Saturday, April 20, 2013

Server Crashes

Unfortunately, through the confluence of ackshoul pplz, Facebook, and blogs, this one did eventually become aware of Bane's misguided attack on an extravagant eastern circus, and the resulting doubleplus beating of dead horses. Pied Cow's Martial Law and a Lament discusses an estimated cost for the said beating, namely around $876 million a day.

Expensive, right? "Shutting down" a city wastes enough resources to provide food and medical care to several thousand children (say just 5,000, though obviously the number is much higher) for years. Put another way, this means that shutting down a city without a reason worth at least 5,001 children's lives is like killing at least one of them. (Or, if you shut down the city for 3 deaths, like killing 4,997 children more than necessary.)

If we don't understand opportunity cost, or how spending money on circuses/guns reduces the amount available for bread/butter, the comparison seems ridiculous, but really, on Planet of the Humans, it equates. Death. In piles.

But anyway, forget about the killing. Cost, right? What an expense?

Actually, it's a great deal. Since almost all work, and all actual work, is done by non-elites, preventing them from doing some of it only harms non-elites. If the first acknowledged American Great Depression showed us anything, it was that wealthy families are quite able to feast and celebrate for years on end, despite the seeming presence of millions of revolution-ready teeming masses yearning to eat. Sure, it "costs" $876 million to shut down Boston for a day, but think about what it gains: a savings of all the stuff the rest of MA, and the rest of the USA, paid for on Boston's behalf.

Like all subscription-based products, "citizenship" thrives on periodic outages and Acts of God. Utility companies, including internet-service providers, suffer "accidental" losses of service, and have it built into their contracts that no pro-rata reimbursement shall be made for "reasonable" outage periods. Whenever an entirely predictable hailstorm occurs, and the lines go down, the power company suddenly begins saving ("stealing") millions of dollars an hour.

If we believe in the invisible faeries of the free market, you might not be able to escape the power company, but you can change ISPs, moving to a different brand of preplanned outage-providers owned and managed primarily by the same investors as the first one.

So, too, with "shutting down" Boston. This kind of stuff is great for profit margins. All of a sudden, millions of people are not using the roads for which they are taxed. They are not using the schools, traffic lights, or business licenses for which they paid. Those payroll tax deductions to the United States Treasury, extracted for the past year, supposedly to purchase association with four branches of a powerful military to allow freedom of movement, are now meaningless. The relative savings to the government, in terms of prepaid, un-reimbursable services that no longer have to be provided, number in the billions of dollars, easily.

Look for this to continue. In the early days of American utility companies, investors and corporations so exploited the principle of planned outages as to actually make Americans take action. It took popular near-revolutions to put these entities in the control of "public" hands, to prevent the price gouging, service denial, and rolling, profitable outages from happening as often as they had been. It was a tiny, false victory, like the victory of making child labor illegal, but it was a marginal, sideways step in the right direction.

Now, buried in Grandpa's attic, the latest generation of policymakers has discovered the idea of squeezing a few more rubles outta the serfs using denial-of-service tactics by the government itself.

(If you thought being put on hold by the gas company during a mild snowfall, while your half-finished dinner congeals on the chilly stove, was bad, just wait until the street to the hospital is barricaded off while your little sister is having a hemorrhage from banging her head on the counter. If you disagree, oh, drive to the Superdome after Katrina.)

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