the built environment of a stateless society

ana004: Tim’s Solar Scam

Tim took advantage of government subsidies to install solar panels on his roof.

Is he a hypocrite?

Use hashtag #ana004 to reference this episode in a tweet, shared post, or comment.


  • Sell! Sell! Sell!
  • The Boston Duck Parade
  • “Tim, I think someone broke into our house”
  • The 8 1/2 x 11 Sales Pitch
  • Insolation, Insolence, or Indolence?
  • Import and Export
  • The Water Heater
  • Costs, Benefits, Rebates, Credits, SREC’s
  • Commercial models will save the world
  • The Payback
  • Maintenance and Inverters
  • The Tree That Shouldn’t Be There
  • A revelation
  • Building codes from 1905 to today
  • Little boxes
  • The three screw method
  • Government solar schemes as initiation of force
  • Market distortions and consequences
  • Markets and innovation
  • Why Joe is embittered – Solar scams down under
  • Feed-In tarrifs
  • Stealing from the poor to feed the rich
  • Why green energy debates are divisive – Means and Ends
  • Bringing demand forward, missing out on advances
  • A race to the bottom
  • Payback without incentives?
  • Technical challenges
  • Three blinking lights
  • What if everyone had solar?
  • Balancing peak and off-peak loads – a cool technology
  • Grid capacity and augmentation
  • Is Tim a hypocrite?
  • Two strategies for anarchists
  • Anarchic heroes and government employees
  • Has Tim prevented WWIII?
  • Why tax avoidance won’t yield an anarchotopia
  • Solar isn’t the only scam…
  • Joe passes final judgement


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  1. Wouldn’t the bigger hypocrisy be that the government incentive scheme worked? It seemed like you were in somewhat agreement with the way government feeds hungry citizens by simply giving them money to buy food. Here is in example of government “giving” money to encourage energy efficient options…of course the podcast would have gone in a completely different direction had Tim been living in Nevada!

    I’m enjoying the discussions, the music, and Tim’s furnace! Nice job guys!

    • Joe

      2016-03-18 at 7:35 am

      Thanks for the comment, Nate. First comment EVER! Nobody can take that away from you. You win.
      Our criticism of this subsidy isn’t that it failed in any direct way – generally if you offer people free money to buy X, the sales of X will increase. That’s the immediate goal, and it is often achieved.
      The problems arise when you start to consider the indirect, higher order effects:
      How does this affect electricity prices?
      How does it change supply-side incentives in the market? (i.e. 350+ solar contractors in Adelaide, “race to the bottom”)
      What are the technical implications (i.e. grid stability)?
      What is the end goal (presumably, preventing property damage due to long term effects of climate change), and is this measure effective, and cost-effective, in moving towards that goal? (read the “Science of Doom” series linked above for a skeptical view of this issue)
      Does that end goal justify initiation of force today (i.e. taxes, inflation, enforcement of “green energy” quotas)?
      Can it be achieved without initiating force?
      Who is really footing the bill? What else could they be doing with that money?
      There are a lot of gray areas in these questions, even if you take “catastrophic anthropogenic global warming” as a given. We intentionally avoided this topic (and I hope that other commenters will as well).
      But this ambiguity is what makes this stuff interesting – there is a lot to explore.
      To clarify Tim’s comment about giving money to the poor – his point in that context (#ana002, I think) was that poverty is a separate issue from provision of specific services such as public transport. Rather than giving someone a free bus pass, you could give them enough cash to buy a bus pass. Then the bus line could operate as a normal private business, and would have more accurate pricing feedback to inform decisions on capital expenditure based on actual demand.
      Of course, the recipient might use the cash to buy booze instead. This is why they get bus passes and food stamps.
      Giving money to the poor doesn’t necessarily imply taking it from someone else. If you were allowed to keep the 30% or so of your income lost to taxes each year, might you voluntarily put some of that towards helping the poor? Or helping Tim buy solar panels?
      Then again, Tim is a hypocrite. I think he’s voting for Hillary.

      • Well, that will teach me from commenting again! Just kidding. All good points. Thanks Joe!

        • Joe

          2016-03-19 at 8:01 am

          Yeah, I thought about banning you for life when I first saw your original comment. The comment section is really only intended for sycophantic expressions of gratitude and admiration, not reasoned discourse. But then I thought, hey, why not live a little?

    • Oh crap. Someone actually listened to it. Now I have to defend myself.

      Joe’s comment addressed the practical concerns with this type of incentive scheme, so I’ll address the moral concern.

      You’re right that me accepting money for solar panels is no different than someone accepting money for food. I argue that it is not immoral for me to accept this money, just as it is not immoral for someone to accept money from the government for food.

      What is immoral is the government taking the money under a threat of force (taxation) in the first place. This is theft, so the money is not theirs to give in either case.

      Is it OK for me to accept this stolen property? If a thief mugged someone and took $20, then turned around and gave that $20 to me, it would be wrong for me to knowingly accept it unless I gave it back to the victim.

      However, if I had no means of giving it back to the victim, it might be OK for me to accept it. The thief is a violent thug, so better for that money to be in my hands than his, as long as I’m not also a violent thug. And I’m not. As far as you know.

      This is the case with money accepted from the government. There’s no way of knowing how much money government has taken from everyone, so there’s no way to say whose money it was in the first place. If I want to return it to its rightful owner, who do I start with?

      Since government has taken from me, there’s no moral problem with me taking back the money that was mine to begin with. But what about the guy getting food stamps who doesn’t pay income taxes?

      Some libertarians argue that you shouldn’t accept more from the government than what they’ve taken from you. I disagree. This is impossible to calculate, since they take through income tax, capital gains tax, sales tax, gas tax, airline taxes, etc., plus all the taxes paid by corporations imputed into everything you buy, plus distortions to the economy from regulations, war, etc. that raise prices of things you buy or reduce your opportunity to earn more. The other side of this equation, what you “take” from government, is even harder to put a value on. Use of roads, schools, security services, justice services, legislation services, subsidies that lower prices, etc. Since this balance can’t be calculated it can’t be a standard for moral action.

      Maybe the guy on food stamps could have gotten a job without government interference in the economy. Maybe he would have more access to private charity if everyone else didn’t have half of their income taken by the government and didn’t expect the government to take the burden of charity off of their shoulders. Maybe food would be cheaper without government. Maybe everything else would be cheaper.

      Government robs us of more than any of us can measure. I say you should take as much as you can from them every chance they give you, as long as you’re not helping them to initiate force (i.e. working for the IRS). They’re violent thugs, and you’re not. As far as I know. Better for that money to be in your hands than theirs.

      Thanks for commenting Nate!

  2. All good points. Thanks for the discussion!

  3. randyharrisaz

    2016-12-14 at 12:30 pm

    Shocking to me how much more expensive solar installs are in Boston that here in Phoenix. I just put in a very similar cost system as you, $29,030, but my system is 10.080kW, over 2.6 times the size of yours.

    This Libertarian was rather happy to get little money back in the form of tax credits, I’ve paid many times more money to them in the first place, so I don’t have moral issues in getting a small amount of my money back.

    I’d never heard of the SRECs, it looks to be something only in the NE states, man that really changes the picture for affordability.

    New listener, heard you on Tom Wood’s podcast recently, really enjoying the show, thank you.’


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