Answer: the market can't solve global warming.

Here’s a short answer for you: the free market is not capable of solving global warming.

The atmosphere is a “commons” with no owner. This kind of game theory based market failure is pretty well known and documented. Since markets are interested in Pareto optimal results for individuals, and each individual has an equal share of the atmopshere, it drops out of the equation entirely. No market can solve this problem.

Even if private ownership–a common market fundamentalist answer to commons failures–were possible, all it would do is bid up the price for the use. Unless that price was set by the market at more than alternatives, the market is not capable of solving this problem.

Only collective action is. If governments are for anything, they are for resolving commons failures. But ours doesn’t do that anymore.

Where is the "Free Market" on Global Warming?

Much as its adherents like to pretend that it has “laws” like the hard sciences the so-called “Free Market” is an ideology. It is a powerful and dominant one. As the environmental lawyer and professor Zygmunt Plater, who successfully argued the seminal ESA case TVA v. Hill before the Supreme Court, said at a lecture at Boston University in 2000: “The marketplace economy is the most powerful, intimate, highly articulated, self-energizing human system ever invented (probably including religion).”

There is a vogue these days for forensic or political economic commentary by econo-pundits that apply the mechanisms of the dismal science to pedestrian interests like the incentives that sumo wrestlers have to throw a match or the element of economic interest inherent in seemingly emotional or charitable actions. This manner of commentary is effective at pruning out assumptions and prejudices and coming to near-enough-to-empirical truths (which is why its practitioners are often so smug).

Given all that these analysts have to say, their silence on global warming is deafening. There are mentions of gas taxes here, carbon taxes there, and pollution permit trading everywhere; but these ideas are rarely espoused from the ideology’s barkers. The “Market” as an academic idea has no inherent politics. As an ideology the “Free Market” is distinctly right wing. If you corner one of its intellectually-honest promoters they will admit that the government shouldn’t subsidize private industries, but the talking point is that “burdensome government regulations are interfering with the market place.” I have yet to read or hear of a comprehensive “Free Market” solution to global warming… or even see much in terms of a creative suggestion.

The closest that “the marketplace economy” comes to addressing global warming is via the idea of sustainability. Sustainability is, elementally, the marriage of granola environmentalism with market-economics. It seeks to insert the likely impact on future generations into the economic analyses of contemporary actions. Sustainability, or green economics, is more “green’s” attempt to subsume “economics” then a natural progression of the Free Market ideology. In the USA, I have yet to see it meaningfully manifest itself outside of the west coast or even be properly understood by supposedly liberal media outlets such as the New York Times.

The reason for this silence is that global warming, and the impact of environmental degradation in general, is incompatible with the Free Market ideology. As Professor Plater said in 2000: “For all its dynamism, the marketplace economy has a tragic flaw —that every entity in the marketplace economy basically tends to deal only with things that have some form of price tag attached, where benefits or costs are registered, and each also shares the same tragic logic of cost externalization, so that, wherever possible, they tend to externalize social costs out from the domain of the marketplace economy and into no man’s land… The costs impacted into the economy of nature do not just disappear out of sight out of mind. Nature is not a sink. A river that isn’t there anymore isn’t there anymore.”

Or, the Free Market ideology is excellent at determining the monetary benefits of an acre of forest in terms of the lumber that can be derived from it and the work that will be done to accomplish this. It is incompetent at measuring the same acre of forest’s benefits as a purifier of air and water because these benefits are distributed to everyone, and therefore, also, to no one.

The inability of the Free Market ideology to deal with global warming is profound in the musing of the NY Times columnist, and generally intellectually consistent Free Market ideologue, John Tierney. In one column, a sort of review of “An Inconvenient Truth,” he spends two paragraphs making ad hominine insults about Al Gore and then chastises the film for not noting that in the past many economists’ analyses found that the costs of a stringent carbon abatement program were too high given the uncertainty of the science behind global warming. In other words, Tierney’s stalwarts were wrong about the pre-eminent problem of the 21st century, but it’s okay because they are economists. In his second column, Tierney chastises Al Gore, Laurie David and other famous global warming Cassandras for owning second homes. Gore and David are not beyond reproach, but Tierney’s inability, in contrast to most of his other columns, to present any constructive ideas on global warming reveals the bankruptcy of his Free Market ideology. Faced with a problem that is irreconcilable to his belief-system Tierney resorts to emotional arguments, the exact rhetorical ploy that econo-pundits are so sanctimoniously proud to avoid.

The elastic optimal market will be crucial to mitigating global warming and will remain an important element in societal affairs. The Free Market ideology, however, cannot respond to global warming or maintain the viability of the commons. Al Gore is correct. Global warming is a moral issue.

Borrow and spend Republicans

According to the GAO, the government has wasted $1.4B on anti-drug ads. No shit. Of course these ads aren’t meant to really stop drug use; they’re meant to give the illusion that something is being done.

So what does borrow and spend Republican Bush propose? $120M more.

Between that, Iraq, and Sen. Stevens’s bridge to nowhere, I could have provided universal healthcare, secured the ports, killed bin Laden, and funded education enough to support NCLB (if I would have put in place).

GOP Coalition Fracturing?

The word on the street is that Bush has attracted the Tammy Fae Bakers of the world (i.e. “big government conservatives. He said this group is mostly female, southern, religious, and seeks solutions from government”) and neglected the libertarian wing of his party.

The Libertarian wing? That has to be the most oft-suffering wing of any party. Hell, they’re probably worse off than Log Cabin Republicans or Kennedy-hating Democrats. I believe this means the old Goldwater folks, who were instantly betrayed by anti-civil rights folks and religious conservatives, to the point that Goldwater remarked to Bob Dole in 1996 that they were the “liberals” of the GOP.

Most of what has been done in the name of Libertarianism in the last several decades has been done so for marketing purposes only. Like 900 page “free trade” agreements. It just ain’t so. Libertarians–true Libertarians–put equal weight on life, liberty, and property. The first two are more closely guarded by the Democratic party. Proprety? It’s only more guarded by the GOP if you are in the top 1% of earners.

If the Democrats can break through on taxes to some of these people, the GOP will end up controlling only the South. Surprise.

With the fervor of the converted…

Ten years ago, I self-identified as a Libertarian. I’ve discussed that at length before, but one of the primary beliefs one holds as a Libertarian is a steadfast belief in free-trade. One mentor of mine once explained, however, that he didn’t think NAFTA was free-trade. Free trade, he said, would not require more than a page for an agreement. You see, he believed that a Libertarian state had never existed.

This is the same kind of nonsense that infects communists. Soviet Russia wasn’t a true communist state, etc. This goes against the very fiber of my empiricist’s being. You see, communism and libertarianism are both, at their cores, philosophies, not a set of policies. And even though libertarianism derives in theory from a set of empiricist philosophers, it holds what scholars of modern philosophy might term “rationalists.” What this means is a priori truths (moral postulates, so to speak) exist at the core of these philosophies, and they are, as such, not subject to falsification.

If something is not subject to falsification it is definitionaly non-scientific. (This is part of the problem with string theory.)

This is why I left the libertarian fold. In theory, it would be a utopia, or at least a world free of many of our modern problems. In practice, every attempt to move us incrementally in a libertarian direction has been disastrous, and, every attempt to rewrite the social contract from scratch (ie revolution) has also been a disaster. (The American Revolution was no such revolution–most of the social structures were left intact. )

At the end of the day, policies need to deliver on their promises in the real world. And so-called neoliberalism has failed to do so. At this point, I may sound like one of those TNR converts against the Iraq war. But, the evidence is in, and it’s hard to ignore.

Lamont ties Losermann

Rasmussen: Lamont 43 – Losermann 45 – Schlesinger 6. +/- 4%
ARG: Lamont 42 – Losermann 44 – Schlesinger 3. +/- 3.5%

That’s a statistical dead heat in both polls, quickly closing the gap. Both have Liebermann up by 2 points, but MyDD believes that these models’ voter turnout models are wrong in a way that shows Liebermann too high.

At what point will Joe just call it quits?