Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Green vs Free Market Fundamentalist Debate II

Yesterday's blogpost reviewed a Twitter debate over tax policy between myself and Mark Littlewood.

Today we move on to higher thing: state spending, and idealism vs reality.

Mark (MJL) is against high state spending. I am against inefficient state spending, and point to state investment in energy conservation as a highly efficient and desirable thing. Mark says "Energy conservation should be optimalised in a properly functioning free market."

I would like an expansion on this point, because it is clearly not happening.

Energy companies make more profit the more energy they sell, so at this point the market is clearly working against energy conservation. The trouble is, I tweet, that the oil & coal lobby are lobbying Govt for all they are worth, and distorting developments.

I ask Mark for his ideal small state. Is it the USA? He's not keen on the USA as a role model, because their spending is still 40% of GDP. I aver that the USA is barbaric in terms of its prisons and health policies. He thinks their health services are not so bad. We don't go into that.

 He is in favour of the "growth of Hong Kong from 1945 onwards. It is a good role model, although imperfect." Singapore scores well on having low intervention by the state on the market, but fails on other liberties.
I respond "So economic deregulation does not get linked automatically with individual liberty".
This is an important point, a fault line within the individualist ideology, because the libertarians identify individual liberty and FMF.

He says main dividing line in politics is now between statists (who favour big govt) and classical liberals who don't.

I say biggest divide is between those who accept ecological science & those who don't. Sadly, in this regard, libertarians/FMFs are worst.

MJL: " I'm pretty agnostic on AGW in terms of the science. And I don't think it's a binary issue in political terms."

I've met this one before, with Benny Peiser.
RL: "Agnosicism not scientific category. In this scientific debate, the choice is between climate science, or the sceptics' low Climate Sensitivity hypothesis.

Mark doesn't pick up on this. No AGW skeptic has, because they frankly have a threadbare argument at the core of their hypothesis. They believe only one baby will wake, when it is perfectly clear, and well substantiated,  that warming will produce positive feedbacks from other areas within the climate system.

AGW sceptics are comfortable to put 1001 nit-picking arguments against climate science, but blank the one simple question directed at their own hypothesis.

In classic form, Mark comes back with a dig at the Hockey stick - the many times replicated evidence that there is a significant warming taking place in our generation. The trouble with sceptics is that they believe their own propaganda. The hysterical and oft-repeated ad hominem attacks on Michael Mann are so prolific that they think they must be true.

In fact, the evidence still points to historic recent warmings.

I would urge everyone to read the link above, which shows that recent temperature rises are significant when set against the historic record. They have been repeated over and again. This is science properly carried out, checked, questioned and replicated.

It is a testament to the desperate need of free market fundamentalists to deny that the free market in fossil fuels could cause any conceivable external problem that they choose to believe the massed bands of sceptical journalists and bloggers against such a sound body of science.  And testament moreover to their absolute conviction that they have no need to look to defend their own hypothesis against this one clear and simple question - are there positive feedbacks in the atmospheric energy exchange system or not?

This really is the essence of the debate.

I will re-state it.

The essence is the term "Free Market". Greens have no problem with the "market". A market is a natural and enjoyable human experience. We are not statists, state capitalists, or Command Economists. We are in favour of maximising individual freedom as far as is possible within given social and environmental limits.
The Greens' position is neither a Marxist Command Economy, nor FMF, but a Guided Market - guided to better serve the needs of society and environment.

It is the idea of the FREE market - or more accurately, Free Market Fundamentalism (FMF) as George Soros puts it, which is the problem. FMF idealises and absolutises the freedom of the Market as a quasi-divine and unchallengable Invisible Hand. All that is wrong in any economy stems from inhibition of the freedom of the market, in their view.
FMF leads necessarily to AGW denial, because if the science is right, it means that international cooperation must in this regard have precedence over international competition. 

The carbon market must be regulated in some way, whether by taxation or more subtle means, to ensure a transition from finite,  "natural capital" carbon based energy to non-finite, "natural income" renewable energy. 

This intervention into the holy and inviolate Free Carbon Market is unacceptable to FMFs, and therefore climate science must be wrong. An amazingly successful worldwide propaganda blitz has ensured that this meme has run, so that a large percentage of the population, not just Daily Mail readers, but also intelligent people like Mark Littlewood, believe in the propaganda to the extent that they feel no need to examine the soundness of their One Baby hypothesis.

In short, the idealism of the Free Market believer causes him or her to overlook, question, or deny any evidence that the free market can harm society or the environment.

That is why the debate of the century is between the free marketeers and the greens.

In almost all regards, there is no agreement. Except, possibly, one: Externalities. More on this later.

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