OMT One Man's Trash...from Norman Leahy

Thursday, December 28, 2006 :::


At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux remains cool (or sanguine) while the rest of the world heats up over global warming and a series of tax schemes to combat it:

Even if global warming is a reality, another reality -- one with a much more consistent track record throughout history and across different countries -- is the perversity of political incentives. Given these perverse political incentives (not to mention the inevitiable scrawniness of government's access to information and knowledge), I don't trust government to impose and administer a Pigouvian tax with sufficient disinterestness and skill to make such a tax a plausible policy option.

Like the Professor, I'm perfectly willing to accept the reality of global warming and its possible effects. But as the Jeff Jacoby piece Boudreaux links to points out, there is more afoot to global warming/cooling, whatever than first meets the eye:

Still, there is always a market for apocalyptic forebodings. Paul Ehrlich grew rich predicting the imminent deaths of hundreds of millions of human beings from starvation and epidemic disease. "The Limits to Growth," the Club of Rome's 1972 bestseller, warned that humankind was going to experience "a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline" as the world's resources -- everything from gold to petroleum -- ran dry. Jonathan Schell and Carl Sagan forecast a devastating "nuclear winter" unless atomic arsenals were frozen, or better still, abolished. Those doomsday prophesies never came to pass. Neither have the climate-change catastrophes that have been bruited about for a century.

"The whole aim of practical politics," wrote H.L. Mencken in 1920, "is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." Some things never change.

The idea that there is a ready and growing market for doom and gloom is quite real. It's one of the things that keeps environmental/gun/abortion/you name it groups, political parties and TV preachers going strong. That's why, regardless of the supposed crisis (whether it's climate change, transportation, education or any number of topics) I've always found it better to question the conventional wisdom than adopt the latest fashion. That doesn't mean ignoring what's being said - that would be foolish. Rather, let the opinions flow, the data build (on all sides) and then make the decision. Preferably after lunch.

::: posted by Norman Leahy at 12/28/2006 3 comments


"You know what the fellow said: In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they also produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love -- they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." -- Orson Welles, The Third Man

"The graveyards are full of indespensable men" -- Charles de Gaulle

"Oh, so Mother Nature needs a favor? Well maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys. Nature started the fight for survival and now she wants to quit because she's losing. Well I say, hard cheese!" -- Montgomery Burns

"Don't pretend that you know me...cause I don't even know myself" -- The Who

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