Here I am, exploit me

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

I always feel more comfortable explaining the facts of life to kids than to adults, but here goes: Our free enterprise system is built on the idea that more powerful entities exploit less powerful ones. That means an employee can never earn what their labor is worth. The system requires that labor be sold as part of the markup in the cost of goods, which is the true determinant of value. So the profit on an individual’s labor goes to the exploiter.

The only exceptions I can think of for this are areas where the government limits the supplies of people doing a certain job. For example, physicians are paid far more than they’re worth, which creates the system that makes them attractive to sue, which makes them and their insurance companies bump up healthcare costs to maintain profits.

I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out how not to hurt people and how not to enable the exploitation of myself and others. For example, when I installed my solar PV system, I did it in part because I believe solar-generated power is less hurtful to people and the planet than coal or nuclear or even natural gas.

The Nevada PUC’s decision to take the power my “factory” generates and sell it back to me at a loss for me instead of break-even for both of us—saving the power utility money in the long run—puts me on the “being exploited” part of the contract.

My only logical choice to prevent my own exploitation is to buy a set of batteries and a generator, which—over the 15 years it will take me to pay them off—will save me approximately $4,000 and not contribute to the green grid. That means it will cost NV Energy about $8,000, during that time period, and maybe $95,000 over the life of the house. Seems kind of short-sighted to me, but the fossil fuel industries know they’re on the way out, and they’re going to exploit while the exploiting is good.