Kings Can Stop the Waves

Dave Winer just pointed over Twitter to an article in the New York Times I am not linking to, since I don’t like their paywall.

That article quotes New York mayor Bloomberg with a reference to “King Canute of Denmark”.

No, I hadn’t heard that story yet as well. It turns out that King Canute one day went to the beach, put his throne into the way of the tide, and commanded the waves to recede. They didn’t obey. Showing that fact to his court was his point. Only God can rule the waves.

Bloomberg used the story as a reason for opposing building a sea wall around New York as a reaction to the recent storm. Kings can’t rule the waves, so the mayor can’t either.

That is wrong on several levels.

For one, a sea wall doesn’t order the waves to recede. On the contrary. You don’t need to build a sea wall in the first place if there is no risk of big waves coming in.

And, on a bigger level, today’s kings actually can order the waves to recede. All they have to do for that is keeping more of the fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

Eventually today’s kings will have to figure out that waiting with that particular order is not a good idea.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

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