration of passive safety features in EBR-II
You would be wrong about the prospects of nuclear versus renewables except that human population is far more likely to grow than shrink and public support will be greater for a prosperous lifestyle than an impoverished lifestyle. Most obviously though you are correct that we gave up on development of nuclear power rather than reached a technological impasse. However, we did reach a sociopolitical impasse with broad sponsorship.
I am not so sure that using less energy translates into “impoverished.”
More people and less total energy means even less per person, but I think that we are already impoverished and just do not realize it. We can maintain the status quo with increased energy efficiency, but evolving industrialism has met its limit. We have lost so many of the producer jobs and substituted debt, finance, and retail for production, which locks our economy into a drawer between population growth and surplus trading partners buying our sovereign debt. That may be better than the socks drawer, but it is the same as the stocks drawer.
What we will not advance is the ability to clean up our own mess with recycling and also cleaning up the trash that we have dumped in the ocean. Of course, it will take more than cheap energy to keep this place from becoming a dump, but it will not take less.
prosperity is not energy dependent after a point. a point we passed long ago. we are living in a cocaine economy. fortunately we could fix that with”cultural” change [not government force].
expensive energy would help us a lot more than cheap energy.
you may not have three arms, but your ability to handle a comples problem does not seem to have improved. i don’t mean to be mean here, but the problem is not what is a better way to go: arsenic or cyanide? but how can a superspecies keep from poisoning itself with its own waste.
when you have a cancer, you do not ask the doctor for the least expensive way to feed it.
I grew up above the benzene domes in southeast Texas. The nuclear plant did nothing to harm three generations. My grandparents tried to sue Dow Chemical and they all died before they could raise the money to do so. They all also worked for Dow Chemical. Some have pensions so they can’t speak out.
I think I will take nuclear power over watching half my family slowly die of weird cancers.
why do you think that is your only choice?
Absolutely yes. Thx.
It is the waste. 90,000 tons spread all over the country because of NIMBY. Relatively compact, true because it is incredibly dense. It will be a hazard for longer than recorded human history. Thru 12,000 year ice age cycles. The hubris that makes us think that we as a civilization are capable of babysitting something like this is simply staggering. “Over 60 years there has not been a single accident involving spent nuclear waste” Let’s see 60/50,000 doesn’t give me a lot of comfort. If we are going to go down this road it can only be justified by spending an order of magnitude more time and resources on the fuel cycle. If you’re not willing to do that you are not a serious person.
Dig a little deeper into the technology to recycle and reuse spent nuclear fuel via breeder reactors. The fear that caused Carter to outlaw breeders was our ability to control ourselves and our enemies rather than nuclear power. Knees jerking against convoy attacks and bomb making that had nothing to do with our ability to control nuclear power itself or to dispose of the vastly reduced waste. Probably some good PR by big oil was also involved.
no doubt. but people being what they are we are happy to accept them doing the right thing for the wrong reason. wisdom of crowds and all that.
Bill Gates. Psychopath in chief.
Too busy making money from vaccines and depopulation.
No education in anything but master of the (Luciferian) world.
just so you don’t feel all alone, i think i agree with you.
Despite making my living entirely from moving natural gas around, this false equivalence between renewables creating GHGs in the construction phase and power plants (which generate just as much in the construction phase) which continually spit a very large stream of them into the atmosphere for 30+ years is disingenuous. It’s like comparing a slap in the face to murder and, in my personal opinion, needs to stop. Nobody in the energy industry takes people making that false equivalence seriously.
Half of the population wants zero. There is no such thing as zero.
zero CO2 is not necessary.
but neither is suicidal greed.
I should add to my earlier comment that this includes things like mining for metals (an unfortunate, but much smaller and 1x expense). Mining and creating a battery is dirty… but so is mining for oil/gas… which then spits out a flow that doesn’t stop for decades. Simply cannot be compared.
thank you (I think) but the argument misses the point. it is not only CO2 which is destroying the planet, it is everything we do that values “money” over iife, probably at some point we cannot avoid making a mess, but i suspect we could stop 90% of it without noticing a change in our “life style.”
but it is hard to explain the people who just throw their trash out of their car…or our failure to recognize that plastic trash (or tar sands) accumulating in the ocean is going to kill us, if we have no concern for the lives of other creatures.
We are not so far apart other than our different assessment of what is possible with technology to make nuclear power safe. Also, letting capital call all the shots is not a winning strategy for nuclear power. So, we may need to reorganize ownership and management before nuclear can actually be safe instead of possibly done safe. Radioactivity makes nuclear power dangerous, but the corporate balance sheet POV makes it unsafe.
In the case of the WY plant that is the topic of this thread, it is a public-private partnership.
In the early days, government called the shots on nuclear power. And Hyman Rickover willed us our current nuclear power technology. Government is inherently inertial. Responses to climate change, including nuclear, require innovation, not inertial. Historically, most innovation has come from the private sector.
That said, I don’t see much that’s innovative about the Gates project. I hope it opens the door to other consortia that will be more innovative. Other nations are already leading, so maybe we’ll just copy their best.
the private sector is very innovated when it comes to their private businesses.
government innovation has always been necessary to keep the private sector from eating its workers and customers. it’s a difference of scope and scale and the nature of the problems that need to be addressed.
private innovation is very nice and we need to encourage it, but we also need to direct it toward what is needed “for the general welfare.”
of course this infuriates the private sector who resent having their “freedom” curtailed. so they invent big lies (like “economics”) to convince people who don’t think too hard that “government is the problem.”
not just the corporate balance sheet. human nature has a big effect. i watched years of contractors, and their workers, cutting corners that made the bridges less safe than the designers intended, they, and the government inspectors, justified this as “not important” or they didn’t understand it in the first place.
anyway, the “safety” of a reactor is not the real problem. excess energy consumption is. and the infrastructure to support it, and the waste from consuming it.
How much will it cost ? Nuclear won’t help us because of charity. Only if it is profitable will it expand beyond Gates’s gift. What carbon tax is needed for it to beat methane ? Is there any way it can beat wind + storage or photovoltaic + storage ?
If it is viable, why is it surviving on charity ?
Nuclear beats wind/solar + storage on the spreadsheet. Whether it will in the future is a subject of speculation, but currently everyone in the industry understands that intermittency is a problem for wind and solar, and that current storage options are very expensive. The only answer to the intermittency problem is gas/coal or nuclear. Period. I come down on the side of nuclear. YMMV.
It is obscene to read the prattle of white westerners consigning billions in the east to energy poverty because they don’t approve of the carbon that got them there and the nuclear power that offers they only viable alternative. Conservation for thee and not for me? Feh.
There are *no* sources of energy that are without environmental costs. But the only alternatives to nuclear are (1) increasing global warming and (2) increasing poverty and misery for the non-industrialized nations.
Just to be clear, we’re in our ninth year of rooftop solar. We won’t make our investment back in real dollars for another 6-8 years at least, and that’s after Ameren paid half the upfront cost and after a 30% tax rebate on the rest.
Did solar make sense? On our house, we face the North with the back to the South and a walkable roof.
i was all hot on solar when i read an article on a local who cut his electricity bill with solar.
then i counted on my fingers and realized my electricity bill was half of his without solar panels, but a nice south facing window helps, as does insulation in the roof and walls, and a willingness to wear an extra sweater at need. but i live in a cloudy climate with mild temperatures. i could see someone wanting solar in a colder sunnier climate..but i’d take a hard look at architecture and sensible clothes even then.
meanwhile your spreadsheet friend apparently has no idea the damage “spreadsheet” thinking has done in the world. our race to riches has caused more terrible poverty in the third world than anything they experienced before the West introduced wage slavery.
more prattle for you to think obscenely about:
suppose we used wind and solar when the sun shines and the wind blows and use gas only when they don’t?
i am not proposing this as the answer (i like living within our means) but just trying to expand your thought horizon a bit.
If by “make sense” you mean make a profit, then no. I always tell people that before they consider rooftop solar, they should have a professional energy inventory of the house. We had sweeps and weather stripping installed on all exterior walls and had all the windows in this 90+ year old house re-hung. New insulation blown into the attic and cracks in the basement caulked. We have the most energy-efficient air conditioner, boiler and water heater we could purchase at the time.
Beyond that, we won’t make back our ca. $7000 put by the time we move to the east coast, but we’re told that rooftop solar will add to the purchase price of the house.
We have an east- and west-sloping roof with very little tree shadow.
I didn’t expect net savings at the time. Since 80% of electric here in easter MO was coal at the time, I figured we’d at least do our part to reduce consumption of America’s dirtiest fuel (from mining to aersolized radon/CO2/soot to toxic coal ash).
i see so much clearer whwn i shut my eyes.
just for the record, i think we can find a way to end poverty in the third world without destroying the only world we have, maybe not by promising them a 300 hp electric car in every garage and a superhighway to drive it on. or airplane rides to exotic vacations every year or business meetings every week.
of course there is “no” energy without the environment. that’s the point. meanwhile we don’t have to reduce energy consumption to the stone age, but only enough to allow natural sinks to prevent excessive accumulation of CO2 or other fatal destruction of habitat.
talk about waist deep in the big muddy.
good point. if we have to buy our energy from “too cheap to meter” we can guess what the owners of those plants will charge us for it.
Castles made of tar sands wash into the sea eventually.
“…The adage does not apply to questions that are more open-ended than strict yes–no questions.
we don’t need it. why take the risk? [and the pollution (other than radioactive) and environmental destruction that goes with it.]
the huge mistake here is thinking we can, let alone should, keep increasing, or even maintaining, our consumption of energy. the only possible excuse for that is “if we don’t, some other power will, and that power will beat us in a war and make us slaves.” the “we need progress (more money for the rich) to make life worth living” is insanity.
I am all for a simpler easier life too, but then I am old. Materialism was never really my thing insofar as pride in property or the accumulation of status symbols. That is why it was easy for me to park my two cheap power boats in order to pay off my mortgage in just 15 years. I will definitely restore my canoe before long, but I cannot know yet about my two cheap power boats. What will our family’s health situation be like in five years and what else more important might I need that money for? Being cheap as they are, then it costs me nothing to leave them sitting on trailers in my back yard.
So, you and me – that makes two – only a little under 8 billion more people to go – those that have and want to keep and then those that have not but want to get. Elites have most of the money and all of the political power, so they will decide how it goes anyway. But people are easier to manage when they have something to live for, something to aspire to. Full bellies are only a start. Unless everyone is poor then no one will want to be poor – or at least too few to matter on a planetary resource basis.
Homo sapiens is a young species. As long as it does not become an extinct species, then the future is open to being created from what we have with what we are willing to invest. So far we have been better at scientific progress than social engineering of either cooperativeness or self-denial. Government can neither prevent poverty nor crime, but it is really good at killing in a pinch. Seems like the smart thing to do is bet on playing our strongest suit and then hoping for the best.
Besides, if we can progress far enough to have cheap energy, then we would have the means to clean up the mess that we have made were we civilized enough to recognize the need. Of course that is a huge leap, but nothing compared to getting people to passively accept a lower standard of living. So far, all that has gotten us has been Donald Trump.
I am afraid you might be right. But note that the people getting rich out of selling us cocaine are not us.
Graeber’s new book discusses the times that societies have chosen to turn away from wealth in order to prevent the rise of a power structure. Yanis Varoufakis discusses in a recent paper Socrates dialogue on Gyges which makes the same point. So did ol’ Jesus, but who listens to him anymore? [cerainly not the people who call themselves christians in public.]
“you cannot serve both god and mammon”. so what does “serve God” mean?
I think it means something like discover the “good” to find happiness. which somehow got lost in translation. fortunately Socrates and Buddha and Lao Tse, not to mention a few dozen American Indian tribes, seem to have been saying the same thing.
I appreciate David Graeber’s thinking and would agree with him if I had not become such a realist as a remedy to my own youthful idealism. I liked Socrates for so long as I believed that he was an actual man instead of Plato’s daydream. In any case, the modern industrial state has exerted an overwhelming influence on the effective limits of social consciousness. We can be as ineffective as we may want to be, but the state pulls the strings on effects. The only thing that I believe I got wrong here was to use the stale label of “modern industrial state.” That is an archaic idiom. The modern financial state sounds ambiguous in a few ways, yet rings true in comparison.
I am not so sure I agree with Graber-Wengrow myself. But they present a lot of interesting facts that i did not learn from the anthropology taught in 1960. worth thinking about.
I agree with you about modern financial state.
Socrates was real as far as I have ever heard. I loved him after reading Euthyphro (sp?), but as I got older I suspected him of being a bit of a sophist. Irving Stone (?) thought he was more of an Athenian Bill Buckley and they were right to poison him. [“they” being “the people” whom I suspect of being Bill Buckley turned inside out…but pretty much just the same.]
oops. I.F.Stones first name was Isidor, not Irving.
(Not at all vaguely related.)
$44 billion for a permanent nuclear waste dump — here’s why we still don’t have one
the thorny problem of waste begins at home.
Just finished reading “Superfuel,” which makes some impressive claims about how nuclear plant fuel can be burned in liquid fluoride thorium reactors. Allegedly, much of the stuff that was targeted for Yucca Mtn could instead be burned for electricity and water desalination. The book reads a little too much like propaganda for my taste, and I’m doing some additional reading before I post here. It is clear, though, that there are many flavors of “nuclear power,” and they have distinct strengths and weaknesses. The bottom line is that the world population is growing, much of it in South and East Asia, Africa and South America, and those people want the lifestyles we currently enjoy, not the lifestyles some think they should just be satisfied with.
We would be well advised to wait a few more decades for fusion power to be perfected. After all, ‘they’ are so close. And it is purported to be much better environmentally.
If they made a movie about fusion power would it be called A Star is Born?
tongue in cheek?
70 years ago we were going to have fusion reactors “in a few years.”
we have been lucky. with more cheap energy we would have destroyed the planet already with our waste.
CO2 may be Gaia’s way of defending herself from us. If she can destroy human civilization before we destroy all life on earth, the animals will recover…after all, as the climate deniers like to tell us, the planet has been warmer in the past, though not at all friendly to humn life, or even mammals, or even grass (aka wheat).
not to rub it in, but humans are stupid. we always treat the latest news story as if it were the only thing we could think about. so we come up with a solution to that, and create a situation ten times worse.
I am optimistic that fusion power will become a reality within the next few decades. I would hope that wind, solar & geothermal can contribute a lot. The costs of nuclear power, not the least of which is decommissioning after the plants can no longer be used, but mostly because of the waste-disposal issues – make nuclear very problematic.
Also to be considered are that the technologies suggested above would appear to depend on the use of highly-enriched , i.e. bomb-grade, uranium which is problematic even in principle.
Great in submarines, and aircraft carriers. Too risky elsewhere.
BTW, not dealing with waste-disposal concerns that stretch out over tens of thousands of years seems all-too-typical of modern human thinking and planning.
Can the Energy Department store 50 tons of weapons-grade plutonium for 10,000 years?
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists – March 2021
Uranium has several isotopes. One is U-235, which is relatively rare, the bomb-grade stuff. It is refined from ‘natural uranium’ which is mostly U-238, no good for bomb-making, which can be converted to Pu-239 (plutonium) which is used wherever bomb-grade fuel is needed.
We don’t have the luxury of waiting. By 2050, the world will be engulfed in resource wars.
As for “nuclear waste,” one man’s waste is another man’s treasure. There are better alternatives for “nuclear waste” than burial.
Hopefully, you are right.
I’m with Malthus on this.
Why Malthus Is Still Wrong
Scientific American – May 2016
i don’t see what nuclear is going to do to stop resource wars. unless you are hoping that too cheap to meter energy can solve the water crisis by making fresh water from the sea.
solve decertification with nuclear/electric plows?
save the amazon from McCows?
nice work if you can get it.
i guess i’ll be glad and amazed when all Americans are living the lifestyle you enjoy.
meanwhile, having too many babies has always been the shortest route to rough poverty. and wanting too much money has always been the surest route to misery.
meanwhile there is a thing called reality. wanting the lifestyle of the rich and famous does not mean it is possible for you and 8 billion of your friends and relations.
there have been societies, i am told, that rejected “prosperity” and too many babies just to avoid having to live under a class of bosses. they did pretty well for a thousand years or so until ( I think, my sources do not say) some other society, or internal enemies, came in and made slaves of them. I have no easy answers for that. But currently WE are the “other society” that has made slaves of them and ourselves.
I’m pretty sure that with a little birth control (i am told it becomes more popular when parents don’t have to have enough children to support them in their old age) most people could live at my current level of energy usage (including embedded energy). i guess i was unduly influenced by an old song when I was a child: “don’t fence me in.”
anyway, those things are very much a matter of culture and not non-negotiable “rights” given from god.
you should watch a few dystopian movies..just to get an idea of what might be…and then look at Hong Kong to get an idea of what it’s like here and now. the earth passed it’s sustainable carrying capacity decades ago. we are eating our seed corn, and throwing up on our heirloom carpets. party like it’s the end of the world. it will be for your kids or grandkids. unless they can get a job in Las Vegas/
I agree about population growth and carrying capacity, which is why I am conditionally for nuclear power. Population reduction has been tried (both China and Japan) and it has had economic consequences upon sovereign debt burdens and inter-generational dependencies of production and care-giving. No one really wanted limits on having children anyway. We have big problems now. It might be possible to fix them if climate change gives us enough time. There is no certainty that it not already too late.
I have seen lots of dystopian movies. It seems like we are living in the opening scenes of one now. Of course now has never been a great time throughout human history despite that now is always all that humanity really has ever had. So, I can only trust that if we can avoid extinction, then someone will figure something out and continue on. Someone will have a better chance if they are left with some useful resources to work with.
The best thing about our disagreement here is that it does not matter. The status quo is unmovable.
birth control has been tried for economic reasons for thousands of years. and it worked. except of course when the neighbors had more children and broke into your house and beat you up and enslaved your children. [i don’t recommend the Chinese version of birth control, but i can’t say that the chinese did not face a situation where it was “necessary” given their already dangerous overpopulation and the time it takes for poor people to learn that the children they needed to support them in old age are, under modern conditions, more than they can support while waiting for them to grow up.]
now the japanese are whining about there not being enough young people to support the poulation of old people. this is nonsense promoted by World Bank types. there might come a time when it would be true, but we are a long way from that. menwhile all that is needed is for the young people to save enough of their earnings to support themselves in their own old age.
the mechanism of savings is the same as it has always been, but Social Security is what works best in an industrialized/financialized nation.
nuclear power will do nothing to change any of this. getting people to understand what “honor your mother and your father” means in a modern economy would do everything.
[you can’t eat nuclear power. but neither will you be able to eat when your neighbors pesticides have killed all the pollinators you need for what you are trying to grow. for example.
no doubt science will save us. feed us genetically modified organisms fed on petroleum products through the miracle of chemistry. and if we don’t like chemical plants in our back yard we can alway live in Las Vegas or buy digital reality devices from Bill Gates.
one thing’s for sure, we’re gonna need a lot more energy once crypto takes hold…
just to be clear, i’m being facetious here; i see no good reasons (other than the criminal ones) that bitcoin should even exist…
thanks for making that clear.
i don’t know anything about bitcoin, but I can’t imagine a soverign government let someone else coin money in their country. Money is more than just a medium of exchange. It is also a means for regulating the economy between inflation and depression, and, no doubt, something you have to pay taxes with.
‘Money’ is an abstraction.
‘Bitcoin’ is an abstraction.
Ergo, ‘Bitcoin’ is ‘money’.
Same deal with NFTs (Non Fungible Tokens.)
Melania Trump is involved, I have read, with a cryptocurrency that involves some items from her wardrobe & also NFTs (images of same).
(Seriously, anything considered rare or scarce can somehow be used as money.)
Melania Trump’s Auction of Hat Hit by Plunge in Cryptocurrency
NY Times – Jan 25
As for “Melania’s hat” one woman’s hat is another woman’s treasure. There are better alternatives for “Melania’s hat” than burial.
Or are there?
money is more than a medium of exchange, much less the thing exchanged.
as for abstraction..i am not so sure about that. it does kind of exist as a not necessarily material way of keeping track of relative value (shot term), but for all that it’s more real (less abstract) than “the average worker”. but then i believe in the reality of things seen and unseen.
looking back, i can see that my reply to “abstraction” misses the point you were making.
just consider it a random post (comment). one of my abstractions of reality for the casual reader. though i have noticed that most conversations and political-economic analysis deal entirely with abstractions that turn out to not have the desired effect on the real problem.
there i go again.
Exactly. Money is an example of what Alfred North Whitehead called the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, the reification of an abstract idea. Money only works as a medium of exchange as long as people believe in it. It helps when the state only accepts its currency in payment for taxes. But in the end, money only exists in peoples’ minds.
Cryptocurrencies (or as Nouriel Roubini calls them, “shitcoin”) gyrate wildly, making them useless as a store of value. But, hey, the stock market has been a casino for the past couple of decades–I guess others can play in the imaginary sandbox.
ab·strac·tion| abˈstrakSH(ə)n | noun1 the quality of dealing with ideas rather than events: topics will vary in degrees of abstraction. • something which exists only as an idea: the question can no longer be treated as an academic abstraction.
Of course a dictionary definition is only an abastraction, but from this one we can learn that, at least to the writer of this definition, an abstraction is a “quality of dealing with ideas…”
or “someting which exists only as an idea”
money is not a “quality” and it does not exist “only” as an idea.
as for “reification of an idea”… well, that is a “reification” and not an abstraction…sort of the opposite, in fact. and probably most things exist as reifications of ideas…or at least their names exist as abstractions of the things the names point to.
money certainly exists as a real thing..both the physical objects we use as money and as the “faith” we have that those physical things will behave as…be accepted as… generally exchangeable tokens of value, which is an “idea” but not “only” an idea: it is a real system for managing exchange of things of value. but usually the word is used to “mean” the physical objects accepted as tokens to carry “half-exchanges” (if I may analogize money as like electrons in chemical “half-reactions).
Anyway, you get the idea. Or not. The stock market is not money. Neither is the deed for your property. Or Melania’s hat, Or Banksies art. Or cryptocurrency. Though they “can be used as money”, or “like money” by those who wish to. But, they lack general acceptance, and they lack general acceptance because they don’t have other properties that a useful “money” requires, especially that you can pay your taxes with it. Though I heard some in Congress are considering it. But the people in Congress are idiots. We have a perfectly good, real, system of money. Why would we even allow, let alone sanction paying taxes with, another system of money that was invented to avoid taxes?
(Do not let this make yer head explode.)
Cutting a Banksy Into 10,000 (Digital) Pieces
NY Times – Dec 1
now, that’s pretty abstract.
Banksy him(?)self may be an abstraction.
Banksy’s Identity Remains a Mystery,
Distractify – July 15
meanwhile, “money is fungible”….yes. but taking money dedicated by law to a specific purpose and using it for another purpose is embezzlement.