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Believe Nothing the Government Says About Radiation Or Anything Else

The unexpected problems produced at this site by the quake should cause thoughtful minds to question not nuclear power per se, but the practice of centralizing the production and distribution of electrical energy. There are more considerations involved than just calculating the scale economies associated with huge power generators connected into national grids. Not only are such structures subject to the same unpredictabilities and uncertainties of other complex systems - periodic regional power blackouts will be recalled – but the same implications that attend political centralization are present. I read a wonderful quotation from Jacques Ellul – neither the origins nor the exact wording I recall – which said, in essence, "show me how electrical power is distributed in a society, and I will show you how political power is distributed." It is no idle coincidence that political authority and electrical energy are each spoken of in terms of "power." I don’t know whether the aftermath of the nuclear-power-plant meltdown in Japan will prove harmful or neutral to those outside the immediate area. I do suspect that those in the higher echelons of the corporate-state establishment are busy formulating an "official" prognosis that will best serve its interests. If establishment interests in protecting nuclear power predominate, we will be told that there will be no adverse radiation consequences for Americans. On the other hand, if it will further promote government interests in regulating the production, transportation, and sale of foods, I can imagine our being told that such radiation poses too much danger to Americans – particularly "the children" – to allow independent farmers to avoid detailed regulation of their produce. Keeping in mind George Carlin’s comment that "I never believe anything the government tells me," each of us will bear the burden that we have heretofore ignored, namely, to bore deeply into the question "how do we know what we know?" There is a cryptic message in this disaster which, predictably, will not be addressed by institutional voices, but whose decipherment may be aided by a synthesis of Kohr’s and Ellul’s insights. At a time when the decentralization of social systems has taken on great importance, it is timely to consider the advantages that could arise from a more localized – perhaps even individualized – source of electrical power. A principal benefit arising from both a free market system and the private ownership of property – concepts that are corollary expressions of each other – is that both individual liberty and social order are maximized when decision-making authority diverges into independent persons, rather than converging into centralized elites. A major problem with institutionalized systems – particularly the state – is that the adverse consequences of their actions are multiplied, exponentially, as the range of their activities is increased.

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