2018-12-22

The Green New Deal, explained

It's stupid. Hopefully it will die in a ditch, and take the proponents down with it.

That's my view, which I write in response to Dave Robert's exposition of the GND. As expected with DR, we disagree. You can also read the thing direct.

I was going to explain all the ways in which it is wrong, but they are all obvious.

Update: oh go on then


I find myself unable to resist the obvious. The "deal" is defective in a number of broad ways.

It isn't a deal, it's a political platform


There isn't really a deal on offer; there's no detail. What exists is a litmus test, or a political platform, or a propaganda exercise: describe it as you will. Technically, it is a proposal to establish a Select Committee For A Green New Deal.

It is hopelessly partisan


The new committee is to draw up a detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan... for the transition of the United States economy to become greenhouse gas emissions neutral and to significantly draw down greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality. There is no hope of the Repubs going for this; and probably little hope of a majority of Dems, either. The GNDers know this, of course, and glory in it: not for them the messy attempts at political compromise, for them ideological purity is the way! This is in part frustration at the lack of bipartisanship from the Repubs recently.


Is is the wrong way to do anything


The govt can't and shouldn't do any of this shit. I appreciate that many of my readers will disagree at this point, but you're here to read my informed analysis so I shall not spare you. One way you can tell it is all wrong is that significantly draw down greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is a central part of the plan. Drawdown is a pet idea that someone has had and so has stuffed it into the plan, but this is no way to make policy. Is carbon capture cheaper or more expensive than reducing emissions in the first place? If cheaper it should be done; if not, not. But there is no room for economics in this nakedly political plan.


It is full of pork


As with anything like this - the recent I-1631 is a good example - the plan is inevitably a vehicle for pork. For example we have a policy (incidentally notice that although the proposed committee is to draw up the plan, it doesn't get much say in what the plan will have to cover) of upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety. I'm all in favour of every citizen of the US of A having the finest state-of-the-art comfy cushions to sit on, but I don't think it is any business of the govt to deliver comfy cushions. Another example is eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from... agricultural... including by investing in local-scale agriculture in communities across the country. This is the traditional happy-peasants school of Leftism, and it is stupid. Everywhere, farms grow larger and more mechanised and employ fewer people, and this does not happen by chance, it happens for very good reasons. It's fine having a few out-of-touch people pushing local-scale ag (hey, I'm a member of the Soil Association myself) but you don't want people like that in power.


Carbon tax now


The govt should do none of the things in this "deal". Instead, they should impose a revenue-neutral carbon tax, taking the chance to delete a few of the more hated taxes and regulations along the way, and step back.

Refs


Carbon tax now.
* Other bad ideas are available: Climate action must now focus on the global rich and their corporations, Nicholas Beuret, University of Essex.
* Peter Woit of not-even-wrong fame has an interesting thought re string theorists denying the failure of their endeavour with the reputation of science overall.
* Surfer Dan
* Meanwhile back in Blighty, Labour are idiots too.
* Michael Mann is on board, for a World War II-scale Climate Mobilization.
* Pelosi Announces Appointment of Congresswoman Kathy Castor to Chair Select Committee on the Climate CrisisPelosi has not yet described exactly what the committee will do...
@AOC on millennials and social media: "We’re, like, the world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change"

27 comments:

Tom said...

They want to spend a lot of money. A lot.

David B Benson said...

Well,it's Xmas time.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

You should be prosecuted for false advertising. Murky links plus a drive by dis.

It's grandiose but also a bit vague - more manifesto than plan.

Russell Seitz said...

CIP the New Amsterdam Consistory doubtless made a similar complaing when the Book of emblems containing that owl first appeared

William Connolley said...

I feel your pain so have succumbed and expounded the obvious to full public view.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

As I said, it's a manifesto, not a plan. Your default position seems to be that grand government plans don't work. That notion may warm the cockles of your Randian non-heart, but it's amply refuted by experience. In fact, when animated by a coherent purpose, some grand plans have worked rather well - I will mention just three. The US interstate system, the railroads across the Western US, and the internet.

If ACC is an existential problem, then a massive effort is clearly called for, though details of methods need to be worked out. If it will merely chip a few percent off a consistently growing GDP per capita, we certainly need to focus on prudence.

The part of your critique I like the best is the pork barrel bashing. That sort of thing is and must be anathema to a single central focus.

William Connolley said...

The internet was neither planned nor built by the govt.

Phil Hays said...

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) isn't part of the government?

https://www.internetsociety.org/internet/history-internet/brief-history-internet-related-networks

Da things ya learns on the intertubes.

Tom said...

Academics did plan the internet. DARPA financed them and the first connected network of 25 (?) university computers. DARPA very quickly released the fledgling back into the wild to await the coming of the mythical Tim Berners Lee. Thereby producing one of the very few counter-arguments to Groucho's characterization of military intelligence.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

DARPA and the NSF played crucial roles in the development of almost all aspects of AI and robotics. The railroads of the Western US were built with private capital heavily subsidized by government grants.

The biggest, baddest, government projects have traditionally been wars, but they demonstrate that with focus, such efforts can do many things otherwise thought impossible.

William Connolley said...

CIP's claim was that the govt planned the internet; by which he can only mean, today's internet, not some antediluvian precursor. That claim is patently false; no-one planned the internet. If you're interested in the history of it, there's a wiki page. I see one of CIPs other claims, planning "railroads across the Western US", has now morphed into them being built with private capital and govt subsidy; a very different claim.

William Connolley said...

> Academics did plan the internet.

I missed that claim. I'm doubtful. Academics definitely laid the groundwork for a packet-switching network with the underlying properties of the internet. I don't think that's the same thing as planning the internet.

Phil Hays said...

>DARPA very quickly released the fledgling back into the wild to await the coming of the mythical Tim Berners Lee.

Amusing counter history. !NSFNET

David B Benson said...

NSFNET was certainly government sponsored. It led to the current Internet.

Russell Seitz said...

Sad to see surfer Dan go terminally gnarly on us - how am I supposed to get my sailbard back from his son?

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

William refutes a number of claims I never made. Let me repeat: "when animated by a coherent purpose, some grand plans have worked rather well - I will mention just three." I mentioned three in which government played key roles. To be sure governments don't make plans, individuals do. The Green New Deal, whatever its merits or demerits, shares that characteristic, and like the mentioned items would depend heavily on government.

The success of a plan is not measured by whether or not the originators saw all ends but by its fruits. The internet, like the digital computer, is an example of something that grew and developed beyond the imaginations of those who conceived it.

PS - the digital computer is another example of a technology in which government played a key role.

PPS - Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Phil Hays said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/27/opinion/carbon-tax-climate-change.html

A carbon tax isn't possible, politically, most places.

Perhaps building codes first, as the people that build houses are not the people that pay energy bills on houses.

Layzej said...

The only hope for a carbon tax is if the Right puts on their big boy pants, stops denying reality, and advances a center-right climate policy.

I'm not holding my breath, but by advocating "green socialism" the left may be pushing the right to adopt a saner alternative. Senator John Cornyn: The left favors green socialism, while the right begins to discover the uses of a carbon tax

William Connolley said...

https://www.wsj.com/articles/will-2019-see-climate-maturity-11545690197 is interesting. It's regrettable it couldn't have been edited to remove the pointless flings; and it would have been nice to see the science accurate; but "A grand left-right bargain on climate policy based on tax reform was once imaginable" is a nice thought.

I'm doubtful the GND will push the Right to sanity; indeed likely the reverse: faced with something insane, they will have no need to revise their own mad position.

Phil Hays said...

A carbon tax is the perfect policy. Can't get any better.

It sounds green, wouldn't do as much as current policies, and would have a large impact on the economy, mostly on lower income people. The money collected can be used to reduce taxes on corporations and upper income people.

Ideal.

Current policies are advancing technologies like solar, power storage and electric cars. Need to have a "replacement" that can get rid of these. Keep the losers like corn biofuels, need those votes in Iowa.

Phil Hays said...

"A carbon tax is, however, a tax — which will upset the people who have to pay it. Yes, the revenue from a carbon tax could be used to cut other taxes, but convincing enough people that they will be better off over all would be a very hard sell. And claims that a carbon tax high enough to make a meaningful difference would attract significant bipartisan support are a fantasy at best, a fossil-fuel-industry ploy to avoid major action at worst."

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/31/opinion/green-new-deal-democrats.html

William Connolley said...

> Krugman: "the so-called Green New Deal. Is this actually a good idea? Yes, it is."

So, we differ there. You will have to fogive me for preferring my opinion to K's.

> what does the Green New Deal mean? It’s not entirely clear, which is what makes it a good slogan

It makes it a good slogan, like Brexit was, because anyone can read anything they like into it. But as practical, useful politics, it's not so good. See-also The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.

> subsidies, not carbon taxes

I think this is very stupid. Yes, I know you disagree.

> convincing enough people that they will be better off over all would be a very hard sell

As you quoted. Sadly, it would appear that K isn't up for the hard work, neither are the GNDers, they prefer the Primrose path.

> less-than-ideal but salable policy

GND is not saleable to the Repubs. Well, depending on what it is, of course.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

Krugman makes a coherent analysis of subsidies vs carbon tax. We all pretty much agree that a carbon tax is best. Krugman doesn't think it can be sold, and the evidence - a recent defeat in perhaps the greenest state in the US, tends to back him up.

William Connolley said...

I disagree with K on whether it can be sold, but I'm obliged to admit that his opinion - and PH's - isn't unreasonable; just (IMO) wrong. But it's also tied up in how you view the "opposition". As for I-1631 see Back to the morality wars and my "dog's breakfast" argument there.

Layzej said...

I'm doubtful the GND will push the Right to sanity; indeed likely the reverse: faced with something insane, they will have no need to revise their own mad position.

You may be right. My sense is that when the left adopts a conservative solution, it leaves Republicans with nowhere to go but to the right of Alex Jones.

The GND give Republicans an opportunity to be the voice of reason. Whether they are ready or willing to be the voice of reason is another matter entirely.

Anonymous said...

"I'm doubtful the GND will push the Right to sanity; indeed likely the reverse: faced with something insane, they will have no need to revise their own mad position."

See Obamacare.

This may be a political platform, but can you imagine a 2020 US election that does not mention climate change? I can. 2016 had a few hours of "Presidential debates" in which climate came up 0 times. "Trump digs coal" was about the height of it.

If the GND front and centres climate in the 2020 Election, then full steam ahead. It is an initial outline, not all Democrats are enthusiastic about it, so it may be stripped of its more leftish elements as it progresses.

Politically, the Democrats need something like this. We would be better employed helping them, than giving ammunition to the other side.

Anonymous said...

"You may be right. My sense is that when the left adopts a conservative solution, it leaves Republicans with nowhere to go but to the right of Alex Jones.."

See Obamacare.

This may be a political platform, but can you imagine a 2020 US election that does not mention climate change? I can. 2016 had a few hours of "Presidential debates" in which climate came up 0 times. "Trump digs coal" was about the height of it.

If the GND front and centres climate in the 2020 Election, then full steam ahead. It is an initial outline, not all Democrats are enthusiastic about it, so it may be stripped of its more leftish elements as it progresses.

Politically, the Democrats need something like this. We would be better employed helping them, than giving ammunition to the other side.