Green & Endorsing McCain

Last week EcoWorld posted a lengthy explanation as to why we endorse John McCain for President. We were so careful and so reasoned that some commenters actually thought we’d endorsed Obama. We tried to acknowlege Obama’s strengths, and we criticized McCain’s weaknesses, and from it all emerged a tepid endorsement of McCain. But not tepid whatsoever is our fear of what an Obama Presidency could do to the United States.

For years our commitment to free market and property rights based environmentalism has led us to publish countless reports on how adhering to these principles creates wealth, ownership, stewardship, and equitable and efficient allocation of resources. All you have to do to see what the opposite extreme yields is consider the example of the Soviet Union, where an inefficient, utterly corrupt, centrally planned economic system created the filthiest industries on earth, an environmental mess that will take additional decades to clean up. And our opposition to Obama, from a free-market environmentalist perspective, is based on our concern that he will be a rubber stamp for an extreme environmentalist agenda – which we believe has become one of the most misguided and malthusian, misanthropic, destructive ideologies in history.

Arizona Senator John McCain

The difference between McCain and Obama isn’t absolute, but their preferences are clear. Obama, along with his environmentalist mainstream supporters, believes we live on a planet in crisis, a place where the environment is on the verge of imminent collapse, and resources are stretched to the breaking point.

This crisis mentality and fearmongering is a powerful propaganda tool, and a man with Obama’s charisma, combined with his inexperience, is going to give the environmentalists a blank check.

What will these environmentalists do with their power? Given the weapons at their disposal, such as the flawed and ominous Supreme Court ruling that CO2 is a “pollutant,” there is little they can’t do. As noted by the Wall Street Journal in their October 20th editorial “Obama’s Carbon Ultimatum,” one of Obama’s key advisors has stated “the Environmental Protection Agency ‘would initiate those rulemakings’ that classify carbon as a dangerous pollutant under current clean air laws. That move would impose new regulation and taxes across the entire economy, something that is usually the purview of Congress.”

In another editorial by Forbe’s Claudia Rosset on October 22nd entitled “The Commissars of Climate Change,” she states “America’s top politicians, not entirely averse to finding ever-new ways to control and plunder the electorate, are still chugging the climate-change Kool-Aid. Once this starts, where does it stop? Carbon is the basis of life itself; carbon dioxide is exhaled with every breath. Regulating and taxing such matters is a road map to state meddling in every aspect of daily life.”

This is not a misplaced fear. Environmentalist lawsuits and environmentalist influenced legislation have already tied our industries up in knots, enforcing regulations that often go well beyond what is in the interests of environmental protection. In many parts of the country, they have perpetuated the myth that open space is threatened, creating artificial scarcity and making housing unaffordable. They have made it virtually impossible to extract resources, build roads, collect and convey water, or do anything else that requires so much as a scratch in the ground – and the exhorbitant costs any such development incurs is mostly spent paying government fees and settling lawsuits.

Ultimately the choice between Obama and McCain is a choice between a malthusian, crisis-oriented world view that will lead to rationing, high prices, and crippling regulations, and a supply-oriented, business-friendly world view that will encourage innovation and enable ongoing prosperity. A recent book by Michael Shellenberger entitled “Breakthrough: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility” illustrates this choice in important ways. The premise of this book is that prosperity creates the wealth that makes all socially desirable outcomes more possible; a wealthy society can afford to clean up the environment and an impoverished one cannot.

While we can’t look to McCain, or pretty much any politician today, for honest skepticism regarding global warming, this should not be cause for celebration, nor a reason to be indifferent to who wins the election. Hopefully McCain’s embracement of the global warming alarmist hype is just a political calculation. Even if it isn’t, it is very, very unlikely McCain will move as aggressively as Obama will, because the environmentalists who are pushing global warming panic are not McCain’s base – they have been his political enemy for years. But even if global warming is real, severe, and the result of anthropogenic CO2, there is nothing we can do about it. The idea we are going to eliminate or sequester 30 gigatons of CO2 emissions per year (and rising) is totally, completely, absolutely ridiculous. Read “Cool It” by Bjorn Lomborg to better understand that the money we might spend to reduce CO2 emissions by insignificant amounts would fund massive investments in other far more worthwhile and far less futile projects, from eliminating Malaria to ending water scarcity.

The debate over environmental issues has been waged on the terms of the environmentalists, and this must be changed. It is not extreme to question the role of anthropogenic CO2 in causing allegedly dangerous global warming, it is moderate and necessary. Similarly, calling the current mainstream environmentalist agenda “socialist” is not extreme, it is accurate. The Democratic party is controlled by environmentalists, who abuse their nonprofit status, public sector unions, who abuse their ability to collect dues from the taxpayer supported government workforce, and trial lawyers, who benefit from every regulation or crisis that ever created a case in a courtroom. These are extremely powerful, often also positive, but nonetheless essentially parasitic forces from an economic perspective; they would not survive unless there was a private sector creating profits for them to live on. That fact should not be lost on anyone who votes on November 4th, 2008. Vote for McCain/Palin.

21 Responses to “Green & Endorsing McCain”
  1. Austin G. -Colorado says:

    Great article! When environmental concerns are addressed by individuals and companies rather then governments and bureaucracies, the end product will be efficient and effective or it won’t survive the market. Under government control ineffective programs can persist for generations without progress.

  2. James says:

    Yeah, cuz self-regulation is working so well right now.

  3. James – you are correct, self-regulation doesn’t work. That’s why we have governments. But we need GOOD regulations, and GOOD deregulation. And neither liberalism nor conservatism has a monopoly on making this infinitely changing calculation. Nonetheless McCain is less likely to impose any sort of global warming related government takings, and that is crucial.

  4. Bruce says:

    I think an argument can be made that McCain will be much worse for economic – and hence environmental – progress in the US. Bjorn Lomborg, who was cited here – has also pointed out that healthy economies are correlated to care for the environment. This is a factor in favor of the usual Democratic results compared to those of Republicans since the 1960s for the US economy. So, while Obama may well need reining in on environmental exuberance, esp. that which is ineffectual or even counterproductive, the bigger picture may well be an economy that continues to falter or worse under policies of drunken sailor spending and tax cuts for the rich while starting expensive and unnecessary wars. Wars are almost always bad for people and ecosystems where they occur.

  5. James says:

    I am so sick and tired of this partisan battle, the one that McCain has been embroiled in for several decades, and into which Ed Ring also seems caught. Its been going on my whole life and led to the impasse that makes effective government impossible. It is just for this reason that I will break with my party and vote for Obama, who may be a Democrat but does not appear to me to the devil that the partisan mind set is so convinced he must be. Obama is simple more intelligent than McCain, and this country does not need another slow president. On the contrary, we need a really bright man who can be flexible, learn as he goes and be open to different points of view. Despite the paranoid worries of the partisan crowd, I do not see Obama as someone with a huge secrete agenda. I just don’t buy it. And am sick of being sold this kind of story.
    Ed, I like a lot of what you have to say, and suspect you are right about the CO2 myth. Possibly it came about through an inordinate faith in mathematical models just as a lot of the debt crisis appears to have been the result of being mesmerized by Big Math? We still need intelligent individuals who use their years of experience and intuitive understanding to give us the right read on things as complex as the weather and huge economic forces.

  6. Coconutfarmer says:

    To quote your own words ‘This crisis mentality and fearmongering is a powerful propaganda too.’ Your article and on that basis your rationale is rooted in the same fear mongering used by the McCain camp throughout this election. Do you honestly believe that the Obama is a socialist whose misguided policies will reverse the environmental benefits that have been slowly gained over the past 30 years? Do you truly believe that he is a weak minded leader who will be so easily controlled by the will of anybody who offers up a sob story? Was it not McCain who turned his back on the values he’s preached for the past 25 years, in order to pursue his own political ambition and quell the psychological demons that have made him an outsider in his own party for the past two decades?

    I only hope that most people see your endorsement for what it is… More of the same… Fear mongering, misinformation, ignorance, greed, and self-preservation.

  7. Ed Ring says:

    “Possibly it came about through an inordinate faith in mathematical models just as a lot of the debt crisis appears to have been the result of being mesmerized by Big Math?”

    James: That is one of the most insightful comments we’ve ever had. It is more than possibly true, and this is the point: It isn’t partisan. These mathamatical models aren’t reliable, not in unregulated futures trading and not in climate simulations, either. But regulating futures trading is something either party will do – and our concern is the Obama administration will see the fallacies in the futures trading models while embracing every ominous iteration put forth from the climate models. If you are watching the proposed regulations and fees coming out of global warming alarm, you will see it represents a huge, mostly regressive transfer of wealth, and a huge expansion of government. We don’t think that’s desirable, and we think McCain is less likely to do it.

    CoconutFarmer: I like everything about Obama except his ideology. His redistributionist proposals such as providing government checks in the form of “unearned income tax credits” to people who don’t pay taxes is not only socialism, coming on the eve of a Presidential election, if not bribery, where does it end? Extreme environmentalist ideologues, using the CO2 fearmongering, demonizing those who still want a rational debate over a very debatable theory, are definitely socialists; they are also demogogues. And CO2 fearmongering has turned into the final argument in favor of almost anything, from more restrictive land use regulations to nuclear power.

    A vote for McCain is not a vote for McCain nor a vote against Obama. It is a vote against the socialist environmentalist machine that forms Obama’s base. Our endorsement of McCain, qualified in this manner, is because we wish to remain consistent with rational, free market environmentalist principles, which we believe is the best way to balance the needs of people and the planet. It is difficult to overstate the magnitude of the “changes” coming if the climate alarmists are given a blank check by a federal government where Democrats control the House of Representatives, have a super-majority in the Senate, and Obama in the White House. When the Republicans were becoming too dominant, we backed the Democrats – now the pendulum has swung to the other extreme, and environmentalist populist fearmongering is providing a lot of the momentum. Just as we rejected the excesses of the Bush Republicans, and voted for Kerry in 2004, we will cast our vote for McCain in 2008 – for many of the same reasons! You may characterize this endorsement as partisan if you wish, but it is not.

  8. squeezie says:

    Socialist environmentalist machine? Again with fear mongering. I have benefitted from the free market economy my entire life, and am as far from a socialist as you can get. I earned my degree in environmental studies at a time when it was a science-based (not political science) curriculum.

    Government plays an important role in a ‘free economy’ and that is to fast forward beneficial technology and social programs through effective policy, incentives and oversight. Both candidates acknowledge human activity is creating environmental concern – the difference is how they propose to provide effective solutions, McCain and Obama are very clear on the direction they intent to take, McCain wants to drill more to capture (for the world’s open market) more oil and invest in clean coal – relative to oil an abundant resource but still finite. Obama has promised to provide incentive to the market place to develop true renewable resources…

    I will vote for Obama – call me a socialist environmentalist if you’d like. By doing so, all you will have accomplished is prove you know not what you say.

  9. Ed Ring says:

    Claiming humanity is about to destroy the planet via CO2 emissions is fearmongering. It is gross, opportunistic fearmongering that easily eclipses the fearmongering the Democrats have accused the Republicans of, and unlike the favorite boogeymen or the Republican right, climate catastrophe ala our vehicle emissions etc. has almost no basis in reality. The bias that informs what you perceive as an overreaction to Obama’s “socialist environmentalist machine” is this: We reject the theory that anthropogenic CO2 causes catastrophic climate change. We would put the chances this is correct at less than 1%. As a result, the redistributionist, regressive measures being proposed to mitigate CO2 we view as fraudulent and sinister. We believe when this truth comes to light it will provoke a massive backlash against all environmentalist values, ones we share and that shouldn’t be undermined.

    You are probably correct to take me to task for using the S word – it is a loaded term and takes attention away from the issue. Here’s our reasoning: Bush expanded the federal government by 50% in eight years. Now Obama is proposing to increase federal control (including ownership positions) of our financial industry as well as our manufacturing, transportation, energy and health care sectors. Some of this is even necessary. But if you add to all of that the expansion of government on the federal, state and local levels if Obama directs the EPA to aggressively regulate CO2, it is starting to look like socialism.

    McCain undermined his chances when he failed to find the courage to pick, say, Joe Lieberman to be his running mate. But McCain/Palin is still preferable to a federal government where Democrats control the House of Representatives, have a super-majority in the Senate, and Obama is in the White House. And again, the concern here comes back to CO2 alarmism, and our belief that at least if there’s a Republican President, the EPA will not be as aggressive regulating CO2. If you believe, like I do, that CO2 alarmism is an opportunistic regressive fraud, you might agree with our position and our endorsement.

  10. Ed Ring says:

    Mayuri: You have made a very thoughtful comment and your point of view is valid. I think Palin was not the best choice McCain could make, and I think McCain was not the best choice the Republicans could make. I don’t quite have the reaction to them you have, but I can see how it would seem, especially to someone outside the U.S. I have no evidence McCain is ill, his awkward demeaner is partially from his injuries sustained as a prisoner which makes it hard for him to relax his arms and shoulders – I also do not have reason to believe Palin is corrupt. But I have huge respect for your opinion; we have agonized over this endorsement.

    If Obama were going to be President in a situation where the legislature were balanced between parties, I would vote for him; EcoWorld would endorse him. But the Democrats are poised to attain a dominance in legislative power not seen since the 1970′s, if even then. I have attempted to explain in several ways why this sort of dominance, by either party, is not going to be good for the U.S., particularly given the likelyhood Obama will direct the EPA to regulate CO2.

    Nobody is suggesting the government should transfer wealth from the poor to the rich – but reforming unwarranted CEO compensation and the excesses of Wall Street should not translate into nationalizing several key sectors of the American economy – that is an overreaction and will not make the U.S. better off as a nation, nor the world. Read our post today entitled “Obama & Unions” for more reasons we believe a healthy balance of governing ideologies is threatened by an overwhelmingly Democratic Washington DC. And please note I voted for the Democrat John Kerry for President in 2004.

    Recent events have made America’s political system vulnerable to political overreaction, and there are a lot of huge changes on the way that I think Obama’s obviously likeable persona – perhaps completely genuine – is making voters overlook. If this were a personality contest, I would greatly prefer Obama. But if he is elected – and he almost certainly will be – we can only hope he transcends the agenda of his more extreme supporters. He is likely to be the most powerful President in decades – possibly since Roosevelt.

  11. Mayuri says:

    It is shocking that Ecoworld, who has always supported science, truth and discovery in my opinion, has endorsed Sarah Palin, who lives in such a religious hallucination that she does not even acknowledge the fact of evolution. I also believed that at the heart of this site was more love for the planet than for capitalism or any other “ism”. Anyone with an ounce of common sense shudders at the thought of this corrupt, vacuous woman being vice president to a 72-yr old cancer patient!

    Ecoworld’s inclusive and global nature has also failed to report the opinion of the rest of the world– which has polled 4 out of 5 in favor of Obama. This fact, combined with Obama’s cool temperament, will restore our global reputation and improve national security.

    Why is it right to redistribute wealth upwards and wrong to redistribute it downwards? If the middle class gets a tax break for a change, won’t their money encourage hard work just as much as if it were in the pocket of a billionaire? And as for “ongoing prosperity,” Mr. Ring, I don’t think the rest of the country shares your, and John McCain’s, delusion that the fundamentals of the economy are strong.

    But to tell the truth, all the logical arguments are just icing on the cake. These campaigns have revealed some inner truths about these men– Obama’s just, intelligent and loving nature surrounds him, and is clear as day to all with eyes to see… and the pasty grin plastered on McCain’s face is so false, such a thin veil over his egotism, anger and greed for power. He can never win, even if he wins– because he is pretending to be something he is not– a republican who will change policies and cares about the working class.

    Even if he loses – which would be either a detrimental report on the moral evolution of the American people, or cheating like 2000– Obama can’t lose. This is why McCain hates Obama, you can see it in his eyes… but Obama doesn’t hate McCain. Obama can’t lose, because he is being himself.

  12. Ayrdale says:

    …your comparison between environmental standards in democratic and socialist countries is exactly right, and must make crypto-environmentalists squirm. There is alas much hypocrisy within the green movement, and many well meaning, naive people have been told and believe that capitalism is the enemy of the planet. The late, great Petr Beckmann of Boulder Colorado pointed this out as long ago as 1985 with his newsletter Access to Energy, and warned people to see beyond the fear and scare tactics so beloved by the socialist greens. The AGW movement is the last desperate throw of the dice for the crypto-greens and it is a high stakes game. I applaud your sentiments and send best wishes from clean green New Zealand. See also

  13. Joan Linney says:

    I am very pleased to have found this blog. There is some honest discourse going on here. I want to put in my 2 cents. I don’t need computer models to tell me global climate change is a really serious thing. Since CO2 hit record high levels, the glaciers here in CA are retreating from the mountains. When they are gone, so is the water that supplies our cities from April till November. The “fire season” never ended here at all last year. We’ve set 5 records for hottest, dryest years in history–in the past 10 years. I could go on. Its a tough subject to understand because there are so many sources of CO2, so many symptoms caused by high CO2, and so many ways to to solve the problem. The first thing we need to do is get over the denial stage.

  14. Joan: Yes – our corner of the blogosphere is civil, and we respect each other’s opinions and beliefs. But I would urge you to keep an open mind about the causes and the extent of climate change. There is not a lot of honest and open discourse going on regarding the role of CO2 in global warming any more – supposedly “the debate is over.” In reality, the debate is far from over. If you would take the time to read reasoned, informed observations from the scientific skeptic community, you may be surprised. And beware, because if you become convinced, as I have, that alarm over CO2 emissions is unwarranted, it will change the way you look at an awful lot of what is going on today in politics and policy.

  15. Nick Freeman says:

    Ed Ring would frame this as the market based benefits of the great corporate good spreaders, or the evil central economy of the failed soviet states. There are so many leaks in this paper boat that I cannot board. Here’s why.
    We had great advantages in the creative commons based on science and momentum in the seventies. The various crop of scientific progress from the space program was starting to be harvested. Semiconductors, the DARPA precursor to the internet, communications, composite materials, and concentrating solar and thermal technologies. These technologies advance our global thought and technical leadership in the world. Entire departments of other countries were dedicated to intellectual property acquisition by any means. But then the corporations and think tanks determined that advancing the markers would be cheaper and more effective if the corporate agendas could be official government policy. So the PV panels came off the White House, and our tax codes and policies were submitted by or vetted by big energy. Thirty years of potential progress and potential alternative energy options were postponed by obdurate political calculation.

    If there were real socialism in the US, Henry Paulson would have advocated nationalizing the energy industries. The oil, coal, nuclear and natural gas industries are the plump targets for central planning, and central control. That’s the real reason for Ed Ring’s implausible and finally morally corrupt misdirection. Until the leaders of the US take over the energy industries, the issues raised in this article is classic misdirection. Shame on you, Mr. Ring, you can do so much better. Go look at Japan, Germany, and Denmark. Then come back and apologize.

  16. Ed Ring says:

    Nick – thank you at least for suggesting you think I can do so much better. Our editorial endorsement is motivated by what we believe is a need for balance – and we believe the environmental movement has gotten out of balance. Calling the environmental movement “one of the most misguided and malthusian, misanthropic, destructive ideologies in history” is probably overstating the case, but not if you don’t believe anthropogenic CO2 is harmful to the climate – and we don’t. Our belief in environmentalism, and our commitment to environmentalist values, has been challenged by two things: the takeover of the public sector at the state and local level by public employee labor unions, and the propaganda (very effective) that has convinced millions that CO2 from industry is going to destroy the planet. If the public sector were reformed, or if there was a more rational perspective on what truly constitutes environmental threats (CO2 is NOT a threat to the environment), then we could remain neutral in this election. Moreover, as we have all known for several weeks, Obama is not likely to lose. So this endorsement is obviously on principle. There is no commercial benefit to being an environmentalist who doesn’t trust a public sector controlled by big labor and doesn’t believe in global warming ala CO2. So to accuse this publication of “morally corrupt misdirection” doesn’t hold up to logic. If we were morally corrupt, we would look the other way as public sector unions fleece the public, and we would embrace every “public/private partnership” oriented to every CO2 mitigation scheme they can possibly dream up. I encourage you to continue to comment and share your points of view – there are a lot of points you make that we have addressed in the past and will continue to analyse (and that we agree with) – but whether we agree or disagree, you may rest assured our editorial positions are thoughtful and absolutely sincere.

  17. Private Worker says:

    Ed, what you have created here on this website is a fascinating mixture of reason and ideology. You will state thngs very logically and persuasively at one moment (whether I previously tended to agree or not), then alas slip into the worst rhetorical pitfalls the next.

    For example, your logic supporting free markets as the obvious answer: “All you have to do to see what the opposite extreme yields is consider the example of the Soviet Union, where an inefficient, utterly corrupt, centrally planned economic system created the filthiest industries on earth…”. By exactly equivalent logic, we could say that the US should disarm and become a pacifistic nation, since all you have to do is see what the opposite extreme yielded by considering the example of Nazi Germany. Justifying by pointing to “the opposite extreme” has no place in reasoned discourse; any side can equally justify anything.

    Or you could say that the principles of conservatism have been forever discredited because George Bush did an incompetent implementation of his version of that vision (albeit not the version all conservatives would have supported).

    In practice, the world is not binary in this regard. You could place all nations on a 2D spectrum along the axes of democratic/authoritarian and free market/managed economy – and you’d have examples spread among all quadrants and through the middle territory. Sweden for example would be both more democratic and economically more socialized then the US. Nazi Germany would be a mixture of market oriented (Krupp) and government controlled economically, with extreme political authoritarianism. Somoza’s Nicaragua would have been free market plus brutal dictatorship. And so on. Trying to project a two axis political/economic spectrum into even a single axis of gray scales is going to grossly distort our understandings (much less into extreme examples).

    Currently, China is still a totalitarian country ruled by a Communist party, albeit with special openings for certain types of very regulated private enterprise which can be limited at any time at the whims of the ruling party. It is still fundamentally a centrally managed economy with controlled exceptions. Yet their economic growth has been spectacular. While it’s popular to make the Soviet Union an economic bogeyman, a good economist without agenda would tell you that for many decades their increase in productivity and GDP was similar to that of the US (albeit starting way behind and finishing way behind); of course they dropped way back during the transition from industrial to information economies where political freedom and uncoerced innovation became more important. Japan and Europe made great gains on the US lead after world war 2 despite having substantially more socialized and centrally managed economies. Latin American in the twentieth century provides many examples of capitalist countries far from socialism with dismal economic histories. And I’m sure you are aware of the examples in the other direction as well.

    Basically, as somebody with a scientific and engineering background, I find the hypothesis that free markets automatically or generally produce the healthiest economies to be untenable based on facts. The historical facts are VERY mixed to any neutral observer that takes the time to do some research. This whole thing about free markets being automatically better is far closer to religion or ideology than to science. It’s an article of faith, an axiom on which other logic can be based, not a hypothesis being honestly examined.

    A stronger case could be made for mixed economies, with the right balance between market forces and central management. Strategic government initiatives (selective market distortions) have repeatedly shown better results than free markets, from the US subsidy for railroads that built a continental economic empire to the Japanese ministry of trade that created the asian miracle. On the other hand, unwise and ideologically dogmatic central policies can be disasterous, like the Soviet agriculture program. The distinguishing factors between success and failure however are not “how free are the markets”, but “how intelligent and adaptive are the policies versus rigid and dogma driven”. The Soviet Union was dogmatic; their rigid control created amazing accomplishments industrially because their bureaucrats kind of understood early/mid 20th century factories and supply chains, but they were too slow to adapt when agricultural reality didn’t match their ideological models.

    From a systems viewpoint, market dynamics can be incredibly effective in allocating resources productively in a context where rapid economic growth is needed and the feedback loop time delays of the market match the problem set. If your goal is to get HDTV into every home rapidly, competitive market dynamics can be very effective in fostering innovation and in mustering capital for efficient mass implementation; this dynamism is hard for government to match! The strength of this system is that the feedback (like market share) is strong enough to override dogma and fixations. A company that sticks too long with video tape technology over DVDs for ideological reasons will simply be bypassed, and it will take only a couple of years before the market “flows around” this impediment. That is – it has strong and rapid self-correction feedback loops which make it adaptive in that environment.

    On the other hand, if the feedback loop is too long, markets are poorly adaptive. Most CEOs operate under a six month to two year (maximum) strategic window. A CEO who proposed to lose money (invest more than is being returned) for ten years in order to have a major payoff after that time would never keep their position in our market economy. The closest they can come is to invest a tiny fraction of cash flow in long term strategic research, in the case of a few giants like IBM – ie: not enough to hurt the dividends and bottom line for very long.

    One of the central questions in regard to environmental issues is the degree to which various issues have short or long feedback cycles. Will “wrong” environmental decisions become apparent to the market system soon enough?

    Let’s take this CO2 thing. I understand that in this case you don’t believe that CO2 is a large forcing factor in global climate, but for the sake of a thought experiment, suppose that the IPCC et al did turn out in the end to be by and large on the right track in terms of their analysis (even if not in terms of their prescription, which is another matter). Certainly there is enough evidence that this is possible, even if not proved to everybody’s satisfaction. Supposing it was true – what mechanism in human society would allow us to spend enormous resources now for the sake of a large payoff decades later?

    Free enterprise would not satisfy this need; it just doesn’t have the right feedback looks to apply its brilliance and in fact I can make a case that it is maladaptive.

    If you cannot even hypothetically accept that as a thought experiment, consider what would happen if we discovered a near earth orbit asteroid which would impact the earth in 25 years, and which would require a 10 trillion dollar (equivalent) program to avert. Who could muster that kind of focussed effort? Not market forces; only central planning.

    In other words, each has it’s place in the economic ecosystem, and flexibly using the right tool (public and private) for the right job without ideological blinders is the winning strategy.

    I think you seriously missed the lesson of the Soviet Union – it was not the broad concept of socialism in its many flavors that brought them down, it was their particular flavor and in particular their inflexiblity and ideological dogmatism (and the related authoritarianism). They allowed neither market feedback loops nor democratic governance feedback loops, so they diverged from the most successful adaptive strategy in the face of a changing world – until the big feedback loop hit them.

    Alas, your beliefs in free market and property based approaches, if pursued with dogmatism and predetermined conclusions rather than open minds and pragmatic flexiblity, can lead to just as disasterous effects eventually.

    We need to see market based approaches and central planning approaches without blinders, as two human societal tools which each sometimes succeed and fail depending on circumstances, and learn to tell which circumstances call for each tool, and to be willing to change our toolsets depending on result.

    A boy with a hammer sees the world as full of metaphoric nails; free markets are such a hammer – very valuable indeed, but in truth there are non-nail as well as nail aspects of the world. A socialist with no tools but a drill is equally blind. It is not wisdom to justify obsession on hammers by pointing to the failures of drill-only approaches, nor vice versa. Evolutionarily adaptive behavior is to use both (and hammer-drivers) as needed.

    I hope your science and math background can loosen your ideological preconceptions. I do appreciate your courtesy and attempt to see kernals of truth in other approaches, and your willingness to advocate less popular views.

  18. Ed Ring says:

    Private Worker: If you read further I think you will find we have consistently maintained there is a continuum of political economies, not sets of extremes. Using the example of the Soviet Union is simply an attempt to point out the dangers of going too far in the direction of socialism, and of course this is simplistic if you take it out of context. The collapse of the Soviet Union, and the environmental filth generated by Soviet industry had other causes, such as corruption, that in various degrees infect any society’s economic system. Our position in this post is based on our fear there is too much movement currently away from a recognition of the value of free markets, not a suggestion that markets should be completely deregulated. We have repeatedly pointed out the value of good regulations, and good deregulation. Getting rid of the Glass-Steagall Act was bad deregulation, for example. Similarly, enacting the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was bad regulation.

  19. Private Worker says:

    “…your comparison between environmental standards in democratic and socialist countries is exactly right, and must make crypto-environmentalists squirm.”

    You have that half right (contrasting democractic nations with the alternative) – the appropropriate comparision is between democratic and authoritarian political systems. It should be easy to understand that environmental policies tend to be better in countries where the “common people” who are most affected by environmental effects have a lot of political influence (eg: via elections) over the government. In a government which is not accountable to the “masses”, environmental travesties are easier to pull off, so long as the elites can have their insulated pockets away from the problems. The Soviet Union and its authoritarian satellites are good examples; it was their political systems, not their economic systems, which allowed them to ignore the environmental effects on the people.

    However, a socialist/capitalist economic systems isn’t in itself much correllated with environmental policy. A relatively socialistic country like Sweden can be environmentally progressive (because they are a democracy), while a totalitarian country like China has become an environmental nightmare exactly as they shift more of their economy towards market dynamics. It’s easy to find many, many other examples to demonstrate this.

    Confusing the implications and effects of economic versus political system leads one to many demonstrably false conclusions.

    The US has a mixed public/private system as well, but is probably the most capitalistic of the developed nations. However any historical review of our environmental progress will clearly see that it’s our democratic process which has cleaned up our air and water, rather than being a natural outcome of market forces. In fact, often large private enterprises have opposed environmental reform and it has only been because of our democracy that “the people” won out over pure economic power.

    In terms of nations, not saying that more socialistic policies are better or worse, only that that discussion needs to be on other grounds than environmentalism. Democratic/Authoritarian is the axis of comparison you seem to be looking for and you got part of the equation.

    I’m neither a socialist not an economic libertarian; I prefer to look at system dynamics and fact based science without ideological blinders of left or right.

    Of course, seeing the world clearly without these preconceptions is a lifelong job. This website is valuable in exposing us all to another viewpoint often missed in the polarized debate. Just as the world is misunderstood if one tries to collapse both political and economic spectrums into a single scale (much less binary alternatives), likewise it’s unwise to try to collapse the pro- and anti-environmental axis with the political liberal and conservative axis. Democratic socialists (eg: many in Europe) are just as possible as conservative environmentalists; likewise with authoritarian capitalists and liberal anti-environmentalists. Capitalists have no monopoly on democracy, and liberals have no monopoly on environmentalism.


    I’m not sure what you think a crypto-environmentalist is. In most usage, a crypto-(attribute) means somebody who secretly has that attribute without disclosing it. So a crypto-environmentalist might be a CEO who publicly appears to be fighting environmental laws – say to please stockholders – but is secretly supporting them. I don’t know if there are many crypto-environmentalists (yes, by definition they try to hide it, but sometimes their policies would show up anyway); such things more often happen when it’s socially unacceptable to have the hidden attributes, like being a crypto-racist. Being an environmentalist is at least relatively acceptable if not laudable in most circles today (perhaps not yours), so it doesn’t need to be hidden. In any case, why would crypto-environmentalists in particular squirm?

    The only people who should squirm would be anybody who advocates an environmental dictatorship which would overthrow democratic process. Such advocates are extremently rare, but any who exist should indeed feel less than confident that such a system would somehow remain uncorrupted by absolute power, given the example of how a “dictatorship of the proletariat” turned into a “dictatorship of the party elite” in authoritarian Communist countries. Absolute power does absolutely corrupt! The feedback loop of democratic political control is essential to any sustainable environmentalism, whether in a relatively more socialistic or more capitalist economic system.

  20. Private Worker says:

    Ed, thanks for your clarification. I have not yet had time to read a lot of your website, but I will be reading more. I’m glad to know that overall you have a more nuanced perspective.

    However, in this article you cite only the bad example of the Soviet Union to justify your position, so even if your website overall is more balance, this particular article is logically weakened.

    It’s good that you acknowledge a spectrum (ie: an axis along which one can place points). However, you still appear to be conflating economic and political systems into that single axis, and frankly the data doesn’t fit. No comparative analysis of current and historical national policies around the world is going to make any meaningful sense if you conflate economic and political systems to a single spectrum. Where does Sweden fit on this single spectrum compared to Indonesia?

    This would be a like a scientist trying to study salmon recovery while being unable to separate water temperature from turbidity, assuming for ideological reasons that these should somehow be mashed into a single spectrum or axis. Their environmental monitoring data and population outcome data would yield inconsistent and confusing results. Conflating economic and political systems to a single spectrum is just as problematic. (And yes, the real world has even more than two axes of differentiation, of course. But political and economic systems are two very major axes which are much closer to orthoganal than you seem to realize).

    I value the different viewpoint of your website, and it has pointed me to things I need to examine further for possible revision of my current views. However, I believe that I sense a degree of intelligent desire for truth behind your words, and I want to fan that flame. The world needs a variety of viewpoints rather than a lockstep mentality on environmental issues in any case; but flexible and thoughtful analysts are even more valuable than a plethora of differing dogmatists, even if the latter is better than uniform dogmatism. I believe I sense some interest and proclivity towards the former and most valuable approach here, and any comments I make to encourage you to broaden the input variables (two primary axes rather than one) in your analysis of the world is in that light.

    Best regards.

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